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Book Review
‘Rethinking Curating: Art after New Media’
Presented in form of a comprehensive overview, insightful analysis and kaleidoscopic compilation of new media art practices, ‘Rethinking Curating: Art after New Media’ offers an insight into the intriguing landscape of contemporary curating methods.

New media projects and exhibitions are innately complex. They frequently involve much higher levels of public participation and interactivity. The book provides an intelligent, well-informed, and creative analysis for a better understanding of this fast-changing field and exciting opportunities it offers. The issues raised in the timely documentation of a dynamic form of creativity are quite pertinent and relevant to art and artistic expression as whole - as basic as ‘What can be termed new media art, and is this art in the first place?’ and ‘How much technical expertise does new media art curators need?’ to as complex as ‘What might we imbibe from artist-led/ collaborative modes of working?’ and ‘Do new media art practices have to fear institutionalization?’

The book (Publishers: MIT; March 2010; 368 pp., 68 illustrations) traces the history and trends of new media art, illustrating the complex topography of curating in and for the new millennium through illustrative case studies. Beryl Graham and Sarah Cook also explore the scenarios when there is no curator, or when it is the audience who curates an exhibit, and also probes why would a new media artist want to showcase work in an art museum. The duo for over a decade has been involved in a debate on whether those 'exhibiting' new media art are technicians, artists or curators. An educator, artist, arts organizer, and curator, the former - having served as Professor of New Media Art at the University of Sunderland - is an authority on the subject along with Sarah Cook, a research fellow and cofounder of CRUMB (the Curatorial Resource for Upstart Media Bliss website).

The two narrate peculiar characteristics that distinguish new media art from other conventional forms, including its questioning of time and space, its immateriality, and also consider the inherent challenges of the medium - incorporating video art, conceptual art, socially engaged art and performance art - in order to broaden the scope of a comparative study vis-à-vis traditional art forms. They offer practical advice from curators and artists themselves engaged in areas related to distributive and participatory systems as far as art production is concerned through practical examples, including Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s telematic ‘Body Moves’ (involving a computer producing images in response to viewer activity), and Andreja Kuluncic’s ‘Distributive Justice’ (a participative internet based project).

An introductory essay, quoting curator Steve Dietz states, new media art, albeit outwardly similar to contemporary art - is still different. It’s often more about process than lifeless objects. The write-up states: “The works, difficult to classify according to the traditional art museum categories determined by medium, geography, and chronology does present the curator with novel challenges involving interpretation, exhibition, and dissemination. The authors emphasize how their participation can be redefined in backdrop of new media art's characteristics. The two mull over modes of curating, from the familiar default mode of the museum, through parallels with publishing, broadcasting, festivals, and labs, to more recent hybrid ways of working both online and off, including collaboration & social networking.”

Simulation-based artworks often meld virtual and physical space, becoming that much more difficult to ‘frame’ for a viewer's experience. Each encounter is rather unique. The curatorial role in presenting such kind of immersive installation might simply lie in the process of entering & exiting of the mediated space. The authors check out how the histories of time-based arts range well across video art and performance or ‘live’ art. Time does present specific curatorial challenges since a dynamic work in some way the timescale of process. Audience expectations of the rapid speed and uninterrupted availability of new media like the Internet’s round-the-clock nature, also figure here.

The first part of the book specifies the characteristics that are inherent to new media art and explains how it traverses traditional boundaries of space, time, taxonomy, disciplines etc. The next half investigates both modes and ways of curating new media artworks - inside and outside institutions, fares and galleries. Even though they come with certain challenges and idiosyncrasies, alternative curatorial spaces harbor an opportunity to collaborate and share knowledge, to mix disciplines. The core idea behind ‘Rethinking Curating’ is to re-position and reorient relevant curatorial practices, offering new media art curators a wide array of artistic tools. It offers curators a route through the hype around platforms and autonomous zones by following the lead of current artists' practice in order to dispel the false notions that envelope our vision of new media art.