Dyske Suematsu
Since the beginning
Works in United States of America

I think, theorize, and write about highly irrelevant matters.
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Re: Your role in stopping the war against Iraq

Hi Ruth,

This particular sentence on your website puzzled me:

"I am an artist but on this day I was one among 400,000 (or there abouts)

What is implied in the use of the word "but"? Is being an artist supposed to
be mutually exclusive with being a protester?

"It seems more relevant these days, for me as an artists, to jump in with
both feet, to be in the middle of a crowd of human beings when so much of
our experience of the world is so passive and mediated by TV and film."

This sentence is puzzling as well. It seems that you remove yourself from
the category of "human beings" as if an "artist" is a different being. The
sentence will sound natural if I wrote:

"It seems more relevant these days, for me as a Briton, to jump in with both
feet, to be in the middle of a crowd of Iraqis when so much of our
experience of the world is so passive and mediated by TV and film."

This makes sense because you are not an Iraqi.

I do not mean to offend you, but it seems natural that if you feel you are
outside of the category of "human beings", your experience of the world will
necessarily be "passive and mediated".

It is also possible that I am misinterpreting your statements.

The reason why I bring this up is because I personally feel that the art
world is becoming increasingly removed from real world and real life. So
much so that art has nothing to do with anything else but itself. Any
reference to real life is a mere symbol: as removed as writing a Chinese
character and saying, "In Chinese, this is supposed to mean 'happiness'".

Dyske Suematsu
Where Nothing Is Everything


Re: One Day Left

I don't mind paying for Rhizome, and in fact I did. But there are obvious
(at least to me) questions that have never been answered.

What's wrong with corporate sponsorship?

Whitney does it, BAM does it, Guggenheim does it. And it works well for
them. Would I be correct in guessing that Rhizome has a predominantly
anti-big-business spirit?

What about the distribution of labor?

It seems ironic that the organization that endorses digital technology isn't
taking advantage of one of the greatest aspects of the Internet technology:
de-centralization of labor. Why couldn't Rhizome be run like the way
K10K.net is? Their site is just as ambitious as Rhizime is, and no one is
getting paid for their contributions there, and the site is free for
everyone. They got Adobe to pay for software and hardware. They got Media
Temple to provide them free hosting. Beyond that, all the labor is
voluntary. Everyone has a job. They have no office space or travel expense.
This is possible because the labor is distributed wide enough that each
person does not have to do much. This is one of the greatest things about
the net. Why do you need to have one person dedicated to reviewing all the
artwork? Why do you need to have one person dedicated to anything for that
matter. Why couldn't you distribute?

I'm not exactly sure what part of the site is going to be members-only, but
depending on it, I have a feeling that the fee could potentially be fatal
for Rhizome. It's not the amount. It is the friction of the payment
processing that the majority of people will not go through. I always thought
Rhizome to be a great resource for anyone who wants to learn about digital
art, but the membership strategy will limit the audience to the insiders
only. Rhizome, therefore, will stop functioning as a force to disseminate
and proliferate the messages of the digital art. This will be very


Dyske Suematsu
Where Nothing Is Everything


Re: Words on the Rhizome Artbase

> If people want to throw out suggestions for filtering tools, now is a good
> time to do so. Bonus points will be awarded for schemes that can be
> implemented in days and weeks, as opposed to months and years.

My two cents:

1st cent: Let the members bookmark artists of their choice. Aggregate the
data to come up with the Top 40 most bookmarked artists.

2nd cent: Have a roster of volunteer curators who are always looking out for
good artists. We as visitors to the site can simply find the curator we can
best relate to, and check out the artists he/she recommends. I have a
similar scheme running at http://www.urldj.com

Dyske Suematsu
Where Nothing Is Everything


Re: Words on the Rhizome Artbase

> piece artistically and historically [which is less subjective than it
> seems to be, I had added pieces by artists who I have massive personal
> dislike for, simply because I knew the work was discussed and because
> the artists had made "contributions" for better or for ill.] On top of

Hi Eryk,

There is no end to arguing about what is "subjective" and "objective".
Whatever you think is objective is always subjective for someone else. The
only way to be objective is to accept anything, like Google or Yellow Pages.
There is a value in that. What Rhizome needs to decide is: Is it a resource
for artists, or is it like a gallery/museum? If it is the former, then what
Rhizome is doing now is more-or-less appropriate. But if it is supposed to
be the latter, then it is as much about the curators as it is about the
artists, in which case they should not hire some interns to evaluate. They
need to hire more credible curators and make no pretense about being
"objective". Simply present whatever they think is good.

What you don't want to do is to be inbetween: Be "subjective" in a mediocre
way, and claim being "objective".

Dyske Suematsu
Where Nothing Is Everything


The Language Game of Fine Arts

Wittgenstein wrote in Philosophical Investigation, "to say 'If it did not exist, it could have no name' is to say as much and as little as: if this thing did not exist, we could not use it in our language-game.--What looks as if it had to exist, is part of the language." There is a danger in assuming existence of anything that is exterior and/or anterior to language. This is what happens in religion where people dedicate their lives to defining what God is. Likewise, fine arts is a discipline concerned with defining what "Art" is. Both are byproducts of our language where the mere effects of language compel them to dedicate their lives to reducing the meaning of the words. Their involvement far exceeds intellectual inquiries; it consumes them utterly and entirely. What they seek is "transcendental signified", but no such thing exists. They feel that if the name exists, it must exist. Instead of simply living, the words dictate their living.

If we were to define "Fine arts" by deferring, we have art history. This is a method of defining that most fine artists consciously utilize. For instance: Claude Monet - Marcel Duchamp - Andy Warhol. The meaning and the value of each artist are defined by deferring in time. A simplistic version of it would be something like: Monet, questioning the role of an artist as a mere copier of reality, proposed a way to represent artist's impression of reality. Duchamp proposed that art is no more than the very gesture of calling something art. Andy Warhol took Duchamp's idea further by rejecting and reversing every symbol of traditional art. Each defines himself and his art by deferring in time, by responding to what came before him.

Another method of defining is differing. This happens synchronically. The term "fine arts" exists as an opposing term to "commercial arts". Most fine artists are not consciously engaged in this differing, but it nonetheless influences the way they make art. This dualism consists of two opposing forces playing tug-of-war. At the connotative level, fine arts is sublime and profound, whereas commercial arts is vulgar and mundane. To be a "fine artist" is to be a non-commercial artist. It is a conscious act of articulation of his position in this dualism.

Commercial artists, on the other hand, are not engaged in this particular language game. Few would define themselves to be "commercial artists". The term is mainly used by fine artists as a means of differentiating themselves. Most commercial artists are engaged in their own language games where they go by "graphic designer", "illustrator", "cartoonist", and so on. And, each term articulates (differs) various positions denotatively as well as connotatively. As with any words, these are results of arbitrary categorization. Words like "graphic designer" and "illustrator" happen to include articulation of "commercial" versus "fine". There are words, such as "filmmaker" and "musician", which do not make this articulation. Whether it does or not, is quite arbitrary. In other languages, this articulation is not necessarily made for the same terms. Most mainstream musicians do not face the same stigma that illustrators do about being "commercial" owing to the same effect of language working to their advantage ("musician" does not necessarily imply "commercial" or "fine", whereas "illustrator" is explicitly "commercial").

In fine arts, photographers often call themselves "fine art photographer". This is an attempt at supplying the missing articulation in the word "photographer". The only time anyone would specifically call himself "commercial photographer" is in the presence of other "fine arts photographers", otherwise the articulation is superfluous. Behind the use of the term "fine art photographer", there is a feeling of threat, desire to be distinguished, and leveraging of the value associated with the word "fine art".

In our postmodern world, our identities work backwards from the labels. Labels are not applied to what we have become; we strive to become the label. If you are to successfully attain this, you must possess a talent for not only linguistic maneuvering such as above, but also semiological one. That is, it involves manipulating anything that can be used as a sign, visually, acoustically, and conceptually.

In order to define "fine arts" by differing, fine artists employ various trappings of fine arts. As the imageries of Hollywood films become increasingly dazzling and spectacular, video art in the world of fine arts becomes cruder and barer. Showing long video footage of a house where nothing moves and nothing happens, looks and feels like "fine arts" because it presents a stark contrast to the mesmerizing beauty of Hollywood special effects. Small cryptic text written on a large white wall looks "fine arts" because it provides contrast to the in-your-face messages of advertising. A painting with controversial or offensive symbols and messages, racially or politically, feels "fine arts" because of the whitewashed realities presented in corporate advertising. A page of magazine ad framed and hanged on a gallery wall looks "fine arts" because a piece of commercial art is taken out of its context, "appropriated" to be viewed critically. Commercial artists are unknowingly threatening fine artists, and influencing what they are creating. The threat is not for their talents, but for their identities. Fine arts in our postmodern era is not capable of existing on its own, precisely because it is a language game where there is nothing beyond differing and deferring.

Just as a small corporation seeks affiliation with larger corporations in order to leverage their brand values, fine artists benefit by associating themselves with the term "fine arts". The language game of fine arts is more specifically a game of associative value. To be a successful "fine artist", you cannot simply do whatever pleases you. After all, the game is not to do what you love, but to be "a fine artist". The rules are not necessarily the same. If the end products look and feel like commercial photography, illustration, or cartoon, then you'll face some difficulties associating your work with the symbolic value of the label "fine arts". The trappings are your primary concerns in this regard. Unfortunately they change over time. What looked and smelt like "fine arts" 10 years ago doesn't necessarily look and smell like "fine arts" today. Whatever looks farthest away from commercial arts will most likely draw most attentions.

Especially since Duchamp, fine arts unavoidably became a language game. There is no remedy for this. There is no "should" or "should not" that could set the right course, because there is no problem here other than the fact that fine arts is what it is; a language game.

A troubled corporation whose only value is its brand name, sustains itself by offering products that can be effectively sold under its brand. The brand becomes the drive, not the products. Likewise, "fine arts" is a label that offers products that can be effectively sold under that label. The label dictates the products, not the other way around. "Fine arts" is a dying corporation whose only value is its symbolic value associated with its label. In this sense, fine arts has become a parody of itself.

DYSKE, the brand