Intermedia Art

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C0dE 0f practice: Online Panel Discussion 13 June - 18 July, 2005

Replies: 58
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Re: Re: Linked References and Open Systems
Posted by Patrick Lichty, Jul 1, 2005 11:26 PM in response to Christiane Paul
This is one of two notes I will post in the next 24 hours.

In reply to the conversation of 'open' projects, and whether they might work, and what they might be like, I have constructed one possible working model as an experiment. I enjoyed Charlie's thoughts of what an 'open' art/curatorial project might consist of, and the only model, besides some forms of blog that I could think of was the WIKI, a freely editable webpage.

From this, I have constructed a special WIKI to experiment with the 'open' online work, which I call "Systems and C0des".

I have also sent the open call to the via the listserves run by Rhizome, The Thing, and Furtherfield.

The call follows.

All the best, Patrick

Announcement/Call for participation
'''Systems and c0des: An Open Art/Curatorial WIKIProject'''

Curatorial Statement:

In 2005, a recent Tate Online online symposium dealt with the idea of open cultural systems and art curation. While the traditional role of the art curator is intact in contemporary art, there are independent artist/curators who are testing the traditional model with open, algorithmic, and dialogical models of curation, and artworks as curatorial models/vice versa. Within this symposium, Charlie Gere pondered the truly 'open' artwork or curatorial model, in which all with access would have the ability to shape the content of the project.

This project seeks the art space as dialogue, albeit only one model, by creating n online space, distantly echoing Davis' "World's First Collaborative Sentence" by opening up the art/curatorial space to the art community. In the open model, authorship is optional, and the only claim whatsoever is only in suggesting the opening parameters, i.e., that the piece was merely initiated by the domain owner. All else has become mutable; content, scope, even content is negotiable.

Is the 'Open' system self-organizing, or is it doomed to entropy? Is it necessary to be specific with the parameters of a discussion on art/curation, or will an amorphous cultural space, much like a Temporary Autonomous Zone, organize itself and create its own meaning?
Visitors are invited to become part of the curatorial team of the "systems and c0des" project/exhibition, and contribute to the formation of the discussion of openness in artistic expression on the Net. There are no rules, only a general invitation to take part. Entry by Patrick Lichty upon launch of project.
Re: Gere:Linked References and Open Systems
Posted by Patrick Lichty, DATE in response to Patrick Lichty
Quite an interesting post Charlie.

As usual, some of my comments are not specifically my position, but 'a polemic' to create dialogue. What strikes me as interesting is that the references to Derrida, Lyotard and Badiou seem to point to the sublime, something to which Brian Eno referred to in a recent interview (I believe in either Spin or ID, but I'm not sure). I also interpret what these thinkers are speaking of is more akin to the 'in-between', or the irruption in the methodical/systemic schema. However, my contention is that the 'event' (perhaps not necessarily in the Baudrillardian sense) still signifies an extraordinary or liminal moment/space. Now, can we say that New Media fits the hybrid model of the extraordinary of which I'm speaking, and can curators address that liminality? This is a bit of complication that complicates the bit, maybe.

Perhaps this (trans)practice is indicated by the blurring of the exhibit and the work, and the artist and the curator, and the critic, and the participant, and the... I see two functions emerging in culture; the fluid (as mentioned before) and the local. In the fluid, the relation between the constituent roles in a cultural space is dynamic and multivalent. For example, as seen on the site, in some of my afroementioned examples (Manetas, July), artists can simultaneously act as artist, critic, and curator, depending on the relation to the milieu and the function within the project/space the individual is performing at the moment. In the local, the relations are much more formalized; even though Schleiner's Snow Blossom House is a fairly free-form online curatorial project, she is still an artist who has assumed the cultural channel of the curator in this local context. These are two forms of cultural engagements that I feel that have arisen as more prevalent, if not specific, to online/New Media practice.

This is not to say that the traditional office of the curator within the institution is no longer intact; it's merely that there are other cultural overlays within the New Media culture that are forming to address the challenges of representation and construction of meaning that are specific to that environment/culture.

Regardless, I also like the idea of considering communications models as part of this discussion. Curators, regardless how and where they locate their practice, are still representational channels for the construction of contexts for works. This posits that there is a transmitter, a filter (after Schleiner) or channel that shapes information to the end user (reciever). I think Charlie explored this earlier. The point here that I would like to ask is how curation could play with its models of filtering and contextualization to create what I would like to call a theory of 'radical curation'? Back to Charlie's question of the open artwork, this is something that interests me greatly.


Referring to Charlie's quote of Lyotard:
"How can there be aesthetic feeling issuing from calculated re-presentation alone? How could the traces of the conceptual determination of the forms proposed by the new techne leave the free play of reflexive judgment which constitutes aesthetic pleasure?"

Forgive me if I'm off target, but this seems a great deal like music sampling, hip-hop, and database filtering (e.g. Rhizome ArtBase curatorial projects). I may conflate genres here, but I think that Lyotard's question has been borne out, at least through popular culture and Manovich's aesthetics of the database. Actually, I would even argue that this argument was prefigured by Hoch's "Cut with the Kitchen Knife" (among others).

The resulting art is not like that before it, not necessarily 'new', but different, and reflecting the culture from which it originates.

Also in response to the Beardsworth interview, Lyotard's categorizations of culture and art reflect only a certain paradigm. There are certainly arts that operate on different temporalities, and Lyotard's assertion of art's timeframe beginning after fifty years is a cultural straitjacket under which New Media could not exist, nor could much Conceptualism or Performance Art (which I posit that New Media, as a fairly ephemeral, experiential time-based medium/genre/movement is closely related to). besides, it is my contention that since up to 10-20% of all online data is lost per year, it could be said that virtual memory in online culture approximates that of an oral tradition, requiring periodic refreshing and retransmission.

So, in my throughline of the extraordinary moment of the work of art, the channel of communcation/representation, and then the challenges of curatorial practice, and New Media memory in online culture, there are some real challenges where Lyotard, et al open up a marvelous dialogue. However, in applying some of their arguments to our local context in this discussion, perhaps some points are stronger than others (that is, if I have followed Charlie's line of reasoning at all!).

If not, I will merely attribute it to the fact that my coordinates are in radical realignment, as I am in transit arcoss the Midwest, with my final location tomorrow being New Orleans by way of Detroit and Memphis.

And welcome to Beryl and Trebor. I look forward to their input.
Open Systems/Openness
Posted by Trebor Scholz, Jul 4, 2005 6:00 PM in response to Patrick Lichty
Dear all,

Back in New York after weeks of travel I am joining you with three longer comments: 1) Openness, 2) It's New Media: But Is It Art, and 3) Participation in Long-term Web-based Art Projects. My perspective brings together the different fields of my practice: from media theory, art, and event-based cultural practice, to activism.

Part 1

"Since the re-branding of Free Software into Open Source in 1998, open has become the buzzword for all things progressive on and off the Internet. <...> Yet despite this new-found openness to the open there is very little critical discussion on the expansion of openness as a concept to many different contexts, ranging from the board rooms of global corporations such as IBM to the temporary media centers of the anti-globalization activists."

Stalder, Felix & Wark, McKenzie. "Editorial: Open" M/C: A Journal of Media and Culture.

A few examples:

-Open Access (
-Open Access Journals (
-Open Archive ( and public domain image databases
-Open Content Communities (
-Open Courseware (
-Open Encyclopedia of New Media (
-Open Hardware (
-Open Knowledge/Open Content (
-Open Law (
-Open Publishing (
-Open Source (
-Open Textbook Project (
-Open Theory (

The internet is a means of collective organization, challenge to intellectual property and a new publishing environment. The internet is a vast virtual library, a docuverse (Faler) of connected images, documents, books, films, poems, and more. Communal "third spaces" (Baker) emerged online where people meet to interact with friends and strangers. Approaches to openness of networks as social spaces are much discussed and social software and collective knowledge are the terms du jour. The word "weblog" was the most looked-up term in Merriam Webster Online in 2004. Felix Stadler and McKenzie Wark caution us in similar ways to Sarah and Christiane in this forum. Sarah asks if closed systems are necessarily flawed despite the massive information overload that we face. Is openness the new crux of everything? Are databases that do not allow the reconfiguration of information outdated and hopelessly out of fashion? Christiane questions the term "open system" since it inherently promises what it can never deliver. Does open mean public? The internet with its free TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) is publicly accessible yet the hardware through which data packages are traveling is privately owned. More than 97 percent of all Internet hosts are in developed countries that are home to only 16 percent of the world's population. For whom/to whom are we open? Who is listening and manipulating?

Charlie writes: "Whether we like it or not such galleries and other events such as biennials still dictate what gets the most exposure as art, what counts as art and, perhaps most importantly of all, what gets historically inscribed and thus is able to be available to and influence future generations."

On one hand, I agree with Charlie and think this hold also true online. My net art piece "79 Days" only started to receive massive hits once it was shown in museums. Online environments (ie. blogs) remain rather intimate media until a high traffic site (often institutional) links to it. On the other hand, I also see the possibility for open archives and organized networks to challenge the power of institutions. But the challenge I rather see in parallel structures than in frontal collision. This is not just a technological daydream about a rosy future. It is reality and I will briefly point to a few examples.

The 2nd generation slash site started when Naomi Klein received an overwhelming amount of emails after the publication of her book "No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies" and the protest for democratic globalization in Seattle 1999. The site creates a network of researchers, activists and readers of the book who could now talk to each other. The open structure of the site allows people to become visible to each other. Shared resource pools such as the well-known free encyclopedia Wikipedia manage to activate thousands of volunteers to create over one million pages in over 100 languages. While many critical arguments about this initiative are justified- it still confronts the content hegemony of major print encyclopedias. Examples for open content initiatives are the Curating Degree Zero project and the Media Art Net project, both exploring critical and experimental approaches to curating and archiving contemporary art. Open content art archives and organized networks would be most useful in South East Asia now where media art is now emerging in many small countries with very different cultural backgrounds. With some current activities in Thailand and Singapore, for example, a transnational media art network with an open art pool <sic> would be advised.
As organized networks <nettime> or FibreCulture create arguably more research output than some small universities and thus contribute to what is seen, discussed and inscribed as inspiration for younger generations. But still there is no serious financial support for such organized networks.

In this context I am uncertain about Donna de Salvo's equation of openness with (the generative and) repetition. This weaving of knowledge carpets, the collective spinning of threads does challenge the content monopoly of institutions. In a similar way WikiTravel allows tourists to find material about a location without buying quickly outdated and expensive travel guides. The free sharing of the knowledge created by the collective contribution ensures that there are no 'monopolies' of knowledge. An additional example is the recent "Share, Share Widely" conference on new-media art education that I organized. This topic, while urgent to educators across the globe received hardly any public discourse. As resources where sparse I interviewed twenty educators from Germany to Australia, Finland, Singapore and the United States. These interviews, conducted as a series of public webcam luncheon conversations at the Department of Media Study where then archived in a blog. In preparation of the conference some forty theorists, educators, and artists contributed to the audio and video blog, which created a rich resource for the field. Also soon to be added to this openly accessibly site will be podcasts of all presentations. All material is available under a creative commons license instead of being locked away in expensive dead wood journals. The issue of open access to knowledge is also relevant to the tenure review system in US American academia, which centers around peer-reviewed expert print journals and ignores the often more influential open access forums online. This issue needs more elaboration than I have room for here. I wonder how all these issues of openness could be brought more closely into new media art practices.
Re: Openness/New Media Art
Posted by Trebor Scholz, Jul 4, 2005 7:21 PM in response to Trebor Scholz
Part 2

It's New Media: But Is It Art?

"Art or Cultural Practice? If Marcel Duchamp intervened at the level of Art (logic of phenomena), what is done today, on the contrary, tends to be closer to Culture than to Art, and that is necessarily a political intervention..."

Cildo Meirelles (Rio de Janeiro, April 1970)

Ramirez, Mari Carmen (2004). Tactics for Thriving on Adversity: Conceptualism in Latin America, 1960-1980. In: Frieling, R., Daniels, Dieter. Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950-1980s. New York: Queens Museum of Art. p 68

Museum curators often frame new media art in modernist terms that attempt to easy and familiar rules for institutional inclusion or exclusion. Yet while many emerging participatory mapping projects can be experienced at art festivals such as Transmediale, ISEA, and Ars Electronica, when it comes to more traditional art institutions their validity as art is often questioned. Emerging art needs new venues and old venues need a new definition of art. Dr. Judith Rodenbeck (Sarah Lawrence College) and I addressed these issues at a recent iDC event. The event took two approaches to the problem. One was to probe the aesthetic criteria on which institutions base their decisions about the constantly shifting shape of new media art projects; the other was to explore a partial genealogy for collaborative mapping projects. We wrote: "Since the 1960s the notion of simple physical participation has increasingly been supplemented by more media-based and technologically mediated interactivity. An art historical line from Marcel Duchamp's nominalist interventions into the spaces of display idea to the participatory projects of the 1960s, routed through the open forms advocated by John Cage and Umberto Eco, and can be traced in the background of collaborative mapping projects.
The open access flow of information in participatory mapping projects constitutes an aesthetics that has the potential to reverse engineer the original military purposes of networked technologies. Locative techno-creative projects contrast the hierarchical organization of the military command-control-communication model and the commercial hard sell with online models of urban sites annotated and updated collectively by a multiplicity of the people who actually inhabit them. This gesture is similar to that behind the creation of the virtual city De Digitale Stad in Amsterdam in the 90s and other collaborative networked authoring projects."
(under events)

Two examples:

As part of the "Murmur" project signs where installed throughout Toronto that invite passers-by to call the number on the sign from their cell phone to learn more about this location. The project is mildly participatory as one can submit new stories about Toronto on the "Murmur" website.
The research project "Twenty-Four Dollar Island" is designed for Lower Manhattan. Residents, tourists and commuters are encouraged to submit to this dynamic map of Lower Manhattan. The project is open but ultimately focused in its intended audience on people in Lower Manhattan.
The often phrased critique of the anywhere and nowhere of the Internet (and net art) in which class, race, and geographical location does not seem to matter does not apply here. This situated software (Shirky) places a networked environment in a particular community and thus opens it up to the local context.

Christiane says that "Any art form and movement is embedded in a larger cultural context but new media could never be understood from a strictly art-historical perspective: the history of technology and media sciences play an equally important role in this art form's formation and reception."

Inke Arns in her essay "Interaktion, Partizipation, Vernetzung. Kunst und Telekommunikation" draws an important line from art historical references to more recent new-media art practices-- a trajectory that is quite rare. Not within the scope of Arns' essay but also necessary are references to the emerging field of media archeology. In his book "Conversation Pieces" Grant Kester points to lesser known (offline) participatory projects like Lacy and Labowitz' "Ariadne: A Social Art Network," which sought to "move beyond simple theatricality and [incorporate] elements of networking, working within a real-life environment, and communicating with a mass audience."

Kester, Grant (2004). Conversation Pieces. Berkley: University of California Press, p 125

Christiane continues that new media art is still widely considered a ghetto, existing outside of the art world at large. I just returned from the Venice Biennial and this is exemplified there as well. Generally, despite the boom of new media- new media art is not flourishing and lively public discourse around it is missing (and the public forum of this panel has only few contributions). Worth mentioning in this context is an upcoming issue of FibreCulture on Distributed Aesthetics and a conference on "Approaches to collaboration and value from anthropology, art, science and technology" at King's College in Cambridge this month.

Maybe the self-prescribed isolation of new media art (e.g. in the university lab) and the friction between social engagement and autonomy (Benjamin/Adorno) are reasons for this. The tragic 'scientification' of the arts, in which the arts become the subservient illustrator of the sciences is not the answer. But new media art should indeed connect to outside-art scenes (and debates). "Outreach attempts" to unions, to the clubhouse, and demo scene have been largely unsuccessful. New-Media Art Departments in Art Academies in Switzerland and Germany suffer from a drastic decrease in student interest while painting departments in Leipzig boom. It's time to get away from the imperative of the computer. It's high time also to question the idea of hip newness of new media that is still widely celebrated.
New Media Art/Participation
Posted by Trebor Scholz, Jul 4, 2005 7:46 PM in response to Trebor Scholz
Part 3

Long-Term Participation in Web-Based Art Projects

Christiane describes the evolution of artworks that solicit participation and notes that some of them come to a halt when the audience looses interest. I am particularly interested in this aspect-- that of participation in online formats.

Kelli's initial question about the place of the artist and audience within the data-based landscape of networks comes in here. In this network culture we need to come to terms with dynamics of networked communication spaces. Although the term collaboration is widely used throughout the corporate world, the arts, and sciences, very little research has been carried out to discover the properties of this process. With the relatively recent advent of computer-mediated networked communication the nature of collaboration is coming under more intensive scrutiny. There is no one way to create a successful online cooperation.
Quoting Burnham, Christiane writes: "the art object is, in effect, an 'information trigger' for mobilizing the information cycle." But: What creates deeper linkages between people around (online) collaborative environments? What will motivate people to contribute beyond just chipping in once in a while? Which wondrous activities would create the irrevocable pleasure and deep linkage between participants that would sustain participation in long-term participatory projects online and off?
Typically, the number of visitors increases but only few of them contribute. Spectators are not seen, the user appears as flneur, as explorer who only feels at home when moving around crowds (Chun). Yet these spectators often do not actively take part. Why do people contribute to the public? The "Free Cooperation" conference that Geert Lovink and I organized in 2004 and Howard Rheingold's recent course "Toward a Literacy of Cooperation" both started to address some of these topics. An important reference here is also Christoph Spehr's essay "Gleicher als Andere," in which he formulates the notion of free cooperation.

"In international exhibitions we have seen a growing number of stands offering a range of services, works proposing a precise contract to viewers, and more or less tangible models of sociability. Spectator 'participation,' theorized by Fluxus happenings and performances, has become a constant feature of artistic practice."

Bourriaud, Nicolas (1998). Relational Aesthetics. France: Les Presses du Reel. p25

"As the twenty-first century approached, the nineteenth-century artist-genius had evolved into an initiator of communicative, and often also social and political, (exchange) processes. In all these 'opening-up movements,' the notion of interaction plays an important role."
Inke Arns

Arns, Inke (2004). Interaktion, Partizipation, Vernetzung. Kunst und Telekommunikation. In: Frieling, R., Daniels, Dieter. Medien Kunst Netz. Vienna: Springer-Verlag. pp 333-349

Grant Kester provides lesser known examples in his historical trajectory of participation but does address technology-based artwork. He points to projects like Lacy and Labowitz' "Ariadne: A Social Art Network," which sought to "move beyond simple theatricality and [incorporate] elements of networking, working within a real-life environment, and communicating with a mass audience."

Kester, Grant (2004). Conversation Pieces. Berkley: University of California Press, p 125

If artwork, especially online has turned more into a stage set- who comes to act in it? Again, for whom/to whom are we open? Who is listening? How vivid is our communication? This question of participation is often overlooked by technologists whose artworks may only be confronted with the public for short periods of time. Most energy, sweat and tears goes into the coding ignoring the socialization of the work. This becomes more evident in online projects that are intended as sustainable environments. Here, my experience is that face-to-face meetings, talking, eating and maybe even partying together are crucial for the long-term success of such project with regard to participation because trust and friendships developed. But it also the question of development of such participatory design projects that needs attention. If they are created from the very beginning together with the communities who will use it, taking into account and working with the needs and desires of those who are supposed to participate in the piece or tool. Good examples for this can be found in collaborative mapping projects, some of which I already referenced earlier.

Probably with an exhibition context in mind Christiane points out that we cannot presume computer literacy from the audience and I strongly agree. When we think of participating in online projects there is the attention economy and the aspect of the disruption of the everyday life- it is yet another thing to do. And even if the technical parameters are simple- it is a challenge for many to even contribute to the most simple wiki. Discordia, a collaborative weblog that I co-founded (now archived) had increasingly higher numbers of visitors/lurkers but very few uninvited people contributed. Age may also be a factor when looking at human uses of machines. This is not necessarily a lack of ability, I assume, but an unwillingness to invest time into a project that even if participatory has still authorship hierarchy as one contributes to the artist's project. The artist as gift giver sets up the context but the more people accept his or her gift- the more the artist benefits. How can ownership be successfully claimed by a contributor?

Christiane asks if this need for computer literacy constitutes a closed system. I would say yes and point to Tiziana Terranova.

"For geographers such as Manuel Castells, for example, the network makes explicit the dynamics by which a globally connected elite is coming to dominate and control the lives of those who remain bound to the world of locality, thus reinforcing a structural domination of the space of flows over the space of places."

Terranova, Tiziana (2004). Network Culture. Politics for the Information Age. Ann Harbor/London: Pluto Press. p 43

Another relevant issue that comes up in Tiziana's book is that of the overruling of the openness of virtual space by its tendency to reinforce specialized interests and narrow group identities. She talks of the danger of an open network turning into an archipelago of disconnected and isolated islands. This tendency certainly exist. The possibilities for social filtering have hugely improved through the recent spread of social software-- especially blogs and wikis.
Micro-territories vary from social bookmarking sites to pro-anorexia blogs and connect individuals with special interests. It becomes increasingly easier to talk only to others who share ones views. The world outside these narrow circles is glared at with disinterest.
Re: New Media Art/Participation
Posted by Christiane Paul, Jul 4, 2005 11:46 PM in response to Trebor Scholz
I believe that the issues of participation that Trebor brings up are absolutely crucial to the idea of "open systems in art." Socialization of the work is one of the most important aspects to consider for any new media artist who creates a system that is open to public contribution. (I have been teaching in the Computer Arts Dept. of the School of Visual Arts in New York for quite some time and repeatedly noticed that students would tend to neglect socialization and focus on the code in the public environments they were creating). Over the past 10 years, new media artists seem to have become much more sophisticated in their knowledge of how they influence a social environment through the parameters they set for a project.

Nevertheless, answering the questions that Trebor raises -- what creates deeper linkages between people around (online) collaborative environments? what would create linkage between participants that would sustain long term "relationships" online and off? -- still remains an experimental field. I sometimes feel that we are asking too much of technologies since they can probably seldom change social behaviors per se. Social interaction in general exhibits most of the patterns we see in online environments. Some people are listeners, others are active contributors; some "drop in" and tend to constantly switch environments, while others stay on board long-term. It obviously is much harder to sustain long-term involvement if there is no personal, face-to-face contact. Group dynamics on mailing lists are hard to predict and often go through radical changes -- as they do in the offline world. I don't think that it is necessarily bad if people 'lose interest' in a participatory (art) project after a while. What one can get out of any given interaction ultimately is a question of individual expectations and personality. And there will always be "new" people who discover the environment for themselves.

All of which is not meant to say that technological networks cannot encourage "deep linkage." For any given environment one needs to ask what the "target audiences" are, what their expectations might be and how one can meet them in multiple ways while supporting a constant evolution of the discursive space -- stagnation (or entropy?) seems to be one of the of the common reasons why people abandon participatory projects. This may indeed require involvement of the audience into the creation of the framework itself, which is what the art collective Mongrel ( has been trying to do in some of its "social software projects."

And then there is the issue of specialized interests and narrow group identities that the Internet seems to effectively support. First of all, I believe that there is a need and place for this type of specialization (which often creates more depth) but there are also dangerous aspects to it. What specialization seems to neglect is the network's inherent possibility of "linking" and wandering off the path. Unless there is a specific (often political) agenda to prevent people from seeing the other side of the argument or its larger context, there is no reason why it couldn't be "linked to" in a contextual network. This may mean to give up specific group identities and merge with or at least establish contact to other communities. Outreach of the "globally connected elite" to localities may be difficult to initiate online and probably requires an on-site, "physical" engagement first.
Re: Re: New Media Art/Participation
Posted by Charlie Gere, Jul 5, 2005 8:24 AM in response to Christiane Paul
I would like to post some thoughts in relation to two themes that have popped up in other posts; one is the question of time, which Patrick has mentioned, and the other is that of the gift and giving, which Trebor brought up. This relates to a question that greatly concerns me; the role of the work of art in an age increasingly dominated by real-time systems, such as the Internet.

The philosopher Richard Beardsworth suggests that [O]ne of the major concerns of philosophical and cultural analysis in recent years has been the need to reflect upon the reduction of time and space brought about by contemporary processes of technicization, particularly digitalisation.

Beardsworth proposes that at stake lies the human experience of time. Most immediately, it is clear that with the digitalisation of memory support systems, our experience of time is being rapidly foreshortened.

Literary and media theorist Bernard Siegart sees the development of real-time networks leading to the end of art.

The impossibility of technologically processing data in real time is the possibility of art As long as processing in real time was not available, data always had to be stored intermediately somewhere on skin, wax, clay, stone, papyrus, linen, paper, wood, or on the cerebral cortex- in order to be transmitted or otherwise processed. It was precisely in this way that data became something palpable for human beings, that it opened up the field of art. Conversely it is nonsensical to speak of the availability of real-time processing insofar as the concept of availability implies the human being as subject. After all, real-time processing is the exact opposite of being available. It is not available to the feedback loops of the human senses, but instead to the standards of signal processors, since real-time processing is defined precisely as the evasion of the senses.

But Beardsworth proposes that against the speed of contemporary technics it is possible to posit the aporia of time, of delay, the impossibility grasping time in the light of difference and deferral central to Derridas politics of deconstruction. The incalculability of the passage of time exceeds both its logical disavowal and its technical organisation.

For Derrida, despite real times reduction of the human experience of the passage of time, the passage of time cannot be technicized, it cannot absolutely be reduced; and this is what makes any organization contingent Technical invention (which in the coming years may be less and less organised by what we understand now as the human) cannot reduce or figure the aporia of time.

This relates to the question of the gift, and the idea of the gift economy, which is much discussed in relation to open source practices and strategies. The gift is most famously discussed by Marcel Mauss, in his Essai sur le Don. Mauss investigation of the practice of potlatch, the excessive and destructive rituals of giving practiced by tribes in the American Northwest has been particularly influential.

In his book Given Time, Derrida engages in, among other things, a critique of Mauss essay, in which he examined the nature of gift giving in various studies. For Derrida the gift is impossible in that the moment it appears as a gift it enters into a system of reciprocity, exchange and debt. Any gift implies the expectation of another gift in return. Even if the giver does not expect any literal return, the act of giving makes a return payment to oneself. Thus the gift can only be a gift if its status as gift is completely forgotten, and is not even lodged in the unconscious.

But Derrida points to two intriguing aspects of Mauss ideas. One is the notion of the excessive, which is an integral part of the operations of the potlatch. The other is that the relation between the gift and time. Even if a gift ritual involves exchange and reciprocity, time must elapse before a gift can be responded to in kind. This is what Derrida describes as the most interesting idea, the great guiding thread of The Gift.

The gift is not a gift, the gift only gives to the extent it gives time. The difference between a gift and every other operation of pure and simple exchange is that the gift gives time. There where there is gift, there is time. What it gives, the gift is time, but this gift of time is also a demand of time. The thing must not be restituted immediately and right away. There must be time, it must last, there must be waiting without forgetting It demands time, the thing, but it demands a delimited time, neither an instant nor an infinite time, but a time determined in other words, a rhythm, a cadence. The thing is not in time, it is or has time, or rather it demands to have, to give, or to take time and time as rhythm, a rhythm that does not befall a homogenous time but that structures it originally.

In his book The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property Lewis Hyde, also influenced by the work of Mauss, explicitly describes the work of art as a gift, as opposed to a commodity. As Hyde himself admits at the end of the book this is somewhat simplistic. Art cannot avoid the restricted economies of financial exchange and critical and public reception. Nor, should it be supposed that artists would want to eschew either the possibility of renumeration or of critical and public admiration. Even if an artist works entirely in private, without expectation of recognition or recompense, the work of art makes a return payment to itself.

But, following Derrida, one can suggest that if the work of art is a gift then it is impossible. Much as there can be no gift that does not enter into the economy of exchange and thus cease to be a gift, there can be no work of art that, in the end, is not a commodity.

But, like the gift, the work of art involves a gift, in that it gives time by refusing to restituted right away. It gives the time needed for understanding, for the understanding to catch up with and recuperate the avant-garde, the advance guard of artistic development, for the reception and domestication of the monstrous or, as Lyotard puts it, for the infinite time required to consume (experience, comment upon) works of art. Lyotard was writing specifically about Duchamps Large Glass and Etant Donns. It is the former that Duchamp described as a delay in glass.
Re: Re: Re: New Media Art/Participation
Posted by Beryl Graham, Jul 5, 2005 12:47 PM in response to Charlie Gere
Thanks to all of the panel for being such excellent and generous 'filters' in offering fascinating examples ... these artworks are after all the reason why we share a passion for sharing the knowledge. I think the discussion is evolving very well, so I will just briefly identify some emerging themes that may be useful ways forward.

How Open, How Participatory?

Nicolas Bourriaud has indeed, as Trebor points out, linked 'participation' to the wider context of art practice including Fluxus and Rirkrit Tiravanija. However, as Christiane has mentioned, the fine art world does not go much further than this in being critical about the kinds or qualities of participation.

The panel members have shown that they do have this critical knowledge, and their own sliding scales and rules of thumb concerning 'how participatory' an artwork might be (for example, Trebor describes Murmur in Toronto as "mildly participatory").

Likewise there is the question of 'how open' curating might be, from tactics which simply make some parts of the curatorial process more public, (such as Barbara London's on-line research trips, through dialogic forms (Lev Manovich posting drafts of his writings for responses on discussion lists), to more participatory approaches (such as Patrick's wikis).

I found Patrick's differentiation into the fluid and the local, and Charlie's 'gift-giving' to be very useful. In my work considering levels of interaction/participation, I found a metaphor of levels of 'conversation' (from simple yes/no response to full elaborated conversation) to be a workable rule of thumb. Are there any further namings, sliding scales or metaphors that the panel could offer when considering 'How Open, How Participatory?'
Posted by Trebor Scholz, Jul 6, 2005 5:18 PM in response to Beryl Graham
I agree with Charlie that time is also a major factor when thinking about participation. Many participatory environments require fast replies, for example, and leave little space for reflection/and slow writing.
I also still wonder about sustainable web-based projects like Mongrel's "NINE(9)" or "Parole" by Gruppo A12, Udo Noll and Peter Scupelli. Parole is a dynamic and participatory dictionary of the contemporary city. Another example of a participatory project is "Open Government Information Awareness," which was active in 2003/04 and is currently being reworked. It aimed "to empower citizens by providing a single, comprehensive, easy-to-use repository of information on individuals, organizations, and corporations related to the government of the United States of America. To allow citizens to submit intelligence about government-related issues, while maintaining their anonymity."
Did anyone of you come across specific strategies of artists that trigger involvement beyond posts to relevant mailing list or workshops? The NY-based artist group "Local Projects," for example, solicited input from residents for a situated online mapping project on paper. Contributors wrote their story on little notes and pinned them to a physical map in the relevant location. Only later Local Projects added these entries to the online database.

Long-term participatory web-based projects (in connection with offline events) have the potential to create rich counter publics or draw attention to topics that were not adequately addressed thus far. I'd cautiously suggest a possible connection of such contexts to the functioning of Martha Rosler's project "If you lived here..." at the Dia Art Foundation in 1989. Here, art exhibitions as much as public meetings activated urgently needed discourse on the topic of homelessness.

Grant-giving bodies are often not aware of the importance of face-to-face exchanges for the socialization/population of a piece/tool and rarely acknowledge this need financially.
(Shown here is the archived interface. The project is currently being re-worked.)

My second question after that regarding innovative strategies for involvement concerns the role of the curator.

"Community art projects are often centered on an exchange between an artist (who is viewed as creatively, intellectually, financially, and institutionally empowered) and a given subject who is defined a priori as in need of empowerment or access to creative/expressive skills. Thus the "community" in community-based public art often, although not always, refers to individuals marked as culturally, economically, or socially different from the artist."

Kester, Grant (2004). Conversation Pieces. Berkley: University of California Press, p 137

Could this quote while addressing community artists and not curators be a useful reference point to connect to earlier discussions about curating in a global context?
Re: Participation/Curating
Posted by Christiane Paul, Jul 7, 2005 2:27 AM in response to Trebor Scholz
The points that Charlie, Beryl, and Trebor have made regarding time, the gift, metaphors for (sliding scales of) openness, and participation seem to touch upon very different aspects of technological exchanges, yet they are also deeply connected.

To me, Derrida's argument that the gift is impossible since it immediately enters into a system of reciprocity, exchange, and debt is a very convincing one. (Perhaps there are instances where people 'give' without expecting any reciprocity but there still would be the desire on the recipient's end to 'give back.') If I'm not mistaken, the term 'gift economy,' which was such a catchword of the networked society in the mid- to late 1990s, has gradually been replaced by the concept of 'sharing' and its connotations of circulation, dissemination, community and cooperation. Perhaps this is the more accurate term for describing networked exchange (?).

Even if one doesn't agree with every aspect of Derrida's argument, there is no doubt the gift -- as opposed to 'pure' exchange -- gives time (at least in terms of the original meaning of the word). But can it give time under the conditions of real time, where processing takes place immediately and on the fly? Probably not, so exchange and sharing seem to be more appropriate terminology.

I would agree with Beardsworth's general idea that digitization (of memory support systems) leads to a foreshortening of the experience of time in relation to space. In the age of real time, there is an immediacy of response and retrieval, even over massive distances around the globe. As Trebor says, participatory environments usually require fast replies.

I have major issues with Siegart's understanding of real time, though, and I'm admittedly not sure where his definition of real-time processing as evasion of the senses is coming from. One could make a convincing argument that real time is defined *only* by our perception and senses. The human understanding of instantly processing data through our senses and in our brains has set the standards for "real time." It is the speed of the signal processors in relation to the human perception of chronological time (second, minute etc.) that establishes standards for real time. If there is a delay in the response of the system, it is not perceived as real time any more. Siegart's argument that the possibilities of art lie in the impossibility of technologically processing data seems to be based on a very narrow definition of art. Siegart seems to believe that it is necessary for art to be stored in order to be processed and become palpable. Art that technologically processes data in real time may not be 'palpable' but it is an experiential process for the recipients, processed by their senses and brains in real time. This basically applies to any performance-based art and I see enormous possibilities for this type of art.

This brings me to Beryl's question regarding scales and taxonomies for various degrees of openness and participation in artworks or exchanges of any kind. One sliding scale -- with increasing openness and participation -- would be:

"trigger / response -- contribution to a 'pool' (gift in the traditional sense) -- conversation / exchange (two-way / real time) -- reconfiguration (of the system itself)"

The degrees of participation in this model substantially vary, which still leaves the question of how this participation is defined in terms of the relationship between the artist and the community. Trebor references Grant Kester's important argument that the "community" in community-based public art is often understood as culturally, economically, or socially different from the artist. This is indeed a very important aspect for artists to consider when they create participatory projects. In "The Artist as Ethnographer," Hal Foster (1996) voiced similar concerns regarding the inherent dangers of "public art" practice: that an artist engaging communities or sites outside of an art context might simply appropriate a community in the creation of a personal or autobiographical narrative of the artist's identity. The worst-case scenario being that a colonizing and romanticized appropriation of a community ultimately becomes a representation that the public identifies with the community itself. Considering the role of the "self" vs. the "other" is a fundamental aspect of public art practice and participation (networked or not).
Participation/Curating/knowledge production
Posted by Patrick Lichty, Jul 7, 2005 11:44 PM in response to Christiane Paul
To recurse upon Christiane:
As Trebor says, participatory environments usually require fast replies.

"trigger / response -- contribution to a 'pool' [e.g. this conversation]

Even a lag of three days within a networked milieu can be lengthy, as evidenced by the flurry of activity in the forum this week. In response, I would like to construct an archipelago of reflections upon the past several posts.

The Construction of Knowledge vis--vis Curation
I have had the pleasure of participating in a number of Trebors recent summits, of which the Share Widely one at CUNY will be reviewed in this issue of Intelligent Agent. At this event, I gave a localized model for the construction of knowledge based on my study of Brazilian theorist Vilem Flusser, extrapolating from the discursive/dialogical models mentioned earlier.

My three levels of knowledge production based on the dialogical model is not straightforward, but represents configurations for the construction of knowledge in intellectual/cultural projects. As presented at the CUNY event, it was proposed that contemporary culture is currently moving too quickly (thus supporting the assertion of the foreshortening of time) for the traditional press to support. Thus, it is my assertion that, to paraphrase Gibson that the culture finds its own uses for things, the cyberculture has taken its own step in the production and distribution of its own bodies of knowledge. This is expressed in forms of the traditional/institutional, the semi-independent/transinstitutional, and the independent. Metaphors for each could be shown through the academic press, the small press (e.g. Autonomedia) or even self-published, and the last could be the website or blog.

An aspect of all of these models is that they all infer elements of time by virtue of their sites of production. While traditionally the institution has access to larger resources for more expansive projects, it also has the limitations of bureaucracy, organizational consensus, and foundation/patron support , among others. The transinstitutional (a term which I use as an ad hoc term) is epitomized by curatorial projects hosted at, or my own upcoming Mobile Exposure cell video exhibition (through, which draw upon the fact that they are situated at an established independent cultural organ, but are almost solely organized by the curator. This second model is more flexible/ad hoc than the former, but still requires some negotiation with the host organization in arranging publicity, server space, etc. Lastly, there is the wholly independent exhibition, which is solely organized and promoted by the curator. The (re)distributions mobile art exhibition at is a good example of this.

As a case study in contrasts regarding the last show, at the time of the (re)distributions exhibition, a concurrent show was being planned at Eyebeam in NYC on mobile device art. This exhibition did not happen, for what I understood as lack of sponsoring, while the (re)- show, which operated on a significantly lower budget, opened as proposed. In this study, the circumstances of the two exhibitions are secondary to the models which I mention that operate as functions of time, legitimation, and support.

To tie the publishing/educational thread that I spoke of at the Share Widely event with the current discussion on curation and how it relates to the three models, I have found that the leading-edge genres of culture appear to work themselves through the process of legitimation and institutional recognition. That is, it takes time for culture to be seen from the fringes and be found, built up over time, or recognized as a genre/trend by the institution/intelligenstia/cognoscenti. Note that I do not use these terms interchangeably, but as a matrix, because various combinations of these legitimating events can take place, with similar results, which is that of larger cultural recognition. Where the museum show can take 2-5 years to mount, the transinstitutional seldom takes more than a year, and the independent takes as long as the curator takes to organize and post the work.

One point that might be brought up in light of my three models may be that of the self-curatorial model at where members can create their own exhibitions from the ArtBase. The ArtBase model falls between the independent and the transinstitutional, but different from the sort of model shown at Rather than trying to locate it within my models, the Rhizome curatorial method shows that my models are only three within the epistemological continuum between the independent, institutional and the liminal/fluid.

In considering the need for the creation of various cultural structures around genres such as New Media (and I will also argue that it can be considered a medium and movement as well), the culture has constructed its own forms of organizations (such as the introduction of Video Art Festivals as mentioned in the proceedings). It appears that genres in the latter half of the 20th Century create organs for exhibition and distribution that address the particularities of their given media.

But as with some of the prior posts which look at the ghettoization of New Media, it might be logical to consider my system of knowledge production specific to contemporary culture as showing itself in the creation of crossover works in the Contemporary world. Perhaps it might be useful to think that there may be a culturally specific New Media culture that will have its layers (and I just thought that Ive been thinking of protocols all this time!) of legitimacy, and that some of the New Media culture will make their way into the larger art world, ones that make their point, do not require a priori knowledge of computers, and speak to the human condition.

I hope my thought has not been too circuitous, but as I read on into all of the posts, the conversation is growing into an exciting intellectual thicket.
On Gifts and Presents
Posted by Patrick Lichty, Jul 8, 2005 12:29 AM in response to Patrick Lichty
The Gift and the Present

Derridas thoughts regarding the gift, in that upon its execution of an event of exchange implies reciprocity, debt, etc. is compelling, but perhaps a distinction could be made between what I would like to call the gift and the present. To me, although Derrida uses the term gift, I would like to propose changing this to present for contextual and etymological reasons.

John Ippolito, in discussing his thoughts on the gift economy of the online art world, recounted the Native American practice of the gift as something that is not necessarily held as material fetish, but as a symbol of exchange. The gift, as I understood it, was a device of esteem that was meant for circulation, and thus to create more goodwill around it. In essence, the gift is something that is not meant to be kept, but to be circulated, and perhaps this is a good metaphor for the online practice of sharing as epitomized by the Creative Commons license, Ippolito et als The Pool, and the various online open source communities. Iin using that term, I will acknowledge the use of open as a cultural brand that added certain connotations to the free software culture of the 90s.

From a personal occurrence, I came to make a distinction between the gift and the present. Both take time; this is one point they have in common. My contention is that the gift is far more altruistic than the present. If one deconstructs the word itself, it suggests a form of tribute (pre-sent) meant to please the recipient. And in other uses, one presents a work, gives a present-ation, art and curation are often termed to be in the work of re-present-ation. And as a playful aside, the alternate definition for present connotes the moment at hand, and thus demands the immediate moment (i.e. time). What I am getting at is that at least in the English language, there are many terms that suggest the idea of the present as the site of exchange, while the gift is often culturally situated as not having such requirements. Take for example the Gift of the Magi, and the Quaker hymn, Simple Gifts, which states that it is a gift to be simple and free (both immaterial qualities).

While Derridas analysis is quite apt in regards to his concept, I would like to suggest that there are forms of giving that do not require, as much, if at all, reciprocation an debt on the part of the recipient, and these differences are part of the contemporary net.culture.
Re: On Gifts and Presents
Posted by Beryl Graham, Jul 9, 2005 12:38 PM in response to Patrick Lichty
In order to help with the navigation of our "exciting intellectual thicket", perhaps I can be of gift service by starting to collate some of the categories used so far - I'm starting a table, which I will eventually figure out how to post clearly on this list!

In relation to Patrick's 'sites of production', there may also be some useful material in Sarah Cook's dissertation: she differentiates between the curatorial roles of 'context production' and 'content production', and also between the 'embedded' (within institutions) and the 'adjunct' (transinstitutional or independent).


trigger / response | contribution to a 'pool' (gift in the traditional sense) | conversation / exchange (two-way / real time) | reconfiguration (of the system itself)



academic press | the small press (e.g. Autonomedia) or self-published | website or blog.

Time/sites of production:

institution | transinstitutional ( e.g. | wholly independent (eg (re)distributions)

I'm also finding the theme of 'time' very relevant to both curatorial practice, and audience.
Re: Re: Participation/Curating/knowledge production
Posted by Christiane Paul, Jul 9, 2005 3:59 PM in response to Beryl Graham
I want to come back to Patrick's previously outlined three models of curation and "knowledge production":

academic press - arts institution | small press - smaller arts organization | blog or website - independent, self-pucuration

This model pretty accurately captures the current landscape of online curation. It's interesting to see how the situation changes when it comes to "object-oriented" work that requires a gallery space. Objects seem to be an 'equalizer' when it comes to the role that time plays in curation: larger institutions tend to plan far ahead with their exhibition schedule but it can also take a single independent curator years to secure a gallery space for a show. (And large institutions tend to be able to command larger budgets).

The models for online curation that Patrick outlines naturally have an effect on the content of a show. An independent curator -- either launching a show at her own site or under the umbrella of a non-profit organization -- has the ability to quickly reflect on the most recent developments in artistic practice (I don't want to use the word "trends"). Patrick's "(re)distributions" show is a good example: at the time the show happened, mobile media were very much in the process of "emerging" and the subject would probably have been too risky for an institution. Online curation within the "open system" of the network supports (or even requires) a "fast response" to current artistic practice while a physical exhibition of online art in a gallery seems to lend itself more to thematic explorations of work that has been created over a longer period of time (historicization?). One criterion for developing the concept for an art exhibition always is "urgency" -- the relevance of the topic at a certain point in time. When it comes to online art, it's difficult for institutions to compete with the flexibility and quick response time of online curation in responding to artistic practice.
Re: Re: Re: Participation/Curating/knowledge production
Posted by Charlie Gere, Jul 12, 2005 5:18 PM in response to Christiane Paul
It's strange here in London at the moment. Though the events last week were nowhere near as dramatic and appalling as 9/11 or even Madrid, they were still a monstrous series of events. We live just above Kings Cross and I was walking through Russell Square minutes after the bus bomb in Tavistock Square (a hundred yards from where I used to work), so it all felt very close if not frightening exactly.

By coincidence there are two major exhibitions in London at the moment in which the distinction between art and life is brought into question; one is a new version of Martha Rosler's Garage Sale at the ICA and the other is Rirkrit TIranijiva's recreation of his Californian flat in the Serpentine Gallery. Both are fully functioning environments that faithfully mimic the structures they are supposed to be, down to the smallest detail.

I don't quite know what to make of this juxtaposition except that it feels like everyday life is increasingly composed of a series of events, Glastonbury, Big Brother (television now seems to me to be increasingly performative in that it makes reality rather than reflect it), Live8, G8, the Olympic announcement, the bombs etc... Meanwhile artists seem increasingly determined to recreate the quotidian. But what else can art do when everyday life appears increasingly composed of avant-garde like spectacles.