The Rhizome Digest merged into the Rhizome News in November 2008. These pages serve as an archive for 6-years worth of discussions and happenings from when the Digest was simply a plain-text, weekly email.

Subject: RHIZOME DIGEST: 9.19.03
Date: Fri, 19 Sep 2003 18:13:38 -0400

RHIZOME DIGEST: September 19, 2003


1. Rachel Greene: Rhizome Update
2. ancel: wireless art: Walter Benjamin vs Marcel Duchamp
3. Eva Stein: the international artist database

4. Rainey Straus: The SimGallery Project
5. Lucas Czjzek: MMM - Call for Entries
6. Lars Midböe: Classic II Exhibition

7. Eryk Salvaggio: Cold Calling For Democracy

8. Lev Manovich: Dont Call it Art: Ars Electronica 2003

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Date: 9.18.03
From: Rachel Greene (rachel AT
Subject: Rhizome Update

Dear Rhizomers --

There have been some comments about's status on Raw and
Thingist so we wanted to respond and issue an update.

Rachel Greene, who has been working with Rhizome in various capacities
since 1997, is succeeding Mark Tribe as Executive Director of the
organization. Mark has recently started a new position as Director of
Art & Technology at the Columbia University School of the Arts. He will
continue to be active and take a leadership role on the Rhizome Board of

Over the last few years, we have worked with the New Museum of
Contemporary Art, New York, on several exhibitions and events and have
always found them to be a wonderful partner. The New Museum is committed
to showing a culturally and geographically diverse range of artists,
they understand contemporary art as a social practice whose relevance
extends beyond the art world, and they are the only museum in New York
with a space dedicated to new media art (the Zenith Media Lounge). The
New Museum is, quite simply, one of the most progressive museums around. now has an opportunity to become more closely affiliated
with the New Museum. The New Museum would provide Rhizome with office
space and other forms of administrative support. Rhizome would continue
to operate as an independent organizational entity, retain our current
staff and programs and our web site would remain at

Our mission and core principles would not change, but we hope to
collaborate with the New Museum on a range of programs, including
exhibitions, commissions and events.

This possible partnership with the New Museum represents an opportunity
to create a stable environment for Rhizome to support the global new
media art community while remaining true to its commitment to
inclusiveness and grassroots structures. Given how inhospitable the
current economic climate is for small nonprofits, we feel this would be
the best way to ensure our ability to fulfill our mission. We hope that
you continue to support Rhizome as we continue to evolve.


Rachel Greene
Mark Tribe

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Date: 9.17.03
From: ancel (franck.ancel AT
Subject: wireless art: Walter Benjamin vs Marcel Duchamp

Walter Benjamin / Marcel Duchamp

During a trip to Barcelona in 1997, a railway workers' strike blocked
off the French-Spanish border to me. This chance situation enabled me to
explore two border villages at the feet of the Eastern Pyrenees. Two
significant structures caught my attention: the Walter Benjamin memorial
in Port Bou on the Spanish side called "Passage" by Dani Karavan, and,
on the French side, the Hôtel Belvédère du Rayon Vert built by Léon
Baille, the Perpignan architect.

On one side there is this memorial to Walter Benjamin who committed
suicide on 26 September 1940, and on the other a building in the boat
style of the 1930s containing a former cinema and theatre, listed as a
20th-century heritage building, whose name, for me, is immediately
synonymous with Marcel Duchamp.

I would have to wait until the electronic projection of 23 November 2002
at the convent of La Tourette (built by Le Corbusier and Xenakis) to be
able to question artistic and aesthetic boundaries in a more direct
manner, in order to find out the necessary information for a search that
has enabled me to talk today about these two locations in Catalogne.

Benjamin's thought and Duchamp's art are scheduled to be brought into
play during the weekend of 27 September 2003 at this Franco-Spanish
border location, and this is seen as an imaginary and symbolic meeting.
It is a result of, and follows, the mark that these two great figures
have left behind them which has totally transformed artistic and
aesthetic boundaries in the 20th century.

This production will cross physical boundaries and will link the two
locations of Port Bou and Cerbère. In other words, the Walter Benjamin
memorial in Spain and the Hôtel du Rayon vert in France. The event will
attempt to mark the boundaries of the art disciplines and will be mainly
held in the Hôtel's theatre auditorium where our audiovisual reception
will be held.

These days, it is almost considered to be an essential requirement that
this comparison will use new technologies. It will therefore be through
the use of wifi wireless network, together with interactive software,
that we will travel beyond the physical boundary.

Our journey through and between these two locations reconnects a whole
set of different information:

- The fictional novel "Traité d'abrégé de littérature portative"
(Abridged Treatise on Portable Literature) by Enrique Vila Mata and
published in 1985, and which depicts Duchamp and Benjamin in Port Bou as
part of a secret society linked to the number 27,

- The "Rayon Vert" laser created by Dani Karavan for the Electra
exhibition in 1983 which linked the Musée d'Art Moderne (Modern Art
Museum) of Paris, the Eiffel Tower, and the Assur Tower located in the
Défense quarter,

- The photograph entitled "Rayon Vert" by Denise Bellon for Duchamp,
which was given to the set designer Frederick Kiesler, for the
superstition room at the surrealist exhibition, held in Paris in 1947,
the same year that "Music for Duchamp" was composed by John Cage.

Convergence points of the universe that have hitherto been parallel, and
overlooked links, will appear at this event. This fake dimension will,
however, can give another meaning to a trip, appropriate to our world,
which is henceforth informational and chaotic.

This gathering consequently offers you a short-lived journey across a
virtual world of concepts. It will extend the enquiry into the notion of
the decline of the "aura" in the wake of computing technology, and
serves as homage to Walter Benjamin.



Walter Benjamin / Marcel Duchamp

En 1997, j'ai été bloqué à la frontière franco-espagnole par une grève
des transports ferroviaires lors d'un voyage vers Barcelone. Cet imprévu
me permit de découvrir deux villages frontaliers aux pieds des Pyrénées
Orientales. Deux importantes constructions ont alors suscité mon intérêt
: en Espagne à Port Bou le mémorial Walter Benjamin, "Passage" de Dani
Karavan et en France à Cerbère, l'hôtel Belvédère du Rayon Vert
construit par l' architecte perpignanais Léon Baille.

D'un côté, la mémoire de Walter Benjamin qui se donna la mort en ce lieu
le 26 septembre 1940 et de l'autre un bâtiment au style bateau des
années 30, doté d'une ancienne salle de cinéma et de théâtre, classé
patrimoine architectural du 20ième siècle, dont le nom évoqua tout de
suite pour moi Marcel Duchamp.

Il m'aura fallu attendre l'occasion de questionner concrètement les
frontières artistiques et esthétiques lors de la projection électronique
du 23 novembre 2002 au couvent de La Tourette (construit par Le
Corbusier et Xenakis) pour trouver les éléments d'une recherche me
permettant aujourd'hui d'intervenir sur ces deux sites en Catalogne.

La mise en jeu de la pensée de Benjamin et de l'art de Duchamp qui sera
proposée à ce point de la frontière le samedi 27 septembre 2003 agit
comme une rencontre fictive et symbolique. Elle est créée à partir des
traces laissées par ces deux personnalités du 20ième siècle qui ont
totalement transfiguré les frontières, artistique et esthétique.

De même, cette réalisation tente de délimiter les disciplines
artistiques. Elle traversera les frontières physiques et reliera deux
lieux, Port Bou et Cerbère. Autrement dit, le mémorial Walter Benjamin
en Espagne à l'Hôtel du Rayon Vert en France. La manifestation se
déroulera principalement dans la salle de théâtre de l'hôtel où seront
présentées et diffusées, en temps réel, réceptions visuelle et sonore.

L'usage des nouvelles technologies semblant incontournable dans cette
confrontation. Un réseau de connexion radio wifi qui survolera la
frontière physique sera utilisé, complété d'un logiciel interactif.

La navigation entre ces deux sites reconnecte un ensemble d'informations

- la fiction romanesque "Traité d'abrégé de littérature portative"
d'Enrique Vila Mata en 1985 évoquant Duchamp et Benjamin à Port Bou dans
une société secrète liée au chiffre 27,

- le laser "Rayon Vert" réalisé par Dani Karavan en 1983 pour
l'exposition Electra qui avait connecté le Musée d'Art Moderne de la
Ville de Paris, la Tour Eiffel et la Tour Assur du quartier de la

- la photo "Rayon Vert" de Denise Bellon pour Duchamp confiée au
scénographe Frederick Kiesler, pour la salle des superstitions à
l'exposition surréaliste de Paris en 1947, année qui vit naître
également la "Music for Duchamp" de John Cage.

Cet événement mettra en exergue des lignes de convergence entre des
univers jusqu'alors parallèles et aux liens méconnus. Cette dimension
prétend pourtant pouvoir redonner du sens à une déambulation, à l'image
de notre monde désormais informationnel et chaotique.

Ce rendez-vous offre ainsi un passage éphémère à travers une virtualité
de données. Il prolongera un questionnement sur la notion du déclin de "
l'aura " face au numérique, en hommage à Walter Benjamin.

F.A. french contact -> franck.ancel AT


Walter Benjamin / Marcel Duchamp

El 1997 vaig quedar-me bloquejat a la frontera franco-espanyola a causa
d' una vaga de transports ferroviaris durant un viatge a Barcelona.
Aquest imprevist em permeté de descobrir dos pobles fronterers als peus
dels Pirineus Orientals. Dues importants construccions suscitaren
aleshores el meu interès: a Portbou, a Espanya, el memorial Walter
Benjamin de Dani Karavan, Passagen; i a Cerbère, a França, l'Hotel
Belvédère du Rayon Vert, construït per l'arquitecte de Perpinyà Léon

D'una banda, la memòria de Walter Benjamin, que se suïcidà en aquest
indret el 26 de setembre de 1940; i de l'altra, un edifici d'estil
vaixell dels anys 30, dotat d'una antiga sala de cinema i de teatre,
declarat patrimoni arquitectònic del segle XX, el nom del qual m'evocà
de seguida Marcel Duchamp.

Calgué esperar l'ocasió de qüestionar concretament les fronteres
artístiques i estètiques en ocasió de la projecció electrònica del 23 de
novembre de 2002 al convent de La Tourette (construït per Le Corbusier i
Xenakis) per trobar els elements d'una recerca que m'ha permès
d'intervenir avui en aquests dos emplaçaments a Catalunya.

L'exposició del pensament de Benjamin i de l'art de Duchamp que serà
proposada en aquest punt just de la frontera dissabte 27 de setembre de
2003 funciona com una trobada fictícia i simbòlica. Es crea a partir de
les empremtes deixades per aquestes dues personalitats del segle XX que
transfiguraren totalment les fronteres artística i estètica.

De la mateixa manera, aquesta realització intenta delimitar les
disciplines artístiques. Traspassarà les fronteres físiques i enllaçarà
dos llocs, Portbou i Cerbère. Dit d'una altra manera, el memorial Walter
Benjamin a Espanya i l'Hotel du Rayon Vert a França. La manifestació
tindrà lloc principalment a la sala de teatre de l'hotel, on es
presentaran i difondran, en temps real, imatges i recepcions visuals i

La utilització de les noves tecnologies semblava ser ineludible en
aquesta confrontació. S'utilitzarà una xarxa de connexió de ràdio basada
en l' estàndard wifi que sobrevolarà la frontera física, completada per
un programa interactiu.

La navegació entre ambdós espais posa en relació un conjunt

- la ficció novel.lesca Història abreujada de la literatura portàtil
d'Enrique Vila Mata de 1985, on s'evoquen Duchamp i Benjamin a Portbou
en una societat secreta lligada al número 27,

- el làser Rayon Vert realitzat per Dani Karavan el 1983 per a l'
exposició Electra, que va connectar el Museu d'Art Modern de París, la
Torre Eiffel i la Tour Assur del barri de la Défense,

- la foto Rayon Vert de Denise Bellon per a Duchamp confiada a l'
escenògraf Frederick Kiesler, per a la sala de les supersticions a l'
exposició surrealista de París del 1947, any que veié també néixer la
Music for Duchamp de John Cage.

Aquest esdeveniment posarà de relleu línies de convergència entre
universos fins aleshores paral.lels però amb uns vincles desconeguts.
Aquesta dimensió pretén tanmateix poder donar sentit de nou a un
passeig, a la imatge del nostre món d'ara endavant informacional i

Aquesta cita ofereix així un passatge efímer a través d'un seguit de
dades virtuals. Perllongarà el qüestionament sobre la noció del declivi
de "l'aura" de cara a l'era digital, en homenatge a Walter Benjamin.


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Date: 9.19.03
From: Eva Stein (stein AT
Subject: the international artist database
The International Artists Database

Whatever you always wanted to know about artists from Afghanistan to
Zimbabwe but had to look long and hard to find, now you can find it with
one click. is the name of the new Who's Who of the non
European art and culture scene.

Detailed portraits on artists from more than 150 countries and
territories are immediately available through this multimedia database.
So far contains information about 1,000 artists who work
in the genres of visual arts, film, photography, design, theatre, dance
and music, as well as literature and science.

Portraits written by experts offer detailed information about the
included artists. Additionally, audio and video files, images and texts
enable the user to have direct insight into artists? work. All
information can be accessed in English and German in this initial phase.

Furthermore, there is a search method for so-called ?crossroads?. An
example of a ?crossroad? is a term like ?Islam?, ?Globalisation? or
?Deconstruction?. The list of results from a search like this includes
all artists who deal with such topics in their works - listed by
relevance. is the result of a strategic cooperation between four
European partner institutions: The House of World Cultures in Berlin,
The Danish Center for Culture and Development in Copenhagen, Intercult
in Stockholm and Visiting Arts in London. The database is a tool for
collaboration, which has been initiated by the House of World Cultures. is funded by the EU programme Culture 2000 and kindly
supported by The Circle of Friends ? House of World Cultures.

This free service will serve all those who are interested in art and
culture. Journalists and academics can also use for
their research. The service works as a virtual contact zone for
institutions that are engaged with intercultural exchange. Artists known
earlier only in their countries can now present their work to a wider
audience. In this way, in initiators hope that will
enable 'journeys of discovery through intercultural similarities and

contact: info AT

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Date: 9.16.03
From: Rainey Straus (rainey AT
Subject: The SimGallery Project

Become a Sim Artist

The SimGallery Project Call for Entries

Contribute to the SimGallery Project as we investigate the worlds of art
and performance in The Sims Online (a multiplayer online game) in
conjunction with the 'Counter Gaming' show at the Yerba Buena Center for
the Arts in January 2004.

Help us to explore what happens when an ?real world? white-cube gallery
lands in the pre-fab, populist online experiment known as the Sims
Online? What kinds of art and performances are relevant, or even
possible in virtual space?

The SimGallery project brings the world of computer games and high art
together to anticipate and explore the transformation of art creation
and consumption in the current social and technological moment. The
project will combine an on site installation which blurs the boundaries
between t online game space and the real world galleries of the Yerba
Buena Center. Museum goers will have live access from computer stations
in the physical galleries to the virtual galleries within the Sims
Online game.

Submit artwork or a performance proposal for inclusion in the Online
SimGallery Project's show and performance series.

Some issues we hope interested artists will explore:
- What art can be within the constraints and rules of an online game.
- How virtual embodiment affects performances and the experience of art
- How the Sim aesthetic merges with and reshapes your own, when you
bring your work into this venue.
- How a traditionally-styled art space functions in an online game.

Screenshots of the galleries and performance space are available at You can also arrange a hosted
visit to the SimGallery in TSO by sending email to
contact AT

Deadline for entries: October 31, 2003.

Complete submission details are below (and available in pdf format at

Please note: It is extremely important for artists unfamiliar with TSO
to explore the constraints of the game world when envisioning works and
planning proposals.

Important dates:
Deadline for Entries: Oct. 31 2003.
Notification of Status: November 15, 2003.
Exhibition Dates: January-April 2004.
Proposal Format:
Your proposal must include:
- Project description
- Artist(s) resumé
- Indication of category for your work (performance or artwork)
- At least one of the following:
- A SIM location for existing works and project description.
- 3 URLs to other online works with project descriptions.
- 10 jpgs representative of other works, with a slide list and project
- Portfolio CD, VHS video or 10 slides with slide list or project
descriptions and accompanying SASE.

Submission Process:
Please send your materials either by email to entries AT
or by postal mail to:
C/o Katherine Isbister & Rainey Straus
1904 23rd Street
San Francisco, CA 94107

All materials must be received by midnight, October 31, 2003 to ensure
full consideration. We will notify you by November 15 about the status
of your submission.

For more information: To learn more about the SimGallery Project venue,
visit our website ( or visit the gallery
itself by logging into TSO's Alphaville. (Send email to
contact AT in order to arrange a hosted visit.)

To learn more about TSO, we encourage you to visit the official product
website (
There is a brief overview of the game on the project site, as well.

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Date: 9.16.03
From: Lucas Czjzek (lucas AT
Subject: MMM - Call for Entries



Moving Media Multiplicator

MMM is a publishing platform for
visual media productions (moving media)
of emerging contemporary artists
in various genres.

Works of all types (Videos, Films, Demos etc.)
can be submitted to us starting today.

The MMM infrastructure offers
public screenings (at the Kunsthalle Wien),
the web interface (Fs2),
a global independent artists forum
and a diversity of other events,
guaranteeing you a high quality program.

The sharing of information is a
fundamental part of human activity in
the 21st century.
MMM offers an opportunity to fish
independently, by oneself,
for treasures within the information flood.

starting: october 8th

further information and submissions:

please forward!

Sorry for Crosspostings.


Moving Media Multiplicator

ist ein Medium & Forum zur freien Publikation
visueller Medienarbeiten unabhaengigerer

Arbeiten jedes Genres
(Videos, Filme, Demo Szenen etc.)
koennen eingereicht werden.

Die MMM-Infrastruktur bietet
oeffentliche Grossbildprojektionen
(Terminal bei der Kunsthalle Wien),
Events, dem Webblock und ein
unabhdngiges globales KuenstlerInnen-Forum,
welches fuer Programm,
Inhalt und Qualitaet buergt.

MMM bietet die Moeglichkeit frei
und selbstbestimmt aus den Informationsfluten
des Netzes Schaetze zu bergen.

Eroeffnung: 08. Oktober

Naeheres und EINREICHEN unter:

mit freundlichen Gruessen,

Bitte moegliche InteressentInnen informieren!
Sorry for Crosspostings.



>> Kunsthalle Wien (Project Space)
>> Pani Projecting & Lighting
>> University of Applied Arts Vienna

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******** \__ ** \__ ** \__ ***********
********* \_/ ** \_/ ** \_/ **********
********** \_\ \_** \_\ \_** \_\ \_*********
* M O V I N G M E D I A M U L T I P L I C A T O R *

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Date: 9.19.03
From: Lars Midböe (info AT
Subject: Classic II Exhibition

Call for entries The Classic II Exhibition - Short version.

Electrohype will organize an exhibition with 24 artists presenting works
on the Macintosh Classic II computer. The exhibition will take place at
Electrohype-ROM in Malmo, Sweden during the period December 1st. 2003
and January 20th. 2004.

The idea is that the exhibition will focus and reflect on the
development both in computer based art and the accelerating demands on
hardware used to create and present art.

Electrohype will provide the opportunity, and the hardware. The artists
are hereby invited to provide the content.

The exhibition has a clear reference to the 1997 exhibition, called "Mac
Classics (the immaculate machines)" at the Postmasters Gallery in New
York. This exhibition was curated and organized by Tamas Banovich. More
info and text about this exhibition can be found on our web site, please
follow link in the end of this mail.

Opening Marathon According to our plan we will organize 24 openings, one
for each work, from December 1st. to the 24th. Each day during this
period will be an opening for a new work and the exhibition will grow
during December. After the opening marathon the exhibition will be on
display for 14 days with all works running simultaneously. This might
seem like a strange idea but it refers to a Nordic traditional Christmas
calendar where you open one window each day in a paper calendar, each
window containing a surprise.

Deadline It is not much time left until the December 1st. So the
deadline to contribute to the exhibition will be November 15th. But
please feel free to submit material as soon as possible, we continually
evaluate the material we receive and do basic testing on our computers

So blow the dust of your old 98030 or 386 and start testing your art.
Just remember to step back a few years in version history of the
software you would like to use.

For a complete description of the project, including links to the 1997
exhibition, technical specifications, and practical info and conditions
please visit:

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Date: 9.15.03
From: Eryk Salvaggio (eryk AT
Subject: Eryk Salvaggio: Cold Calling For Democracy

) I am Speaking for Eryk Salvaggio

So am I!

My current ongoing political artwork is called "Cold Calling For
Democracy." Working on a campaign really gives a crystal clear
understanding of what the state of politics is in this country. I've
done three days worth of calling democrats and unregistered voters (for
the Howard Dean Campaign, for the time being) calling essentially random
people and talking to them about their ideas for this country and
thoughts on the political process. I mean it's one thing to sit around
and say, "America needs ______" or "America wants _______" but it's
another thing altogether to actually interrupt America while it's eating
dinner, and ask them. In only three days, my idea of "what America
needs" has had a drastic shift; to a degree, it's liberating and to a
degree it's frightening; things are better and worse than I thought,

1. May I Ask Your Husband About Your Political Views, Ma'am?

I called this woman who was unregistered- meaning, basically, that they
haven't ever voted in a primary before, or chose to remain independent
for whatever reason, to vote for whatever primary. She says, "Let me ask
my husband." Her husband comes on with, "Let me tell you, I am a
Republican, and I am certainly not going to vote for Howard Dean; after
his gross incompetence in Vermont, he should not be president of this
country." The guy hung up before I could ask him what exactly Deans
"incompetence" was in Vermont. I don't care what the guy thought of
Deans incompetence in Vermont- where like, everyone on Earth basically
says he single handedly saved the state from fiscal disaster. What I am
interested in is the number of people who gave me their opinion and
immediately hung up the phone afterwards with no chance to actually
discuss anything. That makes me really nervous. It's at the heart and
soul of what's rotten about politics.

2. Score: 6. (Hostile to Dean / Voting Bush)

"Let me tell you something, I don't believe in gay rights and all that
shit so don't call me anymore." (click)

3. Stats

Then on the other hand you have totally amazing people who you find. I
mean, seriously, the atrocities shine brightest here, but 3 out of 5
people who answered the phone were great, and only 1 out of 5 seemed
really rude.

4. Kings of New England

One woman wanted a triumvirate- and she was serious. She had read up on
it, thought about it, wanted to talk to me about it. I said: "I'm
speechless. I have nothing to say to that!" and she said "I know you
don't!" She explained that she's lived all over the country, that there
was no way that any one candidate could represent all the people, and
that we should split the country into three regions- the west, the
northeast, and the south east. Then have the three people work as a
Council of Presidents. She also said Dean couldn't win in the south, but
should be able to represent the people he represents- the northeast. I
like this idea, especially because it means California and New England
will basically run the country and Louisiana and Arkansas will be forced
to reckon with its liberal tidal waves in off the coasts.

5. What Is Said To The People, Say It Through The Phones.

"Hello, my name is Eryk and I hope this isn't a bad time? But I am a
volunteer here at Governor Howard Dean's Presidential campaign, and
we're just trying to get in touch with voters and see what people are
thinking about here at the start of the political season."

Then pause. If they say nothing, I say, "Have you considered who you're
going to support in the upcoming election?"

The original script is totally telemarketing. "I am (name) and I am
working for Governor Howard Deans Presidential Campaign. How are you
today? (Pause) We know it's early in the primary season, but..." then we
ask about who they want to support.

I decided to take be "authentic" about it and it works. I got through
more pages than anyone else and I also got a lot of positive responses.
The kid next to me was really bad at it. Anyone who just reads the
script at people is doomed to failure. One key thing I did was emphasize
the word "volunteer" with an "Aw, shucks!" sort of emphasis. "Aw geez, I
dunno what I'm doin, maybe you can help a poor fellow out, who just
wants to hear what you have to say?" Poof! People with crying kids in
the background are talking to me, or asking me to "call back later, but
really I mean it, call back." I was told I should go into a career as a

6. A Good Man.

I like how older people said, "Howard Dean, I know he's a good man, but
that's about all I can tell you right now." I would say "well thank you,
that's very kind of you, how about I send you some mail on Howard Dean's
ideas?" and they say "sure!" But they said it like that a lot, "Howard
Dean, he's a good man." It makes me want to vote for the guy. We need
commercials of old ladies saying that. "Howard Deans? I don't know much
about him, but I know he's a good man." Just like that, with the name
wrong and everything.

7. A Short Conversation With Roger, In Which The Tables Are Turned Upon Me

Me: Hi Roger! I'm a volunteer for Governor Howard Dean's Presidential
campaign, and I really hope it's not a bad time for you, but we're
trying to see what voters are thinking about this time of year and see
what issues are important to them.

Roger: Sure! I have the time.

Me: Great! Thanks. So, who are you leaning towards in the-

Roger: I have the time, but this is my time. Thank you! (hangs up phone)

8. Barroom and Billiard Hall Politics

After we made phone calls, a bunch of the campaign staff were going to
the nearby bar to catch the Democratic debate on the tv there. And here
I realized that the problem with politics in this country is the voters.

While we're sitting down watching the tv in the corner, some of us are
in Dean shirts, (not me, but I got a free sticker that I was still

"I hate Howard Dean. What does Howard Dean think about supporting the
troops?" I hear from the corner.

"Well, Howard Dean supports better retirement benefits that George Bush
took away from them while sending people over-"

"Yeah yeah yeah, whatever." says Barstool Guy. "What does he think about

"Well, Howard Dean has come out to say-"

"Yeah yeah yeah." Then he said something I couldn't hear, and Campaign
Guy turned around, really annoyed looking. Barstool Guy yelled something
else- he said "All you assholes know how to do up there in Vermont is
make cheese." Campaign Guy turned around and had this expression of
total bewilderment. Barstool Guy keeps yelling these anti-Vermont

"None of us are from Vermont." says Campaign Guy, "We're not getting
offended by the things you are saying about Vermont"

"Yeah yeah yeah." says Barstool guy.

9. And The Problem Is...

I got a voter, Unregistered, 26 years old, and I called her up. She was
on the phone, talking to me, and I say, "What issues are important to
you this year?" She says, "No issues are important to me." I was
shocked, on the phone. I had to repeat it back:

"No issue is important to you." I wrote it down, just like that, on the
piece of paper where we list comments on the caller.

There's two wars in two countries; people are out of work, 1 in 10
people in our society are at the mercy of the supreme court just to be
able to see someone they love who is dying in the hospital. I looked at
the TV, tonight, when I came home, and there's this commercial of this
guy walking through a hotel with a blindfold on. He navigates the hotel
perfectly. I think to myself, "That's the most important issue, to some
people- to be able to navigate through as much space as we can with a
blindfold on." Really- sincerely- I understand that position, and I
think, to a certain degree, people have a right to have that position.

10. Barroom and Billiard Hall Politics, Volume II

We were watching the debate when two people behind us got up to talk to
the waitress and tell her that they were leaving because their dinner
was ruined by having the debate on in the back of the room.

11. Can't Even Hit A Home Run

I have to say, whenever I see Howard Dean, I want him to hit a home run.
I want to see a Jed Bartlett moment. I mean, I know; the debates on the
West Wing are scripted, that no candidate can ever hit as many home runs
as that. But just once, I want to see Dean in an interview and just hit
it out of the park. To just say something so perfectly that there's
nothing else to say, that stands up for what's right in a way that makes
it seem like it's right, and not "liberal" or "weak" or "foolish" or
"idealistic" but just that it's the best thing to do because it's the
right thing to do.

Today, I spent three hours calling people on the telephone, and every
number I called I was terrified of getting a phone slammed in my face,
or finding sleeper cell Republicans. When I watched the Democratic
primaries and Dean did not hit a home run, he bunted runs but he hit no
home runs. He got attacked by Lieberman; (whose name, after 4 years on
the public psyche, I've only just now realized means "loverman"). Dean
defended himself well, but not as well as he could have. I hate Joe
Lieberman- his smugness, his GW-Lite Politics, his offensive
conservative centrism. If Lieberman gets the nomination, I might not
even bother voting.

I also really like Kucinich and Carol Mosely-Braun; I like that they
support each other because they both know they are too liberal to win; I
like Braun because you can tell she secretly loves Howard Dean, and I
like Kucinich because you can tell he actually, truly hates Howard Dean.

Clinton knew the secret to achieving actual humane leadership for
progressive causes was simple. The people who care about human rights
because they think it's a moral obligation are already going to support
something that improves the lot of desperate people; it's the people who
want to improve their own lots first that need to be convinced. Dean
knows this too, I think, and though it seems cynical- filter humanism
through economic benefits- That, I think, is the essence of politics.
Even within my own streaks of political idealism and radical leftist
politics, it really, really really comes down to a war for every
centimeter that adds up to moving this country an inch.

But how do we convince the people who hang up in our faces, who can't
hear a word we say? That's what I want to know. The nation's political
beliefs are a behemoth, and the nation is not moved easily; I don't know
if art can do a damn thing in bringing around people who don't give a
damn about art. How do you talk to the people who say, in a genuine
statement, that there are no issues that affect them? Or people who
state thier cases into a phone, hanging up before I can even ask if they
want to be taken off the list. People who are angry at the people who
ask them questions about what they believe. How do we ask them- how do
we ask ourselves, really- to listen to the other side of what we're all

Art is a ventilation device for the frustration of desperate or angry
individuals, or else it is a career ladder, or best of all, it is an
opening and a pathway towards a new realm of thinking and a new way of
being- not a new realm of thinking that, say, "Ashcroft sucks", or that
Bush is the Anti Christ- those are old ways of thinking that rely on a
duality, a closed mind, and a binary opposition thought process. The new
way of thinking is something like funneling explosions into spontaneous
movements within the infrastructure; giving people a vision of a world
without fear and without the hostility that our nation is slowly growing
so accustomed to that it can't move. I don't know how to do that with
art, I don't know how to do that in a conversation, I don't know how to
do that in my own day to day life. I see it sometimes in the speaking
style of certain people- Howard Dean, before he became the front runner
and started hedging his bets; and I've seen it lately in the language
that General Wesley Clark uses. I don't see it in most of the political
art nights at coffee houses; where people dwell on apocalypse and keep
the fear alive; I don't see it in a lot of political or in the
language of radicals; and I think that's a sad thing, because standing
up for the opening of possibilities is the most radical political notion
that can be.


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Date: 9.17.03
From: Lev Manovich (lev AT
Subject: Dont Call it Art: Ars Electronica 2003

Lev Manovich

Don't Call it Art: Ars Electronica 2003

In choosing CODE as its theme, Ars Electronica 2003 has capitalized on
(some would say: appropriated) developments within the field of new
media art that already have been going on for a few years. As Andreas
Broeckmann, the Artistic Director of the Transmediale festival
(Berlin), reminded the audience in his concluding presentation during
the Ars Electronica symposium, already 5 years ago New York based
artist John Simon suggested that it would be useful to treat
software-based art as a separate category. Consequently, since 2001 the
Transmediale festival competition has included "artistic software" as
one of its categories, and devoted a significant space to it in the
festival's symposiums. Another important platform for presenting
software art has become the Whitney Museum in New York and its Artport
web site where curator Cristiane Paul has organized a number of
important exhibitions during the last few years. As of 2002, software
art became the subject of a new, smaller-scale but very significant
festival, README. The 2002 README took place in Moscow, while 2003's
was in Helsinki. Finally, in January 2003, festival organisers (Alexei
Shulgin, Olga Goriunova, Alex McLean, and others) established a
comprehensive web portal for software art RUNME.ORG. Containing at
present more than 60 categories, RUNME is an evolving conceptual map of
what I see as the larger meaning of the term "software art": the
significant, diverse, and real creative activities at the intersections
between culture, art, and software.

Given that Ars Electronica has much more significant resources than
probably any other festival of media or new media art in the world, one
would expect that it would correspondingly take the discussions of
software art and culture to a new level. Unfortunately, my impression
of the festival (note that although I spent five full days at the
festival, I still could not make it to every single panel and
performance) is that instead it narrowed the focus of these
discussions. Intentionally or not, software art became equated with
algorithmically generated media: still and moving images and sound. To
quote the definition of "art created out of code" from Ars Electronica
program, it is "a generative artform that has been derived and
developed from computational processes" (the statement by the directors
of Ars Electronica, festival program, p. 2). More than once I had to
check my program to make sure that I was indeed at Ars Electronica 2003
rather than SIGGRAPH - or an earlier Ars Electronica edition from the
1980s when computer imaging indeed represented the key creative area of
digital arts field. In a strange loop, Ars Electronica festival came
full circle to include its own past. In the mid 1990s, recognizing that
production of computer images was no longer confined to the digital
"avant-garde" but became the norm in culture at large, Ars Electronica
dropped this category, replacing it with "Net Vision / Net Exellence."
So why in 2003, would the Ars Electronica exhibition and symposium once
again devote such significant space to algorithmically generated
visuals and sound? As even a quick look through the RUNME.ORG
depository demonstrates, "software art" constitutes an extremely
diverse set of contexts, interests, and strategies, with algorithmic
media generation being only one direction among many others.

It is true that the Ars Electronica 2003 symposium has made important
gestures towards addressing larger social and political issues, since
along with the discussions of code as software and the corresponding
area of "software art," it also included discussions of "law code" and
biological code." And the Festival statements describing these topics
were right on target, for instance: "software sets the standards and
norms, and determines the rules by which we communicate in a networked
world, do business, and gather and disseminate information" (Gerfried
Stocker, statement in Festival catalog). Yet by having only a few
speakers to cover each of these areas, the symposium could not explore
these important areas in much depth. I see this in general as
simultaneously both positive and negative feature of many European
media festivals. On the one hand it is very stimulating and
entertaining to attend a festival which includes art exhibitions, film
screenings, music performances, intellectual discussions, and late
night parties - these kinds of hybrid events are practically
non-existent in North America where one goes a museum to see a thematic
exhibition, to a University to attend a conference on intellectual
topics, to a club to dance, and so on. On the other hand, just as a
typical software program which tries to cover a number of different
areas rarely has as much depth as the programs dedicated to these
separate areas, often after attending a European media festival I have
a feeling that the broadness of coverage prevented analysis of anything
with much depth.

This definitely was my feeling at the end of this year's Ars
Electronica - in spite of the brilliance of individual participants
such as media theory veteran - Friedrich Kittler and emerging star
Florian Cramer; virtuoso graphics programmers / designers Lia, Ben Fry,
Casey Reas, Schoenerwissen, and others; the faculty and the students
from the Department of Media and Art at University of Art, Media, and
Design in Zurich who put on the show of student projects which I found
to be the best exhibition at this year festival; Giaco Schiesser,
Christian Hubler, Christiane Paul, Andreas Broekmann (and I am sure
many others speaking in the sessions I missed); last but not least, the
musicians who put on what for me and many others I talked to was the
highlight of the festival - a five hour marathon concert entitled
Principles of Indeterminism: an Evening from Score to Code which
presented a number of key works in the history of electronic music with
a focus on Iannis Xenakis.

While CODE exhibition and Electrolobby staged at Brucknerhaus presented
a lively and diverse set of artistic practice in and around the theme
of software art, I felt that the larger questions about the role of
software in cultural production were not taken up. Yet outside of Ars
Electronica festival these questions are being already actively
discussed. For instance, only during 2003 summer and fall exhibition
seasons one could see a number of large museum exhibitions which go
much further in addressing this area. I am thinking, for instance, of
the presentations of the architects whose practice is closely linked
with software: solo exhibitions of Zara Hadid (MAK, Vienna), Greg Lynn
(also at MAK), Asymptote (NAI, Rotterdam). In another example, the
works of a number of the software artists who were shown at Ars
Electronica exhibition were also included in a large exhibition
ABSTRACTION NOW currently on display in Vienna's Kunsterhaus. By
combining these software-driven works with the works of many other
contemporary artists who do not use computers directly but instead
practice what can be called "conceptual software" approach - that is,
they base their output on particular conceptual procedures (sometimes
closely approximating algorithms) -- this show by two young curators
Norbert Pfaffenbichler and Sandro Droschl (both ex-students of Peter
Weibel) successfully achieved precisely the effect which was missing
from Ars Electronica's CODE exhibition. That is, ABSTRACTION NOW
inserted software art within the larger fields of contemporary cultural
production and thought, giving its visitors enough intelligently and
provocatively organized material to reflect about the relationships
between modern and contemporary art, media, visual culture, and

If I extend the context beyond the current exhibition season, Peter
Weibel's curatorial practice after he left Ars Electronica in 1999 to
become the director of ZKM exemplifies one effective strategy for new
media field's survival. After his arrival, ZKM mounted a number of
large scale shows devoted to large questions of cultural history
(CTRL[Space], ICONOCLASH, and others); while new media was an essential
components of these shows, it never provided the whole context. The
recent show FUTURE CINEMA which more centrally focused on new media
pursued another successful strategy: similar to Abstraction Now, it
presented a larger context by including a range of artists, from
hard-core "new media artists" (Masaki Fujihata, Luc Courchesne) to art
world "media artists" (Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Isaac Julien, Gary Hill) amd
older experimental filmmakers (Michael Snow, Chris Marker)

In the 1980s and first part of the 1990s when few outside of digital
arts field used computers, the existence of the festival devoted to
this field was very important. In the last few years, however, the
situation changed dramatically. If pretty much everybody in the
cultural field now uses digital media, computer networks, and the like,
what exactly then do we see in Ars Electronica exhibitions during the
last few years? What exactly is the phenomenon of "software art" - or
larger phenomena of "digital art," "new media art, " "cyberart," etc.?
The key participants of Ars Electronica 2003 themselves take different
positions here: Casey Reas told me (if I remember correctly) that he
and Ben Fry think of themselves as designers while Golan Levin thinks
of himself as artist (all three are ex-students of John Maeda from MIT
Media Lab who himself acts in different roles of a designer, software
designer, and artist). While this review does not give me space for a
comprehensive analysis, lets briefly review the possible answers to
these questions.

For instance, can "digital art" be considered a branch of contemporary
art? Since the end of 1960s, modern art has become fundamentally a
conceptual activity. That is, beyond conceptualism proper, art came to
focus not on medium or techniques but on concepts. How these concepts
are executed is either secondary, or simply irrelevant. When an artist
asks gallery visitors to complete a questionnaire and then compiles and
exhibits statistics (Hans Haacke), takes up a job as a maid in a hotel
and documents hotel rooms (Sophie Calle), cooks a meal for gallery
visitors (Rirkrit Tiravaniija), presents a found video tape shot by
Russian troops in Chechnya (Sergei Bugaev, a.k.a. Africa), the
traditional questions of artistic techniques, skills, and media become
largely unimportant. As the well-known Russian artist Africa has put
it: "the role of modern art is not to uncover a secret but instead to
steal it." Put differently, more and more contemporary artists act as a
kind of journalists, researching and presenting various evidence
through different media including text, still photographs, video, etc.
What matters is the initial idea, a strategy, a procedure, rather than
the details of how the findings or documentation are presented.

Of course not all artists today act as journalists - I am simply taking
this as the most clear example of the new role of an artist, in
contrast to the older roles of artist as craftsman, as the creator of
symbols, allegories, and "representations," etc. In short, a typical
contemporary artist who was educated in the last two decades is no
longer making paintings, or photographs, or video - instead, s/he is
making "projects." This term appropriately emphasizes that artistic
practice has become about organizing agents and forces around a
particular idea, goal, or procedure. It is no longer about a single
person crafting unique objects in a particular media.

(Of course contemporary art is also characterized by a fundamental
paradox - what collectors collect are exactly such old-fashioned
objects rather than "projects." Indeed, artists selling their works for
highest prices in contemporary art market usually do produce such
objects. This paradox is partialy resolved if you consider the fact
that these artists always employ a staff of assistants, technicians,
etc. - i.e. like everybody else they are making "projects" - only the
collective nature of production in this case if concealed in favor of
individual artists' "brand names.")

Although its highly social nature (people exchanging code,
collaborating on projects together, treating audiences as equal
participants, etc.) aligns "software art" with contemporary art, since
it is firmly focused on its medium rather than medium-free concepts,
"software art" cannot be considered "contemporary art." This is one
reason why it is indeed excluded by the art world. The logics of
"contemporary art" and "digital art" are fundamentally at odds which
each other, and I don't see any easy way around this. So, for instance,
when Ars Electronica program asks "In which direction is artists' work
with the new instruments like algorithms and dynamic systems
transforming the process of artistic creativity?" (festival program, p.
9), the very assumptions behind such a question put it outside of the
paradigm of contemporary art.

If "software art" does not belong to the cultural field of
?contemporary art," does it perhaps follows the earlier logic of
artistic modernism? In other words, are we dealing here with a kind of
"Modernism ver. 2," since "software" and "digital artists" clearly
spend lots of energy investigating new possibilities offered by digital
computers and computer-based networks for representation and social
communication and cooperation? This interpretation does not work
either. Contrary to what you might have learned in art school,
modernist artists were not formalists - at least in first half of a
twentieth century. The incredible and unprecedented energy which went
during these decades into inventing fundamentally new languages of
visual communication, new forms, new artistic concepts of space and
time, and so on, was rarely driven by purely formal concerns - i.e.
investigating the specificity of a particular medium and purifying it
from other influences to create works which did not refer to anything
outside themselves (Greenberg). Instead, artists' inventions were
driven by multitude of larger questions and goals - representing
absolute values and spiritual life; creating new visual language for a
working class; representing the dynamism of contemporary city and the
experience of war; representing the concepts of Einstein's relativity
theory; translating principles of engineering into visual
communication; and so on. In contrast, today's "digital artists" are
typically proper formalists, with their discussions firmly centered on
their particular medium - i.e. software. In short, they are not "new
modernists," because modernists were always committed to larger
political, social, and spiritual values.

(Of course many European modernists were also quick to "sell"
themselves, translating their achievements into simply a new style. By
mid 1920s, Lissitzky, Rodchenko, Moholy-Nagy and others often took on
commercial jobs for commercial clients who were happy to have ads and
graphic identity done in new style. In short, within a few years modern
art also became modern design. Yet this does not negate my argument
because at least on the level of theory, the modernist artists were
always advocating larger ideas and values, even when working for
commercial or state clients.)

If "digital art" does not qualify as "contemporary art" or "modern
art," does it then belong to "design"? Although some designers today
indeed focus their energy on systematically investigating new
representational and communication possibilities of digital media -
John Maeda and his students being a perfect example - these designers
represent a very small percentage of the overall design field. A
typical designer simply takes the client's brief and does something
using already established conventions, techniques, and iconography.
Thus to identify "digital art" with design is to wrongly assume that
contemporary design field as a whole is devoted to "basic research"
rather than "applications."

If there is one social field whose logic is similar to the logic of
""digital art," or "new media art" in general, in my view this field is
not contemporary art, modern art, or design, but computer science. Like
digital artists, computer scientists working with computer graphics,
multimedia, networking, interfaces and other "cultural" parts of
computer science (as opposed to, say, chip design or computer
architecture) are true formalists - that is, they are investigating new
possibilities for representation, social and human-machine
communication. Like software artists, these computer scientists
routinely translate their ideas into various working demos and
prototypes which often do not have life outside of their own
professional domain: academic papers, conferences, demo presentations.
(However, in contrast to the works of digital artists, some of these
ideas do enter into mainstream computing and thus have huge impact on
culture: think of GUI, hyperlinking, or World Wide Web).

At the end of the day, if new media artists want their efforts to have
a significant impact on cultural evolution, they indeed to generate not
only brilliant images or sounds but more importantly, solid discourse.
That is, they need to situate their works in relation to ideas that are
not only about the techniques of making these works. The reason that we
continue discussing Duchamp's urinal or as Paik's early TV sculptures
as though these works were created today has nothing to do with the
artistic and technological skills of these artists - it has to do with
their concepts, i.e. the discursive statements these artists were
making through their objects. In short, if modern and contemporary art
is a particular discourse (or a game) where the statements (or moves)
are made via particular kind of material objects identified as
"artworks," digital artists need to treat their works as such
statements if they are to enter the larger cultural conversation. This
means referring to the historical and presently circulating statements
in the fields of contemporary art and/or contemporary culture at large.
And while Ars Electronica 2003 festival organizers seem to understand
this - "A media art that is coherently and consistently conceived will
never be limited to the artistic use of technical media" (Gerfried
Stocker, statement in the 2003 Festival Program, p. 7) - the festival
itself, in my view, did not encourage the real dialogue between new
media art and contemporary art, simply because it did not include
anybody from the latter field.

If brilliant computer images are not supported by equally brilliant
cultural ideas, their life span is very limited. Either they are
destined to be simply forgotten, the way it happened with the great
deal of media art - simply because the software and the hardware they
required to run on no longer exists. Alternatively - and it hard to say
which fate is worse - they would end up as buttons or plug-ins in
mainstream graphics and multimedia software. This the ever-present
danger of anybody working on the cutting edge of technology - if the
results do not become part of other cultural conversations, they
inevitably stay within the field of technology itself: either simply
erased by new generations of software and hardware, or incorporated
within it as elementary building blocks.

In saying all this I don't want to imply that contemporary art is
somehow "better" than digital art. Every culture has a need for
different discourses, statements, and practices; historically they are
distributed across - -varied cultural fields. Today, for instance, you
will find that the development of new styles is mostly done with
design; the tradition of portraiture (representation of a particular
human being) is primary carried on in commercial photography;
literature and cinema have taken on the role representing human
existence via narratives, which in classical period was the function of
theatre; and so on. Some fields within computer science, the
research-oriented wing of designers, and digital art are playing their
own unique and extremely important role: devising new representational
and communication methods and techniques. As for contemporary art, it
does not actually have a well-defined role within this cultural
division of labor. Rather, it is a field there one can make statements
which are not possible to make in all any other field, be it science,
media, etc. These statements are unique in terms of their subject
matter, how they are arrived at, and how they are presented. Not every
contemporary artist fully takes advantage of this unique situation, but
the best do.

While the fields of contemporary art and digital art play very
different roles and both are culturally important for different
reasons, they are also are both limited in a complementary way. If the
two fields can learn from each other, the results can be very exiting.
Contemporary art is too historical: a typical statement in this field
either by artist or by critic inevitably refers to another statement or
statements made during the last few decades in the field. Digital art
has the opposite illness: it has no memory of its own history, so it
can benefit from remembering its past more systematically.

To conclude: this brief analysis was not meant as attack on the whole
fields of "digital art" or "software art." Its best practitioners are
concerned with larger social and political questions. Moreover, the
best works of digital art are able to find just the right balance
between the strong concept that is not inherently technological and the
attention to software medium (I am thinking of such classics as
Carnivore and Auto-Illustrator). Others may be more concerned with
technological or design issues but, here as well, the best works are
making a unique contribution to the larger dialog: for instance, Ben
Fry's visualizations which allow us to see relationships in data and
its dynamic development - something which was until now not possible to
do in the history of visual representations. Still, others are
programmers who do not even consider themselves as artists, which
allows them - even though they may not know it - to make genuinely
interesting artistic statements (RUNME.ORG recognizes that some of the
most interesting activities in "software art" come from the outsiders -
in the same way that Shulgin's much earlier "medal for web art" was
awarded to web sites which were not done by self-proclaimed artists but
displayed "original artistic sensibility." As - the RUNME.ORG site
states, "Software art is an intersection of two almost non-overlapping
realms: software and art...The repository is happy to host different
kinds of projects - ranging from found, anonymous software art to
famous projects by established artists and programmers." )

What I wanted to critique was not the extremely dynamic and important
field of "software art" but the way it was represented by Ars
Electronica 2003 festival. Its paradigm can only be described as
cultural isolationism. This is a dangerous position to take. Today,
when pretty much every artist and cultural producer is widely using
computers while also typically being motivated by many other themes and
discourses, is it in fact possible that "digital art" happens
everywhere else but not within the spaces of Ars Electronica festival?

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Rhizome Digest is filtered by Rachel Greene (rachel AT ISSN:
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