independent - a talk with Jodi and Alexei Shulgin

Here is a part of a discussion held in may this year during the nettime
meeting in Ljubljana. Alexei Shulgin, Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans
(JODI) talk about the necessity of creating your own domain as a

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Josephine Bosma: Everybody that has seen the internet and the
WorldWideWeb knows that you can loose your way quite easily, if you
don't know where to look. Artists working there need good
infrastructure. For them to get known and communicate their work, they
have to use good infrastructures mostly offered by others, right? Or
they have to set up their own spaces, but they still have to announce
these spaces in RHIZOME, in nettime, in Telepolis etc. To say that you
can actually work without all this seems a bit untrue.

Alexei Shulgin: I am not saying that. If you look at the history of all
art movements, it was always like this: you had some local initiatives,
like Fluxus or NeoGeo or Trans-avandgardia or whatever with one leader,
everybody would share certain ideas, do similar works, form a movement,
usually with just one or two ideas behind it. People would join it. Then
they would become recognisable as a group. It was important to be a
group: to have a name, manifesto and whatever. But in the end, when you
look what happened, it very soon becomes routine. Those artists become
famous, recognised, but it very soon becomes a very boring routine.
People just do what the system requires from them and it becomes totally
uninteresting very soon. Artists become obliged to do certain kind of
works to proof again and again that they belong to this group. They do
something specific.

With the internet it's a little bit different. Now we're sort of coming
through the last stage of the early stage of development. When
institutions start to pay attention to artists working on the net.., for
instance I am just coming from Budapest where I am doing a residency as
a net.artist. We got to know each other only because of the net. After
that we met together and got acquainted. It's theoretically not possible
for us to create some kind of movement. It's very different and I have
no idea what can come out of it.

But talking about infrastructures and institutions and whatever…,
maybe Dirk can say some words. If you work on the net, one of the most
important things is your domain name, like some short name in your url,
that you type into Netscape and then you come to the place.

Dirk Paesmans: I think its very important that net.artists set up their
own domain. Its not very expensive and its not so difficult. In the
beginning of the net it was promoted to do so, because there were not so
many domains, especially concerned with art. But now the service
providers that are in position, that are in power, make it seem more
difficult to set up other domains.

Joan Heemskerk: Its for recognition. Can you say Alexei's worldwide
artcentre url? No. So, if he would have had his own domain you would
type it in just like that. A lot of people now - because of the growth
of the net - are working this way. If you type in a domain and then you
have to search for all the rest, you're just not visible anymore. I
think its important for artists on the net to be visible.

Dirk: It creates also a different approach to what projects you will do,
a different independent feeling. No in-between context.

Alexei: Its true, now you see a lot of institutions that want to have
artists stuff on their pages and collections of art projects. Since
there is practically not any critical context for, we have
really a big mess in this kind of approach and selection. Look at the
Documenta site []. It has a very different quality and
trend and base works promoted as art works, its just because of this
mess, of the impossibility to contextualise That's why I think
this kind of independent activity is even more important. I am far from
saying that if we can all be independent we can create some independent
or parallel infrastructure. What we do is set links from Jodi's site to
heath bunting's site to mine, that's kind of a parallel hyperlinked
infrastructure of interesting artprojects. But to tell the truth I am
not sure whether it is going to work very well, because people who are
interested in art will go first to well promoted art institutions, to
see their links, whats on their sites. Still the situation is kind of
unresolved now. This ambiguous situation will remain for some time.

Dirk: There is a battle against virtual institutions from independent

Alexei: Now there are a lot of virtual exhibitions curated, but it seems
that for net.artists it really becomes not very interesting or important
to participate in them for many reasons. If you go to Documenta to make
an installation, its a big deal. You get a lot of money as honorarium,
you get a big budget to produce the work, it's really something serious.
If we're talking about websites, small data, a few files, it's very easy
to get them and put them online and that's it. Artists don't get much
from joining art institutions. They hope it will bring them something in
the future, but it doesn't work. Institutions don't make real
investments into it, because they don't have to.


Alexei Shulgin: