art, hardly works

For me  the borderlines workshop meant some interesting meetings and discussions around art. Particularly it helped to clear my personal position with regards to that nebulous word. I hadn’t discussed so much with people working in fine art contexts before, so this was in many ways interesting.

I realized that I do prefer working from a design context for many reasons, and this gives a certain freedom to dabbling in art. Art is ostensibly free, but for me the inscrutable dimensions of defining and evaluating it makes it challenging to work in. The designer is bound by the idea of the client, but apart from that one can find projects with almost total freedom – and the independence from one’s person is liberating.

If one talks about research in an artistic context, the question is open to which degree art can be said to “advance”. Science can well be said to generate progressive advances, due to the methods of accumulating knowledge and general standing on giant’s shoulders. Which means both opening new domains of knowledge, and incrementally optimizing inside existing areas – resulting in smaller microprocessors, and more efficient ways of industrially producing cheese. At least in that sense, it would be odd to say that science hasn’t advanced or isn’t advancing. One may take different opinions on the benefits of this, but science is striding forward with considerable speed.

Concerning art, it is hard to tell how one would measure “advance” as there is no clear incremental process, and hardly anything of a distinct direction. The field of artistic production is accumulating complexity, but this is an unstructured, fungal kind of growth. In my view, one can not say that some certain field of current artistic endeavor necessarily is more advanced than medieval wood carving, for instance.

Perhaps the measure of advancement in art is best related to the interconnectedness and the ever accumulating web of meanings relating to art that is being produced – whereas in details or craft, there is not much advancement. Another meaningful measure of the advance of art could be how its borderlines are explored, and how new aspects are brought into the field of art through appropriation of new technologies and social phenomena to an artistic context – like the creation of poetry out of facebook status updates. However, it has been conclusively proven that the borders of art are entirely relative.

A thought which occurred to me during the workshop is that contemporary graphic design in some sense has created its own art-like discourse or field. If one looks at current design, it is easy to note that a preoccupation with clear communication isn’t the highest priority. For me there is a very logical aspect to this. It follows from the situation that graphic design, in particular, has created an somewhat closed but lively subculture, where self-referentiality and obscure explorations are rife. This art-like discourse is at times as self-referential and regime-specific as that of contemporary visual arts, poetry or art music. This is something that also often is criticized in, say, the context of competitions in graphic design excellence, where designer-initiated artistic projects often trump more humble daily design achievements.

Essentially this is designing for designers, from which follows the criteria and methods are quite different from those applied on design for a general public. It is to a great part driven by a constant desire to create unusual effects and contrasts, and for someone from outside the field the products themselves can be inscrutable, un-aesthetic or simply pointless.

It would be interesting to plot to which degree, for lack of a more suitable word, could be called the avant-garde of graphic design, is actually significant in the context of the field in general. This could be something to do for art theorist. There are many designers who do not follow the developments in that area, due to lack of interest or knowledge, but also probably from a view that regards that sort of activity as inauthentic, childish or counterproductive.

Then there is the scientific frontiers of design, and the technological ones. The experimental media group works in my view both with the technological and scientific aspects of advancement in design. These areas are interesting, especially due to the rich interdisciplinarity, but there is still generally all too little research being done.

My own work for the Borderlines project became a sort of a collection of some of these ideas. It must be said that using Nodebox was not a prerequisite for me, but something that slipped naturally into the planning of the work. One thought was the borderline between the instructions of digital design, and the application of handmade methods. Equally, it is also just a conceptual pun. I was interested in the ridiculousness of drawing self-referential computer code with a marker on the wall. The beauty of this is that the work contains more or less the complete instructions for recreating it. This is why I printed give-away cards with a picture of it, at the same time reshuffling the location of the “work” itself once more. What is indeed the relation of the digital print of a photograph to the “original” Nodebox script?

Whether this work is significant, interesting, or even amusing in an art context I cannot really say, but for me it was a useful and entertaining play with concepts.




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The opening of the exhibit was graced by few guests, an interesting jazz improv act, SPUUK, a pizza mountain and a rich amount of wine. I will put some link here to others’ pictures when I get them, because I realized that I by no meands did document the exhibit very completely.


Anouk’s work, Anouk, Wesley and some guests.


Egons work was left in a limbo.


Bas and the pizzas.


The cat-covered dog by Ineke was eventually not in the exhibit room, but a friendly beast nonetheless.


Wesley was eager in keeping everyone’s glasses filled, which eventually lead to the effect illustrated on the packaging.


One Comment

  1. Mikael Hildén
    Posted February 24, 2009 at 21:21 | Permalink

    a short note on progress: while it is fairly straightforward to argue that natural sciences and technology advance in many different ways, some areas of the social sciences are also faced with the difficulty in specifying progress. Here parallels with art can be sought. Also in these areas conceptual diversity and complexity can reflect progress in some ways, although it is difficult to specify which direction should be considered an advancement. As Slavoj Zizek argues on Heidegger: [He] took the right step (albeit in the wrong direction)”

    Cheers, Hille

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