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<nettime> Ghosts in the Net
Josephine Bosma on Sun, 27 Sep 1998 21:24:44 +0200 (MET DST)


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<nettime> Ghosts in the Net


[after seeing a call from the artsection of the zkp5, I decided to
send in an unfinished text. I was planning to work on it the coming
years  :)  It is not about art only, but the continuing mails from
people declaring art dead were the strongest reason for me to write
it. *J]


    ....five, six, get your crucifix....


  A child types code, eyes fixed on the illuminated screen.
  Innocence stained is no longer innocent. The child serves
  the Other by not fearing it. It is the Evil Innocent, it
  has connected with the Monster. Our future is insecure.

"As the world turns into a Closed Space, it begins to resemble the very
 evil it tries to exclude."  p52   the Closed Space, Manuel Agguire

After witnessing the many discussions around another death of art
and some cries of despair about the loss of the human measure in all
net.cultural endeavors I have been haunted by an idea for a proposal
for a new set of metaphors that could guide us through this rumble.
After the metaphors of the car (the highway, speed), architecture
(digital cities, global village) and the body (the global brain,
extended nervous systems; or animal 'body': ants or swarms of
bees) I suggest the metaphors that are used in horror literature and
movies. The Haunted House, the Lurking Fear and the Ultimate Other
should provide us with useful and stimulating means to grasp
net.culture.

Some examples. The Hidden Space, the Concealed Door or the Time Gate
describe a sense of possible transgression of appearant limitations
of the body, ethics and time. The "Lurker at the Treshhold" represents
the feeling both lurkers and those lurked upon have in the battlefield
of mailinglists. The 'Wasteland' and the 'Revolt or Revenge of Nature'
in their way exist in the chaos of searchbots and virusses possibly
running amok. They have been popular themes in horror movies and books
for a century allready. They could provide us with ways to see in
perspective dark areas on the net that seem inhabited by all kinds of
uncontrollable creatures, phenomena some do not even -want- to
understand.
We could use the metaphor of the maddening Puzzle and Labyrinth, which
is a pretty obvious one, but still interesting if used smart enough.
Then there is that even greater mystery to solve: the Beast or unknown
inside ourselves, or in those seemingly innocent friends and
aquaintances around us. There are plenty of Doctor Jeckyls and Mister
Hydes suffering from their own experiments, and us with them, on the
internet. There even seem to be werewolves responding to inescapable
timecycles. The Datadandy is a mere whimp compared to the vampire,
who sucks innocent and thus badly protected netizens information from
virgin websites and serverspace, leaving a chain of raped identities,
no longer in control of themselves.
There is no daylight where this happens, no garlic either. Only the
endless repetition of mirrors, shaping a labyrinth to hide in rather
then it revealing or destroying the bad.

Especially the Dance of the Dead is an interesting metaphor. What
does death represent? Death is the end, it escapes time, is past,
present and future. In this sense it is also a new beginning, and
connected with that it represents everything we cannot foresee.
With every declaration of the death of something, not just a
statement is made, but the declarant is revealing his or her
transition into a new order of things. The first thing I would like
to point at considering death declarations is the element of denial
enclosed in it. Anything declared dead cannot grow or change anymore
in the living world, as it has done before. Declaring art dead on the
net therefore is the denial of the possibility of new artforms to
come forth in this medium. Within every death declaration however is
also the element of the new beginning, as no concept declared dead
has ever not survived its death declaration. The declarant is aware
of this, however hard he or she at the time of the declaration might be
rebelling against this inescapable fact. The death declaration therefore
should be seen most of all as a temporary positioning of the declarant.
The concept that is dealt with (be it punk, communism, art or God, to
just name a few popular dead concepts) is placed outside of the living
reality, outside of reasonable discourse. Declaring art dead is a way
to escape the difficult discussions around the presence of art on the
net, but it gives no insight as to what afterlife or future brings.
Death declarations are in themselves dangerous endeavors, in which the
initiator balances on the edge between insight and a suffocating
conservatism.

The element of fear which underlies all horror fiction, underlies many
criticisms of net.culture as well. It is the fear of the "wholly Other",
that which is completely outside of our possible perception, our world.
The human world is made into a "closed space", something that is in
danger of being invaded, that is corrupted by influences we somehow
initiated, but cannot control. Fear till the point of irrationality
then becomes our guide, turning defence into the mirror image of evil.

Working within the discourses of horror, fear is amplified, visible
and more manageable, and underlying subjects or concepts that evoke
it remain no longer in the dark completely, but become manageable
and more light.







*
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