John Hopkins on Tue, 18 Mar 97 06:38 MET

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nettime: things?

Historians retrospecting on the foggy lines of History are always so
tempted to label things as Movements and Periods and such.  I find this
rather ridiculous.  Consider asking someone who is 40 years old how they
felt about a situation that happened to then 25 years previous, what
impressions, their emotional and intellectual state at the time and a
detailed description of the material event, what REALLY happened...  Now,
aside from a handful of "life-changing" events that normally occur to
people over time, they would have a VERY hard time reconstructing anything
near the reality of their own past...

Now, when I see a term like Surrealism and Surrealists, I really have to
Laugh at the way Art Historians and unfortunately artists too get caught
into believeing that this is the way things happened at all!  I mean, look,
are there, out there, to your knowledge, groups of people making Movements
now?  I would propose that it is not movements but simply the existence of
dialogues of greater or lesser potency running between individuals who,
depending on how much personal risk they are able to take, influence the
lives of each other directly through this dialogue...  (Take Nettime for
example -- the perfect example of not a movement, but the accumulation of
the various voices who are more or less talking to each other, nothing more
nothing less.  Ask yourself how much Nettime CHANGES your life, and that is
a measure of the dialogue...

I find the discussion about Net.Art to be rather pointless unless one is in
the process of copyright protection or the rigor-mortis
institutionalization of a history that is not even history.  What about the
International Netowrking Congress -- of mail-artists; I have been part of
an organic network and using that word for a long time, yet I don't feel
the need to claim a word to

1) describe the whole of being which generates the material and actual
manifestations of my "life work" nor

2) posits some historical claim of legitimacy to what I am doing or how I
am being...

I am sorry, but it seems a joke!  And I just don't see the point in
dividing things up, what art FORMS are ascendent over another...  I believe
we all, in every formal sense, face a "hands-on" material world with one
foot in the spiritual.  Anything that we seek to DO faces the brutal
challenge of either forcing material things into new configurations or of
speaking/paying attention to another human in the hopes of inspiring them
or being inspired...  The material struggle that I think people are
speaking of here (in terms of video art, net art, painting and so on) are
all rather (or totally) similar aspects of that challenge of material
transformation...  Now, I know the immediate response to this from some is
"well, net art isn't material..." or some such argument, but that is simply
not so.  Is a computer material, is RAM material, are fiber optics
material, copper wires, generators, monitors?  I mean, fundamentally,
almost all of what we call TECHNOLOGICAL media are material transformations
relying solely on the two most abundant materials in the earth's crust --
silicon and oxygen -- SiO2 -- amorphous silica -- glass -- which covers --
photography (camera-based media), all digital media (chips are made
primarily of amorphous silica).  Differences in all the manifestations are
illusory and a result of the endless hair-splitting of the reductive system
of Western science which has lead us only to finer questions of what we
either never need to KNOW or what is so essential that we can't KNOW it

I think questions of quality rather quantity are more important to consider
here.  (parallel to ideas like a consideration of human obligations vs
human rights)  Another words for example, discussions of not whether Paul
Garrin's efforts with setting up will work or not -- but whether
he is having a genuine influence on other people's lives and whether that
effect is positive or negative...  Of course, that may seem a question to
answer historically, but hey, I can answer it based on some near meetings
with him, seeing his words, seeing his trail (etched in silicon) and so
on...  for myself, and express that personal understanding to someone else
who would care to listen and share their impressions...

Sometimes I feel acutely the distance we have from each other in the veils
of words that swirl around us, that we cloak ourselves in, and I am
gratified to have spent some concentrated moments with some of you out
there, from time-to-time, and place-to-place, physically unmediated,
looking into your eyes, and speaking as direct as possible, or, better yet,
silently sharing existence in this material incarnation...

I seize whatever physical means I can, based upon the moment, to express my
desires, my life-energies, what difference does it make?

I would quote and amplify from my own take Bob Adrian's remark "Why should
we, as artists struggling to find ways to survive on the tricky edge of a
new digital communications environment, be trying to breath new life into
the corpse of the traditional art institutions? For the money, fame and

Giving lip-service to any forms of institutional cultural organization is
to give it credit, form, substance, and most dangerously, POWER.  NAMING a
thing is to call it into existence and invoking it repeatedly will pump it
up...  Although I would not criticize the actions of those people who seek
to understand the workings of cultural/social situations, I think that
understanding needs to be weighed -- whether the knowledge is needed even
-- after all, every thing that can be known, do we need to know it, or
should we know it?  Eating from the Tree of the Knowledge or Good and Evil
got us here possibly, mired in a material world that is possibly only a
furnace to test our spirits for other things or simply a place to act out
our lives here and now...  Fame?  (I suggest spinning the John Lennon tune
so artfully interpreted by John and David (Bowie) by the same name...)
What's a name? What's a name? What's a name...

And something my father used to ay when we drove around on the interstate
highways of 60'ss Amurika, upon seeing grafitti (not the urban stuff of the
70's and 80's and 90's) -- but the simple tags that adorned bridges, rocks,
and fences...  "Fools names and not their faces are always seen in public
places..."  Maybe it needs to be changed to "Fools names AND their faces
are always seen in public places..."


John Hopkins
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