Marco Deseriis on Wed, 11 Feb 2004 00:54:34 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> An Italian book on

dear nettimers,

here is a short abstract of a book that regard closely our community. The
book came out last June for Shake Editions (Milan) and it represents one
of the few contributions on the topic coming from a country where public
and private investments in this field approximate to zero, but where
artists, activists, hackers and magazines gave an important contribution
over the last few years to the growing of this scene.

all the best,


Thanks to Francesca da Rimini for editing this text.

::::: The Art of Connecting
Marco Deseriis and Giuseppe Marano
Shake Edizioni, 2003
pp. 234, 15 €

Vuk Cosic, Heath Bunting, Alexei Shulgin, Olia Lialina, Rachel Baker, 
Andreas Broeckmann, Andy Deck, Ascii Art Ensemble, Jaromil, Chaos Computer 
Club, Vinyl Video, Jodi, Cornelia Sollfrank, etoy, 0100101110101101.ORG, 
Antiorp/Netochka Nezvanova, Adrian Ward, Florian Cramer, epidemiC, 
Retroyou, I/O/D, Tom Betts, Maciej Wisniewski, Mark Napier, Radical 
Software Group, Mark Daggett, LAN, Mongrel Project, Critical Art Ensemble, 
Institute for Applied Autonomy, Bureau of Inverse Technology, Vns Matrix, 
Francesca da Rimini, Identity Runners, Surveillance Camera Players, 
Fakeshop, Electronic Disturbance Theater, Electrohippies, Federation of 
Random Action, Irational, ®TMark, Ubermorgen, Kein Mensch Ist Illegal, The 
Yes Men, Amy Alexander, Walter Van der Cruijsen, Rasa Smite, Geert Lovink, 
Graham Harwood, Matthew Fuller, Tillman Baumgartel, Josephine Bosma, Pit 


Table of contents, press releases, presentations

Download the Pdf of the whole book (in Italian)

English Abstract

Memetic Map (designed for the Blogwork of the Venice Biennale):


Table of Contents


1. The art of making network

- Prelude. Vuk Cosic's dreams
- vs art on the net
- Aesthetic of the machinic and of communication
- The forerunners
- dawn

2. Poetics of the code

- The link politics
- We love your computer

3. The possible extensions

- The digital hijack
- Nobody dare to call it plagiarism

4.  Software as a culture

- When the virus becomes epidemic
- Making and unmaking navigation interfaces
- Netscape Art
- I show you mine, you'll show me yours
- The culturally positioned software

5. The performative matrix

- Inverting technology
- The Venus matrix
- The market of the fakes

6. Sabotage and simulative strategies

- The electronic civil disobedience
- The Electronic Disturbance Theater
-  Cloning Web sites
- The viral corporation
- Above everybody
- The man with the golden phallus
- The Toywar

7. The politics of connection

- Recombinations in the tactical media universe
- Building shared contexts
- The sustainable networks
- Hybrid laboratories




This book is the result of a clumsy theft, a smuggling of ideas, theories 
and practices of dubious provenance. The spoils have been accurately 
forged, but they still present the recognition signs left by their last 
“owners”. You will not find them on a stall, nor auctioned on e-Bay. The 
thieves (the authors) have mounted the objects on a tapestry, to form an 
almost coherent drawing that make them not saleable one by one.

The choice of fixing in the printed matter an ephemeral and hypertextual 
process like “the art of connecting” was a challenge in itself. It would 
have been certainly easier to propose an on line index or to set 
up  another collection of essays. By stubbornly insisting on the linear 
path we have been forced not only to exalt but also to order the 
hypertextual links amongst various projects. Looking for an “original” 
cipher of the text, the reader will probably have to consider the way in 
which the projects have been related to each other. Naturally, we would 
enjoy a pierced book, or just clicking and jumping from one page to 
another. But the linearity cage is also a resource, because it has forced 
us to decide what comes first and what after, and why a project has to be 
included in a chapter instead of the other.

Another issue was that we were facing a mature practice (for someone 
already dead), knowing that in Italy very few people even realized it was 
born. Obeying to the tyranny of a chronological order would have favoured 
clarity but it would have distracted us from our goal. Which was not to 
narrate the “progression”, but to capture its most ambivalent 
aspects and openness to other influences. The initial 
hypothesis  formulated in 1999  was that the Internet was relaunching the 
aesthetics and politics weaving, so common to all the Twentieth century 
avant-gardes. The hypothesis was supported by the blooming of highly hybrid 
practices that freshly recombined a formal experimentation on network codes 
with a renewed use of communication-guerrilla tactics and with all a series 
of trespassing into domains apparently distant light-years one from 
another. In few words, culture jamming landed on the Internet, with the 
consciousness that anonymity, the “real time” dimension and the system of 
communicating vessels of the mailing lists were crucial points of strength. 
By acting in a viral and unexpected manner, the new culture jammers were 
trespassing different territories, recombining different know-hows to turn 
upside down the traditional form of communication and politics as if the 
extreme specialization of informatic and tecno-scientific languages could 
be partially recomposed through a shared procedure and method. Moreover, 
the acceleration of participatory processes on a global scale would have 
demonstrated that far from being isolated, some of these groups were 
landmarks for the production of imaginary of the new global movement.

Obviously, is not only this. If the authors declare explicitly 
their sympathy, and their belonging to the networks of the semiotics 
warriors, the art of connecting walks along winding and not always 
converging paths. Formal exploration of code, errors and interfaces has its 
own agenda, that only occasionally mix up with hacker, activists and other 
troublemakers that swarm on the Net. Nevertheless, it’s not necessary that 
a link between one practice and another is explicit to be actual. Our 
selecting effort has been to focus on the “memetic potential” of any 
project and to exalt those ones who looked more suitable to be reused into 
different contexts. For us, is mainly a connector, a neuron, a 
lexicon amongst the billions of idle objects residing on the Internet. It 
is the possibility of turning the banal experience of navigation in a 
narration in which characters and authors redesign continuosly the paths 
along which they walk.

This is the reason why the “Italian scene” stays in the background. Besides 
the dubious existence (and necessity) of an actual national scene, the 
features of Italian groups and practices  resembling are generally 
not suitable for a great contamination. To the tecno-linguistic gap, add 
the peculiarity of Italian movements, since ever disposed to a broadening 
of inclusion mechanisms against the velocity of execution and interference. 
This book is a tool at their disposal, to be modelled by thousands of users 
and to disclose new possibilities of transformation of the present.

Chapter 1
The art of making network
Prelude. Vuk Cosic’s dream

The chapter begins with a vision of the Slovenian artist Vuk Cosic (an 
invention of the authors), who dreams to walk on a hill shaped by 
monumental buildings designed as archaic, yet ever-changing and flexible 3D 
characters. After climbing one of the buildings, Cosic can eventually see 
his own face from the tip of the nose
It is a morning of December 1995, and with the sensation of being himself 
an alphanumeric construct, Cosic downloads the e-mail containing the birth 
myth of the term “Net.Art”; a corrupted ASCII message containing only six 
legible characters separated by a dot. Cosic forwards the message to a 
Croatian friend, Igor Markovic, asking him to decode its content. The 
original text was apparently a rather vague manifesto blaming on 
traditional art institutions and reclaiming a generic freedom of expression 
for the artists on the Internet. The quoted fragment read: “All this 
becomes possible only with the emergence of the Net.Art as a notion becomes 
obsolete...”.  The text was a ready-made, produced entirely by a machine. 
And it could have not been otherwise, for a practice entirely based on the 
manipulation of pre-existent assembled codes. vs art on the net

After mentioning the formation of an independent “media circus” made of 
mailing lists, festivals, media labs and conferences (e.g. Net Art Per Se, 
Trieste, 1996), the general outlines of the semantic field of are 
drawn. In January 1997, the mailing list Nettime hosts a long thread 
polarizing around two terms: versus art on the net. The first one 
is preferred by the vast majority of the interventions not only because of 
its elegance and synthesis, but mainly because placing the word “net” 
before “art”, it stresses out the collaborative, process-based and 
interactive aspects of the practice. Instead “art on the net” would define 
the Net only as an accessory tools, a simple means of distribution of works 
who are pre-existent and produced “elsewhere”. As Joachim Blank wrote:

“Art on the net is mostly nothing more than the documentation of art which 
is not created on the net, but rather outside it and, in terms of content, 
does not establish any relationship to the net. Netart functions only on 
the net and picks out the net or the "netmyth" as a theme. It often deals 
with structural concepts: A group or an individual designs a system that 
can be expanded by other people”.

Therefore the “mission” of is to constantly explore limits and 
possibilities of many-to-many communication in a tecno-social environment. 
Along this trajectory, the Net becomes material and tool for production. 
For the first time in art history, the means of production and distribution 
concide. If this self-reflective quality exposes to the accusation 
of formalism and separation (“therefore placing it in modern art 
tradition”, Baumgartel), its capacity to mix various competences and 
attitudes brings it into the undetermined field of “an art that no longer 
needs to be called art” (Shulgin). In other terms, it is the “medium” in 
which operates to free it from the limits of modern art and by 
opening it to the the intervention of designers, hackers, activists, 
journalists, scientists and many others.

Because of these features, doesn’t make use only of the World Wide 
Web, but relies on a wide range of protocols, communication channels and 
software: e-mail, browsers, search engines, mailing list, chat, Moo, p2p, 
satellite and wireless networks. These software are sets of formal 
instructions (the code) inter-related to other software, whose underlying 
alphabet is composed of zeros and ones. The duty of much of the software 
and GUI is to anthropomorphize machine language and binary system. 
deploys itself in this undetermined passage between semantic and non 
semantic writing, in the koiné where stratified systems of signs collapse 
one upon the other, producing often ambiguities, errors and paradoxes.

These inputs will be deepened in next chapters. By now, it is enough to say 
that rarely deals with the creation of clearly representable 
objects. In this case, it would be better to talk of Web Art, which deals 
with hypertext or animations characterized by a low level of interaction. 
Even if they are conceived to be browsed on the Net, most of these web 
sites could be distributed also via other physical supports, such as the 
DVD, CD-ROM or Floppy Disk. Nevertheless, it is not our intention to create 
schematic categories. Not all of the artworks that reside on the Web can 
exist independently from it. Indeed, some “web art” sites can be considered 
interventions of network art; for being always “under construction”; for 
being effectively open to external contributions or other forms; or simply 
because they reflect conceptually on their own medium.
         Because of this, does not have to be related to any 
specific application. Rather, to define its ray of action, we prefer to put 
it in relation to three specific concepts and practices: identity play; the 
manipulation of information fluxes; the aesthetic of the machinic. Starting 
from the latter we will step back to the origins of to pass to 
analyze, in the following chapters, the other forms of intervention....


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