It's been asked why Rhizome, and for that matter a lot of listservs for
that matter, have dropped in the degree of content during the present
decade. There are a few lists out there that still have a lot of
content, traffic, but in general, Pall Thayer's observation that
listserv traffic has dropped considerably, at first glance, appears to
There is a real confluence of issues that has led to the issue at hand.
Most of what Curt Cloninger has said is true, but it seems to be around
a few key issues:
A change in the community
Different modes of content production/distribution
Different agendas of the next generation
In regards to the community, there is something to be said about the
Curt's comments of the 90's generation (who I call the Third Wave) of
New Media being in grad school/going academic. I see Cloninger is in
grad school now, as I remember Klima mentioning he was going to do, as
well as several others. That's what I did, and am now in my second year
as a prof in Chicago. Will probably start my PhD next year, as it looks
like an MFA in the states will not be enough in the long run.
In addition, a lot of the Third Wave have families and careers now, and
doubly do not have the time to participate like they used to. I know
that when Tribe and I were in Washington DC for the Renascence 07 show,
he had to leave early after the panel to take care of family matters.
Fortunately or not, I have to work 1900 km away from my family, which
gives me a touch more time.
Tribe, Galloway, Kanarek - most of them are academic now, a lot of
others had to focus on work or focusing their careers on sustainability.
I know I have a lot less time, and I've been streamlining my practice
again and again to maximize my time and effectiveness, and I hate when
art and Taylorism converge.
Content - the listserv, while vibrant in terms of lists like Empyre and
IDC, are largely 90's modes of communication. Instead of circulating
content, digital discourse has turned into a "booth" mentality, in which
bloggers pointcast and hope that people aggregate their blog. It isn't
about the collective discourse as much as a constellation of little
stations and brands. Many of them are structured so that they might
even make money from their brand of content, such asichanhascheezburger.com
(a LOLcat site) that is the source of income now
for the creator.
The next generation of New Media artists (from which I am from the prior
gen) have a different set of agendas, priorities, and degrees of
support. For example, when Rhizome got started, it was, for the most
part, funded by odd revenue streams and Tribe's resources, as far as I
knew. As that ran out, Rhizome had to act like any other NPO...
Secondly, from having hung out for a long time, it was their primary
conceptual project for the first 2-3 years; I didn't see them out on a
lot of residencies, writing for other entities, maybe a little curation.
But from my vantage point, for the first couple years, the rhizome crew
didn't do much else.
And lastly, from two-three places from the preceding, although we are in
a period of "social media", it appears that it is a particulate cloud of
individuals trying to promote their own work/agendas and forming
alliances/networking for enlightened self-interest rather than acting
collectively. In many ways, it feels like grass-roots collectivism
versus free-market competition.
Much of this feel comes from the increased robustness of the art market,
acceptance of conceptual New Media, related objects, and the emergence
of media-influenced artists from Murakami to Arcangel. When there
weren't that many opportunities, we all had more time to hang out and
collaborate. Now that there are more possibilities to have a viable art
career, a lot of us are trying to make a go of it for a while.
It also comes from a difference from the way New Media artists are born.
Many of the ones I work with now were minted in the academy; I was one
of the last generations of autodidacts. New Media artists (sic) are
becoming part of the establishment, and while there is still the
somewhat segregated New Media community, the integration/cooptation
really started in 1998-2000 between net.condition, Whitney Bi 2000 and
the 100101010 show at the SF MoMA, all of which validated New Media as
an "art form"
Therefore, the new New Media artists are much more akin to their
"contemporaries" than to the previous generations of practitioners.
They're taught to be part of the Art World, to aggressively seek
galleries, media, get representation, find commissions, look at how to
bridge the material culture gap, build the practice. This is very
different from the 90's artist, who simply did not have these routes to
travel, more often than not.
An example of the difference between generations was an interaction with
someone who I had remarked about their level of promotion/aggressiveness
in networking, which actually got on my nerves a little. They gave me a
hug, and said, "Don't worry, we just have to get out there in our
business..." This revealed an epiphany of generational difference that
I had not realized until then, and I replied, "I guess you're right, but
for me, it's not a business, it's my _life_."
Therefore, there are a lot of different constituencies in the New Media
universe. There are collectivists, the non-profits, the academics, the
career artists. There are the 90's community types, the 00's
point-cloud "socials", the free radicals, the stars, and so on. But
what is obvious is that things have changed, and people notice. The
question remains; are there constituencies large enough to support truly
collective enterprises, or are we in a free-market, aggregate-sifting,
competitive pointcast culture? Although I am probably more akin to the
collectivist sort who would love to not worry about survival as I was in
the 90's, I ran out of resources, and now have to balance my time
between exploration, exhibition, and education. It's not a bad life,
but I'd certainly love to have my life in the late 90's back again, for
a lot of reasons.
- Interactive Arts & Media
Columbia College, Chicago
Intelligent Agent Magazinehttp://www.intelligentagent.com
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