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: 9.27.03
Date: Sat, 27 Sep 2003 18:45:09 -0400

RHIZOME DIGEST: September 27, 2003


1. Rachel Greene: to affiliate with the New Museum of
Contemporary Art

2. Amy Alexander: Discordia wants to hear from you!
3. Rachel Greene: Rhizome participation in Eyebeam Forum

4. Christina McPhee: Net Baroque

Perspectives on Ars Electronica:
5. Jonah Brucker-Cohen: Report from Ars Electronica 2003
6. Rachel Greene: ars lecture on software / art / culture
7. Marc Garrett: Gate Keeping & Who gets seen?

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Date: 9.26.03
From: Rachel Greene (rachel AT
Subject: to affiliate with the New Museum of Contemporary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE to affiliate with the New Museum of Contemporary Art

New York, NY (September 23, 2003) -- The New Museum of Contemporary Art
and announced today that will operate as an
affiliate of the New Museum., a leading online platform for
the global new media art community, will continue to operate its
programs in accordance with its mission and core principles and will
retain its identity as a separate organizational entity. The New Museum
will provide office space and administrative support for Rhizome, which
will be known as at the New Museum.

"Rhizome?s established online programming complements the New Museum?s
offline new media art programs. We have worked closely with Rhizome in
the past, and we are very excited about the opportunities for
collaborating on programs, exhibitions, commissions and events,"
remarked Lisa Phillips, the Henry Luce III Director of the New Museum of
Contemporary Art.

"The global scope of the New Museum?s curatorial practice fits well with
our mission to serve the global new media art community. Working in
tandem, the two organizations will be able to offer programs of unique
quality and relevance in the field of new media art while creating
synergies and expanding our audiences and educational initiatives,"
stated Mark Tribe, founding director of

Tribe is succeeded as Executive Director by Rachel Greene, who has
worked at in various capacities since l997. Greene?s
forthcoming book, Internet Art, will be published by Thames and Hudson
as part of the World of Art series in the spring of 2004.

Tribe, recently named Director of Art and Technology at the Columbia
University School of the Arts, will serve as Chair of the board of, which will also include representatives of the New Museum.
Francis Hwang will continue in his position as Director of
Technology. was founded in 1996 as a central resource for the exchange
of ideas and information for the burgeoning new media art community. is best known for its online archive of over 1,000 works of
new media art, known as the ArtBase, as well as various online
discussion groups and publications (known individually as Rhizome Raw,
Rhizome Rare, Rhizome Digest, and Net Art News).

In November 2000, the New Museum of Contemporary Art launched the Zenith
Media Lounge?New York?s only dedicated museum space for the exhibition
of new media art. Since then, the Museum has regularly integrated new
media works into its programming museum-wide. In 2002, Rhizome
commissioned five new online works that were exhibited in the Zenith
Media Lounge.

Visit for more about
Visit for more about the New Museum of
Contemporary Art.

For more information please contact Chelsea Scott in the Public
Relations Office at 212-219-1222 ext. 219 or email cscott AT
or visit the press office online

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Date: 9.23.03
From: Amy Alexander (plagiari AT
Subject: Discordia wants to hear from you!

Discordia wants to hear from you!

Discordia is a critical weblog working at the intersections of art,
activism and critical techno cultures.
Discordia is an experiment in social filtering, collaborative
moderation and different styles of communication.
Discordia opened in June this year, and since then a few hundred users
have registered and started posting.

What does Discordia have on the burner this fall?

Now taking reservations October 2003 to January 2004:

Become a guest star for a week! Or share the spotlight by inviting a
correspondent to guest host along with you!

Some possible topics:
-world summit on the information society
-p2p projects
-taxonomies of online media culture projects
-report from the October conference of Internet researchers in Toronto
-discuss your critical online project
-issues in media arts
-issues in media arts education
-film/ politics/ social visions
-collaboration / cooperation
-difference and diversity beyond tokenism
-issues in software culture
-rise and demise of Internet
-the spectacle of elections/ democracy as mass entertainment
-ups and downs of collaborative weblogs
-read and debate a book together

Or suggest a topic of your own.
And remember - Discordia welcomes posts in a variety of languages.

Send us the dates of the week for which you propose, the topic(s), and
optionally, name of your correspondent to:

In addition:
Discordia is interested in expanding its circle of editors: Editors are
people who make connections between ideas, notice interesting topics and
post them or invite others to post. Editors make use of the "Nepotism"
feature of Discordia to influence the direction of discussions, while
the "Democracy" feature ensures openness in all directions.
If you are interested, please let us know:

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Date: 9.23.03
From: Rachel Greene (rachel AT
Subject: Rhizome participation in Eyebeam Forum

Any thoughts on this opportunity? Do rhizomers want to participate?
Sarai and Nettime are list-neighbours I can vouch for as
interesting.... -- Rachel

Begin forwarded message:

Here is the blurb on the forum....

Distributed Creativity
An Online Forum
November 12-December 19, 2003

As technological innovations continue to expand, creative practice has
shifted toward the edge. Artists are organizing impromptu street actions
by mobile phone; musicians are repurposing networks for artistic ends
and curators are breaching commercial confines by streaming broadband
art projects to new audiences.

DISTRIBUTED CREATIVITY, Eyebeam's sixth annual online forum, takes a
look at the interconnected web of opportunities and collaborations
emerging in areas such as WiFi, Weblogs, rich Internet applications,
voice over IP, and social software. The forum will be held in
partnership with The University of Maine and will engage several
communities across the web to discuss the artistic, legal, technical and
social dynamics of our increasingly networked world.

Here are three plausible technical solutions to consider: (with changes
for Rhizome, of course!)

-a php/mysql based system...with partner provided login and some server
permission on your end, an Eyebeam script would pull outside posts into
Eyebeam's presentation, ie. Request permission to access a field or two
within the partner discussion database records to pull them into
Eyebeam's discussion database. This would be executed at a predetermined
frequency say twice a day or maybe more often, thus posts would not
appear instantaneously but would have a slight delay.

-email based systems...partner accepts an Eyebeam mail account to send
and receive posts; eyebeam script would post-process the account's mail
components into a threaded discussion archive.

-add code to partner system that duplicates and sends posts from your
system to Eyebeam.

I am also asking the following communities to take one week...Creative
Commons,, DATA, Nettime. There would be one community per
week. Topics to discuss include--artistic collaborations and legal
implications, new platforms and innovations, commercial uses, etc.

**If you have any thoughts on this online forum or want to contribute
towards its initiation, e-mailing list AT (RAW) is the way
to reach the rest of the Rhizome community. Thanks!

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Date: 9.26.03
From: Christina McPhee (christina112 AT
Subject: Net Baroque

Christina McPhee
Inside the screen is a phenomenological space of indeterminate
dimensions. The space of the net as an intelligent, or neural,
soundscape is a point of allegory that leads to some reflections on
place and sound mapping in the net. The cyborg online becomes a playful
recursion inside a sonically resonant, fluid place.

A moving sense of place gathers its momentum and definition on the fly,
like a continuous improvisation that is not entirely responsive to human
use and reflection.  A poetics of that place, both virtual and physical,
in the mixed volumes of fluid media, might give rise to baroque
polyphonies.  Imagine the paratopias of spatialized and interactive
image and sound as a conscious architecture, within and through the net.
The space and sounds of the net become a baroque topology.
I inside the sonic landscape of : dissolve and shift
I.i 47REDS
Under the spell of eros and memoria, an internet search for mimetic
collisions and catastrophes under the surface of the media skin-- a
search not coded in Google - opens up to a view of a dark field, like
some Piranesian view of Rome.
The pictorial space of painting in the Baroque, like its musical styles,
concerns bridges, leaps, highs, lows, extremes of every kind. Layers of
polyphony crash and burn and reformulate recursively, as if to challenge
every move within a countermove, or to seduce new patterns in
recombinant waves.
Recursions, sets and resets at the peripheries of the screen, makes you
believe you might just glimpse and hear the roar of chaos at the edge of
the battlefield.  You ask yourself how to take measure of those
disclosures; how to negotiate the barriers from screen to inside the
The techno body of the net-based self is imagined as cyborg: her memory
stretches and slips, sets and resets elastically through a neuro-sensual
landscape of death and transformation, inside a world city whose eyes,
ropes, relays, snows, shifts and smashes are transpersonal portals of
repression and desire. Transpositions of sound slipstream towards
entropy, then catch themselves and call out in layered voices.
Interactive panoramas trigger themselves like elastic membranes, the
radiant skin of a net-Aphrodite, whose movements and gestures are
subliminally felt but remain off screen.
The space of net art makes use of sound mapping to make a spatial
phenomenology. Interactive music is a form-sensing tool. As if we have
come to a new level of neuro-sensorial integration as primates at the
very moment that we leave the purely human realm of meaning, and begin
to connect with the cyborg?s realm I think we want to hear the cyborg
and explore her mind. She is the Other, the repressed reflection, the
Persephone buried in Hades.
I.ii. Sonic Persephone
I wonder if neural structures that generate memory of musical threads
aren?t borne of a linear process at all, but rather, of a quasi-visual
live feed that continually reconfigures itself playfully. Strangely,
since the net is such a visual medium, the subliminal presence of
interactive sound fugues move you past the visual into   random patterns
-- of micro-distillations and trace distortions, left like marks or
stains on the ?wall? of the screen.  

Sonic Persephone makes sound slips between the cracks in the wall. You
could say the sound slips. Through the interstitial spaces between one
present moment and the next present moment: a hyper now. In this ?now?
the cyborg is adumbrated as felt landscapes. Sound is felt as well as

The sound functions as if to move through an emotional archaeology like
the ½mystery and melancholia of the street? in a painting by de Chirico.
Imagine the cyborg moving through urban darkness, evading death, seeking
escape. In the alleys and passageways, sound loops shatter and
reconfigure within a dark screen space. Your only way to communicate
with and reach her is to move the mouse around. Although the sound
triggers memory and mouse moves in the user, the feedback loop of
iterative forms creates a situation in which we never arrive at a
conclusion.  Place and identity in the realm of the cyborg remain
outside the realm of the user.
Even text resolves into nonsense palindromes. This is text the way the
cyborg might read it. Her screen text recalls subtitles for an
impossible cinema. As net art, Sonic Persephone looks like a trailer for
a film that will never arrive.  

Net art desires a paradox of space, time and memory, or no-memory.
Multiple events dissolve into one another as soon as the simultaneity is
noticed, like play, like paradoxes of fictions. You can never go into
just one  net place, or into one time. You can never find your way to
the end of the thread, or to the end of the trail. You can never say,
½meanwhile, back at the ranch,? because ½back at the ranch?
isdissolving.  Entropy is matched only by a nonlinear logic of play.
I.iii  the play of memory
Net art shape-shifts as it engages in the interaction of events and is
emergent in that interaction as a third, fourth or nth integer event);
its motion tend, towards the absolute zero, the event horizon, a digital
sublime. Entropy recurs, as we try to set and reset the boundaries of
things, fix things, set coordinates, or sail to the island of the day
before, to paraphrase Eco.
The kinds of meaning constructs capable of flourishing in the baroque
atopias of the net are creatures of our narcissistic regard, but also
echo our desires for the erotic and the sublime, beyond range of
surveillance and control. The technobody presence of a net art work is a
double memory package. Joyce?s Anna Livia Plurabelle cries:
½mememorme!?  Is this ½me me more me?; or is this ½(re)member me!?.
Luckily it is both/and. A cyborg subject is a reflection of ourselves: 
is both a self and a non-self, dissolved in the river of media. She
calls ½mememoremee?Ðis it also ½(re)memory?? - a sybiline call, whose
primal tone is a verb: to shift.
II inside the poetics of space on the net : death and life spaces
II.i break up the space
Paul Virillio predicted surveillance saturation as an absorption of
urban topographies and architectures into, literally, pure vision: 
vision creates vision by the machine, for the machine. Out of sight, if
not out of mind, is a pandemic, nomadic paralysis:  when you can be seen
anywhere, you have no place to go.  The psychic topology of violence is
claustrophobic. The abusive environment wants to maintain a frozen or
unconscious status and immobility.   The panopticon of surveillance
structures, like   all utopias, is untenable, because it fails to take
into account a gash in the perfect surface of its media-skin.  The
rupture is caused, inevitably, by change. The regimes of hyper
surveillance in public spaces want to freeze-frame, in film still doses,
all transient visual, haptic and acoustic content like sequential
projections into a grim theatre of paranoia. 
Still, a first impulse of artistic practice within a culture of digital
terror is to break up the space, to smash it open, to revive it by using
surveillance technique as a generative medium for a human centered
aesthetic.  Like an archaeological dig through debris of anesthesia and
amnesiaÐthe culture of forgettingÐthe smashed ruins of a panoptic city
may be a new ground, even an unimaginable agora saturated with
conversation and energy, contretemps, against time. Building  
reiterative experiential archives, tracing terrains, and integrating
recursive polyphonic spatial imaging with in live space, creates a
dynamic and critical subjective presence, a conscious architecture. 

III.i constellations
The baroque moves from film into architecture by spatialization of time
based media within built volumes. The baroque intuits topologies in
architecture as musical/mathematical recursive structures.  And, the
baroque contains the recursion as an impetus to remember, as a trace of
kinesthetic human memory, the touch of remembrance of things past.
An interactive space in virtual construction is present at the
confluence of at least these three functions.  The human/machine active
interface, an elastic response, almost like a ?tuning fork? at the
functional confluence, becomes an architectural site: it locates a
presence as a place that smashes or dissolves between data expression in
a constant flow that moves in a fugue like structure of open sequencing.

Gerard Manley Hopkins coined inscape towards a poetics of generative
relations between image, the sound/sense of language, and ontological
states of being.  Inscapes may aspire to a condition beyond
representation or even emulation. Inscape becomes a mediated actuality,
in excess to, or alongside, mimesis.  Or maybe, not alongside, but
inside as well: as in the Mobius model.
Constellations of paired functions transpose, as hidden to exposed,
closed to open, opaque to transparent, inimical to immersive, discrete
to engaged, monadic to multiple on one ?visible? side of the strip;
while on the other? side?, i.e. the dark space of architecture, exposure
is moving into absorption, openness into ambient hierarchies,
transparency into translucency, and immersion into description and
distancing. The net baroque arrives, a multidimensional volumetric
surface/not surface as an infinite, extensive Mobius strip: her
continuous surface is always moving away and towards a depth of field,
in a semi permeable, elastic and unstable motility, an architecture of

Christina McPhee, a transmedia artist, lives in California.  In 2002
physical installations of showed at Convergence, New
Media Centre,for Cybersonica, Institute of Contemporary Art, London; and
at FILE Electronic Language Symposium, Sao Paulo. Her net art work
47REDS  is at, edited by Ollivier Dyens,  together
with noflightzone for½Net Noise,? edited by Marilouise and Arthur Kroker
with Tim Murray for the electronic media archive at  Cornell University,
and  CTHEORY Essays on virtual
architecture and sound appear on, with two netbased
soundworks; for European media journals and Her video work, digital prints and paintings are in
American museum collections and private collections in Paris, London,
and in New York,

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Date: 9.22.03
From: Jonah Brucker-Cohen (jonah AT
Subject: Report from Ars Electronica 2003

Hopefully this isnt too late - but for those who missed it (and those
who made it) just thought I'd send out my annual report....

Report From Ars Electronica 2003
Sept 6-11, 2003
Linz, Austria
By Jonah Brucker-Cohen (jonah AT

Along the banks of the Danube river in Linz, Austria, the world famous
Ars Electronica festival opened with a heavy duty roster of theorists,
performers, artists, and practitioners. This year's theme, "Code: The
Language of Our Time," was meant as a starting point to examine code and
software art's development, aesthetics, and implications. Debates
centered around the question: If code is the language of technology what
does this mean for the future of art practice? Despite a wide range of
answers from participants, the human side of the equation was ignored.
For instance, how do we react to code? It might sound sentimental, but
how does code make us feel? Machine code might be integral for computers
to function, but ultimately humans dictate their use. I tried to answer
these questions during the six day event, but felt overall that user
experience remained an afterthought to most of the discussions and
exhibited work.

The symposium began with hard-hitting theorists of code and information
visualization. The approach was to emphasize the framework of the
conference topic as existing within a larger body of work from sociology
to political to personal contexts. I arrived on the second day of the
symposium, when an adamant Richard Kriesche spoke about code as a set of
interconnected signs wherein code itself could be seen as art form in
itself. Roman Verostko, an artist and theorist provided a nice
alternative when he presented his graphic drawing machines built in the
80s as examples of rule-based sculptures illustrating how changing a
single variable in a process can create infinite and unpredictable
behaviors. Following this presentation, Casey Reas, co-creator of
Processing (, argued that programming languages are
materials, like other enabling media, and that despite their
flexibility, they can also be limiting. His inspiration for Processing
stems from the processes of code executing, rather than the act of
writing code, or the code's output. At the Q&A session after his talk,
Andreas Broeckmann (co-curator of Transmediale) posited to Reas the
simple question:"Why do you program?" Of which Reas replied, "Because I
have to". Coding might be a biologic need for some, but the debate raged
on as to how code can translate from one medium to the next.

Other symposium sessions focused on the scalability of code into new
forms including community and networks to physical devices and objects.
During the "Social Code" panel, Howard Rheingold, author of "Smart
Mobs", spoke about the battle over code where conflict of ownership
ultimately curbs innovation. Florian Cramer disputed the festival's
theme by emphasizing the appropriation of code as art and how this
distinction creates and artificial relationship between code and
language. Looking at biometrics, Fiona Raby, formerly of the Royal
College of Art, threw some humor into the mix by outlining the "BioLand"
project, a virtual mini-mall of bio-metric devices and gadgets including
a human DNA encoded pet pig. Also, Hiroshi Ishii, professor of Tangible
Media at the MIT Media Lab, spoke about decoding code through physical
interaction with objects and how by creating these dynamic relationships
could contribute to a new human language of collaborative design.
Finally Crista Sommerer, artist and professor at IAMAS in Japan, spoke
about her various installations that attempt to transcend the aesthetics
of the machine such as two haptic squash-encased devices that share
people's heartbeats across a Bluetooth connection.

Escaping the talks for some fresh air, I wandered down to the exhibition
across town. Toned down from last year, the show featured a wide range
of interactive projects from the CyberArts Honorary Mention category.
Walking up the O.K. Center's long concrete stairwell, visitors were
tracked and illuminated by Marie Sester's "Access", a responsive
spotlight that follows your movements as dictated by online
participants. On the first floor, the Japanese-based musical
group/corporation, Maywa Denki's amazing electronic and human controlled
musical instruments were set up, including several interactive guitars
and drum machines with electronically controlled mallets connected to
custom software running on a PC. Other highlights included the "Biker's
Horn" a saxophone like instrument with flashing lights and multiple
tubes and the "Drum Shoes", wherein the CEO of Maywa Denki wore actuated
shoes with mallets as toes that were triggered by tapping his fingers on
custom built gloves with keys. Down the hall was Daniel Reichmuth and
Sybill Hauert's "Instant City", a block interface based musical system
where visitors could build structures that depending on the amount of
blocks placed triggered different samples. Another simple yet effective
musical interface was "Block Jam", a collection of small reconfigurable
blocks with embedded LED displays that allowed people to create custom
rhythms based on the blocks position, orientation, and proximity to each
other. Finally, in fine contrast to the high tech installations was Iori
Nakai's, "Streetscape", a pen-based interface that played city sounds as
users traced an embossed map of Linz.

Scattered throughout the main venues were various performances and
special events that kept Ars visitors occupied. The main event was Golan
Levin and Zachary Leiberman's "Messa di Voce", an experiment in
interactive 3D graphics and sound, where vocalists Japp Blonk and Joan
La Barbara's cacophonous utterances came to life amid a giant triple
projection screen backdrop. Instead of focusing on a distinct theme, the
piece felt more like a collection of unique vignettes that emphasized
universal appeal over any distinct viewpoints. On the music side, Steve
Reich's monotonous "Drumming" performance featured countless
percussionists pounding repetitive rhythms in a room of swirling visuals
provided by FutureLab resident artist, Justin Manor. The last night of
Ars featured the bizarre "POL - Machatronic" performance in the PostHof
with actors donning robot exoskeletons while reenacting a sausage themed
love story. Afterwards, the late night Code Arena at the Stadtwerkstatt
pitted programmers against drunken audiences who voted for the first
ever Chocolate Nica Award presented by Sodaplay creator, Ed Burton.

As the festival ended and all the code was compiled, there still seemed
to be something missing. Despite all the featured examples and practice
of software aesthetics in execution, code as language, input and output,
and modes of representation, there was little discussion about
experiencing the code itself. For instance, who uses all of the code
produced? What are we thinking, feeling, and experiencing when code is
used and what reactions exist in these instances? Although insight was
gained on how producers and theorists of this medium postulate
connections with code to cultural and social phenomenon, there was
little focus on the human response. Ultimately it is this distinction
which makes our experience unique and allows us to understand the
technology we interact with everyday. Perhaps in an art context this
might seem elusive, but the debate seemed incomplete without uncovering
the fundamental source of our frustration and happiness with code.

-Jonah Brucker-Cohen

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Date: 9.17.03
From: Rachel Greene (rachel AT
Subject: ars lecture on software / art / culture

This transcript was first posted on the Nettime list (
-- Rachel

Begin forwarded message:

From: Andreas Broeckmann (abroeck AT
Date: Thu Sep 25, 2003 3:46:33 AM US/Eastern
To: nettime-l AT
Subject: (nettime) ars lecture on software / art / culture
Reply-To: Andreas Broeckmann (abroeck AT

[this is the script of the talk that I gave on the last day of the ars;
some of the themes discussed here over the last days resonate, and I
thought it might be interesting to chip it in; apologies for the loose
style, but it had to work as a talk way at the end of a 5-day
conference; comments welcome, of course; -ab]

Notes on the cultural dimensions of software and art

Andreas Broeckmann, Berlin

(lecture manuscript; ars electronica 2003, CODE, Software and Art 2,

(Thanks for the invitation, etc.) At transmediale in Berlin, we have
been organising a competition and conferences about software and
generative art since 2001. It is curious that this initiative which
brings me to this festival about Code started here at the ars five years
ago when John F. Simon, with whom I was in the net art jury, said there
should really also be an art category in the competition besides net art
and interactive art, the new one devoted to artworks specifically
dealing with computer software. In Berlin, we took up that challenge and
have been exploring the field over the last three years; other
initiatives devoted to software and art have, amongst others, been the
eu-gene mailing list, the Read_Me Festival and the Runme.Org website,
the Generator art exhibition curated by Geoff Cox in England, the
Electrohype festival in Malmoe Sweden, and of course Christiane Paul's
CODeDOC project in New York.

The polemical equation in the title of this year's ars electronica,
Code=Art, is of course wrong; code in general is not art, 1st because
code is mostly written for completely instrumental reasons without an
artistic intent or expression, and 2nd because art is not in the code,
but in the social process that we call art and that involves the
cultural context of production and reception in which art is
articulated. There was some reference here to the separation between the
liberal and the mechanical arts and to the fact that their separation is
not universal but a product of European culture since Greek antiquity;
while I agree that it is important to point out the fact that that
separation thus has both historical and cultural specificity, I would
also maintain that there are good historical reasons for this
separation, and I would like to defend an understanding of art, call it
Old European if you like, that places art at the intersections, and the
lines of friction between different social and political systems, where
it dramatises these lines of friction, where it expresses the beauty and
the rawness of the most unlikely possibilities, where it makes strange
the most familiar constructions of our culture. Art can thus do much
more than illustrating, pleasing, window-dressing. And I believe that
art using software as its main material, can also work in this direction
and push the boundaries of our understanding of art in the age of
digital computing. I'll try to talk about that in the next 25 minutes.

The starting point of the debates about software and culture is the
realisation that we have to take software seriously as a cultural
artefact with a history, a sociology, and culture, in fact _different_
cultures and histories attached to them. As we have heard, these are a
variety of cultures of invention, production and application,
communities of different shapes and intent, programmers and user groups,
nerds, geeks and DAUs.

A name that has been strangely absent from the debates of the last days
is that of Matthew Fuller, an English writer and Software critic who has
worked quite extensively about the social implications of software.
(Another one is that of Graham Harwood, who has done both theoretical
and practical work as an artist programmer on issues of social and
critical software.) Fuller's text 'It looks like you're writing a
letter' is an extensive analysis of Microsoft Word and the social
assumptions that have been coded into this programme. In the more recent
text, 'Behind the Blip', Fuller makes the useful distinction between
critical software, social software and speculative software. Critical
Software questions socalled 'normal' software by drawing out its hidden,
yet traceable flaws, as Fuller did in an installation in which he
printed all the hundreds of dialogue boxes that you can find in MS Word
and pasted them on a wall. The other strategy Critical Software can take
is specially written software that comes along looking like 'normal'
software, yet unexpectedly behaving very differently. Social Software,
in Fuller's understanding, is software that directly addresses the
social conditions of using specific software tools, by making them
explicitly accessible and low-threshold, and Social Software is also
engaged in and emerging from social networks and communities. Thirdly,
Speculative Software is described very lucidly by Fuller 'as software
that explores the potentiality of all possible programming. It creates
transversal connections between data, machines and networks. Software,
part of whose work is to reflexively investigate itself as software.
Software as science fiction, as mutant epistemology. Speculative
software can be understood as opening up a space for the reinvention of
software by its own means.' - I used to argue that this notion of
speculative software probably comes closest to my understanding of
software art; but I now tend to believe that art projects can equally
belong to the areas of critical or social software, and that the notion
of art cuts across these different fields - I will come back to this

What we can easily glean from people like Fuller or Ellen Ullman, whom
Fuller quotes, is that software is embedded in social practices. This is
why we can speak of the cultural dimension of culture as the
heterogeneous social field in which software gets built and used, in
which it operates and in which it gets developed; the software
'environment', this ecology, is of course technical, but by being
technical it is also social and political - in its production cycles as
well as in the fields of its application.

Think of the Sobig.f computer virus, a mail worm which has been
plagueing the Internet since mid-August. Hundreds of thousands of E-Mail
messages with attachments have been mailed to servers all over the
world, clogging up the lines, servers and mailboxes, intended to prepare
for a major attack on Microsoft servers at a given time. The other day I
said to Pierre Levy that what we experience on the Net is often not a
sign of collective intelligence, but of collective stupidity. I should
have been a bit more balanced in saying that, but what I meant was that
the Net is a social environment in which many things go wrong, in which
there is a lot of spam, conflict, violence, and redundancy. I understand
the value of connecting human intelligence in a network, and if we apply
a notion of collective intelligence that is more fractured, so that it
applies to smaller, definable collectives, then I am all in favour. I
think the way in which the Sobig.F worm was dealt with by systems
administrators was amazing - in my experience it took less than 36 hours
from the first attacks flooding my mailbox, to the solution being
implemented as software filters on the mail servers; through message
boards, analyses of the worm code were shared and possibilities for
stopping it were discussed, and the most effective solution, written I
believe by a Viennese programmer, was then adopted world-wide. The guys
at IN-Berlin were part of that exposition of collective intelligence,
which made it possible for me to return to my mailbox without fear very
quickly. But at the same time, that intelligence is not universal,
because some people are still affected by the roaming worms, and the
whole problem only started because many users were downloading and
executing the worm software innocently, which is why it spread so
quickly. What I meant in my comment to Levy was that I think that it
sounds very ideological when he mentions collective intelligence,
without referencing the dimensions of conflict on the Net, without
referencing the widespread lack of media competence, and the inbuilt
stupidity of some commercial software applications. My guess is that a
semantic system that is based on a consensual social model will be
doomed to fail. But that is, of course, my own ideological perspective.

The gist of my argument today is that the cultural topology of this
software 'environment' is articulated by art projects. I'm not saying
that all art with digital media has to address the specifics of
software, but I think that Software Art should.

When Alex Galloway quoted me yesterday as the supposed author of saying
that software was a cultural technique I was kind of surprised, because
I believed that that is a widely shared understanding of any artefact,
whether technical or mechanical, which has no 'original author' any more
(so I kind of refute that reference which Alex took from a text posted
on Nettime and featured on Autonomedia's Interactivist blog). Academic
training in post-structuralism in the 1980s spoon-fed me the rhetorical
reflex that artefacts have specific historical, social, mostly also
economic contexts, and that any conscious attempt to conceal that
specificity must be hiding specific interests or motives. Such training
makes for useful critical questions, and for good conspiracy theories,
which these days turn out to be true more often than not.

Cultural techniques are the practices and applications that you can use
for your everyday survival, and they can go from table manners and
communication skills to the ability to programme your VCR or to set a
filter in your E-Mail programme to avoid messages from certain people.
Writing and reading software is a less widely distributed, yet very
valuable cultural technique which can be empowering and otherwise
satisfying in a variety of ways. Even a text-based Mac user like myself,
completely code-illiterate, is confronted with this fact more and more

The 'cultural topology of software' is the, excuse the metaphor,
multi-dimensional 'landscape', the different layers, plateaus, call them
what you like, that intersect in the practices that are constituted by
the practical application of software. This is of very general. What I
mean is that when you take a web browser like Nebula, by Netochka
Nezvanova, you have, for instance, the context of the World Wide Web and
of the normalised assumptions about the representation of HTML code;
connected with Nebula are also the social complications introduced by
the NN or antiorp character of the author, the economic dimension of
having to pay for downloading this alternative web browser, and so on.
It does not make sense to strictly separate the software from this
context, quite to the contrary, Nebula is an interesting project
precisely because it plays on those different registers of software
culture. Similarly, Adrian Ward's Signwave Auto-Illustrator, an enhanced
and partly perverted re-engeneering of normal graphics programmes, plays
on the aesthetic and ergonomic expectations normally brought to a piece
of software. You can buy the Auto-Illustrator like any other software
package, but what you get will make you think a lot about what your
achieved notions of 'normal software' and its usage have been.

I don't have the time to elaborate on this much further, but I guess it
becomes clear what I mean by the cultural topology of software with its
political, legal, economical, etcetera, dimensions. I took the two
examples, Nebula and Auto-Illustrator, because they were the first
winners of the transmediale software competition in 2001, which were
followed by LAN's Tracenoizer and Alex McLean's in 2002, and
by the Gnutella network browser Mini-Tasking in 2003. As a recent
example of this kind of work I would like to mention Franz Alken's
Machines will eat itself, which just won the German Digital Sparks
student award and which allows you to create ficticious identities,
bots, which then go about filling in forms on websites with their fake
personal data, thus junking the databases of overly eager data mining
companies. The cultural practices that emerge with technologies, like
today weblogs or wireless communications, further transform this
techno-social topology.

(projects to mention here include IOD's Webstalker, KRcF's Minds of
Concern, Jodi's Browser and game manipulations, retroYou r/c, and

When talking about software and art, we have to speak about aesthetics,
that is engage the value systems that inform our experience of art, and
our perceptions in general. References have been made to the traditions
of Fluxus, Conceptual Art, or Net Art, each of which implies a set of
assumptions about the ways in which to judge the artistic quality of
artworks. Over the last 200 years, European culture has seen aesthetics
of beauty, aesthetics of the sublime, aesthetics of ugliness, and
aesthetics of formal order. But this history teaches us, that there are
alternative ways of approaching software-based artworks than Max Bense's
extremely formalistic Generative Aesthetik which he formulated in the
1960s. Sakane san has discussed the different approaches to media art in
the 20th century in his lecture on Tuesday, and he has shown how
different the approaches to this kind of art practica have been. Just as
an aside: I believe that it would also be interesting to revisit the
debates about Realism vs Formalism between Lukacs and Brecht in the
1930s in this respect, if only to sharpen our perception for the level
of critique that can be brought to significant artworks.

On this note, I fully agree with Christa Sommerer who called for a more
engaged, more critical debate about specific projects and practices in
the field of media art. That debate will hopefully help to distinguish
the qualities and aesthetic specificities of different works, and even
if we are not headed for some sort of normative aesthetics, it will
hopefully help us to make and articulate our value judgements.

My own idea of art practice, which I also bring to this field of
software-based work, is opposed to bland visualisations and translations
from one formal system to another. I understand the need for a kind of
software formalism in an early period of exploring the material and
formal specificities, but as Christa Sommerer said yesterday, these are
sketches which should not be considered as serious attempts at making
art. I believe that we need a strong notion of what constitutes art, and
we must argue about that, but it would help immensely if we could agree
on drawing a bottom line which excludes some attempts. For me, and again
I put this up for discussion, art is about the transgression of
boundaries, about making familiar experiences strange, about dramatising
what pretends to be innocent, and about exploring the virtualities, the
potentialities of technologies and human relationships.

I would like to spend the last minutes mentioning some such unlikely
projects in order to open up the debate about what it is that interests
us about software and art. The projects mentioned earlier by Christian
HÃ1?4bler (Crack It! - connective force attack, open way to public, and
Minds of Concern) should certainly also come into that equation.

First there is the whole question of identity in the digital age, the
issues of data-mining and privacy, the protection of our databodies,
also the aspects of race and gender come into play here.

(discuss Eva Wohlgemuth: Body Scan, mention Ulrike Gabriel: Sphere,
Nathalie Jeremijenko's tree cloning project)

A second area that, as we have seen over the last days, is relevant here
is, speaking in general terms, the technical infrastructure, the
software code itself and the computer languages it is written in, the
translation modes, the question of the representation of code, and of

(present Jaromil: forkbomb, discuss Jahrmann/Moswitzer: Nybble Engine

Let me say that the polemics I am putting forward here is not a claim
for taking the fun out of art; to the contrary, I belive that both of
these projects exhibit a very good sense of humour, they work like jokes
in a Freudian sense exactly because they reference the cultural context
in relation to which they formulate their own narrative or process.

In many cases, art projects relate to or express their cultural
environment in very restrained or benign, at times even banalising ways.
This is not only an issue in software-based art, but of digital art
practice in general - it often tends to be affirmative of the
technology, uncritical of its corporate politics and superficial in its
formulations and expressions. Where is the desire for excess in
software-based art? Where do we find, as Stefan Riekeles said the other
day, the surplus, the surprise, that which we do not know yet and that
is not already legible in the software code or the technical dispositif
that artists prepare so ardently?

By way of closing, I would like to read you the jury statement of the
obscure Lux Ziffer award, which has been awarded for the second time at
transmediale last February. Like the anonymous jury, I do not want to
infer that the winning project is an art piece; but I do want to suggest
that we look for art projects that are able to elicit such excited
responses as this one:

"everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right
includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek,
receive and impart information and ideas through any media and
regardless of frontiers." article 19 of universal declaration of human

the anonymous award lux ziffer 03 goes to the anonymous artist vladimor
chamlkovic alias melhacker aka kamil for his project "scezda", a
polymorphic superworm threat.

he has successfully infected the international press with a new virus:
mistaking al qaeda for al gorithm thus feeding the myth of
cyberterrorism and mass hysteria.

his threat to release a blended megavirus in the case of a us attack on
iraq introduces new parameters to media art: boolean vengeance and
political threat.

"scezda" is supposed to be a 3-in-one recombination of sircam, klez and
nimda, the three virii having had the most impact within the last year.
however, melhacker's past background in artistic success is rather poor
by number of infections, distribution, threat containment and ease of
removal. in terms of quantity, his work has failed. in terms of quality,
his publicity attack obsoletes the real existence of "scezda", it has
already raised a profitable discussion of security myths and hysteria
amongst corporate fear-feeders: trojan whores consuming trojan horses,
spreading the news of worldwide economic damage and loss of daily

we do never wish to see "scezda" in the wild, because this would merely
mean, that fossil panic has triggered war. and this is bad. and so are

if the unwise have an unwise leader, all are led to ruin.

Thank you for your attention.

andreas broeckmann - artistic director
transmediale - international media art festival berlin
klosterstr. 68-70 - d-10179 berlin
tel. +49-30-2474 9761 - fax +49-30-24749-814
ab AT -
transmediale.04 - Fly Utopia! - 31 jan - 4 feb 2004

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Date: 9.22.03
From: Marc Garrett (marc.garrett AT
Subject: Gate Keeping & Who gets seen?

Gate Keeping & Who gets seen?

Thomas Moore said 'All attempts to give a strict form to life, even if
they are based in a fantasy of self improvement, participate in Sadeian
monastic ideals'.

I can understand Jess Loseby's declaration of doubt regarding Manovich's
decision not to include certain groups, other forms of net-based digital
creativity in his writings; yet I also see that it is to do with

Like Patrick Lichty, I feel that he contributes but not with as a wide
or broad net as some of us on the frontline would wish for. I remember
looking in an archive of Manovich's files under section 'F' with a
silly, childish and hopeful curiosity, wondering if he had mentioned
Furtherfield at all (after all we have been active as a net group since
97); I laughed out loud to myself when I discovered a reference to
Forest Gump and nothing of ourselves. The only people who can really
change this situation are those on the frontlines as usual (like Patrick
mentioned again). Which is why we started Furtherfield in the first

The line that many of us net based progressive thinkers, net artists,
wish to redraw and potentially make less canon based and non linear is
always being reinterpreted by cultural shifts socially and politically
all the time. Those who mainly reside within those prescribed cultural
boundaries, who wish not to change the designated lines are workers for
those institutions, supporting them, even if they are actually situated
outside themselves. For once one engages in the dialogue of creativity
with others the process begins that whatever is discussed between
becomes a space that references what has been put in place for them to
muse on as historical, contemporary influence.

Jess Loseby said 'The huge dilemma is that no-one has been able to come
up with a viable alternative critical language/voice for
media writing that is as accessible, understandable and well supported
as manovich's texts.'

The reason for this is not that they are not out there, they are, but
they are not being seen by the institutions themselves which makes it
seem as though they are not out there. This is not healthy because lazy
curators just choose the ones who are easier to focus on instead of
actively researching to find out what is really happening.

So, who gets seen, and why are they seen above others and more than
others? I read Manovich's recent article which was posted on this list a
few days ago 'Don?t Call it Art: Ars Electronica 2003' mentioning that
Ars Electronica's decision to focus mainly on coding was a form of
cultural isolationism. This was, in fact a very important thing to say.
For I can remember thinking to myself, mmm Furtherfield are doing some
pretty interesting things but we cannot get involved with this festival
because we are eclectic and consciously trying not to be singular and
actively relational in matters regarding digital, new media and net art

So our group was isolated because we did not fit into a limited theme,
and us being more open in our field of practice, ideas and function was
not what they were interested in. Which is no great loss really as far
as Furtherfield are concerned because we are changing things in our own
way, which is actively open to using the mode of 'soft group' maneuvers,
hopefully more fluid in its essence and aiming beyond established
static, culturally revisionist tactics.

I want to move away from Manovich and putting him under the spotlight as
symbolic of what is stopping the wheel turning in the world, and spread
the load and give other examples that we ourselves at Furtherfield have
personally experienced.

Now, when we see certain people always getting promoted or written about
when there are many other significant people and groups out there
involved in just as much relevant work themselves who are not being
accepted by those who hold the keys to the 'representative' kingdom.
Then there is something that is not working. What this says, is that not
much has changed regarding creative entities being seen via
institutional platforms. It is also obvious that it takes years of
positive change to penetrate such systems that usually nurter their own,
what they know already and usually not what they do not know. Also, we
must remember that many institutional academics prefer to limit their
agendas and stick to them as a centralized base to work around. Which
can be great for them because they finely tune their ideas to a sharp
focus, but in essence when exploring new media, digital and net art, the
landscape out there is perpetually changing and offers so much more.

Also, there is a big difference between intellectual argument and
academic argument. Academic argument comes from a place of culturalized
reference, high art, high science, or accepted and (supposed) informed
knowledge that has been institutionally accepted. This means that if you
use an academic argument, you are more likely to be agreed with by those
who value such structures and theories. They instantly understand the
triggers, signifiers being inferred. Thus, an immediate rapport occurs,
a kind of mental handshake and recognition that one has equally gone
through the same learning processes. This is of course a positive
experience for those who wish to have their references re-affirmed, but
it serves no solution to solve the issue or crux, that 'Academia' only
serves the few.

What this means is that the probability in respect of those who have not
had institutional support compared to those who have had institutional
support, regarding being seen by writers and critics with strong
institutional connections, is a vast chasm. For some reason many
institutional historians it seems, do not to openly value social change,
they value history instead. Thus they do not feel that it as part of
their remit to put forward a more democratic vision. This slump into
such a traditional dichotomy of ?the have and have nots,? serves no one
but the people already supported and slows down the much needed
advancement of Internet influenced cultural evolution.

Jean Dubuffet wrote 'What cultured people want, in terms of language
(and thought), is to be well-defined, correctly positioned in strictly
combined terms, and this is what they call good speech, good thought,
and good writing. But they do not realize that they are thereby creating
a closed circuit that leaves no room for anything but what was there in
the first place---except for the decomposition inherent to all closed
circuits, like moss that grows in a hermetically sealed jar.'

Jess Loseby said ' I followed (in retrospect) the American institutions
absorbing his lead and I now watch dismally institutions (such as the
Tate) here repeating the same pattern.'

Jess Loseby's mention of the Tate is significant and I have personally
experienced such negative and unimaginative blind spots by various
institutions and the Tate is a very recent example. (Forgive me if I
give some personal examples here but it serves to throw light on the
current argument here, and I'm sure that it is appropriate.)

I remember Furtherfield applying to be a part of the 'user_mode =
emotion + intuition in art + design - a symposium' in March 2003 to the
Tate Gallery. We thought that we matched the suggested theme perfectly,
that our experience of exploring subjective, emotional and relational
use of the Internet was right up our street.

At that time we had recently received a commission for our 'Skinstrip'
project from the 'Shooting Live Artists commission. Not forgetting to
mention our Dido exhibition in 1999 that involved people from allover
the world to send us their own personal diary accounts in the form of
images, text and posters; that we put up in the streets, and in a venue
(Watermans Arts Centre), plus our own net related works that were
connected to the Internet, plus physical works in the space as well. We
even had people visiting the space who put their own diary accounts up
on the wall (local people) in the space. So the exhibition focus was
about inclusion and not isolation, proving that you can create a
critically challenging exhibition by using everyday people's ideas, work
mixed with so called professional artists. Thus communicating to a wider
audience and not just to an already converted audience.

After applying to attend this conference we received a generic standard
email from them mentioning why Furtherfield we were not good enough to
attend the conference.

In response to that email I created this piece of work: -

What really annoyed me was that the people that they assumed new about
the context of the theme that they were peddling were mainly just the
same as you would find at any other new media conference around the
world. Most of them were already very well established or entwined
within institutions, or very well connected with them. It was like there
was this massive crane lifting all their bodies from across the vast
waters of the world and dropping them into seats at each conference. It
seemed like the decision had already been made and why did we bother
applying when they were obviously not really interested in genuine
groups who were actually doing it for real on the front line actively
changing things on their own terms?

So, what this suggests is that they already had an in-house selection of
people and groups who were already accepted on their (special) list that
they have decided to include. Leaving minimal space for contemporary
independent groups such as our selves, thus not included. They might as
well of not ask for anyone else to be included in these events, for that
would of been nearer to the truth of what was going on in the first
place. So what happened was another example of what Manovich termed as
cultural isolationism.

So this means that the institutional people who organize these events do
not do their research and are also obviously not informed culturally on
what is really going on. If they are, then it is even more menacing for
it means that they are deliberately blocking many people and groups such
as ourselves from being seen as equals on such platforms. Then it
becomes political.

The seemingly innocent and blind trust handed over to such organizations
(we are all to blame for this) is suspect and can be soul destroying to
those who feel that they are creating something culturally significant.

Whether this is done deliberately or via ignorance, what occurs out of
this is a biased misinterpretation, interpretation in the form of
propaganda. So those who have taken the trouble to be independent due to
the unbalanced nature of institutional control in respect of new media
activity, digital art and net art, will continue to be shunned until
institutions and those tightly connected with them learn how to grow up
and see beyond their own limitations. It is not independent groups that
isolate institutions, it is the way that it is all set up that holds
everything and everybody back.

The New York Digital Salon on its tenth anniversary.

Another example which is worth noting is when Ruth Catlow, Charlotte
Frost and myself visited New York to attend the two day conference at
MOMA Organized by the New York Digital Salon on its tenth anniversary,
in association with the Department of Film and Media, The Museum of
Modern Art.

This is what the theme that was proposed 'an in-depth exploration of
digital art practice today. Panel discussions on media art look at the
role of artists as programmers, new uses of space, theory of aesthetics,
narrative and sound.'

Not only was there a lack of interaction with the audience by not
allowing us to debate important issues amongst ourselves as well as with
the speakers present. But the audience was forced into the submissive,
psychological role and situation of being quite literally a passive
audience. So we all ended up being told generic things that most of us
already new about or given information about themselves, and not being
allowed to ask questions that were even slightly critical or
questioning. So it seemed that there was a denial of actual critical
thought and conscious exploration. Instead, it was a platform for
artists, curators to talk about themselves, instead of moving on to the
bigger picture and potential possibilities of lateral, digital and
relational creativities culturally.

A representative from the UK at the conference Gregor Muir, amazingly
managed take it further away from the subject at hand, one more large
step backwards. He was very successful in not representing any
contemporary digital artists, or Net Artists at all. Ignoring even
groups who resided in the UK for those to see in New York (you can be
sure that New York artists, curators, organizers would feature their own
anyway) but instead chose to focus on an art piece that was exhibited in
1971 at the Tate. By the critical minimal artist Robert Morris called
'almost nothing there'.

He presented a video piece of Robert Morris's work to the audience as
well. Personally, I am very interested in Morris's work, especially in
the context of artists regaining control in creative terms, on their own
terms. It felt ironic though, that here we had a UK representative
showing an American artist in New York, and no mention at all of any
current happenings regarding digital creativity, new media or net art
elsewhere, or the UK. It did not even relate to theme of the conference.
When he himself seemed to be proposing radical creativity himself.


So, the above is yet another typical example of people who are in gate
keeping positions ignoring their responsibilities and choosing instead
to represent already well supported and well institutionally connected
artists. Not promoting cross-cultural elements to break down nationalist
ignorance that many institutions by default (unconsciously) build upon.
Instead, reinforcing and putting even more bricks and mortar up on the
high wall that isolates independent, creative groups and net based

'Modern consciousness now suffers its own uncertainty principle, pressed
to recognize that all its reflections do not extend beyond the prism,
the prison, of its own unconsciousness, no matter how expanding the
universe, how luring the moon.' James Hillman. (Notes On White
Supremacy, Essaying an Archetypal Account of Historical Events.)

This informs me that many of these people are not actively moving on by
consciously challenging themselves and re-evaluating their own ideas
regarding contemporary new media. They are not looking or seeing what is
actually happening - so they rely on second-hand information that tells
them what is happening instead. So, just like we all get second-hand
news that does not reflect in reality what is really happening out there
in the real world politically and socially. They get information that
has been appropriated by institutional means, not connected to the
context of things or the real source of new creativity.

The psychological relationship between academic intelligence and
outsider Intellectuals, has been a constant battle through history and
one that institutions should not be proud of. The stance that many
academic individuals use to hide their emotional and intellectual
inadequacies is to add clout to their own use of language by imposing
the official 'wild card' that they know more because they have gone
through the process of induced learning.

This failing in coming to terms to the idea that actually there might be
equivalent, relevant ideas and people out there that have not of been
processed by the same protocols, is shameful. For this puts in place
barriers enhanced via denial, plus the default of the traditional and
tiresome dichotomy of, we are right and you are not. 'We are right and
you are not' does not even have to be said, for it is assumed -
officially accepted.

The Power of the institutions such as museums, galleries and libraries
has always had a cultural, psychological and social impact on how
creativity is perceived in the public's eye. Within the educational
establishment, Post-modernist theorists and critical minded artists,
have had a dramatic influence in changing the order of things, with
occasional small tremors of art activism trickling out of the contained
art world and its institutions.

If we are to move forward culturally at all we need those people who
hold gate-keeping positions to take responsibility and realize that 'it
isn't only Rock n' Roll'. People's lives are influenced by their
decisions that perpetrate and enhance alienation over others, so their
reasoning's have to be self critical, and even emotionally informed.
Please, no more misogynistic handshakes.

So what we have here is a war not only about our own histories and how
we are all seen but also a war unfolding before our very eyes,
concerning the limitations of institutional remits to bravely accept
contemporary net art on its own terms.

Gate keepers need to be more actively global in showing digital based,
networked, relational creativity in all its forms instead of continuing
to promote nationalist mannerisms, or relying on what they know already.
This of course is not a new problem and those who would rather see a
broader representation occur will be perpetually disappointed because of
the fact that if one expects some one who values institutional protocol
to declare such issues then they are quite literally barking up the
wrong tree. May be we should pee on that tree rather than bark at it.

So when setting up such conferences or writing historical accounts there
needs to an injection of (conscious non elitist) democratic energy, a
fluid account that appropriates the real happenings and changes, and a
balanced sense of representation. And if they are not doing this then
why are they there? What use are they to the wider, globally interested
public and us?


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