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[Nettime-bold] From Josephine Berry to Robert and Tilman
Benedict Seymour on 15 Feb 2001 20:53:23 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] From Josephine Berry to Robert and Tilman

Dear Robert and Tilman -

This subject commercialisation is a tricky one - the first thing I want
stress is that I'm not taking some purist line on this and wrinkling up
my nose at
the idea of those naughty artists actually expecting recompense for
their work.
Given the alternatives, if you're lucky enough to live from your art
then all
power to you. My point about 'failure' did certainly touch on the
question of
commercialisation but what I was trying to point out is that precisely -
as we're all sick and tired of
hearing by now - dematerialisation/informatisation has never been more
deeply implicated in
monetization.I also referred back to conceptual artists because they
themselves (or some of them anyway -
espc. Lucy Lippard and Ian Burn) had to admit in the 1970s already,
against all expectatins, the market had managed to adjust itself to meet
newly immaterial or only perfunctorily material work that they were
making. I think what is important
here is not whether art is being commodified or not (I think it's
unavoidable within a
capitalist system) but *how* this is happening. And I completely agree
with Robert that it's going on
primarily - not through the sale of any data-objects - but by way of
residencies, stipendiums, commisions and what
have you. This is entirely in keeping with the wider economical
environment. This is where I think
Tilman is a little hasty. Granted net artists aren't going to live from
the sale of their work as expensive
and discrete commodities, but I think they will be sustained by museums,
media centres and educational institutions. And the
Whitney Biennial wasn't the last of this kind of thing - if I've
understood your category right - because the
Tate Britain is just about to open a show in March called - wait for
it - 'Art and Money Online'. And just
think of how much arts funding - at least in Britain - is being
earmarked for new media art. And again, I must
stress, that's not what I'm complaining about. If anything, this is just
the reality of not only art's new economic
mode, but late capitalism in general which - if you believe Negri and
Hardt's analysis of Empire - offers, within the configuration of
exploitation, the conditions
of their possible overcoming.

What I *am* complaining about is that net artists have, only latterly I
think, become too protective of their
projects and tried to make them exist too strictly in the category named
'art'. In my essay I name Etoy's subsumption
of the Toywar under the term artwork and Olia Lialina's defensive
position over originality (i.e. location = guarantee of
orignality) in her exchanges on nettime with the 01001 guys as examples.
When Alexei Shulgin in 'Art, Power, and Communication'
expressed the extravagantly utopian idea of art melting into
communication I think he really hit something on
the head. I would like to see institutions try to gain control over net
based projects which entailed 100s or thousands of
participants, or that infringed copyright so many times that it would
just be too risky to exhibit
them, or that was impssible to trace etc. etc. And this idea of a
slippery, dissolving art practice is what I miss right now. I think
is right - it's not over, and it's about public space... but - as Peter
Osborne said in a recent lecture - art that moves outside
the gallery doesn't escape the logic of the white cube. Art space
follows the artwork and forms a protective bubble around it - and so
any idea of a more direct encounter with 'everyday life' is
bollocks...well he didn't quite use those words...but he said that the
idea that art could open itself up to some kind of unexpected
interruption was a delusion because, in a sense, that's already been
factored into the work in the first place. What I'm looking for - and
maybe it's like chasing the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the
rainbow - is work that at least makes a tear in the art space bubble.
That would be an interesting incursion of art into public space....but I
realise it's virtually a paradox.

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