I was watching some of the twitter stream from an event last night about #Stacktivism. From the stream it felt like there were a number of people in a room who could not communicate with each other, their disciplines used elements of language differently, expectations varied.
I was not there and I am waiting for the video of the event but from the narrow strand of talk I did pick up on, it reminded me of something else.
A while back I was at a symposium at the National Maritime Museum on Art and Astronomy and I think there was one question from the day that is useful thinking about art and Stacktivism.
One of the artists, Elizabeth Price, who had won the Turner Prize in 2012, had been invited to talk about her work and was asked a question from the audience about the scientific usefulness of her work.
Price had been working at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, on work around their archive of photographs of the Sun.
When asked though about the outcomes of the artistic practice, in relation to the scientists work neither the artist or the scientist could give a straight answer, either a ‘Yes, her work gives us new insight into the data and we have done new research on X’ or ‘No, but the outcomes are pretty.’
Similarly, earlier in the day we had been introduced to the work by Hubble scientists in how they present the images that are released. How they echo the great American landscape artists of the 19th and 20th Century. Again a question had been asked on the ‘scientific usefulness’ of this work.
The question could not get a simple answer, it does not deserve a simple answer even though it was an easy question to ask.
One of the things art can do is take something ‘mundane’ and make it weird and in doing that make you think about the thing again.
Art can use the materials of other areas to make the art, it can inherently discuss the materials and processes or not. It can be considered political (or not). It can help describe, help define or just reflect upon.
The language of art becomes a part of the culture of communication, even subconsciously. The photographs taken by Apollo astronauts reflected an aesthetic of the time, and now the images from Hubble are often framed to recall the great sublime landscape art of the 19th Century, the frontier of American colonisation.
Even though the artist may use the data that was used by scientists and create a new output and that output by itself does not answer any questions the scientists immediately have does not diminish its value.
What is it that lies at the nexus of Art and Infrastructure? I don’t know yet, I don’t think anyone has developed it fully yet, no one is properly weirding that part of the world to make us think about it again.
A thin strand of the new digital infrastructural layers are starting to be reflected, presented back and made visible to us, but there are vast stacks behind all this that remain a dark matter to be explored and re-exposed.
Looking back at the history of art, could I just make a small suggestion, Carl Andre’s Equivalent VIII could be an interesting node to start looking at this nexus, but then, so could Turner.