Reading Response #3

by Emily-Rose Gibbons

Quaranta mentions the idea of ‘pure media hacking’, offering the motto: “No ethics. No message. No content.” In this distilled manifesto, Quaranta seems to propose that a radical awakening about representation in the media may have little to do with abiding by a code of ethics. What are your own thoughts on this matter? Would you forgo ethics in making an online artwork or design project you see as powerful and necessary?

The way in which many people consume media is a serious concern. The Internet, especially, brings this problem –or, dare I say crisis–to light. For instance, on a daily basis I see fellow Facebook friends sharing news articles from unreliable sources (and even on occasion, parody news sites) and getting very worked up about the content, even though it isn’t true. In less extreme but equally as horrifying cases, online publications will dramatically emphasize a particular finding of a study (“Drinking lemon juice daily will make you lose weight!”) but fail to mention all other important factors involved in the case (…”instead of drinking soda”), and hence, have many readers convinced that their daily glass of lemon juice is making them lose weight. Clearly there is a definite need to educate people on how to properly navigate and interpret media.

If I were to forgo ethics in making an online artwork that I see as powerful, I would certainly have to largely contemplate how far the notions of ethics would be stretched and how this break from ethic code would be appropriated. If a piece of artwork can evoke positive change –whether that be the flick of a switch in an individual’s mind or even the law (like the interventions of Edward Snowden or Julian Assange – obviously outside of the art world bubble but certainly in a similar ethical realm), I am all for that. In fact, we need that. However, I do think it is important to contemplate such dramatic ideas and consider all possibilities and other options before executing them –perhaps in some situations it would be possible to send just as powerful a message in a more subtle way, without breaking the code of ethics. It is important to justify why ethic code is being broken and how it will be received by viewers.

How can a website function as an installation? How does this concept of websites satisfy both Groy’s and Quaranta’s arguments for the “here and now” of an artwork?

Groy’s believes that the aura of a computer artwork can only be “cured” by “bringing it to the exhibition space” (page 158). From Groys’ viewpoint, an exhibition space of an artwork is similar to that of the traditional art world. If the material artwork is not in a single physical space, it is not an original work; it becomes a copy. The work becomes unauthentic and its aura lessened when it is not in an exhibition space because “the quality of the presence” (or “here and now”) is “depreciated” (page 158). In his words, “the presence of the original is perquisite to the concept of authenticity” (page 158).

To satisfy Groy’s argument of the “here and now” of an artwork, a website would have to be only in a single viewable space such as a gallery. Only the people in the gallery, suspended in a specific time and location, would be able to fully be in the presence of the original online artwork. In my opinion, this is very outdated way of understanding art.

On the other hand, Quaranta states that online art exists as a unique type of installation. Quaranta views the “here and now” of online art in terms of location, and even compares a website to a building with a specific name on a map –it takes up a space. As Manetas stated: “anything that can be found on the Web has a physical presence. It occupies real estate” (page 160).  A website physically exists as a file in someone’s computer in a specific location, uploaded onto a server also in a specific location: this is the “here and now” of a website and it can be visited by typing the name of the site into a URL bar.

Quaranta concludes the piece with a call to faith in a new kind of art form and way of distributing of art, as discussed in the first assigned reading. The newer mode of accepting online artwork would involve changing one’s idea of ownership: if you want to buy a website, “you need faith because you are buying an invisible original… In other words, you need the faith required to recognize art out of the context.” (page 161) In order to properly accept or at the very least fully grasp online art, understanding the revised ways in the display and context of artwork is certainly needed. Online art is not traditional and in my opinion, it should not be thought of in a traditional art context: it doesn’t make sense to compare such a different medium to something it is most certainly not. It is embedded in us to think in such a way and in order to accept online art as art, we need to move on from this very particular mindset, as earlier stated by Quaranta.

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