murph the surf on Thu, 5 Mar 1998 09:29:04 +0100 (MET)

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<nettime> Re: Leading Art Site Suspended

At 12:45 PM -0400 3/4/98, Benjamin Weil wrote:

>i would find it more constructive and interesting to take this as a
> departure point to discuss the nature of the relationship between art and
> its potential sponsors

At first I was suspicious of ada'web because they were so slick -- the
Jenny Holzer piece was a little too perfect for me -- and I thought it was
another of the well-funded and trendy art marketing schemes designed to
impress the art buying public and institutions with brand-name artists and
cool graphics. Like many other artists we were sick of that and saw the net
as an opportunity to create a more artist-centered art world.

Well, that *is* true to a certain extent about ada'web -- they put an
enormous amount importance on their presentation -- but there is also
substantial and important content on the site as well as inventive uses of
a technology we are all just starting to comprehend. I eventually realized
it was probably a good thing for them to try to be a viable art business
online that traditional galleries and institutions would recognize and
trust. They helped create an economy for all of us to operate. As long as
we were on friendly terms with them we would also benefit from their
success in many ways while at the same time going in our own direction. It
didn't make much sense to compete for a piece of a pie we had to bake
ourselves in the first place. We just made our own pies.

Without ada'web there is one less group of people dedicated to finding
creative uses of the network and that's a shame. But, then again, after
five years it may be time to move on from original concepts and explore
other ways of working. While it seemed like a good idea at the time it's
questionable whether an art Web site is the best focus now. It's the
passion to make something happen that's important and passion is best when
it's distributed.

In the long run I don't know if ada'web would have found a place within
Digital City because it would have taken time to figure out how to do it
with concessions made on both sides. Meaning and value in art accrue over
time and I think the kind of continuity required for art can benefit a
business that is constantly responding to the market flux. It takes
insightful leadership to understand and implement this effectively,
something AOL doesn't seem to have much of, or need to be successful. They
don't need questioning artists, they want solutions.

Since we started in 1993 as a BBS, ARTNETWEB has evolved into a network of
people, projects and things without anything resembling a business plan and
it would be rediculous for us to think we would fit into a corporate
structure without a corporate sensibility. Our network exists as it is used
and when the network stops being used it will no longer exist. But for now
it's still robust.

As an organization we receive no grants or other institutional support. We
keep ourselves alive by teaching classes in FrontPage, HTML, VRML and other
skills to artists and corporate clients both online and in our Soho
storefront, by doing freelance Web design and upkeep plus whatever else
comes along with a paycheck. We are also working on VRML projects for
places like the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the annual Convergence
Festival in Providence, R.I. as well as exhibitions like last year's PORT
at the MIT List Visual Arts Center.

This situation isn't what we planned in the beginning because we had no
idea what the future would be and it certainly isn't perfect. We've changed
and adapted and, hopefully, done some good work along the way. Obviously no
great patron is waiting to take us under their protective wing yet we have
discovered some possibilities for working with corporations and others that
may prove beneficial for everyone involved. Sounds a lot like real life.

Robbin Murphy is an artist and co-founder of artnetweb. He also writes
regularly for Intelligent Agent Magazine.

426 Broome Street, NYC 10013  212-925-1885
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