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Tuesday, February 27, 7pm
School of Visual Arts
209 East 23 Street
3rd-floor Amphitheater
Free and open to the public

The BFA Fine Arts and Art History Departments at School of Visual Arts (SVA) present “Digital Diving: A Cut and Paste Update,” a discussion of digital culture and its impact on the visual arts and information technologies. Moderated by Suzanne Anker, chair of the BFA Fine Arts Department at SVA, the program will explore the uses and abuses of such technologies as they effect knowledge acquisition and its manipulation, “new media” models of the visual and altered configurations of communities. The panelists are Lauren Cornell, Joseph Nechvatal, Judith Solodkin, Bruce Wands and McKenzie Wark. The event takes place Tuesday, February 27, 7pm at School of Visual Arts, 209 East 23rd Street, New York City. Admission is free.

Panelists include:

Lauren Cornell is Executive Director of Rhizome and oversees and develops the organization's programs all of which serve to promote and contextualize contemporary art that uses new technologies.

Joseph Nechvatal is a digital artist who produces computer robotic-assisted paintings and electronic installations that focus on political issues. His work has been exhibited in one-person shows in Paris, Munich, New York and Marseille, and is in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art and Moderna Museet, Stockholm, among others. He has published numerous essays on digital art as well as the impact of media culture on modern life.

Judith Solodkin is president of Solo Impression, Inc., a fine art publisher that has printed editions for the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C., and the Tate Gallery, London, among others. She is a master printer and was the first woman to hold this title at Tamarind Institute, a division of the College of Fine Arts of the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. She teaches Lithography in the BFA Fine Arts Department at SVA.

Bruce Wands is chair of the MFA Computer Art Department at SVA. The department’s web site,, was named among the “100 Best Sites of 2002” for original web art by Yahoo Internet Life. Wands is the author of Digital Creativity: Techniques for Digital Media and the Internet (Wiley, 2001), and Art of the Digital Age (Thames & Hudson, 2006), an illustrated guide to digital art’s major genres. His digital photography has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including at the Art and Science International Exhibition in Beijing.

McKenzie Wark is associate professor of media studies at Eugene Lang College and the New School for Social Research. He has written several books about new media and cyberspace, including A Hacker Manifesto (Harvard University Press, 2004), about issues involving intellectual property, and Dispositions (Salt Publishing, 2002), a diary-like “novel” set primarily in New York City.

Moderator Suzanne Anker is an artist and chair of the BFA Fine Arts Department at SVA, where she also teaches in the Art History, MFA Art Criticism and Writing and MFA Photography Departments. Anker lectures frequently in the U.S. and abroad on the intersections of art and science. She is the co-author, with the late Dorothy Nelkin, of The Molecular Gaze: Art in the Genetic Age (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2004) and host of The Bio-Blurb Show on WPS1 Art Radio. Her web site is

For more information, call 212.592.2010.

School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City is an established leader and innovator in
the education of artists. From its inception in 1947, the faculty has been comprised of professionals working in the arts and art-related fields. SVA provides an environment that nurtures creativity, inventiveness and experimentation, enabling students to develop a strong sense of identity and a clear direction of purpose.

For more information, contact Michael Grant, Assistant Director of Communication at 212.592.2011 or

here is my talk there

Here is my talk:

I am delighted to have the opportunity this evening to contribute to the updating of the cut and paste aesthetic technique in the context of our current digital information age.

First however, please allow me to air a gentle complaint. The overly instrumental pigeonholing of me - and other artists - who work with computer technology as ‘digital’ artists who make ‘digital art’ must be examined. This labeling, however partially accurate and appropriate, seems to me also to allow a narrowing down of the broadest sense of art along identity formalist terms. In this sense it suggests a parallel to the history of feminist art – where women are alternatively proud and peeved at having their art narrowly characterized as such. Any art worthy of our time has many different stories to suggest and feelings to transmit. Not one.

Now that I have that off my chest, let us dive into the specificity of what I consider the relevant art of the information age, a primarily conceptual art of what I call “viractuality”, where the virtual and the actual intermingle - for art only exists conceptually, as one of our prior instructors here at SVA so brilliantly clarified: Joseph Kosuth.

Another esteemed SVA faculty member, art historian Donald Kuspit, has recently written in his essay The Matrix of Sensations that "there are more possibilities of freedom in digital art — that is, mental elements are freer to enter into various combinations and thus to be manipulated than in architecture, painting and sculpture." This freedom is exactly why I made the conceptual and political decision to work with the powers of virtuality many years ago – and it is the specificity of these powers that I will first turn my attention to in the interests of affirming a new “truth to materials”.

OK. “Truth to materials” in terms of digital art: what might that mean? For me it does not necessarily mean denying digital creation accomplished using the electronic flow of virtuality a physical and stable presence. But such a physical presence, to be genuine, would necessarily be accomplished consistent with numeric form and content and not a throwback to the handicraft practices of traditional art and craft.

Myself, I very much enjoy working with the digital in its predominant visual form, the immaterial abstract information of pixels and I like very much the world wide transportable dimension of the internet, where the digital data-stream travels at the speed of light. I also enjoy creating and showing electronic installations and electronic audio art. But I also like to see a large-scaled robotically painted composition just sitting still on an unchanging canvas so I can slowly and silently reflect on it and mentally, and perceptually move within the work in natural light at my leisure with customary bodily unrestrictions and with no time frame. For I believe that Nam June Paik was accurate when he said that to truly understand art one must live with it. But no faux naiveté authenticity needed here. No retro hand-painted photos of computer graphics please. So let’s get inside this so-called truth to digital materials and the associated truth to the historical circumstances in which we live, for here we can trace the difference between analog cut and paste and the new digital freedoms of manipulation Kuspit so praises and uses my digital paintings to illustrate.

It is widely understood that the practice of collage is the greatest achievements in art of the 20th century. That it is one of stellar achievements of Dadaism must never be forgotten and always celebrated. I will return to the relevance of Dada later when I will address the content and war context of our topic to current political realities.

As Brandon Taylor again reminds us in his new book Collage, traditionally the cut and paste practice creates what we know of as collage (a word which comes from the French word coller – which means to stick or glue) and thus is regarded as a work of visual art made from a juxtapositioned assemblage of different forms - thus creating a new total. Use of this groundbreaking and novel technique made its dramatic appearance in art among the Cubists in the very early 20th century.

Now in the early 21st century, interesting digital images, which are made up of pixels, can begin to be created by using a bit of this technique, as sometimes mine do, but they also can be made up using a variety of input devices and techniques, such as drawing pads, digital cameras and scanners - or synthesized from non-image data such as sounds, electrical inputs, mathematical functions or three-dimensional geometric models. Typically however, the pixels are stored in computer memory as a raster image map, a two-dimensional array of small integers. But on an even deeper level, the digital image is primarily created using the processing of algorithms which enables the most radical type of composition and transformation – and here we divert substantially from the model of collaged juxtaposition which has become emblematic of Post-Modernist recontextualization and its unflattering association with pastiche.

For me the digitally constructed pixel image - in the act of its formation - is typically more involved with seamless maneuvers that penetrate, eat, superimpose, shift, blend, reproduce, dissolve, merge and meld. Thus the updated cut and paste is best understood today as data systems intersecting with other data systems – typical of what is called the mash-up.

Perhaps ironically, where the classic techniques of cut and paste ARE still very much involved is in hacking of the computer code itself. The computer’s instructions can be changed (hacked) by copying, cutting and pasting lines – or fragments of lines – of computer code and this cut and pasting of the language itself will instruct the computer program to do something differently - often unexpectedly so.

The code I am hacking here is used in the work I am doing which involves chance operations using viral inseminations into my consciously constructed images along the lines of what is call artificial life. I won’t get onto that here, but check it out.

Let’s now turn our attention briefly towards some of the promised issues of political relevance that a truth to digital materials reveals today. These are perplexing and demanding questions internal to the act of making and the world into with this act is directed and received.

The two ideas that spring to mind are emergence out of emergency.

The emergency is our current torturous state of Bush-wacking terror, replete with its neo-con deceptions, cherry pickings, black ops, data minings and Constitution shreddings. In short, the use and abuse of disinformation, those falsities that are presented as facts to manipulate us psychologically and thus politically. In the information age, the problem of disinformation looms ever larger. Certainly it was this idea of ideological manipulation - and a counter project based on a problemization of the representational system - that first drew my interest towards the computer as both a subject and as a creative medium back in the Reagan era. Ahhhh, Morning in America. So again I wish to invoke the name of Dada in the interests of a war resisting art, an, of course, digital art that may inspire us to defy and revoke and investigate this war on terror via the ethical transparency of truth - for the emergency is that we live these days inside and amidst an abject disaster based on deceit.

By contrast, a generative art that allows for the emergence, not just of understanding and truth but also of critical thinking and new meanings, seems to me essential.

But finally, what cut and paste means in terms of our digital age to me now is the artistic understanding of the possibilities opened up to us by previous generations of artists, along with the possibilities of digital freedom – but a freedom which rejects culturally conservative creation.

Yes we live right now - and so we are swimming in a digital reality - and we will have to dive into it, risk and all, and the only lifeboat to help us along the way is also digitally constructed. I call it art.

Joseph Nechvatal

Donald Kuspit, 2006. The Matrix of Sensations, Artnet.

Joseph Kosuth, 1991. Art After Philosophy and After: Collected Writings, 1966-1990. Cambridge, Ma.: MIT Press

Brandon Taylor, 2006. Collage, Thames & Hudson Ltd, p. 221