Week One on Through the NET: Net Art Then and Now
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Timothy Conway Murray
PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 9:11 pm    Post subject: Week One on Through the NET: Net Art Then and Now

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Welcome back everyone from summer or winter, depending on your location.
Renate and I have enjoyed the quiet of Cayuga Lake in Ithaca after
returning from Shanghai where we opened a new Summer School in Theory
between Cornell University and East China Normal University. Our time off
in August gave us an opportunity to think about anniversary nodes of the
net and net.art, just as I was being challenged in keeping various pieces
of 1990s net.art online for my exhibition, Signal to Code: 50 Years of
Media Art in the Rose Goldsen Archive
(http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/signaltocode/). So we thought it might be
interesting to open September with a discussion of Net Art Then and Now.

This week, I will look forward to the opportunity to think back on the
excitement of curatorial projects in net.art when the community imagined
that the challenging artworks of the net might reach a broader audience
than now seems to have been the case. I will be joined by Craig Saper, a
challenging thinker of the network. Craig Saper (US) is Professor in
the Language, Literacy, and Culture Doctoral Program at UMBC in Baltimore,
Maryland, US. Craig published Networked Art and, as dj Readies, Intimate
Bureaucracies ‹
both about net-art then (and now). His work on net-art also appears in the
Whitechapel Gallery's Networks, in their Documents of Contemporary Art
series and forthcoming in Beyond Critique: Contemporary Art in Theory,
Practice and Instruction. Hisrecently published "cross between an
intellectual biography Š and a picaresque novel,˛ and "a biography of a
lost twentieth century," The Amazing Adventures of Bob Brown, tells the
comic story of a real-life Zelig and the ultimate networker. He has also
edited or co-edited scholarly volumes including Electracy: Gregory L.
Ulmer Textshop Experiments
<http://www.thedaviesgrouppublishers.com/ulmer%20electracy.htm> (2015), a
special issue of the scholarly journal Hyperrhiz on mapping culture
<http://hyperrhiz.io/hyperrhiz12/> (2015), special issues of Rhizomes on
Posthumography <http://www.rhizomes.net/issue20/saper/index.html>(2010),
Imaging Place <http://www.rhizomes.net/issue18/saper/> (2009), and Drifts
<http://www.rhizomes.net/issue13/> (2007), and many other volumes since
1990. Craigąs curatorial projects include exhibits on łAssemblings˛
(1997), łNoigandres: Concrete Poetry in Brazil˛ (1988) and łTypeBound
<http://www.readies.org/typebound/>˛ (2008), and folkvine.org
<http://folkvine.umbc.edu/> (2003-6). In addition, he has published two
other artistsąs books On Being Read (1985) and Raw Material (2008).

Over the weekend, Renate and I enjoyed a lakeside lunch at a casual
restaurant on Cayuga Lake, and recalled that our last meal there was in
the pleasant company of Craig Saper. So, Craig, we are very happy to be
back in conversation with you here on the network rather than the lake.
We look forward to receiving your opening post.

Tim




Timothy Murray
Professor of Comparative Literature and English
Taylor Family Director, Society for the Humanities
http://www.arts.cornell.edu/sochum/
Curator, Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art
http://goldsen.library.cornell.edu
A D White House
Cornell University,
Ithaca, New York 14853
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Craig Saper
PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 9:28 pm    Post subject: Week One on Through the NET: Net Art Then and Now

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Tim, Thanks for the introduction — and although we didn’t get to Ithaca this summer — fond memories. It seems fitting to have the theme this week correspond to the 20th anniversary of Rhizome.org. Congratulations to Mark Tribe and the network of folks who transformed a listserv (like -empyre -- just sayin') into something else for networked art (putting that notion of transformation of a listserv into something else ("commissions, exhibits, preserves, and creates critical discussion around" net-art) as the implicit instruction/open-constraint for our discussion) . . . . still having a difficult time defining networks? Ten thousand books with “network” in their title, subtitle, or series title have appeared since my Networked Art appeared in 2001, and reading just a few of these titles begins to sound like a conceptual poem: Networks of Outrage and Hope; Network Forensics; Understanding Social Network; How Networks are Shaping the Modern Metropolis; Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks; Disrupting Dark Networks; Network Like an Introvert; Network Marketing; Network Management; The Network; Actor-Network Theory and Tourism; Charles Dickens's Networks; Social Network Analysis; Nomads and Networks; Networked: The New Social Operating System; Networks Without a Cause ... (with thanks to K.A. Wisniewski for digging up some of this list). Network is networked in every conceivable publisher's category: Computers & technical manuals. Science. Art. Photography. Biographies & Memoirs. Literature, Graphic novels, and literary criticism. Education. History. Politics. Sociology. Law. Humor. Religion. Philosophy. Self-help. ... Trade publishers. University, or Small presses. Self-published. Television or Internet. ... Networks, Networking, Networked . . . Nouns. Adjectives. Verbs. Or, read as both or neither. Something else? It's a one-word cliché either disliked and pernicious or liberating and utopian; it is a network of control in the "capitalocene" (the complex networks that have transformed lives for everybody on this planet whether they like it or not) or the anarchist rhizomatic hacktivists' web. Not in the same ways, but deeply still. Instead of it's meaning, what are it's moods, textures, poetics, amateur-hack-artist function, and visceral affects? That's what I hope we can explore here.
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Timothy Conway Murray
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 8:04 am    Post subject: Week One on Through the NET: Net Art Then and Now

Thanks so much, Craig, for this provocative opening. Our hope is to jump
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Craig Saper
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 12:01 pm    Post subject: Week One on Through the NET: Net Art Then and Now

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Instructions #2
Zooming in on our opening gambit to turn -empyre- into a net-art experiment (or a set of instructions that could potentially do so in some theoretical future), then we can appreciate the shift from demarcating to listing/using a series of functions and effects.

Two attributes in art that use the situation of a network as a canvas. The first is to "write" the work as an open-constraint set of instructions (either algorithmic or listing). One can send/apply the instructions either to bots, people, or (in the case of listserv) to an unknown identity (let's call ourselves p-bot effects). We see this in Fluxus works (precursors to net-art? or an example of it?) and in the twitter-bot experiments like Helen Burgess' "Loving-Together with Roland's Bots" and Anna Coluthon (@annacoluthon), Tully Hansen’s team-powered bot @botALLY retweets and tags bot-generated tweets, “NRA Tally (@NRA_Tally)” or“Save the Humanities (@SaveHumanities)” by Mark Sample, “Pizza Clones (@pizzaclones)” by Allison Parrish.

The second (closely related to the effect above) is to notice that, unlike other arts, dependence on a singular virtuosity and aesthetic innovation, net-art appears to have another notion of the artwork; the genius is distributed in the system -- throughout the network, and the amateur and hack are nodes in that system. Often, though the artist-function is algorithmic and instructions for an open-system, the artist function is both more controlling (see the definition of a p-bot) -- watch-maker like -- and less (once it is out there among the undefined networks of other p-bots). In celebrating early work on rhizomes.org, there is a discussion of Petra Cortwright's explicitly unintentional artwork on YouTube that emphasized her amateur status. The amateur is not a professional.

What are the instructions?

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Murat Nemet-Nejat
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 12:48 pm    Post subject: Week One on Through the NET: Net Art Then and Now

Craig,


Thank you for the clarity and boldness of your first gambit.

"Often, though the artist-function is algorithmic and instructions for an open-system, the artist function is both more controlling (see the definition of a p-bot) -- watch-maker like -- and less (once it is out there among the undefined networks of other p-bots). In celebrating early work on rhizomes.org (http://rhizomes.org), there is a discussion of Petra Cortwright's explicitly unintentional artwork on YouTube that emphasized her amateur status. The amateur is not a professional."


I like your 18th century reference. Then, the net-artist becomes the Newtonian god or, more precisely, the job (that of the clock-maker who then disappears) assigned to god in that universe.


What happens to "the reader" in that net-universe then. One should not forget that in Newtonian metaphysics (science) one can not change anything; but only "discover" the laws governing events, fact. If so, there is nothing open-ended in net-art. The "reader" (any interacter with the work) can only discover the depth (the digital wisdom, you might say) of the algorithm. Making the net-artist through his/her programing basically a god, are you not making him/her infinitely powerful, the very opposiye of the open-endedness you suggest net-art creates? Can we not say the opposite is as true? The reader (ultimately I would claim the artist himself/herself) is helpless.


Ciao,

Murat
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Craig Saper
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 10:51 pm    Post subject: Week One on Through the NET: Net Art Then and Now

Hi Murat —
Thank you for picking up my winking-nod to the 18th century as my Instructions below will continue (and although beyond the scope of this exchange and series of instructions, the net- and net-art seems like a sub-category of the epistolary and the squib [the squib is given short shrift]. Nevertheless, look at Sheryl Orings’ work, for example, where she types, stamps, and sends letters to presidents and presidential candidates; her work performed and set in Berlin or around the World Trade Center is particularly interesting in this regard of sending letters as part of “Collective Memory.” In any case, I can’t take that up here. Another point that I cannot elaborate on here is the 18th century philosophers (Murat mentions Locke; K.A. Wisniewski examines Hopkinson’s hoaxes and stunts around the time he was signing the Declaration of Independence) as amateurs in a time of upheaval and revolt. The net-art and “conceptual [or medium-less] art” in general suggest where the best “philosophy" is happening.

Instructions #3
When the artist Ray Johnson produced net-art he sent a half-completed collage, scribble, or his iconic bunny-doddle to a “reader” (to borrow Murat’s term below) he would include a simple instruction to complete (or at least continue) the work and send it on to a name and address. The name was usually a celebrity among the readers — like the librarian at MoMA, Clive Phillpot, or Andy Warhol … and the address accurate. It was known that someone like Phillpot would, against the wishes of his administrators, save and archive all of these “on-sendings.” So, the “reader” would be stuck in a desirous network — send it on and be ensnared in clock-maker’s scheme (Ray Johnson would manipulate you as reader-as-part-of-the-work) — It was like a Lacanian paranoid phantasmagoria where the subject or reader is a part of the poem (not a poet).

So, become a reader by yielding to the initiative of the network.

That said, the net-art already discussed often mimics, parodies, or spoofs the pernicious notions of the network as the new locus of surveillance (see Hassan Elahi’s work that surveils himself as if working for the NSA), terror (see Ricardo Dominguez’s work), control of contested spaces and borders (see J. Craig Freeman’s augmented reality interventions), and public interactions (see many of the social action artists — or scholar-artists like Lone Koefoed Hansen or Søren Pold) — I include Pold in this short list because he has put poem-making and reading machines in libraries throughout Denmark. The Pirate Party also Beuys' the many political organizations (and including manifestoes that led to the origins of the Green Party).

So, instruction #3 is to borrow the network and systems — perhaps with a parodic tone — as an element of net-art.

Ciao and thanks,
Murat! — an important name in the 18th century — especially in Naples.
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Craig Saper
PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 10:41 am    Post subject: Week One on Through the NET: Net Art Then and Now

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Instructions #4
Whisper down the lane.
Although the constraints of this discussion include the focus on one particular media technology, "internet" art, with "tools such as email, listservs, web sites, databases, software, and hardware," the prefix, net-, may include an "internet of things," art for the bots or non-human persons, and other as of yet un-thought formations beyond one particular technology. More importantly, these sets of instructions suggest that the net- of net-art has to do with a set of effects and functions rather than a specific medium. If you are an administrator, then you might worry to keep net- in a medium specific category so it does not spread with virality into the social sciences, urban planning, or public policy. You, now playing the role of an administrator and manager of a networks, may worry that Bourriaud's "relational aesthetics" may escape from the confines of art, gallery-systems, and ... begin to form what Saper has called "sociopoetics" (a term he borrows and re-functions).
During the 72-day Paris Commune of 1871, the revolutionaries used a communication technology that perhaps prefigured the internet; they used balloons, carrier pigeons, or letters packed in iron balls and floated down the Seine. All three communication-systems had a similar quirk (not calling it a flaw -- although it was a mortal flaw for the "commune-ists") that meant that the messages were not guaranteed to reach their intended destinations: drifting.
An important effect of net-art may involve this productive misunderstanding -- so, works that seek to challenge directly social science and public policy as the dominant and domineering explanations and implementations of networks and net-works. What if the moderators' focus set out at the start of these discussions were misunderstood by the host(s) who took off on a line of flight drifting off the intended course toward a p-bot -empyre- building. What are the works of net-art that use this "whisper down the lane" effect? Do any of your works use this effect? Is a listserv a whisper down the lane formation?
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Craig Saper
PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 10:41 am    Post subject: Week One on Through the NET: Net Art Then and Now

Instructions #4
Whisper down the lane.
Although the constraints of this discussion include the focus on one particular media technology, "internet" art, with "tools such as email, listservs, web sites, databases, software, and hardware," the prefix, net-, may include an "internet of things," art for the bots or non-human persons, and other as of yet un-thought formations beyond one particular technology. More importantly, these sets of instructions suggest that the net- of net-art has to do with a set of effects and functions rather than a specific medium. If you are an administrator, then you might worry to keep net- in a medium specific category so it does not spread with virality into the social sciences, urban planning, or public policy. You, now playing the role of an administrator and manager of a networks, may worry that Bourriaud's "relational aesthetics" may escape from the confines of art, gallery-systems, and ... begin to form what Saper has called "sociopoetics" (a term he borrows and re-functions).
During the 72-day Paris Commune of 1871, the revolutionaries used a communication technology that perhaps prefigured the internet; they used balloons, carrier pigeons, or letters packed in iron balls and floated down the Seine. All three communication-systems had a similar quirk (not calling it a flaw -- although it was a mortal flaw for the "commune-ists") that meant that the messages were not guaranteed to reach their intended destinations: drifting.
An important effect of net-art may involve this productive misunderstanding -- so, works that seek to challenge directly social science and public policy as the dominant and domineering explanations and implementations of networks and net-works. What if the moderators' focus set out at the start of these discussions were misunderstood by the host(s) who took off on a line of flight drifting off the intended course toward a p-bot -empyre- building. What are the works of net-art that use this "whisper down the lane" effect? Do any of your works use this effect? Is a listserv a whisper down the lane formation?
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Murat Nemet-Nejat
PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 3:14 pm    Post subject: Week One on Through the NET: Net Art Then and Now

Yes, Craig, I discovered I was the King of Naples once when I read War and Peace. Until then I was an exile, or a refugee, from Turkey, where also I was a stranger.


Two of my poet friends in New York had and I think still have residues of Johnson's net-art pinned on their bathroom walls.


Craig, I have a question relating to something necessary, but not necessarily possible. How does one parody an algorithm?


Ciao,

Murat
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Murat Nemet-Nejat
PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 3:15 pm    Post subject: Week One on Through the NET: Net Art Then and Now

Craig,


I like the indirect way you respond to my question about parodying an algorithm.

"An important effect of net-art may involve this productive misunderstanding -- so, works that seek to challenge directly social science and public policy as the dominant and domineering explanations and implementations of networks and net-works. "


In the word "internet-art," by shifting the focus from "inter" to "net," are you net engaging exactly in that kind of "productive misunderstanding"? Yes, kudos to you! Yes, "misunderstanding" is exactly the virus, the parody, the kick in the balls -- the sand in the well-oiled wheels -- the internet as a super-efficient method of authoritarian control needs.

I think a most radical case of such "misunderstanding" would occur exploring the network of words; in other words, an exploration of network as digital art becomes an exploration of poesies-- a critique of the digital from its antithesis, the verbal. My last two poems The Spiritual Life of Replicants and Animals of Dawn (to come out in a few weeks) deal exactly with words as a medium of disruption and revolt. Interesting, an essay on translation I wrote in 1991 "Translation and Style" asserts that every good translation that affects changes in the language starts with a misreading of the original text, breaking down its autonomy.


Ciao,

Murat
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Craig Saper
PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 9:16 pm    Post subject: Week One on Through the NET: Net Art Then and Now

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Instruction #5
Translation.
Ibrahim Er is using digital tools to compare the Turkish version of the television program Monk with the American version. Some of you may not know of the TV program in either country. The main character is a private detective who suffers from OCD, which is also his greatest strength as a detective. Mr. Er's analysis is predictable (there are differences), but surprising nonetheless (the small differences and often identical scripts are fascinating).
Building on Murat's notes (in his previous responses; which a worth a quick look to follow my transpositions here), one realizes that the net-effects are both distributed and, therefore, always already out of context -- translations without origin.
Yet, this translation-effect (reminds me of a story of when my mother first arrived as a refugee in England, she saw a beautiful bowl of dark pitted cherries out for everyone to enjoy; she quickly popped a handful in her mouth -- only to discover that these were not cherries, but olives -- she spit them out discretely) nevertheless has a meticulous -- even obsessive and compulsive -- demand.
You enter the network (always in need of translations) -- always looking at an "on-sending" that you will, in turn, send on in need of further translation, and yet the lack of a singular translation in this serialized process, nevertheless, demands an intense poetic-detection each time, a kind of extreme version of what Barthes called "Living Together" (his book about monks as a meditation on work and writing): an extreme carefulness if you want to join the network. If not, then you would not have read this far in these instructions, you would not have taken a chance (mes chance) -- and therefore not in need of a translation; you would be outside the network.
Trans-late. Thanks again, Murat.<!--EndFragment-->
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