Patrice Riemens on Sun, 10 Jun 2012 13:15:34 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Olga Goriunova: Art Platforms and Cultural Production on the Internet (review)

(as originally posted to nettime-nl)

[on behalf of Annet Dekker]

Dear Nettimers,

With kind permission of Jorine Seijdel and Liesbeth Melis, editors of
OPEN, cahier on Art and the Public Domain, I like to share the review of
the excellent publication Art Platforms and Cultural Production on the
Internet by Olga Goriunova (Routledge, 2011). The book is a valuable
addition to the net art discourse and offers an analytic and thoughtful
counter (or at least interesting compliment) to the recent 'discussion' on
new aesthetics.
all best, annet


Review of Art Platforms and Cultural Production on the Internet by Olga
Goriunova (Routledge, 2011)
by Annet Dekker

Olga Goriunova is well known for her involvement and contribution
to the shaping of the field of software art, as co-organiser of
the software art festivals Read_me, the set-up of, an
online software art repository, as well as curator of Funware, an
international travelling exhibition that deals with the appreciation
of fun as an inventive force in software (art) development. In her new
publication ?Art Platforms and Cultural Production on the Internet?
she turns her attention to the organisational aesthetics of processes
that produce digital culture.

A platform is an organisational concept with a long history. In
times of political and social unrest, revolutions and avant-gardes
people form groups that are organised around a number of guidelines
or specific issues. In 2005 Tim O?Reilly en John Battelle coined the
phrase ?the web as platform? as the core principle of Web2.0, thereby
giving the notion of a platform renewed, albeit as Goriunova attest a
flattened, meaning. Whereas the web as platform is foremost described
as a conglomerate of technical development, Goriunova stresses the
importance of art platforms as experiments in the aesthetics of
organisation. Rather than a set of objects, these experiments show a
specific kind of cultural practice that is open-ended and emerges from
grass-roots processes.

Groiunova clearly makes a difference between art platforms and
earlier attempts to define online practices as networked. Although
the art platform is a genre of networked organisation in which it
provides a ?conceptual device that allows for a differentiation and
problematization of networks?, by following the theoretical discourse
around network theory, moving from Bruno Latour?s sociologist
Actor-Network Theory back to the concept of network theory. In the
last decade, network theory was popularised by the publication Linked
(2003) by physicist Albert-László Barabási, but Goriunova makes clear
that that the coming together of the social sciences with the exact
sciences was foremost based on misunderstanding which can still be
traced today. This, as Goriunova shows, doesn?t mean that thinking
about networks has stopped, several approaches can be named that have
tried to imagine networks in heterogeneous and nonlinear ways, like
?bifurcation (Progogine and Deleuze/Guattari), networks as assemblages
(Manuel DeLanda), and ecologies and media ecologies (Guattari, Bateson
and Fuller)? (5). So what does the notion of art platforms add to this

An art platform would ideally be a concept that reflects upon its own
media ecology. Whereas media ecology is a way of looking, seeing,
doing and making, Goriunova describes an art platform as an entity,
an activity and a process of development. ?Art platforms engage with
living practices in their blurred and ?dirty? forms between a more
broadly defined swathe of culture and art?, they are to be found in
the ?grey? zones of cultural production. Furthermore, she argues, art
platforms make you think about the organisational forms of culture,
thus an organisational aesthetics. Such an approach ?sheds light on
the ways in which digital culture and aesthetics are constituted and
advanced? (13). Goriunova defines organisational aesthetics as ?a
process of emergence and a mode of enquiry that gives us a way to
understand a digital object, process or body. It is not only a way of
looking, but also a dynamic assembling and coming up with such a body?
(17). Organisational aesthetics is grounded in the digital native
and, while structuring and organising creativity that traverses art
platforms, it highlights the development of new forces to overcome
repetition and strive for vitality. Moreover, it pays attention to
the interplays of power and the kinds of structures and conduct these

Goriunova makes these forces explicit in thickly and minutiae
descriptions of several of these art practices. Maybe not surprising
these examples move beyond the obvious internet art practices that
have gained some recognition over the years. By affirming that the
brilliant can be found in the grey and banal corners of the Internet,
thereby moving away from the economically and socially deterministic
post-Marxist critique of subordination as well as the liberal thinking
on creative industries, Goriunova points to the first example and what
few readers would consider art: At first site resembling
a porn site and swearing pool inhabited by white male adults, on
closer inspection Udaff turns out to be especially interesting in its
writing of kreativs. As Goriunova explains, Udaff is a popular Russian
language platform that hosts a variety of literary practices, of which
the kreativs are the most vital. By analysing its structure, being
innately digital and thus following digital structures of organisation
and aesthetic, its writing, ?DIY vocabulary; virtuoso and abundant
swearing; and elegantly, purposefully wrong orthography? (54), and its
usage of commenting as well as the power of social figures that are
being extended and transformed through the networks of production,
Goriunova makes a strong argument that talks across social histories,
networks, concepts and actors.

In a similar vain, Goriunova analyses the software art repository which she co-founded and was part of during its time of
existence (2001 ? present; although the site still functions its prime
importance lasted for five years). was created as ?a format that
would be something between an out-of-scale festival, a distributed salon,
infinite exhibition, and open collection, sets of samizdat books, and sets
of relationships ? all in all, an art platform in the making? (71). Again
it is by closely tracing and analysing the structure and making various
relations that the brilliance of the art platform happens and starts to
shine. The quotes and snippets of conversations, of which the more
interesting ones can also be found in the footnotes, exemplify the
formation and functioning of the art platform. At times hilarious, funny
and anecdotal it is always through thorough analysis that Goriunova makes
her argument. Goriunova also tackles recent developments and practices on
Second Life and phenomena like surf clubs and digital folklore. The breath
and reach of her observations, understanding and ability to decipher these
practices is remarkable and not found in current writings about digital

Goriunova is not someone to take her own writing, and analysis
for that matter, for granted. This shows itself in the detailed
explanations and elaborations of her reasoning by making connections
to current and past (theoretical) debates. Nor is she afraid to tackle
thorny issues, as for example the issue of the usefulness of open
and free software, pointing her finger to the sore spots that are
often neglected or (deliberately) ignored. For example she argues
that a break away ?from the fetishism of proprietary software may
lead to the commodification of social processes that are layered into
software production and operation? (23). The only drawback of the
book is that it is too short making it at times too dense. It would
be great to elaborate on specifics to accommodate the reader who is
not necessarily familiar with the various strands of thought that
permeate the book. Nevertheless this book is extremely valuable. From
a theoretical point of view it shows how can we discuss and analyse
new digital phenomenon from a material and aesthetics point of view.
>From a practical view, Goriunova provides us with a wonderful and
thick description of current usage of the web. Although she is leaving
it open to where these new tendencies may lead to, she provides
users, audiences and theoreticians workable tools and methods to
analyse current movements. Or, as Goriunova has taught us by now, it
is by ?creating a means to speak about what is grey and banal on the
Internet [that] allows for a recognition of the brilliant; and such
a means of cautious differentiation may likely turn out to develop a
sensibility for a set of interesting tendencies rather than dispensing
with the developments in new media reign of banality at large? (45).

Annet Dekker, 15 February 2012

Originally written for: Open #23 - "New Forms of Freedom and Independence
in Art and Culture" Cahier on Art and the Public Domain, Amsterdam, 2012.

SKOR | Foundation for Art and Public Domain and the Van Abbemuseum,
present a lecture and discussion by and with artist Andrea Fraser on
Saturday June 16, 2012 in the Van Abbemuseum, to celebrate the launch of
Open 23.

Goriunova, Olga (2011) Art Platforms and Cultural Production on the
Internet. New York/London:
Routledge. (a soft cover will
be published after a certain number of copies are sold, in the meantime,
ask your local library to order the book!)

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