“Achieving an Aesthetics of Dignity in the field of the Database” (paper)
In his 1934 essay “The Author as Producer,” Walter Benjamin challenges the artist to resist colonizing, appropriation and representation. I share Benjamin's conclusion that what matters in art practice is “Są the exemplary character of production, which is able first to induce other producers to produce, and second to put an improved apparatus at their disposal. And this apparatus is better the more consumers it is able to turn into producers -- that is, readers or spectators into collaborators”. Here Benjamin describes my position as an artist. My goal is to avoid representation - to not speak for others, but to provide them with productive means to speak for and among themselves, to build collaborative networks that address the special problems of communities with limited access to information technology and culture, and to build collaborative tools for communities to use for purposes of self-representation. Any adequate expression of the condition of contemporary culture requires that a plentitude of voices speak directly from widely differing contexts about their own socio-ideological situations - both speak and be heard. The social, political and material conditions engendered by Informatics have inspired a radical shift in my art practice from a traditional aesthetics of the object to what, as an activist, I call an “Aesthetics of Dignity”. I define this shift in terms of the relation between a new type of audience/viewer -- the participant-producer -- and a new type of artist/practitioner -- the context-provider. The context-provider's role is to establish a framework in which “participant-producers” may emerge and represent themselves in concert with other participant-producers - thus producing collective statements born of shared experiences among individuals. The two projects I will discuss, Need_X_Change and JustVoice, are examples of a form of public art in which information technologies are appropriated and developed so that these constituencies may both speak and be heard.
Sharon Daniel is an artist who develops and exploits new
information and communications technologies as sites for public art.
Daniel's goal is to avoid representation - not to attempt to speak
for others but to allow them to speak for themselves. Her role as an
artist is that of “context provider,” -- assisting communities,
collecting their stories, soliciting their opinions on politics and
social justice, and building the online archives and interfaces that
make this data available across social, cultural and economic
boundaries. Daniel's work has been exhibited internationally at
museums, festivals and on the Internet. Her essays have been published
in books and journals.
“Powering Up/Powering Down” is sponsored in part by the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts (UCIRA), the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA), and the UC San Diego Department of Music in connection with the departments of Visual Arts, Music, and Literature at UCSD along with the UC Riverside and Los Angeles campuses.