Reactions to Moholy-Nagy and Ascott

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In the case of both the Ascott and the Moholy-Nagy, I was impressed by the author’s passionate views concerning future art practices. During my first reading some of their statements did give me pause on account of their general, sweeping nature. Particularly, Moholy-Nagy seems to put forth the idea that the subjective no longer has a place in theater. He makes good points that theater fails to live up to its potential when it falls into simply reciting literature on stage, but it initially struck me as odd to suggest that man, as a subjective being, must be removed from the domain of the theater, that subjective expressions must be rejected. How are people, as such, not appropriate for the stage? How is Moholy-Nagy not interested in people?!

                After thinking about the two readings together, though, Moholy-Nagy’s vision makes a little more sense to me. It seems like both Ascott and Moholy-Nagy are frustrated with art that is created as an end, intended to hang or stand as a finished product, complete in and of itself. Both celebrate and call for artworks which establish relationships with viewers, which require feedback in order to generate a range of meanings (I really enjoyed how Ascott demonstrated modern art to be potentially more accessible (or at least more inclusive) than works from previous eras, as a result of its abstraction and ambiguity…). In order to accomplish this relationship, Moholy-Nagy suggests removing the fourth wall between stage and audience, and Ascott imagines technology enhanced-art which responds to external information. One solution common to both, however, is the removal of any sort of subjective presence within the artwork—Moholy-Nagy wants to transform actors into faceless instruments, and Ascott . Such a presence can define a piece of art as a complete expression, to be appreciated from a certain emotional distance, as a ‘closed loop.’ Seeing the connection between the removal of subjectivity and a more interactive, vibrant vision of art, is helping me a get a better picture of these artists’ intentions within their respective historical contexts.

                I also really enjoyed our recent guests. The presentation on installations was a lot to take in, but while I won’t remember half of the names mentioned, the images and the sequences in which they were presented did stick with me, and completely reshaped my previously-held conceptions about both the historical scope of installation art and the range of expression and experimentation within the ‘genre.’ I also found a number of Joseph Hyde’s ideas quite interesting. In general, I liked his approach of embracing certain material qualities of video art while also fighting against some of the medium’s limitations. While he manipulates shutter speeds and ‘snow’ to various effects in some works—techniques which deal with elements of the camera and the television as material objects—he also makes a concerted effort to ‘escape the box’ and to present video in an unfamiliar way, where material is not framed in a square and we feel less like we’re watching TV. (In a few pieces he accomplishes this by leaving a lot of negative space (black) in the frame, which for me made each flash and band of light seem like especially important events and imbued the piece with a dramatic quality, making the work quite engaging.) I also thought his investigations into ‘spacialized video’ were interesting endeavors (his projecting onto different layers of transparent screens, etc...), and I’m really curious to see how he develops this idea in future projects…
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