Published on Tuesday, January 2, 2018
Catherine Edelman Talks New Media
Gregory Scott, Time, 201, from the Video Works series
34 x 50¼" pigment print, oil on panel, and HD video
Catherine Edelman Gallery
"Some of the best work in the history of art comes out of anger and artists reacting to what’s happening. And that gives me hope."
As a dealer, what draws you to this medium?
My responsibility as a contemporary gallerist is to stay current with what’s happening in the photography world. Part of that is staying up to date with what’s happening in the schools. A lot of students are combining photos with other mediums, so I started looking at new media years ago and bonded with specific types of work, which is what happens when you’re a dealer.
Five to 10 years before I opened the gallery, there were conversations questioning photography as a viable art form! We don’t have that dialogue anymore – and we’re not going to have the same dialogue about new media in 20 years.
What are some factors that buyers and dealers should consider when buying new media?
There’s still a learning curve for our collectors because there’s a whole set of parameters that are different from owning a photograph. When you own a photograph, you have to make sure it’s protected from UV rays and humidity. With new media, you are beholden to updating to the technology of the day, so most artists will create their work so it can be upgraded. It’s the responsibility of the collector to understand that, whatever they have, it may need to be updated with the newest hardware. It’s important to recognize that as we progress, things get smaller – the hardware video artists used to use was an HD media player, now many people are using a Raspberry Pi, which is a mini computer. But because it’s equipment, it will eventually stop running or need to be replaced. The people who collect new media understand this, but that’s the first dialogue we have when someone falls in love with a video piece. I work with artists to make sure that as long as they are alive, they will help their collectors stay up to date with their pieces as the technology improves.
Something similar happened with print photography. As color technology got better and better, the photographers would use the new technology. A lot of older prints are having problems today. So new media is not dissimilar from photography in that regard.
How do dealer ethics change when you’re working with new media?
If I’m selling a piece that’s technology driven, it’s my and the artist’s responsibility to ensure that piece isn’t obsolete in five years. So in my mind, it’s my responsibility to make sure this piece is a living entity, and therefore I only work with artists whose pieces can be retrofitted into the newest technology available.
I think it’s important to stress that every medium has a conservation system. That’s part of our history in the art world, and there’s a whole conservation industry, so this is no different from maintaining anything else. It’s just newer, so people are more hesitant – not unlike when photography first started.
When museums buy a new media piece, they tend to buy additional bulbs, hardware, etc., because they know the technology will change. Conservation centers are worried about this, and they work with the artists because every artist wants their piece to be relevant.
I think it’s the collector’s responsibility to ask questions so they feel comfortable. It’s the dealer’s responsibility to answer them. And it’s the artist’s responsibility to make sure their work can be fixed if something goes wrong.
With all of the new technology available, are there artists who are running counter to it and are instead using non-camera techniques and vintage techniques? Do you classify this as new media?
There are many artists who are resistant to the computer being used in any means to produce art – and that’s great. It keeps our history alive in a contemporary fashion. In most art schools today, students rarely learn to create a gelatin silver print. But no. People working with older techniques are simply doing that. This is not considered new media, but looking to our past, and it happens a lot in the art world. The more advanced we get with technology, there will always be artists who run counter to it.
Let’s talk practicality. By its very nature, new media may not be practical for every buyer or collector. How much should they factor this into their decision?
Well, obviously, they’re going to see the piece so they’ll know if it sits on the floor, hangs on the wall or sits on the shelf. New media is generally something that must be displayed, so to that extent most collectors are concerned about placement. By and large, though, that dialogue’s gone once they see the piece and they fall in love with it. Then they have to think, Where is that going to go in my home?
Then it just goes to maintenance, which is very important. Power surge protection is critical, and water is not our friend.
How has AIPAD embraced new media?
New media is relatively new for many AIPAD dealers. When The Photography Show moved to Pier 94 last year, there was an expansion and the work being shown shifted as well – where we used to be almost all 19th-century work, there’s now more contemporary and new media, in addition to vintage work.
Now we have to help our dealers understand this new expression of the photographic medium. The more they understand it, the more they’ll embrace it. The more the artists use it, the more you’ll see it at AIPAD galleries and The Photography Show. We are truly no longer the black-and-white show. It also is our responsibility to ensure there is the correct perception of The Photography Show. People have to pick and choose which events they go to, so their memories become their realities. Part of our job is to constantly be out there educating our members, exhibitors and collectors.
What excites you about new media today?
Artists have always been at the forefront of reacting to what’s happening with the times, and there’s some good political art being made that has legs. The art world has the ability to step up and enact change. I’m excited about the fact that artists are getting angry. Some of the best work in the history of art comes out of anger and artists reacting to what’s happening. And that gives me hope.