Not sure this post is wise as my debut on this list, but what the heck.
"DIVE!" I always say. So here I go...
I was determined not to add to the "after Rhizome" thread. I was thankful
to Vladimir for the original post since I was unaware of the membership
agreement terms. I was thankful to Curt for throwing some humor into the
situation. I was thankful for the passion that was on the list (no matter
how self-referential). But I didn't think I had anything to add.
But I have been thinking about it, and I decided to throw in my two cents.
It seems the discomfort people have with the direction of Rhizome has to do
with issues of power and access. I also sense some nostalgia, some
revisionist history of the "good old days" of both the internet and Rhizome
going on... (of course what wasn't spectacular about 1997/98/99 compared to
the doldrums and anxiety of 2003?)
Rhizome is/was (depending on your viewpoint) a powerful platform. It
has/had many influential, intelligent, insightful people discussing,
contributing, debating, shaping the direction of net art.
So much of life (and the net art/art world is no exception) is about access
to power. And by "power" I mean resources and platforms and people to
enable you to get your ideas/art across to a wider audience. Artists have
traditionally needed galleries, selective venues, dealers, publishers,
intermediaries of all kinds in order to advance their artwork to the wider
public. When unable to get access to these resources, artists have
traditionally sought out alternative ways of finding platforms/audiences
(which often seem to get co-opted by the established institutions at some
point but I won't get into that here.)
For many of us, the internet seemed to change that balance, seemed to be
that alternative venue that also had the advantage of a wide audience. We
suddenly had access to some power - the power of the platform of the
internet. It was "our" alternative venue. We could set up sites, share our
work, our ideas, our vision with anyone - we only had to gain some technical
expertise, and pay for some web space. We could post to email lists with
abandon. There were no gatekeepers, we didn't have to schmooze some gallery
owner to get a show, you didn't have to convince some art school to let you
in, you didn't have to have an MFA, you didn't have to know the "right"
people,etc. We had power because we had access to a platform from which we
could share our ideas and work. Power to the people and all that.
Rhizome was part of that (as well as nettime, and other mailing lists and
forums now defunct).
And now some people feel that the access to the Rhizome platform (and the
influence/audience that platform implies) is restricted. And they are
right. Access is restricted. You have to pay $5. You can post to the
list, but your post may never make it past the Rhizome RAW to the Rhizome
RARE list. No one may ever read what you have to say.
But I would like to point out that access has always been restricted.
Access to the power has always been controlled. None of this was ever as
perfect and freewheeling as we all have nostalgically reconstructed in our
memories. Other than that $5 barrier, is anything on Rhizome really
different now? Were any of you ever happy with how Mark Tribe et al
responded to "community" concerns in the past? How many times did your
ideas get on RARE? What about those plaintive newbies whose posts never
made it past the moderators?
And what about this "open" forum, the internet that is open to everyone
everywhere? Is it really? Isn't is also a restricted, self-selecting
audience? What about the person with no tech skills and no money? Do they
have access to the platform?
All the more reason to create something that actually *does* create a
platform we can *all* access, and share, and use to get our ideas out there.
It's time for us to stop mourning the loss of some golden age of Rhizome and
the net, and create some new realities. Create new power-sharing
structures, create new communities, create new ways of relating and sharing,
create new platforms and venues and networks for us to share our work and
It's STILL power to the people, but only if we do something about creating
our own power and our own platforms, and stop depending on others to do it
<end of rah rah>
-- D. Jean Hesterwww.divestudio.org
Interviewer: "Must an artist be a programmer to make truly original online
John Simon: "Truly original? You Modernist! Whether you make art or not,
understanding programming is an amazing understanding."
from "Code as Creative Writing: An Interview with John Simon"
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