The Ephemera(l) Institution

by Martin Gantman


Whenever a project has finished I am, somewhat hesitantly, compelled to look back and view the arc of the project – what direction it took and why. Usually, as in life, a project has so many possible routes; it becomes interesting to speculate on the paths that were not chosen.

For example, I could have spent my entire residency on the history of ephemera. I could have interrogated other aspects of the ICI more deeply, rather than pursuing the nature of such institutions in general. This is not to say that I am at all dissatisfied with my choices, rather there is always a wonder at the wealth of information that surrounds practically any research.

It also turns out that, as with any art(work), there are always varied interpretations of the artist’s intentions and product. Really when one parses any aspect of an institutionalized situation, that probing can be interpreted as a negative critique. I tend to hear that more than I want, and must always look to my motives. But honestly folks, I am just curious, try to fully understand whatever I am looking at, and to see all of its implications.

And then there are the issues I have analyzed whose results are fully debatable. Perhaps I have not fully or mis-understood an area about which I have commented. I admit that is more than a conceivable possibility – and I welcome those occurrences as opportunities to parse a subject even more.

With all that said, it has been extremely interesting to look into the workings of an organization such as the Institute of Cultural Inquiry. It is a creative facility that strives to take a direction that is uncharted. Its projects and its takes on its projects attempt to unveil common assumptions and perceptions about numerous issues, and in so doing, as with any innovative endeavor, finds that most decisions are risk-taking. That is why I always had in the back of my mind a comparison of their entire venture with the process of a singular artwork.

But in addition to its product, the ICI is also a working organization that must deal with the nature of its pandemic, if for no other reason than to communicate to a populace that has developed differently. In fact, the very circumstance of being involved in knowledge production, which embodies information transfer itself, may require such an alteration.

One, perhaps only I, may see the Internet era as a mixed bag, as with many if not most technological innovations, but it is here and will remain until supplanted. In fact the Internet, and contemporary electronics in a broader sense, to me is primarily an indicator of how human beings are transitioning, at an accelerating pace, in terms of how we perceive information, communicate it, and, primarily, how we think and behave.

So the ICI must deal with organizational questions and issues around this as well as artistic ones, or not. Honestly and aside, I think individuals are often faced with similar issues. The ICI’s situation in this regard is complex because it is faced not only with archiving but also with accomplishing that task artistically, perhaps even as another ICI project in conformance with its mission. It is also faced with decisions about constructing new product within the Internet as well as outside of it, perhaps including an opportunity to rework previous projects in a different way.  Another potential direction is to use this opportunity for archiving/production to comment on this relatively new institution, the Internet itself, and the effects it is having on the issues that concern the ICI.

And one last superficial observation about the nature of technology and the Internet: contemporary use of the Internet has proceeded from desktop to notebook to telephony to tablet and now to products such as Glass. When one considers how they are going to enter this regime, and this is not to suggest that the ICI has not already taken some steps here, one must keep one eye (pun intended) on the affect product has on how the technology is used, as well as the nature of the communication systems in general.

These are intriguing possibilities that I am fascinated by, and I look forward to seeing their eventual resolution.