> I believe it is time for net artists to stop pretending anybody beyond
> their immediate peers understand what they are doing. Seriously. Not
> even the people in most arts organizations (I'm thinking granting
> institutions and the like) understand the difference between creating
> your own metasoftware in Java so you can create software art versus a
> person who gets their hands on Flash and makes an animation. To this
> day I find myself saying at art openings, "No, that Levin/Simon/Napier
> is not an animation. It's software creating the art." To which they
> most inevitably get the "deer in the headlights" look on their faces.
I'm very intrested in what you say here and I hoping to raise an issue that has bothered
me for a while. I suspect your immediate reaction will be to disagree because I am going
to talk about the art object but bear with me..:)
My observation is that it seems to me that artists, particularly those form whose work is
engaged is in the technology/process as art have an enormous desire for
*understanding* by the viewer (be the gallery curator or joe bloggs). Not enjoyment,
engagement, interest, curiosity, admiration (although liked) but understanding. Non-
process led artists seem less concerened about this - possibly because they don't
understand it all themselves:)
What confuses me is, process-led artists are often pioneers, and may have taken years
to get to the stage when they can *do-what-they-do* but that they feel frustrated and
disappointed when others don't 'get it'; Feel slandered when their innovative processes
are mistaken for *lessor* ones - although their process may often be entirely new,
radical and/or complex. My dilemma seems to be that alongside this frustration, the
case seems to be being made that without understanding there can be no longevity for
net.art - or at least process led net.art.
I wondered if there are any other parallels with the art.objects outside of net.object
where this is apparent. Obviously there are examples of process-led genres within art
but I've been asking myself wether these works/artists that achieved longevity did so
because of an understanding of the process or the accessibility. By accessibility, I mean
could the viewer engage with either of the process or the resulting art.object: be that
aesthetically, theoretically or conceptually etc (even without understanding). Of course,
technology has always had the *advantage* of the *wow factor* which can
circumnavigate the understanding or engagement of the art object but *wow* is by its
very natural temporary. I simply cannot think of an example of an art *ism* or
*movement* that was received with understanding at this stage in its development but
the reason it became a *movement* or *ism* does seem to be an engagement. However,
only digital works seem to be *relying* on understanding for longevity and support and
to be honest, seems to see engagement as secondary.
I suppose the root of my being uncomfortable with your email is this: Why is it a problem
that people think that Levin/Simon/Napier is animation - they might think that tempera is
a town in sussex and bronze casting is something you when you fish - is that stopping
them accessing, appreciating and enjoying the artwork on a level? What is most
worthwhile for the artist understanding or engagement? What will lead to longevity and
support - understanding or engagement?
What I think I am trying to say in my normal stream of colloquial verbal diarrhea is: did
they like it? If they did, do they really need to understand it?
In relation to this, this is the part that mostly caught my attention...
> Think of the museum, the gallery, the academy, the audience and "the
> market" as corporations as well. If you buy into the belief that art
> is about the object and not the process, then a lot of the onus of
> making an art "object" out of what is basically electricity, falls unto
> you as well.
So you find yourself in a situation in which you've just
> built from the ground up a meta-software that makes more software that
> is then what we call "software art", but nobody --not even your peers--
> now about it because you've been focused on showing the final object
> and not the process. And because you've spent all that time on the art
> as object motif, your work --because it moves on a screen-- is still
> being seen by the audience immediately outside of the net/software art
> clique as animation or video because, you know, it moves.
But engagement (ie they 'liked it') naturally comes before understanding unless you are
a part of the creation of the 'ism' or 'movement itself. Why should net.art be different in
the way than any other art form even though the art may be more diverse and our
> blame them. If you do not distinguish what you do from the "proven" art
> forms, why should people understand what your work is about?
But even if you were working in a complex new way in a *proven* form, would you
expect understanding anyway? Wouldn't you expect to have to (for a long time anyway)
repeat and explain until more people were able to take on the explanations...?
The speed of change,development and diversity in net.art reflects our technology and
our time, but the people [viewers] are the same as they ever were, at best - mildly
interested and mildly excited until the work permeates the culture on a historical and
sociological level. There simply hasn't been the time for this to happen yet surely? The
process may be new, the artform may be new but its interesting that you used the word
'proven'. Surely, the only thing that 'proves' an artform is longevity and its simply too
early to have achieved that yet.
> Net Artists have been so caught up in the metaphor of the internet as a
> space for communication and social interaction that, ironically, most
> have not really used it as so in their own art spaces. Yes, there is
> Rhizome and all those artsy lists. But you cannot bring Rhizome Raw
> into your site and this is what each and every one of you should be
> doing. Let the flaming begin. There, I have said it.
> I truly believe that focusing on the conversations your art and art
> process can create is the only way to not just push your work forward,
> but to bring to light the artform you so lovingly/madly/cluelessly
> The net is not just a space, and the web is not just a canvas. They are
> processes as well. They are because humans use them. Art Websites
> should not be just galleries or studios. They need to be salons as
> well; places where each artist can reveal their work and play, their
> expertise and discoveries, their trials and tribulations.
Totally agree with all of this but I would beg that it is remembered that the viewers in
these human process need more than explanation and a revelation - they need access:
to the works, to the diversity, to the net itself. This requires platforms which require
artists collaborating and building them, not just in university conferences, gallery talks
where the same handful of speakers are shared globally but public spaces. I guess I'm
talking about accessible public portals as well as personal ones. On a non sequitur
that's why I still think rhizome membership fees are such a bad idea
> Yes people, I'm talking about the four letter words.
> Whether it is a wiki or a blog, I am talking about bringing social
> technologies into artists sites. >
> It's been almost two years now since I wrote an art proposal, and quite
> frankly, I don't miss it. Those things are ghastly especially because
> software art, being a subset of a subset of art in most foundations,
> never fits all the requirements for documentation. So they want a video
> or slides of Shredder (I kid you not). In part because they are working
> with old paradigms of art, and in part because they most of the time do
> not have the "right browser" or the "right OS" or the "right hardware"
> to run most net/software art in the first place. So they go with what
> they think will be easy for them to use to judge the work
> --misunderstandings and hilarity ensues. UGH.
You see - this frightens the life out of me: that you haven't written an art proposal in two
because this is a vital way you will reach the understanding that *you* are looking for: by
getting the work seen as much a humanly possible. Who cares that *they* don't
understand the process if they hand over the grant/exhibition space - you can give talks,
papers, interviews when you've got the money to the make the work, it's in their space
and people are viewing it. Who cares if they ask for slides if it means you will get them
in a room to listen to your ideas? Of course its part of the ridiculous antiquated gallery
system and there is no way they can get any real impression of the work but it is the
lousy inheritance of the fine art world. One day they may enter the 21st century (even if
they entered the 20th it would be nice) but that's the system we're shackled with. Do you
really think that will be able to access the language of a blog or wiki if they can't access
the internet itself? If they can't handle a screenshot how are they going to handle the
screen unless you show them...?
This is what brings me down to earth: in 2004 in the digital age I have just inducted a
group of 1year art/media/performance students. Do you know what I had to do for the
first session...teach them how to set up an email account and show them what a forum
was and how to sign in! These are educated, 18-25 year olds, in an affluent area of the
south of england. If they have hardly got their foot on the digital ladder how are the
upper-middle aged, technophobic, cosseted curatorial army that's out there going to
access net.art unless we lead them physically by the hand. I know there are exceptions
to this, I know many children are digital savvy at seven and a rising number global
curators who are devouring work and lists with excitement but I still hold that they are
the still the exception.
> I've blogmothered potatoland.blog. The intention? For the Head Potato
> to post some code and start conversations around it. Rant against the
> machines. Maybe even get some people to work out a bug or two. That
> sort of thing. I'm even fixing to have guest writers write about their
> favourite pieces... And in due time to raise resources for new projects.
> I'd love to try this experiment with more people. Be part of real-life
> conversations started by artworks, but mediated through the blogs. See
> what opportunities are opened up with this "new" socialization. Find
> out what happens when an artist's site goes from portfolio to notebook
> to salon, all in one swoop of technology.
I think this is fantastic, can only be a good thing and one vital part of what is needed -
but please, please start writing proposals again as well.
Its not enough to have innovative, beautiful work if the people whose understanding
and appreciation *you* crave cannot access it. It is the irony of the accessible net that it
has become so inaccessible. I truly believe that critical to the longevity of net art is not
understanding but platforms, doorways, spaces and people physically handing out
invites. I know alongside the potential, the technology, the multi user and the global
possibilities - accessibility to the work was [is] one of the primary dynamics of being a
net.artist. But with the proliferation of e-z-search and adware we are getting harder and
harder to find. I know your visitor numbers would make mine look like a bus queue, but
the slowness of the trickle-down affect to 'understanding' makes it a priority to all net
artists to spend time gaining opportunities to show beyond the net - to lead people back
Added to this technology is expensive, we all need grants and opportunities and (please
god!) time to do what we want to do. The more net.artists prioritise getting their own
opportunities the more will be created. The more oppertunities, the more chances for
the works to engage and understanding to come. Its frustrating, time consuming and the
majority of the time boring as hell - but without signposts and explanation to allow them
to engage, I simply think we are asking to much of people to understand and support
what they simply don't know how to access and longevity will not be obtainable.
best as ever, and waiting for the flames:)