Vladimir Kovacevic on Thu, 26 Feb 2004 14:32:25 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> One year After Rhizome

It is good to hear something for Rhizome itself. But except that
the whole Rhizome New Museum thing is somehow carified by Rachel Green
all other points she makes in her email are questionable. But lets
start at the beginning where Rachel Green put's down Rhizome as a
pretty small and poor organization.

> Hi -- Rhizome is not part of the New Museum: there was no merger
> between the organizations. We are affiliated entities. The New
> Museum has no legal responsibility for the ArtBase: Rhizome.org, a
> small nonprofit that raises its own monies, still has these
> responsibilities. Because the New Museum believes in the mission and
> programs of Rhizome, in our staff (chiefly Francis Hwang and me) and
> in the idea of art communities, they give us some administrative and
> development support as well as an office in their building."

So why a net.art competition with big money awards? I wondered
about this in my first mail and I keep wondering about it as it is
ignored in this email.

> Rhizome has changed from what it used to be: as have net art and the
> internet. The question as I see it is -- now that the floodgates
> have opened and the field has opened up, will enthusiasts and
> participants embrace the diversity and volume that comes with this
> moment or will they lapse into nostalgia for times past, nostalgia
> that devalues what is happening now?

So a free accessable site or even less as for example a free
accessable Artbase or free memberships for people that
helped to build the community are Nostalgic ideas? Welcome to the
Capitalist view of the internet. Long live websites that work with
paid memberships and build their reputation upon the backs of
volunteers! Hurrah! But whereas sites like Slashdot (mind the 
banners) that embrace diversity and volume can operate for free,
Rhizome needs money and believes in a different more closed model.
OK this is a choice, but there's still this past of Rhizome that
cannot be ignored. How do you deal with all the people that
contributed before the staff (Mark Tribe) decided for the paid model?
And I don't mean that they are able to withdraw their works but I mean
in a fair sense. They made Rhizome what it nowadays is, but have no
other choice paying for membership or leave the building. An option
would be to keep everything that was submitted to Rhizome before
february 2003 free accessible. With this you wouldn't offend anyone.

> Perhaps many will prefer to participate in the field via smaller,
> more specialized forums such as Betacity. There is no right or wrong
> way to consume net art or to participate in its culture, but there
> are preferences. Rhizome the organization (the small arm that
> administers various programs for the thousands of Rhizome readers
> and participants from 100 countries) believes in letting the use and
> content of Rhizome change with the ranks and numbers of subscribers
> and members. And if you think that there aren't good writers
> publishing on Rhizome I think you may have a particular set of
> authors in your mind who qualify to shape discourse. Perhaps you
> don't appreciate the diverse minds contributing to Rhizome but I
> would encourage you to read more closely... and you always have new
> forums such as Betacity or Cream." 

This seems to imply that Rhizome (staff) determines when and what
model is suited best for it's members. This was my most fundamental
critique a year ago. Mark Tribe presented a model (paid service) and
this model was pushed through. There was no serious discussion about
it. I only can fear for the next step, membership needs to be going up
because Rhizome wants to offer new services nobody asked for.
Here is the expansion argument that also can be found at:
Rhizome's only fair argument for asking money is expansion. You can
ofcourse argue why community members have to pay for expansion while
there's also a lot of funding money and there were also always a lot
of gifts. You can also doubt what benefits the community has from a
lot of these new services, as for example who needs rhizome.net
webspace? But shouldn't we in the first place know if and why this
expansion is needed. The expansion argument looks to me like an
argument that is used by multinationals that only are focussed on the
growth rates to satisfy their shareholders, but Rhizome has no
shareholders... And there we have possible the weak spot. It looks
like the Rhizome crew lost contact not with it's shareholders but with
it's roots, and growth became a goal in itself, and now the crew is
pushing forward without any self criticism or open to any criticism by
others. An example of this is the $ 5.00 contribution. Though it was
announced and it looked like there would be an open debate, the
community never had a real vote in the $5.00 issue. Very reasonable
suggestions as for example free access for people who had submitted
projects to the artbase never were seriously considered if you ask my
opinion. The Rhizome crew just pushed all things through without
really listening. Alternatives like concentrating on one or 2
activities were never even considered seriously, instead Rhizome began
more and more to act like a monopolist that wants to incorporate
everything from artbase to the net.art courses and from mailinglist to
internet provider because others could maybe get this marketshare.
Rhizome is only acceptable to me when there's a reasonable Member
Agreement and not some kind of license, when contributors are somehow
equally rewarded, when there's a clear structure and no entangled
interests between the people that manage Rhizome that are at the same
time artists that use the organization for self- promotion. I believe
that Rhizome could have gone other ways and serve the net.art
community better without the Member Agreement, services nobody is
waiting for and 5 bucks rule for everybody. Though the points I just
touched could be easily changed I have my doubts they ever will, just
because the plans Rhizome made in the past never changed. Just to
prove this point I want to point to the standard strategy Rhizome's
voice Mark Tribe always adopts, he is always playing the card that he
listens, always expresses concern and last but not least his standard
answer is "we will look into it". What means ofcourse he doesn't. This
strategy of fake involvement is not only my personal experience but
can also be checked in archives of several mailinglists like nettime.
Just one example is of the net.artist META that forwarded his email
"correspondence" with Mark Tribe to several mailinglists to open a
discussion. The last emails from this correspondence confirms the fake
involvement and the always well known answer that Mark Tribe has
ready: "it sounds like it might be a good idea, we will look at it",
what in fact means end of discussion. But enough of this, let's look
at all the alternatives, that are free, plenty and sometimes offer an
even a better quality.

> Also, there are plans to do more curating out of the ArtBase in the
> next year (2004-2005). We will also be developing online tools that
> make it easy for Rhizome subscribers to curate their own
> exhibitions, or more simply, create manifestations of groups of
> works based on preferences, whims, interests.

Nice, yet another expansion possibility that a lot of Rhizome members
are dying to see. The competition with http://turbulence.org is now
officially opened.

> Finally, a new audit will be posted on our web site in the next
> couple of weeks. Feel free to examine our spending in more detail.

This is the least what Rhizome can do for it's community of paid

Vladimir Kovacevic


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