Registration/entrance is free, and the public is invited
Speaker Abstract and Bio
Natural Roots and Mathematical Abstraction:
Algorithms and Beauty in Music
Maria Mannone (University of Palermo)
Art often tries to catch the perfection of geometry and the variety of nature. This variety can be formalized via computational techniques and algorithms. Also, diagrammatic thinking and math-inspired categorical language help us investigate visual forms and compare their transformations and developments. Such a framework can be extended to the comparison of musical themes and their variations. We can also translate forms and transformations from an artistic domain to another one, obtaining musical renditions of visual structures, as an attempt to ‘translate’ beauty. Starting from the main questions of the workshop on algorithms and creativity, brain processes underlying aesthetic experience, and a quest for a common denominator between arts, we can investigate hidden bridges among artistic fields. A search for a common denominator between different forms of art can lead to the definition of a common source as a ‘gestural generator’ ideally producing, for example, a collection of points on canvas and a sequence of staccato musical notes. We present a geometric investigation and a possible musical rendition of Gaudí’s nature-inspired architectures, a computational analysis of some spherical inflorescences, and a Jurassic ammonite. We conclude with a sound-visual homage to Venice and St. Mark.
Maria Mannone (Palermo, 1985) earned her Master in Theoretical Physics as well as Masters in Composition, Conducting, and Piano in Italy. In Paris, at IRCAM – UPMC Paris 6 Sorbonne, she earned her Master 2 ATIAM in Acoustics, Signal Processing, and Informatics applied to Music. In the US, at the University of Minnesota, she achieved her Ph.D. in Composition. Author and co-author of books and papers on Mathematics and Music, she presented her research during conferences and invited lectures in Europe, America, and Asia. She created the CubeHarmonic, a musical instrument based on Rubik’s cube, currently under development in collaboration with the Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan.
Multi-Timescale Sensitive Movement Technologies
Antonio Camurri (University of Genoa)
This talk presents the European project EnTimeMent and its intersection of arts, science, and technology. The EU H2020 FET PROACTIVE project EnTimeMent aims at a radical change in scientific research and enabling technologies for human movement qualitative analysis, entrainment and prediction, based on a novel neuro-cognitive approach of the multiple, mutually interactive time scales characterizing human behaviour. The main technological breakthrough of EnTimeMent will be promoting novel perspectives on understanding, measuring and predicting the qualities of movement (at individual and group level) in motion capture, multisensory interfaces, wearables, affective and IoT technologies. Joint music actions and dance are among the scenarios tackled in the project to contribute to a cross-disciplinary approach to scientific and technological research.
PhD in Computer Engineering, full professor at DIBRIS (Polytechnic School, University of Genoa), where he teaches Human Computer Interaction (MS in Computer Engineering; MS in Digital Humanities). As art influences science and technology, science and technology can in turn inspire art: recognizing this mutually beneficial relationship, his research interests combine scientific research in ICT with artistic and humanistic research, and includes non-verbal multimodal interactive systems; computational models of non-verbal full-body expressive gesture, emotion, and social signals; interactive multimodal systems for performing arts, active experience of cultural content, wellness, therapy and rehabilitation. Scientific director of Casa Paganini – InfoMus Research Centre of DIBRIS, was member of the Executive Committee of the IEEE CS Tech. Committee on Computer Generated Music and founding member of the Italian Association for Artificial Intelligence. He is member of the editorial board of the Journal of New Music Research, member of the editorial
board of Plos One, member of the ESF College of Expert Reviewers. Author of over 150 scientific publications in international scientific journals and conferences. Coordinator of European funded projects in FP5 (IST MEGA), FP7 (ICT SAME, ICT FET SIEMPRE) and Horizon 2020 (DANCE – http://dance.dibris.unige.it; FET PROACTIVE EnTimeMent http://entimement.dibris.unige.it), Principal Investigator in about 20 EU-funded projects and in contracts with industry and cultural institutions, co-owner of software patents. Co-director of
the Joint Research Laboratory ARIEL (Augmented Rehabilitation Lab) with Giannina Gaslini Children Hospital.
Integrative research in art and science
Marc Leman (Ghent University)
We argue that out technoculture requires a more profound integration of combined research in art and science. This integration can be realised in contexts where human expressive interaction with technology is investigated, using humanities, neuroscience and engineering as scientific backgrounds. Our talk aims at contributing to techno-cultural developments in which new forms of expression are explored.
Marc Leman is Methusalem research professor in Systematic Musicology at Ghent University. He is director of IPEM and head of the department of Art History, Musicology, and Theatre Studies. He is the founder of the ASIL (Arts and Science Interaction Lab) at the KROOK, operative since 2019. He has > 400 publications, among which several monographies. In 2015 Marc Leman received the Ernest-John Solvay price: the five-yearly FWO Excellence award in Humanities. He was Laureate of the Methusalem, with his projects on Embodied Music
Cognition and Expressive Music Interaction.
Approximation theory and visual representation
Felipe Cucker (City University of Hong Kong)
Hector Rodriguez (City University of Hong Kong)
We describe the mathematics behind our art project “Approximation Theory”, which will be exhibited during the workshop. We then elaborate on the relations of the mathematical notions involved in that project and the aesthetic notion of “twofoldness of attention” proposed by philosopher Richard Wollheim. We conclude by sketching some possible refinements and extensions of “Approximation Theory” motivated by these relations.
Felipe Cucker (Montevideo, Uruguay) is Chair Professor of Mathematics at the City University of Hong Kong. His research covers a variety of subjects, including semi-algebraic geometry, computer algebra, complexity, emergence in decentralized systems, and the relations between art and mathematics, on which he published one book (“Manifold Mirrors”, Cambridge University Press, 2013).
Hector Rodriguez (Las Palmas, Canary Islands), an Associate Professor at City University of Hong Kong, is an experimental software artist whose work investigates the specific possibilities of information technologies to reconfigure our experience of moving images and our
relation to film history. His work integrates video art with mathematics and computer science, exploring the tension between digital abstraction and cinematic representation.
How can AI engage with the art of painting?
Luc Steels (ICREA, Barcelona)
There are three levels at which AI can engage with painting. At the visual level we can examine how computer vision algorithms and models trained with machine learning methods ‘see’ a particular painting: Are relevant saliency points detected? Can the objects on a painting be segmented and recognized using models first trained on real world images? Do the paintings fall in classes based on their form properties (e.g. color, shapes, sizes)? At the network level we can examine collections of paintings, for example as shown in exhibitions. Paintings form a network based on co-occurrence relations. What are the properties of these networks? Are some paintings taking a bigger role than others? Can the style of painting be captured from a subset of an artist’s works? At the conceptual level, we need to consider the meaning of a painting: which narratives it triggers in viewers, how the painting gets contextualized in the biographical and historical experiences of the artist. This talk is a progress report of an in-depth study of the paintings by a well recognized contemporary artist Luc Tuymans, focusing in particular on his currently ongoing exhibition at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice. I will show how some of these questions can get tackled with currently available AI methods and how considering artistic creativity can push forward AI to become more human-centric.
LUC STEELS has played a leading role in European Artificial Intelligence research since the early nineteen-eighties. As a professor of computer science at the Free University of Brussels (VUB), he founded the VUB AI Lab in Brussels in 1983 and the Sony Computer Science Laboratory in Paris in 1996. He is the founder of the Belgian AI association BAAI which later merged to form BNAIC, and co-founder of the European AI association ECCAI now called EURAI. Steels is currently a research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies (ICREA/UPF-CSIC) in Barcelona and visiting professor at Ca’Foscari University of Venice. He has researched intensively in many areas of AI, in particular symbolic programming languages for AI, knowledge-based expert systems, behavior-based robotics, complex dynamics for AI, language evolution, and, most recently, the impact of AI on society. His extensive publication record has reached a Google scholar impact of H=72. More than 30 ph.Ds graduated under his guidance. Steels has a long standing interest in the arts with cooperations with visual artists such as Olafur Eliasson, Annemie Van de Kerckhoven and Luc Tuymans, the theatre director Jean-Francois Peyret (for a theatre piece performend at the French National Theatre in Paris and the Avignon Theatre Festival on the Russian mathematician Sonya Kowalewskaya) and musical compositions for opera resulting in the operas Casparo (2011), performed at the Palau de la Musica in Barcelona, Theatre Moliere in Brussels, and the Sony Music Hall in Tokyo, and Fausto (2017), performed at the Theatre Gaite Lyrique in Paris, the Mind Gate Festival in Leuven (Belgium), and the Brussels opera house La Monnaie.
The artist’s handwriting in the age of digital bricolage.
“In the final analysis, a drawing simply is no longer a drawing, no matter how self-sufficient its execution may be. It is a symbol, and the more profoundly the imaginary lines of projection meet higher dimensions, the better.” – Paul Klee
Our age is facing a growing aesthetic of perfection. Users of manifold devices such as smartphones, digital television and photography are less and less familiar with the rather imperfect “surface” of such images as 16mm film, analog photography, or vinyl in the context of sound. Surfaces become more and more slick and similar, nobody would think about talking of “textures” in this context, the beauty of the aleatory such as overexposure or white noise has almost completely disappeared. In other words: The so-called mistakes of the author, which are an integral part of an artwork, do not have the same status, do not play the same role anymore as they used to. Allegedly deficient images are immediately erased, nevertheless, this does not reduce the humongous production of images nowadays.
My lecture will have a look into the changing notion of the process of drawing in the past 100 years from a curatorial perspective, synthesizing the observations of the 21st century and how artists are making drawings in the digital room, or rather on digital paper. How do typical features of the conventional drawing such as velocity, physical promptness and the singularity of the handwriting come into play in virtual rather than analogue artefacts? Is it “easier” to draw on the screen then on a sheet of paper? And what would be the best way to exhibit this new kind of digital draft, bearing in mind that conservatory restrictions are not relevant anymore? Is the dependence on the machine and eventually the software programmer a new form of production restriction or rather the possibility of collaborative work? By going through seminal examples of iconic draftsmen such as Jeanne Mammen, Paul Klee and Oskar Kokoschka, and taking as a contemporary example the work of Berlin-based artist and publisher Rita Vitorelli, I will try to answer the question if there is such a thing as a new way of drawing (in the realm of John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, 1972) that not only lies in the production process but also in its display and reception.
Cathérine Hug (b. 1976 in Basel, lives in Zurich) graduated with lic. phil. I in art history, computer science and journalism from the University of Zurich. As a freelance curator she was responsible among others for the exhibitions: In The Alps (2006) with Tobia Bezzola, Carola Giedion-Welcker (2007) at the Kunsthaus Zurich; and Celebrate Life! (2016) with Manuela Laubenberger at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. From 2008 to 2013 she was curator at the Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna, and curated there a.o. 1989: End of History or Beginning of the Future? (2009) with Gerald Matt, Steet and Studio: From Basquiat to Sériopop (2010), Space: About a Dream (2011), Lucy Skaer – Force Justify (2012), and Salon der Angst as well as WWTBD: What Would Thomas Bernhard Do (both 2013) with Nicolaus Schafhausen. Since 2013 she has been a curator at the Kunsthaus Zurich where she is curator for 20th-century art and thematic shows, and worked among others on:
Expressionism in Germany and France (2013) with Timothy Benson in cooperation with the LACMA and the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal; Europe: The Future of History (2015) with Robert Menasse, Francis Picabia: A Retrospective (2016) with Anne Umland in cooperation with the MoMA, New York, Fashion Drive (2018) with Christoph Becker, Oskar Kokoschka: A Restrospective (2018/19) with Heike Eipeldauer in cooperation with Museum Leopold, Vienna, and Fly Me To the Moon. The Moon landing 50 years on (2019) in cooperation with the Museum der Moderne Salzburg (Austria). In the Wall Street Journal from January 2, 2019, art critic Adam J. Goldmann says about the Oskar Kokoschka retrospective that “the show, elegantly curated by Cathérine Hug, takes us through eight decades of art in as many chronological and thematic chapters (…) the effect of having journeyed so far through time is staggering. Nearly four decades after Kokoschka’s death, the Kunsthaus Zurich has given us new hope that his singular artistic universe will endure.” Each mentioned exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue and a discursive event program. Hug, also responsible for the Kunsthaus Archive and Library, had the lead of the digitalization project of the Dada holdings which belongs to the largest in Europe.
Art and Technology’s Critical Views
There are museum institutions that look at artists as explorers of technology and researchers of scientific innovation.
Yet, as underlined in MAAT’s approach to the relationship between art and technology, as that between art and the urban environment, we can also look to the ways that artists produce a nuanced critique of technology, especially as its impacts become determinant to the way we lead our everyday lives. Exhibitions such as Utopia/Dystopia and Eco-Visionaries, as well as individual projects by artists such as Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster or Tomás Saraceno provide good examples of such strategies.
Pedro Gadanho is an architect, curator and writer currently based in New York. He was the director of the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology in Lisbon, Portugal.
He was the Curator for Contemporary Architecture at the Department of Architecture and Design at MoMA. He was the editor-in-chief of Beyond, Short Stories on the Post-Contemporary – a “bookazine” started in 2009 through Sun Architecture – and he was the author of Arquitectura em Público (Dafne, 2011).
He taught at the Oporto Faculty of Architecture, and from 2000 to 2003 he was a co-director of ExperimentaDesign. He was the curator of international shows such as Space Invaders, for the British Council, London, and Pancho Guedes, An Alternative Modernist, for the Swiss Architecture Museum, Basel.
He integrated the Advisory Panel for the British Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2010, and was the co-organizer of the 1st International Conference on Architecture and Fiction – Once Upon a Place. These days he is loeb fellow at Harvard University.
From the eye to the hand and back
Van Cauteren Philippe
Director of SMAK , the Museum of Contemporary Art, Gent, Belgium
Belu-Simion Făinaru: The confines of art and technology at the Venice Biennale
Raluca Nestor Oancea
The confines of art and technology have always constituted a land of paradox, haunted by vast cross-breeding as well as segregationist dreams between “Mainstream” Contemporary Art and Digital Art. The attempt to graft the latter on top of the other has been a fact qualified by Lev Manovich as problematic as early as the 1990s, an opinion reconfirmed by recent viewpoints. From the volume A Companion to Digital Art (Christianne Paul ed., 2016) we are introduced to the fact that, while the members of the new media paradigm do not sufficiently exploit the history of art and its conceptual potential, the artists use the concepts of the new artistic paradigm – interaction, programming, participation, network – without a deep understanding of the technology behind them. Claire Bishop reformulates the problem on different terms: despite the inevitable resetting of reality according to the categories of the digital world, contemporary artists are unable to capture how sight, thought, affect are filtered by this digital. At the same time, the world of Digital Art remains an isolated territory, without much echoes in the world of galleries, or the national pavilions in Venice.
In 2019, the Romanian-Israeli artist Belu-Simion Făinaru aims to probe the validity of these theses. In effect, he brings to Venice, in the national pavilion of Romania curated by Cristian Nae, a series of digital works realized in collaboration with Professor Alexandru Nicolau and a group of A.I. researchers from the ICU, California.
This presentation will analyse the multimedia work of Făinaru, be it digital or analogical, in order to relate it with a, so to speak, technological vibe of the Venice Biennale. From the beginning I have to stress that, in concordance with its aim to analyse our problematical post humanist times, the 2019 edition of the Biennale holds, in my opinion, an important technological core. This can reveal itself as a simple comment on the present relation of man with both nature and machines (we can mention here the poetic comment from the beautiful French or Japanese pavilion, the conceptual comment from the German pavilion but we can find such attempts in almost every pavilion), or as a choice of a particular medium as in the digital works of Hito Steyerl.
To all of the above we can add the fact that the mechanical automaton represents the main character of the Russian pavilion designed by Sokurov and also the key motif of the double world of labour versus rebellion from the Belgium pavilion. The virtual nature, the artificial landscape, the insinuation of the digital categories, of the digital way of seeing in our everyday life, in out actual world are the motifs of such projects from central pavilions of Arsenale and Giardini as those of Nabuqi, Zanna Kadirova, Martine Gutierez but also of Făinaru’s Talking Plant. The hyperrealist aesthetics of the digital animation or A.I. is another feature which we can find both in the Central pavilion of Arsenale (see the works of Ed Atkins) and also in Făinaru’s Talking Heads.
Analysing works as Talking Heads or Talking Plant I intend to prove that we live in times when the natural hybridizes with the technological, times when a cyborg-plant makes poetry battling the habit of reducing people to objects. In this context, we understand that only in the hands of a contemporary can poetry emerge out of technics.
Raluca Oancea (Nestor) is a lecturer at The National University of Arts in Bucharest where she teaches Aesthetics and New Media Art. She holds a degree in computer science and one in philosophy of culture, together with a master of fine arts. She also holds a PhD from The National University of Arts in Bucharest. Her doctoral thesis examines the connection between new media and contemporary art and the presence of classical and new aesthetic categories in the field of photography, cinema and new media art. She is also a curator and a writer for cultural and academic magazines such as: Ekphrasis, Praesens, Eikon, Vremea, Scena9, Zeppelin, Revista ARTA, Revista de Filosofie, Annals of the University of Bucharest.
“Belongs nowhere and to another time”, Romanian Pavilion, Venice Biennale
At the door of the house who will come knocking?
An open door, we enter
A closed door, a den
The world pulse beats beyond my door.
(Pierre Albert Birot
Les Amusements Naturels )
With a careful insight in collective histories, Belu-Simion Făinaru often engages in themes connected with territory and migration. Dealing with the difficult tensions regarding borders and war, his artworks relate to his personal experience as a Romanian-Israeli artist working during decades of escalating conflicts and social instability. In his artistic practice, Home becomes a key notion, a transitive concept, a type of space that is rather defined by absence rather than ownership, by alteration rather than permanence. How has Belu-Simion Făinaru approach to space managed to integrate this complex relationship between seeming opposites?
Home becomes in Belu-Simion Făinaru’s discourse a site in a transitive state, neither here nor there, an amalgam of recognizable signifiers that translate in a common desire to find its settled form. Nick Keye posits that a place is formed into real-space, one that departs from a fixed reality, in which representation is also a removal from it . Quoting de Certeau, Nick Keye describes the space in relation to place like ”a word when it is spoken” , capturing the unpredictability and contradictions of space transformation. ”Caught in the act of enunciation, perpetually in the practiced place, the walker can never resolve the multiple and conflicting spaces (…) into the place itself. The walker is thus always in the process of acting out, of performing the contingencies of a particular spatial practice” .
In interacting with the installations and objects of Belu-Simion Făinaru’s intertwining discourse, each visitor acts as a guest in the place defined as Home. It is not that everyone in this conceptualization is homeless, but rather that Home defined through its paradoxes is home to no one. Performing the space, in Nick Keye’s terms, is to be a waited-for guest, changing the conversation from an Other to Others, where everyone is once removed from a fixed identity and twice enacting this displacement for everyone else.
In an interesting fashion, Belu-Simion Făinaru’s latest collaborative work with Alex Nicolau Professor of Computer Science, University of California, fictitious dialogues with an algorithmic Artificial Intelligence (AI) of Paul Celan tries the limits of an already uncertain boundary of space-specificity. Its appearance in Belu-Simion Făinaru’s discursive place strangely overturns minimalism and post-minimalism rejection of the disembodiment into a generative space that each user/ visitor/ guest contributes to. Since the algorithm registers every interaction with the visitors, the conversation lingers unto the next person, allowing for its responses to modify accordingly. In this way, another performer is added to the enacting of the place, one which is not the public, or the AI, but the remaining space of conversation between them, generating an unexpected outcome for the next visitor. It is an interesting condition to be further explored in the discursive site-specificity in the case of Belu-Simion Făinaru’s practice, adding a ”scream into the void” to Miwon Kwon’s and Nick Keye’s theories of One space after another and the development of a place – an annulation of both authorship and witnesses.
In the end, the artist proposes a conjoined reality of other worlds, to unknown guests who are welcome to explore them at their seams. Estranged and displaced from themselves, there is a freedom in exploring a site like non-other through recurrences of deeply embodied desires. The fact that Home succeeds to be as unique as universal, as impermanent as ubiquitous provides further place for experimenting developing displacements in our virtual and digital world without losing touch with the tactility of the physical environment. Being in the world, thinking of Merleau-Ponty’s words appears to be a very detached experience, but meaningfully agonizing to be present into a place of absence.
~text by Cristina Stoenescu
Born 1959 in Romania, Belu-Simion Făinaru lives and works in Haifa, Israel and Antwerp, Belgium
Făinaru‘s works were exhibited at the 1992 Documenta in Kassel, the 1993 Venice Biennale, Sonsbeek 9 Biennale in Holland and the 2006 Biennale in Havana, Cuba, and also at Over the Edges in SMA K, Gent, M_ars, the New Gallery Graz, Austria, the Socle Du monde, Heart Museum, Denmark, Fluxus Virus, Uber Leben, Bonner Kunstverein, the Rita and Arturo Schwarz collection, Israel Museum, Waterworks, Randers Kunstmuseum, Denmark, the Aktionsforum Praterinsel, Munchen, Das Recht des Bildes, the Bochum Museum, Continental Shift at Ludwig Forum fur internationale Kunst, Aachen and Wir Sind Die Anderen, MARTa Herford.
Previous solo exhibitions include Israel Museum in Jerusalem, S.M.A.K. Museum in Ghent, M HKA in Antwerp, Lehmbruck Museum in Germany and Saitama Museum in Japan. He also participated at the exhibition The Sea – salut d’honneur Jan Hoet at the Mu.ZEE, The Art Museum of Ostende Belgium with a personal homage to the late curator Jan Hoet that Fainaru collaborated with him for many years, at the Vienna Biennale at Mak museum for Art and Design, The Triennale in Kathmandu Nepal, The Venice Biennale 2019 at the Romanian Pavilion, Unlimited in ArtBasel and other international exhibitions.
In 2015 he founded AMOCA the Arab Museum Of Contemporary Art in Sakhnin the first type of its kind in Israel based on communities that live in conflict promoting co-existence between Arab and Jewish communities opening gates for art that is inclusive and collaborative. Art that creates bonds on a local level and in touch with people accessible as much as possible.
Fainaru received art prizes between them the Jeffin prize of the America- Israel cultural foundation, the Haifa Museum prize of Excellency in Art, Nahum Guttmann’s prize Tel Aviv, the first prize for an outdoor sculpture at the sculpture garden of Tel Aviv University. Recently Fainaru received the prize of the Ministry of art and culture of Israel for 2014.
Art on the move-The Mediterranean Biennale as a place for change
The Mediterranean Biennale is an exhibition that emerges from the confines of the art museum and spreads out into the city and the public space. Such a presentation addresses the community. It manifests art in everyday life and integrates it with the movements of both the residents and the audiences who come to view it. The exhibition spaces of the Mediterranean Biennale are existing public spaces used by the local residents for trade, recreation, work, education, and prayer. These places are functional places operating as part of the urban space which responds to the needs of the community, while the artworks are integrated into the daily activity of the place. The exhibition installation of the artworks examines the question of exhibiting art and integrating it into the mundane daily life, while simultaneously examining the concept of the “White Cube” as the one true undisputed exhibition space of contemporary art in the museum.
These spaces are not designed or modified to fit the exhibits; the curatorial challenge is to adapt and integrate the artworks in the appropriate existing space and to enable the continuation of its proper activity. The artworks enable the existing spaces to transform into a place where different audiences and communities can meet and engage in dialogue and discourse in a place free of prejudices, misperceptions or fear to create a better reality fostering collaboration among people.
The exhibition spaces have in common the active and collaborative nature of the audience that responds, discusses, questions, and listens to others’ opinions. We are in fact seeing that the curatorship process has a component that enables a renewal of existing artworks with a primary context and meaning, and by integrating them into charged spaces, they can absorb new meanings from their environment and contributing additional meanings to the alternative space.
Our ambition is that The Mediterranean Biennale exhibitions will create an opportunity for change that will serve as a model for multi-cultural cooperation on the basis of common will and interest through an in-depth discussion of different perceptions and opinions while taking into account the uniqueness and individual strengths of each culture.
Avital Bar-shay is a cultural entrepreneur for social change, artist, designer, architect and curator. Bar-shay was born in 1966 lives and works in Israel.
Bar-shay exhibited in Israel and abroad .As curator she has vast experience in Public Space Projects that create bonds in the urban structure on a local level and in touch with people, bringing people from different cultures together to create a space for communication for listening to others views, and respecting other rights in a spirit of dialogue of nonviolence and reconciliation. With this spirit in mind in2008 she initiated the Mediterranean Biennale and since 2010 Avital Bar-shay has been the director of the Mediterranean Biennale of Contemporary Art, Sakhnin, Israel
The Commercialization of Art
Zykmunt Bauman (in his book Culture in a Liquid Modern World, 2013) argues that it is no longer easy to distinguish between elites and the lower ranks, because as cultural consumption patterns converge identifying features are blurring. Moreover, the cultural advantages of elite membership have been reduced mostly to status within that elite, and less vis-à-vis society at large. It is ever more rare for “elite “cultural tastes to bestow on their holder concrete advantage.
In the past, supposedly inferior taste served to justify class exclusion, as if cultural preferences were themselves a plausible test of belonging. But today, obscenity is no longer evidence of inferiority, and refinement no longer a sign of elevated class. Indeed, refinement is increasingly perceived as an emasculating factor, and the right to shout out aloud , to make oneself heard, is no longer banished from appreciated art. The process is not entirely new: Mainstream art became began to embrace aspects and symbols from the periphery of society even before the late capitalist period discovered that periphery as an easily manipulated source of consumption.
The commercialization of art has led to a search for markets – to art that seeks recognition from consumers expressing authentic taste. Galleries, which were always under financial strain, increasingly prioritized works likely to sell. Thus did the art market embrace production and consumption patterns of the commodity market, lending itself at once both the elan of authenticity and the scent of aristocracy. The angst over what befits true culture has transmuted into the more prosaic eternal question of capitalism: what will be sold and for how much.
Ordinary people have embraced new styles through a growing acquaintance with the increasingly diverse world of art — which itself now aimed to appeal to a wider variety of tastes. The more refined players, who once tried to educate others via scholarly explanations meant to determine taste, made themselves more accessible to the wider audiences. This search for wider audiences made sense in order to support art journals, galleries and theaters in an era of privatization and eroding public budgets for culture.
No longer requiring art for membership in a closed elitist group or to establish distance from the supposedly inferior, people now encountered unfamiliar styles. The common man embarked on a fascinating journey toward greater sophistication on one hand, but also an increasingly complex interplay between art and identity. Exposure to diverse materials not only enriched natural consumers of opera and classical music but also those who enjoyeds theater videos, original dance music, and other creative avenues in terms of content and form. It has not been a zero-sum game: the avalanche of digital media has not diminished the reading of books; cinema was not destroyed by video; even the music industry still produces albums despite the availability of downloads and streaming.
It is evident that the market has expanded, both in the breadth of styles and in the more varied means of distribution, production and consumption. Art is no longer considered a defining feature of class or wealth, which frees it. A greater societal willingness to embrace it both to satisfy curiosity and to express eclectic identity ungrounded in a uniform style releases art from false notions of quality which weighed it down and prevented the discovery of new worlds. Popular art and high art seek each other’s proximity now, unlike in the past. The result of such interaction is often innovative and original. Vulgarity becomes restrained; subtlety is unchained.
Proponents of the old order see sacrilege in this, of course. They tend to reject the mixing of creative forms, materials and styles. For them, the sin is not only artistic but social, undermining a construct which long helped preserve class distinctions.
Eitan Machter academic work is driven by the will to bridge between the world of education and the world of visual creation. As stated by Friedrich Nietzsche Schopenhauer as an Educator, man himself is creation, but one that is realized as he is creating. He develops, contemplates, teaches, researches and publishes his philosophy with the goal of expanding the conceptual and practical corpus of visual literacy and design education. Teaching, composing curricula, supervising theses and academic research in the field of visual culture theory are the essence of his academic work thus far. Machter seventh book, Creation and Self-realization: Reading Schopenhauer as an Educator by Friedrich Nietzsche, is due to be published by Resling in the near future. I intend to implement Nietzsche’s principles in the still-forming MA program in Education, Design and Environment at WIZO. Following Schopenhauer, Nietzsche determined that existence is of value and aesthetic significance, and ideas strive to reach tangible manifestation instead of remaining abstract elements. Eitan therefore wishes to instill teachers of art and design in particular, and teachers and educators in general, with imagery’s power to enrich life and human knowledge. He wishes to direct the committee’s attention to Prof. Jacob Golomb’s review of his book, Nietzsche and the Aesthetic, in Iyun journal. Prof. Golomb notes the book to be a critical contributor to understanding Nietzsche’s philosophy, particularly in the context of aesthetics. Prof. Golomb is the academic editor of Magnes Press, and is known as Israel’s leading expert on the Nietzsche’s philosophy (see Golomb’s article attached herein).