nettime's_immod on Mon, 26 Aug 2002 23:29:44 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> several modest proposals digest [miller mez garcia nechvatal]

Re: <nettime> a modest proposal for josephine bosma
     Eric Miller <>
     "app][lick.ation][end.age" <>
     "David Garcia" <>
Documenta XI:no laughing matter / A letter to Josephine Bosma (on Documenta XI)
     "Joseph Nechvatal" <>

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Date: Mon, 26 Aug 2002 01:45:45 +0200
Subject: Re: <nettime> a modest proposal for josephine bosma
From: Eric Miller <>

Hi all,
A few thoughts after reading this:

One, from a purely practical standpoint there's a huge challenge for the
would-be net.artist...the technology is difficult and requires full-time
devotion to learning applications, something that your average conceptual
artist isn't going to have the luxury or perhaps the mindset to accomplish.
Creating something that is visually interesting in Flash, and finding a new
way to say it, almost always requires object-oriented programming skills,
traditionally the domain of engineering types.  And talented engineers with
borderline Asperger's Syndrome personalities aren't exactly known for
artistic innovation.

Given that, one can usually eyeball a project and drop it into one
of two camps: artists with strong conceptual skills who are dabbling with
technology and haven't truly grasped the medium, and developers who spend so
much time in the literal binary world of coding that their art efforts can
lack deeper meaning.  The generalists in between who are capable of bridging
the gap don't often produce compelling work on either front, which doesn't
bode well for the individual artist trying to triangulate the required
technical skillsets with the conceptual skills behind powerful art.  Maybe
that's why so many collectives are forming around the need a
wider skillset in this medium than most individuals can provide.

But secondly: maybe I'm missing something, but why _does_ art have to be
political?  Why can't it be based on abstract aesthetic beauty, or humor, or
contemporary cultural contexts, or scatology, or whatever pleases the
artist?  I don't see why the context for meaning in art is required to be
sober and politicized in order to earn the label of virtuous and worthy.
The openness of the community to judge works based on criteria other
than politicization would seem to be an asset, not a failure.  To deny the
artistic validity of any work that's not soberly political is a pretty
narrow criteria for assessing value.  Wasnąt that an observation being made
on the recent Documenta 11 thread?  So to say that curators who lack a
formal educational background in art history are unqualified, presumably
because they wouldn't automatically contextualize all art in a rigid
political conceptual framework, smacks of art establishment elitism.  When
critiquing a nascent art movement's ideological straitjacket, one might do
well to shed one's own.

And it's funny that deterritorialization should be portrayed as a conceptual
weakness, when it really acts as a functional strength.  Regardless of the
virtues and failures of globalization, location really doesnąt matter as
much to Net workers and artists as it does to those who work in more
concrete spaces.  Critiquing the world's grasp of the statelessness
of the medium is a bit backwards...they GET that a website is not bound to a
physical location, nor are the creators of the work or the audience.  It
seems that the unfamiliarity of this statelessness sparks a certain degree
of apprehension in more traditional art circles.

Lastly, I think many net.artists might take offense at the proposition that
their work is inherently shackled to corporate motivations.  I know a lot of
artists with cell phones, and I'd daresay that their work doesn't center
around shilling for Motorola and Nokia.  I'd think that we could give
artists a little more credit for thinking critically.

We're still learning how to use this medium, and we're still learning how to
critique it.  Forcing the critical dialogue into a conceptual framework that
can't accept certain fundamentals about the medium is flawed.  Especially if
the aforementioned framework is calcified by dogma.

On 24-08-2002 03:59, "" <> wrote:

> A Modest Proposal for Josephine Bosma (
> final review
> Net.Art:  a laughing matter?
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Date: Mon, 26 Aug 2002 10:43:19 +1000
From: "app][lick.ation][end.age" <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> a modest proposal for josephine bosma

At 09:59 PM 8/23/2002 -0400, you wrote:

>A Modest Proposal for Josephine Bosma (
>final review
>Net.Art:  a laughing matter?
>  It is as if nature decided to complete the experience that the promoters of
>the internet have created for us. Video game parlors, cybercafes,
>advertisements for telecommunications and pseudoerotic displays of youthful
>flesh dominate the landscape of nearly every city in the developed world, and
>the wealthy quarters of most third world urban centers. Streets are flooded
>with neon and electronic billboards that provide much more light than what
>should be available at night.
>One of the world’s most hyped art milieu can be describe in one word:
>depressing. The most positive thing to say about net.culture probably is its
>openness to artists who have access to computers, and are largely white, male
>and western.

....its n.teresting 2 absorb how this tendency 2 polarize marks cocos 
premise....utilizing such div][der][isive reductionism [m.ploying a "most 
positive" benchmark] & weighted concentration [& corresponding 
regurgitation of an overtly patricentric power stratification approach - ie 
her assumed authority thru the negation/displacement of nuanced discourses 
indicates an adherence 2 a hierarchical loading that coco _seems_ 2 b 
actively rallying against] acts 2 diminish the potentialities of x.posure 4 
those works that r surprisingly omitted in this t][ext][ract......wot, in 
cocos opinion, r these non-male, non-western wurks + practitioners who r 
only made more marginal + minimalized by their gaping absence in this 
monologically-oriented text?

..this type of naive iteration of overarching dialogic advocacy structures 
is surprising, & i'm n.terested 2 learn how coco cs her concentration on 
the depressive state of so-labelled homogenized end-game as either 
offering to x.pose or hi-lite [or n.deed reconceptualise] those she views 
as x.cluded?

[aka app][lick.ation][end.age]

.           .    ....         .....
collapsing adj[thr]usting.txt
.... .               .???  .......

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Date: Mon, 26 Aug 2002 16:27:06 +0200
Subject: Re: <nettime> a modest proposal for josephine bosma
From: "David Garcia" <>

> Surfing from portal to portal and list to list there were numeral
> instances that I thought: "Wouldn't some intevention of refugees in all this
> discussion by white people with passports about refugees make this discussion
> a little more grounded?

Hi coco, just for your future reference, at the Amsterdam tactical media lab
(part of the development process for Next 5 Minutes) we are working closely
with refugees and refugee support groups both (white and non-white). As we
are also being visited by the Publix Theater/No Border Caravan there should
be many useful moments for refugees and the local NGO's that support them to
encounter activists who see themselves as fighting their behalf. I hope they
(and you) might discover that being white and holding a passport does not
necessarily guarantee bad faith. By the way we are particularly happy to
welcome the Caravan to the Tactical media lab after hearing (according to
Brian Holmse's posting of a week ago) that the No Border Caravan were chased
away from Dokumenta, pretty rich from (as Brian put it) "a show which counts
the contemporary capitalist border regime as one of its obsessive themes."

David Garcia

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From: "Joseph Nechvatal" <>
Subject: Documenta XI:no laughing matter / A letter to Josephine Bosma (on Documenta XI)
Date: Mon, 26 Aug 2002 17:07:28 +0000

If the most positive thing Josephine Bosma can say in the current Rhizome 
Digest about Documenta is that it opens up exhibition/catalogue space to 
melancholic documentary artists ignorant or uninterested in digital realms 
who are neither white, male nor western - then it is true that this 
political brainwash/agenda/mix makes for better television than 
mega-exhibition. However, I want to hear from these documentary artists 
directly. Where is the Documenta internet chat room / bbs this time? I would 
like to know if for these artists this Documenta is more about techno 
fatigue or digital divides? Hence, yes, in that sense we are witnessing the 
art world equivalent of the bursting of the Internet dream. So where is the 
Internet reality? In this sense the show lacks a revisitation to that which 
has already "been done" before – but one contrary to what Rainer found. 
Perhaps the lack of this technological communications/art is not a "relief" 
Rainer, but the contrary.

Enwezor’s Documenta then, at least for Josephine, is simultaneously "too 
much" and gravely lacking. Too much "political brainwash" coupled with a 
conspicuous techno lack of the likes of Electronic Disturbance Theatre, 
Heath Bunting, RTMark, Critical Art Ensemble, Old Boys Network (who do it 
better). Agreed. But an indemnification of this problem requires a balance 
between the "room for interpretation" (open work idea) of art and the 
documentary style aimed at truth. An elegant equilibrium is required here. 
Good political guidance HAS (rarely!) succeeded in fostering consequential 
art (while fostering some strongly significant music). I think art still can 
(rarely) do it, if the content is approached subtlety with a cleverness that 
is effective in its processes of seduction. In fact, it could be the 
seductiveness of this rarity which tempts so many well-meaning good people 
into making crappy political art – a futile activity neither sufficiently 
political nor adequately artistic. But then, as Rainer points out, the 
evolution of form is not the whole of art history, either. There is content 
to consider.

I say this having not seen Documenta XI but for its web presence. I 
exclusively am commenting about the ideas of ideological revival circulation 
around the show on the net. But, I admit, that hearing what I have heard on 
the net, I do not intend to make the petite voyage from Paris to Kassel to 
see the show this time. For I agree with Josephine that didactic political 
instruction is generally bad for art. This sounds like a show for silent 

Joseph Nechvatal

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