Edward Shanken

ArteXetrA = Art + Etcetera

Current Research

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>> Contemporary Art and New Media: Toward a Hybrid Discourse? <<

Since the mid-1990s, new media art (NMA) has become an important force for economic and cultural development internationally, establishing its own institutions. Collaborative, transdisciplinary research at the intersections of art, science, and technology also has gained esteem and institutional support with interdisciplinary Ph.D. programs proliferating around the world. During the same period, mainstream contemporary art (MCA) experienced dramatic growth in its market and popularity, propelled by economic prosperity and the propagation of international museums, art fairs and exhibitions. This dynamic environment has nurtured tremendous creativity and invention by artists, curators, theorists and pedagogues operating in both domains. Yet rarely does the mainstream artworld converge with the new media artworld. As a result, their discourses have become increasingly divergent. My research on this topic, which has roots in my essays “The House that Jack Built“(1998) and “Art in the Information Age” (2001), seeks to establish a common ground that bridges the gap between these discourses, enabling the construction of a more robust and inclusive understanding of art since 1960 in general. Recent essays include:  “Contemporary Art and New Media: Toward a Hybrid Discourse?” (2011) which demonstrates similarities between Roy Ascott’s theory of telematic art and Nicolas Bourriaud’s relational aesthetics, and provide examples of new media artworks that exemplify Bourriaud’s theory; and “Investigatory Art:  Real Time Systems and Network Culture” (2012), which uses Burnham and Haacke’s theory and practice of “real time” systems as a foundation for exploring practices in the 1990s and 220s by the likes of Heath Bunting, Josh On, Ubermorgen, Michael Mandiberg, and Beatrice DaCosta.

Link to current research on this topic, including recent essays, podcasts and videos of panel discussions at Art Basel, 2010 and CAA 2011, and special issue of Artnodes journal.

>> Interdisciplinary Collaboration <<

My prevailing interest in interdisciplinary collaboration centers on hybrid research that transcends the disciplinary limits of any single field, that pushes conventional structures of knowledge, and that yields breakthrough innovations. The success or failure of hybrid outcomes may elude the evaluative methods of any single discipline. I argue that new methods for ascertaining the value of the outcomes of collaborative research, and for recognizing the importance of process as an outcome in itself, must be developed. On a philosophical level, if the fruits of experimental research are not strictly art, science, or engineering, then one must wonder about the epistemological and ontological status of these hybrid forms: what exactly are they? What new knowledge do they produce or enable? What is their function in the world? On a practical level, the future sustainability of such research depends on answering these questions, because the careers of untenured artists and scientists whose work fuses disciplines will be prematurely curtailed if their contributions are not recognized and rewarded. My research seeks to develop compelling rationales for the importance of such research as an engine for innovation – innovation not just as an immediately marketable commodity or military capability, but as constituting more subtle and perhaps more insidious and profound shifts in the conception and construction of knowledge and society.

On the topic of collaboration and innovation, in 2012 I lectured at Arizona State University and at Art Center College of Design, led a professional development roundtable on education at the intersections of art, science, and technology at CAA, and will give a paper on art, science, sound, and environment at ISEA. In 2011 delivered a keynote at the Synergy conference in Barcelona. In 2010 I lectured on interdisciplinarity and creative economy to the Design Academy Eindhoven, led a workshop on hybrid art-science education at the International Symposium of Electronic Art (ISEA), and published the commissioned essay, “The History and Future of the Lab: Collaborative Research at the Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology .” This essay was reprinted in Polish and Spanish. In 2012, I led a professional development roundtable on education at the intersections of art, science, and technology at CAA and gave a paper on art, science, and environment at ISEA 2011. During a fellowship at UCLA in 2007-8, I worked closely with artist Victoria Vesna and scientist Jim Gimzewski on various collaborative projects bridging art and science, curated an exhibition on Nano Art, and spearheaded the conceptual design of multi-campus interdisciplinary curriculum using remote controlled STM microscopes and visualization software. In 2004, I chaired the panel discussion “Artists in Industry and the Academy: Interdisciplinary Research Collaborations” at CAA and in 2005 guest-edited a special section of Leonardo  38:4 and 38:5 based on those papers, including my own essay, “Collaborative Research, Interdisciplinary Scholarship, and the Creation and Interpretation of Hybrid Forms.” With engineer Dr. David Brady, I organized a symposium on interdisciplinary collaboration at Duke University in 2002. The Banff New Media Institute invited me to participate in the “Beauty of Collaboration” think-tank, where I gave a paper in 2003. The same year, I produced the film FreeSpace: Process – Collaboration – Perfromance  (28 min, Erik Martin, Dir.) documenting the collaboration between Brady’s lab and the Alban Elved Dance Company.

>> Social Media and Multilingual Translation:
Online Companion and Inventing the Future <<

Art and Electronic Media Online Companion

This unique Web 2.0 resource (based in Drupal) complements and expands my books Art and Electronic Media  and Inventing the Future (see below) by including a virtually infinite amount of multimedia content and by enabling the book to be constantly updated. Perhaps more importantly, the Online Companion is the only archive of new media art that allows users to create their own content and contribute to defining the history of the field as it unfolds. The Online Companion has been used extensively as a pedagogical tool: students learn about electronic art by writing, critiquing, and publishing their own multimedia entries about it. Online entries quickly outnumbered those in the book, serving as an object lesson in participatory culture and collective production.  Please contact me if you are interested in using the Online Companion in your courses.

In parallel with the publication of Inventing the Future (see below) I am developing multilingual functionality for the Online Companion. The ability to generate crowd-sourced translations of existing content and the creation of new multilingual entries lays a foundation for the proliferation of content diversity through the addition of articles in Chinese, Spanish, and Portuguese and about artists in Asia and Latin America. Initially conceived of as experiments in digital humanities, ultimately, I plan to study the Online Companion and Inventing the Future (and the forms of creativity, learning, and sociality that they generate) as an object of digital visual culture.

Inventing the Future

Published as Inventar el Futuro: Arte – Electricidad -Nuevos Medios  in Spanish in 2013 and forthcoming in Portuguese and Chinese as a paper volume and free E-text, Inventing the Future will make available to broad international audiences a canonical history of electronic and digital art.  Building on my prior book, Art and Electronic Media (Phaidon, 2009), the new monograph reveals the rich genealogy of art and technology as central to the history of visual culture and as an engine of creativity and innovation. Inventing the Future is extensively  hyperlinked with the Art and Electronic Media Online Companion, providing E-text readers with direct access to extensive supplementary multimedia content.  It’s great on my Nexus 7 and awesome on an iPad!

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Written by Edward Shanken

15 February, 2011 at 2:55 am

2 Responses

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  1. Hi Edward, I am contacting you to request permission to cite your recent essay ‘Contemporary Art and New Media: Towarad a Hybrid Discourse?’ in a postgraduate literature review on the role of the MCA arts institution in NMA. Kind regards, Nichola Jacques (MA Arts Management, Policy & Practice, The University of Manchester, UK)

    Nichola Jacques

    22 December, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    • Yes, by all means. Please share with me a copy of the work in which you cite it. Be sure to spell the title correctly and indicate that it is version 4. Cheers! Ed

      Edward Shanken

      8 April, 2013 at 6:01 am


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