RE: [-empyre-] Size matters?
On Wed, 11 Aug 2004, Charlotte Frost wrote:
Perhaps I've known odd art historians, but many do seem involved with
ephemera, and you mentioned conceptual art actually in that regard. There
is plenty of precedent, from Klein's Iris Clert Gallery (no)show to the
N.E. Thing Company of the 70s. There are numerous books on conceptual art,
performance art, of course Laurel's theater/computer paradigm, etc. I also
don't think there's _the_ history of art, so much as histories - look at
the recuperation a couple of decades ago, of the 'meaning' of lapis lazuli
in Renaissance art, or Steinberg's work on Christ's erections literally
wiped out in the Victorian period.
I am not saying that net art needs the history of art, or needs validation,
but what I am asking is how net art can negotiate both these art world
Validation is tricky as well; here Wittgenstein's games is the most useful
for me - validation for whom? with whom? etc. - At the same time Andre's
Lever was decried by the London public, it was validated by art historians
of a particular persuasion. This thing goes on and on - look at Chaucer's
reputation or the pre-Raphaelites for the past century and a half.
I am asking this firstly because I wonder if net art's apparent rejection of
more traditional systems forces it to build its own secondly does net art
force existing systems to adapt to its new offerings and thirdly whether
this causes both sides to inevitably acknowledge each other. I see the
history of art in so much net art output, even if as a rejection of it,
which makes me see the two as a syzygy, they oppose each other, but are
allied because of this opposition.
Well, first, as I questioned, is there "net art" - or are there a variety
of practices? Are the BMW movies net art? We could debate this endlessly.
So I don't see "both sides" - but rather multitudes of viewpoints - just
as, for example, it's clear here that there are numerous viewpoints about
lists themselves, depending on one's experience.
For me, for example, nettime is crashing - it's all political now, yet
almost nothing of cultural politics, art, etc. It used to be a mix. Now
what separates it from any other site of political commentary? Why should
anyone except the writers pay any attention to it? (Mentioning this
because nettime was brought up elsewhere.)
Well again and again, what list? what net art? Cybermind had a conference,
I did a book 'out' of it to some extent (including though people like
Zizek, Kittler, Aycock, etc.), there was a MOO for a while, etc. Other
lists like Leri had different extensions.
Also, as there is a lot from offline that is reflected online, in an albeit
technological translation I wonder whether/what elements of the online art
world are building structures reminiscent but not wholly reflective of those
offline. And if this is the case, despite the fact net art often bills
itself as anti-establishment, might it be rather more reliant on conversions
and extensions of existing models than we realise, after all, net art isn't
all new and a computer is just another prosthesis...Therefore I am wondering
what reflections the list has off line, other than real conversations or
letter writing, because I think the list offers something else, perhaps more
aligned, perhaps not, with offline art world systems...
And when you say "existing models" - it's more that at least some of the
models, museums and galleries, at least here in NY, are following online
cultures more than the other way around. For every museological site,
there's an independent mez or myself, etc.
I think it is undoubtedly the case that the main source of validation for
net art is the text, whether it should be or not, whether it needs it or
not, which is of course less anti-establishment or 'new' than one might have
thought. In fact, text is everywhere for net art, as critique and direct
marketing, it facilitates curation by explaining the conceptual links
between works, in an absence of physical proximity, and in the form of code,
text creates the works themselves! However placing such disproportionate
emphasis on text, over the gallery or institution, still constitutes a shift
and might require additional adaptations more aligned to this textual
allegiance. So what is this textual architecture?
Well, art is a confluence of discourses; this is a fairly accepted
approach, I think. And as discursivity, there are language games, sites,
withdrawals, enclosures, etc. etc. So text is in relation to critique -
Bourdieu wrote extensively on this stuff in Distinction.
But there is also net art that leaks 'around' text - it depends, again, on
the definition of text. Is all code text? Are all images text in terms of
their perception or reception theory? I go back to Metz's difficulty with
cinematic language vis-a-vis semiosis and language. Instead of text, I'd
work with Peirce's notion of 'sheet of assertion,' which I've treated as a
symmetrical substructure - in order to read this, for example, every
letter is spaced in such-and-such array, etc., concrete poetry notwith-
standing (and that's within the symmetrical substructure, online, of the
pixelled image itself).
I apologize for coming in late here - what list are you referencing? There
aren't that many people net artting the list, so to speak - mez, nn,
solipsis, noemata, lacook, meskens, myself, but it doesn't go on forever.
For myself, I have the http://www.asondheim.org/ site, which Ivan Pope
provided gratis and wonderfully, which has all of my elist work on it. mez
has her own site, etc.
From this, still keeping my art historian outfit on (actually I don't think
I have one;-), I end up asking if the list is an art historical archive of
net art, and if so, should we be looking to stabilise and historicise the
archive of the list as much as groups are already looking at preserving the
art? List archives are not easy to search, and compared to books they are
difficult to work from so what role does the list play in the safeguarding
and historicising of works for the future, if any?
When I see a list posting covered in text with lots of links, because of the
format/protocol of lists, it reminds me of the gallery in reverse. Instead
of big pictures on the wall with little texts next to them, we hang the text
big and put lots of little links to the art...Eventually the list could
provide the equivalent structure to the art gallery, for work that cannot
be physically housed, providing its context, publicity and validation (if so
required), so is the list the preservation of net art that some have been
looking for all along. I dunno?!
Well, one doesn't have to subscribe to an art gallery. One just walks in.
One doesn't have to get along with the other people in the gallery. I've
now got a kill file, so I don't get too upset at some people's postings. I
don't have to do that at Sonnabend. In some ways corporate space is a lot
freer and more democratic, most often kinder, than most lists I've been
on. I'm lucky with cybermind, etc. etc. - they're open to just about
Of course as is the case with the speed of construction in the e-age, we
must inevitably look beyond the structures we are currently creating, and it
seems fair to say that it wont be long before the relatively low-tech list
is adapted or superseded to better house the debates it has helped grow and
nurture, but it is important to understand its foundations and potential
before we build on its hopefully solid ground, lest list subsidence hamper
It's precisely because of low-tech that lists, like IRC, will stay around.
There is no "the" language, again. At least for my most recent work, the
written word isn't that important; I also don't think that images are
language or even necessarily linguistic.
As Jim rightly notes, language isn't necessarily the written word, but I
feel that the written word just seems incredibly important to net art. And I
wonder, although these thoughts are not fully formed, if we are not just
discussing the language of new media, but creating it???
Anyway Alan, I am aware of some of the projects out there, but when I began
this research, I struggled to find more information and nobody on lists
wanted to help me :-( so I had to begin with the information I had. I
appreciate that in light of what you are saying, I may need to adjust my
ideas, but you might see how I formed some of them and am grateful for your
info...I couldn't find your Being Online book anywhere so I have yet to read
Hell and darnations! It's Being On Line, Lusitania books; it might be out
of print at the moment. My Apologies.
I hope that is clearer, although I know its is very disjointed and if I was
having this conversation in person there would be a LOT of frantic hand
Not to mention giggles and coffee -
Anyway I want as many arguments as possible, so that I can clarify my
both for myself and for the panel at ISEA...you all have till Thursday night
(UK time) to catch me! :-)
Hope this reaches you in time...
WVU 2004 projects http://www.as.wvu.edu/clcold/sondheim/files/
Trace projects http://trace.ntu.ac.uk/writers/sondheim/index.htm
partial mirror at http://www.anu.edu.au/english/internet_txt
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