Jon C. Ippolito on Sun, 29 Mar 1998 08:56:35 +0200 (MET DST)

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Re: <nettime> Mel Bochner at The Drawing Center

>>>on 03/23/98 10:03AM  murph the surf <> wrote:

Over the weekend I happened to stop in at the "Drawing Room," which is a
project space run by The Drawing Center in New York and found an exhibition
put on by a group called "Parasite"....[Bochner's] small exhibition, easily 
ignored and misunderstood, keeps resonating for me as an artist as a kind 
of manifestation of "".<<<

I'm glad Robbin Murphy saw the same parallels I did between the Internet 
and Parasite's restaging of Mel Bochner's _Working Drawings and Other 
Visible Things on Paper Not Necessarily Meant to be Viewed As Art_ 
(1966). She's right that Parasite's nomadic, collaborative approach 
to projects--derived no doubt on the practice of member artists like Ben 
Kinmont--bears a very interesting comparison to network practices like 
copyleft or MOOs. 

For me, however, the most provocative comparison was not with Parasite's 
curatorial work in the 1990s but with the work of Bochner's from 1966s 
that Parasite chose to exhibit. His use of a photocopy machine to generate 
the artistic content of the show suggests the infinite reproducibility of 
e-mail messages and Web pages. And his juxtaposition of "working drawings" 
from such disparate fields as art, algebra, and accounting reminds me of 
the Internet's tendency to cross-contaminate disciplines.

One of the most interesting parallels is Bochner's invitation to the viewer 
to see technical information or diagrams as art. It is tempting to explain 
Bochner's xeroxbooks as a Duchampian gesture: information is readymade art.  
But central to Bochner's project is his preoccupation with uncertainty--which 
is why the title is not "Other Visible Things on Paper That Are Perfectly 
Legitimate As Art." And so I am left with the question implicit in Bochner's 
title: what is gained--and what is lost--in cutting these diagrams out of 
their original context and inserting them into art?

For example, did Bochner's display of mathematical formulae or electrical 
diagrams validate jodi and other technology-as-art practitioners %avant 
la lettre%, or did it prove them unnecessary? After all, if we accept 
circuit diagrams as art, then you could argue that science has already 
produced more beautiful formulae (such as Euler's equation) and meaningful 
diagrams (such as a Lorenz attractor) than jodi could hope to accomplish. 
(The argument that "scientific diagrams cannot be art because they are 
tools" doesn't work in the case of Galois theory and other abstract 
mathematics, which has very few, if any, useful applications.)

I'm still contemplating this last question and would be interested to know 
if anyone else is. By the way, the contents of Bochner's xeroxbook were 
published in 1997 by Cabinet des estampes (Geneva), Walther Koenig 
(Cologne), and Picaron (Paris). For more on the similarities between a 
digital network and the working methods of artists like Ben Kinmont, see 
Laura Trippi's remarks in "The View from the Street" _World Art_ (Summer 
1996) or mine in "Out of the Darkness and into the Loop," _Flash Art_ 
(March-April 1995). For more on the issue of whether mere information can 
qualify as art, see "Where did All the Uncertainty Go?" _Flash Art_ 
(July-August 1996).

Jon Ippolito
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