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Developments in Visual Art

The penultimate plenary here at MiT5 has started, and I'm afraid I walked in a little late and missed part of the introduction to Reproduction, Mimicry, Critique and Distribution Systems in Visual Art. The first speaker is Michael Mittelman from ASPECT, who founded the group out of a frustration with the lack of availability of contemporary video art in useful formats. He began by collecting such works and documentary videos about them, but then also began to develop DVDs collecting such works and offering optional voiceover tracks of the artists speaking about their works. Such DVDs needed to be affordable and comfortable, and are designed for home use rather than simply for use in exhibition spaces, which are traditionally very ill suited to longer-form video content. However, galleries make a percentage off low-volume, high-cost DVD content; they are poorly equipped (and generally disinterested) for producing such DVDs in higher volume for a home market.

ASPECT, by contrast, supports artists who get a percentage of sales revenues and gain better exposure to a larger audience; it supports historians by creating a better and more lasting historical record of the work. Its goal is 'many eyes and few hands' (obtaining wide distribution, but without disabling the artist from selling their work as a unique piece of art); one solution to this is to publish on the DVDs a kind of 'trailer' for the overall artwork along with the curator's commentary, another is to distribute the documentation of the artwork as created by the artists, rather than the artwork itself (but this depends on the documentation of the artwork being as good as the artwork itself, in which case it could be seen as an artwork in itself, and the problem of 'many eyes, but few hands' returns), yet another is to re-edit the original work to create a (more or less different) derivative piece which can be sold through ASPECT's channels. Perhaps this points to a need for the development of new methodologies overall.

Tony Cokes from Brown University is the next panellist; his work focusses on reworking media forms and genres (especially in popular music) and thereby redirect such content to audiences which were not initially the intended ones. The subject matter in his works is sound itself, and they address pop artists, audiences, and markets. He now shows one of his works, which builds on music by Morrissey and combines this with 1960s newsreels.

Artist Andres Laracuente is the last presenter. He's been making art through participation in fetish videos (nothing hugely outrageous - mainly, balloon popping and tickling); this highlights questions around the audience for art, and the difficulties of defining whether such videos could be described as a form of performance art - both within the fetishist scene itself, and within a wider artistic context...

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