Edward Shanken on Wed, 29 Apr 2009 14:57:56 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Fwd: Wikipedia challenges "Wikipedia Art"

Hello all -

I'd like to share an excerpt of a longer piece, in which I discuss
some of my views on Wikipedia Art.  The full article (an interview
conducted by Annet Decker), "Inventing the Future: Art and Net
Ontologies," and will be published in the next month or so in the
volume _Walled Garden_  Amsterdam: Virtueel Platform, 2009.

... An example of this balance between friction and lubricity, between
limitations and boundlessness in digital art is the controversy in
February 2009 over Wikipedia Art.   The artists proposed a work of
art, the nature of which demands that it be hosted on Wikipedia. This
creates friction. Because that context, which is the only context the
work can coherently exist in, is hostile to anything that is not
verifiable by Wikipedia standards (essentially a reference in a peer
review publication.) As there were, at the time, no peer review
publications that asserted the authenticity of Wikipedia Art as a bona
fide art project, the editors deleted the entry.

Wikipedia itself is an excellent example of a walled garden. It has
very strict rules, and there are good things about those rules and
there are bad things about those rules. Wikipedia’s rules are meant to
ensure that the information in the online encyclopedia is accurate.
But those rules also prevent the publication of some potentially
valuable information. The Wikipedians accept that trade off because in
a larger ecology of scholarly information, Wikipedia is struggling for
recognition and acceptance as a respectable, bona fide encyclopedia
and must uphold certain standards in order to attain that status.

Wikipedia Art was not censored by Wikipedia. Indeed, the artists
provoked the Wikipedians, who responded in a way that was coherent
with their rules. Nonetheless, the clash of two incompatible systems -
 Wikipedia Art and Wikipedia – generated a great deal of tension,
demonstrating the limits of each and resulting in fascinating
caricatures of artists trying to break rules and encyclopedists
insisting on observing them. The theatricality of the interaction was
as remarkable as it was predictable.

This clash illustrates the process of negotiation between diverging
value-sets that occurs during the shuffling and reconfiguration of
boundaries and walls.  This is an ongoing process: things build and
build and build on themselves such that highly disputed concepts can
become so naturalized that it may become difficult to imagine what it
might have been like to envision the world from the perspective that
challenged them. For example, in the twenty-first century, it is
difficult for the untrained eye to grasp what was so radical about
Impressionist painting in the mid-nineteenth century. Although
Wikipedia Art mounted an intense attack on the inherent values of
Wikipedia, it has not succeeded in changing them. If Wikipedia Art
ultimately succeeds in posting an enduring entry in Wikipedia, it will
be interesting to see to what extent that page strictly follows the
rules and to what extent it alters the encyclopedia’s inherent value
system. But perhaps what is most interesting about Wikipedia Art is
that, at the moment, it inhabits an in-between space. It exists
virtually. Although there is no Wikipedia Art page in Wikipedia
proper, documentation about the debate between the artists and the
Wikipedians currently exists as part of the Wikipedia archive.  This
form of quasi-existence demarcates a somewhat paradoxical ontological
state, a condition of virtuality that seems to be an increasingly
prevalent or explicit characteristic of contemporary being. The forms
of creativity, communication, and productivity that emerge under these
conditions may offer useful insights into the future...

Edward Shanken
Newly published:  Art and Electronic Media (Phaidon, 2009)

On Sun, Apr 26, 2009 at 4:52 AM, patrick lichty <voyd@voyd.com> wrote:
> Yes.
> We of the WPA "cloud" have seem these signs and portents brewing for some
> time, and are girding for the greatest net wars sinse Toywar, Joywar, and
> Catnarok.

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