Benedict Seymour on 15 Feb 2001 23:17:10 -0000

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<nettime> From Josephine Berry to Robert and Tilman

Dear Robert and Tilman -

This subject commercialisation is a tricky one - the first thing I want to
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, that, against all expectatins, the market had managed to adjust
itself to meet the 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

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 Robert 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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