Brett Stalbaum
Since the beginning
Works in La Jolla, California United States of America

Brett Stalbaum, Lecturer, LSOE
Coordinator, Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts Major (ICAM)

Department of Visual Arts
9500 GILMAN DR. # 0084
La Jolla CA 92093-0084

C5 research theorist ( 1997-2007
Graduate (MFA) of the CADRE Digital Media Laboratory at San Jose State
Professional affiliations:
Electronic Disturbance Theater

Latest: The Silver Island Bunker Trail, possibly the first time humans have walked like a game bot. The trail is open to the public for outdoor recreation and enjoyment.
Discussions (117) Opportunities (2) Events (7) Jobs (3)

Re: RHIZOME_RAW: A New Art-Historical Period: Networkism

I've always been curious about the assumptive privileging of one
abstraction layer over another... What about databasism (after all, the
internet is itself - the IP part of TCP-IP = a distributed hierarchical
database, as is fundamentally the http protocol), or GUIism or (least
elegantly) "business-logicism" or perhaps "algorithmicism"? Or if we
must focus on the one layer, then would formalist network art practice
be TCP-IPism, while in net art - which might most closely map to some
notion of networkism - we can see that it at least once assumed that the
communication layer of the newly available technology (well, new to the
consumers) had unique and exploitable congruences with conceptual art
ideas such as social sculpture? So I guess we could use the greater
mouthful theory here and say something like "computationally mediated
social communicationism" or even just get it over with by using
"computationally mediated social sculpture". The latter two if only to
distinguish net art or networkism from mail art, which was really the
same kind of hierarchical addressing system art transporting
communications, but with a quite different transport layer.

But all that said, as a materialist with some interest characterizing
the same shift that Max senses (I strongly agree with him on this) I
prefer to keep my analysis closer to the base than networkism alone
would seem to allow.
Maybe all of this semanticism trying to describe what elsewhere has been
called the N-state following the postmodern can be analyzed in an other
way, as in, databasism as interested in the material foundations and
material consequences of the medium, networkism interested in the social
(Web 2.0 and "social software", anyone?), leaving GUIism (or Pixelism
perhaps?) for the aesthetes to argue about? Or maybe we will more or
less abandon these isms when it becomes clear that they were an
entertaining but increasingly irrelevant intellectual artifact of the
abundant energy resources available during the cheap oil era. (In which
case a few special people will still plunk away at keyboards and squint
at the few remaining screens looking for news that rice is being
delivered to the neighborhood - after which the town crier will be
notified and the word spread...)

Max Herman wrote:
> Hello All!
> I have just gotten back from a vacation and wanted to get back on the
> list until the end of the conference. I am not sure where we left off
> regarding the less discussion-oriented state of the rhizome raw list
> since 2000-2004 and other topics. These are of course good topics but
> they won't always be in the foreground. Oftentimes it's OK to switch to
> other topics.
> I believe that one explanation of many of the recent topics is that we
> are in a new art-historical period as of, say, 1998 because of computer
> networks. This period I would propose to be most properly called
> "Networkism."
> This would be analogous to "Modernism" which can be said to have started
> in 1898 or Romanticism which started in 1798 with the publication of the
> Preface to the Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth. The Preface is
> discussed in my project for this year's Genius 2000 Conference at my
> website.
> If the above is true, we are in a new art-historical period which is not
> widely acknowledged. Most people say we are still in Postmodernism i.e.
> the Postmodern period. So, people disagree on that.
> The disagreement on this can be because people sense that there isn't
> much to say about the prior period, and it's getting awkward--an awkward
> silence of sorts--but there's no defined new period and that also has
> people awkward and worried.
> In addition, there are all these new computer networks. Regardless of
> the new-period question and related tension, they are a problem for
> art. That new item in the blog about the center in Linz shows networks
> are an aesthetic issue. But if Stallabrass is the one I knew from
> before who wrote about "transgression," they might define the networks
> backward so to speak into the Postmodernism setup. This is certainly
> the escape-velocity pull affecting a new period regardless of what kind
> it is or when it has occurred.
> (Since typing the above I can confirm that he is not the "Peter
> Stallybrass" who wrote about transgression. That was very popular when
> I was in academics and I thought that it was overrated. Rather he is
> Julian Stallabrass, who states online that he likes Benjamin and Adorno
> which as you can see are often quoted in Genius 2000. However he may be
> more left-leaning than myself, I can't say for sure. Lastly he works at
> the Courtauld Institute, the collection of which includes the painting
> Le Lac D'Annecy, which I also cited in my essay for the conference this
> year. Therefore I am not necessarily against this new center in Linz.)
> Finally, a big new change has occurred in the military-industrial or
> military-technological environment which could be called World War IV or
> the Second Cold War. This can be said to be be oriented around the
> pursuit by the U.S. of a "one superpower option" as per the 2004 book by
> James Mann called "Rise of the Vulcans." Such a development certainly
> causes more danger and stress and makes even art-historical questions
> more tense, complicated, and risky.
> My personal take on all of this is that the O.S.O. is the best of many
> difficult options. Therefore it should be given the benefit of the
> doubt rather than rejected in a reckless way. The computers I think
> have superficial impacts on art history but also substantive impacts and
> the key goal is to have a good effect on the latter rather than blather
> about the former. Mr. Stallabrass and the new center in Linz may be a
> great move in this direction and toward High Networkism.
> And, due to all of this we are in fact in a new art-historical period
> most properly called Networkism or the Network Period.
> Branching off from this would be many worthwhile topics such as how to
> make good art or engage in good aesthetic behavior during the period,
> given its character or as Shakespeare said "the form and pressure of the
> time."
> I would also think that to understand this period you have to understand
> that not everything becomes a rhizome just because of the internet, you
> still have arborescent structures which in fact make the rhizomatic
> structures possible (to hearken back to a prior topic). I.e. it is not
> a homogeneous gruel.
> I accept however that this is by far the minority opinion and I'm not
> going to blame Rhizome Raw or the government or whoever for that obvious
> and you might say inevitable fact. Indeed you might say such
> considerations are very proper and amazingly right.
> Therefore I would propose to discuss the above or other issues that may
> be related.
> Best regards,
> Max Herman
> The Genius 2000 Network
> Rolling submissions OK through Sept. 15
> +++
> +
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> +
> Subscribers to Rhizome are subject to the terms set out in the
> Membership Agreement available online at

Brett Stalbaum, Lecturer, LSOE
Coordinator, Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts Major (ICAM)
Department of Visual Arts
9500 GILMAN DR. # 0084
La Jolla CA 92093-0084


Re: Where is the Rhizome?

Part of the joy of an anarchic list is that somebody might write
something funny and irreverent. I think Joseph is getting at the heart
of the axiom about not fixing what is not broken. Raw is a fine list for
the somewhat narrow band of media practice that it has become associated
with, about which Curt's claim that "We've already argued about all
there is to argue about" (including the organizational structure of
rhizome itself), rings true in an emotionally exhausted sense. (Of
course there is more to discuss... it is just that any system of
production - including knowledge production - can reach a point of
diminishing returns...) As I wrote in my earlier post, good discussions
do pop up from time to time (an occasional nugget in a mostly played out
vein), even if raw's main value is as a (very) useful project and
opportunity announcement list. List life is good here. Now, I'm off to
catch up with the largely post-pixel "Critical Spatial Practice"
discussion on empyre.

Take care all,

Joseph Franklyn McElroy wrote:
> I completely disagree with you, I find the emotional context to be
> irritating, and I think you should be voted off the island.
> A. joseph
> A stands for Anonymous not Anarchist or A**hole
> Dyske Suematsu wrote:
>> I might have argued this several years ago, but the specific
>> characteristics associated with Rhizome RAW are the results of its
>> technological architecture and its policies, which is basically
>> anarchy. Being open to everything and anything does not create or
>> foster diverse and open discussions. Anarchy is simply one of many
>> organizational structures we can have, with its own specific results.
>> In anarchistic email lists, we often see the pattern of power law
>> where something like the top 5% of members do over 90% of all the
>> talking. And, as you would expect of any anarchistic organizations,
>> what you see on the surface does not represent the majority views. In
>> most anarchistic email lists, those who are most vocal dominate the
>> list and set the course of discussions. Even if their opinions are a
>> small minority, that’s what everyone sees, and naturally everyone
>> comes to associate those opinions with the organization itself.
>> What is more influential than views and opinions is attitude or tone.
>> Most of us are not capable of seeing arguments solely for their truth
>> values. Emotional content in fact plays a bigger role in deciding to
>> agree or disagree with someone. The small minority of vocal members
>> not only sets the content of the list, but also sets the attitude and
>> tone. This has a snowballing effect of attracting others who share
>> similar attitudes and tones. Eventually, those who cannot relate to
>> the attitudes and tones of the list would leave. The list becomes
>> increasingly homogeneous in this manner, and eventually the remaining
>> members get sick of each other since they are essentially looking at
>> themselves in a mirror. This is expressed in Curt’s list of why’s:
>> “1. We've already argued about all there is to argue about, and we're
>> tired of arguing about the same things.”
>> I personally do not like anarchistic structure for an online
>> community. Since the Internet itself has the anarchistic structure, it
>> seems natural to have one, but it can become useless for the same
>> reason. Imagine in a big department store like Macys, a section where
>> it sells everything and anything. Since having a variety of products
>> is the idea of the department store itself, having a section with the
>> same idea is useless. Each online community, I believe, should be more
>> structured. Marisa said: “We can't be all things to all people.” True;
>> trying to be all things to all people ends up serving no one.
>> A good interviewer would make the interviewee believe that, after a
>> great interview with lots of interesting opinions and stories, he did
>> it all by himself. Free flow of great ideas is usually not so “free”;
>> it only has the facade of freedom. It is actually the invisible
>> structure and control mechanism that lets the ideas flow in a useful
>> and productive manner, which is what a great interviewer does. And
>> this can be controlled with simple technical and/or presentational
>> devices.
>> As New York Magazine noted once, the online discussion boards at
>> does not display user names. This can cause a lot of
>> confusions because you have no idea who is saying what. But because of
>> the total anonymity, people feel free to say whatever they have on
>> their minds. Some mothers, for instance, started confessing their
>> regrets for having kids. In this way, a simple thing, like the lack of
>> user name, has a big effect on the content and the tone of an online
>> community.
>> It would be interesting, for instance, to see what happens to Rhizome
>> RAW if there was a simple and easy voting system for each comment
>> posted. Suppose the system automatically kicks out members who get
>> more than 10 lowest votes in a month. Or, it would automatically give
>> more presentational significance to those members who are consistently
>> voted high. I am not saying Rhizome should implement these ideas; I’m
>> only curious as to what would happen if they did. How would it
>> influence the attitudes, tones, and content of the discussion on RAW?
>> It would be interesting to see because it would reflect better what
>> the majority of Rhizome members are thinking and feeling.
>> People who are not vocal on RAW are not necessarily quiet because they
>> are shy. I believe the number of people who are actually shy is as
>> small as the number of people who are very vocal on the list. The vast
>> majority of the people are more than capable of joining discussions,
>> and offering interesting opinions and insights. What determines their
>> participation is probably more about attitudes and tones than it is
>> about the content.
>> In email lists where lively discussions still go on, it is usually
>> because the lists are carefully moderated in some way. Discussions on
>> blogs, for instance, are usually moderated and organized by the owners
>> of the blogs. The topic of discussion is set with each post on a blog.
>> This forces everyone to stay on topic, and has the effect of
>> automatically categorizing all the comments. If the topic is
>> interesting, the discussion could go on forever without digressing too
>> far. Or, on popular blogs, discussions are often closed after a
>> certain number of posts, so people do not start arguing about the same
>> thing over and over. In this sense, discussions on blogs are more
>> useful and interesting.
>> So, in my opinion, the reason why not much is going on within RAW is
>> because its structure is too general and wide open. As the Internet
>> grows in size, each site or community needs to become more specific.
>> Again, the analogy to a department store would be helpful here. The
>> bigger the department store gets, the more specific each section
>> should be. Rhizome RAW simply hasn’t adjusted to that reality.
>> -Dyske
>> +
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>> Subscribers to Rhizome are subject to the terms set out in the
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> +
> -> post:
> -> questions:
> -> subscribe/unsubscribe:
> -> give:
> +
> Subscribers to Rhizome are subject to the terms set out in the
> Membership Agreement available online at

Brett Stalbaum, Lecturer, LSOE
Coordinator, Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts Major (ICAM)
Department of Visual Arts
9500 GILMAN DR. # 0084
La Jolla CA 92093-0084


Re: RHIZOME_RAW: Where is the Rhizome?

By no means am I jumping into any fray here... I appreciate rhizome and
all of Marisa, Lauren and Patrick's efforts to the extreme. But I do
want to point out that in fact there *are* still lists that do manage to
support robust, (or as Marisa says with tongue-in-cheek respect: "old
school") email discussions. The empyre and iDC lists, for example. Both
are actively moderated and in the case of empyre thoughtfully organized
into regular monthly topics with invited guests/respondents who help
carry the conversation forward. Personally, I find these kinds of lists
to be much more useful *for discussion* than the "newer models" (blog,
reblog, rss) which frankly owe more to an older producer/consumer
(author/reader, active/passive) models of knowledge production, and thus
are much less conducive to the kind of productive conversation that
email lists can, under the right circumstances, excel at.

To be honest, the rhizome raw list (which I have been a member of since,
oh, 1996...) rapidly became more of a project and opportunity
announcement list after 2000 or so. (Right about the time that the
remains of what was once called net art underwent the unfortunate
transformation into online video and multimedia... Again, this is imho,
but I think Rachel Greene's book makes the pre-2000 and post-2000
zeitgeists fairly apparent.) Having said that, the kind of list that
rhizome became plays an important role. It is in fact the route through
which much of the new art I see comes to me. But, rhizome has not been a
significant discussion list for a long, long time. That is not a
criticism at all. Rhizome is what it is, a useful new project and
opportunity announcement list that occasionally emerges some good, often
passionate, discussions.

Cheers all,
proud rhizomer,

Marisa Olson wrote:
> Pall,
> As always, we appreciate your feedback.

<!- clip ->


Brett Stalbaum, Lecturer, LSOE
Coordinator, Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts Major (ICAM)
Department of Visual Arts
9500 GILMAN DR. # 0084
La Jolla CA 92093-0084


Hirst vs. Barbieri

I'm not going to spend too much time defending Hirst - although his work
makes me nostalgic for the time when the last of conceptual impact that
could be rung from the drying rag of the white cube was realized. A case
can be made here that both are examples of the kinds of identity
construction made possible by late-oil era prosperity, but while one is
highly derivative of aesthetics that were fully developed by the 1980s
(MTV), the other is consciously suspicious production, however obscure
and lacking mass culture impact (or mass culture compliance). Some kind
of consciousness, however turgid, critical, unhappy and darkly cliche in
Hirst's case, is still a lot more interesting to me than Wayne and Garth
rocking out to received cliches that are at best minimally aware of
their origin.

Eric Dymond wrote:
> So in this newly found world isnn't Tommas Barbieri
> more interesting than Damien Hirst.
> Can a kid from California have a greater impact on culture than an indemnified brit-pack salesman?
> What does the Hirst Diamond encrusted thingy tell me about our culture , ourselves, that the kid from California can't?
> It's a more serious question than it appears.
> The kneejerk reaction is high falutin' art theory shit. On second take, the kid tells me all about the mindset of the new century, and as I think about it--- Hirst falls back into the last century without a splash.
> Why was the 20th century so pathetic, so lame.., so..., last century?
> Gimme kids from the corner and R. Kelly, and bury Hirst at Wounded Knee.
> Go with the gut, and pour some good scotch on the brain.
> Eric
> +
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> -> questions:
> -> subscribe/unsubscribe:
> -> give:
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> Subscribers to Rhizome are subject to the terms set out in the
> Membership Agreement available online at

Brett Stalbaum, Lecturer, LSOE
Coordinator, Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts Major (ICAM)
Department of Visual Arts
9500 GILMAN DR. # 0084
La Jolla CA 92093-0084


Silver Island Bunker Trail: Hike Like a Bot!

(Portuguese, Espanol and Deutsch:

The Silver Island Mountain Range is in the arid and barren Great Salt
Lake desert in North America. The mountain range is called an "island"
because it is surrounded by the salt flats and muds of the ancient
Pleistocene era lake Bonneville, now dry in this area. The nearby cities
of West Wendover, Nevada, and Wendover, Utah, are bisected by the border
between the two states. West Wendover never sleeps, featuring many
casinos, adult distractions and reasonably priced hotel rooms. Wendover
Utah features the historic Wendover Air Field, an industrial landscape
focusing primarily on mineral extraction, aviation, military uses, and
the facilities and exhibit halls of the Center for Land Use
Interpretation. (

Using the Open Source C5 Landscape Database API (, used a "virtual hiker" (a generative computer
algorithm) to identify a hiking path across the island between two
abandoned World War Two era bunkers, one on the West shore of the Silver
Island Range, the other on the East shore. The virtual hiker implements
the A* algorithm, an artificial intelligence path finding algorithm
often used in computer games, executed over digital elevation model data
describing the terrain as a friction surface. The algorithm produced a
Global Positioning System tracklog file, which was uploaded to a GPS
device, allowing Brett Stalbaum and Paula Poole to be the first to hike
the very traversable trail on March 26th, 2007 and possibly allowing
them to become the first people ever to traverse a real landscape as an
artificially intelligent game bot would cross it.

More info at:

Brett Stalbaum, Lecturer, LSOE
Coordinator, Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts Major (ICAM)
Department of Visual Arts
9500 GILMAN DR. # 0084
La Jolla CA 92093-0084