Re: congestion/indigestion?

Mark Coniglio (
Thu, 14 Aug 1997 16:54:46 -0500

Hi all,

I've been quite lately - day job intensifies as the end of the project
comes near.

I have read the dialogue between Amanda and Stephen with some interest. The
issue of hype with regards to promoting artworks that include technology is
pretty much a rampant problem.

Let me tell you all a little story...


There was a visual art exhibition called "CODE" that occurred a year or two
ago here in NYC. I wish I had the promo stuff for this still, but I threw
it out in disgust because of the hyperbole...

Argument against CODE's promo: the most bothersome text read something like
"in our time, as Art and Industry come together..." Art and Industry With
Capitol Letters In Front To Emphasize Their Importance. Eeesh! Art &
Industry Together... what can this portend except utter doom? Anyway, this
was going to be an Important Show because it would feature the Latest
Integration of Art and Technology, da da da. There was little about the
pieces themselves save the names of the artist. Of utmost importance was
the high concept description of the show.

Argument for CODE's promo: They want you to know that their show is
different. Maybe you like pieces with a technological bent. Please come see

Now of course, I attended the CODE show out of curiosity. There was a
laundry list of coporate sponsors at the front door, which had its own
disturbing implications. Inside, there was a very elaborate setup of
computers, many suspended from a polished aluminum cage. As far as I could
tell (it was very crowded) they all had CD-ROMs on them, running Macromedia
Director authored pieces of a very predictable nature.

All of this was disappointing, especially when I noted on one of the pieces
I checked out, that the visual imagery was extremely potent. Why was this
on a computer? I had no idea except that it was a way to suck me in. It
worked, I guess.

The only piece I found compelling was created by a fellow called Ben Rubin.
It was an old, 40s style ceramic sink. It had been rigged with sensors in
the faucet handles, so that as you manipulated them, various interesting
water sounds came out of the spout. Brilliant. The best thing about it was
there was no sign, no indication of what the sink's function was. You
couldn't see the computer attached to it. It was just there, in the middle
of the room. It didn't _need_ any hype - it existed on its own.


I bring this up only because I will be the first to say that Troika Ranch,
for one, has obviously put ourselves into a niche of using media and
interaction in our pieces. We have promoted ourselves as such. This has
gotten us a certain kind of attention no doubt. Do I discount this in a
time when the perfomring spaces are closing left and right because my
government cuts federal funding from an almost meaningless amount (US$200
Million) to an truly meaningless amount (US$ 100 Million)? No, I don't.
U.S. artists everywhere are desperately struggling to get noticed, simply
because we hope to have a chance to perform and show our creations. This
can make it easy to fall into the trap of over-hyping one's work. Perhaps
the situation feels different in Europe.

But this being said, I don't feel that there is anything wrong with
advertising ones work. It is the making of false claims that bothers me,
and I guess, Amanda too.

It all comes down to a question of taste, I think. When I see terms like
"first ever" or "breakthrough" or the ever evil "paradigm shift" I am
immediately ready to dislike the object of these descriptions. At this late
date in history, to say "first ever" is to be particularly pretentious. And
what does it matter if it is the first, this certainly doesn't inherently
mean that it is worth seeing.

Rather: What is the subject of the work? Why was it made? What does the
author have to say? These are the real things that will attract me to a

-- Mark

Mark Coniglio, Artistic Co-Director |
Troika Ranch |