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<nettime> Collaborative Research into Electronic Art Memes
cream on 4 Apr 2001 16:01:09 -0000

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<nettime> Collaborative Research into Electronic Art Memes


                                                 cream  1

              [Collaborative Research into Electronic Art Memes]


Dip into cream. cream is an experimental collaboration of writers and
curators in the field of net art. cream will come to you as a bi-weekly
newsletter devoted to theory and criticism concerning art in network
culture. All texts and reviews are kept as short as possible, they are not
introductions to larger texts elsewhere on the net. The idea behind it is
to provide a continuous injection of critical thought into the net art
field, to provoke a more prominent critical and theoretical discourse
around art in net culture and to do this in a way that asks for discussion
rather then that it obstructs a flow of discourse. You can subscribe to
cream, yet the first half year of its appearance cream will also go to the
a few mailing lists: nettime, Rhizome, Syndicate. We invite you to forward
this mail to anybody you feel might be interested in the content of cream
who is not on any of those lists.

cream hopes to be one bridge over the gap between electronic art scene and
traditional art world, between experimental net cultures and institutional
efforts on line.

The cream team will grow as the 'magazine' develops, but the first group
of writers that supports cream consist of, in alphabetical order: Saul
Albert, Inke Arns, Tilman Baumgaertel, Josephine Bosma, Sarah Cook,
Florian Cramer, Steve Dietz, Frederic Madre, Tetsuo Kogawa, Toshia Ueno.

::::::::: In this first issue ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

review: Saul Albert on Jon Thomson and Allison Craighead in Tate Britain
theory: Florian Cramer on Program Code Poetry
thought: Frederic Madre on definitions
thought: Josephine Bosma on the link


Saul Albert was the first to publish an in-depth article about the work of
Jodi in 1998. He lives and works in London, and has published texts in the
Swiss magazine DU and in the British magazine for electronic culture Mute.

         -   "no material presence"   -

On entering the tiny "Art Now" space, packed away behind the modernist
sculptures at the back of the Tate Britain, it looks as though one of
those sculptures has been accidentally included in the current show: "Art
and Money On line". A smooth white cylinder, rising out of the floor like
a modernist obelisk turns out to contain a touch screen monitor, linked to
a video projector displaying "CNN Interactive just got more interactive",
a web artwork by Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead (T&C).

  The viewer is invited to use the (real) CNN site which is seamlessly
framed by T&C's additional menu of tacky midi soundtracks, ("Upbeat",
"Festive", "Melancholy", "Disaster".) which are provided to match the
changing moods of the endless stream of news. The intervention in the
austere, corporate CNN interface spills over into a physical intervention,
sending strains of nauseating synthesized muzak out of the Art Now enclave
and into the proper, serious Tate Gallery. In the leaflet that accompanies
the exhibition the curator Julian Stallabrass repeatedly refers to T&C's
piece as a work that "only exists on line" and "has no material presence".
How strange that he didn't notice the Brancusi-like obelisk/kiosk, the
flashy touch screen monitor and the insane muzak intervention in a show
that he is meant to have curated. Other works in the show are safely
sanitized, (either comfortably fetishized as art objects or presenting an
inscrutable veneer of slick technology and self reference). Obviously
Stallabrass is interested in the fashionable idea of art parodying
corporate culture and infotainment. However, he may have missed the fact
that T&C were also throwing a parodic frame around the Tate's efforts
(through this show) to assimilate net art into stagnant
aesthetic/historical narratives.

After seeing T&C's installation, you can't help but notice the "Sponsored
by Reuters" sign on the way through the modernist sculpture room, and just
before you reach the exit, as the muzak fades, a bay of slick, corporate
style kiosks, displaying the Tate website.

CNN Interactive just got more interactive
(http://www.ucl.ac.uk/slade/slide/cnn/) by Thomson and Craighead.


Florian Cramer is a lecturer in Comparative Literature at Freie
Universitšt Berlin. He is also the programmer of the web site
'Permutations' <http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~cantsin> and Free Software

          -  Program Code Poetry  -

The history of computer programming is rich with self reflexive language
games, games which either code self reflexivity into algorithmic machine
instructions or algorithmic instructions into everyday language. Perhaps
the most basic example of the former are "Quines", program source code
which, as a software equivalent of von Neumann's self reproducing
automata, generates an exact copy of itself (see
<http://http://www.nyx.net/~gthompso/quine.htm>) while recursive acronyms
like "GNU" for "GNU's Not Unix" (which iterates infinitely when dissected
into its component words) may be the most prominent example of the latter.

 From the opposite angle, there is a longer history of artists and poets
using computer instruction and protocol code as material. In its 1962
manifesto, the French Oulipo group around the poet Raymond Queneau and the
mathematician Francois le Lionnais proposed to use computers for poetic
games, process text with Markov chains (just as a number of more
contemporary digital arts works like Charles O. Hartman's and Hugh
Kenner's "Virtual Muse" poems, Ray Kurzweil's "Cybernetic Poetic" and
Cornelia Sollfrank's "Net.art generators") and write poetry in the Algol
programming language. In the early 1970s, Le Lionnais and NoŽl Arnaud
published poetry written in Algol code which, just as the early Perl
Poetry of Larry Wall and Sharon Hopkins from 1990. Even where their code
did not properly compile and run on computers, it took artistic advantage
of the fact that any digital code is potentially machine executable and at
least twice readable as source code and output. In comparison to digital
art forms whose output is not code, Algol and Perl poems even have the
potential to contaminate and short-circuit both instances of digital data.
While no other form of net art and net poetry is structurally as closely
linked to computing as programming code poetry, more recent net art and
net poetry takes an aesthetic step beyond the former in modeling its
language after programming and protocol code without strictly reproducing
its logic. The code poetry of, among others, mez, Alan Sondheim and Ted
Warnell seems to build on two developments a) the re-coding of traditional
pictorial ASCII art into amimetical noise signals by net artists like
Jodi, antiorp, mi-ga and Frederic Madre, (b) the mass proliferation of
programming language syntax through web and multimedia scripting languages
and search engines. For the reader of mez's "netwurks", it remains all the
more an open question whether the "mezangelle" para-code of parentheses
and wildcard characters only mimics programming languages or is, at least
partially, the product of programmed text filtering.

In my view, code poetry reveals that digital poetry has been misperceived
in the last ten years, with too much attention for elaborate interfaces -
"hypertext" itself is nothing more than such an interface - and too little
attention for structures coded into its very language.


Frederic Madre is an organizer and writer. He lives and works in Paris. He
is best known for his mailinglist (in 2000) Pleine Peau and his spam art
projects. Frederic Madre also organized a conference in Paris on net art
in 1999.

          - letís drop definitions -

Let's drop the word art. Where do you want to go today ? I wish I did not
know, I wish we could all be taken to places we have no idea of and find
out by simply doing it, by catching the flow. Partly driven by what is
there and partly driven by the whim of the moment and the lust of simple
wander. The exact nature of what we find in this way has little relevance
compared to the unreasoned nature of the unfathomable context of the link.
Look, I was giving you a perverted kiss and all you found was a fix. Look,
you have been transported somewhere you did not know existed and the
transportation itself has made this what it is. How do you want to call
this ? Let's drop the word art and think of what is there and where you
came from and where youíre going next. Are we having fun yet ? letís drop
definitions and see whatís there to take and make our own. Itís not even
worth anymore stating that we are not artists, thereís a whole bunch of
artists out there that make a living of just that. Letís drop them and
follow the link, find out whatís there and then scram somewhere else and
now do our own connected stuff.


Josephine Bosma is a journalist and writer in the field of art and new
media. She lives and works in Amsterdam. Her most recent publications were
an introduction to net art in the dutch art magazine Metropolis M, and a
text about the internet and music for the SFMoma project 'Crossfade'.

              -  The Link  -

In the beginning there was darkness. Black screens with green, almost
fluorescent letters faced the early netizen. Yet behind the darkness
existed a world connected by words. Networking was still a clearly human
to machine and then another machine to another human experience.
Individuals behind personal computers filled cyberspace and made it a
different reality. And then, made out of unspeakable words, made out of
code, there was light. The worldwide web was born. Networking almost
immediately changed shape. Communication simplified. A picture could paint
a thousand words, and it did. It replaced a thousand words. Communication
became more complex, too. Hidden code now creates a layered representation
of the initial message. It has become an art in itself, a craftsmanship,
to convey your message well. The message, and communication itself, is a
dispersed and multi interpretable experience on the worldwide web. News
groups, Muds and Moos, and now also mailing lists slowly become dry and
empty spaces, wastelands.  And man is getting lost. We thank all this to
the link. Not the visuals of the web are the most important, or the way a
picture starts to move.. : there is no life, no seduction to enter the net
without the link. It has been highly praised. It is a wonderful tool to
create large rings of friendly web sites, playful labyrinths of thoughts
and views. It allows for experiments: hyper narrative is still a buzz
word. But in the end, does communication really profit from it being
dominated by the link? In art the link has brought isolation as well as
connections. The link is active and passive at the same time. It sits and
waits for a click, it waits on the artists site, on the other side, the
other site, it waits. The link has to be visible and approachable to
communicate its part of the message. Communication has been replaced by
connectivity. An artist is only as visible as her or his link. The moment
the audience looses contact with the cultures and works created by artists
network art becomes confined to special spaces and events, where it is
lifted from obscurity and presented to be explored. Visibility of art
creates knowledge of art.  Knowledge of art creates awareness of culture.
Awareness creates the possibility for communication.

end of cream *1* 

cream would not be possible without the work and hospitality of the
House of Laudanum, http://www.laudanum.net . Special thanks (shout!) to
mr.snow who put it all together!


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