Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Never alone, except for now: Mediated collectivity in networks
by Cohen, Kris, Ph.D., The University of Chicago, 2010, 304; 3432709
Abstract (Summary)

Recent considerations of the relationship between art and technology have assumed that the primary problem art must confront is a world dominated by images, a homogeneous world of spectacle that mediates viewers as mass consumers. This dissertation considers the aesthetics of mediated subjectivity and collectivity in light of the historical emergence of two differently-configured forces, electronic networks and neoliberalism, both of which take homogeneity to be their enemy and variegation to be their goal. In a historical situation where electronic networks function as the medium of neoliberalism, and individuality is a privileged mode of personhood, mediated collectivity is forced to work across two previously distinct group forms, populations and publics.

The dissertation’s four main chapters argue that many of the familiar features and anxieties of networked sociality in the Anglo-American context are effects of the disjointedness of public life as it is forced to assemble itself across publics and populations. Each chapter in turn theorizes tactics that artworks have employed to confront this new theater of operations. Chapter One argues that, in search engines as in Thomson & Craighead’s Beacon, processes of self-elaboration are remediated as statements about individuality while being used to aggregate searchers as populations. Chapter Two argues that distributed forms of intimacy in textually-mediated online interactions and in Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ candy spills leave the tone of relationality ambiguous, and so invite acts of curating that galvanize fleeting spaces of insiderness. Chapter Three draws on Sharon Hayes’ recent “love addresses” to describe how networked collectivity operates without reciprocity as the foundation of encounter, and so upsets norms of liberal discourse. Chapter Four describes how both art and technology set in motion a historical cycle of what, in the context of Conceptual Art, was called dematerialization, where value is delaminated from the media that preserve it. Recent digital copyright law and modernist art histories have policed this process, attempting to contain concepts as objects. On Kawara’s Today series and Lucy Lippard’s Six Years, in their historical persistence, multiply temporalities toward a more distributed, expansive mediation of history.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: English, Darby, Berlant, Lauren
Commitee: Mitchell, W.J.T.
School: The University of Chicago
Department: Art History
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 72/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Fine arts, Art history, Multimedia Communications
Keywords: Commodity, Electronic networks, Internet, Media, Neoliberalism, Network, Publics
Publication Number: 3432709
ISBN: 9781124376523
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