Honor Harger started her career as an artist and curator on the airwaves in her native New Zealand, with the experimental broadcasting project Radioqualia. Since then, she has turned her attention to humanizing technology through art: developing digital strategies for the presentation of internet art at Tate Modern in London; directing the AV Festival, the UK’s leading electronic art event; and, now, curating transmediale.10.
What informed transmediale.10’s curatorial concept?
“Futurity Now!” was conceived and developed with the director, Steven Kobatz. It originated in the fact that nearly all the artists we wanted to work with were using some type of archaic device: film, videotape, binoculars, camera obscura. They were using very old, outmoded technologies in entirely contemporary ways, which made the resulting artwork appear almost like an object from the future. We were interested in this time compression – the science fiction writer Bruce Stemming calls it “atemporality”. So all the works are discreet explorations of this idea of using image-making technology to compress the three time periods: past, present and future.
Your work is sound-based, but the transmediale.10 exhibition Camera Obscura is decisively visual…
My art practice and my curatorial practice are very different. The ideas that drive my artistic work are not always the same as the ones that drive my curatorial work.
What kind of reception do new media artists generally receive?
It depends on the work, which is an annoyingly easy way of avoiding the question. The problem is the way the work is presented and interpreted by curators and institutions, which often don’t provide enough information or contextual support to audiences to help them understand what they are looking at. But I do think that an exhibition made up of iPhone screens is easer for younger audiences to relate to than a gallery full of abstract paintings.
But it’s still not being featured in many major galleries or museums – it still has “outsider status”.
That’s a good point. There’s unquestionably an audience out there for the work, but there’s definitely a lag between the audience demand and how this work fits into the contemporary art or the modern art canon. Large galleries or institutions have traditionally had quite difficult or hostile relationships with this type of art. This is partly rooted in the fact that some of the works are process-oriented and it’s notoriously difficult for galleries or museums to show process-oriented work. But that’s no different than the problems of showing performance art, which have been dealt with.
There’s a second layer of reasoning, too: that it’s very difficult for contemporary art curators who were trained in art schools before [this type of art] came into consciousness to know how to curate it. Curators aren’t always very good at dealing with works that they don’t have a formal understanding of. What’s taught in art school and curatorial programs – particularly about what belongs in a contemporary art museum – and the explosion of new media art is slightly out of sync.