Epic Net Art: The (Pre)Coda

For anyone who remembers this old thread (http://www.rhizome.org/discuss/view/37756) here's a snip from a 1999 lecture by David Ross. Clearly those who forget the past are doomed to etc.

Transcription of Lecture by David Ross, San Jose State University, March 2, 1999

Ross's 21 Distinctive Qualities of Net.Art


4. The net allows for the production of epic work. Brecht talked about epic theater which was a challenge to conventional notions theater, to the notion of theater as a commodified spectacle. Theater that actually related to the direct lives of people, with all the attendant boredom, the interstitial space between things happening in life. Art has always been about compression, always within a confined space of materiality, despite the large-scale possibilities. The real scale is day-to-day life. It's artists who began to blur that line, artists beginning with Duchamp and on to Fluxus and others. Those artists finally found a medium where they could work unfiltered. That can take place within an economy of abundance, can make epic work possible. Someone could come to me with a proposal for SFMoMA's website that would take the next twenty years. This is feasible. That abundance allows for amazing things. We've seen this with webcam activity. I find it fascinating. Andy Warhol must be jealous that he didn't live to experience webcams. He would have had a webcam on every corner of the factory just looking at the water cooler. I haven't really seen anyone online take on that kind of epic aesthetic activity. Epic time is variably defined.

5. Net.art is purely ephemeral. The opposite of the epic quality of net.art is its pure ephemerality. There's no trace. It can have poetic brevity, that brief a life in the collective consciousness.


, curt cloninger

Ross here meaning "epic" in the Brechtian sense (unspectacular, it is what it is), not "epic" in the Wagnerian sense.

Then there's epic in the Beastie Boysean sense:

Not to be confused with epic (fail) in the Joseph Beuysean sense:

, ed halter

Yes, this is true. But the original terms of "epic" as it was introduced into the discussion had to do with the more general issue of "large-scale possibilities," not necessarily confined to a Wagnerian sense of total-artwork. MTAA's One Year Performance was suggested as a form of epic net art, which coincidentally would have fit Ross's concept.

And he counterposes a concept of "epic" against the "purely ephemeral" quality, the "poetic brevity" of net art, also similar to the poles the the epic net art discussion circled around.

(I'm not claiming that Ross's terms equate to the terms of our discussion, however. I just think the parallels are interesting!)

, T.Whid


Very instructive; not just in giving us a workable concept and decent argument for the epic in net art, but in making it so damn clear how important it is to know one's history :-)

To me it's a fairly obvious point (perhaps not so obvious 10 years back): net art is uniquely situated to encompass the two poles he describes (if they are poles…).

Ross talks about a project's scope lasting 20 years (isn't Brad Brace's ISBN project approaching that) … a 20 year series of ephemera? The web is very good at creating an ongoing relationship with a viewer, not limited to just a serial relationship, but new sorts of relationships.

, curt cloninger

t. wrote:
net art is uniquely situated to encompass the two poles he describes (if they are poles…).


Maybe one pole is time (of whatever duration) and the other pole is space.

"Strategies are actions which… priviledge spatial relationships… Tactics are procedures that gain validity in relation to the pertinence they lend to time… The two ways of acting can be distinguished according to whether they bet on place or time" (Michel de Certeau, 1980).

Regarding history, I've taught this course [ http://lab404.com/330 ] for five years. Every year we read that Ross list, along with:
None of them were written after 2002, yet they all remain pretty useful starting points.

, T.Whid


This Ross lecture is a great find Ed… more from the QA section…

2. Can you talk about art email lists/forums? Yes. I'm on the board of Rhizome and I think it's an amazing thing. I've learned an enormous amount, I think of it as a social space. It's replaced Echo for me as well as reading all art magazines. I don't read any art magazines anymore, I only look at the web. In places like 711 or Rhizome, I find access to a dialogue that I'm vitally interested in, but also that ability to take me as part of an audience of readers and transform me into a writer, to move me into places directly. They form a critical link, one that will probably be absorbed or imitated by the museum. I think the Walker, and Dia, and The Whitney and fairly soon, the SFMoMA, will be serving as that middle space, as grounding for dialogue, a kind of finder for those who don't have time.

3. What is Rhizome? Rhizome is a website (rhizome.org). Here, we'll go to it directly. They manage and maintain a dialogue, they present works by many artists, serve as a collaborating entity. It's a guerrilla operation with no money. It's three people running it (Rachel Green, Alex Galloway, Mark Tribe). They send out a weekly email newsletter that contains a great deal of information about activity on the web.