Arts Content in Digital Era Analysis

Just Another Turning Point

There is no doubt that technologies change the way we live. Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press paved the way for mass publications. Then came along the electronic media. Radio and television transformed us into the mass communication age. Now we have the Internet and with it the world will never be the same again.

The Internet has been commercialised for less than two decades but it creates fundamental impacts to every aspect in our lives. Arts and cultures cannot escape this fate. The way we listen to music, watch movies and experience arts have shifted drastically.

However, old and traditional media will stay. Despite of the decline of magazine sales, people still read. We will see tape cassettes being wiped out of the shelves and CDs will be next but people still go to concert and download songs their favourite bands. Although digital photography is taking over both consumer and commercial market, photomedia artists still explore film and even glass plate medium in their works.

These changes are definitely inevitable. The question is how we adapt into and courageously brave new world. Australia Council for the Arts has just released a strategy paper, Arts Content for Digital Era, dated June 2009 as a guideline to embrace this big wave.

Getting Ready for the New Dawn of Uncertainty

The future is already here – it is just unevenly distributed.[1] We are not just talking about socio ecology status but we have also put other elements such as digital media literacy, broadband accessibility and hyperconnectivity into an account.  On the policy level, if there is someone’s responsibility to fill this gap in arts sector, that is The Australia Council.

Their policy for digital age broadly covers four components:

  • New audiences: promoting access to arts content
  • New domains: evolving arts contents and practice
  • New incomes: linking arts content and commerce
  • New supports: producing and preserving arts content[2]

New audiences

With the Federal Government’s future directions, there is certainly a great opportunity to increase arts audiences from new technologies. Mainly, The Australia Council aims to attach arts content to the two public broadcasters — ABC and SBS. They successfully built multi-platform content to the public.

However, the nature of new audiences is not someone who just sits around and takes what the Aunties have to say. The Internet is creating a generation of creators whose expectations a different to those who grew up in mass media era.[3] They have more controls and choice of what, who and how they want to be engaged with. Viewers become authors, collaborators, commentators and distributors themselves. The Australia Council might have to consider a strategy to involve audiences in arts content interactivity to build up the new patrons.

New domains

Once the technology emerges, there will always be a new form of arts created. The Australia Council recognises that artist and arts companies must learn how to write, design, create, rehearse and perform in new ways.[4] They keep on funding digital-based works and collaborating with other organisations in research and development.

New incomes

We can now reach the global market but also have the global competitors. Digital distribution is a tricky business because its contents can be circulated around with no cost. And the Australia Council realises that ‘one-off’ model may not work in this arena at all. There are new business models around and we are in the stage that we can watch, learn, adapt, change or even start from the scratch.

Artists and art professionals definitely cannot be alone on this matter. It is involved issues to consider: legal intellectual property, secure network transaction, user experience design et cetera. The Australia Council is in the place of facilitator to make a dialog and find some solutions for new incomes.

New supports

The Australia Council looks for the way to link arts professional and management with other digital industry and supports projects on archiving digital content.

Possibilities without an End

It seems that The Australia Council puts a good effort to reach these goals.  To name a few:

This brief cultural policy shows that The Australia Council has a clue and is honest that we may not have a clue about this phenomenon. Personally, anyone who says they are digital communication gurus is just a bunch of clueless marketeers.  Many issues that come with digital era are still debated: copyright, business model and so on. Even the definition of arts itself could be challenged as it happens although the history.

It is very exciting that we are living in the time we do not only passively watch the changes but we actively make those changes.


[1] William Gibson, Interview with npr, 30 November 1999

[2] Australia Council for the Arts, Arts Content in Digital Era, June 2009

[3] Marcus Westbury, The Digital Craft Explosion, 24 July 2009

[4] Australia Council for the Arts, Arts Content in Digital Era, June 2009

This essay is a cultural policy analysis assignment for Management and Organisation class, College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales.

The Promise of the Cyber Land

Lisa Jevbrett

We live in the world that technologies go faster than we could catch up ourselves. Artists are trying to explore, examine and question about this these technologies.

Some tries to visualise the Internet, for examples, Lisa Jevbratt’s C5 1:1, Vuk Cosic’s War in Yu, Mark Napier‘s Digital Landfill and Douglas DavisThe World’s First Collaborative Sentence. Meanwhile others use the medium for political agenda such as Floodnet-Zapatista Movement by Electronic Disturbance Theatre, Josh On’s They Rule 2001 and 2004.

Institute for Applied Autonomy’s i-see project explore the notion of people are watched by authorities in public whereas social media bring private and personal lives for the world wide web to watch.

Feng Mengbo mixes virtual characters into his works Q4U, The Long March and Super Mao. Joseph Delappe gets close to reality with virtual game in Dead in Iraq and America’s Army. In the most popular cyber world, Second Life, John Freeman and Will Pappenheimer sell drugs in Virta-Flaneurazine SL, Double Happiness reflects labour issue online. BorderXing plays the idea of physical boundaries where people try to cross. In the other hand, RSG Prepared PlayStation explores the trap we make ourselves in virtual games.

Online identity is another aspect to look at. Keith Obadike has Blackness for Sale on ebay, Tim Gregory asks about sexual identity in Seminal Disseminations. But Linda Demont says that males still dominate the realm in Typhoid Mary. Silpa Gupta is commissioned to create an online space for different religion to worship. And Yes Men Group uses false identities to penetrate big organization in order to deliver their messages.

Eduardo Kac is the best artist to alk about BioArt with a number of his works such as Time Capsule, Teleporting an Unknown State, Genesis and Alba.

Good contemporary art responses to the living world as opposed to classic works that have already been put on the top shelf which do not necessary ask about our relationship to the modern world.

This essay is a part of Critical Response Files for Art after Postmodernism class, College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales.

The New Emergence of the Old Dragon

Welcome to the World Famous Brands — Luo Brothers

It is no doubt that there is a frenzy of Chinese contemporary art market at the moment although the attention was almost none before 1990s. The turning point of the Chinese art movement was Tainanmen Massacre that many artists had to flee out of country in exile.

Prior to the incident, there were three ways to explore Chinese arts traditions under communist regime:

  • Literati, the traditional brush painting on landscape with chi (life energy) transferred through brush stroke. But it contradicted with Mao revolution and reconstruction of China. Painters had to find the way to reconcile with this idealism.
  • The Soviet Union’s influence, socialist realism, reflecting Cultural Revolution.
  • Peasant tradition. During the Cultural Revolution it was promoted and combined with literati, local paper cut and western modernism.

After Mao in the end of culture revolution, Tdeng was in power and tired to build up economy and artists were hungry for western modernism.

China Avant-Garde exhibition was the landmark show just before the massacre. Wenda Gu was the first who left. To name a few, Xu Bing, Wang Guangyi, Huang Yong Ping, Song Dong, Yan Pei Ming and Wang Du. The taste of freedom after the period of suppressions gained them the success and reputations.

Now artists who work in China get the most attention in the art world with their variety of works, such as Wang Jin, Zhang Huan, Lu Hao, Yang Fudong and the Luo Brothers. There are some tensions between Chinese artists who stay in the nation and who were in exiled and are still working overseas. Ai Weiwei, one of the first artists who fled to New York, tries to reconcile with his work, Fairytale.

With the economy boom, the local art market is also growing with young Chinese entrepreneurs who buy works either for pleasure or investment. It is fair to predict that not for too long there will be a shift of world culture centre other than New York, Paris and London. And everyone is looking at this old dragon.

This essay is a part of Critical Response Files for Art after Postmodernism class, College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales.

The Brits Are Back

Richard Billingham's Untitled

Let’s say that in 1990’s is an era when art and creative industries in UK peaked since The Beatles and miniskirts. And Young British Artists (YBAs) was one significant group that proved that British art and culture were still alive.

It started off at Goldsmiths College, University of London, where most of YBAs went to. Michael Craig-Martin seemed to be the father figure of YBAs. He restructured the education and had a huge impact on them. Then, a group of students organised by Damian Hirst exhibited a show called Freeze, which attracted one of the most influential art collectors—Charles Saatchi with their sharp and witty art pieces. And he became the main sponsor of the group.

As Turner Prize got more buzz in British media, YBAs’ contribution to the Awards even inflamed the vibe with their bold and controversial installations like Damian Hirst’s The Physically Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living and Tracy Emin’s My Bed. The first of the group who won it in 1993 is Rachel Whiteread with House, which also won K Foundation Award. Then Damian Hirst won in 1995, Douglas Gordon in 1996, Chris Ofili in 1998, Martin Creed in 2001 and a number of nominations from several artists such as Sam Taylor-Wood, Tracy Emin, Tacita Dean and The Chapman Brothers and Garry Hume.

Sensation Exhibition in 1998 at Royal Academy was another marking point for YBAs. They became established and broke into conservative space. In fact, the exhibition was Saatchi’s collection of their works. The exhibition caused a controversy by Marcus Harvey’s Myra, which is portrait of a serial killer made by children’s handprints and provoked Catholics in New York exhibition tour with Chris Ofili’s own expression of The Holy Virgin Mary.

Damian Hirst would be the hottest artist in the group. Although he was compared to Jeff Koon, even he was far cleverer; he would rather talk art in a pub than be intellectual about his works.  His latest work, For the Love of God, was sold literally to himself. Other artists worth mentioned are Richard Billingham and Emma Kay.

YBAs group is criticised that they do not signify British class culture. Actually, they grew up in the Thatcherism era, which had systematically destroyed working class culture. And what’s wrong of being classless.

This essay is a part of Critical Response Files for Art after Postmodernism class, College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales.

Grown-up Girls or Naughty Women

The Choice Is Hers

Tracy Emin's 'I've got it all'

The politics of Feminism has its own interesting journey in the past decades. From the movement of Biological Feminism to Social Construction and Post-Feminism political and social feminists, in general, seek for women’s place in the world whereas female artists find their own ways to reflect and response to the ideas of femininity.

They have come a long way since Yoko Ono’s performance “Cut Piece” (1965-2003), where she sat passively onstage while the audience cutting her cloths piece by piece, to Andrea Fraser‘s “Untitled” (2003), which she asked an art collector to pay her $20,000 then she recorded they having sex in a hotel room and released it in a limited edition.

Judy Chicago and Georgia O’Keefe are good examples who explore womanhood in forms that relate to their biological gender, tending to be soft and open than whereas guys mostly do something hard and aggressive. On the other hand, Barbara Kruger and Sophie Calle observe women’s role in social construction terms.

But when the old feminism is getting too close to far-right movement and seems to be used as a tool to control women rather than liberate them, Annie Sprinkle goes step ahead with Post Porn Manifesto. It advocates women to enjoy and embrace sex and their sexuality. Post-Feminism debates further than its predecessors that women can empower themselves and have the control of their own bodies and their own lives. Madonna is the leader in this study.

Here are some of the diverse visual artists who explore the relationship of women and the contemporary world: Tracy Emin, Sarah Lucas, Rita Ackermann, Nikki S. Lee, Cecily Brown, Kara Walker, Beatriz Milhazes, Mariko Mori, Vanessa Beecroft and Jenny Saville.

This could go along with Judith Butler‘s theory. That is your self-esteem is the echoes of something around you. The way we dress and talk responses to the feedback to you. And you reconstruct yourself all the time. You can be a different person everyday and play a game or a role with others. So women can absolutely change and choose to be who they are.

This essay is a part of Critical Response Files for Art after Postmodernism class, College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales.