Tag Archives: net.art

IR 9.0 talk, Camille Paloque-Bergès: Internet as playful business : interactive hypertext in net.art

Ok, I went to this talk for two reasons, first because I am interested in the ways communities construct knowledge and in how we can observe that, and because Camille is a student of my friend Bernhard Rieder and I know how hard it can be as a grad student at a big conference, so I wanted to be supportive.

The talk itself was hampered by how little time was alotted to speakers in every panel–only 15 minutes instead of the usual 20. That missing 5 minutes equals 1-2 pages of text and it’s quite a challenge to explain any but the most superficial ideas in only 15 minutes. Unfortunately Camille’s talk was fairly complex, and I think it didn’t all come across clearly. However, since she has posted her slides and paper, I was able to take a closer look and found that my initial impression was correct; she is onto something quite interesting.

I’ll quote a short passage from her paper that sums up what she is studying right now:

From this quick contextualization, we can specify two major directions the net.artists have followed in Internet cyberculture: the economy of things (the growing population of hobbyists among the sub-cultures on the Web), embodied by informational objects (content and form) that are collected and shared in most of web communities, and the economy of people (triumphant in the Web 2.0’s fashion), embodied in the usage of applications, information processing and communication networks.

In the talk she went on to discuss the example of nasty nets, a site that was active from 2006-2007 and at which a group of net.artists shared links and images of interest that they discovered while surfing, identifying an emerging vernacular that counters the serious or high culture (or hacker, which is an interesting connection) approaches to both the Internet and to net.art. Talking afterward, there was some thought that the 4chan “/b/” image board may be a good place (or even the best?) to spot the bleeding edge of memetic evolution online. –Not that we needed an excuse to visit it, but what the hell. 😉

Sher Doruff part 2

Ok, so…the creative industries. I must say that so far I have not heard one good thing about the plan to change to this model, and Sher was no exception. She feels the added bureaucracy will prevent any really interesting and original project from ever getting funded. While maybe this will push some artists into doing much more interesting work because they have no funding,but do have some freedom, in the meantime the money is going to some kind of domesticated, tamed crap.

The issue of tech becoming tame is interesting. Sher felt really strongly about that; how the ease with which we can now do things has eliminated the wonder people used to feel, and also made the practice of connecting online really routine, so that people don’t think about new possibilities, they just use it for pragmatic things. (Practice is really important for Sher, as I’ll get to later). To illustrate, I can compare something like google docs which numerous people edit a doc, even simultaneously, or that site (I forget the name of course) that let’s people kind of jam together and lay down musical tracks, to the tool Sher worked on for her PhD project at De Waag KeyWorx. The developers of this platform created a

Multi-User Cross Media Synthesizer – a distributed application that allows multiple players to generate, synthesize and process images, sounds and text within a shared realtime environment. As an instrument it allows communities of players to dynamically control and modify all aspects of digitized media in a collaborative performance.

and Sher described it as really exciting because you gave up control, couldn’t always tell what was going to happen or what would happen because keyworx would let other people change not just the media files that were being produced, but the actual functioning of the scripts that transformed the files, so it was a kind of live coding as well. (I think) Anyway, this tool really only makes sense for people who know some scripting or programming languages, so the availability of other tools that do much less but are much easier may stop artists (or whomever) from going as far as they could to learn a more flexible but also more difficult practice.

We also talked a bit about specific institutions and while I feel like maybe it’s gossipy, on the other hand, I think it’s informative so… I had suspected last summer that De Waag had really moved away from an art focus to a much more creative industry kind of focus, yet they were still applying for art funding, and also in site of having some massive budget already (not sure where their other money comes from). –This is what I have gleaned from numerous conversations, but of course what defines an “art focus” is debatable. V2_ on the other hand has become really hermetic and narrowly focused, (again, this is what I thought last summer when Alex told me he wasn’t really interested in outreach at all, and it seems to have been an issue for them this year. It’s also problematic (I think) in terms of how they participate in the scene because in the end they are just talking to themselves and not really participating in the development of new media in a way that affects or takes into account what anyone else is doing, or the socio-economic events going on around them.

Steim, I learned, has been around for ages and continues to do interesting things (don’t know as much about them) but they’ve never had enough money and don’t seem as well publicised (but maybe that’s because everyone already knows them?), which may also be why they have trouble. In fact, neither V2_ nor Steim seem to have communicated very clearly what they are contributing to the new media scene. –This is my sense because when I try to ask people about what they aim to do, I haven’t yet met anyone who says clearly “oh yes, they aim for this.”

–In fact since originally writing this I’ve emailed with Sher a bit more and she said that Steim is not actually interested in the new media scene, but rather is focused on instruments, interfaces and sound. Of course a group probably shouldn’t worry about explaining to people everything they are not concerned with, but on the other hand, many other people have said I should talk to some members of Steim, and seem to consider them part of the new media scene, so there really does seem to be some confusion. The conflicting perceptions of both the scene of what’s good for the scene or not are turning out to be really interesting. I think that I may end up with something like what one sees through a “dragonfly eye” rather than a single picture.

I mentioned Worm and Sher didn’t know them very well, but was interested in the kinds of things they’ve done, especially the collaborations with Piet Zwart–it’s funny but I find myself feeling the impulse to connect people I think would offer something good to each other, which seems to be a basic feature of this scene. I’ve seen Florian do it a lot, William Uricchio, Sher herself offered to help me contact people…I guess it really is very cooperative.

Finally, Sher spoke about a project she is working on right now with support from Brian Massumi and Erin Manning; it’s an artist’s residence, but her project is textual. She is trying to develop writing as an artistic practice and has evolved an approach that includes pasting texts and images onto an 8 meter scroll of paper everyday, taking pictures of that and reintegrating them on the scroll, cutting up the text, moving it around, and creating a kind of collage that represents the development of her ideas over time. Of course this immediately rang a bell because this process is very similar to things we have students do sometimes in the writing classes, but Sher is doing it in a much more sustained way, and also thinking more rigorously about it as a practice (or process, to use the comp. theory term). I’ll be interested to see where it takes her.

So yeah, a really dense interview, and probably there are things I’m forgetting right now. More than any of the other people, Sher had a clear sense of herself as a practitioner, always looking for a new challenge, always exploring and testing. Like many of the people, especially the women, she seemed to really enjoy taking a moment (or several hours) to speak about these things. I’m wondering if it’s because no one has really been interested before (which seems unlikely with Sher) or if being officially asked to reflect is somehow interesting… well, maybe that will become clearer as I go on.

A Different Kind of Remediation

I’ve been thinking about a statement I heard while at conferences this summer; I think I probably blogged the talk, but I’m too lazy to check right now. Anyway, the claim was that appropriate response to a good work in new media was “how clever.” I’m not sure now that I think about it whether that was supposed to be what the audience expects, or what the creator aims for, but in any case it was set in contrast to traditional art that aims for “how beautiful.” And certainly I can think of art that aims for beauty. But does this mean new media art should forget about all of those categories? I’m thinking about the sublime right now; I think it would be amazing if someone created something in new/digital media that struck me as sublime. But so often it does seem to only be about cleverness. Even when it claims to be political, it’s usually addressing politics in a clever parodic way. I can’t think if I’ve ever seen software art, or media art that was just using computers instead of brushes, that really moved me emotionally.

While visiting Rotterdam I went to the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum and saw a lot of art, from Medieval to contemporary. It was cool to see the Tower of Babel, for example. But one painting really struck me; a Madonna and Child–the type where Mary is cradling her dead son. This is the first time I’ve been confronted with one of these since having my own children, and it stopped me dead. I stood there tearing up not because of any Christian meaning, but because I was thinking of how agonizing it would be for a mother (or I suppose any parent) to experience such a thing–or worse, to lose you child without having the chance to be with her or him at the end. In fact, even now, it’s upsetting me to even type this in. Can software art or net.art or any other new media art ever create this kind of response? –not grief per se, but something this powerful?

If not, it may never get that far beyond a small academic or expert audience, because many people, in the face of their everyday tragedies and triumphs will simply find it irrelevant.

I’m now thinking of this whole experience–hearing the comment, weeks later seeing the painting, almost a month later having this thought–in terms of the emerging complexity Hayles defined. At the moment, the recursive paths my own thoughts took are very clear to me, as are the unpredictable interactions between different intellectual inputs.

But I also am struck again by how really central experiences aren’t addressed in a lot of the research. –For example, lots of people are writing about virtual communities and social networks, but most people seem to be studying rather groups/networks that are focused on rather shallow things (myself included, to some degree). What about online communities of people who have lost a child? Or who have aging parents for whom they must care? Or who escaped from a camp in whatever war-torn country (plenty to choose from right now)? Or have I just missed it somehow? Is it just not well-publicised? Not tagged as a Technorati fave? Not

In fact, this didn’t bother me a week ago, and maybe it won’t bother me next week either. Maybe this post is just the record of my overthinking. Or the news that my friend’s wife went to the hospital because she thought the baby had stopped moving.

Traditionally, art, music, poetry, etc have (among other things) helped people deal with the aspects of life that are difficult (sublime, maybe?). What is net.art or software art or whatever, for? I mean, really? (and I just know at least one friend who may be rolling his eyes at this question, and he is free to comment!) Oh well, it’s late and I’ll end this post before it gets even more rambly.