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Re: <nettime> nn-ogram x11... and to all the other m*th*rkcerZ... or wha
Tilman Baumgärtel on Wed, 25 Aug 2004 08:47:15 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> nn-ogram x11... and to all the other m*th*rkcerZ... or whatever you call U-rselve these days


At 09:58 18.08.2004, you wrote:

>      [since alan sondheim mentioned 'nn' as an example of a voice
>      that isn't heard on nettime-l anymore, here's a digest of all
>      the messages s/he/it/they have sent to the list since the be-
>      ginning of april 2004. cheers, tbyfield (mod)]

Actually, this is rather disappointing. I remember that NN used to spam 
lists like nettime, 7-11, spectre,rhizome etc. (if I remember correctly) 
with more message per day than now since april. I mean 11 postings in three 
months? Come on, is this supposed to terrorize the online-world? Because 
this is, what NN was at one point: "the most feared woman on the internet", 
as a piece I found on her on google called her. Now, how would anybody who 
writes a handful of postings on a mailing list (that were filtered out) 
would be the "most feared
woman on the internet"?

For me, this is a good chance to reevaluate NNs activities in the late 
90ies. The younger readers of nettime might not remember, but back in the 
90ies she (or he, or whatever entity was behind that name) was a factor in 
online-discourse. Back then, I thought she wasn't for real, and her recent 
lack of activities prove to me that I was right. But back then not 
everybody felt that way.In fact, she was written up in Salon and she was 
the subject of many discussions in net.art circles. How did she emulate 
this strange jargon? Was it a program? Was a group of really radical 
hackers from Yugoslawia behind NN? Or from the netherlands? Or the 
netherworld? She insulted each and everybody, called them fascists or 
slaves or L00ZerZ or whatever. (Google for more insults, use keywords such 
as Geert Lovinck, Tilman Baumgaertel, Alex Galloway etc.) She seemed to be 
everywhere, hating everybody, especially those people, who were in a 
position of what she regarded as POWER.

It was easy to ignore her, since her hate mail was directed toi a handful 
of lists, that were supposedly targeted at "key people". While I regarded 
her project as an interesting intervention into mailing lists, I always 
wondered why anybody would spend so much time without having anything to 
say that anybody else could understand. Or to promote anything but a number 
of highly obscure websites. The URLs she left on her inflammatory emails 
either took you to non-existent sites or to sites, that existed, but did 
not make a lot of sense. Of course, that was the point in a lot of early 
net.art (NOT to make sense), but if you clicked on THESE sites for long 
enough, you always ended up on some page, where you were supposed to leave 
your credit card information to obtain a program, that was called NATO. As 
I later learned, NATO was a plug-in for the very successful sound editing 
program MAX, that did things, that were... well, very advanced and very 
subversive and very... well, nobody was ever able to explain to me what was 
so great about NATO, except that you had to be a programming buff to really 
appreciate all it qualities.

I understand that some VJs used her program for very interesting results, 
but again, nobody was able to tell me what was so different about all the 
patterns that showed up on video projections of VJs using this program. The 
only time I had a chance to use this program was at a transmediale 
(www.transmediale.de), the berlin media arts festival, in 2000, and it 
crashed when I clicked on one of its icons on the user interface. This 
might have been conceptual, but since nobody at transmediale was able to 
start this computer again, I just called it quits on that night. Since I 
was not prepared to shell out 500 dollars for a plug-in for a software that 
I did not even own, I never again had the chance to understand her 
programming masterpiece.

The only person who was ever able to understand this  program and explain 
it to the average reader like me, was the writer of the salon piece 
(http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2002/03/01/netochka/) on NN, who tried 
in the sober way of anglo-saxon journalism to shed some light into the 
digital darkness that NN tried to surround herself with:

"Netochka's software gives the audience something to see while they listen. 
Behind the stage a montage of video samples mirrors and echoes the musical 
performance. And like the laptop music itself, the video is not just 
programmed in advance and then screened. It's edited live on laptops by 
video artists positioned in the balcony, lit by the blue glow of their 
monitors. At its best, the video and the music create a coordinated, 
improvisational whole."

Gee, the video is really edited live on laptops by video artists positioned 
in the balcony. That rocks!

Well, the last time I looked, there were plenty of other programs, that did 
similar things, on download.com, even though they were probably not made 
with a balcony in mind. And it would probably be far-fetched to say that 
anybody misses the period of the laptop DJ or VJ period in electronic music.

Anyway, lets not disgress, back to the past. Because the Transmediale, 
where I tried to try out NATO, might have been the beginning of the end for 
NN. Back then, Andreas Broeckmann, then the newly appointed director of 
Transmediale, went so far as inviting NN to his festival, despite the fact, 
that he was one of NNs most favorite people you´d love to hate. And NN even 
got a price for NATO at Transmediale!

The Jury statement is quite unclear about the qualities of NATO/Nebula, but 
eager to stress the avantgarde status of the program:

"This program has been subject of our heated discussions pro and contra, a 
fact we eventually found an important reason itself to shortlist it. Nebula 
(also know as NATO - the author) is a web-based Macintosh user application 
that, apart from that (eh, apart from what? - the author), defies an exact 
description: It is an aesthetic processor of html code retrieved from 
arbitrary web sites which it turns into animated text, graphics and sound 
displays that can partly be influenced by user-triggered parameters. 
Nebula, along with the extremist chic ASCII art communication of its author 
also known in the Net.art community as antiorp, ranked highest on our 
scales of code as attitude."

Turning HTML code into animated text, graphics and sound of course has been 
done many times before in net.art, and if such a movement like net.art 
would still exist, it would still be an important topic. But notice that 
the jury points out NNs actvities that lead to heated discussions as a 
primary reason to give her an award. And notice that the jury has a hard 
time coming up with a reason for that, too: The program "defies an exact 
description". This probably means that they also could not make a lot of 
sense of this entry, but still felt that the self-created controversy 
around NN was worth mentioning.

The NN I remember presenting her project at Transmediale was, of course, a 
multitude. If my memory serves me well, it was three women around 30, 
reading quotes from books, which are now in the 90ies hall of fame. I am 
not sure, but they might have included Freud, Foucault, Zizek. It might 
also have been Sadie Plant, Kant, Fichte. Was a Kittller-quote among them? 
I do not remember. Anyway, they had a lot of books on the table before 
them, and picked random quotes. It might have been the highlight of 
Transmediale for the coming years, but I still did not manage to make a lot 
of sense out of it. Which was - again - probably the point.

But NNs activities declined from then on. Later somebody told me that she 
identified NN as a member of the faculty of an avantgarde music institution 
in Amsterdam (SEIM?). Apparently my friend found out, that she (NN) had an 
office at this place. Which would explain why she had so much time to make 
herself obnoxious on all these mailing lists and rant about communuists, 
kapitalistZ, sell-outs and what so ever: she was a state-sponsored professor.

Of course, most state.sponsored professors do not do as much, so I do not 
want to criticize her for that. I also do not want to criticize her for 
doing guerilla marketing for her MAX-plug-in - which might have been a 
great tool for some emerging VJs, even though we never heard of it again 
after she got her award at Transmediale, an institution she so actively 
attacked at one point.

What is interesting to me is how some entity called NN or antiorp or 
whatever seemed to dominate net.art for a very brief moment in time, and 
then managed to disappear more or less completely. Not because of 
censorship, as she frequently accused all the moderators of the 
mailinglists she spammed. But because she got tired. Most of NNs websites 
have disappeared, and almost nobody remembers her anymore - apart from 
Google, maybe. I tried to interview her for my book "net.art 2.", but all 
she did was redirect my emailed questions to nettime with some insults, and 
that was my last contact with her. Compare that to some of the mail art 
people, who were a pain in the but long after all their chances to be a 
part of the art mainstream had disappeared!

A lot of the net.art pieces that were created in the late 90ies still make 
a lot of sense to me. Yet, this period of net.culture seems to be over, 
because net.culture is not a fringe activity anymore. Todays net culture is 
so successful, because it is not about the net and its imaginary culture. 
These contemporary online-communities have found their own topics, such as 
computer games, consumer products, Linux-Selfhelp, whatever. This scenes 
have also found their own trolls, even though most of them are not so 
efficient and radical as NN.

I personally founded my own mailing list, Rohrpost, a german list for net 
culture. And I - together with my co-moderators Andreas Broeckmann and 
Florian Cramer - we had our own ordeals of people who had just too much 
time on their hands and an unhealthy oedipal obsession with people who 
supposedly "run things". The way we dealt with them was probably 
incompetent. But then again, there was no NN to really drive us to our limits.

I do think that they are needed in online-discourse. I just wish they would 
be around much longer to really make a difference. Or to actually say / 
mean anything... Long after Geert, Florian, Andreas or any of us 
"mediators" are around.

So, NN, or whatever your name is these days, drop me a line: 
mail {AT} tilmanbaumgaertel.net. And better make it something interesting...

Yours,
Tilman

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