curt cloninger
Since the beginning
Works in Canton, North Carolina United States of America

Curt Cloninger is an artist, writer, and Assistant Professor of New Media at the University of North Carolina Asheville (US). His art undermines language as a system of meaning in order to reveal it as an embodied force in the world. By layering, restructuring, hashing, eroding, exhausting, and (dis)splaying language, he causes language to perform itself until its "meaning" has less to do with what it denotes and more to do with how it behaves. His work has been featured in the New York Times and at festivals and galleries from Korea to Brazil. Exhibition venues include Digital Art Museum [DAM] Berlin, L'Instituto de México à Paris, Living Arts of Tulsa, and The Art Gallery of Knoxville.

Cloninger has written on a wide range of topics, including new media and internet art, installation and performance art, experimental graphic design, popular music, network culture, and continental philosophy. His articles have appeared in Intelligent Agent, Mute, Paste, Tekka, Rhizome Digest, A List Apart, and on ABC World News. He is also the author of seven books, most recently "Fresher Styles for Web Designers" (New Riders). He maintains, , and in hopes of facilitating a more lively remote dialogue with the Sundry Contagions of Wonder.
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I was reading a magazine
And thinking of a rock and roll song
The year was 1954
And I hadn't been playing that long
When a man came on the radio
And this is what he said
He said I hate to break it
To his fans
But Johnny Ace is dead

Well, I really wasn't
Such a Johnny Ace fan
But I felt bad all the same
So I sent away for his photograph
And I waited till it came
It came all the way from Texas
With a sad and simple face
And they signed it on the bottom
From the Late Great Johnny Ace

It was the year of the Beatles
It was the year of the Stones
It was 1964
I was living in London
With the girl from the summer before
It was the year of the Beatles
It was the year of the Stones
A year after J.F.K.
We were staying up all night
And giving the days away
And the music was flowing
And blowing my way

On a cold December evening
I was walking through the Christmas tide
When a stranger came up and asked me
If I'd heard John Lennon had died
And the two of us
Went to this bar
And we stayed to close the place
And every song we played
Was for the Late Great Johnny Ace

- mr. simon, 1983


mark the music

everybody knows
you only live a day
but it's brilliant anyway
- elliott smith


e. smith:
sigur ros:
k. jarrett:
a. part:
mercury rev:
m. davis:
s. tibbets:
j. coltrane:
n. young:
n. drake:
e. frost:
g. welch:
danielson famile:
prayer chain:
j. mitchell:
cat power:
b. cockburn:
j. renbourn:
m. hedges:
big star:
b. eno:




a warning sign
i missed the good part then i realised
i started looking and the bubble burst
i started looking for excuses

come on in
i've gotta tell you what a state i'm in
i've gotta tell you in my loudest tones
that i started looking for a warning sign

when the truth is, i miss you
yeah the truth is, that i miss you so

a warning sign
you came back to haunt me and i realised
that you were an island and i passed you by
and you were an island to discover

come on in
i've gotta tell you what a state i'm in
i've got to tell you in my loudest tones
that i started looking for a warning sign

when the truth is, i miss you
yeah the truth is, that i miss you so

and i'm tired, i should not have let you go

so i crawl back into your opening arms
yes i crawl back into your open arms
and i crawl back into your open arms
yes i crawl back into your open arms

- coldplay


on the inherent bias of words

Interesting works by 'newer' artists or artist groups that have
nothing to do with nettime/Next Five Minutes/Ars/ Transmediale
circuit are rarely noticed by the players of the "scene"... The
question then haunts you: what makes the work of few serious artists
in net.culture ignored by most nettimers? One tries to think like the
curators seem to have thought, so here we go: is it because they are
somehow not easily packaged as "cyberhype"?

- Coco


In 1936, the Literary Digest conducted a poll to forecast the result
of the upcoming presidential election. They predicted that Alf
Landon, the Republican candidate, would win by a large margin. In the
actual election, the incumbent Franklin D. Roosevelt won a landslide
victory. The Literary Digest had harvested the addresses of the
people they sent the survey to mainly from telephone books and motor
vehicle registries, thereby introducing an important selection
effect. The poor of the depression era, a group where support for
Roosevelt was especially strong, often did not have a phone or a car.
A methodologically more sophisticated forecast would either have used
a more representative polling group or at least factored in known and
suspected selection effects.

- Nick Bostrom


Net art critics write about art that lends itself to some sort of
obvious dialectic. If I can't unearth some clever insight, if I
can't tie the art in with some pithy cultural reference or statement,
I'm going to skip over that piece of art and not review it. So the
art that gets reviewed and curated is often the art that lends itself
to pseudo-intellectual sound bytes and observations.

But the best art is not an argument. The best art is beyond an
argument. We can have arguments with words. But art can do so much
more. Cary Peppermint once said to me offlist that he didn't
dialogue by posting to rhizome. He said his artworks themselves were
his contributions to the dialogue at rhizome. That seems about
right. Art as argument alone is like using Van Gough's "Starry
Night" as an evening shawl (something which I'm sure would please
certain performance artists immensely).

A while back at rhizome, alex galloway would throw out various
artists and invite people to critique them -- a sort of workshop in
new media critical writing. He proposed, and Josephine Bosma
was at a loss to say anything insightful about their newer work,
because it was mostly (gorgeous) abstract shockwave interactive
environments. She instead fell back on talking about their older
work (which paired random images with random text), presumably
because this older work had historical and biological references, as
well as some "data culture" ramifications into which she could sink
her theoretical teeth.

When writing for net art news, I try to tackle work that I think is
good (yes, I said "good"), regardless of how easy or hard it is to
reduce into words. That's my challenge as a critical writer. So I
tackle some abstract visual piece that has no conceptual statement
whatsoever, and I talk about it in terms of its visceral/sensorial
impact. Or I take a sprawling conceptual piece like mark amerika's
new joint, and I try to concisely distill it all into under 100 words.

As a critical writer, I'm not trying to make myself look good or
clever. I'm trying to help people see what they might otherwise miss
in a work that I deem valuable. I am subordinate to the work of art.
I am subordinate to my readers. I am merely serving/facilitating.
My hero and model in terms of art criticism is Lester Bangs, who
wrote about the most non-linguistic of all art forms (music) in its
most banal genre (rock & roll). It was said of Lester Bangs that he
perceived rock & roll as literature, and he wrote literature as if he
were playing rock & roll. A sample:

My point is that there is a selection effect, an inherent bias, in a
lot of net art curation and a lot of net art criticism. Because
(since Barthes) curators and critics no longer see themselves as
stewards of the art. They see themselves as makers. Curators make
context; critics "make" interpretive meaning. Artists pandering to
these two forces (and the money/fame that follows) tend to make works
that are didactic, overboard conceptual, full of extropian bullshit,
and infinitely "discussable/interpretable." Their work will tend to
be political, reactionary to contemporary society, always
"media-aware/reflexive," objective, and impersonal.

Because subjective, personal, emotive art doesn't give the lazy art
critic much to sink her teeth into. With personal/subjective art,
the art critic is forced to experience the work on a personal,
visceral, para-intellectual level before she can even begin to write
a word. And such "spiritual" forms of critical interpretation and
writing are no longer taught in school, because they presuppose the
existence of concepts like truth & beauty that are no longer in vogue
in academic circles. In short, it's "hard" to write intelligently
about such un-conceptual work. So that kind of work is dismissed as
parochial and peripheral to the thick of things.

Yet for my money, the more difficult it is to reduce a work of art
into words, the more "necessary/applicable/valuable" that work of art
is. Beware the artist whose artist statement is more carefully
crafted than his artwork. Beware the allusive, passionless, academic
art critic.

rock & roll ain't noise pollution,