New Media Protocols and the Artist (Rasing his Voice?)

On: October 24, 2009
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About Marta Colpani
I was born in Piacenza, a little city in the North of Italy. I grew up with five brothers and sisters and various adopted and hosted children who temporary lived with my family. In 2005 I moved on my own to Pisa to study Film, Music and Theater and later (2006) I moved to Haarlem to study Information Science in Amsterdam. I graduated in August 2009 and then started the post-graduated program New Media, at the same university (UvA). Simultaneously I'm studying fine arts at the Rietveld Academy and running a stage at Technische Unie in the Product information & eBusiness department.


In my research paper – which I will be writing the next two months, I want to deepen the discussion around new media art and its relation to political and social engagement. While has always taken a very strong stand against the mainstream culture and has promoted a so called “counter-culture” by coordinating hacktivists and spreading their message over the Internet, new media art is now taking other forms (such as database art, locative media art, etc.), mostly with a less evident political and social position. Tuters and Varnelis (2006) discuss a number of points of view regarding social and political engagement in new media art. It may seem contradictory that artists work together with commercial organizations and art projects become part of marketing actions as a consequence. On the other hand this is a way for artists to be sponsored for the realization of large and expensive projects and get software development assistance by professionals.

But also a deeper and more complex issue can be discussed. Van Kranenburg questions the very channel and artifacts that are being used by artists for the realization of their art. The Internet, GPS and new technology that have been developed and spread (and are sometimes controlled) by military forces, governmental institutions and commercial organization should be boycotted and new media artists should focus more on social equity and long-term sustainability. He also suggests that we now have the tools and the power to create alternative protocols and we don’t need to make use of the standard protocols that have been imposed. Van Kranenburg statements also arouse questions: is it really possible to create parallel protocols that distinguish themselves from the mainstream? Wouldn’t they eventually become controlled by few, and controlling for the majority of us? Is it possible to reach the general audience by using non-standard protocols? And does it imply that new media artists should have high technical and ICT skills to produce art at all?

The discourse around new media art and the role of the artist are based on the assumption that the role of the artist is to protest against the mainstream culture and to question power relationships in society. Although this is the most common idea, I believe that the role of the artist today should be seen within his historical evolution. In the Western society artists have been depending on power figures since a very long time and they have been forced to adapt their work to please their sponsors. Religious, political and commercial institutions have always used artworks to subordinate, teach and influence people. Thus, the idea of artists being sponsored by commercial organizations and political institutions is nothing new. In my paper I want to underline the differences and similarities between today’s artists and artists from the past and their role within society. By doing so, I hope to be able to place the discourse around new media artists in a broader context. Eventually, I will formulate my conclusion based on the literature and on a number of examples.

I will post some conclusion at the end  of December on my personal blog.

Comments are closed.