Nmherman on 1 Oct 2000 18:34:03 -0000

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December 10, 1999


Recently there has been some debate whether the Genius 2000 Video First 
Edition is net art.  More specifically, I have donated the tape to the 
Rhizome Artbase on condition that I can prove the video is net art.

A couple of today's posts touch on the idea of defining net art.  In the 
Digest, J. Bosma calls net art "art using computer networks as a medium, in 
the sense that the network itself and/or its content (technical, cultural and 
social) serves as a basis for the artwork."  This criterion is ambiguous, 
since the Disney network uses computers, web pages, mailing lists, chat 
rooms, designers, and bridges and routers, but it's very arguably not net 
art.  The real distinction here is not between net activity that IS art and 
net activity that is NOT art, but between art that uses paints and brushes 
and art that uses computers as concept or technology.  

So this portion of Bosma's definition can't really help us decide with 
certainty whether the Genius 2000 Video is net art.  The second portion 
however says more:  "I myself use a broader definition, namely: art that has 
net.culture as its
basis. (This goes slightly further and also includes work that does
*not* directly use a computernetwork)."  If we add this to the mix, video 
becomes potential net art instantly.  Any given video, even if it never gets 
on the web, can be net art even if it relates to net culture on the level of 
concept only.  (Hence Eryk Salvaggio's Colouring Contest.)

So if we use Bosma's thinking here, the First Edition is beyond question net 
art.  Its basis in the "technical, cultural, and social" elements of networks 
is obvious.  For example, during the shooting and editing process, I was 
using the Walker's Shock list as both a source of ideas and a forum for the 
work in progress.  (The Shock archives at ArtsConnected confirm this.)  I 
requested video and text contributions from all Shock subscribers and 
received quite a bit of input that shaped the process of creating and editing 
the tape.  

The influence of Shock on the video is fairly clear (which is why I put the 
list in the credits).  I learned about C5 on Shock, and include several 
references to their work in the tape.  "Genius 2000 is a chaos-based 
data-mapping algorithm" is the voice-over for the C5 url; "Have you ever read 
'City of Glass'?" alludes to Lisa Jevbratt's Stillman Projects in the context 
of monotheism as marketing.  The tape also shows one participant, Ted Sawyer 
(who, incidentally, sold a ceramic mask from his senior show at Lewis and 
Clark to John Frohnmayer, the NEA director ousted during the Bush 
Administration) reading aloud a text originally posted to Shock.  This text, 
a post titled "Genius 2000 Media Action Update," is a request to then 
Governor-elect Jesse Ventura for comprehensive media access and remains part 
of the ongoing internet agenda of Genius 2000.  

Being on Shock during the shooting of the tape also prompted me to request 
footage from the Mashed Potato Supper, a CU-SeeMe project from 1995-96 in 
which I held up a postcard of Durer's Adam and Eve to a webcam linked to 
Scotland, and said "this was the first material act of communication, and we 
all know how severely it was punished."  (The request for MP footage was 
denied for technical and perhaps artistic reasons.)  An open request for 
footage was posted to Shock several times prior to 1 January 1999, the 
end-date for First Edition shooting.

Other elements of the tape have less direct linkages to the internet, but 
deal with elements of net culture without directly using a "computernetwork." 
 For example, during one part of the video I point at a camcorder taping East 
Hwy. 80 in Oakland California and say "that's the internet, that's the 
fucking internet."  In another segment, I tape myself surfing one of the 
exhibitors on Shock, Robbin Murphy, and become upset about his "Project 
Tumbleweed" in which he presents the idea of "a museum of me."  My videotaped 
reaction to his site does not technically use computernetworks, but most 
certainly comes out of net culture.  On an even less explicit note, the tape 
contains a conversation (again with Ted Sawyer, now a successful glass artist 
in Portland, OR) about whether the web contains oracular elements:  "A web 
biologically has a center, and maybe this does too, interstices through which 
all this has to move," to which I reply "I agree, the web could be a total 
dystopia, no question."  The topic at hand was media control and the sharing 
of power as a means toward the fulfillment of democratic ideals.  We arrived 
at iconoclasm as a possible solution.