Underground

Posted by Vijay Pattisapu | Fri Feb 1st 2008 12:26 p.m.

What does "underground" mean in the context of the net, if anything?

Does it mean isolated created activities in an oppressive, unaware, or philistine social context?

Is net art underground relative to museum-curated and other art scenes?

Is the Chinese blogosphere a sort of underground, given the incredible govt. restrictions on net use there? (aside: new report estimates that 1 in 4 Chinese net users are bloggers)

Does "underground" mean you don't have a MySpace page?

Is Rhizome underground?

Does this question matter? Maybe, when thinking about net art today relative to historical art periods that in some ways were parallel, e.g., underground avant-garde movements like Constructivism in Soviet Russia...?
  • marc garrett | Fri Feb 8th 2008 7:09 a.m.
    Hi Vijay,

    I did actually write quite a bit in response to your very interesting questions regarding the "underground", but then I looked at how many responses there were to your post.

    And even though I am personally really interested in sharing a discussion with you and 'others' on here in respect of the subject that you have proposed, it seems that many on here do not feel the same way - in fact, ironically it kind of answers some of your questions.

    So, what I intend to do is send you my answers personally instead. This is because I know for sure that I am not wasting my time in sharing ideas with you...

    wishing you well.

    marc garrett

    www.furtherfield.org
  • Erika Lincoln | Fri Feb 8th 2008 9:59 a.m.
    Funny, as I was walking to work this morning I was thinking about responding to Vijay's post.

    For me the questions you ask Vijay are hard to answer, underground in relation to the net...if you post in the net does anyone read?
    Is an event underground if the actors are saying 'I operate in the "underground"..'
    Does location matter to activities on the net? Chinese bloggers, and government policies=location.
    Vijay you had said you live in Texas, does living in a somewhat geographical centre of the continent rather on either coast isoloate you? I ask this because I live in Manitoba center of Canada which is often overlooked in relation to both coasts here. My point being is one underground because no one is looking?

    Another thing is that to have an underground one must have dominant order from which one deviates from. To me this is the most interesting part about naming things like underground.

    Marc, I like your response about the lack of posts to Vijay's questions being more telling than any answers given.

    E
  • Vijay Pattisapu | Wed Feb 20th 2008 2:20 a.m.
    Thanks, Manik, Marc, and Erika, for responding to my post, both on and off list, above and underground. :-)

    Sorry for my delayed response. I just got back from Mexico.

    Erika, it makes sense that you bring up Texas. Yes, it often feels like I'm in a sort of underground myself here, as I'm no loner, and yet I have yet to find anyone here with the same passion for art, technology, and their interfaces. I wonder if Manitoba feels the same way...?

    In that sense, for those of us who don't live in art hubs like New York, Paris, London, or Tokyo, Rhizome is in many respects our outlet, our place to come above ground. Perhaps for those who live in the big cities Rhizome is just a footprint of a larger way of life they live. I used to love Rhizome for the unpredictability of it compared to empyre or turbulence ... now it seems as tame as any of the others. We need more D42-Kandinskijs than Philip Galanters. ;-)

    How many of you have made pieces of net art that you have not posted / advertised for on Rhizome? I have. I think what Max Herman talked about in High Networkism vs. Low Networkism really applies to the self-image subtext of Rhizomers more than the state of (the) art today (defense mechanisms in face of The YouTube Horizon (hm, maybe I should trademark or patent that phrase)). The Mouchettes, D42-Kandinskijs, Maniks, etc. of the Rhizome of yesterday don't find as much of a voice today. So maybe Rhizome is what Erika calls the "dominant order from which one deviates."

    So Erika, I think you've hit the nail on the head: location defines the underground. Rhizome is for people from New York and those other big cities above ground. But hey that's cool with me. Without Rhizome many of us wouldn't have gotten into this shit in the first place. How else would a kid from small-town Texas talk to artists in London? The underground can't exist without something above ground!

    Vijay
  • marc garrett | Wed Feb 20th 2008 9:35 a.m.
    Hi Vijay and all,

    >Thanks, Manik, Marc, and Erika, for responding to my post, both on and off list, above and underground. :-)

    No problem, I'm pretty busy, but always keen to make that extra effort to discuss something, such as the question you proposed regarding the 'underground'.

    This is rather long response, but it also includes some of the text that I held back from the list originally...

    I think that it is important to remember that what is not discussed, openly and dealt with, or shared by a certain group of people, is also a type of 'underground' thing, which can mutate into a niggling and potentially culturally, dangerous spectre. Obviously not just on a list but in respect of nations that we are part of as well as the communities that we reside in. Some spectres come about through the 'very' human process of denial. Social conformity in the centralised sense is a guarantee that there will be an 'underground' movement (whether it be organised or not) that is not happy or even interested in the same behaviours as the larger framework that dominates many people's lives, whatever that system is.

    >I used to love Rhizome for the unpredictability of it compared to empyre or turbulence ... now it seems as tame as any of the others.

    It's funny that you mention Turbulence, because I feel that they are actively and bravely exploring media art on their own terms, and not falling into the cliché role of pragmatic, capitalistic and mechanistic control over media art culture. I found it quite disturbing that Turbulence were struggling to survive when they were and are still supporting the practice of net art and media art in a genuine way, that allows artists to explore their projects freely. Of course, it is not surprising how basic many people are in not supporting those who need it, especially when it is healthy to have different alternatives - actually it is quite depressing. What Turbulence brings to the table is something special, unique and rare really - and it is important to define what that is. For instance, the way that they consider and consciously include the artists' voice beyond and above academic theory, is an important factor. This is not the only way but, it is extremely important to have someone out there who understands an artists voice in relation to the work itself, connecting to their work. Just because they are not making a big noise about it in the usual macho way, does not mean that they are 'predictable', it means that you can trust them not to fuck you around, and especially not your practice - that's good value in my books.

    The risks that Turbulence are taking may not be immediately obvious as far as others are concerned. Yet, because they have decided to let the artists' mainly have their own voices expressed and not give too much weight to history or prominence of academic tagging overall, letting the work speak for itself instead; they might not be as easily assimilated into the the more traditional power structures of what runs and controls art culture and what is deemed relevant. So due to their honourable position of offering freedom around the content of what they support, they will not be considered as radical. I would consider them to be radical because of this, and that they are engaged in a more subtle and less obvious set of processes around the art - letting it breath. This type of respect to artists and their work is rare and of course many artists out there will not be aware of this themselves, because many are chasing power under the illusion that this is going to help their art more, but in reality it just helps to serve their more immediate desires, re-instigating a habitual psychological pattern of returning to the same place over and over again. Now this is not an interesting, progressive or imaginative way of being...

    >We need more D42-Kandinskijs than Philip Galanters. ;-)

    Perhaps we do, but we also need to be less reliant on others to take risks on behalf of ourselves and get off our asses and make things happen instead waiting for others to do it for us. Because, as we have learnt too many times, many people, especially artists (sad to say), just do not support those who are supporting them and their own culture. It's easy to criticise others, perhaps like those such as Turbulence for example when one does not know the workings or goings on and the sacrifices that are involved in putting much time into making something special happen, which at the same time supports others. And yes, I can hear the slack inner voice of someone out there, who'll say 'well it was their choice', I say - wake up you zombie and get networked beyond tour micro-desires, and become a larger individual.

    What I do see as 'underground', or lacking, in media art culture on the whole is, whether artists are really brave enough in taking on the more social questions. I do not mean are they engaged in questioning via themes in their artwork - I mean are they daring to act different and build different models of working with others as well as the making of their art? Unfortunately, I see many media artists moving towards a more traditional set of actions that no longer reflect (the possibilities or potential of) their independence through their practice, but are more concerned about the desire to be assimilated by a larger centralised force. This of course is very human and is as much about people's need to be accepted and the need to feel part of something bigger than themselves, as it is about them building structures that create alternative choices. The problem with this type of function is that, what comes out of this model of being is, that generic patterns of conformity begin to take shape which tend to build up a socially controlling hegemonic and mono-cultural set of circumstances. This may not be what artists 'really' need in the long run. And who can blame them, it isn't easy making something special happen, it's bloody hard work.

    >How many of you have made pieces of net art that you have not posted / advertised for on Rhizome? I have. I think what Max Herman talked about in High Networkism vs. Low Networkism really applies to the self-image subtext of Rhizomers more than the state of (the) art today (defense mechanisms in face of The YouTube Horizon (hm, maybe I should trademark or patent that phrase)). The Mouchettes, D42-Kandinskijs, Maniks, etc. of the Rhizome of yesterday don't find as much of a voice today. So maybe Rhizome is what Erika calls the "dominant order from which one deviates."

    I no longer post my own Net Art on Rhizome, mainly because I do not think that many Rhizomers are interested in Net Art any more. There is so much going outside of Rhizome in respect of Net Art culture that is no longer reflected here, especially on this list. Which is stunning when you consider how many people there are who are subscribing to it. I do post Furtherfield projects and reviews here etc, mainly because that is my job as a Furtherfield person, to support media art as much as I can. In fact, I would go as far as to say that, Net Art is of no interest to many institutions anymore because historians and certain hegemonies killed it's context and culture. Certain historians kept on boring us to death with how special the 'heroic period' was over and over again and just ignored the more contemporary Net Artists out there, and unfortunately, institutions were more keen to listen to those who were proposing a divisive history of Net Art rather than what was really happening at the time. There is much Net Art happening, but not many supporting it now. You've got platforms who are more involved with promoting institutional media art related technologies rather than the art or spirit of Net Art.

    Now we are faced with the gradual take over of media art by the Creative Industries, excuse the irony of the term 'Creative Industries' - perhaps the right term is - 'Technologically Determined Industries'. Or, 'Fuck Art Lets Make Money'. Which seems the more important desire now that institutions are more happy in engaging with, a less dynamic and questioning media art culture. The other factor with Net Art losing its voice, is that people judge things now by how clever artists are in using the technology itself, and less interested in the actual art. When I visited Ars Electronica last year, it was obvious that most people were going to laud how amazing the technology was, rather than deal with context, content or art. The exhibition itself, seemed like a BMW show room. A corporate led, selection of media art that reflected how amazing the technology was rather anything deeper.

    The other thing is that many artists no longer want to build their own communities and create more imaginative adventures for themselves, in order to take control of their practices such as Net Art. Too many just want to be seen in galleries instead - I believe that you can do both. Having said this, there are those out there who are building their own, shared communities, it's just that it is not discussed so much on here, or at least explored. The focus of Rhizome as an organisation has definitely changed, and is not about changing media art culture in a critical and rhizomatic way, but much more about making a profit and concentrating on power-based centralisation. I think that this is a shame, but I can understand how this has come about, when American culture is mainly based on patriarch and control via top-down initiations. Rhizome had to become what it is now in order to survive. To blame Rhizome is too easy, I actually place much of the blame on those who are just staying here all of time, especially some of you (not all) Americans who rarely wander elsewhere to share and collaborate, outside of your own behaviour led processes. To me, this declares the real context of what some of the artists who frequent this list really believe in. Many prefer to stick with what they already know rather than explore outside, the macro side of the Internet community in relation to Net Art and Media Art. This creates a static impasse of culturalized, gate-keeping that lends more to a nationalistic way of being, rather than building alternative, structures with others in making a stronger and more level field of practice for all. This has also worked towards the demise of Net Art.

    In reality, the demise of Net Art is really down to those who also loved it; but at a time when certain individuals needed to support it, they were more keen to build their own status and careers instead. To me, this sends messages in respect of the value of these types of people, who were just exploiting the culture of Net Art as a way into different institutions closing the door behiind them - very modernist. Not only to others, but also to a once thriving and critically fascinating form of expression that offered so much more than what many people really gave back to it in the end.

    So. Net Art, is still 'underground', and those who still make it, I applaud. Because they are following their own voices and not just those who say that they should not practice it, for whatever the reasons that so happen to be invented to justify such claims. I still make Net Art, but this is not my only form of expression but I still value it.

    I am happy not to be part of an mechanistic and corporate led desire to homogenise art culture. And still open to looking at Net Art, writing about it, making it and discussing it. In fact, I feel that making Net Art now is, actually more interesting because there are not so many pressures by certain hegemonic types, who want to control the medium and its culture as there used to be. We no longer have to watch historians chose just a few, over the many who created Net.Art. They killed Net Art by doing this and thus killed their own cache, of respectability, and of course they have lessened their respect in regard to a contemporary status when commenting on Net Art generally. They have written their books and got their positions so (hopefully) they will do the honourable thing by ever supporting it now, or leaving the Net Art makers to get on with it themselves on their own terms, or even write about it on the artists' terms. Perhaps it had to be killed for it to survive in another form...

    marc

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  • Vijay Pattisapu | Sat Feb 23rd 2008 11:32 a.m.
    Thanks for the chastising yet encouraging words. Philip, if you're reading this, I'm sorry; that was a mean joke.

    You're right about Turbulence.

    Empyre, honestly, is a valuable resource as well.

    They have goals (artistic and theoretical, respectively) that they have consistently stuck to, which is a good thing.

    Rhizome's are changing, and, for better or worse, you're right that I should shut up about the structure and start making good things inside it.

    I'll hold off on writing more here (I'll fork off some of this discussion into new threads), since your rich post demands a reply less in words than in actions.

    Vijay
  • marc garrett | Sat Feb 23rd 2008 8:51 p.m.
    Hi Vijay,

    Good to hear from you...

    >You're right about Turbulence.

    Thank you for your honourable words, a rare thing in this posturing and masculine dominated world that we share...

    >Rhizome's are changing, and, for better or worse, you're right that I should shut up about the structure and start making good things inside it.

    I am not sure whether I meant shut up. I feel that discussion is important whatever the subject.

    Although, moving around the Internet to be part of other platforms, instead falling into the habitual trap of staying in the same place is advisable if one wishes to broaden their knowledge, experience and practice on the subject of media art, and other things.

    Wishing you well.

    marc
  • marc garrett | Sat Feb 23rd 2008 8:51 p.m.
    Hi Vijay,

    Good to hear from you...

    >You're right about Turbulence.

    Thank you for your honourable words, a rare thing in this posturing and masculine dominated world that we share...

    >Rhizome's are changing, and, for better or worse, you're right that I should shut up about the structure and start making good things inside it.

    I am not sure whether I meant shut up. I feel that discussion is important whatever the subject.

    Although, moving around the Internet to be part of other platforms, instead falling into the habitual trap of staying in the same place is advisable if one wishes to broaden their knowledge, experience and practice on the subject of media art, and other things.

    Wishing you well.

    marc
  • Philip Galanter | Sun Feb 24th 2008 1:34 a.m.
    Vijay,

    as long as you spell my name correctly...
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