On WIKI as Art
On Valentine's Day 2009, Scott Kildall and Nathaniel Stern launched the Wikipedia art page, which resonated with the history of media art, authorship, and media formalism on many levels. Has this particular piece updated Beuys' admonition of the openness of art? Not only that, does art based on open Web 2.0 standards like the Wiki define art that is a palimpsest by definition? What is interesting yet disturbing about this is not only the obliteration of discrete authorship, but the total indeterminacy of intellectual ownership whatsoever.
For example, what happens when the conceptual work of art is left open, such as Douglas Davis “World's First Collaborative Sentence”, but is allowed to be opened to anyone, without “gatekeeping”, and the work is open to repetitive writing and re-writing to the point where it is possible that the only remnant is the gesture itself. I'm sure that Kildall & Stern, and their initial collaborators will be documented as the progenitor of the form, but the destination of the vector is by no means assured.
This is very similar to Andrew Keen's complaints of Wikipedia as being an unreasonable request upon internet society to create cultural foundations (encyclopedias, art media, etc) without compensation, thus devaluing production. However, is this devaluing of production an Achilles' Heel of cultural production and economics in the digital age including the proposed “Web 3.0” in which producers meet and produce for one another for free under the aegis of the provider, signifying the ongoing “race to the bottom” or concentration of wealth? Is it a byproduct of the hypercapitalistic devaluation of goods and services, or an updating of the conceptual work of art? In the online work of art, there is a gravity that remains with the author, even in the piece of net art, but in Wikimedia/Wikipedia art, the work becomes solely a locus initiated by agents, and left for intervention.
But again, left as a discursive Web 2.0 Exquisite Corpse, each visitor invited to complete the work, what becomes of it? I have recently been considering in terms of threads and moment of translation, such as my text on Duchamp->Hamilton->Ascott (Dada to Pop to New Media), and links involving Abramovic->Abramovic 2005-> Mattes ->Second Front (disembodiment/decontextualization of performance art), Wikipedia art creates its own arc of representation. One could say it roots on elements of chance, also with the free association fo the Surrealists, but with the dematerialization of Conceptualism, and the anonymity of elements of Web 2.0. We could possibly draw the epistemic arc of Wikipedia Art as Breton ->Klein/Manzoni or Debord or Cage/Fluxus->Davis->Kildall/Stern. However, as the inception of the genre is minutes old at time of this writing, my speculation is of the highest order.
Therefore I ask, whether Wiki can be made as art… However, as a writer who is about to write a chapter in a book on distributed narratives, my position is that it can, but its indeterminacy makes it largely conceptual, and slippery at best, making it a strong relative of networked conceptualism or highly formal online media art. It will be interesting to see if it does, in fact become a genre, and what form it will take. But I hope this winds up in the Wiki, and you can have your way with it as you will.
WikiPedia as Art?