Andreas Broeckmann on Wed, 12 Aug 1998 12:09:46 +0100

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Syndicate: net - art - world, Berlin, 16 - 18 October 1998

[from: RHIZOME DIGEST: 8.7.98]


The media arts lab in the Kunstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin is organising
a meeting of net artists, theorists, curators and netizens on the topic

net - art - world: reception strategies and problems

Date: October 16th to 18th 1998

We appreciate your ideas and proposals for discussions, lectures and
workshops. Please send us your abstracts (not more than 300 words) as
soon as possible. Deadline 16th of August. We are looking forward to it.

Concept and general thoughts:

The Net developed a secondary presence a long time ago, such that it
became a symbol for modernity and social reality for people who do not
participate actively in the net culture. In public debates, TV serials,
films and print media a mythic image emerges, where the Internet seems
to be the battlefield of intelligence services and porno mafia, military
forces and conspiracy theorists fighting over the hegemony of the
computer screens.

Netart as critical reflection of the medium of the Internet needs direct
knowledge of the technical and social conventions. Like high-technology
it demands of its audience a basic knowledge about specialized problems
and technical conditions which is absolutely necessary to understand and
estimate its solutions, doubts and proposals. This lets the insiders
appear to be the ideal public for netart. It is tempting to produce art
for artists and to stay among oneselves. The sphere of netart becomes a
parallel universe.

That is how netart gets in a paradoxical situation: An ever-growing
audience without knowledge of the technological basics, and the artists
with their relationship to innovation and to the electronic parallel
culture, do not come together; sometimes it seems, the public is a
symbol for the developments of blind consumerism, which netart is
opposed to.

Between the difficulties of mediation and the claims for effect,
aesthetic radicality and social relevance we are automatically
confronted with the question of the transitions between the netart-world
and the outer world as an characteristic of the medium. How can we
reconcile or shape these transitions?

This question gets even more important when we look at netart from the
perspective of the conventional, not electronically-mediated art world.
The conventional art scene -- not only since the context critique in the
art of the 80s -- experienced an internal critique of its own operating
system. Its elaborate marketing and reception systems promise -- apart
from economical chances -- also a well developed quality evaluation and
practical mechanisms how art and society can permeate. Considering the
technological race over the economical utilization of the Internet --
its commercialization and its information overflow -- the consideration
to present netart to the selective publicity of the art world suggests
itself. Netart could have multifold profit from a tighter union with the
gallery system, the exhibitions and the institutionalized critique of
the art system. Vice versa it is nessecary to encourage conventional art
to meditate more profundly about its technological environment. It needs
a deeper reflection on technological innovation in order to understand,
examine and criticize the future formation of the society.

One question is what are the claims of both camps towards the
relationship between the two still - in most parts - divided spheres.

The problem can be discussed from the perspectives of production,
mediation and reception policies.

+ production: which artistic strategies are developed regarding these
contadictory requirements? How do the producers/artist react to this
problem? Do certain critical traditions of netculture lead to certain
limited publicities? What does a broader net-unspecific public mean for
project development and planning? It does not get one very far to
explain the net over and over again. To work for an inner circle, which
knows what one wants to say, limits the range of people who can
participate and can lead to a conceptional stagnation. What part does an
net-unspecific aesthetic, with its broader autonomous possibilities for
netart play?

+ mediation: how do you exhibit netart? Until now one could see two
proposals: on the one hand the introduction of the working process as
seen at the "open x" at the ars electronica in Linz or the "hybrid
workspace" at the documenta X in Kassel; on the other hand the
presentation of the work of art as in the netart corner at the documenta
X. The first form of presentation confronts us with the same problems as
the festival phenomenon: people who know each other's work anyway meet
to have a good time together. The mediation is superseded by a fair
event. The producers talk with each other about their work. An audience
from outside exists just marginally. The latter form (exhibiting
computer screens in a museum) asks the question: What is a work of art?
The pixel on the screen? The idea, that maybe nobody understands outside
of the net? Further questions regarding mediation are: What is the role
of institutions and curatorial instances? What channels of distribution
are nessecary? Does the lack of curatorial evaluation do harm or is it
an advantage? Is there a lack of an (independent) critical public?

+ reception: on which conditions is netart received? What demands are
made on the conditions of reception? In what degree has the viewer to be
an user? Are forms of consumption possible and desirable, where the
recipient leaves and overcomes the desktop situation of the classical
computer workplace? How realistic is the alleged freedom of the network
situation? Does free access to the net bring this de-hierachizing
freedom, which is commonly believed to be an integral part of the net?
Is it nessecary to design the situation of reception in a
community-enhancing way? How does one cope with inexperienced users?
Thesis: in addition to the ordinary considerations on exhibition
didactics it is necessary to think of more targeted preparations and
reactions to the conditions of the exhibition.

These are some questions, that arose from our reflections on the topic.
The symposium is meant to offer proposals and solutions through
lectures, discussions and practical workshops. We want to get artists,
net.theorists, museum scientists, art historians, gallerists and the
audience together to develop new strategies for netart.

Organisation and Concept: Vali Djordjevic and Gerrit Gohlke