Bo Kampmann Walther: Questioning Digital Aesthetics

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In my view the hype surrounding interactive multimedia art and new artforms stems (partly) from an unreflected distinction between structure and function. Kant's idea of art's transcendental optic that rests in shared human faculties may not endure scientific attacks anymore, because key elements in Kant's critique, such as time, space, and causality, in the course of micro-physics and quantum mechanics have showed themselves to be far less than obvious categories. But to our discussion, this is not essential. Rather, it is the Kantian project that leaves an impact, because it tries to capture the structure within the process of artistic modelling and thereby contributes to a levelling of the viewed object, viewing itself, and the place of viewing. In post-Kantian era Luhmann has put the metaphysical, apriorical project in parenthesis, and instead he focuses on the functionality of aesthetic operations within society, sociality, and knowledge. But the one-dimensionality that risks being the outcome of such a concentration on art's functional practises in the digital oeuvre also transforms computer-mediated ways of expression and processes into pure miracles which elegantly surpass classical art theories and their 'snobbish' insistence of oil and canvas, solidity and correspondence.

A digital aesthetic must therefore first and foremost be founded in a structural understanding of what goes on between the ontology of work and viewing. The Kantian project is still sober because it maintains that art is located in a specific consideration of form through form. Only when we 'have' form at our disposal (that is, within reason's faculties) we can 'see' form. But a digital aesthetic must also reflect the particular changes which the computer-generated modalities stage. Right now, in the year 2000, there are still art and artists around; there are still privileged platforms for suspicious and ingenious experiments with material, viewpoints, and communication. John Doe does not become an artist by blurring a few PhotoShop-samples into delightful dissemblance. And it is one-sided to call oneself creative artist if what one is really doing in the virtual museum is to participate in the multi-facetted articulation of art's viewing-mechanisms.

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