REVIEW/COMMENTARY: “You Have to Change With the Times” by Raquel Herrera

A contribution by Raquel Herrera Ferrer, originally published on Tempus Fugit

The problem at the beginning of the year is that it seems to linger on whether or not one accepts it as reality well into winter. There aren’t many cultural activities and time can only be filled with personal reflection, or, in any case, with wandering thoughts about good and bad intentions that are sure to be forgotten by springtime. I’ve been wanting to write for some days and not necessarily about the same old stuff, but I don’t find motivating events to be held in the next days. So I’ll have to keep with my wandering thoughts.

Some days ago I went to the press lunch for ARCO art fair, and I deeply regretted the nonexistent presence of (more) art related to technology in the festival. The reason might be the change of management and 2007 could be regarded as a transition year; yet I’m worried. The good perspectives of 2006’s Black Box section (art projects related to video and new media) are thwarted by the fact that this year will be devoted to videos from art galleries, and the once buzzing Experts Section (new media conferences) will be entirely focused on collectionism. So it’s video and transactions, basically.

The multiple anniversaries that coincided in 2006 and the stagnation of some institutions, both in Barcelona and Madrid, make me think that we might be at a turning point that requires a renewal. This is why I’d briefly like to go through some tendencies that are at play in the present and that could contribute some clues for a future development:

The spread of audiovisual art, not only through the economic success of videoart but also through the massive application for a panoplia of shows. Apart from the audiovisual images in museums (and I’m not referring to cinema for museums, but to the use of screens for a didactic purpose), big formats seem to succeed in media facade structures and much-talked-about sets such as Daft Punk’s. There’s been a certain controversy about the ecological expense regarding LEDs and different light bulbs, but there’s another essential question, as to whether the big fish is going to swallow all the tiny ones.

The ever increasing convergence between art and entertainment: I see games and dolls all around. Even in the gallery circuit most attached to fashion (even if it’s disregarded as fashion there it is, selling drawings and leprechuans with ample success and an artistic touch) ludic aspects rule. In the one hand it’s annullating the dramatization of art. On the other, there’s the willingness to commercialize, which encourages the blurring of frontiers–and technology is the perfect cultural medium for such crossings.

Interestingly enough, in this context smallness seems to be represented by the heirs of contemporary art workshops, that seem to be the Dorkbots and Upgrades multiplying all over the world. The malicious question in this case would be opposite to the previous section: will the presentation of these projects in progress be able to get down to specific proposals with applications that go beyond what’s strictly DIY?
And because I don’t want to behave exclusively as a poor imitator of our futurologist par excellence Vicente Verdú (our national “cultural guru”), I want to contrast these ideas with things I deliberately didn’t mention before:

Internet art (aside from labels, whatever you want to call it). Is it (hi)story?

Robotics. Has it been overcome by the prospects of generating spectacular audiovisual art?

Sound art. Has it returned to the circle of music lovers (sound lovers?) and/or has it been laicized through net radios?