Interviews

A Journal for Art That’s Purely Digital

by Alicia Eler on January 29, 2014

Daniel Temkin, "Ceci n’est pas une glitch" (2010). All images used with permission from nooart.com

Daniel Temkin, “Ceci n’est pas une glitch” [sic] (2010) (all images used with permission from nooart.org)

LOS ANGELES — Artists who work in the digital realm — making GIFs, glitch art, web collage, short videos about ways to Google-Image search California — are increasingly gaining recognition with exhibitions, auctions, and biennials. A new artist/writer-led online magazine called NOOART: The Journal of Objectless Art seeks to further the discussion about this type of work, which exists in the world without taking up three-dimensional space. Hyperallergic caught up editor Raymond Salvatore Harmon to learn more about the reasons for NOOART and what it’s all about.

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Alicia Eler: Tell me the premise of NOOART and where the idea for it came from. Why did you decide to start it?

Raymond Salvatore Harmon: Non-Object Oriented Art [NOOART] has its roots in Fluxus, in post-performance art, arguably even in graffiti, but ultimately finds itself coming into its own with the advent of technologies like mobile video and the internet. It’s something that I and other artists have been talking about for over a decade but has until now been a very marginalized art form.

We have reached a point in history where there is a level of “technological transparency” that gives the average person access to powerful video processing, dynamic information exchange, and globalized communications in a familiar interface format (mobile/tablet/etc). Coupled with a generation of creators who do not remember a time before the internet, the evolution of art in the 21st century is just now beginning to take shape.

With the NOOART journal, I wanted to create a place that gave expression to these artists, both theoretical/philosophical as well as aesthetic expression. A place for a dialogue to begin, patterned around the journals of Dada in the early 20th century, but on a social platform like Tumblr in keeping with current publishing technology.

Hiroshi Kawano, “Design 2-1, Markov Chain Pattern” (1964) (click to enlarge)

Hiroshi Kawano, “Design 2-1, Markov Chain Pattern” (1964) (click to enlarge)

AE: I’m interested in your premise, that NOOART is a place for a discussion about the future of art. Why does the “future” always imply objectless or nonphysical work that resides on the internet? I know plenty of artists who work two- and three-dimensionally.

RSH: The 20th century gave rise to a massive experimentation with materials in a way unprecedented in the history of art. Artists were able to push the boundaries of what could be done with the physical form to their limits. You often hear the refrain (from both artists and critics) that “it’s all been done before,” and this does seem to be the case with mediums like paint and sculpture.

With NOOART, there has been very little exploration of possibilities. It’s a young medium, with very few “rules” about its use. While formats like GIF have been around for 40 years, they are just now being pushed in creatively challenging ways. As this process spills over into gaming environments and mobile apps, the field of expression is practically limitless.

Personally, I am a painter. I still find a kind of expression in the liquid form of paint that I cannot get in the realm of pure data. But what interests me and informs my own work is the boundary between these two realms — the ways in which technologies like augmented reality, projection mapping, and mobile apps can provide new horizons with more traditional mediums, extending them into the non-object user experience. How the material can act as the seed for the development of the immaterial.

But there are, particularly among the younger NOOART creators, a purist spirited group, those who make work only in the non-physical realm.

AE: How will NOOART address the space between digital art that lives online and that which resides only in the gallery? 

RSH: This is a pretty hot topic, actually. I’ve heard strong arguments either way from both artists and collectors. I would like to see it as a debate, with voices from the purists side (those who want their digital art to be absolutely nonphysical and openly distributed) and those who, like myself, are interested in that boundary with the physical, voicing their opinions.

As for forms of digital art that remain digital but only available in the gallery context — the power of non-object oriented art is that it is capable of reimagining the relationship between the creator and the audience. To buy back into an outdated model of ownership is redundant. The future is an artist-centered economy built around a distributed-ownership model. This can only be achieved with work that is purely non-object.

Photo by Carla Gannis

Photo by Carla Gannis

AE: How does your work relate to something like Know Your Meme? I can’t think about art on the internet without considering its relation to memes, which we cover often for Hyperallergic.

RSH: The meme is a perfect example of a form of NOOART. It is, in fact, the most pervasive form. The meme as it is known in popular culture and the “meme” as it is defined in academic literature are quite divergent things. The popular meme has become something on its own, pushing out into new levels of expression unanticipated by its theorists. From memes that are singular to those that become endlessly copied and parodied, it’s almost the fast food of NOOART. The meme is to NOOART what the stencil is to graffiti.

AE: Not long ago, I edited a series for the OtherPeoplesPixels blog called the OPP Art Critics series. The premise was simple: I asked writers to write about art that they had only seen through the “lens” of the web. How does this sort of thing connect to the conceptual premise of NOOART?

“After Dark” screen saver (click to enlarge)

“After Dark” screensaver (click to enlarge)

RSH: NOOART exists as a journal that gives voice to often conflicting ideas. It can manifest a simple essay or interview but also present the written language and embedded imagery as a kind of art itself. The key to NOOART‘s success is the range of voices all speaking within it and how those ideas influence a broader readership toward creative pursuits.

Much like the Dada publications of a century ago, I see NOOART as a catalyst for change. It’s a call to movement within the aesthetic community that asks how can art evolve to be as powerful via the screen as it is in the physical world. The generation that will fully realize NOOART is still fighting out their teens. But the future looks incredible.

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