[-empyre-] Biennales Plus and Minus

John Craig Freeman John_Craig_Freeman at emerson.edu
Mon Jun 13 06:19:34 EST 2011

Hi Tim et al, Technically the works in the ManifestAR Venice Biennial AR Intervention is net art, as they use both mobile and wifi networks. I get your point however. The site-specificity of this technology is exactly what attracts me to it. 

In the late 80's, early 90, like a hand full of other artists, notably Louis Hoch, Liz Sisco, David Avalos, http://crca.ucsd.edu/~esisco/bus/index.html, and I http://institute.emerson.edu/vma/faculty/john_craig_freeman/public_art/operation_greenrun_2/media/ten_8.html were exploring interventionist art in site specific public space. There are two points that I think are relevant to this discussion. 

First is the question of who owns so called 'public space?' These early projects proved that it was naive to think that the public did. Even the nationstate was loosing its grip. By the late twentieth century the burgeoning multinational media conglomerates had already begun to assert their dominion over public space and our eyeballs.

The second point, or question, is wether it is possible for site-specific works of art intervention/action/performance can catalyze political discourse or even effect direct political change? The lesson I have learned after doing this for over two decades, is that being there does matter.

As I wrote on this list last month, in the 90s I followed the migration of the public sphere from physical space into the Internet, as did many artists who were interested in art and politics. The content of the work that I made always remained tethered to location, but its distribution became... well, distributed. Although this was a fascinating realm for experimental art practices, I have always felt the work was dislocated, which of course it was. Augmented reality brings location back to networked art practices.

Water wARs, http://manifestarblog.wordpress.com/freeman-venice-2011/, was conceived of as a project which would grow like a virus around the edges of the gated communities of Southern California. As the ManifestAR group began to discuss the possibilities of an intervention at the Venice Biennial, it seemed only fitting to create a squatters pavilion (padiglione occupatore abusivo) since that is essentially what we would be doing. I will document the growth of the shantytown in Giardini and in the Piazza San Marco on the blog over the summer, for the duration of the Biennial and its subsequent spread to southern California next fall, but the project is fundamentally not a web art project. I would be interested to hear any ideas about how it might become one.

I saw the Stateless Immigrant group, http://statelessimmigrantspavilion.tumblr.com/, in Giardini, but I didn't know what they were up to until it started to reverberate on the Internet, via press accounts, twitter, Micha's blog etc. I wish I had known. I would have loved to have gotten some pictures of the group in their tent next to the Water wARs shanty. The fact that the group got this list discussing the working conditions of the ACTV Venice public transportation workers, is a modest but tangible political effect, proving that even no-tech located art practices become networked as they bring the virtual public sphere to bear. I was happy to have my travels around Venice disrupted by the strike and thrilled to hear about it on Empyre. Solidarietà!

Finally, ManifestAR was founded in order to challenge institutional and state ownership of space. Although the Chinese government has not yet figured out how to stop 4Gentlemen from doing what they do, http://fourgentlemen.blogspot.com/, one thing I am realizing through all of this, is that the premiss that augmented space is somehow more democratic and free than the physical, is nonsense. It is just not owned by governments or institutions yet, but it has some of the biggest, most powerful corporations in the world vying for position, Verizon, T-Moble, Vodaphone, Comcast etc. etc. Network access was all but impossible in Venice and we all pay dearly. I think I will have to make my next project about this. 


On Jun 11, 2011, at Sat, Jun 11, 10:00 PM, <empyre-request at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au> <empyre-request at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au> wrote:

> I'm interested by the participants choice not to extend the
> availability of the works more broadly online as net.art pieces.  Was
> this choice a technological determination related to the smartphone
> interface and the desire for onsite intervention or were there added
> considerations involved.
> Thanks.
> Tim

John Craig Freeman
Associate Professor of New Media

Emerson College
Department of Visual and Media Arts
120 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02116-4624
(617) 824-8862
john_craig_freeman at emerson.edu

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