Florian Cramer on Tue, 27 Aug 2002 23:48:44 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> a modest proposal for josephine bosma


> Net.culture is depressing for three reasons (I am not even counting
> the curators’ general ignorance of current art practices other
> than net.art, which constitute the overwhelming majority of art
> history past and present).  First, the amount of frivolity 

 What makes you so uptight that you deplore "frivolity" in art (and
 elsewhere)? - Or is your statement a parody to prove Josephine's 
 diagnosis of puritanism?

> other than generalized paranoia about surveillance and libertarian
> rants about wanting freedom 

Who's a libertarian? Quotes, names please! 

> rational judgement. The endless celebration of post-structuralist
> theories of deterritorialization and fluidity are truly over the top.

What are you referring to? Examples, please!

> uninterested after a while. Second, this is the art form of mostly R &
> D for the software industry and wireless communications, 

I am still waiting for any software company or free developer group to
release the jodi, I/O/D or Netochka Nezvanova desktop user interface!

> Net.art is above all formalist and formally predictable. There is very
> little conceptual depth or anything else substantive, intellectually
> provocative or profound about it. 

This is somewhat cheap talk as long as you don't name any work or artists.
Of course, there exists enough second-rate/epigonal net.art to ground your
critique, but I would be interested if you would, for example, also
sustain it against projects like mongrel, RTMark, jodi, to name only a
few. Then we would have a real statement, and wouldn't speak about

> Cultures  that were colonized politically by Europe from the 15th to
> the 20th century have slowly started to undergo new forms of
> colonization called neoliberalism. 

Your notion of "Europe" is no more differentiated than any broad
stereotypical claim about "Africa", "America" and "Asia"; and I think
Documenta XI fails exactly where it disdifferentiates and globalizes
non-Western cultures.

A perhaps academic sidenote: What makes me personally sceptical about the
use of "post-colonialism" as a broad term is that it is slightly
colonialist in itself. The term has, to my knowledge, been coined chiefly
in a post-Marxist British academia to describe "hybrid" cultures (Homi
Bhabha) created either by migrants from formerly colonized countries in
Western countries or by locals in formerly colonized countries as a
hybridization of traditional and imported/forced-upon Western cultures.
While these descriptions seem accurate, they are unnecessarily restrained
by the (probably Anglo-British) perspective on colonialism.

The city where I live, Berlin, is rich with Turkish-origin immigrant
cultures bearing all the "hybrid" attributes of postcolonialism (Turkish
rap, Turkish tranvestites etc.), but: Turkey has never been colonized by
the West. In general, immigrants in Germany and many other European
countries to the largest part do not come from formerly colonized
countries, or could only defined as postcolonials if you really stretch
the term. On the other, I could - as a native German Berliner born in the
Western part of the city - rightfully claim to be a postcolonial subject,
because West-Berliners had neither West nor East German citizenship (and
thus neither passports, nor the right to vote for national elections)
before 1990 and lived (formally) under French, British and US-American
military occupation rule. - Of course it would be BS to call former
West-Berliners postcolonial subjects.

So I find "postcolonialism" a somewhat limited term, coined by people who
apparently couldn't even imagine that there is any other form of migration
and cultural hybridity than as an after-effect of (chiefly) British
colonialism. (And why does their "postcolonialism" fit factually
non-colonial Turkish migrant cultures, but not, for example, factually
postcolonial cultures in Eastern Europe or ex-Soviet republics?)

> As a result, older forms of hybridization are being supplanted by the
> McDonalidization of most urban cultures and bad taste is now defined
> by American companies, but is bombarded into other countries via
> massive p ropaganda campaigns that make lousy food, technologically
> mediated interaction, and obsessive consumerism seem desirable.
> Multinationals and most governments do everything possible to censor
> information about their faults. 

I think backing your statements with some more arguments and facts here
would be good, because otherwise they come dangerously close to paranoid
right-wing rambling! Replace "American" and "McDonalds" with "jews", and
you've exactly rehashed the political rhetoric of the right in the 1930s.
(But this is a trap many people fall into, especially in the
"anti-globalization" movement. I tend to find this movement scary because
of that.)
> One of the things that net.culture seems to want to be is what its
> name implies: to be THE culture of the moment – that represents
> the radical transformation of the world by digital technology, or a
> confirmation even maybe. 

I find it wrong to speak of "net.culture" in singular - and that was my
biggest problem with Nettime in its early years. So when Nettimers
actually identified themselves as "the" net.culture, to whatever extent
critical and in opposition to corporate visions of the net, this
implication indeed seemed to lurk behind the term.

But it seems to me that Nettimers have lost their view of one
"net.culture" since long. There is not one, but many net cultures, and
Nettime tries to get some of them (artists, net political activists, art
critics, free software activists, privacy activists, you...) in touch with
each other. It seems to me that the common denominator is not to be "THE
culture of the moment", but - quite in contrary to what you perceive - to
offer good old-fashioned critical reflections and alternatives to hypes.

But I agree that such a critical agenda is constantly in danger to be just
a reverse mirror image of what it supposed to be criticized.

About Net art you write:

> as "that awfully ugly stuff that never downloads anyway"). A barrage
> of spam from a self-centered semi delusional artiste, found footage
> with images of home made porn re-edited, a documentary about avatars ,
> so called 'new forms of cinema' showing the situation
> anti-globalization protests in Europe and North America, numerous
> websites announcing non-existent governments and countries and
> corporations for no apparent reason, endless webcam diaries about
> white suburban people who think their lives are interesting, and a
> number of works in which artists contemplate on their invented selves
> are mixed with grim looking pieces about biotechnology and designer
> babies, numerous "artful" porn sites with obscenities in various
> languages, pages covered with code and unreadable text,  lousy
> computer animation, black and white streaming videos of empty or
> gloomy spaces  and labyrinthine MUDS and MOOS with 12 signs of
> depression. 

Again, it is easy to polemicize like that if you don't name whom and what
you mean. If you talk about a "barrage of spam from a self-centered semi
delusional artiste" and mean jodi or mez or maybe NN, you would make a
bold statement that could be meaningfully discussed, but being vague like
you are, you could, if pressed harder, always retreat to being nice and
saying something appeasing like that you didn't refer to jodi, mez or NN,
but just to the many NN-ripoffs out there.

> One wanders from site to site filled with what I described above and
> then suddenly, slightly lost, there is a space filled with works that
> look strangely like repeats of structuralist film, 70s femininst
> autobiographical video, or neo-geo painting (even worse the seconc
> time around). Even if these genres have yielded very interesting
> seeing them here made one wonder why specifically people argue that
> net.art represents a total rupture with the past . 

Who does claim this? I yet have to come across the unfiltered
high-modernism you describe in Net.art. To date, I would identify such
naive techno avant-garde rhetoric rather with hightech institutionalized
3D interactive installation art like Jeffrey Shaw at ZKM (the ZKM was
actually founded with the intention to create a "second Bauhaus" of the
digital art) and, to some extent, with ars electronica, but not with the
lowtech self-made approach of the Net art we are discussing here.

I think Net.art rather presents (or at least has presented for some years)
a rupture with this institutionalized hightech art. Within the history of
digital and generative art, it also seems the first which used its
material/code ironically, as collage instead of clean-room constructivist
laboratory constructs. And I still keep being baffled by the
non-recognition Net.art receives in the mainstream art world simply
because it doesn't provide material objects that can be easily
commoditized, exhibited and sold. As such, it hasn't stopped challenging
the art world on its material grounds like no other art before. (Even
so-called conceptual art more or less boiled down to material
commodifiable objects.)

> Also interesting works by 'newer' artists or artist groups 
> that have nothing to do with nettime/Next Five Minutes/Ars/ Transmediale 
> circuit are rarely noticed by the players of the "scene".

My personal impression is the opposite: that these circuits are starving
for young people to be put into circulation. 

> The political brainwash of the majority of the field is so strong that
> it overpowers all works and leaves one with very little room for serious 
> ideological and political interpretation. The question then haunts you: what 
> makes the work of few serious artists in net.culture ignored by most 
> nettimers? 

Again: whom do you mean?

> everyone?" "Wouldn’t it help to deflate the pretense of all those who claim 
> to have reinvented art practice if net.cultur-ites actually engaged in 
> discussion with art historians and practiioners who have expertise in 
> previous waves of new media?" "Wouldn't some politicized  artists of color 

I think the situation is by far not as bad and net.art critics are not
as art historically ignorant as you write.

> the 90s was more trend then strategy. The art market simply needs new trends 
> to survive and net.art was one of them.  

Hardly so.

> are reinforced." Looking at it from that perspective net.art just might have
> succeeded in pushing a few new artists to the foreground.

Once again, we can't discuss your point if you don't tell us whom you
have in mind.


GnuPG/PGP public key ID 3200C7BA, finger cantsin@mail.zedat.fu-berlin.de

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