When is new old and old new?

Posted on June 22, 2011



David Haines and Joyce Hinterding The outlands 2011, production still. Courtesy of the artists and BREENSPACE, Sydney

David Haines and Joyce Hinterding, 'The Outlands', 2011, production still. Courtesy of the artists and BREENSPACE, Sydney.

What is new media? In Unguided Tours: Anne Landa Award for Video and New Media Arts 2011, the term seems to embrace digital animation, digitally composited photos, motorised sculpture and little videos surrounded by lots of bits of stuff. None of this seems terribly new, which poses the other obvious question: when does new become old?

New media as a title for a genre is obviously fraught, but the genre itself (with its reliance on mechanical and electronic gadgetry) is fraught too, prone to inevitable technical difficulties.

On the day I visited several thing had gone awry. Ian Burns’s sculpture, Makin’ Tracks, seemed to have literally spat the dummy. It was as if the aggressive whirring of toy car wheels and annoying soundtrack finally proved too much for an inflatable globe which wilfully ejected itself from the sculpture’s confines and sat, somewhat deflated, on the floor. Or maybe this was supposed to happen? I honestly couldn’t say. Either way, while our backs were turned someone re-inserted it back into its proper (global) position.

I am certain though, that the winning work, The Outlands, by David Haines and Joyce Hinterding, was not fully operational. For a start, one of the little twiggy joysticks that supposedly enabled visitors to navigate the virtual world was totally unresponsive. And my friend and I could only ever move through one terrain. We never made it to anywhere resembling the watery world with shattered floating icebergs that was used in all the publicity. Or maybe we just weren’t doing it right? As a gamer-neophyte it’s totally possible that I was just stuck on the lowest level. Anyway. Where we were resembled the Blue Mountains at night, on acid, or a William Robinson painting, de-saturated and mobile, full of vertiginous twists and turns. My friend said, “Why not just go to the mountains.” And I couldn’t help but thinking she had a point. As a virtual reality it was fun, but still nowhere near as nifty as the real thing.

Nam June Paik, TV cello 1976 and TV Buddha 1976. John Kaldor Family Collection at the Art Gallery of NSW © Nam June Paik Estate

Nam June Paik, 'TV Cello' and 'TV Buddha', 1976. John Kaldor Family Collection at the Art Gallery of NSW © Nam June Paik Estate.

After our un-guided tour of the Anne Landa Award (click here for the guided tour) we had a quick squiz at the newly opened Kaldor Gallery where, in a darkened room, Nam June Paik’s TV Buddha and TV Cello were holding court. Made in 1976, these works can genuinely be labelled old (or at least ‘retro’ in the parlance of consumer marketing) but they looked as fresh, exciting and new as anything upstairs. Maybe even more so.

Tracey Clement

Unguided Tours is on at the AGNSW until July 10.



Posted in: The Ugly