Josephine Berry on 13 Feb 2001 01:17:27 -0000

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

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

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 '', 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 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.

->- -<- coming back soon

* ->- -<- * to follow

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: