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<nettime> rhizome: burn rate
t byfield on Mon, 20 Jan 2003 12:36:29 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> rhizome: burn rate

one thing that hasn't come up in this discussion is history -- that is,
the history of rhizome. for various reasons, i viewed this all from a safe
and 100% uninvolved distance, so my memory is probably off when it comes
to details. mark tribe and/or other rhizomatics are free to correct me, of

mark and a few others 'founded' rhizome soon after he moved from berlin to
NYC, in the spring of '96. i'm not exactly sure what founding rhizome
actually involved, other than running a mailing list or two.

on those lists, there was quite a bit of kvetching about the lack of state
support for the arts in the US, which led people to suggest some sort of
one-for-all, all-for-one collectivization. out of that, through the
machinations of mark and a few others, was borne a dotcom by the name of
stockobjects, which set out to take these vague ramblings and turn them
into a business. the 'model' was sumarized in a WiReD article thus:

    Artists initially submit their work under either an exclusive
    or nonexclusive agreement, and get no money until sale. The
    exclusive model entitles the artist to 50 percent of the roy-
    alties when an object is purchased, but the nonexclusive op-
    tion offers only 25 percent - which, at US$25 for a stock
    photo, could be negligible.

    Users can sift through the site's library according to cri-
    teria such as subject matter or rubrics like "Dreams" and
    "Competition." For a $100 starting fee, subscribers could
    pay from $25 for a simple image to $120 or higher for ani-
    mations and applets. Non-subscribers pay double the price,
    but [COO Garnet] Heraman is quick to note that all pricing
    is tentative until they can "explore what pricing is pos-
    sible" after the launch.

stockobjects got some funding; a WiReD article from sept 97 mentions
$500K, but i remember hearing much higher figures (~$8M rings a bell, but
i can't back that up). anyway, with the establishment of stock- objects,
rhizome mutated from a mailing list into a full-fledged in- house *tax
shelter*. that was when it began actually hiring people.

dotcoms being what they were, stockobjects' finances began to fray, and
through a messy process mark separated from stockobjects and, i think,
took rhizome with him. various rhizomatics took to wagging their fingers
and earnestly hectoring people about how 'it's rhizome dot *ORG* now,
*NOT* rhizome dot *COM*...' as if people hadn't chuckled at the choice of
'.com' to begin with.

anyway, i suppose a lot has happened since then, but it's hard to imagine
what the hell rhizome could possibly have done to justify burning through
$307,000 in fiscal year 2000-2001 and, even more astonishingly, $444,000
in FY 2001-2002. and i'm not sure i'd en- tirely believe what various
rhizomatics say: for example, francis whang (director of technology) talks
about 'massive hosting fees,' but the FY 2000 tax forms say hosting cost
$5,568 that year. and sinced rhizome's been trying to sell people on
rhizome as a host- ing service, clearly they view this as, as the saying
goes, 'a pro- fit center.' that cost may well have gone up since then, but
i'd be very surprised indeed if it's outstripped legal fees, which were
FIVE TIMES that figure in the same year. crikey.


'therefore, all this chatter about sociality and community is partly
inherited hypocrisy and partly studied perfidy.'       --kierkegaard

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