Anonymous on Sat Apr 21 00:06:52 2001

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Bosma's definition, to my way of thinking, presents a kind of flow-dynamic 
definition of network art.  If the art uses computer media or reacts to the 
external use of such media it qualifies as net art (not necessarily good or 
bad).  Quality is a subsequent question involving craft, conoisseurship, and 
historical concerns.  This definition is best understood as a process of 
modeling the interaction between concept and technology, an ongoing dynamic 
that characterizes all really good art whether the technology in question is 
tempera, fresco, or T1 bandwidth; the model holds whether the concept at 
stake is monotheism, individual creativity, or commodification.  

The best art of any historical period remains free of stagnation in both 
concept and technology, and strives to map or un-map the processes of their 
interaction.  One of the primary concerns of contemporary network art is the 
conflict between art and media:  If Lucent gives artists tours and funding, 
is the dynamic of art stunted by corporate profit margins?  Can net art be 
exhibited, and if so, do we show the cables in the space or go the white box 
route?  Corporations would love to figure out the best art-sites and buy the 
active viewer minutes, but many artists actively choose to disrupt any false 
overcoming of the process that is art's technological present.  

In fact, we may now be living through the very early stages of digital 
culture's pressure on the technology of concept.  All net art exists 
therefore in this compressed context, and seeks mightily to identify 
locations of indeterminacy and flux.


Literary Narrative as Net Art

My education, such as it is, could be called heavy on narrative.  I was 
particularly impressed by Walter Benjamin's observation of calendrical time, 
homogeneous and empty, which the printing press made possible and nationalism 
made expedient.  The guy also riffs like a crazed demon on the Messianic 
moment.  Barthes once wrote that "without narrative there is nothing," a 
little shaky but still worth considering.  Homer liked to name off all the 
ships and their contents.  

Narrative is still going strong in contemporary net art.  Airworld is all 
about narrative.  Their hopper chews up phrases and words from the world of 
e-selling and creates mantric koans like "metabolism crash" and my favorite, 
"transfer in focus."  What about the narrative of code?  Programming doesn't 
happen in homgeneous, empty time, not by a long shot.  Code-narrative is by 
any measure a Jetztzeit.  The artifact is stored in long-term memory, 
material on disk for re-manipulation by the OS and the application.  Even the 
traditional narrative of the novel form has a role to play here, as with Mark 
Amerika's Phon:e:me.  Sometimes we map narrative with character and plot--the 
John Henry of the fictive arts--and fixedly absorb the internal process of an 
author.  Amerika's Grammatron is a parable of sorts on the novelist's mind 
(perhaps an archaism) in the era of network technology.  Again, we observe 
concept and technology creating and destroying each other, seen through the 
windows of narrative (my apologies to Magritte).

Whether the Genius 2000 Video First Edition has any narrative content worthy 
of note as we prepare to end the century is in part a question of 
conoisseurship and in part a prognosis of future events.  Certainly the tape 
is about narrative, if only in the four section-names.  Yet it seems 
difficult to argue that a work that maps even in episodic or archival form 
the chaotic permutations of the OS of calendrical time--the year 2000--lacks 
a cohesive narrative algorithm.  Narratives don't have to be good reads; they 
don't have to have characters or protagonists (but they can, many and 
different kinds); they certainly don't need hardcovers or aphorisms on how to 
live or while away a winter evening.  Perhaps the most important factor in 
judging the quality or relevance of network-based narrative is its 
exploration or framing of Bosma's dynamic between concept and technology.  
(After all, the novel was at its inception a cutting-edge interface, using 
subscriptions and print to engage an entirely new kind of textual 
audience--the eighteenth-century bourgeoisie.)


Data Mingling and the Democratic Imperative

One of the greatest hazards facing the productivity of any narrative is the 
tendency towards the monolithic.  Post-structuralism enabled a great many 
techniques of deconstruction and genealogy, but in its analytic narrativity 
fell into a static model of data exchange.  The logic of master narrative is 
fractured, and can be easily hacked, but dismantling alone does not comprise 
all possible permutations.  In fact, Post-structuralism's inability to 
theorize many chaos-based theories of text has led to its current ebb in both 
the academy and the arts.  Lisa Jevbratt's theory of data-mingling offers an 
exciting alternative to the problematic space in which the viewer 
contemplates the signifier in isolation.  It is the vast and chaotic set of 
patterns that animate the exchange between user and data resource, in a 
cyclical and fractal process, that form the subject of much of Jevbratt's 
work.  Autopoesis, another C5 concept, can be seen as an umbrella concept for 
the many discrete functions of data-mingling and the content it generates.

If the question here is whether the First Edition is in fact net art, its 
character as a site of data-mingling may be a good place to start.  The 
interaction of concept and technology is one of mingling; the content of 
narrative is formed under these conditions.  One could say that my video is 
net art only if it participates in an active autopoetic system; which is to 
say, its status is a matter of selection.  Unused data is dead data, which is 
why there are three corporations waging war over who will act as the Nielsen 
of the net.  If a concept can justify a technology and render it active, in 
an artistic sense, then RealVideo archiving of Genius 2000 can most certainly 
qualify as a form of net art.  

In any case, every choice of content for use in a data-mingling system is in 
large part a matter of consensus, an allocation of collective resources.  If 
users wish to encounter the First Edition in RealVideo, and its use occurs 
within the range of net-culture dynamics I've discussed, then most clearly 
the video is net art.  Decisions of this nature cannot be made using 
objective logic alone, i.e. with an analysis of past evidence and current 
situations, because the behavior of every autopoetic system contains elements 
of uncertainty regarding future outcomes.  Concepts and technology flow in 
both directions.

Max Herman
The Genius 2000 Project

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