Hacking Art History at the Association of Art Historians Annual Conference
I am giving a paper at the Association of Art Historians annual conference on Thursday 10th of April in a session called ‘Parsing the Pixelated’. My paper looks like this:
Hacking Art History
Hacking – the disruption or bypassing of communication systems – developed healthily alongside the rapid advancement of communication technology in the 20th century. Once, it was inventor Maskelyne foiling Marconi’s attempts to showcase radio (1903). Then it was the Zapatista-inspired digital sit-ins crashing the Mexican government’s website (1997). And now it’s Anonymous attacking the Church of Scientology (2008). Meanwhile, hacker culture and FLOSS (free/libre and open source software) democratise hardware, software and ways of making things. Even Culture Hack Days and THATCamps cut the time and cost of digital up-skilling in the arts. But what does it look like when you hack the history of art? In this paper I describe cases in which digital communication technologies have been used to disrupt/bypass art historical systems. These include the naming of ‘net.art’ in 1997, ‘Documenta Done’ (1997), ‘Tate Mongrel’ (2000), and Kimathi Donkor’s google image art history rewrite (2004). I show how these ‘art history hacks’ align with institutionally-critical conceptual art and the so-called New Art History. However I argue that they not only provide a mode of self-reflexive critique, but a more appropriate way of building histories of digital art which in fact might best be built beyond the art history book.