Josephine Bosma on Sun, 6 Jul 1997 23:19:07 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> independent

Here is part of a discussion held during the nettime meeting
last may in Ljubljana. Alexei Shulgin (from the Moscow www artcentre),
Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans (Jodi) talk about, criticism or
the production of art-history and independence.


JB: What do you think of other people discussing what you do:
the thread on nettime?

Alexei: I don't care basically, I still consider the internet as a
kind of black hole. You send some data into it and since its big,
since its kind of a distribution system, you can be sure that just by
statistic law it is going to touch somebody. If I get some respons I
am happy or unhappy, but it happens just because of the nature of the

JB: Because from the reactions that sometimes occurred during the thread, it seems like you were not at all happy that people
took the 'brutality' to comment at all on, or to discuss it. As
if it is something to be kept secret, to be kept as undefined as

Alexei: Here again we come to this point of definition what is.
You yourself specified very precisely when you said you love this dot
in between net and art. For me that dot also is very important because
it signifies that its not that serious. A movement or a group can't have
a name like some computer file. Thats why itself, because of the
nature of the internet again, somehow resists to any definition. If you
want to define something you have to consider first a context, but what
is the context of, its everything, because you can find every-
thing on the net easily. There is no fysical space, but some virtual
space. Everything belongs to in a way.

JB: Everything that has to do with the net anyway. Do you agree
with Robert Adrian then that all the artforms of the twentieth century
come together in

Alexei: Yes, but I would say not only artforms, but many other
things. Like..(looking around) construction of bicycles for example
can be also included.

JB: (having fun) I thought you were going to say something like
sociological issues..

Alexei: Yes, but sociological issues have been included into the
artrealm before the net.

Dirk: We are only really excited when someone actually makes new
surprizing work on the net.The definitions and obsessional
history-writing of now, while it happens, is self-aggrandizing
and manipulative. projects may be better criticized in a wider context, of art
in general. But to cram it in the category, is uninteresting,
it's incestuous and limits future developments.

Alexei: I think that with we have sort of a contradiction
between the artistic approach and the critical approach, because
as I said before it is very difficult for critics to define or
contextualize, but on the other hand we see very bright and
wonderful examples of so-called Its like with any other
media: you either feel this medium or not (talking about the artistic
approach). If you feel these digits and networks and how the signal
comes and how a modem works. You just have to feel it. And if you do,
you are able to do some good work. If you come with some other ideas,
with the same approach as gallery art, it doesn't work. I see very
little people who really feel the net and understand how the net
works and what its all about.

Joan: Thats about the medium. If you work with the net you have to
understand the net, if you work with the medium radio you have to
understand radio.

JB: Are there any collaborations coming, in future projects?
I know there are some future exhibitions of the group. When
you meet I suppose you talk about that also. What is going to happen?

Alexei: Talking about group activity. We are in a way priviliged unlike
artists from older generations. With the net we don't have to form
any specific group to declare some specific manifesto and to do similar
stuff or colaborative stuff. We all live in different cities in different
countries. All we direct communication to each other, because we respect
each other's work and we have something to discuss there. We'll have some
shows together, but again I want to say we are priviliged that we can
go on with our own work and not be dependent on other people, other
artists' opinions, ideas or aesthetics. Everybody is going on with their
own work. There will be situations in the future were we can meet and
discuss things directly. Its nothing about working on joint projects,
we don't need that. We are all individuals, we can just remain ourselves.
Not form some artificial groupings or whatever.

JB: I was not insinuating that you were doing that, I was just
asking whether there are any future projects, because I know there are
some exhibitions coming up were you are maybe not collaborating as you
say now, but at least you're exhibiting together.

Alexei: For me it was important to stress this point.
Talking about the future: I am still working on this form-art project.
In a way I sort of invented a new technology based artform. I am going
to develop this site, to try to propose it as a new tool, a new medium
for artists. For that I am going to set up a website, like or I want to organize an international competition, with a money
prize for the best work made in this form of art.
I have some other ideas which deal more with the overload of information
we have now in this world.

Dirk: We will be participating in a project in Amsterdam, (in Arti et
Amicae). Six artists are invited to set up a virtual environment for
a 'mu. The smallest unit: mu. The Mathematical Unit and the Multi-User
environment. We like the Multi-User idea a lot, it is a technically
challenging thing to explore. We have been making some prototypes and
tests of how to realize that kind of environment. There are some
graphical chat.worlds already, like The Palace, we are working on a
more abstract space for that.

I also want to say that I like very much the idea from Vuk Cosic from, that he was thinking about Ljudmila-west. We are very
interested in participating in it. We learned a lot from people from
the former east, and they could help us a lot. When you are here and
you look at the facilities and the enthusiasm and the smartness of
the people... I don't see it anywhere else. We would like to come here.
We proposed to Vuk to participate in a Ljudmila-west residency.

JB: Its a joke on V2-east right? Instead of us arrogant
westerners that think people from the east need our help, it is
supposed to help artists from the west.

Alexei: Like all jokes it has two sides. On the one hand its a joke,
but on the other hand it can bring some positive result. Like Jodi
coming to Slovenia and working here.

Dirk: And we would bring some of our Spanish friends. We have friends
from the south, that insist on islamic culture for example. They don't
like the west, nor the east.

Joan: So it will be east west north south.

JB: You were talking about you all being individuals and that
you don't need to be a group and your all from different countries and
blablabla...Now of course everybody that has seen the internet and the
WorldWideWeb knows that you can loose your way quite easily, if you
don't know where to look. Artists working there need good infrastructure.
For them to get known and communicate their work, they have to use good
infrastructures mostly offered by others, right? Or they have to set up
their own spaces, but they still have to announce these spaces in
Rhizome, in nettime, in Telepolis etc. To say that you can actually work
without all this seems a bit untrue.

Alexei: I am not saying that. If you look at the history of all art
movements, it was always like this: you had some local initiatives,
like Fluxus or NeoGeo or Trans-avandgardia or whatever with one leader,
everybody would share certain ideas, do similar works, form a movement,
usually with just one or two ideas behind it. People would join it.
Then they would become recognisable as a group. It was important to be a
group: to have a name, manifesto and whatever. But in the end, when you
look what happened, it very soon becomes routine. Those artists become
famous, recognised, but it very soon becomes a very boring routine.
People just do what the system requires from them and it becomes totally
uninteresting very soon. Artists become obliged to do certain kind of
works to proof again and again that they belong to this group. They do
something specific.
With the internet its a little bit different. Now we're sort of coming
through the last stage of the early stage of development. When
insitutions start to pay attention to artists working on the net.., for
instance I am just coming from Budapest where I am doing a residency as
a net.artist. We got to know each other only because of the net. After
that we met together and got acquainted. Its theoretically not possible
for us to create some kind of movement. Its very different and I have no
idea what can come out of it.
But talking about infrastructures and institutions and whatever.., maybe
Dirk can say some words. If you work on the net, one of the most
important things is your domain name, like some short name in your url,
that you type in in Netscape and then you come to the place.

Dirk: I think its very important, I think everyone should set up his
or her own domain. Its not very expensive and its not so difficult.
In the beginning of the net it was promoted to do so,
because there were not so many domains, especially concerned with art
or culture. Now there are, not so much, but 'enough' for every country
almost. Its been nationalised a lot. The geographical location in the
url, in the adress, is imposed almost. Its much more easy to get your
nationality, like a sticker on your car, then to get the .com, .org,
.nom or .art in url names. Its a bit more difficult. Little institutes
who are grown on the net, if its galleries or workshops.., of course
as an artist in America (I shift continents immediately), there are
many young artists in America for sure who make HTML and Java, who want
to do internet projects and they go to an institute nearby. They don't
bother to set up their own domain. I disagree. The most important for
me was to go on your own on the net. To get your own little boat, not
jump on the big ferry. Have your little own domain. Its not difficult,
but now they hide it more, they make it seem more difficult. There
are laws that make it a bit more difficult. There are also the servers
that are in position, that are in power, who make it seem more difficult.
They do this with pricing or with availability of information how to do
it. Its a do it yourself mentality and it's still easy.

Joan: Its for recognition. Can you say Alexei's worldwide artcentre url?
No. So, if he would have had his own domain you would type it in just
like that. A lot of people now because of the growth of the net are
working this way. If you type in a domain and then you have to search for
all the rest, you're just not visible anymore. I think its important for
artists on the net to be visible.

Dirk: They should not join or or or existing
url's. I don't pin it on these examples, but they provide spaces for
so-called experiments with html, from But one should neglect
these existing institutions and go on one's own. It is also a total
different approach to what projects you will do, a totally different
feeling, its the independent feeling. No gallery, no in-between. The
one level playing ground, John Perry Barlow calls it like that, the
Californian Ideology (laughs), I mean, you can do it.

Alexei: Its true, now you see a lot of institutions that want to have
artists stuff on their pages and collections of art projects. Since
there is practically not any critical context for, we have
really a big mess in this kind of approach and selection. Look at
the Documenta site. It has a very different quality and trend and
base works promoted as art works, its just because of this mess, of the
impossibility to contextualise Thats why I think this kind of
independent activity is even more important. I am far from saying that
if we can all be independent. We can create some independent or paralel
infrastructure. What we do is set links from Jodi's site to heath
buntings site to mine, thats kind of a paralel hyperlinked infrastructure
of interesting artprojects. But to tell the truth I am not sure whether
it is going to work very well, because people who are interested in art
will go first to well promoted art institutions, to see their links,
whats on their sites. Still the situation is kind of unresolved now.
This ambiguous situation will remain for some time.

Dirk: There is a battle against virtual institutions from independent

Alexei: Now there are a lot of virtual exhibitions curated, but it seems
that for net.artists it really becomes not very interesting or important
to participate in them for many reasons. If you go to Documenta to make
an installation, its a big deal. You get a lot of money as honorarium,
you get a big budget to produce the work, its really something serious.
If we're talking about websites, small data, a few files, its very easy
to get them and put them online and thats it. Artists don't get much from
joining art institutions. They hope it will bring them something in the
future, but it doesn't work. Institutions don't make real investments
into it, because they don't have to.


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