[Reader-list] Tom Sherman's I-Bomb book available via the Web

twsherma at mailbox.syr.edu twsherma at mailbox.syr.edu
Sun Dec 1 06:59:30 IST 2002

Tom Sherman's book, "Before and After the I-Bomb: An Artist in the
Information Environment," is available through Printed Matter, Inc.; or
directly from the Banff Centre Press.

Individuals can order via the WWW from Printed Matter, Inc.:

To order directly from the Banff Centre Press, send an e-mail to:
press at banffcentre.ca  -- or call 403-762-7532

Bookstores or libraries should contact:
LPG Distribution
c/o 100 Armstrong Ave
Georgetown, ON L7G 5S4
Tel: 905-877-4411 toll-free 800-591-6250
Fax: 905-877-4410 toll-free 800-591-6251
Email: orders at lpg.ca

[note: bookstores in the U.S. can order through Ingram and Baker & Taylor]

"Before and After the I-Bomb: an artist in the information environment" by
Tom Sherman, edited by Peggy Gale, Banff Centre Press 2002, ISBN
0-920159-94-X; 6.5 x 8.25, 384 pages, paper: $29.95 CDN / $20.50 US

Here's a review of Tom Sherman's "Before and After the I-Bomb...," by
David A. Ross, former director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, and
San Francisco's MoMA:

     There are aspects of contemporary art that seem alien to many who had
hoped to find in art, something simple, soothing and satisfying.  Trained
to respond quickly, rather than to reflect, these people find it hard to
accept that what an artist does in the course of making art involves more
than the construction of likenesses.  These people may have a difficult
time with Tom Sherman.

     For most of the century just past, artists have been called upon to
absorb and integrate enormous amounts of knowledge in order to perform
tasks that seem inversely related to the production of likenesses.
Artists of the last third of the past century approached the task by
exploring complex ontological and social problems within the context of an
aesthetic discourse, and this conflation of art and philosophy has as
profoundly as the invention of photography altered how we define art and
the task of the artist.

     Few artists have approached this evolving set of concerns with the
rigor, insight and wit as Tom Sherman.  Few have recognized that the
profound relationship of artistic practice to social and natural history
is as significant as its relationship to art's insulated histories.  And
fewer still have expressed the deep and abiding faith in the power of the
idea, even as we have moved into an era that can be seen clearly as
post-conceptual.  Few understand as fully the impact of the explosion of
information technologies, and how they have forever altered not only how
we see, but how we think.

     In his writings (as well as his video and performance works) Sherman
has explored our era in a ruminative self-conscious fashion that seeks to
integrate a deeply critical outsider's perspective on modern life with an
understanding and sense of hopefulness that denies cynicism as it defies
easy ideological categorization.  His essays make for enormously
pleasurable reading.

     Yet, in the range of Sherman's thinking, one is drawn to the work of
Joseph Beuys, who insisted on the erasure of the boundaries separating
natural and art history, social and aesthetic discourse, ecology, politics
and art, and to Bertoldt Brecht who understood and predicted the
pernicious influence of advanced mass media on our everyday lives.
Read Sherman slowly and then re-read him again.  You will find his to be
one of the most original and powerful voices of a generation.

   --David A. Ross, 2002

And here is a review of "Before and After the I-Bomb..." written by
Catherine Elwes, the British video artist and writer, for Contemporary
magazine, London:

     Media artists are well placed to reflect on their times and speculate
on where the digital information age is leading poised as they are between
creative resistance and enthusiastic exploitation of contemporary
technologies. The North American video, installation, audio and internet
artist Tom Sherman is one of our more astute observers. Himself a pioneer,
Sherman has made a substantial contribution to the time-based arts that
developed alongside and in opposition to commercial television and
proliferated when the 'Information Bomb' hit our lives. Sherman, in common
with poets and visionaries, can often see two sides of the same coin and
oscillates between a celebration of global communication and acerbic
critiques of the passivity that the digital age engenders.

     The impact, both good and bad, that television and the digital age
have had on our creative autonomy is elucidated in Before and after the
I-Bomb, Tom Sherman's challenging and highly engaging collection of essays
and video scripts spanning three decades. Contrary to many structuralist
thinkers in the '70s on this side of the Atlantic, Sherman believes that
viewers maintain a core resistance to the tidal wave of ideological
information that emanates from their televisions and computers. And it is
this small inner voice of dissent that he has tried to stimulate in his
own video and audio work as well as in his writings; but Sherman is aware
that countering the 'monoculture' is a Herculean task. Many of the pieces
in this book analyse our inability to respond, the 'blanking' that results
from information overload and the dysfunctional relationships we have
developed with our computers and technological toys. Sherman predicts that
in an increasingly technological future, they will take over from flesh
and blood companions to become our principal 'significant others'. Cut off
from the real world we compulsively surf the internet deluding ourselves
that we are making committed social connections. As artists we cast our
works into cyberspace in the belief that a vibrant counter-cultural
audience is poised to receive in all four corners of the earth. And then
comes 'the agony of silence', no new messages in the inbox, no hits on the
website and the artist sinks into anonymity nursing her 'stillborn'

     Sherman is sharply critical of the psycho-social pitfalls of our
information age and shrewdly aware of the problems that artists face when
they attempt to appropriate the tools of mass entertainment, but he is
never devoid of hope and believes in the restorative effects of irony.
Even as he decries our progressive disconnection from nature through
urbanisation, he advocates the redemptive powers of landscape and in his
many stories about animals and almost-wild places, he finds analogies and
congruences with the workings of his own mind. But ever the realist,
Sherman emphasises nature's indifference to our attentions and our
tendency to regard it as "a museum where we can investigate the nature of
our animal past." To him, nature also represents poverty and the tyranny
of insects. In England we might view a reconnection with nature as a
marker of affluence, part of the retirement package that includes large
gardens, travel to foreign landscapes and holiday homes in beauty spots
that were unspoiled until armies of city buyers polluted the landscape
with bungalows.

     Before and after the I-Bomb is replete with performative texts, texts
to be read aloud, texts to be argued with. They demonstrate the power of
language and the individual imagination "to offer alternative models of
human identity" in the pervasive sameness of our techno-culture. Whether
describing the iniquities of state funding for the arts, the acceptable
levels of 'Raw Personal Material' on television or the eclipse of
non-conformity that signals the end of childhood, Sherman is the best
advertisement for his own vision of the artist's role: to remind us "that
human beings not their managerial systems are the authors of the human
condition" and more significantly, "to answer the questions that haven't
yet been asked."

   --Catherine Elwes, 2002

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