Tilman Baumgaertel on 13 Feb 2001 17:22:38 -0000

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Re: <nettime> Re: [Nettime-bold] Josephine Berry's net art history

Hello Josephine!

Just some brief remarks on the chapter of your dissertation that you send. 

I think it is very good in general, and the theory around net art needed
some boost. Too bad that nobody produces any net art anymore... ;-) 

Two things: first of all there are hints throughout the text that net art
has become accepted by the so-called art world, is assimilated in the art
market etc. I have heard that claim a couple of times recently, but I don't
see much proove for that. There was a handful of sales of net art piece, OK
- but that was widely acknowledged by everybody, because it was so
spectacular, that somebody would pay money for some HTML pages. But apart
from that there is no market there - at all! (I am writing that not,
because I care very much if there is a market for net art or not, but to
counter these recent claims that net art has been "established".) And at
least in Germany there is no "normal" museum or gallery that pays any
attention to this stuff; only specialized institutions like the ZKM who
were founded for just that purpose. If a show like the Whitney Biennale
shows net pieces it is still pointed out as unusual, and I don't think any
net stuff will be included in the next documenta. So I think in terms of
recogniation of the "real" art world it is much earlier than we think, and
maybe it will never happen.

The other thing that bothered me as well as Josephine Bosma was the
limitation on the artists you discuss extensively, but you explained that.
I don't know if you point out elsewhere that you are limiting yourself to
these people because you can't discuss everything that happens on the net
in terms of art. I think especially in the context of this chapter it might
be interesting to focus on the very strategy they employed to get
recognition. You know, form a little group, give yourself some interesting
name, create a myth around yourself and start to write manifestos. On the
one hand this is a well-known artist's strategy, on the other hand - if you
look at it now - it was done kind of sloppy and tongue in cheek (the famous
story about the term net.art etc). I mean, only so few manifestos? Maybe
this can also be read as an example of the use of an art strategy that
turns into something else, that you describe in some of the examples...

As far as the Biopower-stuff is concerned... well, I haven't read "Empire",
but to me it sounds a little bit like "bio compost", for which we have a
special garbage can here in Germany... ;-) I totally agree with you that
the net artists used (and still use) well-established art (and
anti-establishment) attitudes, that somehow transcend the art realm, when
they are applied on the net. I have a hard time finding the right
terminology to describe this, but I am not sure if the "Empire"-terminology
puts it so well, either. 

Well, so much for now. There is a lot to be said about this topic, but
since this discussion was stifled on nettime at one point, nobody did
continue it. Maybe over some pasta with chicken, again, Josephine? ;-) 


PS: Of course I don't agree with you that I. Graw plays such an role in
your essay, but never mind. I wrote a furious reply on this piece, when it
came out, that Jospehine Bosma was kind enough to translate: 

At 11:06 12.02.01 +0000, you wrote:
>Dear Josephine,
>I could not have expected you to realise this (since I didn't explain),
but the subject of my thesis *is* the group of artists that are loosely
defined by the term 'net.art', and so the lack of a broader description is,
to quite a large extent, intentional. Although it is impossible to discuss
any art movement or group in a historical vacuum, it is however equally
impossible to include every single related instance of practice. I made the
decision to use conceptual art of the 60s and 70s as the main genealogical
thread rather than early network artists because I see these conceptual
artists as crucial historical precedents to *both* later moments. Having
said that I do make mention of mail artists who are a strong precursor to
net art not only because of the coincidence of dematerialisation and the
network but also because the mail art movement included many non-artists -
or at least people who didn't understand themselves precisely in these
terms. This leads me to your other !
>criticism which is my tendency to see net.artists as having 'failed' in
their own terms. In this chapter my argument is that it is the net.artists
insistance on defending their art practice from dissolution in the wider
network which collapses it back into the market-institutional framework
from which they precisely tried to escape. In this respect it is the fact
that they were hostile (in contrast to mail artists) to their work being
adopted, manipulated, dissected, plagiarised etc. etc. by the *wider
community* that, in my reading, amounts to a failure - and, ironically, in
their own terms. So you are right when you touch on an important lack in
the chapter - of a multitude of other network-based creativity - but I
think you misunderstand me if you think that this absence relates purely to
my own lack of interest. At the end, I talk about the 01001etc.etc.org
group as a hopeful instance of a practice which attacks intellectual
art-property and opens up art to the massive cre!
>ative potential inherent in the social field. I think this is a fa
> optimistic reading than any more limited celebration of specific artists.
>The final thing to say on the issue of failure is the idea, expressed by
the likes of Adorno and Debord, that the history of modern art is the
history of its own endlessly deferred end. The autonomy which art gained
from older forms of social service confronted it increasingly with the
unfreedom of the world - a contradiction which precipitates its continued
crisis. The 'failure' of the net artits is, in this sense, entirely in
keeping with the wider movement of modern/post-modern art.
>->- www.metamute.com -<- coming back soon
>* ->- www.ouimadame.org -<- * to follow
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