Yvonne Volkart on Thu, 26 Aug 1999 19:29:56 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Fragments of Network Criticism

hi all

i read Geerts paper and the following replies with great interest, for i
am very much involved in the subject how art (new media art), artists and
cultural politics maintain pancapitalism. Beyond other things, my lecture
at the next cyberfeminist international was about hegemonic esthetics and
counterstrategies in the infobiobody field of art and i will post the
paper within the next days. 

My problem with Geerts statement regarding media art and its
intertwinement with economy is, that he, and much more Brian Carroll, do
not differentiate this term and seem to perceive the heterogenous field of
art specific articulations as a homogenous zone of capitalist
reterritorialisation, as weird outputs of commercialization: 

>It is said that visual arts are playing a creative role in the R&D of the
>visual languages for human-machine interfaces, shortly before they leave
>the high tech laboratories. For decades now the paradigm of the
>interdisciplinary approach, mainly between engineers and visual or media
>artists, has been promoted, yet remains unfulfilled.

"Art" in this context means one-dimensional visualization of "scientific"
speculatations, and has usually been very much successful in its
ideological and popular effects. Then people do not seize to believe in
what they see with their own eyes, and scientists and incorporations know
that. But this kind of art is webdesign or graphic work or whatever you
will call it.

The same is with the huge installations of electronic and digital media
art, as we know it from Ars Electronica, ISEA, ZKM etc. This kind of
simplicistic Techno art, which has no critical contents and has always
been not more than pure decoration, has never been recognised in the
traditional mainstream field of art. There has always been a big gap
between electronic and media art addicts and the traditional art scene,
which despises most of these work, may it be for its lacking of conceptual
esthetics, may it be for the art scene's fear of technology based works.
However, this is changing actually. But nevertheless, until now curators
and editors of the traditional mainstream art scene have wellcomed other
forms of esthetisations of economic media power. They like and push the
more subtle, more esthetic ones than this esthetically conservative techno
stuff  la ZKM and others.  But interestingly, this side is changing image
too and will become more avantguard. Peter Weibel's upcoming
netcondition-project at the ZKM may be another example. With this project
he and his team are currently not only taking over >netart>, i.e.they are
not only institutionalizing critical and progressive netprojects, but
rather symbolically substituting the old conservative ZKM-stuff by these
more avantguard and subcultural ones. Like actually many of the
progressive mainstream institutions in the arts do, the ZKM does also
offer workshop lounges, financialization of books etc. in order to
establish process and context related work of engaged netpeople. 
But beyond these mainstream outcomes and its overtakings of critical
potential, there are many critical artists and cultural workers, living on
the edge and involved in the field of new and/or digital media, who
seriously explore how they can criticise and develop other issues and
esthitics than the hegemonial ones. Interestingliy enough, Geert doesn't
name them in his featured >models to leave the dilemma of new media arts
behind< - dilemmas i would like to hear more than the short accusations

>Lose, temporary collaborations, sharing
>resources within free associations of programmers, designers, critics and
>organizers could be another. Running websites, servers, (net.)radios,
>tv-programs or a magazines is yet another. Developing software goes one
>step further. So does exploiting the hidden gold of content. These are all
>models to leave the dilema of new media arts behind. 

Artists, even critically engaged artists, seem to be not competent in building 
spaces for reflection and critique, free zones where
>researchers of all kinds can work without the pressure of sponsors and
>administrators, free from short term commercial pressure.<

Maybe i misunderstood something important. But it is irritating, that at
the crucial points regarding the future spaces, Geert has no concrete
examples which could illustrate his plea. I as a cultural worker and
engaged in critical production, i as a cyberfeminist and female nettime
subscriber finally want to know: Who is this we, which forms this
fictional we-identity of the anti commercialists? Who are the subjects,
agents and builders of this upcoming free zones? Which gender do they
have, to which class and culture do they belong?  Furthermore I want to
know, how these spaces would look like, how they come into being and how
its economy and financialization function. I think it is time now to
reflect and name more precisely these issues and agents of free zones.
Because otherwise it becomes an essentialist and close community issue
with too well-known inclusion and exclusion structures based on white
middleclass anglo-american males. Why is it no topic, that e.g. nettime
and the community around it has been initiated and continued in the middle
of the biggest art mainstream events which exist? I have problems with the
idea to take only the mainstream art's money, but not wanting to engage in
changing its premisses and ideologies by building spaces in its territory
too. I consider the above kind of parasitism to be too one-dimensional and

I want to be clear and state that i really don't want to establish an art
- non art gap or to plead for art in general. There are too many reasons
why one has to be suspicious. But as on this list always the same
simplicistic prejudices against >art< raise, I would like to seek for a
differentiation: Art is not Art. It is important to insist in the fact,
that art -i.e. engaged art - like theory, could be another good space
among others to produce these postulated reflections. And i think that
many people are already involved in doing so and need theorists who
encourage and not despise them in the name of their critical authority. 


Yvonne Volkart   Riedtlistrasse 30   CH-8006 Zuerich  
fon/fax 0041 1 362 41 09  e-mail: yvolkart@access.ch

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