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The Century Turning InternationalEvents Bonnie Marranca image world IN THE SUBWAY SOMEONE WAS PLAYING "Rudolph the RedNosed Reindeer" on a steel drum. On the F-train a black man peddled Street News. America's Motivational Non-Profit Newspaper, a new monthly sold by the homeless. I got off the stop not far from Park Avenue, where a man at curbside was making a video of the apartment buildings looking uptown, talking into a microphone, "Some of these apartments rent for three to four thousand dollars a month." I walked on to the Whitney to see the Image World: Art and Media Culture show. Big color blow-ups of the homeless plastered the sides of the ticket counter. In one photograph a black man was selling Italian silk ties. Ticket Booth courtesy of artist Dennis Adams. On the fourth floor a "walltext" alerted, "Those looking to art as a refuge from the outside world will not find comfort here. This is work that challenges our expectations -about the limits and definitions of art forms and the institutional authority of the media. In the hands of artists these media have become new perceptual instruments which have transformed how we see the world around us." Several of Jenny Holzer's cast aluminum plaques were dispersed about 66 the gallery rooms. One read, USE WHAT IS DOMINANT IN A CULTURE TO CHANGE IT QUICKLY. Jeff Koons pictured himself in an Art in America ad that looked like a scene from a David Lynch film. Cindy Sherman's untitled film stills were still picturing themselves in the history of the image. Appropriation strategies have their limits. I prefer the open-ended generosity of Nam June Paik's Fin de Siecle II, 1989, a video installation of approximately 300 television sets arranged like an electronic wall-hanging that dominated the show, due as much to its ideas as to its size. This work is what it is, supremely situated in its medium, without signaling messages or education programs with good intentions. The center panels of the installation were organized around three images representing pop culture, technology, and art history: namely, David Bowie, a digital computer creation of a Bauhaus-style figure, and analogic computerized images of a female nude. Music by Philip Glass, Bowie, Kraftwerk was easily recognizable. So was the iconography of the twentieth century which supplied images for all the television sets at the borders of the installation : the airplane, the city, the film, the car, the TV, the video camera. Montage as a form of tourism. Joseph Beuys and Merce Cunningham made cameo appearances, homage to the old masters. Fin de Siecle II, however, was not about seeing, but glimpsing. One might say that it expressed an overall new romanticism: sensual but not sexual . The cubism of form was joined to the surrealism of image content. The last great visual ethnography, surrealism's longevity is a marvel, even more so with the capabilities of technology. Consciousness is, on one level, the memory of images. Paik's installation grasps modernism as a philosophical position, assured of its faith in technology as liberal politics. Historically, modernism was profoundly committed to spiritual and social change, with the promise of technology the center of that vision. As we now know, it led in two directions , democracy andfascism. But modernism was always deeply rooted in Judeo-Christian tradition and, not surprisingly, one of the earliest Dadaists, Hugo Ball, ended his life writing religious works once he had lost his faith in art. In our own time we can see the reversals of modernism in the difference between Kafka's castle and Havel's. And now in Europe the concept of the mass has shifted from the sociological to the liturgical, with sidewalk shrines and honored martyrs a natural part of the cultural landscape. What modernism eventually brought to the twentieth century was a popular (youth) culture-a culture not based on tradition (old forms of song, folk dances, festivals, ritual, and the like)-but one of speed, technology, dynamism, and innovation. Internationalism replaced ethnocentrism, and the roundness of myth and ritual was supplanted by the angular, nervous 67 edge of modernity. Modernism was urban, not rural; cosmopolitan, not...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1537-9477
Print ISSN
1520-281X
Pages
pp. 66-74
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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