[-empyre-] networked_art

Green Jo-Anne jo at turbulence.org
Sat Oct 3 05:57:48 EST 2009

Hello -empyre-,

First, thanks to -empyre- and Anna Munster for providing this  
opportunity to talk about http://networkedbook.org.

Here's a little info about my background that might shed light on  
what motivates me personally, and how this informs and drives my  
contribution to New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc., Turbulence.org,  
and Networked:

I grew up in South Africa under Apartheid. Being white I was, in most  
ways, very privileged. However, Apartheid had an enormous effect on  
all South Africans in that it misinformed us, fostered deep distrust  
amongst us, and kept us apart from one another. The history of South  
Africa that I was taught in school was written by white Afrikaans  
men; it propagated their belief that “non-whites” were inferior, and  
that Apartheid was their moral right. The culture I was immersed in  
was English (as we had been a colony) and Jewish (my family  
heritage). Black culture was non-existent; music was played on  
“black” radio stations; writers were not published; performers and  
visual artists were invisible. The whole system stacked the decks in  
our favor and, in doing so, psychologically, politically, and  
intellectually annihilated the “other” which happened to outnumber us  

I was 19 years old when I had my first encounter with black artists;  
and it was only during the struggle to end Apartheid in the mid-late  
1980s that I had the opportunity to add black music, literature,  
theater, and visual art to my heritage as a South African.

It’s probably too obvious to state, but my education as both a  
citizen and an artist was grounded in a feeling of profound  
misinformation, exclusion, and injustice.

I do not trust institutions – political, social, religious, cultural  
– to be truly representative. Though I recognize my aspirations are  
rather ideological, I believe that we now have the technological  
tools that enable greater (diverse) representation and participation.  
I believe we should try to harness this potential, even though we may  
risk failure.

Over the last 100 years, we have witnessed how easily the art world  
co-opts and institutionalizes forms that are critical of and  
oppositional to it.

The question of who writes the “canon” is a driving force for  
Networked. Turbulence.org is the oldest, most consistent networked  
art commissioning program in the world. Though most “histories” of  
the field acknowledge works we have commissioned, almost all of them  
refuse to acknowledge our role – Helen’s and mine -- in granting real  
weight to it through or organization. Surveying many of the existing  
historical timelines, anyone learning about the field for the first  
time would not know we exist.

We have worked with Eduardo Navas since 2004. Back in the days when  
newmediaFIX was netartreview, I was impressed by Eduardo’s quest to  
build a multilingual site. We exhibited his work, invited him to sit  
on one of our juries and, in 2007, launched “3 X 3: New Media Fix(es)  
on Turbulence” -- three essays in three languages written by  
newmediaFix affiliates.

Now onto Networked. I had been following the Institute for the Future  
of the Book for some time, and was impressed with the collective  
writing tools they were developing. Helen and I wanted to continue  
working with Eduardo, so we had the idea to develop an open book that  
could be translated into multiple languages.

There are some elements of the project that are not “open” at all.  
Though we had an open competition to commission five chapters, these  
chapters were not developed online. They were posted as rather  
complete entities. This is a compromise we felt we had to make, as it  
was unclear to us whether: a) people would contribute their ideas  
without financial incentive; or b) whether the outcomes would be of  
value to the community. These issues only arose because, like most of  
our projects, we are accountable to our funders. Networked was funded  
by the National Endowment for the Arts; there are various “standards”  
to which we must comply to both fulfill our obligations and be able  
to compete for future funds.

Depending on grants always compromises ones ideals. But, without  
them, we would not be able to do what we do; and the Networked site  
would never have been built.

So, we have a book with rather complete chapters open to comments,  
revision, and translation. Rather than “open source,” I think of it  
more as an “open history” project; one in which unknown or excluded  
voices can have a voice. It’s more like Wikipedia in that sense; and,  
like Wikipedia, the site is moderated. This is largely to prevent  
spam and the addition of unrelated content. But, if artists wish to  
add examples of their work, we encourage them to do so.

Finally, an online book is a hypertext – readers can go to linked  
projects and experience them right away; it is also a multimedia  
book, allowing for audio and video files to be embedded along with  
the traditional image reproductions. This allows for immediate  
playback and offers a more complete “reading” of the content.

Walter Benjamin said that in “judging a work’s politics, we should  
not look at the artist’s declared sympathies, but at the position  
that the work occupies in the production relations of its time.”

Digital communication networks are today’s method of production. We  
are simply using the tools of our age to challenge entrenched  
institutions and include more voices.

Warm Regards,

On Oct 2, 2009, at 4:37 AM, Anna Munster wrote:

> Thanks for that insight into your own motivations Helen, I look  
> forward to also hearing from Jo about where she was coming from in  
> terms of initiating the project.
> But I wanted to pick up on a couple of things in your post:
> You said:
> <But, as Mizuko Ito says in her excellent introduction to  
> “Networked Publics”, the problem, for those of us struggling to  
> understand the transformations taking place, is that they -- the  
> transformations -- are impossible to understand at the time they  
> take place.>
> and then:
> < the need for “other” histories. The ones familiar to us were  
> written yesterday....Today there are more media theorists; they  
> understand more; we need their perspectives; we need new histories,  
> multiple interpretations. And we need them – not a year from now  
> when today’s views might appear in hard cover already well worn,  
> but online, where every interested person can see and respond to  
> them today.>
> This is very interesting because it suggests that networked  
> scholarly or perhaps theoretical writing about contemporary media  
> and media arts has the potential to perform a transformative role  
> in media history *canons*. You also referred later in your post to  
> Stein's idea about the shifting role of the 'prof' from traditional  
> transmitter of knowledge to a facilitator - almost like a networked  
> platform itself, which disperses, aggregates, queries and  
> distributes ideas.
> In keeping with some of those ideas, would you think of a project  
> like Networked as a new kind of *text_book*, one which doesn't  
> distill, summarise and codify the cannon but rather one aimed at  
> generating a critical thinking with (rather than about) networks?
> best
> Anna
> A/Prof. Anna Munster
> Director of Postgraduate Research (Acting)
> Deputy Director Centre for Contemporary Art and Politics
> School of Art History and Art Education
> College of Fine Arts
> P.O. Box 259
> Paddington
> NSW 2021
> 612 9385 0741 (tel)
> 612 9385 0615(fax)
> a.munster at unsw.edu.au
> ________________________________________
> From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au [empyre- 
> bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au] On Behalf Of Renate Ferro  
> [rtf9 at cornell.edu]
> Sent: Thursday, 1 October 2009 4:04 AM
> To: soft_skinned_space
> Subject: [-empyre-] Thanks to Menotti/Welcoming Anna Munster on  
> _empyre
> Dear _empyre subscribers,
> We join in thanking Gabriel Menotti for guest moderating this past  
> month's
> discussion of "Denied Distances." We appreciate his generous offer to
> moderate this past month's discussion and enjoyed the varied posts  
> that
> related.
> We will be turning  the month October over to Anna Munster who will be
> moderating a conversation, "Networked_Art." Based on a collaborative
> Turbulence project, Anna will be
> introducing her roster of guests who will join our over 1250  
> subscribers to
> discuss the convergence between networked aesthetics and texts.   
> While Anna
> will be introducing the guests for the month and posting the first
> discussion post, I will take this opportunity to introduce Anna's  
> biography.
> We thank her for taking over from Gabriel. Anna is from Australia  
> where it
> is already October 1st so we will say good=bye to Gabriel for now and
> welcome Anna to _empyre soft-skinned space.
> Biography
> Anna Munster is a writer, artist and educator in the area of new media
> arts and theory. In 2006 she published the book Materializing New  
> Media:
> Embodiment in Information Aesthetics (Dartmouth College Press) and  
> writes
> for the journals CTheory, Fibreculture, Culture Machine among  
> others on
> networked culture and art, biomedia and bioart and contemporary art  
> and
> politics. She helped to found the journal Fibreculture and is actively
> involved in online list cultures and their on and offline projects and
> events. She works collaboratively with Michele Barker in the area of
> immersive and multi-channel audio-visual installation, exploring the
> relations between visuality, perception and neuroscience. Munster  
> works as
> an associate professor at the College of Fine Arts, University of  
> New South
> Wales, Sydney Australia. Her current research investigates dynamic  
> media,
> particularly the relations between the technical aspects of  
> networks and
> network visualisations on the one hand, and emergent forms of  
> cultural and
> aesthetic experience on the other.
> Renate Ferro
> Visiting Assistant Professor
> Department of Art
> Cornell University, Tjaden Hall
> Ithaca, NY  14853
> Email:   <rtf9 at cornell.edu>
> Website:  http://www.renateferro.net
> Co-moderator of _empyre soft skinned space
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empyre
> Art Editor, diacritics
> http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/dia/
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

Jo-Anne Green
New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc.
917.548.7780 or 617.522.3856
Turbulence: http://turbulence.org
Networked_Performance: http://turbulence.org/blog
Networked_Music_Review: http://turbulence.org/networked_music_review
Networked: http://networkedbook.org
New American Radio: http://somewhere.org
Upgrade! Boston: http://turbulence.org/upgrade_boston

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