Cornelia Sollfrank on Wed, 23 Sep 1998 18:46:21 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> FemExt.2

FEMALE EXTENSION - Cornelia Sollfrank


In February of 1997 the Galerie der Gegenwart (Gallery of Contemporary
Art) of the Hamburger Kunsthalle (Hamburg Art Museum) was the first museum
in the world to announce a net art competition. The event was supported by
Philips, the German news magazine, SPIEGEL, and their website, SPIEGEL
ONLINE. The name of this competition was EXTENSION, and was meant to be an
extension of the museum into virtual space. The competition posed the
question of how traditional tasks of the museum, collecting, preserving,
mediating, and researching, could be applied to art on the internet.=20

The call for contributions to EXTENSION asked explicitly not for art on
the net, but for net art. Traditional works of art should not be
represented in digital format, but artistic works that applied familiar
art concepts, such as "material" and "object" to the internet. The Gallery
of Contemporary Art entered a new territory with this experiment, and at
the same time gained the attention of a world-wide public.=20

The announcement of EXTENSION met the Zeitgeist of the year 1997. The
established art world had started to become interested in this new art
form and tried to deal with it more or less appropriately. Nobody wanted
to miss the hype, everybody wanted to take advantage of the potential
publicity and -- in the best case -- be the discoverer and supporter of a
new art form. A subcultural phenomenon was about to be turned into high
art. But still, the lack of a market potential of this new art form posed
great problems for the art world. Net art had to conform to the needs of
the market, or the art world had to change.=20

Typical for this development is the lack of competence and the insecurity
of those who show, curate, categorize and judge net art. To deal
adequately with net art, those experts who are trained in traditional art,
need an understanding of the new medium which is based on practical
experience. Without this understanding, the characteristics of net art
fall victim to the aesthetic and economic considerations of the curators.
This happened at Documenta X, where "net art" was presented predominantly
without any connection to the net.=20

In the case of EXTENSION, it was planned to upload the projects of the
artists onto the server of the art museum. What would remain of works
based on communication, exchange and interaction with the user and are in
a permanent process of change, or with works linked to other sites? In
addition to that, the call for contributions implied that the internet and
the World Wide Web were the same, and limited net art to web art. What was
left out were works that use other protocols such as e-mail, muds and
moos, as well as context systems such as The Thing and t0-netbase.=20


This problem became particularly clear with my contribution to EXTENSION.
I simulated more than 200 international female net artists. Their names
were assigned to 7 different nations. Not only did they have complete
addresses with phone numbers, but also working e-mail accounts on a number
of different servers. I registered these "artists" for the competition and
got a password for each of them. The art museum was happy about the large
number of contributions, and issued a first press release on July 3rd,
1997: "280 applications - Two thirds are women". A number of print media
published this news tidbit, and disseminated the surprise and the joy
about the high number of women.=20

I proceed to produce net art in an appropriate quantity. Using a computer
program that collected HTML-material with search engines on the World Wide
Web and recombined this data automatically, the net art projects were
generated. These projects were uploaded with the names of the "artists"
onto the server of the museum. Again the museum expressed great
satisfaction in their press release: "On the closing date on June 30th,
120 MegaByte of net art had been submitted. 96 of the artists were from
Germany, 81 from the Netherlands, 28 from the US, 27 from Slovenia, 26
from Austria and the rest from GB."=20

Apart from the higher probability to win a prize with this intervention, I
also took "Internet as material and object", the theme of the competition,
particularly seriously. Unfortunately, my attempts were not met by
success. I did not get a prize for this automatically generated net art.
Even though two thirds of the participants were women, the three money
prizes went to male artists.=20

The jury that consisted of the art historians Prof. Dr. Uwe M. Schneede
and Prof.Dr. Dieter Daniels, the artists Dellbr=FCgge & deMoll and Prof.
Valie Export, as well as Spiegel editor Rainer W=F6rtmann had faced a
difficult task. They were surprised by the apparently meaningless flood of
data and didn't get the idea behind it. On the day the winners were
announced, I issued a press release that revealed my contribution. Nobody
had discovered my intervention until then.=20

I could have never realized FEMALE EXTENSION on my own. Therefore I would
like to thank the network that helped me: Konrad Becker and Herbert Gnauer
(t0.netbase, Wien), Wolfgang Staehle and Gisela Ehrenfried-Staehle (The
Thing, New York), Heath Bunting, Rachel Baker and Steve Mynott
(, London), Luka Frelih (, Ljubljana), Neil de
Hoog and Andreas Broeckmann (V2, Rotterdam), Geert Lovink (Digitale Staad
Amsterdam), Michael van Eeden (Society for Old and New Media, Amsterdam),
Rob Bank and Walter van der Cruijsen (desk, Amsterdam), Barbara Aselmeier
and Karl Heinz Jeron (Internationale Stadt Berlin), Tilman Baumg=E4rtel,
Knut Johannsen (, Hamburg).=20


My piece FEMALE EXTENSION is a typical example for the art movement
CYBERFEMINISM. The term CYBERFEMINISM describes a group of artists,
activists and theorists that started to meet the male dominance in
cyberspace in an unusual fashion in the last couple of years. We use the
potential of the term CYBERFEMINISM that arises from its contradictory and
undefined nature. These contradictions didn't develop out of the fusion of
CYBER and FEMINISM, but are already inherent in the two terms. The fusion
of these two terms creates additional confusion. An important strategy of
CYBERFEMINISM is the use of irony. Irony is about humor and seriousness.
Only with irony can the contradictory views can be joined. All these
diverse approaches are necessary and important and create a productive
tension. That's why CYBERFEMINISM is not just a rhetorical strategy, but
also a political method.=20

A new concept of politics is needed. The methods of earlier decades don't
work anymore. An expanded concept of politics has to contain the
possibility of both paradox and utopia. It has to be in opposition, able
to argue from different perspectives at the same time, and at the same
time make meaningful political action possible. A concept of politics that
simulates politics, while being politically effective at the same time.
With this concept of politics, once again, we approach art.=20

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