nettime's curator on Wed, 28 Aug 2002 18:11:10 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: <nettime> a modest proposal [2x]

Table of Contents:

   Richty, Miller, and Fusco's modest proposals                                                                                             

   Re: <nettime> a modest proposal for josephine bosma                             
     Ben Hammersley <>                                          


Date: Wed, 28 Aug 2002 02:32:15 -0600
Subject: Richty, Miller, and Fusco's modest proposals

(please note, I am resending this as my e-mail quit on me before verification,
sorry for doube postings)


I was really glad to read Lichty's comments on Miller's  short analysis,
as he stated most of what I was thinking only much better than I could ever
have.  However, there are a few things that I would like to expand on. 
These follow:

Miller wrote:
>> But secondly: maybe I'm missing something, but why _does_ art have to
>> political?

Lichty wrote:
>Art is always some sort of communicative statement, whether didactic,
>political, etc.  Politics is only one component, one that frequently gets
>foregrounded, but only one aspect nonetheless.  Therefore, politics are
>always there, but what politic is being communicated in context witht he
>rest of the statement (whose standards of beauty, cultural context, and
>on) is important vis-a-vis the piece of art in question.

Miller wrote:
>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
>> sober and politicized in order to earn the label of virtuous and worthy.

Lichty wrote:
>Much of this can be attributed to cultural threads of the 80's and 90's,
>but again, numerous well-known artists who have taken strong political
>stands (Laurie Anderson, RTMark, Eduardo Kac, SRL, IAA) have done so in
>lyrical, hysterically funny, or even aesthetically pleasing ways.  There
>is nothing wrong with the other threads Eric mentions, but there is an
>intellectualism within the art world that has almost required this sort
>intellectual gymnastics, and in fact, I actually support it until it
>becomes far too obtuse, like much of 80's contemporary art, in which you
>had to read the Foucault library to get the inside joke, only to realize
>that it wasn't that funny.

I agree with Lichty's comment, but we should also note that a major part
of this discussion is being affected by one of the most influential
metanarratives of the 20th Century, the "narrative of Social Justice,"  
which is largely based on Marxist thought. the inevitable problem that
this narrative ran into was that its dogmatic premise on the "proletariat"
did not necessarily apply to all oppressed individuals around the world.  
Sartre, who is hardly ever mentioned in post-colonial writings -- except
to expose him as an ethnocentric thinker, was one of the first to notice
this problem in Algeria, and wrote about it fervently.  We only have to
read the preface to Fannon's book The Wretched of the Earth to realize
this, as well his essay, "Colonialism is a system" among many others which
can now be found in an excellent volume called Colonialism and
Neocolonialism by Jean-Paul Sartre.

Post-colonial theory took the social narrative and used it to problematize
the eurocentric powerstructure that is still in a decentralized privileged
state.  This is part of the late postmodern era of the late eighties and
early nineties where Spivak and Said, among others, rose to the occasion
to revitalize a stale moment (though not necessarilly in formal
production) in creative and intellectual circles.

These sources are (what I consider) Coco Fusco's validating platform
behind the satire on Josephine's review.  The main thing that gives her
such license is the undercurrent untouched premise within Marxist thought
(now nicely mixed up with Nietzcheian premises as extra Deleuzean spices )
to fight formal tendencies, as these can only be seducing, pleasing and
ultimately function through commodification in our world, thus leading to
issues of taste based on "disinterestedness" and Bourgeois tendencies.  
This is the reason why Art can not be about aesthetics to Fusco or anyone
holding on to "the social justice narrative."

And as I am aware of this, I must admit that I do endorse such a narrative
as it is a good tool for theoretical situations in the classroom as well
as studio practice, and -- even better -- everyday living.  It gives one a
sense of objectivity which can not ever be developed if one simply gives
into the seductive aspects of process and development according to the
exploration of form.  This only leads to "eye candy" art -- formally
beautiful but extremely devoid of ideology.  This would equal , in terms
of everydayness, to the ideal consumer that corporate entities dream

I honestly, do not believe that the art community will ever find a balance
between its incestuous fight between ideology and form.  But I do not
think we are interested in doing so.  I was actually pleased to read
Fusco's satire as it showed the limitations of language, as a form (which
can be seducing), and yet how this one can be revitalized if the pun is
right on the money.

Those who question Fusco's authority to present such a "modest proposal"
should perhaps understand that it is done in earnest -- or at least I
would like to think so.  If anything it is pointing to the possibility of perhaps becoming too complacent with the fact that it is mostly
not understood or fully institutionalized as of yet.  net-art must not
rest on its Laurels. Fusco's proposal is a wake up call to keep running
and outproduce, once again.

Eduardo Navas


Date: Wed, 28 Aug 2002 11:17:33 +0100
From: Ben Hammersley <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> a modest proposal for josephine bosma

On Tuesday, Aug 27, 2002, at 15:21 Europe/London, Florian Cramer wrote:

> Coco:
>> Net.culture is depressing for three reasons (I am not even counting
>> the curatorsé─˘ general ignorance of current art practices other
>> than, 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!

quite. As a new subscriber, can I ask politely for people to include URLs?
I know having to back up sweeping generalisations may restrict many
people's arguments, but references would be nice. It's difficult to
further the conversation intelligently without them. cheers

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: