The concept of networked art, or art which relies on exchange and collaboration across great geographical distances, has had a rich history prior to the Internet's first rumblings (and is now, fittingly enough, being archived, reappraised, and 'blogged' all over that same Internet.) Unlike the "one to many" presentational modes of the museum, shop, or gallery, networked art pieces were comparatively intimate "one to one" experiences, absorbed by one recipient at a time. Whether we call the collected efforts of this culture "mail art," "correspondence art," or simply "networking," its history is unlike other 'art historical' narratives, insofar as few people feel qualified to act as a spokesperson for the admittedly varied intentions of other networked artists: there is an almost universal reluctance to promote oneself as the "head" of anything in this culture. Especially on the European continent, where the most radical art collectives (e.g. Surrealism) have splintered into warring factions while under the mismanagement of paranoid leaders, no one is particularly eager to waste their otherwise productive time on internecine squabbling about whom deserves what title. So, in these situations, those who are just the most enthusiastic about their work, and its place in a larger creative milieu, end up becoming "ambassadors" by default.
One such ambassador, Vittore Baroni, is an individual who makes introductory biographical surveys like this one such a daunting task: his work spans every conceivable medium from rubber stamps and "artistamps" [mock-'official' postage stamps] and stickers to novel fashion items, and his tastes run the gamut from sublime atmospheric music to graphics exhibiting an exaggerated 'comic book' sense of humor and horror. Other than a general disregard for the taxonomy of art genres, the defining characteristic of Baroni's artwork is the nurturing of paradox and contradiction (he tells me that "[the term] 'paradoxical' is for me a great compliment, and a very positive adjective.") However, I may be getting ahead of myself here, since Baroni disavows the word "artist" entirely. In an early manifesto for his TRAX 'networking project,' co-founded with Piermario Ciani and Massimo Giacon, Baroni demurs "we are not artists, because art is a word that means everything and nothing," and proceeds to apply this to more clearly defined creative categories: "we are not musicians, but we create sounds. We are not actors, but every once in a while we get on a stage. We are not writers or publishing houses, but we can print our own writings." So what exactly is Baroni - and who are "we"?