Once Upon a Time in the West
We keep on talking about “new media”, while in actually fact these media are anything but new. The Net is twenty years old, if we start counting from the advent of the Web, forty if we start from Arpanet. Spacewar!, the first videogame ever, is more or less the same age. Virtual worlds are the updated, lighter versions of a technology acclaimed as “the future” when Second Life programmers were still in diapers; social networks are the bastard sons of Fidonet. As for the computer, it is younger than Lord Byron, but certainly not than his daughter Ada.
Once upon a time there was the electronic frontier, an abandonware myth which was able to regenerate itself thanks to the continuous advance of the frontier itself. Like in space, in technological progress there's no ocean at the end of the trip. But, unlike the space race, the race to the next technology is endless, and endlessness is boring.
Yet, while we got used to innovation and the day-after rhetorics, we have never got used to the loss of the past. We look back to what was new yesterday and is trash today, and we feel a deep sense of nostalgia. Commodore 64 and 386dx. The first Apple Macintosh. Bulletin Board Systems. Animated gifs. Glittering images. Web buttons. Super Mario. Doom. Napster. Jennicam. Mosaic. ASCII art. MIDIs and MOOs. Not to mention VHS, vinyl, audio cassettes, cathode tubes, portable radios, faxes. It is the kind of nostalgia that we feel for a relative who died young, once the pain abates: you are left wondering what kind of man he would have been. Or for someone that, once grown up, does not live up to his or her promise. Sometimes nostalgia develops into historical research, and becomes media archeology. We don't look for the technologies that we once loved, but those we have never seen in action.
But in both the cases, in the artistic field this sentimental look at the past is producing some brand new, interesting stuff. Reviving dead media and obsolete technologies, retrieving and rekindling their aesthetics, making them do things they were never expected to do, and telling stories about them with other means is proving to be a sound artistic strategy – undoubtedly more so than “the exploration of the artistic potential of new media” which became the mantra of most New Media Art. This happens because, when you give up on the rhetorics of novelty, what is left on stage is the human element: the man of the past who domesticated the media, put his own life into them and was changed by them; and the man of the present, who looks back on that past with the same sentiment as the venerable Sergio Leone looked to the West.
On the occasion of its 10th Birthday, Pixxelpoint festival wants to explore this feeling. Clean out your attic, the folders you haven’t touched for years, GIF repositories, your university's warehouse, and the dumps of Silicon Valley – or its small-town emulators. Get your hands on this stuff, and send us your finds. Any media is allowed, apart from new!
Domenico Quaranta, curator
Dr. Domenico Quaranta (1978, Brescia, Italy) is a contemporary art critic and curator. He focused his research on the impact of the current techno-social developments on the arts, with a specific interest in art in networked spaces, from the Internet to virtual worlds. As an art critic, he is a regular contributor to Flash Art magazine; his essays, reviews and interviews appeared in many magazines, newspapers and web portals, such as: Magazine Ã©lectronique du CIAC (CA), Rhizome (US), A Minima (SP), Vague Terrain, HZ Journal, MESH (AU), RCCS (Resource Center For Cyberculture Studies, US), Maska (SLO), Around Photography (IT), FMR Bianca (IT), Digimag (IT), Exibart (IT), Noemalab (IT), Arte e critica (IT), Drome (IT), Cluster (IT), L'UnitÃ (IT) and many others. His first book titled, NET ART 1994-1998: La vicenda di Ã„da'web was published in 2004; he also co-edited, together with Matteo Bittanti, the book "GameScenes. Art in the Age of Videogames" (Milan, October 2006) and contributed to a number of books and publications. Since 2008 he edits, for the italian publisher FPEditions, a series of books on New Media Art (edited titles: Todd Deutsch â€“ Gamers, 2008; Gazira Babeli, 2008; Holy Fire. Art of the Digital Age, 2008; UBERMORGEN.COM, 2009; RE:akt! | Reconstruction, Re-enactment, Re-reporting, 2009).
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