Josephine Bosma on Thu, 5 Sep 2002 21:49:10 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> reaction to DXI-review reactions

When Florian Cramer mistakenly posted my first draft of the review of DXI
to nettime I was not at all happy about it. The reason for that was that I
knew the text could be seen as a provocation of some sort in the context
of nettime, because I have criticized the nettime ideology quite a bit the
last few years. I am pretty sure it would not have created quite the fuss
if it had only been in the Rhizome Digest. For those that don't know:
after working within both the nettime and European tactical media
environments since 1996 I have become more and more worried about a very
limited political approach of art in these area's, and I have presented a
few lectures about this. It started to look like art was (?) going to be
defined by ideology almost completely (the definition of net art has for a
long time been : art which criticizes and de/reconstructs internet
technology and internet culture, a very limiting definition in my eyes.
Software art is in danger of sharing the same fate). Btw: Coco Fusco's
reaction makes me wonder whether she has really followed much in net art
the last few years.

I have been wondering the last two weeks whether I should maybe apologize
for the way I wrote the DXI review. Maybe the sensitive subject of this
Documenta made it necessary to be ultra careful when describing it,
instead of writing some kind of dark humorous reaction to what I see as
the melodramatic, educational, curatorial edit of DXI. I also assumed that
most people know that the text was written for a new media 'magazine'
(Rhizome) and that writing about new media art is what I do in daily life.
In fact, I expected complaints that there was not enough about new media
art in it, and too much about context! My lack of poetic vocabulary in
English probably did the rest.

I have enjoyed many of the mails that came as a reaction to the review, in
particular those by Calin Dan and Janos Sugar, whose feelings I share
completely. My favorite posting however was that of Christiane Paul. Her
observations almost overlapped the initial idea I had of what I would
write about DXI before seeing it (and is another reason to ask why there
were no more good new media works. The dotcom crash, like the dotcom hype,
has never been of overtly important influence on net art imo, no matter
that there were (and still are) ironic semi dotcom enterprises by artists.
At most the dotcom hype attracted more people to experiment with the net).
I had heard many rumors about this Documenta being a bad show and I did
not really want to believe it.

In the end I am not sure whether the observations of other people before
me (who were also critical of this Documenta) are the same as mine (as I
believe Coco suggested). I have read quite a few reviews now. Most of them
simply repeat the press info of DXI. Others cheer the "changes in art",
others don't really believe in them. My view concerning those same changes
lies somewhere in the middle. My review was not about the wonderful fact
that Enwezor is making changes in art, but it was about HOW he makes those
changes, or at least on what he did at Platform 5 of DXI.

Some do not like the way I have described the works. Unfortunately it was
the exhibition as a whole that caused it (you could accuse me of not
simply ignoring that). I have tried to convey, and have even written it
down literally, that the mark the curators left on DXI created the effect
that the art works became part of the lecture (The Message) of the
curators. The works they chose and the way they placed them maybe made a
few (artist) activists very happy that their message was being translated
into an exhibition, but it was simply done too literally. It was over the
top, especially the Friedericanium. So there was really no choice then to
see them in such an unfortunate way for me. This is the reason I write
"the artists did not deserve this". I could of course have mimicked the
reaction of some curators I know, and walk around 'picking out the good
stuff' (which, again, -was- there), but that seems like a bit of a
nihilist way to see such a show to me. This show was not about the art
works, it was about The Message. There was even a small scandal around DXI
because outside guides were not allowed into the exhibition. Documenta had
trained 500 tourguides for months in advance. As the curators of DXI said:
"It is a matter of content".

Truth is I struggled with this review quite a bit because of that message
or content, something you would have known if Florian had not just
copy/pasted the review alone but the entire mail he received. I struggled
with it from the moment I saw the show to the moment my text was under
attack (after being more or less called stupid and racist I decided to
mostly leave it the way it was, since the discussion was really quite
interesting and revealing). I was wondering whether I had been too harsh,
which some friends told me in private I had been (while others told me I
was spot onů so many people, so many views). But then where lies the limit
with this? Why can I not write a review for a platform I have posted a lot
on (and have it forwarded to a platform I used to post a lot on) and
simply be trusted for my political views, so the review is taken to
another level, in which one asks questions about how art, culture and
global politics are served best? Why must I be called a racist?

There are not many things you can call me I find totally ridiculous.
Calling me a racist is one such thing. Three quarters of my family is
brown, I have been raised with lectures on colonial madness and white
badness. Ironically I -am- white. My mother made the stupid mistake (sic)
of marrying a real Dutchman, something the rest of her brothers and
sisters were smart enough not to do (they picked other Indonesians). Even
if it of course influenced the way I think, my background is not what I
want to be judged on in the end. I hope that revealing this makes some
people aware that there is more to racial and postcolonial issues then
meets the eye. It would be so good if we could escape all too basic
discussions and if there could be more diversity in discourse maybe.  
Maybe I should say some last words on this Documenta. I think Enwezor
really missed a chance there. I agree it is great so many artists were
able to come over to meet and be seen. Had Enwezor (and the other
curators) been a little less didactic and a bit more trustful of its
audience a different show might have come out. Maybe Enwezor sees western
Europe as simply a sort of extension of the United States and therefore he
chose for an overwhelming way to show The World As It Really Is. Maybe
Enwezor's attitude is deeply rooted in American culture politics. It was
an impression I could not shake.

I hope this mail answers some questions some of you might have. The coming
time I will be very busy, so do not expect much more from me on this topic
in the near future.



ps: I had to look up the meaning of the word 'damsel'. Turns out I am a
40 year old girl! :)

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