Re: Prix Ars '99 bigotry


Subject: Re: Prix Ars '99 bigotry
From: B. Battey (bbattey@u.washington.edu)
Date: Thu Feb 25 1999 - 18:20:20 EST


On Tue, 23 Feb 1999, Larry Austin wrote:

> > >statement by the panel that berated "computer music" (their designation
> > >in the competition) as "an outmoded '60's term gone out of vogue." They
> > >go on: "There were a large number of entries in the Computer Music
> > >Section this time and, despite the forceful statements over recent years,
> > >the majority of works submitted were once again, 'tape' pieces which
> > >primarily represented the male academia with little racial or gender
> > >diversity."

My concern is this: this statement about racial and gender diversity may
represent a real ethical issue, but in this context it is dishonest
because it was not *really* what the decision was about.

Some portion of Prix Ars Electronica appears to have decided to extol
novelty in medium as the basis for decision making. That of course, is
their right.

I think the preference would be to base choice on 'artistic depth.'
However, we in the 20th century have done much to prove that 'artistic
depth' can't be defined. If you can't define 'artistic depth' -- or prove
that it has intrinsic value -- then you might choose to decide worth on
the basis of 'novelty.' There's no objective basis for arguing with the
choice. In fact, there's no arguing against the equating of 'novelty' with
'artistic depth,' which is arguably a primary ideology within 20th century
Western art.

Of course, novelty is a completely subjective concept, too. To some
people, computer-realized tape music represents a 'been there, done that.'
To others it represents an immense realm of yet-to-be explored potential.
(Do not tape music competitions reward novelty within the medium?)

Prix Ars Electronica has chosen the former view, it appears. And, since
contests usually have the goal to support a certain type work that is not
otherwise supported -- and since 'tape music' already has relatively
strong institional support (the argument goes) -- they will consciously
choose to give preference to works crossing mediums or meant for something
other than the concert hall.

Which is their choice of course.

**** Just don't place a facade over the subjective choice and pretend that
that it has anything to do with addressing serious issues like sexism,
racism, and patriarchy- over-dominated traditions. ****

(It is my personal bias to think that the aesthetic of coolness that much
of Prix Ars Electronica appeals to is more likely to continue such
societal ills. Witness the o-so-cool sado-masochistic
blond-busting-at-seams straddling the techno-thrust motorcycle in the
Computer Animation portion of the '98 book.)

At this point, I can say that I was a beneficiary of the agenda of the
jury -- my work for video and computer music placed in '98. I appreciate
the gesture of support for my work for which I still find some contests
and concerts ill-equipped to handle (technically). I'm going to assume the
choice was something more than mere tokenism towards the visual element.

But since I see my visual aesthetic as owing a great deal to my electronic
music background -- and given my continued belief in something undefinable
but very important called 'artistic depth' -- I still find the Prix Ars
Electronica choice to give priority to visual components disturbing.

But I would be less disturbed if one individual's statement for the jury
didn't try to claim that they were making a bold strike for social justice
in the process.

-=Bret Battey

http://students.washington.edu/bbattey/



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