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by Timothy Druckrey on May 09, 1997 at 11:15:19:

Mark Tribe’s astonishingly revealing response to the Diller and Scofidio talk left me wondering
if it was more arrogant than unproductive, or more pathetic than useless. Despite the fact that
the time to confront Diller and Scofidio was at the end of their talk (when there was ample time,
but no questions from the audience), Tribe instead left to find nothing “nice to say” and decided,
one can only assume after some reflection, to make, in my view, some rather grandiosely inane
remarks. Not that the talk didn’t present some clear issues concerning the over-theorization
of work whose clear commercial intent (and funding) challenged the assumptions of the kind
of compromise that their work represented. Most suspect was the CNN project, whose
iridescent presence will never undo it’s role as a spectacular logo.

Yet Tribe instead aims at the weaker target of the Ingestion project done at the Banff Centre
for the Arts. No doubt that this project’s jumpy inconsistency and silly premise were unsuccessful
and derivative. But Tribe points further to the Banff Centre itself. What he characterizes as
the “lame-o tech schlock they’ve pumped out over the years” has supported works by Toni Dove,
Ron Kuivila, Perry Hoberman, Catherine Richards, Michael Naimark, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptu,
Nell Tenhaff, and many, many others whose work hardly falls into the “schlock” genre that Tribe
attributes to them. Nor has the Banff center ever been described by anyone I know in the field as
the “barf centre.” This is a characterization that seems so blatantly undue to the initiatives that
Banff developed beyond any other institution on the North American continent, or to the scores of
artists who have seriously worked there, that Tribe should be ashamed of himself. But shame
and arrogance are not so easily reconciled.

Instead, he goes on to make some kind of sloppy psychological analogy comparing the
“seductive flatness of postmodern schizophrenia” with the “tired flatness of over-determined
neurosis.” One can only suggest that Tribe’s gifts for thoughtful criticism are matched by his
consummate command of psychological terminology -- more or less as if Tom Wolfe met
Frederic Jamseon. And this form of deluded deleuzian characterization just smacks, to me,
of a kind of junior achievement approach to criticism that’s as much to be pitied as censured.

So rather than expend much energy on productively approaching the link between corporate
sponsorship and its relationship to surface, opacity and invisibility (read power), the coy
strategy of art world discourse masking market goals, or reasoned opposition to what he
calls “dusty generation of media luminaries who built careers when there was very little
interest, and even less talent, in the field” (a disgraceful comment worthy of a much longer
deconstruction for it’s thoughtlessly cynical implications, no less its application to Tribe
himself), he falls into the recklessly diagnostic ‘over-determination’ of the pathological
relationship between “tired” and “seductive” “flatness.” Not much in his complaint is
more revealing than this carelessly derisive stab at the work. Indeed, the retreat in
psycho-talk more and more seems a signifier of the inability to the meet the issues
head-on. Thus, I guess, the pithy note as a kind of afterthought provocation, or,
perhaps, as an act of righteous cowardice.

Tribe’s final pronouncement concerning the “creativity” (or the lack thereof) of the
work of Diller and Scofidio is most distressing. This sort of contempt for disagreement,
productive debate, or, less interestingly, disappointment, makes it plain, to me anyway,
that this is the kind of commentary one might find in an unreflected chat room and runs
so counter to the goals that Tribe set out in the goals for Rhizome: “Such a forum will
also help bring the ideas generated within the relatively rarefied world of new media
art to a broader public...a platform for meaningful communication and the exchange of ideas.”

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