net.dialogue.5--Hawaiian Net Art

Posted by Rhizome | Sun Aug 26th 2001 1 a.m.

[verbatim transcript of a conversation between Mark Amerika and gallery
owner Dee Kine at the Morning Brew Cafe in Kailua, Oahu, and a joint
review of "Recording Conceptual Art," edited by Alexander Alberro and
Patricia Norvell, University of California Press, 2001]

+ + +

Mark Amerika: What is Hawaiian Net Art?

Dee Kine: Well, you see, that's it, that's the problem, you can't define
it.

MA: You can't even try?

DK: Sure, I mean, there are a few things you can say about it right off
the bat: first, it has nothing to do with the net. I mean, there is no
email part about it. No World Wide Web. No telnet even.

MA: But we have access to all of those things right here! In the Morning
Brew Cafe!

DK: Yes, but that's access, and access is only one part of the equation.
I wouldn't call that haole over there, sitting in her thong-bikini with
a Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt on, sending email to her sorority sisters in
Cancun, a net artist. Certainly not a Hawaiian net artist!

MA: So it's native.

DK: No, not really, I mean, yes, it could have the quality of being
native. There could be a net artist who was born and raised in Hawaii,
who comes from a long line of native Pacific Islanders, and who just
happens to be great at Photoshop or something.

MA: Ah, but if only it were as simple as being good at Photoshop. Net
art is in the mind, Dee. The hypertext transfer protocol. Conceptual art
as globally distributed mindshare. But that's another story, another
dialogue. Let me ask you something: would you show net art in your
gallery?

DK: But that's just what we were talking about -- when was that?

MA: -- yesterday --

DK: -- right! yesterday, we were just talking about how net art doesn't
need a gallery, and I accepted that as true -- but even the
conceptualists were on to that shit -- I mean Seth Seigelaub was talking
about this kind of "we don't need the galleries" crap back in the
sixties!

MA: Crap?

DK: I mean, it's old. Here, look at the book (takes the book "Recording
Conceptual Art" out of MA's hands and opens it up to a bookmarked page
and begins to read): "A gallery becomes a superfluity. It's superfluous.
It becomes unnecessary." I mean how many different ways can you say it!

MA: [taking book back into his own hands] OK, but that was the dealer,
Seigelaub, talking. Let's go to the artists. Robert Morris had another
take on it all. He says -- wait, it's right here -- she [Norvell] asks
him "How do you see this changing the whole structure of the art
community? Of galleries and museums and dealers?" --

DK: -- right, and he says --

MA and DK together, almost in sync, rather loud: "The galleries are all
predicated on selling objects -- physical things. Ah, if physical things
don't exist, then galleries are pretty irrelevant!" [both laugh out
loud]

DK: What are YOU looking at, Sister? [to sorority girl at Hotmail
terminal who has just "tsk-ed" their loud laughter] This part of the
island is so free of tourism -- why is she here?

MA: Her mother lives here. Actually, her mother's cool, she's thinking
of buying some net art. Anyway, I think this book is useful because it's
basically a verbatim transcript of a series of conversations Norvell had
with a number of important conceptual artists right at the prime of
their productive years. She starts with a candid conversation she had
with Dennis Oppenheim on March 29, 1969, and ends with a garbled,
somewhat uninteresting dialogue with Douglas Huebler on July 25, 1969.
In between are interviews with Robert Morris, Stephen Kaltenbach,
Robert Barry, Lawrence Weiner, Sol LeWitt, Robert Smithson...

DK: A lot of Roberts. A lot of men -- only men!

MA: Which Norvell talks about in her preface. It was a kind of Master's
project under her teacher, Morris, who was advising her on her thesis at
Hunter College. In Alexander Alberro's introduction, he explains that
Morris...where is it, oh here, "Morris explains his general philosophy
or method of working in the late 1960s to Norvell as one where 'I'd
initiate the whole thing and it goes on from there...'"

DK: So it's basically his idea that she do this. He initiates it, i.e.
networks her into his elitist clique, and she executes it. Talk about
being in the right place at the right time. I think these conceptualists
were very into control, sometimes as dictators, sometimes as submissive
puppy dogs. What a strange bunch. And yet they were very systematic, if
loosely so.

MA: Right. LeWitt was all over it. He said "art is about making
choices." So you would, for instance, choose a system, and let it -- the
system -- do the work for you.

DK: That's like, sooo Duchamp!

MA: Cool down, Dee.

DK: I liked that bit about pricing ones work, the part where -- who was
saying that?

MA: I think it was Weiner...hold on --

DK: Oh right, Weiner, she asks him how he prices a work that he's ready
to sell, one of his idea-action events or language pieces, and he was
saying that he would just arbitrarily figure out a median price based
off what paintings cost and what people can afford.

MA: Well, it's that latter part that I have a problem with.

DK: Why?

MA: Undermining the value of your own work. I mean, should I sell Alt-X
for a measly quarter of a million bucks because that's what someone can
afford? Too many artists do that nowadays. Especially net artists. But
that's my soapbox this month -- so don't get me started!

DK: Maybe you can change it.

MA: What?

DK: The perception.

MA: Maybe. Do you know of any adventurous collectors here in Hawaii?

DK: Oh, baby!

MA: Did you notice that both Joseph Kosuth and Carl Andre refused to
give permission to Norvell to publish the verbatim transcripts of the
conversations she had with them.

DK: Ridiculous. Too much control. They would have never survived an
environment like Nettime, or Rhizome.

MA: Talk about recording conceptual art!

DK: Is the mike on?

MA: Dee Kine -- you're a legend.

DK: We're all legends. You know Huelsenbeck, in his Berlin Dada
Manifesto, at one point said [opening her copy of Hans Richter's "Dada:
Art and Anti-Art"] "Dada is a state of mind that can be revealed in any
conversation whatsoever...the Dada Club consequently has members all
over the world, in Honolulu as well as New Orleans and Meseritz."

MA: I had no idea he said that -- and I've read the damn thing many
times. Honolulu?

DK: It's right here, in black and white [points to her copy of Richter's
testimonial]. Come on Amerika, let's go to the beach. I brought some
tofurkey sandwiches.

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Mark Amerika is on-location in Hawaii filming sequences for his new
series of works tentatively entitled FILMTEXT. He will premiere one
version of this work later this year at his first large-scale European
retrospective at the ICA in London.

Dee Kine is a small gallery owner and former investment banker on Wall
Street.
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