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Published:July 28th, 2009 16:23 EST
Crisis and Emergence

Crisis and Emergence

By Alvaro Collar

If we are talking about a crisis in the arts, it is mainly because we are in the process of a global change. The implications of this metamorphosis; in the way we understand life and in the use of the new technologies, must have an equivalent change in the way we create, distribute and understand art.

One of the many consequences of the development of the Internet is the displacement of artistic legitimization; the transformation going from only a few people or institutions holding  authority to a greater number of critics and bloggers with an alternative point of view.

This withdrawal of the traditional critic, in addition to the growing importance of the subjective experimentation of the work by the audience and the main role that plays relativism (on the other hand so very linked with postmodernism), makes it more and more difficult art to be defined. And what is also disturbing, we cannot define what is not art.

The problem increasingly worsens when it comes to video art; a discipline with less than 50 years of existence and no solid foundations for a critical review and interpretation independently, as yet.

So, how can we establish when an audiovisual piece is a work of art? Luis Martin Arias, in his book Film As An Aesthetic Experience, points out that the main difference between an artistic film and a non-artistic one is that in art we usually find connotation.

Connotation allows the audience to create meaning by re-building the piece of art to make an interpretation. In the case of visual arts, such as cinema or video art, this kind of interactivity  3 is absolutely necessary. Films and videos develop a particular point of view, giving importance to certain characters or objects encouraging the creation of an emotional link with the audience.

The failure to identify with the main character and the impossibility to create a unique point of view that is able to grab the audience` attention are some of the main problems moving image presents.

I´m Not The Girl Who Misses Much by Pipilotti Rist may have references to the work of Marina Abramovich or Joan Jonas but at the same time can be understood without knowing these references. The audience can establish other links with other texts or even with its own subjectivity to complete the meaning of the piece. The source of artistic legitimization is now the subjective experimentation of the work, there is no longer need for another institution or authority.


The technological revolution that we are experiencing nowadays is opening new ways to the development and evolution of video art. We have witnessed the proliferation of mobile video recording devices (mobiles phones, digital cameras) and the development of web 2.0 (Youtube, Myspace, Facebook). These new tools allow everybody everywhere to record something and distribute it immediately, at no cost. These new technologies also facilitate an audience feedback platform and a collaboration between artists.

The virtue of the World Wide Web is that it works according to emergence theories: even though there is no leader (or authority figure), multiplicity organizes itself through interconnections and repetition of behaviours that optimize the outcomes.

In the case of an art piece uploaded online, its success it is not measured by suitability to a traditional canon but in the number of visits or its links to other sites. As the ants segregate a trace of pheromones that the rest of the colony use as a guideline to find food when they are foraging 4 , on the Internet we use links, folcsonomies (tags) or web social bookmarks to set up our interconnections and preferences.

It is time to evolve from the conception of the author that we inherited from romanticism. It is only by applying the theories of collective intelligence and emergence to the way we experience and create art, that we will be able to make use of all the advantages that new technologies provide, trying to make the author more audience and the audience more author, and removing the difference between the processes of creation, experimentation and critic of art.