\ Joshua Decter \ Lari Pittman \ David A. Ross \ Peter Schjeldahl \ Benjamin Weil \ Q&A \

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"What is Painting?"

I was going to talk about painting, but in more general terms. Actually, I think the whole definition of painting has been avoided in a way here. There has been a lot of discussion for or against painting, but that does not suggest what painting actually is. I would find it interesting to try and at least "sketch out" a definition of what we are talking about: what is a painting? One could consider it as a defined surface which bears a composition, an assemblage of elements which establish the core of a narrative, within the constraints of a canvas and - still most of the time - a frame, or stretcher. Also, it usually sits on another surface which confirm those constraints.

The surface of a painting constitutes an entry into the narrative defined by the composition, it functions like a window into a world of thoughts. It is a culminating point, the emerging tip of an iceberg. Time was frozen onto that surface, separating the moment when it was on the studio wall to the moment it hangs in the space where viewers are given to experience it.

So, based upon that, I was considering the idea of the difference between painting and the screen. I think, first and foremost, painting is a framed moment in the creative process, a trace of some sort. In that sense, the screen is not that different structurally since it also functions as a frame, in a way.

What separates the painting from it's digital counterpart is the fact that electronically engineered products do have the potential of an alternate means of distribution. And the fact they can be mass distributed collapses the boundary between the "original" and its "reproduction".

So, on the one hand, you have a medium that relies a lot on reproduction to be appreciated, because basically paintings can not be circulated as much as any image on the screen, and on the other hand, you have a medium wherein the original is so much more accessible that you do not need reproduction to experience it. That of course implies easy access to the web, which I believe is not there yet. However, it seems like the infrastructure is being built, and that within the next few years, this should be less and less of a problem.

The other thing about the Web is the possibility to access so many things and basically make a decision about how to build an itinerary within those information pockets that are around. This implies a whole new way of associating information bits, which translates into a wide range of interpretation. Somehow, this juxtaposition of unrelated elements echoes the structure of collage, which one can see as being derived from cubism.

The tradition of representation is something that definitely informs the way artists will work with the Web, the same way they have worked with video and whatever else before. I think the context is a very important issue. Someone mentioned before that video has now been accessing museum and institutional space and it is being shown mainly there, as opposed to being screened on television, where it was probably initially hoped to be shown in. Web projects might eventually be shown at the museum, like CD ROMs are already today. However, it will always be accessible on-line as well and therefore be experienced in different circumstances, at home, at work, in a bar, ...

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