This text has been written for the proceedings of the international conference "New Perspectives, New Technologies", organized by the Doctoral School Ca' Foscari - IUAV in Arts History and held in Venice and Pordenone, Italy in October 2011
The "portal" designed by Antenna Design to show net based art in the exhibition "Art Entertainment Network", Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2000. Courtesy Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.
In the late nineties and during the first decade of this century the term “new media art” became the established label for that broad range of artistic practices that includes works that are created, or in some way deal with, new media technologies. Providing a more detailed definition here would inevitably mean addressing topics beyond the scope of this paper, that I discussed extensively in my book Media, New Media, Postmedia (Quaranta 2010). By way of introduction to the issues discussed in this paper, we can summarize the main argument put forward in the book: that this label, and the practices it applies to, developed mostly in an enclosed social context, sometimes called the “new media art niche”, but that would be better described as an art world in its own right, with its own institutions, professionals, discussion platforms, audience, and economic model, and its own idea of what art is and should be; and that only in recent years has the practice managed to break out of this world, and get presented on the wider platform of contemporary art.
It was at this point in time, and mainly thanks to curators who were actively involved in the presentation of new media art in the contemporary art arena, that the debate about “curating new media (art)” took shape. This debate was triggered by the pioneering work of curators – from Steve Dietz to Jon Ippolito, Benjamin Weil and Christiane Paul – who at the turn of the millennium curated seminal new media art exhibitions for contemporary art museums; and it was – and still is –nurtured by CRUMB - “Curatorial Resource for Upstart Media Bliss” - a platform and mailing list founded by Beryl Graham and Sarah Cook in 2000 within the School of Arts, Design, Media and Culture at the University of Sunderland, UK. As early as 2001, CRUMB organized the first ever meeting of new media curators in the UK as part of BALTIC's pre-opening program – a seminar on Curating New Media held in May 2001.
In the context of this paper, our main reference texts will be CRUMB-related publications, from the proceedings of “Curating New Media” (2001) to Rethinking Curating. Art After New Media (2010), a recent book by Beryl Graham and Sarah Cook; and New Media in the White Cube and Beyond, a book edited by Christiane Paul in 2008. Instead of addressing the specific issues and curatorial models discussed in these publications, we will try to focus on the very foundations of “curating new media”, exploring questions like: does new media art require a specific curatorial model? Does this curatorial model follow the way artists working with new media currently present themselves on the contemporary art platform? How much could “new media art” benefit from a non-specialized approach? Are we curating “new media” or curating “art”? ...
The following excerpt comes from the final chapter of my book Media, New Media, Postmedia, recently published in Italian by Postmediabooks, who kindly gave Rhizome permission to republish it in English. The book is an attempt to analyze the current positioning of so-called “New Media Art” in the wider field of contemporary arts, and to explore the historical, sociological and conceptual reasons for its marginal position and under-recognition in recent art history.
> Could somebody who knows SL really well please send some URLs to
> strong art in SL?
here is the real thing...
The Show, April 2007
here some images and texts:
mob. +39 340 2392478
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> Domenica uttered the unbelievable comment:
Domenico. I'm male, both in RL and SL :-)
> " chimera becomes the truth when enough people believe in it: " no it
> doesn't. Hitler, Musolini, George Bush, Jimmy Jones , et al convinced
> many that their *world* was truthful. The victims of the Jonestown
> massacre qualify as enlightened and right thinking by your
> definition. It is chimera, it is a restrictive environment. It is a
Quite an interesting strategy, to take a statement out of its contest
and apply it to the history of the world in order to question it. But,
let's follow you on your own terrain...
They are not "enlightened" or "right". As every social community, they
have (or had) their own truths, and their own rules. I'm against the
death penalty, but I have to recognize that it's real in the US; and
it's the right thing to do for many people...
But coming back to my point: what I was saying is:
1. (quite banal, indeed) that people "living" in Second Life, as well as
in other simulated worlds (and in every networked community), have their
own rules and laws; they can accept them or fight against them, but they
have to respect them if they want to be part of the community;
2. that people living in simulated worlds perceive what they are doing
there as REAL. They are not taking themselves TOO seriously, as
Salvatore claims; they are simply taking themselves seriously. You can
keep on thinking that they are just data on a server: but, this way, you
will never be able to understand not only SL, but every digital
environment. If SL is a chimera, Odyssey is not a real exhibition space,
art in SL is not real and Sugar is taking herself too seriously, then
Rhizome is a chimera, the Artbase is not a real exhibition space, net
art is not real and, let's say, Mark Tribe is taking himself too
mob. +39 340 2392478
home. vicolo San Giorgio 18 - 25122 brescia (BS)
being involved in this story in many ways (pretending to be friend to both Salvatore and Sugar, and as co-curator of the Gate event), I posted a comment on it on my blog. Here it is:
Below a text only version
Troubles in Paradise. How happened that an artist was banned from the Odyssey Sim
Some days ago (namely on Saturday, October 06, 18:42 Second Life time), an artist was banned from Odyssey. No playing: Odyssey [http://odysseyart.ning.com/], well know in Second Life as the most free, open-minded context for artists and performers, the place where Gazira Babeli set her retrospective and where most of Second Front's performances took place, for the first time seems to set a limit to the freedom of its own residents. Someone ate the forbidden apple, and was expelled from Paradise.
This is, at least, what we could understand reading a current thread [http://rhizome.org/thread.rhiz?thread'350&page=1#50255] on Rhizome. But what really happened that awful day? How can we explain it? Let's start from the beginning.
Salvatore Iaconesi [http://www.artisopensource.net/], alias xdxd, is an Italian new media artist, activist and open source coder who did an impressive amount of work in many fields, ranging from generative art to artificial intelligence, from performance to code poetry to interactive installations. Some months ago, he entered Second Life and he did some un-authorized installations at Ars Virtua and in other places. In many private and public discussions, he never made a mistery of his criticism against Second Life. As most of the best artists inside there, he is conscious to be in a technically limited environment, where most of the things pretending to be “art” are childish efforts, miles and miles away from what we currently call “contemporary art”. But the fact that he kept on working in Second Life demonstrates that he sees in it an interesting socio-cultural context, where he can play with its human (or inhuman) dynamics. Or, in his own words [http://rhizome.org/thread.rhiz?thread'362&page=1#50250]: “I really don't even value Second Life so much. Want to know what i find interesting in it? the social-niche mindfucker that it became, and the way that it has been exploited from mass media, and the mechanisms behind mediocre people using it to gain attention, and a badly-recycled form of human nature struggling to come out over there, too.”
So, he subscribed the Odyssey community and, during the Gate event [http://www.domenicoquaranta.net/blog/2007/09/gate.html], he sent out a robot avatar who talked with other avatars in German, using fragments coming from Franz Kafka's books, and he hacked another's artist work filling it up with jelly polygons. He called this performance I love recursiveness. I was aware of the first performance and I liked it, since it played with SL's “social software” and had a kind of surreal effect that I can't praise more.
As for the second act, it is more debatable, since it was an act of vandalism against another's artist work. I will come back to this issue soon. By now, we have to think about one of its consequences: it made the sim crash. Odyssey crashed during the Gate event, a four days long streaming between Odyssey and the iMAL Art Center in Bruxelles I helped organizing, an open stage for performance and interaction with a real life audience. And this is a problem.
At this point, another actor got in the drama. Sugar Seville is Odyssey's manager. That means that she is responsible in front of the artists and the visitors of what happens on her island - and, in that particular occasion, she was responsible in front of iMAL and its audience. She contacted xdxd and she banned him from Odyssey. Good? Wrong? In my opinion, she did the right thing: that was her role in the drama. She had to protect herself, her place, her audience and her artists, and she did it. Xdxd's work was an act of griefing - no matter if there was an artistic statement behind it.
Now Xdxd is playing the role of the victim on Rhizome: but that's just the last development of a screenplay he wrote down from the very beginning. As he told me in a private conversation, the crash was part of this screenplay: “the crash caused by overload was part of the performance... It's a criticism against the infrastructure (social, technological, perceptive), a criticism which included the server's crash.” And he was happy when he was banned from Odyssey: complete success!
“People take themselves seriously on a platform that don't let you to do it. You ban me from your own space in SL? I can come back whenever I want. How can you take seriously this thing? What does it mean?” This is Xdxd's point. He wanted to demonstrate that, in virtual environments, you are never safe, you can't preserve your own property, you can't apply “the rules of property and commerce” which work well in real life. Did he succeed?
At the beginning I though, as Lee Wells [http://rhizome.org/thread.rhiz?thread'350&page=1#50255] does, that Xdxd simply chose the wrong target, and that his performance is more similar to real vandalism than to graffiti. But Xdxd's words reminded me another similar artist's performance, happened some years ago. In February 1999, 0100101110101101.ORG [http://www.0100101110101101.org/home/copies/story.html] (yes, Eva and Franco Mattes) downloaded all the contents of another artist-run website (Hell.com) and uploaded them on their own website. Hell.com described itself as a “private parallel web”, closed to non invited visitors. Fighting against this kind of use of the web, 0100101110101101.ORG put online an “anticopyright version”, open to everyone. No matter who was right or wrong: two completely different visions of the Net were fighting against each other. Hell.com blamed 0100101110101101.ORG for theft and threatened them with an international lawsuit for copyright violation. This was good in two ways: because they had the right to do it and because, doing this, they successfully completed the drama written down by 0100101110101101.ORG.
Now a similar thing is happening. Two completely different visions of virtual worlds are fighting against each other. The first says that virtual life is completely different from real life, and that you can't import in virtual worlds concepts such as property and business. Who minds if I vandalize an artwork? Com'on, its digital! Who minds if I break down a gallery's window? They are just polygons!
The second claims that there is not so much difference between virtual and real life, maybe because our real life more and more relies on virtual laws; that property is valid also in virtual life, and that a criminal gesture is not less dangerous because it relies on an artistic statement; that things must be taken seriously in virtual worlds, because more and more people are taking them seriously.
Personally, I think that there are no such things as chimeras and truths. A chimera becomes the truth when enough people believe in it: that's good for God, peace and democracy, and even for art: why it can't be good for virtual lives? If most of the people believe that what they are doing in virtual worlds is REAL, it is. If most of the people think that vandalizing an artwork in Odyssey is like doing it in a real gallery, they are right. And Xdxd is wrong.
That said, I love recursiveness is a nice piece of art not because (as Xdxd says) of its relationship with other examples of provocative contemporary art, but because it raised a problem and a discussion. In the same time, Sugar did the right thing banning him from Odyssey, because she made the performance succeed; and she'll do an even better thing readmitting him on Odyssey, as she suggests at the end of the chat. Because irresponsibility is for children and artists, and Xdxd is not a child. Maybe he is a crap artist (I don't think so, indeed), but how many crap artists are in Second Life?
mob. +39 340 2392478
home. vicolo San Giorgio 18 - 25122 brescia (BS)
THE GATE (or Hole in Space, Reloaded)
Yannick Antoine, Yves Bernard (BE)
With the collaboration of: Domenico Quaranta (IT), Sugar Seville (SL)
Opening Performance: Second Front
iMAL Center for Digital Cultures and Technology, Brussels; Odyssey Contemporary Art and Performance, Second Life (Odyssey 122/45/25)
04/10/07 - 07/10/07
The Gate is an installation connecting real life and Second Life, a junction point, a door between two worlds and two representation spaces. Basically, it is a simple window between both worlds where real users and SL users see each other and can meet. A view of the SL Gate is permanently projected in the real life venue; when an avatar comes in front of The Gate, it is visible in the public space; when one arrives physically in front of the door in the public space, he/she can interact with the SL user currently in front.
The result will be a kind of happening where the virtuality of SL is transferred in the physicality of our public space and vice-versa; a stage for performance and interaction, something between a breakdance platform, an inter-dimensional portal and a peep show through parallel universes.
The Gate has been designed for the opening show of iMAL new space in Brussels. The show explores the fusion between the physical world and the net through networked sculptures and installations which question the physical space as well as the digital world. Featured artists: Yannick Antoine (BE), Pascal Baltazar (FR), Justin Benett (UK), Yves Bernard (BE), Jonah Brucker-Cohen (USA), Mathieu Chamagne (FR), HC Gilje (NO), Linda Hifling (DK), Thomas Israel (BE), Sven Konig (DE), Walter Langelaar (NL), Sascha Pohflepp (DE), Antoine Schmitt (FR), SecondFront (Second Life), Walter Verdin (BE), Visual Kitchen & Eavesdropper (BE).
Perform from iMAL with people on Second Life
The Gate is installed on Odyssey, an island in Second Life dedicated to art and performance.
In the opening hours of iMAL (October 5 - 6, 11 AM - 7PM [2AM - 10AM SLT]; October 7, 10AM - 8PM [1AM - 11 PM SLT]), people, avatars and performance artists are kindly invited to come, perform and interact at The Gate, both in real life and in Second Life.
During the vernissage on October 4 (8:30 - 12 PM [11:30AM - 3PM SLT]) Second Front, the first performance art group in Second Life, will use The Gate as a in-between stage in front of iMAL visitors and SL passer-by.
Perform from The Gate in Second Life with visitors at iMAL
First create a free account in Second Life (http://secondlife.com/join) and run the software (http://secondlife.com/download)
Once you have this properly installed use this SLurl to teleport to Odyssey:
The Gate is installed on the beach of next to the teleport hub.
iMAL, Center for Digital Cultures and Technology
30 Quai des Charbonnages/Koolmijnenkaai
Odyssey Contemporary Art and Performance
First published in "Spawn of the Surreal", Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Second City - the show “curated” (reading on you will understand why I use the quotation marks) in Linz by the German artist Aram Bartholl - has been - no doubts - one of the cardinal points of Ars Electronica's last edition, Goodbye Privacy. The show disseminated through the city was highly representative of the “nice side” of surveillance in the age of digital exhibitionism, an issue that was at the core of the Festival. “Showcasing ones customized persona, staging ones own image is the order of the day. Feature yourself or its GAME OVER, dude!”, wrote the curators Christine Schopf and Gerfried Stocker.
As one of the first big shows raising the issue of art and virtual worlds, Second City has been an important show, and a point of departure for further research. In the same time (and for the same reason), it has been an highly problematic show, too. People liked the idea to bring the exhibition to the city and the streets, but there was a lot of mumbling and discussion about an approach that, for many, was superficial and looked like promotion. As you may guess from the previous post, I agree with this criticism, but what Bartholl is saying below made the show more clear to me - and made me more indulgent to the show. Hopefully, it will be the same for you...
DQ.How is the project born?
AB. Ars Electronica asked me this spring if I was interested in doing a concept and design for Second City - Marienstrasse. The idea of going into public space and Second Life as a topic of Marienstrasse existed already then. I was quite excited about the idea and developed several workshops and projects. In the beginning I was not sure which role I should play: curator or artist. I decided to put emphasis on being artist showing several projects at Marienstrasse related to Second Life. Which means I didn't curate Marienstrasse although I brought in some artists in cooperation and had some influence. In the end my name was on top for whole Marienstrasse, which is an honor but also a great responsibility, as I realize now. My interest has been more into developing and showing, rather than “curating”.
DQ. Did you encounter any difficulties in organizing it?
AB. Of course there have been many difficulties in organizing. Very basic elements like electricity infrastructure in Marienstrasse took a lot of time. So in the end when the festival started Marienstrasse was as buggy as Second Life. But also the process of choosing and decisions in developing projects took quite some time. It has been the first time that I worked on a project of this size and I think I learned a lot.
DQ. Are you satisfied of the results?
AB. Good question. First of all I was happy that in the end more or less all the parts were put together and things worked. But with some distance after the exhausting week of Ars I questioned this myself. I think you made a good point in your article on Second City (http://www.domenicoquaranta.net/blog/2007/09/second-city.html), which I already also noticed. I do work in a very simple way of transferring elements or situations from virtual world to physical space. Every single of these projects has its own quality and is contrasted by public space. But adding too many of these transformations up in one spot takes away the effect. I tried not to rebuild a complete scenario. But in the end, yes, maybe we had too many of these virtual elements in Real Life.
DQ. What did you like more in the project?
AB. The moment when a new project comes alive is always most exciting. Does it work? Do people react to it? Testing Chat (http://www.datenform.de/chateng.html) for the first time on the market place was really fun. To see how four trees are build and set up is very exiting. The Synthetic Performances of Eva and Franco I did like a lot. Despite the rain I think the concept of putting an exhibition in a street worked out very well. The chinese restaurant / blumenberg food cooking in the yard was my favorite place.
DQ. What would you change in the project if you could put together a follow-up?
AB. There is a lot which could be done different, sure. Yes right, the in-world part involving Second Life inhabitants and artists was missing. There have been some attempts but not serious enough to set up a parallel program in SL. I concentrated mostly on Real Life interventions developing installations and workshops. I am aware that one general Second Life panel is not enough to discuss all aspects of the development. All my projects involve a critic view on digital worlds including Second Life. But they do it in a silent and ironic way. This is probably not enough in a context like Second City. More criticism and discussion is needed. Next time I'll make sure what position I am in.
DQ. How can we organize a show about virtual worlds without making it seem corporate advertisement?
AB. Difficult. In general this question fits to many of my projects. A giant Google pin is perfect advertisement. Sure, this kind of topic should also involve other virtual worlds than just Second Life. We had the plan for an overview on Metaverses and history for the exhibition but unfortunately it hasn't been realized. On the other hand Second Life polarized a lot this year. People love it or hate it. For me it is just a tool and a new development. I am curious about when Google will enter the market...
DQ.Can you say something about your new project, Sandbox Berlin?
AB. I developed the sandbox concept for Second City, where the beach at Pfarrplatz was realized instead. I think the possibility of creating and collaboration are the most important parts of Second Life. I love the bizarre Sandboxes. These and some very view other places are totally different to what we know or are used to. Quoting from the introduction of the project (http://www.datenform.de/sandboxeng.html): “The Sandbox in Second Life is a place where all conventions are abandoned. It is the real wild west of the already untamed Second Life. The Sandbox is like a three-dimensional sketchbook. Every day, thousands of users leave their tracks here: abstract forms, digital building sites and house-car-plane cliches form a collective surrealistic dream scenario. In a world without rules, inventive users programme swarms of screaming Sponge Bobs which other users pursue. Anti-gravitational bubbles or whole fields of alarm sirens impede concentrated work. The Sandbox is a kind of black market emporium of digital objects and their programs.
The formal chaos and absurd situations generate a particular atmosphere of digital roughness and originality that can only be found here.”
Sandbox Berlin translates this field of experimentation into public space in Real Life. In a three-day workshop, production of custom objects in a spontaneous and collaborative process will be tested in Real Life. Everyone is invited to join us on a deserted area, formerly part of the Berlin Wall, in the Mitte district, to build whatever they want. Tools, wood and other materials will be provided by Sandbox Berlin, so that flexible groups can quickly design and materialize objects.” Everyone can take part in the project, simply registering by e-mail. Spontaneous participation and visits to the workshops are welcome, completely in the spirit of Second Life.