[-empyre-] introducing Greg Ulmer and Marco Deseriis

Marco Deseriis md1445 at nyu.edu
Thu Oct 29 11:46:35 EST 2009

Anna Munster wrote:
> Marco, you wrote:
> < On the
> contrary networked art always contain a pragmatic element that enables a
> community of practice to unfold. In an online environment, this
> pragmatism has a technical component ("here is how this tool works," a
> key tenet of hacking) an ethical element ("here is how to do things with
> people," a key tenet of activism) and an aesthetic element ("here is how
> the material world is divided up and processed by the sensorium in the
> age of mechanical and digital reproduction," a tenet of avant-garde art).>
> How do you want to account for net.art practice such as jodi.org which deliberately obsfucates the user's relation to the interface ie to participate is to shut oneself out of the interface, the work etc? That;s an extreme example, but a lot of net.art played upon the illegibility of code (some of Vuk Cosic's, some of Mark Napier's, 010101 etc.org)...
> I'm not suggesting that you necessarily have to account for these artists but perhaps some different weighting of the 3 elements you have stipulated above takes hold in the light of this overcoded tendency in 1990s net art?


in my brief summary I have not specified that in the chapter I define 
networked art (or net.art) as an Internet-based art, which is 
simultaneously an art of networking.

The concept of 'networking' is essential to me for reading a practice 
that while native to the Internet cannot be read only in terms of its 
medium-specificity. In other words, what I am trying to preserve here is 
the virtual or potential character of each intervention--be it 
aesthetic, political, or technological-- i.e. its ability to acquire a 
new meaning when transferred to a different context. For example, in 
analyzing the Zapatista FloodNet's interface, Ricardo Dominguez explains:

"DT’s Zapatista FloodNet used the logic of the network to upload 404 
files (or Files Not Found) in order to upload political questions into 
the Mexican government servers during our 1998 electronic actions. 
Questions, like, is “justice.html” found on this server? The Mexican 
government server would respond: ” is not found on this server.” Here 
the logic of the system was used to create a counter critique within the 
structure of the government’s servers, which also pointed to the real 
political conditions of Chiapas, Mexico." (Dominguez, 2003)

Thus the 404, which is well-known net.art gesture, is re-signified here 
within a political context. Now, you may object that Jodi never meant to 
use the 404 in such a context, and that their work actually points in 
the opposite direction, i.e. it is really about the illegibility of the 
GUI and hypertext, perhaps it is illegible itself (to use Jodi's own 
words "it stands like a brick in the net.") This is certainly true, and 
it is not my intention to bracket or downplay the relevance of a certain 
modernist self-reflexivity which undoubtedly runs through the 1990s 
net.art scene.

My point, however, is that if those experimentations remain confined to 
the art tradition, they will inevitably end up forming another chapter 
in art history. (In the case of Napier, Jodi, I/O/D, and others it would 
be more appropriate to talk of netscape art--an art which plays with the 
landscape of the Internet.) But when they begin mixing with other 
machines --such as the hacking and the activist machines--these 
interventions can exceed their niche and set off new concatenations, 
whose significance cannot be contained in any of those fields. In this 
respect, I see networked art as a recombinant machine whose "memetic 
potential" and reality effects go well beyond the art tradition and the 
art world.

However, you can go only as far in hybridizing different codes and 
practices without getting, er, "lost in recombination." Thus, I think 
that narrative is key in reconnecting those phyla in a meaningful way. 
Some may consider this a relatively conservative move, some others may 
prefer to use the notion of play or performance, but in one case or the 
other I think it is important to ask what cultural forms enable the 
handling down of a set of practices from one generation to another in a 
networked environment, i.e. what kind of cultural forms allow a network 
to exist not only on a synchronic plane, but also in time.

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