AAH, Royal College of Art, London 2014

Responding to the panel’s concern for the relationship of the digital to, and within, Art History, this paper will map out a number of ways in which ‘the digital’ can be seen to operate as a discursive and disciplinary construct. By outlining the real-virtual binary as a historical narrative, which has been both enforced and challenged by a variety of disciplines from Anthropology to Science & Technology Studies, this paper will consider what is at stake for Art History in aligning itself with various theoretical manifestations of the digital.

This paper will begin by examining the rhetoric of equivalency fostered in the discourses of post-media, and consider how this concept has been mapped onto an art historical notion of post-medium through the work of Rosalind Krauss. It will argue that the roots of this project lie within the discursive fields of postmodernism and conceptualism: that the world is not only structured like but particularly through language means that, as a displacement of the ‘flow’ of analogue signals, the discrete ‘packets’ or ‘pulses’ of binary supposedly represent a universal mode of representation in which information can be conveyed across a range of material substrates, without loss or change. Against this narrative, however, it will also argue that recent attempts to locate ‘the digital’ within the discourses of materiality, medium and post-medium, might actually be seen as a collapse back into overdetermined disciplinary frames of reference. This paper will explore these ideas both with reference to the histories of ‘Net.Art’ as well as recent ‘post-internet art’.

AAH2014

40th Anniversary Conference & Bookfair

Royal College of Art, Kensington, London 10 – 12 April 2014

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