Monday, May 05, 2008

Changing Times

I'm thinking that this blog might be changing shortly; both in format, and content. But a few thoughts for now, based upon a heady few days in the maelstrom of the Futuresonic Festival

Wire, punk band? art band? In conversation with John Robb, they were articulate, at least when allowed to get further than 1977. (Lesson to promoters: never get an old punk to interview old punks, you'll never make it to the 80s.) An interesting - if ultimately flawed career(or is that careers) - 3 albums in the late 70s, then a brief poppy-dancey comeback in the late 80s/early 90s, then a more recent flurry of more experimental material. I got the sense that Wire still are an art project version of what a rock band is. And hence: breaking up or reforming isn't really the point. They rocked, kind of. And were the sonic Future, as seen from, say, 1978. They never had a hit, either, unless you count Elastica's "Connection." By the way, I'd seen both Elastica and Oasis in the same venue, at the time when they'd seemed the future (or, in Oasis's case very much the instant present.) The future is, of course, overrated, or already here. Or gone. Anyway, what has a punk ever done for us?

Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, legend of software development (though GNU is not Linux, and Free Software is not Open Source; Google if you need to), spoke about the importance of freedom in terms of software. That battle's over of course. The network has destroyed it, in many ways. Our data is stored on massive servers, Google, Yahoo, wherever. This blog is probably now the property of Google corp. Like a lot of things: I guess a "trade" takes place; in our case convenience for freedom. If you are a software developer, freedom outweighs everything; for the rest of us, perhaps its convenience, perhaps its even the access to a medium that allows a voice (and can Google censor us? will it? can it?), perhaps its portability. Basically, Stallman's a hippy; and remember, what have hippies ever done for us?

Thomson & Craighead are exhibiting their latest works at the CUBE gallery as part of Futuresonic. They gave an interesting artist talk on Saturday, alongside other artists showcasing at Futuresonic. I like how they take existing data, content, ephemera even, from the web, and tame it, box it, coerce it, make it look pretty. Make art out of it, in other words. A criticism came from the floor: "but your work is closed, it doesn't allow interaction." They defended this. After all, it wasn't what they did. The interaction is in the response to the work, not in a participatory involvement with it. I was recently at the Tate Liverpool, and a lot of the international works were politically engaged; participatory; and I hated them all. I want work that is of a higher level. Also, by making something still, elegant, beautiful, and new out of the chaotic information flux of the internet, I think they are more useful commentators and artists. Without the internet they would, I felt, still be artists. But then, what have artists ever done for us?

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