Felix Stalder on Sun, 7 Dec 2008 02:35:23 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Call for support: why?

On Saturday, 6. December 2008, Calin Dan wrote:

> Autonomy entitles art to float freely in the interstices of the social
> fabric, to experiment and to steer in unexpected directions. When
> experiment and steering relate directly to the fabric itself, the art
> discourse looses autonomy and gains relational power (in the sense
> designed by Nic. Bouriaud). Relational art has an increased chance to
> acknowledgement, but also - naturally - to criticism, coming not only
> from the comfortable inner circles, but also from the structures to
> which the respective discourse >relates<. Needless to say that both
> concepts (autonomous, relational) have no axiological power; they are
> not about quality, they are about method.

I agree. The concept of artistic freedom seems tied to the notion of art as 
an autonomous, i.e. distinct, sphere. At least, the two concepts appeared 
historically at the same moment. If you give up one (and there are good 
reasons to do that), then the other rings a bit hollow.

> The student work that generated this thread is obviously relational. So,
> it got its moment of attention, including censorship. All unfolded as
> planned, I suppose; if not, then there was something flawed in the
> initial planning and/or in the authors' / tutors' expectations.

Again, I cannot but agree, which makes me wonder why it was closed down so 
quickly (though, it's always easy to criticize others for not taking the 

> One might say that the whole issue is about the unexpected reactions of
> the general users, who rejected the project. Well, this was after all
> (or wasn't it?) an art project - so people are free to reject it as they
> please.

This for me -- much more than the amazon's reaction -- is what makes this 
project really interesting. This is not only about people being free to 
reject an art project. I don't think the relevant point is whether this is 
art or not (at least not for the people hating the project). Rather, it 
seems to reveal how much the "free culture movement" (if there ever was 
such a thing) has been reshaped as "web2.0" and how much it is now happy 
with this niche of "user generated content" or "amateur creativity". This 
niche is promising respectability and, who knows, perhaps even a career or 
two, but for this to succeed it needs to be disassociated from the more 
radical approaches -- e.g. file sharing -- that cannot be assimilated so 

Projects like the "Pirates of the Amazon" blur this distinction and 
threaten to undo the last couple of years of work of building 
respectability for the CC and YouTube set. This, I think is why the 
reactions on digg.com and other web2.0 sites are so hostile. 


--- http://felix.openflows.com ----------------------------- out now:
*|Mediale Kunst/Media Arts Zurich.13 Positions.Scheidegger&Spiess2008
*|Manuel Castells and the Theory of the Network Society. Polity, 2006 
*|Open Cultures and the Nature of Networks. Ed. Futura/Revolver, 2005 

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