[-empyre-] Week One on Through the NET: Net Art Then and Now

Craig Saper csaper at umbc.edu
Thu Sep 8 03:01:32 AEST 2016

Instructions #2
Zooming in on our opening gambit to turn -empyre- into a net-art experiment (or a set of instructions that could potentially do so in some theoretical future), then we can appreciate the shift from demarcating to listing/using a series of functions and effects.

Two attributes in art that use the situation of a network as a canvas. The first is to "write" the work as an open-constraint set of instructions (either algorithmic or listing). One can send/apply the instructions either to bots, people, or (in the case of listserv) to an unknown identity (let's call ourselves p-bot effects). We see this in Fluxus works (precursors to net-art? or an example of it?) and in the twitter-bot experiments like Helen Burgess' "Loving-Together with Roland's Bots" and Anna Coluthon (@annacoluthon), Tully Hansen’s team-powered bot @botALLY retweets and tags bot-generated tweets, “NRA Tally (@NRA_Tally)” or“Save the Humanities (@SaveHumanities)” by Mark Sample, “Pizza Clones (@pizzaclones)” by Allison Parrish. 

The second (closely related to the effect above) is to notice that, unlike other arts, dependence on a singular virtuosity and aesthetic innovation, net-art appears to have another notion of the artwork; the genius is distributed in the system -- throughout the network, and the amateur and hack are nodes in that system. Often, though the artist-function is algorithmic and instructions for an open-system, the artist function is both more controlling (see the definition of a p-bot) -- watch-maker like -- and less (once it is out there among the undefined networks of other p-bots). In celebrating early work on rhizomes.org, there is a discussion of Petra Cortwright's explicitly unintentional artwork on YouTube that emphasized her amateur status. The amateur is not a professional.

What are the instructions? 


On Sep 6, 2016, at 10:28 PM, Craig Saper <csaper at umbc.edu> wrote:

----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
Tim, Thanks for the introduction — and although we didn’t get to Ithaca this summer — fond memories. It seems fitting to have the theme this week correspond to the 20th anniversary of Rhizome.org. Congratulations to Mark Tribe and the network of folks who transformed a listserv (like -empyre -- just sayin') into something else for networked art (putting that notion of transformation of a listserv into something else ("commissions, exhibits, preserves, and creates critical discussion around" net-art) as the implicit instruction/open-constraint for our discussion) . . . . still having a difficult time defining networks? Ten thousand books with “network” in their title, subtitle, or series title have appeared since my Networked Art appeared in 2001, and reading just a few of these titles begins to sound like a conceptual poem: Networks of Outrage and Hope; Network Forensics; Understanding Social Network; How Networks are Shaping the Modern Metropolis; Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks; Disrupting Dark Networks; Network Like an Introvert; Network Marketing; Network Management; The Network; Actor-Network Theory and Tourism; Charles Dickens's Networks; Social Network Analysis; Nomads and Networks; Networked: The New Social Operating System; Networks Without a Cause ... (with thanks to K.A. Wisniewski for digging up some of this list). Network is networked in every conceivable publisher's category: Computers & technical manuals. Science. Art. Photography. Biographies & Memoirs. Literature, Graphic novels, and literary criticism. Education.  History. Politics.  Sociology. Law.  Humor. Religion. Philosophy. Self-help. ... Trade publishers. University, or Small presses. Self-published. Television or Internet. ... Networks, Networking, Networked . . . Nouns. Adjectives.  Verbs.  Or, read as both or neither.  Something else? It's a one-word cliché either disliked and pernicious or liberating and utopian; it is a network of control in the "capitalocene" (the complex networks that have transformed lives for everybody on this planet whether they like it or not) or the anarchist rhizomatic hacktivists' web. Not in the same ways, but deeply still.  Instead of it's meaning, what are it's moods, textures, poetics, amateur-hack-artist function, and visceral affects? That's what I hope we can explore here.

On Sep 6, 2016, at 10:08 PM, Timothy Conway Murray <tcm1 at cornell.edu> wrote:

----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------Welcome back everyone from summer or winter, depending on your location.
Renate and I have enjoyed the quiet of Cayuga Lake in Ithaca after
returning from Shanghai where we opened a new Summer School in Theory
between Cornell University and East China Normal University.  Our time off
in August gave us an opportunity to think about anniversary nodes of the
net and net.art, just as I was being challenged in keeping various pieces
of 1990s net.art online for my exhibition, Signal to Code: 50 Years of
Media Art in the Rose Goldsen Archive
(http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/signaltocode/).  So we thought it might be
interesting to open September with a discussion of Net Art Then and Now.

This week, I will look forward to the opportunity to think back on the
excitement of curatorial projects in net.art when the community imagined
that the challenging artworks of the net might reach a broader audience
than now seems to have been the case.  I will be joined by Craig Saper, a
challenging thinker of the network.  Craig Saper (US) is Professor in
the Language, Literacy, and Culture Doctoral Program at UMBC in Baltimore,
Maryland, US. Craig published Networked Art and, as dj Readies, Intimate
Bureaucracies ‹
both about net-art then (and now). His work on net-art also appears in the
Whitechapel Gallery's Networks, in their Documents of Contemporary Art
series and forthcoming in Beyond Critique: Contemporary Art in Theory,
Practice and Instruction. Hisrecently published "cross between an
intellectual biography Š and a picaresque novel,² and "a biography of a
lost twentieth century," The Amazing Adventures of Bob Brown, tells the
comic story of a real-life Zelig and the ultimate networker.  He has also
edited or co-edited scholarly volumes including Electracy: Gregory L.
Ulmer Textshop Experiments
<http://www.thedaviesgrouppublishers.com/ulmer%20electracy.htm> (2015), a
special issue of the scholarly journal Hyperrhiz on mapping culture
<http://hyperrhiz.io/hyperrhiz12/> (2015), special issues of Rhizomes on
Posthumography <http://www.rhizomes.net/issue20/saper/index.html>(2010),
Imaging Place <http://www.rhizomes.net/issue18/saper/> (2009), and Drifts
<http://www.rhizomes.net/issue13/> (2007), and many other volumes since
1990. Craig¹s curatorial projects include exhibits on ³Assemblings²
(1997), ³Noigandres: Concrete Poetry in Brazil² (1988) and ³TypeBound
<http://www.readies.org/typebound/>² (2008), and folkvine.org
<http://folkvine.umbc.edu/> (2003-6). In addition, he has published two
other artists¹s books On Being Read (1985) and Raw Material (2008).

Over the weekend, Renate and I enjoyed a lakeside lunch at a casual
restaurant on Cayuga Lake, and recalled that our last meal there was in
the pleasant company of Craig Saper.  So, Craig, we are very happy to be
back in conversation with you here on the network rather than the lake.
We look forward to receiving your opening post.


Timothy Murray
Professor of Comparative Literature and English
Taylor Family Director, Society for the Humanities
Curator, Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art
A D White House
Cornell University,
Ithaca, New York 14853


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