Thursday, March 8, 2007

Hauser: A Pragmatic Curator's Point of View

From: Jens Hauser
Date: Thu, 8 Mar 2007 19:26:34 -0500 (EST)

Dear panelists,
it is difficult to join an ongoing discussion with delay.
Nevertheless I will try to stick to the three original questions.

My background may explain partially my position: I'm actually working as awriter and art curator focussing on the interactions between art andtechnology, transgenre and contextual aesthetics. My original profession beforehas all been about "imaging" for years: after film studies and studies inscientific journalisme I mainly worked for the european cultural TV ARTE since'92, did documentaries and videos… but less and less trusted how audiencescan be intelligently be "touched" by images. I moved to creative radio programsand projects to help access visual impaired people film and TV throughaudio-description. I have become more and more suspicious about the "epistemicpower" of the image, probably because of what is refered to as the"pictural/iconic turn"; and this scepticisme is strongly influencing mycuratorial work, leading to experiences with "wetwork".

1) What role do picturing practices play in your discipline of “knowledgeproduction?”
Following this panel, it becomes evident that the majority of the participants seem to identify themselves with a cognitivist approach (Goodman, Arnheim etc, even if not mentioned explicitely) based on how images can be interpreted. I
feel that art I'm most interested in less deals with (visual) representation but with staging (multisensorial) presence - especially when it comes to art in the context of biotechnology and biomedecine, that are biopolitical topics to be adressed with a certain degree of critical distance. I here expressively join the points made by Eugene Thacker and Oron Catts. I would argue that knowledge production, if ever this is to be defined as a prime 'role' of art, probably can be obtained directly or indirectly. Directly would mean: through the epistemic comparibility of visual art and scientific vizualisation techniques with which relationships are formally established in the hermeneutic perspective of making sense. Indirectly would mean: through a situation of encounter with art that is based on a phenomenological oscillation between meaning effects and presence effects, and that engage the viewer/participant strongly enough that he decides to build epistemic, semiotic and emotional clusters out of the experience. We may ask how art defines its aesthetic displays as metaphorical signs that refer visually to phenomena in the world, and more importantly, whether artists here even want to make rival use of the epistemological power of the image, or whether they see their role instead in the subversive questioning of dominant technoscientific concepts and dogmas and thereby also of their modes ofrepresentation.

I feel that there is a strong need to produce effects of presence in ourover-semanticized culture - which have independently been discussed by Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht in his critique of the central position of interpretation and his hypothesis that "any form of communication implies such a production of presence, that any form of communication, through its material elements, will 'touch' the bodies of the persons who are communicating in specific and varying ways." He underlines the fact that this has been "bracketed by Western theory building ever since the Cartesian cogito made the ontology of human existence depend exclusively on the movements of the human mind." Therefore, I strongly feel that art I want to promote is transgressing the semiotic procedures of representation and metaphor and produces presence which cannot be simply mediated without reducing it to a purely heuristic placeholder of discourses.

2) How have your perceptions and attitudes of mind been challenged by currentdialogues within the “Art-Sci” arenas? Here, the question of the audiences pop up. Leonel Moura and Andrew Carnieargued that the fact that "sci-art" is often shown in science museums andsuffering from the predominance of commercial art structures is due to the lack of science litterary of curators and critics that cannot comprehend it yet.Another way to see it would be that work in this area often is reduced to itsinherent signs and may not oscillate between meaning effects and presence effects.

3) What role have new imaging technologies played in your conceptualizations ofvisual modeling or artistic application?
In an age, in which the techno-sciences themselves have become potent producers of aesthetic images (see: Kristian Köchy: Zur Funktion des Bildes in denBiowissenschaften. In: Stefan Majetschak (Ed.): Bild-Zeichen. Perspektiveneiner Wissenschaft vom Bild. Munich, 2005.), the use of biotechnologicalprocesses as means of expression in art dealing with biotechnology may not have a prime (de)-pictive function. To my opinion, art that deals with biotechnologyas a means of expression, as an exemple, distances itself from the assumptionmade on the comparability of scientific and artistic images as proclaimed inthe context of the "Iconic Turn". It defies referential representativeness andillustrative simulation, such as that which characterizes the understanding ofbiological systems in digital media art. What seems to point to this"de-image-ing", which should also be regarded as often subversive, is theironic approach that wetwork-centered artists have towards visualizationtechnologies such as functional magnet-resonance tomography, GFP-proteinlocalization or gel-electrophoresis. When living systems are involved, ororganic materials manipulated: Are these only "living images"?

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