Pit Schultz on 20 Feb 2001 02:32:34 -0000

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Re: <nettime>net.art-history

maybe someone of you read erik davis' last book, in which he names the
great antagonist of our times "hermes", the trickster, god of trade
and thiefs, and god of communication. michel serres, also a
kind of half-god in the academic sense, made him the hero of his studies.
this figure, maybe a data dandy, parasite and prankster,
maybe a guy formally called an artist, but certainly out to make fun
and profit of all of you who try to get him, was probably the god
of net.art too.

let's assume that the 'failure of net.art' was some kind of
auto-destructive program inbuilt from the beginning for the purpose
of vanishing in the moment of capture. this makes the difficulty
more explainable interpretators seem to have, as well as
the institutional system or even the art market in making profits
with net.art.

the love for crap (the bla project), the somewhat cynical game about
the end beeing near (time to remain to go crazy). the utterly sad
sound of a computer who is brought to try to sing (386dx), or the
formalistic absurdities of artful html-form art, just taking one of
them, alexei as an example, is *playing tricks* with the context which
constructs these works. you could say very similar things for jodi,
vuk, heath, olia and many others.

i think we are completly underestimating the complex value of these
works, that they were partially constructed by the way they were
viewed by 'the community'. their fine intercommunication with their
fans and interpretors, replying to texts and ideas, or surfers who
randomly came by, curators who were more than clever to call this a kind of
self-promotion, a community of friends of the international conference
circus before the rather dull dot.com phase, made net.art a more than
lucky coincidence of some people doing art which hasn't to be called
art anymore. walking through the institutions it revealed often
insights in the way these institutions work.

remaining is not an autonomous art form, but a complex but as well
precise body of works which represent a certain social time of the
net, viewed from a specific angle. net.art therefore could be
explained in a second, third, or n-th order, but is itself a kind of
thick description of what happened in that time. and the more this
time vanishes it becomes clear that net.art reveals and critiques very
well the all too human pathos of the radical new, the vanities,
desires and dreams of a cyberspace which only happend in our
imagniations, but nevertheless happened.

back then in the early nineties, at the same time when other artists
diappeared from the field of institutional critique or the so called
context art, to start clubs, or record labels, bakeries, do book
projects or movies.. when the web took off these loose groups were
just ready to use it for their own purposes. it was more then a way to
become famous. from the beginning a sense of satyrist critique and
scepticism towards technology drove net.art combined with the
existential experience that utopia is possible insofar that very
unlikly changes can happen. the east-west dialogue is maybe one of the
substantial geographical elements of net.art. plus a disrespect for
authority and the old and new orders of knowledge, artistic interest
to bring the matter of the medium, the code, to its limits within a
larger sense then just programming, playing with the echoes of the
avant-garde net.art only simulated the existence of a group, it was
rather an open aliance, and even today one can continue to work in the
spirit of this practise.

laughing about ideologies, the grand ideas, and a calculated
anarchic fun of expanding and augmenting vision not just by
the means of technology but by manipulating the expextations
of people using them, highlighting the limits and errors of
the internet myths makes net.art 'human' in a post-humanistic
sense.- it describes the complexity of the net.condition exactly
without canonizing it but in an open ended narrative. a rather
first-hand and therefore rare knowledge about contemporary art
and its history *) helped and just gave a explosive package to
merge with the nettimers for a little while and along other
stations and splittings.

to demand now, why not more artists are put into the heaven of
net-dot-art is understandable but neverteless futile. we speak already
about the past. of course one can try to overwrite history, by inventing
a genre of 'artistic software' and neglect that groups like jodi or iod
for example started a whole "do it yourself - school" of understanding
code and the visual layers plus its social context as one thing,
tactically including bits of programming language. an approach now
very viral on the microsound levels of electronic music.

of course you can say net.art is dead, and do your books and
catalogues, but chances are high that these efforts are useless
and are just feeding a even more vivid zombie. somewhere
someone else might understand something, and use the label
to do another post-post avant-garde hack, temporary of course,
but nevertheless a source of many very constructive
misunderstandings. sometimes, one can still hear the laughter.

for the history net.art provided its own interpretation,
the 'classics of net.art'. the historification was a
constant theme, so many of the works are beeing done
in the sense of "it will have been seen as" (futur II)

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