Intermedia Art

New Media, Sound and Performance

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

Replies: 58
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Posted by Patrick Lichty, Jul 14, 2005 12:40 AM in response to Charlie Gere
Elements of Time and New Media
Thanks to Beryl for bringing up the issue of time.

In New Media, time is intrinsic to the work. And when it comes to curating, interacting, engaging the audience, archival, the issue of time reasserts itself. Once again, I go to a mix of experience and theory in reflecting on how I have seen time affect the varying levels of practice in our cultural milieu.

To begin with, New Media is time-based, regardless of whether it drives the participant or whether the participant drives it. Examples of these two forms of interaction with time are Whid & Rivers year-long net.performance video, versus an event-driven piece like Natalie Bookchins Intruder, which requires the user to play through a series of event/texts. Time-based media requires a player and for the visitor to spend an amount of time to experience the unfolding over time.

As mentioned, one importance of New Medias intrinsically time-based nature, and nearly any form of time based art medium, save perhaps media that require a minimum of technology, like the mobile, is that it requires an institutional support system for the given technology. For film, the institution requires projectors, for video, whatever format tape/disc player and the corresponding display or projector; electricity is considered a priori. For New Media, this is complicated by the need for various computational platforms and/or network resources, as well as possible custom hardware or software configurations.

The point to the arc of increasing degree of complexity of the support equipment for the piece of work is twofold. First, it requires an increased investiture in technologies and platforms, along with the expertise required to maintain the works. This is why my colleague Gregory Little and I look at many New Media pieces as attended works by necessity, as they require an operator to maintain the functioning of the work-as-system. Perhaps the need to attend the operation of a work may be mitigated by technological advances in the future, but this does not negate the need for support for many contemporary works. Secondly, time as agent of change within a milieu such as New Media is highly problematic, as it creates challenges for technical support as equipment fails, hardware and operating systems require updating, and/or go obsolete. For example, how many works will be able to exist that use Mac OS 9 and before? I think there was some element of discussion of the Variable Media Initiative that could address some of this, and there are Retro people like Cory Arcangel and myself that do work based on legacy systems, but by and large legacy technology is more of a challenge to the institution. I will be curious how the machinations of the institution create a support frame for the exhibition, support, and archival of the New Media work.

I realize that the challenges of infrastructural and technological support that time-based media may not be the issues of audience engagement and experience that we may initially consider. However, they do reveal possible challenges that would affect the representational quality of the work in the gallery setting, or whether a work could be considered for exhibition at all.
But going to the work of art, the aforementioned elements of instability in the techno/material infrastructure of the New Media work calls into question. Because of the materialist issues tied to museological practice, the museum of collector is concerned with the preservation of the static work of art as asset. But then, as technological media has developed since the 1800s, and especially with time-based work, time has been linked to the ephemeral. Typically speaking, in one form or another, time-based media tends to degrade more quickly than the static. This is not to ignore the deterioration of the Braques, Pollocks, and others, but it seems to me that ephemerality is more or less intrinsic to time-based media. To draw a parallel between the fleeting engagement with a time-based work and the increasingly fragile nature of its support infrastructure may be more poetic than pragmatic, but it might serve as a poignant metaphor.

Performing New Media
Therefore, I use the model of performance when considering the New Media work, and not the material, object-based paradigm. Although this model problematizes the traditional role of the museum/gallery, it simultaneously frees the New Media work from the stigma of its own transience through its recontextualization. As performance, the only archive that is required is now the record(ing), and not the site as such. But then, this demands that decisions be made on the part of the institution. What are the functions of new Media works? Should they be objectified, considered as procedural, parametric, systemic, etc? Can New Media works be held in the museum or gallery, or collection, by the very nature of their often ephemeral, or distributed, or specific forms? These are issues that have been discussed earlier in this forum.
Re: Re: Re: Re: Participation/Curating/knowledge production
Posted by Patrick Lichty, Jul 14, 2005 12:49 AM in response to Charlie Gere
I agree that contemporary culture is challenging the very question as to whether there can be an Avant-Garde (I realize that this may be a question well beaten in the 80's and 90's, but I feel that it didn't disappear because it was dismissed). As there seems to be an increasingly strident land-grab for attention/power from all areas of society, culture, politics, everything has to be more extreme than the last in order to shock, surprise, or seduce. The problem with this is that eventually there comes an exhaustion of the symbol that leads to mass attention fatigue, cynicism, apathy.

But then there also comes artists like the Tactical Media crowd as well that play on the effects of the age. It's odd, and something that I'm still trying to wrap my head around (the latest bits).
Time and Forgettability in Contemporary Art: A Tangent
Posted by Patrick Lichty, Jul 14, 2005 2:11 AM in response to Patrick Lichty
Time: Towards an Art of Forgettability/Curation of Forgettable Art?
In my musing upon the nature of time in New Media, let me put forth a polemic that might shed some light by taking some elements of audience engagement to logical extremes. In this event I consider some comments of American mainstream art critics and some audience members regarding New Media in that many are related to the nature of time. Mainly this has to do with the time demands imposed by interactive art, in that New Media frequently requires an active investigation of the work on the part of the audience. Note that I am not using names in this case, as I want the discussion to remain on the issue of time and New Media rather than the specific opinions of various critics. Remarks like Who has time for all of this?, and intimations that works that are not immediately evident by the nature of their presence in the gallery (which is often the case with video) somehow distinguishes or diminishes the New Media work.

In contrast, Id like to consider some of the thoughts of Paul Virilio, in which he suggests the compression of space through the acceleration of time through technological agency, and the immobilization of the individual by technological agency, thus collapsing space in itself. In Art of the Motor, Virilio looks at the compression of space through the acceleration of the body via the invention of motorized conveyance. I would couple such developments (note that I do not say advances) Taylorist time and motion studies in the creation of accelerated culture based on the efficiency of the body through space. So, in the time between the development of the passenger train and Taylors time/motion studies, if we expand through Moravecs mind as embodied consciousness and McLuhans ideas on media prosthetics (media technologies becoming prosthetics of the senses), one can argue that this acceleration has been mapped onto the Western/Industrialized consciousness. Thus, not just the physical has been compressed, but the ontological as well, as more information is to be processed by the individual with greater efficiency.

What seems to be the result is what Virilio talks about in his article, The Third Interval in which he posits that the technologically enabled person of disability becomes transparent with the able, as communications technology collapses space to the point where physical transportation becomes almost a non-issue. There are many ways to interpret this; the body becomes merely a node for the vectors of information to tie to the consciousness. Could it be paralysis caused by possibility (i.e. caused by excessive options choices?) Another idea is that cultural acceleration presents other aesthetics, by flows (vectors of information) that create an aesthetics of speed that privileges the gesture rather than the object.

From a pragmatic sense, social presence is still important, but one can argue that it can be less so, and through New Media art, presence is rendered problematic though the dematerialization of the object (due in part to the collapse of space). As been discussed, curation that is not tied by necessity to the brick and mortar can also be sticky in regards to the institution. There will still be a form of work that will tie to the sense of presence, whether it is in terms of the institution, or the persons necessity in experiencing the art.

However, what of this accelerated art that follows the rhizomatic model of momentary interaction, shallowly going from event to event, privileging speed of experience/ consumption/processing and the aesthetic gesture of the gestalt beyond the meaning of any object (material or code). Truly great art has to be regarded and apprehended in under ten seconds.

I believe that this is what certain art critics have fallen into in their critique of New Media. In that New Media, a time-based media that (often) requires time to experience it, the contemporary art world ironically short-circuits in that it infers the consumption of masses of the laborious within instants, This creates an ephemeral form of interaction with material contemporary art that seemingly critiques New Media and the transient arts for not being momentary enough. I cannot overstate the contradiction this seems to create.

To be even more speculative (as if this missive were not hyperbolic enough), what is the aesthetic of the hyper-accelerated channel-flipper? As mentioned before, it lies beyond the meaning of any object, but with the gestalt of consumption/processing. The ideal work in this model is that for immediate consumption and discard or archival to make room for the next momentary work; the next forgettable object which creates the flow the next frame in the movie.

Does that mean that the curator of the forgettable/indiscrete/continuous leave the realm of the Cornell-esque contextual bricoleur? Maybe it means that they become directors of context/sequences, like scenes in a movie in which the audience forgets the frames, but remembers the story. The art becomes the element of shaping the experience of time itself, for it is where the dematerialization of space/the object, the paralysis of the individual, the rhizomatic engagement with the work, and the vectoral nature of the work all take place.

Beyond this, I can speculate no further. My conjecture is probably an exercise of taking certain cultural effects and taking them to logical extremes, but I hope that it opens certain lines of discussion for consideration.

Ill return to a more grounded approach with my next posting.
Re: Time
Posted by Beryl Graham, Jul 14, 2005 11:37 AM in response to Patrick Lichty
To briefly pick up on the theme of time that Patrick has usefully developed, I found Christiane's post linking the aspect of time to the levels of institutionalisation/ freelance curation to be very apt: Freelancers can move much quicker and can respond to emerging technologies, but often, this speed itself seems to be regarded with particular suspicion by arts institutions (perhaps this has been experienced by others?)

This speed is often I think a positive thing for a curatorial 'truth to materials' (artists' use of the technology develops quickly, so curators must catch up, and grasp the media).

However, I have a difficult question for us to address How can we resist the negative side of speed? Barbara London has described the pressure to do the "Novelty Hustle", emerging technologies can lead to artists being poorly paid advertising executives for the R&D laboratories of technology companies (Saul Albert), and Charlie has described the culture of the "spectacle". Are there parallels from Tactical Media between 'the politics of short attention span' and the politics of participation, interaction and engagement?


Barbara London interview
Albert, Saul (2004) Locative Literacy. Metamute, M28:: Summer/Autumn 2004 (6.07.04). [Online]. Available from URL: 37.
Re: Re: Time
Posted by Charlie Gere, Jul 14, 2005 4:06 PM in response to Beryl Graham
Patrick's last post, about time, reminded me of Michael Fried's famous and controversial attack on Minimalism from the late 1960s, Art and Objecthood, in which he was concerned to criticise minimalist, or what he described as literalist art, for its theatricality, which he saw as manifested in its setting up a particular relation between the beholder as subject and the work as object, which necessarily takes place in time and which therefore has duration. Fried contrasted minimalist theatricality with the more general trend in artistic modernism precisely to defeat theatre and to suspend both objecthood and temporality. He contrasts this with modernist works, such as paintings by Noland or Olitski or sculptures by Anthony Caro or David Smith, in which at every moment the work itself is totally manifest. He continued that

t is this continuous and entire presentness, amounting, as it were, to the perpetual creation of itself, that one experiences as a kind of instantaneousness: as though if only one were infinitely more acute, a single infinitely brief instant would be long enough to see everything, to experience the work in all its depth and fullness, to be forever convinced by it.

And it is by virtue of their presentness and instantaneousness that modernist painting and sculpture defeat theatre. Fried prefaced the essay with a quote from the theologian Jonathan Edwards to the effect that we every moment see the same proof of a God as we should have seen if we had seen him create the world at first, and that the last words of the essay are presentness is grace. For Fried literalist works set up conditions of inexhaustibility. One never feels one has come to the end of it he wrote of the experience of works by Donald Judd, Tony Smith, and Robert Morris (p 143). Such works are not inexhaustible because they are full, which Fried claimed as the true inexhaustibility of art, but because there is nothing there to exhaust. They are endless as a road might be, if it were circular. This endlessness is a presentiment of endless or indefinite duration. He quotes Tony Smiths description of not seeing works of art in a second, but continuing to read them, as well as Robert Morriss statement that the experience of the work of art necessarily exists in time. This preoccupation with the duration of the experience on the part of literalist artists is what, according to Fried, makes their work fundamentally theatrical.
Time, Aesthetics, and Open Systems
Posted by Christiane Paul, Jul 15, 2005 4:17 PM in response to Charlie Gere
All the previous posts aptly illustrate the essential role that time plays in the "open systems" of new media art. With regard to individual artworks, one could argue that the degree of openness of a project -- from navigation of a preconfigured system to contribution within a framework created by an artist or reconfiguration of the system itself -- is directly related to the investment of time the viewer / participant has to make and the amount of expertise necessary to engage with it. The larger, cultural question -- as Beryl has perfectly described it -- is the tension between "the politics of short attention span" (diminishing the time of contemplation and in-depth engagement and hunting for the next "trend") and the "politics of participation, interaction and engagement" (which by nature can be extremely time-consuming).

As both Patrick and Charlie have pointed out, this poses very interesting questions for the aesthetics of new media art. One could certainly argue that contemporary media culture (as Patrick suggests) privileges momentary interaction and speed of experience / consumption / processing. I don't believe that truly great art can be measured according to the speed at which it can be consumed, but the "speed" of a technologically enabled, digital society definitely seems to support quick "processing" of an artwork. Ironically this cultural acceleration -- even if it seems to emphasize the "gesture" of the gestalt rather than the meaning of an object -- seems to long for the more condensed, static form of the object that can be processed seemingly instantaneously (which naturally is an illusion since a painting ideally requires a longer period of time in order to unfold its meaning). New media art seems to find itself in an awkward space when it comes to speed of consumption vs. politics or social structures of engagement. Even though the speed of networked access collapses space and the body may become a node for vectors of information, as Patrick has put it, the "material" (the code in the broadest sense) will only become meaningful through an extended process, prolonged active exchange, often in a social space. The conditions of inexhaustibility in new media art are defined by continuing evolution as process-oriented engagement rather than the endlessness of the art object in its relation to duration of experience. "Who has time for this?" is indeed one of the often asked questions when it comes to new media art. Unfortunately, people indeed do not seem to have much time for this when it comes to art experience in a gallery / museum setting. But it continues to amaze me how much time they spend with online artworks, contributing to them on a continuous basis and making a serious "commitment." Blogs where people record and publish their daily activities (including particularities such as their food consumption) and contributions to 3D worlds or sites such as the photo sharing environment Flickr ( seem to testify to a human need for sharing and distributing experiences or engaging in social space (a transference of human needs and desires from actual to virtual space?).

I realize that our discussion here is going to come an end soon (at least within this particular forum) and I enjoyed revisiting the posts to see where the discussion has naturally "wandered" over the past few weeks:

+ "open systems" as art works throughout time (conceptual and new media); the varying degrees of openness of works in relation to time, space, and aesthetics

+ the (im)possibilities of "open systems" and systems aesthetics / theory

+ the art system and models for "open systems" in curatorial practice (filtering, selecting, gatekeeping) -- both within the gallery / museum and online contexts

+ concepts of participation, exchange , and cultural production in the open systems of networks (including the relationship between literacy and engagement)

Of course there have been numerous sub-threads and I keep wondering if there are aspects and implications of "open systems" that we have completely missed
New Media: Three Contexts
Posted by Patrick Lichty, Jul 17, 2005 1:40 AM in response to Christiane Paul
New Media: Three Contexts
Before addressing the arc of this discussion of curating New Media, Id like to bring up a topic of conversation that Kelli Dipple mentioned when she first invited me, and this has to do (in the broadest terms) the contextualization of the form.

In 2004, I was asked to write a few words on whether, as a New Media artist, I served as a content or context provider. I think that in the role of curator, it might be useful to revisit this question to frame the definition of New Media. As curators, we generate both context and content, and in this case, the border between the two blur. In creating context for a set of works, the curator creates a narrative content (metanarrative) through the show, which then serves to help form the context of the nature of certain forms of art on a larger scale. In short, curation is a contextualization, which in itself is a form of content, which then adds to a larger context.

The matter here is that artists, curators and historians, as well as, but perhaps moreso, create the larger cultural context for oeuvres and movements. I would argue is that artists are the first most likely to do so, then curators, and then historians, although this is only a loose generalization, and that there are certainly exceptions. That being said, I would like to suggest three possible epistemic zones or functions of New Media, perhaps arising from the roles of the artist, the curator, and the historian.

In that I believe that New Media consists of an aesthetic representation of information through live or real-time computation, interactive or not, visual or not. The genre as such really has not existed to any extent until the late 60s, but I would suggest that New Medias existence did not take shape until the computing boom of the 70s and the rise of the personal computer in the 1980s. These events laid the foundation on which multimedia could emerge in the late 80s and could arise after the implementation of the Web in 1993-4. It could also be said that New Media as such was not formalized through curatorial contextualization until shows like the Art Entertainment Network at the Walker and Net.Condition (ZKM) in the late 90s, and the 2000 Whitney Biennial, which formally introduced Internet works to the New York scene.

New Media in the 80s and 90s was far more a developing genre than a medium. The community, which I first encountered on the university Bitnet, on the Delphi and CompuServe forums, and then on listservs like Rhizome, was a very open, sharing group that seemed interested in the aesthetic/critical possibilities of the emerging set of technologies than for a more formalized cultural framing, such as medium. This makes sense, as in many ways (during the 90s) there were technologies that created forms of expression and communication that at least seemed (and probably still _are_) quite novel in contrast to prior forms.

With the formalization of a taxonomy/definition of New Media through curatorial practice, as in the early 90s New Media was called Electronic Art, Digital Art, and Cyberart (to name a few), it was made manifest within the institution. Regardless of how loose, fuzzy or indistinct the definition New Media might have, it is now lumped in that mnemonic reserved to signify the set of technological arts, which uses digital and communications technology. Regardless of its prior development within the emergent community as a nascent genre, with legitmation by the cultural institution under the practical nomenclature of New Media, it reached critical mass and became an entity unto itself. There are other issues, such as the onset of the passing of New Medias novelty after its legitimation, as well as the subsequent move by parts of the mainstream art world to integrate New Media art, and the concurrent problem of New Medias cultural specificity that tends to marginalize much of it. While important, all of these issues are outside of the narrative arc of this argument, and should be considered at another time.

While artists created a genre and the institution created a medium, Western culture is already undertaking the task of historicizing New Media. In the scant five years since the Whitney Biennial 2000, there is a summit on (New) Media history, and books like Prefiguring Cyberspace, and even one that has the title of New Media: 1715-1914. These are fine collections, but (especially the later) rather naked in their agendas. In the creation of a historical context for New Media, theres a land rush with a great deal of scholarly territory at stake. I wont be overly dramatic, but the authors of the seminal histories of the form stand to benefit quite well.

The question that comes to mind relates to how New Media will be seen in a future historical context. I am wondering if it will be seen as a genre, as a medium, or as a movement per se. There have been movements labeled by the artists, and others labeled by curators and historians. My understanding is that the former came about with proto-Modernism as cultural positions, and the latter for classification. Let me say that I am at a strict disadvantage when venturing into discussing who declared New Media and when, although it would create some context for the nature of its cultural framing.

The problem of New Media as a movement, as stated by Christiane Paul, is that it falls outside the purview of any one historical tradition. It does not fit within Art History alone, as it also has roots in histories of technology, entertainment, computation, the sciences, mathematics and other disciplines. Perhaps this is part of what Baudrillard, in his discussion of cultural transparency in The Transparency of Evil (p.10), notes that in a society where aspects of culture permeate all others (i.e. sports as politics, war as entertainment, news as pornography), the locus of any cultural form is least likely to be found in its root. In the case of New Media, this would suggest, that much of the historical precedent for the form would be least centered in art history. To make this supposition would follow with the form of New Media itself, which calls upon so many diverse disciplines for its existence.

In closing, I would like to suggest that it may be likely that New Media may be considered as genre, medium, and movement in a future contexts historiography, or extant/emergent in the current one. The difficulty in making this multivalent distinction is that it complicates the cultural context of an already complicated milieu. However, in doing so, one takes in account the facts of the form itself and its manifold sources as well as the functions over time of the various engines of cultural production. Whether the cultural framing of New Media by the various agents that I have mentioned in this discussion will take place according to my model remains to be seen, although I consider it to be likely in part. However, I do think that New Media enjoys a a relatively novel place in cultural history what will bring forth some historiographical peculiarities which will be specific to its milieu.
wrapping things up
Posted by Patrick Lichty, Jul 18, 2005 3:11 AM in response to Patrick Lichty
Beginning of the End.

The past five weeks have been challenging and enlightening, and I am also grateful to the fine participants in the Public forum for some spirited debate. I also apologize if I have put forth any spurious missives or went on tangents. Its heartening to see that my enthusiasm for our niche of culture can still be kindled in this way.

Christiane brought up some excellent points regarding the points brought up in this conversation during our time. From this, I would like to consider some elements of the following that identify some of the interesting points of the forum:

Openness and Curation
Hierarchical Production and the Filter
(U/Dys)topianism of Openness
Evolutionary development of cultural production
Cultural Specificity and the problem of audience participation

One of the stickier issues that arose in this discussion is that of openness in curation. It seems that it is a question of agency and power who or what does the curating, how the exhibitions are organized. It was mentioned that a model of interest was the Rhizome ArtBase member-curated exhibitions.

First, let me say that I do not believe curation can be completely open, as there is some filtration of pieces suitable for a given context from a given body of works from a given community, shown under certain circumstances. It is as if circles in a great Venn Diagram were being placed in the culture. The question again, is what social sets (artists, curators/curatorial agents, audience) is selecting what bodies of work(s), under what criteria of selection (context). With Rhizome, even though the curators are free to do whatever they wish, it is still members selecting member art. The boundary still exists, and the system still remains closed, after a fashion, although the scrim of expertise has been lifted, and that submissions limitations are very slight.

In looking at the matrix of relations around an exhibition, what arises is a contextual inscription that groups or even subordinates a body of works to serve a cultural function. This can illustrate an ideology, create a cultural statement/intervention (, of which I was one of the curators), suggest a trend, educate an audience (which was talked about earlier), satisfy an institutional agenda (sponsors, etc.). Even in independent shows, there are agendas, narratives, and functions that are addressed. In some ways, I wonder if there can be true openness in a curatorial system, as this suggests an open set, and as Sarah might have inferred, heads us a form of entropy. My thought on this is that openness could work in local contexts, set by audience members, artists and curators that could create a specific meaning, possibly like a search engine. Perhaps setting local contexts for viewing works could be part of my fluid model of curation.

But for now, I see much of curation having a hierarchical function, with the curator defining the context/frame in which the works situate, and even with filters, the curator or agent (like still has an organizing function.

Going to the public forum, Marc Garrett brought up the idea of whether the idea of open systems and open models of curation had utopian or dystopian qualities. I agree with him in questioning either supposition, as the rapid development and change within electronic/online culture creates grass-roots events of different forms. Could we say that such ad-hoc forms of expression/organization are more born out of necessity or a sort of appropriateness for the context in which they event operates? The idea of experimental forms of cultural intervention driven by local contexts make sense to me. Thanks, Marc.

And as some of these experimental models of artistic/cultural forms catch on, they go through the different levels of formalization mentioned before from the street to the history books. This is by no means linear, as many of the groups I mentioned before are in simultaneous groups (today, artists, curators, theorists, and historians often overlap).

And then lastly, New Media as an open cultural system has its own challenges in regards to its being such a culturally/educationally/etc. specific culture that only certain works (such as Daniel Rozins Wooden Mirror, or Kacs GFP Bunny) translate well into the mainstream art consciousness. There are so many challenges relating to the investigation of sociocultural protocols (to bring us back to Christianes early musing on Galloway) from the fact that there was a panel and public forum, that has an open curatorial model that assumes membership, which follows to the roles of the independent, the fluid and the institutional, that I fear that I cannot possibly address them holistically. The best that I can say is that given a desire for cultural openness, with awareness for the impediments to protocological permeability, we can work toward better social/cultural models.

Again, in these closing hours, I thank everyone for their participation and wonderful interaction. Although there might be a few more words typed, it has been a singular honor to be here.
Re: wrapping things up
Posted by Charlie Gere, Posted: Jul 18, 2005 9:40 AM in response to Patrick Lichty
This has been a very stimulating experience, and I feel honoured and slightly daunted to have been able to engage with so many extremely intelligent people, on both the public and panel fora. I feel absolutely unable to do any of the recent posts justice in the time left, especially as I am dashing off here and there. Both Marc and Patrick's last posts require attention that the restricted time left denies. Kelli, how about a panel at or around the time of the Systems conference in September, which could include, either physically or virtually, the panel members and others such as Marc, Ruth of some of the Node.listas to further the discussion after we've all had time to digest the material posted?
Re: Re: wrapping things up
Posted by Trebor Scholz, Posted: Jul 18, 2005 12:58 PM in response to Charlie Gere
Dear all,

After a long run around the local Brooklyn Prospect Park I am back in front of the screen. Reflecting on our discussions over the past weeks I would like to thank you for this opportunity and will recapitulate what resonated most, what inspired conversation, sparked further reading, and web walking here in New York. There was so much and I cannot possibly respond to all ideas.

Our discussion of the past weeks is part of a larger number of symposia, initiatives, projects and exhibitions all inspired by the notion of openness. This heightened interest may in part be due to the emergence of socially cooperative technologies that allow for new inter-communal connections. Much of this debate takes place outside the gates of artworld. Blogs, for example, became extremely popular with "blog" having been the most looked-up term in Merriam Webster in 2004. Raising many intellectual property issues- knowledge collectives are formed to hunt and gather distributed resources and set up learning projects that demonstrate the ability to create free knowledge pools based on knowledge networks. In this forum many examples of participatory open systems were cited-- from the Slash site, Open Access Publishing on, Wikipedia, OpenGov, The Gutenberg Project, and Open Archives. The cooperation commons are growing.

In the arts we pointed to typologies of participation and issues of conservation in Mongrel's NINE (9), Josh On/Future Farmers "They Rule," Gruppo A12's "Parole" and Eryk Salvaggio's "What Do We Stand For?" The artist in some of these examples becomes the "director of context," the Fluxus-like catalyst of a performative act, rather than the provider of content. The question of art is often posed by curators in this context. They wonder if this setting up of contexts has more to do with providing a service than with creating art. Openness challenges the idea of the expert as in a distributed environment everybody is an expert (at something). The thousands of contributors who wrote the millions of entries in the free encyclopedia Wikipedia attest to this. In a curating context there are Rhizome's ArtBase,, and the traveling curatorial archive "Curating DegreeZero." I think that we will see many more online projects that will aim to give a platform to artwork and the writing of art historians and media critics.

From the art institution, academic press, and non-profit art space, to the online environment and self-publishing platform-- these structures all inherit diverse opportunities. Online one can respond to current discourses rapidly while museums are more interested in history-type exhibitions that require years of planning ahead and substantial resources. But there is more. Cooperation-amplifying technologies facilitate knowledge collectives, knowledge pools, distributed creativity, peer-production networks and the building of environments that are richer than anything that we have ever seen before. The often posed question of "Who speaks and who is silent?"and Raymond Williams' writing on selected histories comes to mind. Who picks what out of the box of history to be remembered and re-inscribed and serve as inspiration to younger generations? Who decides what is flushed down in the sink of history and what is engraved in memory? Today's social networking software creates a power shift that challenges the content hegemony of the museum and the academic press alike. It is very powerful to connect people. In the 1950s the Soviet Union created the first cybernetic system (predating the invention of the internet in the United States). This system was build to connect factories in order to solve problems of demand/supply within central planning (Weinberger). Today we call that just-in-time delivery. But the project was stopped when the party apparachniks realized that this system would ultimately network not only the factories but also the workers. What a scary thought. This shows that organized networks have to be reckoned with. An organized network like the Australian Fibreculture with 900 people on their mailing list has a lot of communication power. Open access publishing and mailing lists expose many people to ideas, artworks, and discourses. Online and off, networks produce exhibitions, conferences, publications and many other activities grouped around a set of common interests. While not being a threat to traditional institutions (in the sense of replacement), these parallel projects contribute to discourse formation.

Adding to our conversation about distributed curating I would like to add an example that could serve as inspiration. The Connexions Project by Rice University is a knowledge pool. When we think of curating as filtering and editing then a distributed learning project like Connexions is a piece of software that we can learn from. Here, in short, chunks of knowledge are uploaded to allow for collective creation of syllabi (from many fields). In opposition to MITOpenCourseWare, here, content cannot just be viewed but also added to/improved upon. Opening one's doors online of course invites the problem of spam or submissions of little relevance. How does Connexions deal with peer-review of its submissions? The director of the Connexions project describes that editing/peer review for him or his colleagues would be impossible as they do not know the field of those submitting. A general practitioner, for example, may contribute a specific piece but even a surgeon may not be able to speak to its quality as specialization is at paramount. The Connexions team developed a peer-review (or call it curatorial) software tool that small, self-organized peer review groups use to add their stamp of approval to a document. The content is fed from Connexions to the small external groups via RSS, and then an endorsement is added to the document. There can be several different endorsements from various groups. These small groups may differ in their opinion and give it different levels of endorsement. Maybe this method of distributed peer review can be applied to the arts and possibly be consider for the next version of the Kurator software.

But at the same time we should be careful in the face of all too much enthusiasm about open systems. The heads of people in the board rooms of IBM, Bertelsman and Microsoft as well as already heat up trying to find out how to profit from those centralized knowledge hubs.

It is rather surprising that social networks using technical networks flourish so much. Just look at the photo sharing site Flickr, the tourist site WikiTravel, but also friend's networks like Tribe, Friendster, and LinkedIn. Rheingold (2005) points to the core of people's desire to contribute to the public: "Cooperative endeavors provide individuals [the] opportunity to satisfy their deep human need for productivity through participation and the creation of resources, artifacts, and value."

All this participation is even more surprising when looking at Putnam's well-researched argument that social connectedness and civic participation in the United States are on the decline but that small groups, often self-help oriented groups are growing. One of the reasons for this "the overruling of the openness of virtual space by its tendency to reinforce specialized interests and narrow group identities." (Terranova). Putnam gives the example of a chat room for owners of a particular BMW model. Here, comments about BMW in general (not focused on this particular model) were censored as being "off topic." People meet through cooperative technologies and do not have to bother with people who think differently as they can filter down to that tiny group of people that thinks exactly alike. But on the other hand this connectedness among the like-minded or of those with similar expertise in a field can be very helpful.

Inke Arns' essay "Interaktion, Partizipation, Vernetzung und Telekommunikation" (2004) and Nicolas Bourriaud book "Relational Aesthetics" (1998) both point to the fact that art increasingly opens up environments, and is about participation in "communicative, social, political (exchange) processes." Arns' essay draws a trajectory of participation from Duchamp, Cage, and VanGogh TV to contemporary media art. The "Open Systems" exhibition here at The Tate Modern draws a similar line between art historical narratives and today's media art, which is rare and important, I think.

The issue of participation becomes especially important for sustainable long-term (art) projects. Technologists often ignore this aspect of their project and institutions rarely see the importance of funding off-line events/workshops that may be essential to populating a piece.
Openness can have many faces and as a friend pointed out recently "collaboration is not for everyone." Open systems shut the door in the face of those whose cooperative toolkit is insufficient or others without the necessary hardware or connectivity which is simply not available in most of the world. Open systems hardly deliver what their name promises. Whom are we open to? Does open automatically mean public? Who are the people who spend much of their time walking through web-based artworks? That networks and hardware reach into offices does not mean that suddenly the office worker becomes a net art aficionado. One of Hans Haacke's survey piece showed that the majority of people going to the museum are art professionals. Does this change online? For whom/to whom are we open? In our society overburdened with information it is hard to get on top of the priority list of people, to enter their everyday by asking them contribute to an online environment. What motivates to contribute to an online environment beyond the pleasure of chipping in once in a while? What makes the lurking online flneur into a contributor? What creates deep linkages between groups of contributors? Artists have to find innovative strategies to involve people in participatory online projects. Artists often email their friends to solicit their input and then enter the content themselves. Or they talk to people in person to trigger contribution. The gift-giving of context-providing is a hierarchical act in which the artist is rewarded with each new entry, each new participation.

In "Technologies of Cooperation Howard Rheingold emphasizes that "A new literacy of cooperation- a skill set for how to leverage the power of socio-technical group-forming networks and catalyze action-- will become an important competency in the next decades. From daily activities as mundane as shopping and as important as obtaining health care and participating in civic life, smart-mob skills will play an important role in how people interact on a daily basis."

I would like to thank you, well, for having me, and for all the thoughtful contributions in this forum. I hope that we will find ways to continue this discussion over a cup of tea or in a bar somewhere near you.
Re: Re: Re: wrapping things up
Posted by Christiane Paul, Posted: Jul 18, 2005 4:40 PM in response to Trebor Scholz
I also want to thank everyone for a great discussion, which seems to exemplify many of the points that have been made in our posts -- it has been networked by "linking to" multiple projects and contexts; has fluctuated between very specialized interests and broader cultural issues; and has been disjointed in bringing up so many issues that it seems impossible to address them, given the short response time and the multiple voices involved. The last few posts have again brought up so many ideas that would require in-depth discussion, which has to be continued somewhere else.

The issue of context is one I'm particularly interested in. While every artist and "cultural producer" (in the broadest sense) is always a content and context provider, the digital medium with its dependency on multiple frameworks and its capabilities for networking seems to naturally place an increased emphasis on context. As Trebor has pointed out, people find themselves struggling with the question whether art has moved from an "object" to a "service" -- a creation of platforms for participatory exchange. The latter has been an implicit ideal of art (movements) for the longest time and digital media have brought this concern to the forefront again. What fascinates me about the digital medium is that there is still so much to learn about the implications of the openness of networked exchange as it moves from engagement in the physical world to technologically filtered and mediated forms with all their promises and pitfalls
Re: Re: wrapping things up
Posted by Patrick Lichty , Posted: Jul 18, 2005 4:50 PM in response to Charlie Gere

I'm all for a second round. Would love to do it.
Re: Re: Re: wrapping things up
Posted by Beryl Graham, Posted: Jul 18, 2005 5:27 PM in response to Patrick Lichty
It's about 5pm in my time zone, on the last day of our hike, and time to pause to look back at the view, and being British, for me to suggest a nice cup of tea and a sit down (I brought a thermos flask).

I'd really like to thanks the generousity of all the panel, plus Sarah and Kelli, for leaving such tasty trails of breadcrumbs - I'm still following these useful links and rich resources, and digesting them. The ways in which you have picked up on each other's trails and threads has been a great model I think for collaboration.

In reflecting back, a very useful theme and tool to recur is that of the challenging but rewarding skills of co-operation and collaboration. To bring us back to the Curating Immateriality conference at the start of this panel, Franziska Nori mentioned the importance of working in a team of curators, and Joasia Krysa posed the idea of the curator being a node in a network. This has aso been reflected on the public forum by the process of the SMAL group. I do hope that these discussions are of use to other curators seeking new models and new systems.

And for future trails? Everyone is very welcome, of course, on the CRUMB discussion list for curators of new media art <>. It's open to everyone, and we make great biscuits.

Thanks again,

thanks and goodnight
Posted by Sarah Cook, Posted: Jul 19, 2005 1:30 AM in response to Beryl Graham
Strangely enough Beryl and I are actually resident in the same timezone, but as she knows, I tend to also walk the trails in Western Canada each day as well as those here in the UK and while here Sailing By is playing on the radio, there its just about the end of the day so I still have time to weigh in with some brief concluding thoughts.

This past week, while Ive been reading along in the forums, Ive also been listening to archives of talks by artists and theorists held at the Banff New Media Institute, broadcast for me in so-called real time on actual FM radio in Banff as well as simultaneously and translocally streamed over the (time-zone-less) web. This is a new curatorial way of working for me, in which my collaborators and I discuss, using instant messaging, the material uncovered as it is played they over morning coffee and me over afternoon tea. Its a durational experience which I wanted to mention here because this week weve listened together to Clay Shirkys fantastic talk about the differences between open source systems and free software (by way of the analogy of cake-baking) [the link to his talk, so you can listen too, is here] and Simon Pope discuss the truth and potential failure of openness in relation to his practice [the link to his talk is here:]. Both talks present such an interesting history of where weve come from and where we might be going to, through an analysis of the tools of the trade, the mutations of the systems in which we invest our time. I thought perhaps as you suffer withdrawl from this forum in the (quieter) days to come, you could enjoy digesting these other views.

It seems that perhaps, from my suggestion of a route for our discussion five weeks ago, that our third path has really just been the ground beneath the feet of paths one and two. Our discussions of the shared context for our content-creating work as curators have taken in a range of topics -- from repetition to reception, fringe culture to the fluid model. I think the arguments put forward about participation and performance and their alternative views of the question of time of engagement are particularly rich. I also think it is along this path of inquiry that we can perhaps most profitably open up the guarded border that still exists between new media art and other forms of institutionally recognized/accepted/collected forms of art.

Yesterday I volunteered in the orchestration of Spencer Tunicks photo installation in NewcastleGateshead. For four hours, 1700 people walked (and stood and kneeled) naked together in the streets while the moment was captured on film by the artist. It might only take a viewer 10 seconds to get the work when it is finally exhibited in the gallery (questions of greatness aside; last night on BBC Three it took the broadcast journalists a sound-bite sized three minutes to explain the work to the viewers at home), but it took us seven hours of systematized orchestration to enable it to happen. [Christiane commented that new media artists have become more sophisticated in their knowledge of how they influence a social environment through the parameters they set for a project voila a great instance of this. And nary a piece of what we might call new media in sight (the megaphone Spencer directed the crowd through perhaps?).] The work raises many of the issues weve debated here from activism, the gift, and how to claim ownership through voluntary participation, to the document and its easy assimilation and reception. For many of the participants in the work, the art happened when they threw their clothes to the ground and ran towards the bridge; it wont be the same art experience when they come back and see the gallery exhibition.

So I would tend to agree that we are living in an interesting moment when art has very clearly moved from an "object" to a "service" -- a creation of platforms for participatory exchange, or at least our curating of contemporary art increasingly allows/permits/encourages this (though as Trebor has pointed out, the art system doesnt make this easy). And this is irrespective of whether we are working with new media art or other forms of art. As a result, we, as viewers, as participants in contemporary art systems find ourselves asking more often the question Lyotard poses, (which Im so grateful to Charlie for bringing up) is it happening, and further, what does it mean to live and work in the endless present (to try and not be so caught up in the theatricality of the experience of duration)?

Of course, living and working (participating) in an endless present, which technologically appears feasible, and is lauded as an aesthetic quality which differentiates the work of new media art from other process-led or experiential works of art, is actually impossible. (Ditto to new media curating in an endless present, irrespective of my attempts at it, as described in my webradio listening above). The most closed system of them all, the human body, fails us, wears out, grows tired of walking and thinking and walking.

And so Im left to say thanks to you all for having such stamina on these meanders.

Til soon,