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Title: Curating Humanism: Negotiating the Politics of New Media, 1965/2015
Authors: Rivers Ryan, Tina
Issue Date: 14-Jul-2016
Abstract: On December 15, 1970, Howard Wise announced that he was closing his gallery in New York City. Throughout the 1960s, Wise’s exhibitions had stridently promoted the use of new media technologies in art, including computers (1965) and video (1969). Noting that his artists were “seeking imaginative ways of utilizing modern technology to humanize people instead of for commercial or destructive purposes, which de­humanize us all,” Wise explained that he would use his “training, ability, and experience” to help these artists address the most pressing social problems of the day. Within months, he established Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), which remains a major center for the preservation and promotion of video art. While Wise is remembered as a gallerist who promoted new media in art, this paper will reconsider him as a pioneer of the model of the new media curator. Like curators working today, Wise supported artistic experiments with new technologies, coordinated a community of researchers, and helped form the political agenda of new movements. That said, it is also important to distinguish between Wise’s explicit “humanism" and the more complicated politics of contemporary new media curators. The latter will be exemplified by the New Museum’s “post­human" 2015 Triennial, “Surround Audience,” curated by Lauren Cornell (formerly executive director of Rhizome) and new media artist Ryan Trecartin. Ultimately, comparing curatorial practices that bracket fifty years of new media art’s history will prompt us to reconsider the enduring problem at the center of media art research: namely, the fraught relationship between aesthetics, technology, and politics.
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