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Blackness for Sale (2001) - Keith Obadike

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Max June 22 2009 18:54Reply

These projects are way old and have been published in books, and you are abusing your status as an arbiter in the art world by creating filler blog content like this. You can't just annex everything new media/web art of the last forty years into the rhizome blog just to post something. this is uncritical reinforcement of your and rhizome's own implicit agendas, which is to perpetuate your statuses as arbiters.

creating filler content like this, like, oohh rhizome will be my go-to spot to learn about the present, future, and past of web art/new media, is the same logic that big corporations follow when they release a new model of shoe every season just to come out with something new, to perpetuate the brand, because a company is always either growing or dying.

do you get what i'm saying?

Christina McPhee June 23 2009 16:04Reply

Keith and Mendi's project 'Blackness for Sale" has got to be one of the classics of new media art. They have made something that people can resonate to and find meaningful, provocative.. art like theirs doesn't die.

curt cloninger June 23 2009 20:14Reply

Hi Max,

I think it's always fair to ask "if this is being included, what is being excluded, and why?" I do think there is a bit of curatorial bootstrapping, like putting new artists in a group show with established artists in order to increase the reputation of the new artists. So when John Michael posts some one-liner project that his friend made last week and that post is followed by an already "canonized" piece, and both projects appear with "canonical" dates in parentheses after the project titles, then yes, we are implicitly supposed to see a relationship between the two pieces and value the one-liner piece more by association. Still, you've got to have a lot of faith that Rhizome's editorial blog activity is going to matter that much to art historians in 20 years to be bothered by such stuff.

Fortunately, that's not all that's happening with the editorial posts. Ceci and John Michael are going back and forth topically. One "serves" a piece, and then associations and connotations based on that piece are riffed on throughout that day. So the "blackness for sale" piece appears in the context of a bunch of eBay art pieces. This blogging process seems fun to me, because I like art (and curation) that foregrounds the invisible connections between things (les liens invisibles, if you will). I'm often less interested in the pieces themselves than in the implicit connections that are gradually constructed between the pieces.

An observation – a lot of JMB and Ceci's connections are "formal;" that is, they are based on similarities of form in the work. This to me is a hallmark of a new kind of net art curating (if not necessarily a new kind of net art making). Not to say that there aren't also other connections made based on process, topic, and concept. But there is (what seems to me) an inordinate emphasis on form. This is neither good nor bad.

Another observation – the Rhizome staff is and always has been just people. They hardly represent "the man." If "we" (non-Rhizome staff) want to conduct similar dialogues about recent work, we can do it here in the discussion forums. (That is, we could do it, if the forums weren't moderated and time-lagged so as to render them useless to any time-sensetive forms of dialogue[!!!]) But anyone could easily "pitch" a piece of work here and invite others to free-associate with other work based on topic, form, or any other criteria.

Best,
Curt

marc garrett June 24 2009 07:56Reply

I think that Max has a point here actually - perhaps Rhizome is eating itself these days.

To be honest, it would be great to see some contemporary, independent artists more (less from America) - those who are not in the Rhizome database - it's getting a little tiresome all this self-referential nonsense - I expect better quality from Rhizome, especially when I've paid my own cash to support it.

I've been a subscriber and supporter of Rhizome for over 10 years and things seems a but slack these days…

Michael Szpakowski June 22 2009 19:26Reply

On the contrary, I think the Rhizome front page is currently tremendous & those posting are doing a sterling job of publicising a lot of excellent&/interesting recent work and also really giving some sense of the historical development of the area in an actually pretty inclusive and non-tendentious way. Of course one would naturally have some small disagreements here and there but in general the sheer volume of stuff posted means accusations of partiality don't hold water.
The corporate comparison is just plain stupid - by embracing a facile surface comparison it manages to miss the essence of what distinguishes a not for profit arts organisation from its corporate polar opposite. Do you think perhaps the Rhizome folk should post *less stuff*? Would that make it better? How?
m.

fratha June 24 2009 08:26Reply

@ curt cloninger
I think that the emphasis on "form" is necessary in the visual arts field, but - and this might be the point - it is not the only category art can be classified under. What i am missing in the "content"-part of many of the arworks published at Rhizome - I do not want to say that there is no content, but, that the contextualisation in art history, technology, philosophy and society is missing - there is only a little criticism and too much affirmative writing about it. To me, this seems a bit like the discussions about "political art", where the problem develops the other way around: not the "form" but the "content" is the main emphasis, not the "how", but the "why" - only both of them - on the same level - can be taken into account when it comes to talk about art, no?

@ Michael Szpakowski
*less stuff* wouldn't make it better at all. I think Rhizome is doing a really good job by displaying and disseminating a lot of different works and artistic practices. But yet, if the only parameters of choice are "0" and "1", "including" and "excluding" and if there is only a little criticism, it will be(come) a kind of PR-machine. I think Rhizome should not be a blog-like, copy-pasting magazine, but, rather a critical tool for the - still missing - implementation of the so called new media in the traditional art world.

marc garrett June 24 2009 08:52Reply

Hi Fratha,

I agree with your observations. Yet I am wondering how much this might have to with what Rhizome is now-today, perhaps it is suffering from its past success?

I think it is now closer to a dot.com now rather than a dot.org - this does not necessarily need to be seen as a negative consideration, but more a sign of the times regarding Rhizome's position in respect of its survival.

Michael Szpakowski June 24 2009 13:29Reply

Hi Marc
I simply don't understand in what respect an organisation that has to regularly resort to a laborious round of fundraising is "closer to a dot com than a dot org".
The main thrust of your criticisms seems to be an accusation of a USAcentric point of view. Perhaps, although that might be regarded as forgivable in an organisation based in the USA and whilst being made in the US isn't necessarily a guarantee that a work will be good neither is the converse the case either.
As you know, I love the work you do with Furtherfield, an organisation which which takes a somewhat ( but in the grand scheme of things not *that* much) different approach to Rhizome, and I'm pleased and proud to be associated with you. But, if you take a step back & discount the, frankly, silly notion that Rhizome's current state somehow involves some kind of sell-out ( in which case, again, why the fundraising?) is there really all that much ideologically at stake in the difference between the two approaches? I prefer to think of them complementing each other. They're certainly the two online presences I point my students to before anything else.
I prefer to celebrate both their achievements, which in both cases are considerable and remarkable.
As Curt Cloninger said in his nuanced and graceful post, if folk aren't happy with the kind of discourse around art there is on the Rhizome front page then we can discuss stuff here… I remember a time when you were a regular and vocal contributor to discussion here & it was a better place for that ( and this is true of many others too - I'm sorry T.Whid, for example, no longer posts much).
cheers
michael

curt cloninger June 24 2009 15:07Reply

Hi Franz,

I do think the current interest in "formal" work is a reaction (whether intentional or subliminal, probably both) against an overly politicized/pragmatic/moralizing dialogue that has often (in some circles) surrounded new media art. I agree with you – it should not be an either/or binary (either overly political/moral or overly pop/vacuous). "Political" is rarely a good term for me, unless I understand it from the perspective of Latour – politics are shared concerns that humans have which congregate around things in the world. In that sense, a project involving green screen video or a photoshop gradient filter has the potential to touch on shared human concerns. Some of the better formal work is better at making/foregrounding these more conceptual connections while still maintaining its formal/pop/surface sheen grooviness. For my money, the best "formal" work makes this grooviness part of a larger conceptual move (whether regarding art history or capital or networks or human habits or whatever).

I also agree that a lot of nuanced dialogue about these aspects (relationships between the conceptual and the formal) is lost here at the site/nexus/community/blog formerly known as rhizome (and now known as "rhizome at the new museum"). I asked the powers that be at the time, "How can you have a rhizome AT a central physical node?" A lot of the problems are simply structural. The mechanics of a "social network" implicitly color/skew/(enforce?) the kind of dialogue that occurs at that network. The list that was Rhizome RAW has been effectively, pragmatically, technologically ghetoized. Whether this was an intentional curatiorial decision or not, the result is that the kind of non-binary, critically nuanced dialogue you are proposing hasn't happened here in a long time. Something like it happens in the commissioned articles that appear on the Rhizome front page, but of course an article is a one-to-many broadcast and not a many-to-many dialogue. True, "the community" is "invited" to respond to such articles, but as one would respond to a post at someone else's blog – the main article is the meat and the responses are add-on, supplemental tags (one-liners, if you will). It's easy enough to make one-liner net art, but it's a lot more difficult to tweet one-liner art theory (although it sounds like a promising "concept" for somebody's one-liner net art project). From an "interactive design" perspective, there is a big difference between technically allowing the possibility of a dialogue that might accidentally happen (if everyone is patient and willing enough to wait until the posts are moderated, to dig through the submenus, etc.); and purposefully promoting/enabling/fostering such dialogue.

Which means that currently such dialogues happen elsewhere. The problem is, many of the other English-speaking lists are overtly "political." I really like the CRUMB list, but it is purposefully skewed toward curating. I admire what Trebor is doing at iDC, but it is very much skewed toward pragmatic social change. Empyre is skewed the same way. And nettime is moderated in a way I never could get used to. Rhizome seems like it could be the place to have more "art-centric" (or practicing artist-centric) dialogue, but there is an implicitly hierarchical structure here at this point. Again, I'm not pointing fingers or attempting to analyze culturally or economically why this has happened. But the current technological and interactive design armature at rhizome is much less pragmatically rhizomatic than it used to be. Ironic, since this is the 2.0 era of RSS and social networking. But circuit-bending a Speak & Spell is more freaky than pushing buttons on a digital synth, the clueless record executives who gave Captain Beefheart a record deal were more radical than the hip record executives who gave Nine Inch Nails a record deal, and (perhaps) an old-school mailing list is more conducive to fruitful discussion than a moderated blog.

and just for fun:
http://lab404.com/rhizome/ (2003)
http://www.iwannabeonrhizome.org (2008)

Best,
Curt

fratha June 24 2009 09:28Reply

hi marc,

in fact, I think this is just the natural process a - more or less private and successful - initiative has to go through: – founding at a time when nothing else is there – becoming powerful with the contributions of many leaders – cosolidation by commercialisation – struggle for survival as "top dog" for reasons of stagnation – and then?

what i am wondering about is that - apart from "exhibitions and events, commissioning, daily art news" - there is only a little "in-depth criticism" as described in the mission statement. net art, new media art, media art, media-affiliated art, internet-aware art needs more criticism - that's what I am trying to say, perhaps in a bit long-winded way ;)

best, fratha

marc garrett June 24 2009 11:41Reply

Hi Fratha,

I think we are coming from a similar point of view here. As you mentioned, it is a natural process, but it did not have to be this way.

They most definitely chose this route, whch is probably what is so disappointing for the many (who have left), when compared to what Rhizome was once, and of course what it could of been. Yet, we do not know who is making these decisions. The only thing we have to go by is what we experience, and the approach here is what most art groups do after a few years of establishing themselves - they become more centralized and conservative - look how bland and how out of touch the ICA (UK) is these days. flashy websites and noisy visuals are not really going to cut the mustard, only divert people's gaze for a while from seeing the larger cultural landscape. Rhizome has always suffered from incestious enterprises, but it is not looking outside of itself these days as much as it might have done before (every now and then) and is danger of being seen as nationalist and a platform for Dazed and Confused clientelle and other zombies…

In the past, there has been much stuggle and debate shared with the Rhizome crew and its community. Sometimes, more than it has deserved. Even though many people in its community in the past, have generously shared (including myself) their valuable time and energy in offering critical, intellectual and imaginative ideas on how they can become more flexible and expansive, beyond a singular mono-cultural entity - it seems, on reflection that perhaps it was all a waste of our time. What has really been happening is that, many of us have just been feeding a process of fait accompli, market forces vs creative freedom.

This infortunate binary trap may not necessarily reflect those who work on the Rhizome platform, although it looks like it is of their making, mixed with upstairs domination perhaps. To be honest, I am not sure whether the Rhizome crew could find a way out of this culs-de-sac, even if they wanted to. It would take some radical changes from the heart and big changes all the way through the organization itself infrastructurally.

>apart from "exhibitions and events, commissioning, daily art
>news" - there is only a little "in-depth criticism" as described
>in the mission statement. net art, new media art, media art,
>media-affiliated art, internet-aware art needs more criticism…

I think Rhizome is missing out on the most important contemporary artists and groups of the day. This may be because their values do not match what is happening out there, or they are trying to create a kind of America vs everyone else divide. It does not look promising for the more critical and imaginative, but great news for the one-liners and whiz-bang lot and more trad-like - yes these people are just fine ;-)

marc garrett June 25 2009 12:18Reply

Hi Curt & Franz,

Like Rhizome.org, furtherfield.org are dedicated to art, but we believe that all nuances should be allowed to breath and thrive on its own terms, not denied. The problem with Rhizome's approach is that it smacks of censorship. It also means that those who visit this site (front page especially) are not experiencing an true represenation of what is really happening world-wide in media arts culture.

This then, becomes a political act in its own right. The irony here is that, in trying to eradicate more contextual media art, whether issues are explored and disovered genuinely or not. A culturalized void appears and then much is lost. The quality of questioning which is as much a part of sharing and learning about art, loses its presence, dialogue is stunted and discussions about the process of making, discovery and motives behind such artworks become taboo. This really is not a healthy place to be, and not just that, it is an extremely restrictive approach. There is too much control going on and there nothing wrong with allowing room for all kinds of diverse media art or contemorary practices in - let it be, let it in.

Brian Droitcour June 26 2009 03:18Reply

Marc, didn't you recently ask netbehaviour subscribers to pledge to stop flying? And now you're complaining about Rhizome's provincialism? How do these two positions fit together?

Michael Szpakowski June 26 2009 08:23Reply

And I think one of FF's many great strengths is their campaigning/political work ( and in fairness it was something Marc and Ruth raised personally and tentatively rather than some kind of organisational diktat)
I can't imagine Rhizome doing that, nor would I expect them to.
This just underlines my point. Two excellent organisations, different base countries,
similar constituencies, somewhat ( but not that) different emphases.
I'd be miserable if either weren't there.
Where's the problem?

Oh… and a rare moment of disagreement with Curt -I don't believe for a moment that it's the blog format,
or the move from a mailing list that has somehow stifled discussion.
I understand that if it was *simply* a blog format with the priveleged poster and subordinate commenter then this would be the case, something I argued in a number of contexts & places from the very beginning when everyone was getting over excited about the erm.. latest new thing..um..blogs.
But there is a parallel "level" mechanism for starting a new thread - absolutely analagous to when one simply worte a mail & hit send - and it's hardly Rhizome's fault if people don't avail themselves of it.
In addition to that we get John Michael, Ceci and others labouring away daily to point up interesting work. What's to complain about?
If you look at a whole number of lists there simply isn't the volume of discussion there was a few years ago -I suspect we have to look further and deeper to discover the reasons. Anyway, it doesn't seem to inhibit you from posting comment & analysis &c, Curt, something I welcome…

cheers
michael

curt cloninger June 26 2009 13:36Reply

Hi Michael,

I'm mostly dissatisfied with the fact that the forums are currently moderated (even if only to temporarily filter out "spam," which implicitly assumes a moderator's ability to distinguish between signal and noise – a slippery slope down which to head.) The main problem with this moderation is that now there is a significant lag time between posts. It's like talking on a walkie talkie rather than a landline, over. This radically changes the nature of the dialogue that is possible.

Also, if I'm understanding things correctly, there are now 3 ways to follow/contribute – RSS, the web forums, and email. And they aren't all updated simultaneously.

Also, the discussion here has gone from being on the front page, to being considerately curated and prominently featured in Rhizome Digest, to being something occasionally bookmarked by a staff member at delicious as something they might want to get around to reading some day.

All of these may seem like "minor" "surface" "technical" modifications, with the real "essence" of dialogue still intact, but I'm not a neo-Platonist like that. If matter matters (and it does), these modifications have contributed in no small way the gradual ghetoization of the quality of discussion here. Of course (as always with everything) there are a network of other contributing factors. Yes, I still make my own personal pragmatic use of what's left.

Maybe someone will read all this and cater to my own idiosyncratic desires. My guess is that RAW is a calculated acceptable loss. There are bigger fish to fry and more glamorous games to play. And that's fine. It's the summer – Henri Bergson has been rewarding my molasses-paced attentions; all sorts of new audio equipment is calling my name from the studio; I'm re-editing the rock opera Tommy according to certain self-imposed obstructions; I'm taking my children camping one-by-one throughout the summer; my wife is dead sexy; my Father loves me; there is raspberry jam in the root cellar. (Stop me before I blog!)

Rock & Roll Ain't No Pollution,
Curt

Melissa Lambert June 26 2009 14:20Reply

Love love love what you've written. I know I want to follow these posts, but they're just too damn messy and there's no thread or real-time "sense" to them. (and now I'm contributing to the mess).

If technology is driving this, why can't it FIX it???

Millie Niss June 27 2009 07:10Reply

Michael Szpakowski wrote:

> thank-you , Karen.
>
> Reply via:
> http://rhizome.org/discuss/view/43000#57676
>
> Click here to unsubscribe from this list

I am one of the Luddites who is still following Rhizome via email and the above-quoted post (which is the entire email message) is exactly why the new Rhizome no longer works as a discussion. This post, and most other posts, is a brief reply to a previous post but here it appears with no context, making the discussion impossible to follow. (Don't tell me "get a threaded email client" – I am using Thunderbird which does show threads but the display is turned off. The main point is that I should not need to acquire new technology to follow a discussion that previously was perfectly accessible via ordinary email.) And I don't mean to pick on Michael in particular; I replied to his post because I know him from less argumentative fora, and he presumably will not spam me when I am not attacking him, as some people here do.

New technology actually makes the new Rhizome list even less usable. I now often read my mail using the default mail app on my Nokia E71 mobile phone, which is perfectly adequate for 99% of my email but it can't read the Rhizome list at all (probably due to lack of Flash support in email; the phone actually does a good job of rendering flash content in the browser).

Since the medium is the message this is not merely a technical quibble: for me, the email list was a functional community in which I was able to discuss net art. The new system seems to be far more elitist and (as people have pointed out) moderation slows discussion and makes it unnatural and doesn't allow people outside the "in" group who are invested enough (not necessarily financially but also emotionally and socially and professionally) in the Rhizome brand to go specifically to the Rhizome site to even understand what is being discussed, let alone contribute.

I wonder if this email, which I am writing as an email using the "reply" button on Thunderbird will even appear on Rhizome. I suppose it will not, which only serves to further my point, only this is useless as no one will see it unless I now change the address from no-reply@rhizome.org <no-reply@rhizome.org> to something else which I must nopw go look for… (See how much easier a real email list is to use than this hybrid listblogsiteportal?

– Millie

[UPDATE: I looked for an address like Rhizome-request or whatever in my address book, didn't find it, then clicked on the reply-to link which advises me to reply via the website, which put me on the Rhizome site, only logged in as "email" rather than as "mniss" (a membership on the Rhizome site which I acquired by sending $5 in the bad old days), so there was an error message saying only logged-in members can post, so then I clicked on "log in" and the browser remembered my login information, whereupon I was presented with a screen that said

Posting to Rhizome has changed, and we no longer support posts by email. If you want to post to Rhizome, please follow the appropriate link below.

This again illustrates the faults of the Rhizome site. If the potential readership of a website about new media requires detailed instructions on how to post, the site is poorly designed…

Then of course I realized that although I wanted to quote Michael's post, I did not want this email to appear in the "On Tower Bridge" thread but rather in the thread discussing the Rhizome list which has, confusingly, "RHIZOME DISCUSS: Re: Blackness for Sale (2001) - Keith Obadike" as its subject line. Were this an actual email and not an e try on the website, I would only have had to rewrite the subject line in my email, but now I must follow navigational spaghetti to switch threads, which is presumably why the subect of this thread has nothing to do with what is being discussed in it…

Millie

http://www.sporkworld.org
http://sporkworld.tumblr.com

marc garrett June 26 2009 08:51Reply

Hi Brian & all,

Yes, Ruth Catlow & myself asked many people in fact. We posted a request to people who use the Internet world-wide, to support our pledge "we won't fly for art" http://www.pledgebank.com/wewontflyforart. We posted to various lists and Netbehaviour.org which is quite a collaborative list in its nature, was one of them. If you are interested what the other lists were, they include Nettime, Syndicate, Spectre, Nodel as well as Rhizome.

The Pledgebank is a online platform existing outside of all of media art communities. Here is a link to other pledges which were successful in getting shared representation by users of the Internet - http://www.pledgebank.com/list/succeeded - Our project on this page was successful, but only because it was networked and connected internationally. I doubt that it would of been as successful if we kept it only within the furtherfield or Netbehaviour communities, it needed to be part of larger thing to have meaning as well as survive.

We wanted to pose questions about the art world's relationship with climate change, especially in respect of our dependencies on conferences internationally and ask how we could explore this dichotomy together - is there a way out of this trap that we all seem to be caught in? Just because certain questions may be bringing about feelings of impossible resolve, it really does not mean they should not be explored or discussed. In fact, great things can come out of such shared visions and ideas, which can offer positive ways around such issues being shared and explored.

Moving onto your comment proposing that I am complaining, this 'word' in itself really does not justify or take on the true complexity of what is being discussed on here. I have a strong, personal place in my heart for Rhizome and have grown with many others through the years, up with Rhizome and its community. It did not used to be as unusual to be discussing the nature, function, ideas around what Rhizome was, as it seems now - it used to be a regular part of a shared dialogue, functioning at many different levels which was one the many special things and qualities that Rhizome shared with its community.

Having said this, I am beginning to realise how much Rhizome has 'really' changed - more than I originally had presumed. I can imagine various subscribers of Rhizome lurking in the background, saying "Deal with it, that's the way it is". In a way, I would agree with them, but I also feel that it is important to share dialogue with others on subjects that matter, and Rhizome does matter. I would go as far as saying that it is because I value Rhizome so much, that I am willing to spend a little snippet of my precious time in discussing this subject with you and others on here in the first place. I get annoyed with Rhizome, like one gets annoyed with a friend. I mean no harm but sometimes it is good to air things rather than just keep things hidden under the carpet.

Rhizome is a part of A media art culture that I have spent a lot of my time with, as an individual artist and director of furtherfield, and other nodes and projects through the years. I have, with many others invested in Rhizome, given it respect and quality time in supporting it, whether it be culturally or by giving money to keep it going. In return, Rhizome has also (in the past) been open in supporting myself and other projects that I have been connected with, which is a kind of mutual arrangement, unofficially of course. And yes, I will still remain a subscriber to Rhizome because I believe that it is extremely important to support other groups out there who are engaged in media arts as well as related creativities.

I think what has been expounded from my own corner, is a position of what one values. In no way would I want Rhizome to be just a place that is only political. Art is big enough and flexible enough as a creative endeavour to allow more than just a few specifically themed resources or behaviours in this multifarious, ever changing movement of internationally shared expressions. It is important to remember that Rhizome's spirit grew out of net art, it is still a networked environment but in contrast to other social networks, it is now more closed than before, which is a remarkable achievement itself, even though one may not necessarily agree with the reasoning behind it or be happy with the consequences.

So, because I know that the Rhizome staff will probably be in the background wishing I would just shut up, as well as other punters here. I will.

I am really hoping that, those who are bothering to read this have the vision and flexibility within themselves, in allowing space and time to contemplate where I am coming from without turning to easy assumptions, thus diverting their minds from what is really being discussed. It's complicated…

Wishing everyone well, and I am sorry for being such a pain - it is not intentional, I will try to be less passionate next time ;-)

Michael Szpakowski June 26 2009 11:28Reply

Marc Garett apparently had some difficulty posting this earlier
& he mailed me & asked me to post it on his behalf..m


Hi Brian & all,

Yes, Ruth Catlow & myself asked many people in fact. We posted a request
to people who use the Internet world-wide, to support our pledge "we
won't fly for art" http://www.pledgebank.com/wewontflyforart. We posted
to various lists and Netbehaviour.org which is quite a collaborative
list in its nature, was one of them. If you are interested what the
other lists were, they include Nettime, Syndicate, Spectre, Nodel as
well as Rhizome.

The Pledgebank is a online platform existing outside of all of media art
communities. Here is a link to other pledges which were successful in
getting shared representation by users of the Internet -
http://www.pledgebank.com/list/succeeded - Our project on this page was
successful, but only because it was networked and connected
internationally. I doubt that it would of been as successful if we kept
it only within the furtherfield or Netbehaviour communities, it needed
to be part of larger thing to have meaning as well as survive.

We wanted to pose questions about the art world's relationship with
climate change, especially in respect of our dependencies on conferences
internationally and ask how we could explore this dichotomy together -
is there a way out of this trap that we all seem to be caught in? Just
because certain questions may be bringing about feelings of impossible
resolve, it really does not mean they should not be explored or
discussed. In fact, great things can come out of such shared visions and
ideas, which can offer positive ways around such issues being shared and
explored.

Moving onto your comment proposing that I am complaining, this 'word' in
itself really does not justify or take on the true complexity of what is
being discussed on here. I have a strong, personal place in my heart for
Rhizome and have grown with many others through the years, up with
Rhizome and its community. It did not used to be as unusual to be
discussing the nature, function, ideas around what Rhizome was, as it
seems now - it used to be a regular part of a shared dialogue,
functioning at many different levels which was one the many special
things and qualities that Rhizome shared with its community.

Having said this, I am beginning to realise how much Rhizome has
'really' changed - more than I originally had presumed. I can imagine
various subscribers of Rhizome lurking in the background, saying "Deal
with it, that's the way it is". In a way, I would agree with them, but I
also feel that it is important to share dialogue with others on subjects
that matter, and Rhizome does matter. I would go as far as saying that
it is because I value Rhizome so much, that I am willing to spend a
little snippet of my precious time in discussing this subject with you
and others on here in the first place. I get annoyed with Rhizome, like
one gets annoyed with a friend. I mean no harm but sometimes it is good
to air things rather than just keep things hidden under the carpet.

Rhizome is a part of A media art culture that I have spent a lot of my
time with, as an individual artist and director of furtherfield, and
other nodes and projects through the years. I have, with many others
invested in Rhizome, given it respect and quality time in supporting it,
whether it be culturally or by giving money to keep it going. In return,
Rhizome has also (in the past) been open in supporting myself and other
projects that I have been connected with, which is a kind of mutual
arrangement, unofficially of course. And yes, I will still remain a
subscriber to Rhizome because I believe that it is extremely important
to support other groups out there who are engaged in media arts as well
as related creativities.

I think what has been expounded from my own corner, is a position of
what one values. In no way would I want Rhizome to be just a place that
is only political. Art is big enough and flexible enough as a creative
endeavour to allow more than just a few specifically themed resources or
behaviours in this multifarious, ever changing movement of
internationally shared expressions. It is important to remember that
Rhizome's spirit grew out of net art, it is still a networked
environment but in contrast to other social networks, it is now more
closed than before, which is a remarkable achievement itself, even
though one may not necessarily agree with the reasoning behind it or be
happy with the consequences.

So, because I know that the Rhizome staff will probably be in the
background wishing I would just shut up, as well as other punters here.
I will.

I am really hoping that, those who are bothering to read this have the
vision and flexibility within themselves, in allowing space and time to
contemplate where I am coming from without turning to easy assumptions,
thus diverting their minds from what is really being discussed. It's
complicated…

Wishing everyone well, and I am sorry for being such a pain - it is not
intentional, I will try to be less passionate next time ;-)

Ceci Moss June 26 2009 13:31Reply

I've been insanely busy with No Soul For Sale this week, so apologies for not responding sooner.

I've noticed a lot of speculation and assumptions running around this discussion so far regarding Rhizome editorial and our motives, so I thought it would be best to begin by explaining how we do our research and how we decide to post what we do.

I do research all the time, through delicious, numerous art/culture/technology/etc. blogs, art magazines, mailing lists, etc. The same is true for John Michael, Brian, Ed and Marisa, as well as all of our contributors. Everyone is also engaged in numerous projects and activities (making art, curating, etc.), which only enriches the quality and depth of the blog. I'm also doing my PhD at NYU right now, and often my academic research and studies surface on the blog or in other ways. So that's where our information comes from, not from Pepsi or Dr. Evil.

Every morning, I check in with John Michael and we discuss our plan for the day. Usually I will send him a video or art project I found online or saw in a gallery, or he will do the same. For example, with the ebay projects we posted, John Michael sent me the Cary Peppermint piece, which reminded me of the Keith Obadike, John Freyer, and Michael Daines. I thought it was interesting that all of these works dealt with identity or the body through eBay, and also surfaced around the same time (2000/2001). Publishing these projects was not an attempt to fill space, but an effort to highlight 4 projects that used eBay to think about the body and identity. Usually John Michael and I will try to pair things thematically, it's a bit like DJing. I've thought of introducing the topics before we post, but I like keeping it loose. Curt got it right when he said:

>This blogging process seems fun to me, because I like art (and curation) that foregrounds the invisible connections >between things (les liens invisibles, if you will). I'm often less interested in the pieces themselves than in the implicit >connections that are gradually constructed between the pieces.

That's exactly what we're trying to do. In other instances, we'll post new work or old work because we like it, without an overarching thread to tie them all together. I see these posts as a visual conversation in a way, and I like that.

But art isn't the only thing we post. One of my frustrations with the old one paragraph format of Rhizome News was its brevity. In expanding Rhizome News to a forum for 1000-2000 page articles, we've been able to commission timely and insightful articles by some of the most outstanding writers in the field on a weekly basis. We also pay our writers rates comparable to some print publications, something I'm proud of. We've also been able to maintain the informational side of the Rhizome Digest in the Rhizome News mailer, with the latest announcements and discussions from the site. I'm very pleased with the current strength and direction of Rhizome News, and I look forward to seeing it develop further.

In terms of accusations that Rhizome is too focused on American artists, I disagree and I think this claim is totally unfounded. John Michael looked over his art posts from the last four months, and approximately 1/3rd of the artists are foreign born or currently based overseas. I know, personally, I filed two long articles in the past month on the Oberhausen Film Festival and the Venice Biennale, both of which focused on almost exclusively non-American artists and filmmakers. Today alone Brian wrote a really wonderful piece on his visit to Zagreb, spotlighting Mama, Kontejner, and artists such as Goran Skofic. Our website is in English, which in it of itself poses some limitations, but beyond that I think we've done a stellar job in covering and supporting a diverse and international group of artists. I've also worked very hard to open up the scope of our coverage to many practices - sound, sculpture, painting, performance, etc. - that engage technology in order to enrich the conversation and to acknowledge the expansion of the field. In addition, I'm keen to keep readers aware of the larger history of media art. I think we've succeeded in that regard as well, with posts such as Robin Oppenheimer's excellent article on psychedelic light shows on the west coast in the 1960s, Gene McHugh's article on Willoughby Sharp's research and experimentation with art and technology, Carolyn Kane's recent piece on James Turrell, etc. Marc, the fact that you would distill all of this into "one-liners and whiz-bang" art or "flashy websites and noisy visuals" is insulting.

In response to discussion - I've been thinking about that a lot, and I've noticed that the younger artists involved with Rhizome rarely contribute to the board. I would like to change that. I think part of it has to do with the way conversation happens online today. All of us have accounts on facebook, twitter, myspace, etc. Our conversations happen even more informally than they have in the past, and are distributed widely across numerous platforms. When Rhizome first began in the 1990s, this was not the environment it inhabited, and I think that produced a different platform for conversation. I've brought up the idea of starting something like empyre here, by inviting a group of people to discuss a specific subject over a set period of time, in order to focus the attention of participants and to establish a thoughtful, oriented conversation. I'm interested in hosting more discussion on the boards again and I am opening to hearing your suggestions in order to make that happen.

curt cloninger June 26 2009 14:32Reply

http://lab404.com/misc/hangingonastar.mp3

Hi Ceci,

It seems to me more a matter of decreased moderation, increased prominence, and increased ease of use. When I post, I need to see a confirmation that I've posted instead of just being returned to the thread as if I haven't posted. Better yet, I need to see my post immediately appear. The front page is well-curated and directed. I don't think an Empyre approach for the discussions is the thing. That just further extends a hierarchical structure (and duplicates an existing model).

Personally, I think the discussions should be uber-easy to use, uber-unmoderated, and uber-prominent. This is an obvious risk that most institutions are unwilling to take, a bit like featuring unmoderated inmate poetry in the asylum newsletter. It will increase both the signal and the noise; their ratios will fluctuate, but at least people will be posting again. Maybe the noise will become more interesting than the signal. Whatever the case, it will be the antithesis of hierarchical moderation and curation. Is it possible to curate a space that is purposefully left uncurated? Will senators ever vote to decrease their own salaries? Are you willing to let it devolve and grow holes like socks? Perhaps even open up html/css posting capabilities so that threads could be purposefully visually hijacked and formally restructured. "How can you kill me; I'm already dead."

Best,
Curt


Ceci wrote:
In response to discussion - I've been thinking about that a lot, and I've noticed that the younger artists involved with Rhizome rarely contribute to the board. I would like to change that. I think part of it has to do with the way conversation happens online today. All of us have accounts on facebook, twitter, myspace, etc. Our conversations happen even more informally than they have in the past, and are distributed widely across numerous platforms. When Rhizome first began in the 1990s, this was not the environment it inhabited, and I think that produced a different platform for conversation. I've brought up the idea of starting something like empyre here, by inviting a group of people to discuss a specific subject over a set period of time, in order to focus the attention of participants and to establish a thoughtful, oriented conversation. I'm interested in hosting more discussion on the boards again and I am opening to hearing your suggestions in order to make that happen.

Rob Myers June 28 2009 18:43Reply

The question of how to get more discussion on the boards is, in my opinion, the wrong one. If Rhizome is serious about wanting discussion, re-instate raw as a mailing list. I got a lot from raw. I encountered people, art and ideas that I wouldn't have encountered otherwise, and had my mind changed about more than a few things.

Empyre isn't a bulletin board, it isn't limited to a selected clique, and as an example it doesn't support closing down the conversation on Rhizome even further. Quite the opposite.

There have been many, many more John Michael one-liner posts (I'm counting the title here) than serious art historical posts this year. If he's swamping the good stuff it's not the audience's fault that they are noticing this.

marc garrett June 26 2009 14:36Reply

Hi Ceci & all,

Thank you for your response I am going on holiday for a week. So will not be able to discuss any of this right now, but will read your comments when I am back :)

Wishing all well - marc

Patrick June 29 2009 05:35Reply

Marc, enjoy your holiday!

Nick Hasty July 7 2009 17:53Reply

Hi all,

I apologize for my lateness to this discussion, but it came up right when I was leaving on a much needed holiday. I wanted to address some of the specific issues brought up about the discussion section, and I'm gonna be making improvements to the discussion functionality as you've all suggested.

@Curt Cloninger- "It seems to me more a matter of decreased moderation, increased prominence, and increased ease of use."

Moderation - The only posts we "moderate" are spam posts made by advertisers trying to get link backs, so if you're post contains a link, I just have to look at it first. If this policy wasn't instated and spam posts with links weren't blocked, the discussion section would quickly fall apart (as it nearly did when we were first hit by the wave of spammers). Unfortunately, our open policy towards discussion in the past was what brought a massive amount of spammers to the site in the first place. We had to quickly create a blunt but powerful tool to block the massive amount of spam that was hitting the discussion section.

These actions and choices have resulted from purely administrative decisions without political or aesthetic intent. If we didn't block these spam posts, google and other indexing sites would probably give us a very low site rank as we would appear to simply be a spam depot. Furthermoe, I received many complaints about the spam, so I'd say that there are many people who are happy to have it gone. I'll work on loosening things though so that conversations can take place closer to "real time".

Prominence - I've put discussion posts on the front page in a prominent place and I agree that they should have been there in the first place, but were probably taken down a few months ago when the front page got too busy. This was something that needed to be addressed, so thanks for pointing it out Curt.

@Curt Cloninger- "When I post, I need to see a confirmation that I've posted instead of just being returned to the thread as if I haven't posted. Better yet, I need to see my post immediately appear."

I agree with you Curt, and unfortunately when I had to patch things together when beefing up the discuss code to block the spammers, the confirmation notice that pops up when you reply to a post had to be sacrificed. But you are right, it should be there, and I'll work to bring it back. I'll also make posts appear quicker for those of you who post often.

@Curt Cloninger- "Personally, I think the discussions should be uber-easy to use, uber-unmoderated, and uber-prominent. This is an obvious risk that most institutions are unwilling to take, a bit like featuring unmoderated inmate poetry in the asylum newsletter. It will increase both the signal and the noise; their ratios will fluctuate, but at least people will be posting again. Maybe the noise will become more interesting than the signal. Whatever the case, it will be the antithesis of hierarchical moderation and curation. Is it possible to curate a space that is purposefully left uncurated? Will senators ever vote to decrease their own salaries? Are you willing to let it devolve and grow holes like socks? Perhaps even open up html/css posting capabilities so that threads could be purposefully visually hijacked and formally restructured. "How can you kill me; I'm already dead."

I really like this idea, actually, though I don't think the discuss forum is the right place to execute it. Maybe in the future we can open up a space for this, but right now, given our resources and work overhead, this space will have to wait. We do have some things in development though, and we plan to open up a discussion on how these thigns will develop so that our community can have input on the future of the site. But more on this later…… :)

Basically, Rhizome has one full time developer, which is me. We have a part-time developer who we outsource other projects to and we bring in interns when we can (and these interns provide incredible assistance!!!). But overall we are a very small number of people doing a lot of things at once. Our code is custom, so that means that adaptability can be slow as I work to balance out all my numerous duties.

I ALWAYS welcome suggestions/criticisms/ideas. Feel free to email me at anytime.

Thanks and best to all!

Nick
nick.hasty@rhizome.org

curt cloninger July 7 2009 18:14Reply

Thanks Nick,

I appreciate the work that you do. We have never been the most thankful community, so your job is pretty thankless.

I understand your decision regarding the spamming, but of course pragmatic decisions are never culturally or politically neutral in terms of how they play out in the world. One solution might be to somehow eliminate anonymous (or quick pseudonymous or mult-nonymous) posting. I've never noticed that these discussions have benefitted much from sock-puppet identities or inconsistent identities. So perhaps the filtering could happen at the registration level, rather than at the level of every individual post. That would still preserve the real-time nature of the discussions, which seems important.

Best,
Curt

Lea Beike June 10 2010 17:02Reply

I also appreciate the work that you do. How do you pass your holidays?
I hope really that you will enjoy the further discussion without any sadness