New Media Art is an umbrella term that includes art forms that are either painted, modified, and performed by definitions of new media or advanced technologies. In brief, it emphasizes and signifies a categorical difference with art practices that make use of traditional methods. Also, its complicated modes of expression and large spectrum of art forms are consistently shifting, especially with its practices in the field of art and activism (Oxford Bibiographics, 2016). Clearly, a lot of new media art challenge the basic foundations of an object-centered practice of art, specifically with its trait of interactivity, nonlinearity, immateriality, ephemerality, and its criss-cross interconnection between artist, artwork and audience (Oxford Bibiographies, 2016). In the following, I will talk about how unconventional work and performance are inspired by the traditional medium, shifted away from an object-centered to conceptual oriented process, and innovated by modern technology that challenges the notion of traditional art practices.
In 1960s, human history hit a milestone socially, politically and scientifically, as did artists. The perception for artists was changed because of the influence of social activism (New Media in Art, 2005). The form of art was no longer static, and object-centered as its form was shifted from a static state to action (New Media in Art, 2005). For instance, Jackson Pollack’s many paintings challenged the notion of traditional art form. In his paintings, Pollack indicated the superb equilibrium between mishap and control that was quite often shown in his technique. Commonly, the words “poured” and “dripped” were being used to rewrite the unconventional creative process, which used un-stretched canvas set flat on the ground. Difficultly is shown in the variety of the artitst’s movements, such as flicking, splashing and dribbling, or the expressive configurations as they emerged (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2018). In Pollack’s “Autumn Rhythm (Number 30)”, 1950, he first created very complicated linear framework by using black paint. When the first layer of paint became thinner, it absorbed into the length of gesso-primed canvas, thus joining image and support. In his black framework, Pollock compiled a complex web of white, brown, and greenish-blue lines, which created the reverse rhythms and visualizations, such as thick and thin, heavy and light, straight and curved, light and dark, horizontal and vertical (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2018). Textural intersections add to the painting’s intricacy. For example, he gathered swirls where a few colors exposed and the wrinkled textures formed by the accumulation of paint, which are merely shown in the chaotic violence of overlapping lines (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2018). Although Pollock’s imagery was not representational, Autumn Rhythm was inspired by the traditional approach to the nature, coloring, horizontal orientation, and sense of ground and space (Lecture, 2018). Additionally, “Stills from Jackson Pollock”, 1951 by Hans Namuth, shows how Pollock painted his work as performance, which was also emphasizing the unconventional term “Action became a form of art” (New Media in Art, 2005).
There was not just Pollock challenging the conventional idea of object-centered art, many of the artists during the time, including Lucio Fontana used his unique ways to experiment with the artwork. Spatial Concept, 1960 was one of a series of works Fontana created in Milan, which were all composed of a canvas that has been cut once or multiple times, also known as the Tagli or cuts (Tate, 2000). Fontana’s gestural aesthetic of puncturing the surface of paper or canvas was his experimentation in un-focusing the difference between two and three dimensionalities, and he was very interested with this experiment, so he continued to discover distinguished ways of puncturing holes as his aesthetic innovation. For his early works, he tended to use small diagonal knife edges on non-gesso-primed canvases. Then he got to a point when he rather used the single gash than random cuts, and each slit was more decisive. As many of his aesthetic gesture involved, his works were made with a plain cut using a utility knife, and the canvases were shown with forceful black slit that gave a look of space behind (Tate, 2000). Moreover, Fontata often wrote the word “Attese”, meaning “hopes”, appeared on the back of canvases with multiple cuts, which emphasized his conceptual idea of “Spatial Concept”, and he verily claimed that these cuts could give viewers a sense of spatial tranquil, of exquisiteness of the universe, and of unlimited precision. In the meantime, a lot of Fontana’s features, such as cuts, tears and prickings, were the expression of arouse pain as wounds to the skin (Tate, 2000).
If Fontana’s art was a starter to challenge the conventional aesthetics, the Gutai Group was the radical continuation, post war artistic group rejected all the traditional art styles in order to emphasize performative immediacy in Japan (New Media in Art, 2005). One of important Gutai group figures, Saburo Murakami, shared the core Guitai aesthetic cogitation: create the conceptual and experimental art, celebrate the deconstruction, express the oppressed energy coming from the postwar (New Media in Art, 2005). In 1956, Murakami created a very strong piece of performant art, which was called “Passing Through”. In the performance, Murakami run through a serious of 42 paper canvases mounted on wooden frames using his body and hands, and such an action became a symbol of breaking pictorial boundary, submerging the body in the artistic space (Japanese Art in Contemporary, 2016). This piece also had a connection between the reaction and punishment, such as anger, positive or negative energy, an expression of a collision of mind, body and matter. According to Japan Times (2017), “Passing Through” was an expression of Murakami’s unrestrained, free spirited move towards art, and he said: “As an artist, he preferred his artworks and performances to be referred as “negotiation sites” rather than art pieces. As the Gutai group, they constantly combined different materials with a sense of urgency, and they emphasized the original ways in art for which they claimed using sawdust, crushed stones, dirt, waste newspapers, glasses, even their own body parts: their feet, nails for their painting materials. For instance, Shiraga Kazuo painting with his feet, 1956, showed that he swayed from a rope and paint with the feet, which he stated that he wanted to make it slippery. This piece was recorded and displayed in the Guggenheim exhibition showing that his messy, slippery motion was a piece of performance art (Hyperallergic, 2013).
In conclusion, New Media Art challenges the basic foundations of an object-centered artworks, of the conventional process, of the material use. Even though the unconventional paintings and performance: Autumn Rhythm (Number 30), Spatial Concept and Passing Through, are inspired by the traditional medium, they shifted away from an object-centered styles and they focused more on the deconstructed, experimental and conceptual oriented practice.
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Howarth, S. “Spatial Concept “Waiting””. Tate. 10/30/2018. https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/fontana-spatial-concept-waiting-t00694.
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Tanaka, Y. “Saburo Murakami”. The Japan Times. 10/30/2018. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2017/10/10/arts/openings-outside-tokyo/saburo-murakami/#.W9piK-v3arU.
Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Autumn Rhythm (Number 30)”. 10/30/2018. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/57.92/.