Josephine Bosma on 13 Feb 2001 14:49:34 -0000

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Re: <nettime> Re: net art history

Josephine Berry wrote:

> 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. 

I am very glad I reacted to it then, because it was totally unclear. I
think it is very important you add this piece of knowledge to your
thesis and every part of it that you publish, as it now looks as if you
are covering net art history in general. With all the confusion we have
already seen around the subject on various lists and considering the
hunger for these kind of general insights and clarifications it is very
likely a text like yours could accidentally be used and spread as study
material representing the -entire- history of net art. Which it does
not. I must say that your clarification has made the text a lot more
sympathetic to me, even if I have criticism still. It is also quite
clear we need a lot of more specific or specialised researches of
different area's of net art. 

> which brings me to your 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. 

The 'net.artists' were absolutely not hostile to their work being
manipulated, dissected or plagiarised. On the contrary I would say, they
are rather strongely influenced by the copy left ideas. The only thing
they initially found problematic was becoming institutionalised. Each of
them has dealt with this in a very different way in the end. As you may
know some of them simply proclaim net art is dead, to have some kind of
excuse for continuing their work on an institutional level or maybe just
to have a way out of difficult media political and art institutional
issues they became entangled in. These are individual strategies of a
small group of artists though and they fit in their work. With all the
pranks and subversion of discourse we have dealt with coming from some
net.artists one should be careful with taking their words literally
sometimes. When for instance Vuk Cosic goes to New York and says to art
professionals that there have really only been five net.artists (to just
give an example of something that happened) it is quite ignorant to take
that as a fact and not see it in the light of his work. 
What I find and have found problematic in your writing about is
that you tend to blow up the political aspect out of proportion instead
of approaching this work mostly as art. This work has not failed as art,
is what I am saying. I find it highly problematic to attach a label of
political failure on this work in the context of nettime especially,
where there has been so much ideological pressure on and hostility
towards net art practice.

>I talk about the group as a hopeful instance of a practice which attacks intellectual art-property and opens up art to the massive creative potential inherent in the social field. I think this is a far more optimistic reading than any more limited celebration of specific artists.

Again, this is coming from a purely ideological approach of net art.
First of all, seem just as much hot air as the
net.artists were in the political sense (I would underline 'in the
political sense' if I could), secondly celebrating specific artists is
not at all what I am interested in and it should be clear from my work.
(Maybe I am reading your comment as a criticism when it is not, then
ignore my remark.) It is important to explore and document the variety
of artworks out there and the context they are made in. 

> 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.

Well, there is a lot that can be said about this. It seems to me this
way of thinking could easily be replaced by another basic view of the
world, like any philosophy has its counter philosophy. I personally have
a lot of problems with terms like 'the end of' in relation to an
abstraction like 'art' or 'modern art'. So even an endlessly deferred
end is only a strategy to approach something. Not a very interesting one



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