Response to Max Herman

Hello Max,

These questions don't affront us at all! On the contrary, we appreciate your initiation of vigorous debate on any and all subjects related to this field. We spent considerable time refurbishing our discussion forums so they would be used and there have been interesting discussions here recently. Given this, I'm not sure why you would you think we, the staff, would be interested in discouraging discussion. We re-post shows like YOU_ser to provoke awareness as well as critique and analysis. As I see it, they all go hand in hand.

In regards to your other question: the current staff does not, by policy, remove emails from the TextBase. We're proud of Rhizome's history and the critical, wild discussions that have taken place here. We did make an exception recently for a former member who was painfully embaressed by an email and asked that it be removed..

all best,

Max Herman Jan. 24 2008 20:04Reply


Hi Lauren,

Thanks for the reply! I appreciate very much that the current Rhizome staff is doing a great job, and that it isn't really your fault if discussion is in a slowdown. I just wanted to confirm a little bit if there was a ban on certain topics, such as Networkism. As for motivation, I don't know how it helps Artforum but I'm not allowed to mention my name or Networkism on their list so I thought there might be an informal blacklist in effect. Not that I'd object to such a thing in principle, but I wanted to get a rough sense of it just in case.

In any case, I do feel obliged for work and other reasons to stick to my January posting limit, but wanted to mention the issue of Low versus High Networkism. I will post more on this later this evening.


Max Herman
The Genius 2000 Network
Le Cafe online now


Max Herman Jan. 25 2008 00:21Reply


I'm glad that discussing Networkism here is not an affront to the Rhizome staff. I would rather that Rhizome do good and do well, and I want people to be successful and happy other things being equal.

My speculations were a bit accusatory, and while I don't wish to go overboard there is some room for constructive criticism of as a community, perhaps, including the membership and not just the staff. So, why might it be important to Rhizome to prevent discussion of Networkism, or of a new art-historical period to replace Postmodernism?

Well, these are issues that do become important within say academia. Then, since academia relates to museums, and other non-profits, and these all to galleries, and these in turn to say "general attitudes" among intellectuals, you can have group think or the like even among art non-profits. Thomas Bernhard's book Woodcutters talks about this problem in Austria in the later 20th c.

Now overall, there are plenty of people who believe things I disagree with. In general I feel happier to let them do their own thing and stew in their own juice. I often wonder if it is best just to abstain from a given culture sphere if one disapproves. This is certainly often good. However, I don't think it is always the only decent path. Sometimes, and this is based on examples from history, it is good to vociferously advocate for a new art-historical period despite its early unpopularity. Take Impressionist painting for example, at first the academy hated it.

Why is Networkism important? Well, because Postmodernism is quite erroneous I think as a theory designed to influence the practice of aesthetic-evolutionary activity i.e. art. Being so erroneous, yet so popular, it is kind of like an economic bubble. It is overvalued and when the value corrects those invested in it will lose assets. Of course, those who invest in the other thing will gain assets.

And some things are as they say "too big to fail." The New York City economy, for one. I do not dislike NYC overall and I would not wish it to go back to the bad economic times pre-Giuliani. This means some distasteful compromises some of the time. For example, when the anorexic model died the city was careful not to be too harsh against the fashion world, because if Fashion Week moved to LA or Miami, NYC would be hurt. across the board So, maybe Postmodernism is like that.

To some degree, Postmodernism is like that. People have invested in it. If a better alternative comes out, the value of their investment will go down. However, some things are not too big to fail, but are allowed to get displaced by the better mousetrap. This does not mean that the competitive process is easy and free of difficulty. It can be quite severe in some ways.

My main question was whether Rhizome is constitutionally averse to acting as the venue for this competition of ideas to occur, between Postmodernism and Networkism. I can see why it would not be acceptable for a new institution to go too harshly against the credos of its milieu. Mainly I wanted to say that in this case I can offer my personal guarantee that it will not harm Rhizome, it will benefit aesthetic evolution throughout all communities quite possibly, and will barely even hurt the people and organizations that currently believe in Postmodernism. However it will be painful to some, and to some it will be very very painful and they will be quite antagonistic. This can be seen in the many lists and forums that I have been kicked off of over the years, basically for advocating Networkism in what was viewed as too unmannerly or confrontational a tone.

Now I am very conscious that I can't compel anyone to advocate for Networkism. It is up to every individual what they believe in and what they advocate for or remain quiet about, and that is a necessary good. Yet I do have the ability to advocate for Networkism myself, and to do so publicly and even to the extent that I negatively criticize something else, perhaps sometimes even a little specifically. So that's the goal for this limited period of discussion.

One simple primary point is that art today should be looked at as High Networkism and Low Networkism. "Low" does not even necessarily mean that bad, certainly not evil. It means in a sense, "early." This is a common art-historical term that many people here who went to art school may have heard of. "Low" in this sense also means, sort of, "default, passive, superficial, reactive, conventional." I think the key here is to use this term to talk about technology-oriented or philotechnical art, which uses technology for the gimmick-value but fails to reach the level of High Networkism. Low would be very popular now, by logic, whereas High would be kind of mocked, like Impressionism, or the heliocentric model of astronomy.

As to other topics, perhaps I can sum them up by saying that all the features and site enhancements and the like may not be as valuable in the long run to the High Networkism potentials of Rhizome as the discussion factor, which has ebbed. Everyone in the world, including Rhizome staff and Rhizome membership, should remember that Low Networkism is OK but it is not the highest goal and should not be accepted too blithely. I also think that High Networkism is the best way to get the discussion element back in a way that is both productive and favorable to global political stability i.e. the aspects of the 21st c. that are truly too big to fail.

How much I can criticize in the next week without becoming an inarticulate jerk I cannot say, but it may not be as much as I'd like. I will make my best efforts however because I truly believe it is important for a U.S. writer/artist to present Networkism as soon and as comprehensively as possible. I will leave it to the reader to consider why this might be important, and direct everyone who wishes to understand the extreme importance of High Networkism to read my recent book or at least discuss it amongst yourself, in such discussions as you are used to have.

Max Herman
The Genius 2000 Network
Le Cafe online now