Sifting reality from unreality at Anderson Ranch | AspenTimes.com

Sifting reality from unreality at Anderson Ranch

Stewart Oksenhorn

Dan Cameron observes, with worry, that some half of Americans believe that weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. And that perhaps the most contrived form of entertainment has been given the umbrella title “reality TV.” And that businessmen are unattachably attached to their Blackberrys the same way kids are to their video games. To Cameron, assuaging his unease begins with giving a thorough examination to the boundaries between what is real and what is not.”The fact that most people believe television is real is a problem. The fact that kids think video games are real is a problem, because there’s an unconscious falling into behavior patterns and modes of thought in which a disengagement with the real seems to be primary,” said Cameron.”There were no WMDs in Iraq. Fifty percent of our fellow citizens are unable to grasp that fact. That’s a worrisome matter. It’s not about Bush or politics. To me, it is, more than anything, a big, gaping unacknowledged philosophical problem.”Cameron, who studied philosophy at Bennington College, naturally turns to society’s great thinkers when delving into such weighty problems. But the 49-year-old, who has been a curator for more than two decades and the senior curator for the New Museum in New York City since 1995, believes it is artists who are most likely to open people’s eyes and expose the gaps between reality and artifice. Cameron is serving as moderator of Artificial Reality, a panel discussion and symposium that is part of Anderson Ranch Arts Center’s High Art in the Rockies program. Eleven artists, from Korea, Mexico, Sweden, the U.K. and the U.S., will join Cameron in the symposium. The three-day event includes artist presentations, interviews and on-stage conversations, and opens tonight, Tuesday, Aug. 8, at 7:30 p.m. with a talk by Cameron.High Art in the Rockies also includes the annual recognition dinner, honoring Michael Govan, the recently appointed director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, tomorrow; and the annual art auction Saturday.”I think the artists will do the heavy lifting of preparing us, acclimating us to the extremely confusing world we live in,” said Cameron. “Artists can actually create artworks that lead us into different modes of thought, where the question of reality is right up front. You’re getting experimental investigations into the real.”Though it was not his plan, Cameron notes that it is no coincidence that nine of the 11 artists specialize in digital art – either videos or web-based art. (The other two are both sculptors.) “These are the best artists to address these questions, addressing the confusion between the real and the non-real,” he said.Cameron seems to have this issue constantly on his mind, and the depth of his concern is evident in how he sees the effects in politics, technology and entertainment. (The original song, he predicts, is on its way to becoming a “cottage industry, thanks to ‘American Idol.’ I’m afraid that the future of music is oldies. Ninety percent of what we listen to will be oldies,” said Cameron.) Artificial Reality actually began as an essay, and grew and grew. Cameron thought it might become an exhibition he would curate; when Anderson Ranch invited him to participate in its High Art in the Rockies event, he saw an opportunity to stage it as a symposium.While the topic, at least in the way Cameron frames it, is beyond the parameters of visual arts, he says that those looking for insight into art will find it. Cameron says his ulterior motive was to work with these artists, of whom he is “an unapologetic, rabid fan.”s”And I want to see that chemistry in the room,” he said. “There’s nothing I like better than getting artists together and hear them talk to each other.”Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com