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: 12.05.03
Date: Fri, 5 Dec 2003 21:23:08 -0500

RHIZOME DIGEST: December 5, 2003


1. Trebor: Call for Submissions: Conference on Collaboration
2. Jamy Sheridan: Experimental Animation teaching opportunity
3. Brian Winn: Assistant Professor Position in Digital Media Arts &
4. Agence TOPO: Web fiction CIVILITES / CIVILITIES

5. Olga: Dream by Dream, Dreams Come True

6. Perry Garvin, Jeremy Turner, Rachel Greene, Jessica Hammer, Chris
Chesher, Donato Mancini: Distributed Creativity Week 3 - Mr. Wong's

7. Gloria Sutton: The Contingent Object of Art

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Date: 11.29.03
From: Trebor (trebor AT
Subject: Call for Submissions: Conference on Collaboration

Call for Submissions

The facilitators of the conference "networks, art & collaboration" now
accept submissions for in-person and web-based participation in the
"networks, art & collaboration" conference, April 24/25, 2004 at The
State University of New York at Buffalo. In addition, we now invite
texts for publication in a magazine that will be made available at the
conference (see call for texts on the website).

This conference on collaboration will bring together artists, designers,
(social) scientists, and engineers in formats such as workshops,
lectures, open mic, parties, screenings, interviews, brain storming
sessions, and artist presentations ? all aiming at ongoing
collaborations and exchange of knowledge. The aim of the conference is
to get a deeper understanding of the dynamics of collaboration, models
of critical web-based art, and the role media technologies play in the
making of social networks. The event seeks ways to go beyond the
outmoded top-down conference format and intends to experiment with
alternative forms of interactive presentations and debate. Dance,
discuss, eat, argue, laugh, learn, celebrate dissent, make new friends,
and meet future collaborators.

Proposal Deadline: January 20, 2004

You can propose an in-person contribution, or submit a proposal for
inclusion in the virtual meet space augmented by web-based

Who should participate?
We are seeking contributions from researchers and practitioners
(academia, music, activism, art, technology, ...) focusing on
collaboration. We encourage individuals and groups who are historically
underrepresented in these fields to contribute. Submit either
individually or team up in a collaboration.

In-Person Formats:
Some possible forms of participation in person include: brainstorming
sessions, interventions and presentations, demos, workshops, panels,
dance party, *no lectures.*

Virtual Participation Formats:
Some possible forms of mediated participation include weblog, wiki,
mailinglist, webcast, video conference.

Submissions (in person and virtual) are in the following suggested

Track I:
Tech skill exchange: peer 2 peer, open source/ free software movement,
tools for collaboration/ tutorials, workshops

Track II:
Models of online cultural production models of critical web-based art/
distributed creativity multi-user games, collaborative novel writing/

Track III:
Network architectures (lists, blogs and the quest for
meaning),  e-learning, class room collaboration in new media education

Track IV:
Global social movements / participatory cultures

Track V:
The high art of collaboration (challenges of collaboration), metaphors
of collaboration (family, friendship), scalability

Do you apply to participate in-person or as part of the Virtual

Which track do you apply to?

Would you like to contribute in-person or as part of the virtual

Which format would suit your contribution best?
(ie. brainstorming sessions, artist presentation, interventions and 
roundtable presentations, demos, workshops, panels, dance party, *no

With your proposal submit a 250 word biography.

Please also include relevant links.

Deadline: January 20, 2004

Send proposals to:

Geert Lovink geert AT
Trebor Scholz treborscholz AT

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Date: 12.04.03
From: Jamy Sheridan (jamy AT
Subject: Experimental Animation teaching opportunity

The Maryland Institute College of Art seeks a creative individual with
experience in one or more of the following: 2D, 3D, algorithmic or
experimental computer animation, character animation, animation
programming, emerging forms. The successful candidate will teach 9
credits per semester of introductory to advanced courses, develop
advanced level classes, participate in departmental operations including
advising, committee service,departmental and student activities.

Required qualifications include an MFA degree or equivalent professional
experience; knowledge of contemporary issues; outstanding portfolio of
professional work; three years college level teaching experience beyond
teaching assistantships or equivalent professional experience. Salary
commensurate with experience and college policy; Excellent benefits

To apply: The College will review applications as received; deadline for
final submission is January 16, 2004. Submit letter of interest, CV,
list of 3 references; 20 images of professional work with descriptive
list and 20 images of student work if available. DVD, CD, videotape or
slides in boxed carousel tray. All electronic media must include
detailed instructions regarding playback platform, sequence, resolution,
etc. No original work. Include SASE for return. To: Experimental
Animation Search; Office of Academic Affairs; Maryland Institute College
of Art; 1300 W. Mt. Royal Avenue; Baltimore, MD 21217. No phone
calls, please. AA/EOE/WMA.

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Date: 12.05.03
From: Brian Winn (winnb AT
Subject: Assistant Professor Position in Digital Media Arts &

Position Announcement, Please Circulate:

Michigan State University
Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media
Assistant Professor, Digital Media Arts and Technology

Teaching: Candidates are expected to teach three courses a semester
across several of the following areas: interactive multimedia design,
web design, video and audio production, compositing and effects (CGI),
3D graphics design, game design, programming, and human-computer
interaction. Candidates are also expected to advise students on projects
and theses.

Creative-Research Activity: Although this is primarily a teaching
position, candidates will be expected to gain visibility through juried
media designs (exhibits at peer reviewed venues; broadcast distribution;
conference presentations; awards) or scholarly research publications.
Candidates will be encouraged to pursue external funding to support
their creative and/or research activity with the possibility of reduced
teaching load.

Qualifications: MFA or PhD in a related field preferred. MA or MS with
considerable industry or academic experience will be considered.

Required: Portfolio showing outstanding creative design work and/or
research related to digital media arts and technology, aesthetics,
telecommunication, or information studies; teaching experience and
strong teaching evaluations.

Desired: Industry experience related to digital media arts.

Appointment: Academic Year, Fixed-Term Renewable with the possibility of
converting to the Tenure System

Work Environment:

The Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media: The
Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media Department
( has an international reputation in a number of
areas. Faculty specializing in video, audio, 3D/VR, and multimedia come
together to form the core DMAT faculty ( BA, MA,
and Ph.D. are offered. Collaborative interest in digital media arts is
also strong in related departments within the college and also outside
of the college, including education, computer science, and music.
Communication Technology Laboratory: The Communication Technology
Laboratory ( is an association of MSU faculty
who create innovative learning experiences that elegantly integrate
technology. Through externally funded projects the Comm Tech Lab
develops meaningful, emotionally appealing projects and research
prototypes and invents new media genres. Rather than programming
software, the lab approach is: ?we design experiences.? New Media
Center: The Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies, and
Media is home to a New Media Center digital media arts and technology
teaching laboratory, as well as numerous other college-wide computer
laboratories, television and radio studios.

Media Interface and Network Design (M.I.N.D.) Labs: The Media Interface
and Network Design Labs ( are a network of
human-computer interaction research labs focused on the interaction of
mind and media, especially on ways in which media can be better adapted
and tailored to the mind. Facilities include virtual reality and
augmented reality systems, over 25 computer graphics work stations, and
various forms of research measurement equipment.

College of Communication Arts and Sciences: The department is in the
College of Communication Arts and Sciences, which was the nation's very
first college of communication. Today, it remains an innovative and
leading international center for all forms of research and teaching on
human communication: Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media,
Communication (interpersonal, organizational, and social effects),
Audiology and Speech Sciences, Advertising, and Journalism.

Michigan State University. Founded in 1855 Michigan State University is
situated in East Lansing, a pleasant university town just on the border
of Lansing, the Michigan state capitol. The Michigan State University
campus is quite large with over 5000 acres of land and 150 major
buildings. The campus is home to over 40,000 students from all
continents and about 4000 faculty and staff. The cost of living is very

To Apply: Consideration of applications begins January 12, 2004. Search
closes when a suitable candidate is hired. Duties begin August 16, 2004.
Send letter of application, curriculum vita with three listed
references, creative portfolio, and evidence of teaching experience to:

Brian Winn
DMAT Professor Search Committee,
Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media
Michigan State University, East Lansing, 48824-1212
E-mail: winnb AT

MSU is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Institution. Handicappers
have the right to request and receive reasonable accommodation.

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Date: 12.05.03
From: Agence TOPO (topo AT
Subject: Web fiction CIVILITES / CIVILITIES

Agence TOPO presents a new web collective fiction with 10 Montreal

Civilities is a modular, collective fiction that brings together ten
Montreal artists from a range of disciplines and backgrounds who offer
diverse perspectives on "living together."

The invited artists explore potential spaces of confidence,
reconciliation and the cohabitation of persons, peoples and religions.
>From the rules of religious fundamentalisms to the movements of
anonymous crowds in the city, the projects examine various aspects of
social organization, cultural norms and the collective spaces of shared
practices. Working from interfaces representing public space, that of
the community and of civitas, small stories emerge like windows onto
more universal situations, onto a certain state of the world, somber and
violent indeed.

Civilites is a production of Agence TOPO, directed by Eva Quintas and
designed by Guy Asselin. The invited artists come from the fields of
visual arts, theater, audio creation, writing and performance : Mathieu
Beausejour, Pascal Contamine, Nathalie Dion, Linda Hammond, Isabelle
Hayeur, Norman Nawrocki, Lisa Ndejuru, Eva Quintas, Jean-Sebastien
Roux, Cesar Sa=EBz.

How to live together ? Can we live together ?
You are invited to send your answers, texts, images and links that will
be integrated in the "Green light" section of the site and gradually
contribute to the creation of a another critical forum. You can also
submit all multimedia project (flash animation, video, etc.) that
corresponds to the proposals and orientations of Civilities.

Agence TOPO is a non profit organization dedicated to the creation,
production, diffusion and distribution of multimedia independant

Civilites is the fourth collective web project producted by Agence TOPO,
after Liquidation - a web-radio fiction (1998), in collaboration with
Radio-Canada FM, FiXions (1999), grouping 10 writers and photographers
and Vilanova (2002) with 13 artists photographers from the collective
Fovea. The site is also a space for the dissemination, promotion and
distribution of art and essay CD-ROM's and DVD-ROM'S. The showcase
presents some forty titles from Canada, the United States, Australia,
Belgium and France.

Information : Eva Quintas, Michel Lefebvre / T (514) 279-8676 /
topo AT

L'Agence Topo thanks the Canada Arts Council, the Conseil des arts et
des lettres du Quebec, the Conseil des arts de Montreal, the
Institut des technologies de l'information of College de Maisonneuve,
and the Technological Arts Society.
Eva Quintas
Presidente et directrice artistique
Agence TOPO
T (514) 279-8676

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Date: 11.29.03
From: Olga (olia AT
Subject: Dream by Dream, Dreams Come True

Merry Christmas
Applet Art from Bora Bora

Already for 3 years we live in the new millenium. We have fast
computers, broadband connections, huge flat screens, there are even
three buttons on our mouses. And there are so many of us that the bridge
over the Digital Divide will soon break under our weight. We are in the

But very often WWW makes this impression dissapear. Leaving messages in
blogs, rephrasing thoughts for google, openning and closing tiny pages
that do not even have a scrollbar and skipping intros is not the future,
it is the fantasy of developers prepared for Y2K crash, but not for Y2K.
Emergency scenario.

Absolutely another feeling is when you see how 90s utopias come true.
One can now put 3000 animated gifs on one HTML page and the browser will
not crash. You can go through VRML worlds fast and smooth. Background
images download before you finish to read the first paragraph.

Dream by dream, dreams come true. Recently I found out that Java Applets
don?t freeze my browser any more. Lakes, puzzles, mosaics, lenses,
fractals, plasmas, running texts, rotating menus. It is exatly them who
make the web to be a very special place. What a pity that they were
overlooked by designers and artists (probably because they never worked
on Macs) and are not a part of the web of today.

It is really a shame that we were not patient enough and blamed java
applets developers every time our PCs crashed. As if it is the biggest
trouble in the world to restart your computer.

To correct this aesthetical injustice I decided to devote the
Teleportacia net art workshop at French Polinesian Bora Bora to java
applets. To come back to the roots and to work with classics of the

Fortunately my plan worked: Young Bora Borian artists appeared very
sensitive to the traditions of the web. Without any ambition to conquer
the European media art market they made an invaluable contribution to
web culture.

I would like to thank Fabio Ciucci and all the participants for their
enthusiasm. Marc-Andre Zani of L'Appetisserie Cyber Cafe ? for hosting
the workshop and allowing us to install Java Runtime Environment despite
the complains of other clients. Personal of Meridian hotel for
unforgetable beds and brekfasts. And of course this trip and project
would not have happened without financial support from the Society of
American-Russian Veterans of WWII and Veterans of Resistance Union

Olia Lialina

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Date: 11.30.03-12.02.03
From: Perry Garvin (garvinpr AT, Jeremy Turner
(jerturner536 AT, Rachel Greene (rachel AT, Jessica
Hammer (hammer AT, Chris Chesher (c.chesher AT,
Donato Mancini (donatomancini AT
Subject: Distributed Creativity Week 3 - Mr. Wong's Soup'Partments

Perry Garvin (garvinpr AT posted:

Continuing on the theme of discussing the featured web sites this week,
I'd like to direct our attention to Mr. Wong's Soup'Partments. I'm
wondering what people's responses are to the site ­ specifically the way
that it visualizes community. It's interesting that it presents
community in at least two major ways:

1) As a vertical population where each person's habitat is isolated from
the others creating what feels like an "anomic neighborhood."

2) Where joining the community requires abiding by restrictions
including size of apartment block, style of design, censorship of
certain texts (mainly advertising), and others laid down by the site's

Why the usage of an apartment building as a visual expression of
community? Why does one of the internet's best known visual communities
feel so overwhelmingly isolating for each of the apartment's residents?
Why compare this online apartment tower to physical apartment buildings
(see the site for a comparison graph)?

These problematic visual and conceptual properties seem symptomatic of
larger problems creating, maintaining, and building these types of
communities. What do others think?

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Jeremy Turner (jerturner536 AT replied:
Subject: More Questions than Answers

Wow, I should have checked out Mr. Wong's Apartment earlier. I wish I
was able to become a resident. I will reply Parry Garvin's questions
below using the "****":

1) As a vertical population where each person¹s habitat is isolated from
the others creating what feels like an "anomic neighborhood."

***yes, there is an emphasis on "Habitat" here - such as the Habitat for
the C-64 designed for LucasFilm by ex slum-lords, Mr. Morningstar and
Mr. Farmer. That one was a horizontal version of course. I cannot really
comment on a direct comparison here as I have only seen the screenshots
of the original Habitat (er....not the truly original "Habitat" designed
by Moshe Safdie in Montreal). Has anyone in the foum played the original
Habitat? Any thoughts on this? for awhile, I had an apartment in Blaxxun
Corp's Cybertown but I was too lazy and cheap to furnish it. I managed
to bail before having to pay any kind of damage deposit though. I will
check out Mr. Wong's high-rise in more detail and then will comment in
more detail (if I can reply in time before the Digital Karma forum

More later...

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Rachel Greene (rachel AT replied:

Wow... cool site. Never seen it before. I don't know anything about the
operational or discursive happenings of Mr Wong's but I think the
metaphor of the crowded, teetering, yet regimented apartment house is
apt for a moment when many online communities are sufficiently expanded
that their challenges now include diversity, crowd and discourse
management. Case in point -- think of how Nettime is run and the tenor
of that list which is, in my view, pretty atomized and impersonal.
Multivocal, formal, only occasionally social and definitely not
identified as being in the community mode (see their far-reaching
freakout when asked to participate, as a community, in the DC Forum). I
also think, that while this hasn't been an issue on Rhizome lately, many
online forums have to manage the discussion of political reality or risk
implosion (which is what happened to the Syndicate list following the UN
campaign in Kosovo) -- a real-world corollary to Wong's style and
content restrictions. On the other hand, Wong's site does seem like
communimage in that it's presented as a participatory, communal
initiative but is really a fairly controlled formal, design-driven

Perhaps people from the number of new forums that have sprung forth in
the last few years -- nine, the pool, discordia, furtherfield, consume,
etc. -- might want to comment on their particular community trope. Oh,
another cool one is communiculture --
-- Rachel Greene

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Jessica Hammer (hammer AT replied:

The question of balancing individual and community needs is a really
good one, and I think that's what both of Perry's questions get at. To
what extent do people want or need an individual space within a
community? And to what extent does the community need to impose rules
and guidelines on the members within it?

There's an obvious non-answer to this question, which is that it depends
on the needs and goals of the community being discussed, but I think
there's a deeper point here about community and collaboration.

First, most people want to have their own identity preserved within a
community. Whether looking at MUDs and the way that people build their
own personal spaces within a larger, communal space or examining the
reasons why there aren't many anonymous email lists (as someone
suggested in another thread), it seems a pretty common thread that
people want to preserve their own individual identity within the
community context. Even if the community presents an anonymous/corporate
face to the rest of the world without publicizing their individual
identities, it's hard to imagine a truly anonymous (as opposed to
pseudonymous, which is what most online communities are) long-term
community or collaborative environment developing. What Mr. Wong's
Soup'Partments gets at is the need for individuals to carve out their
own space within a community, though perhaps it's presented a bit more
literally than most communities do it.

Second, as Flick Harrison mentioned in another thread, communities need
rules - even if those rules are 'there are no rules'. In fact, I think
that the less substantive the relationship, the larger the group and
thinner the channel of communication, the more explicit the rules of the
community have to be. For example, consider two people who know each
other well working together in person. They can easily go back-and-forth
over ideas, likely without even making every detail explicit, and can
still have a successful collaboration. For Mr. Wong's Soup'Partments,
though, the "community" of the project is a bunch of random strangers
who can submit with minimal intervention from anyone else - so in order
for their contribution to have meaning within the context of the
project, there have to be explicit rules and guidelines that are
replaced by personal relationships and social norms in smaller or more
close-knit communities.

On the other hand, I'm not sure that I would define Mr. Wong's
Soup'partments as a community in the first place. Yes, it provides a
listing of the people who submitted apartments to the building, but does
that make it more of a community than, say, the phone book? It's much
more like a call-in show on a radio station, in my mind: the various
apartment-submitters aren't actually interacting with each other, but
rather a central authority collates and organizes their requests in
order to create a larger work of art from their smaller, contributed

I've always thought that to be a community, there had to be meaningful
group interaction - and while Mr. Wong's Soup'Partments may be an
interesting piece of collaboratively created art, I'd have to say it
fails to cross the line into being a true community. The metaphor of an
apartment building makes it *seem* like a community because of the
real-world analogy - but without any way to support participants in the
project interacting with each other (in the virtual elevator?) beyond
simply publicizing their URLs and emails, the community is no more than
an illusion.

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Chris Chesher (c.chesher AT replied:

Constraints are not anathema to creativity, or to community, for that

Constraints on creative practice establish the frame for any work.
Frames delimit the scope for creative production. Genres are another
type of constraint that facilitates creativity (even if that is by
subverting that genre). Constraints are fundamental to creativity.

Creative practices are also interdependent. The developer of the Mr Wong
site establishes fields of indeterminacy within which creativity can
take place. Outside of this structure, any of these pieces would not be
particularly remarkable. It's the juxtaposition of diverse responses to
a brief that makes this such a fascinating site.

Community, too, always exists largely as a creative limit on individual
activity. Every individual's sense of identity emerges from their
distinctive place within a collectivity, and their relationships to

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Jeremy Turner replied:
Subject: Lord Of The Tenants - The Twin Towers

I absolutely love Mr. Wong's high-rise so much, I wish I could
participate in the project and get a floor for myself but I noticed that
the project seems to be closed to new members of the online community.
That is a major drag, in my opinion. The single high-rise is a fair
comment on the "gated community" where only a limited number of people
has the luxury of time and "cred" to earn themselves a floor in this
piece of prime virtual real-estate.

I think in order for Mr. Wong's piece to actually represent a full
"community", there will need to be more high-rises to be placed next
door to the one currently standing. Even though it looks like it is
right out of Sim City, I would say that until more High-Rises are
developed in that environment, a networked Sim City game itself would
have more of a sense of "community" One building standing alone by
itself is even more gated than the current defintion of the gated

To increase the flow of good karma, I wish to request that "Mr. Wong"
gets to work with a developer ASAP to build the 2nd "Twin" Tower :-D

This would allow for Babel and WTC references and allow the definition
of the site to encompass "community".

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Jeremy Turner added:

Ok, upon further inspection, I now realize that Mr. Wong's hood is
gradually expanding with a new road that people can contribute some
pixellated pavement to. I would prefer to be part of Mr. Wong's
High-Rise and I am still hoping he will build a virtual twin (in terms
of height).

Well, at least I can contribute some (astro)turf now. Time to pave my
own road (the one less traveled)...and where will it all lead?

Here is hoping that Carl Andre will pitch in some asphalt :-D

On the Road again,

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Donato Mancini (donatomancini AT replied:

Chip Morningstar's interesting accounts of the very brief but busy
history of Lucasfilm Habitat (,
which he describes as "the first large scale, massively multi-user
graphical online virtual world", are the best, and most concise, early
documents of the behaviour of online "communities". What he stresses,
and what I think sociologists with any acumen must have predicted, is
that most of the situations and problems of the offline world ­ which P
Lichty so wonderfully called "meatspace" vs "cyberspace" ­ reproduced
themselves among the Habitat "residents". Everything was recreated,
including crime. (If only there had been a way to make the avatars have
SEX!) We might all know that this happens & has repeatedly happened, but
we still seem puzzled and surprised by the fact. What I'd point to in
this regard is something Flick Harrison wrote in a post: "The virtual
and physical are not separate spaces; they are simply whimsical
definitions of boundaries." If we accepted (or agreed?) with this we
wouldn't be surprised how much online communities are like offline ones,
and we'd be able to predict the behaviours of both as well or as badly.

There's a bit of a fetish for the word "community" I think that tends to
give it a kindly aura. Jessica Hammer, talking about Soup'Partments
asked if community isn't defined by 'meaningful interaction' ­ it is.
But meaningful can mean competitive, and even hostile as much as
mutually beneficial. The 'community' of plants within an ecosystem
aren't all allies. Jessica is also very right to say the Soup'Partments
doesn't represent a community. It doesn't represent a community any more
than the various artists exhibiting together in a group show can be said
to be a "community". Neither are the people who participate in Learning
to Love You More a community, although their participation makes good
common ground from which to build community if they ever decide to
contact each other.

MUDs create more of a community than do projects like Soup'Partments and
Learning to Love You More. To make another distinction: I'm writing this
from a huge, underground internet café right now ­ 55 kiosks, 25
occupied at 12:40 am (plus 3 billiard tables!) ­ mostly full of people
playing MUDs, first-person shooters. So I'm surrounded by the sound of
explosions, gunfire, and screams of the dying. (and dance pop being
piped over the sound-sytem.) Someone nearby is playing Star Wars so I
can hear the trademark laser blast sound cutting through the rest of the
din. This meatspace (or corporeal place; the café) I'm in isn't housing
a community anymore than a train station or an airport is housing a
community ­ but many of the people online around me are probably
interacting (perhaps in the form of blowing up their avatars) with
people they've been interacting with for days, months, or weeks,
creating community.

Have you seen that film Avalon by Mamoru Oshii?

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Donato Mancini added:

I want to add a couple of thoughts about Mr Wong's before DK closes.

I enjoy the fact that the Soup'Partments are really better described as
Sandwich'Partments; the image is like a towering sandwich, especially
with that giant sheep in there. But in considering the possible
significance of such a piece in terms of web art, one should admit that
it works exactly like a surrealist 'exquisite corpse' (an 'exquisite
sandwich'?). I don't
think Mr Wong's formally moves much past the method of exquisite corpse.
The only thing that makes Mr Wong's web-specific is that practically
anyone from anywhere with internet access was able to add to the piece.
Otherwise it is something that could have been done on paper, easily,
and to equally delightful effect. It's an entertaining piece, but it's
not sophisticated web art. The fact that contributors use downloadable
templates is equivalent to being instructed, in a meatspace/corporeal
situation, to use only one graphic medium, i.e. ball point pen,
charcoal, ink pen, whatnot, providing just enough aesthetic continuity.
It reminds us that the web is still mainly being used as a way of
extending analogue practices & modes. How much or how little does it
matter that it's networked? I personally think it's intellectually
dangerous to ascribe too much importance to such things, cos one can
move quickly into various forms of obfuscation and mystification; an
effect, certainly, of the almost supernatural appeal that the
(relatively) new technologies still have. Instantaneity is magic.
Equally, a project very much like Learning to Love You More could have
been effectively accomplished offline, without any recourse to the web.
Perhaps email and other forms of instant communication are still the
most important functions of the web, perhaps no superior application of
it has yet been found. AVATAR spaces, such as Traveler and MUDs, and the
use of the GPS (global positioning system) are may be a start of
something really web-particular, even given the possible counter
argument that avatar applications are just fancy videophones, or fancy
Anyone interested in how poets and writers are beginning to work with
the web should see You'll see at UBUWEB what an
excellent continuity with tried (tired?) forms of
concrete/visual/graphic poetries the web provides, without (yet)
fundamentally altering their nature.

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Date: 12.05.03
From: Gloria Sutton (suttong AT
Subject: The Contingent Object of Art

The Contingent Object of Art
Martha Buskirk
September 2003
MIT Press
317 pages, 98 illustrations
Cloth: $39.95

These days vague allusions to Marcel Duchamp's "readymade" and Joseph
Kosuth's analytic proposition of "art as idea" are tossed out like
critical flotation devices keeping artists theoretically buoyant aloft
the post-medium, post-studio sea of contemporary art. More specifically,
references to conceptual models of art production established in the
1-0s and 1970s are often used to validate the appropriation of found
images and a reliance on commercial fabrication techniques. The critical
syntax of conceptual art and minimalism worked out by an earlier
generation of artists and critics has been cut and pasted into a variety
of artist statements with little concern for historical specificity. For
today's Tivo-centric audience, it's a seamless jump from Yves Klein
copyrighting his own version of the color blue in the 1-0s to Etoy
incorporating itself and selling stock through its infamous website
during the late 1990s.

However, as Martha Buskirk's new book, The Contingent Object of Art (MIT
Press, September 2003) confirms, the theoretical maneuvering around
claims of singular authorship and the rights of ownership in the art
world have a more contested history. Eschewing a straight chronological
approach, her highly engaging book presents the "greatest hits" of the
sixties through the nineties as well-defined case studies. In connecting
individual works with their exhibition contexts as well as clearly
articulating suspect terms like "authorship" and "originality," Buskirk
establishes an expansive conversation about the art projects that have
been most influential to today's headliner artists. From each model,
Buskirk delineates specific attributes or tools that she uses to unpack
the dense and layered work that garners much of the exhibition real
estate on the international biennial circuit. For example, she details
the practice of issuing authenticity certificates by artists such as
Richard Serra and Donald Judd during the late 1-0s as way to distinguish
art objects from generic, industrially produced steel boxes. This lesson
from minimalism is then applied to read more contemporary forms such as
the two 600-pound cubes of lard and chocolate comprising Janine Antoni's
Gnaw (1992). Delineating the act of consecrating an ordinary object as a
work of fine art from the object's actual physical production is a
re-occurring theme in the examples Buskirk holds up for our examination.

The Contingent Object of Art is a direct response to the fact that by
the end of the twentieth century everything from upturned urinals to
gnawed chocolate could be considered art with a capital A. The book is
deftly broken into thematic chapters that address the theoretical
underpinnings and historical precedents for well-known projects from the
seventies onward, including works by Bruce Nauman, Hans Haacke, Gabriel
Orozco and Andreas Gursky. Buskirk's detailed descriptions of the
individual artworks themselves have a statement-like surety, narrowing
in on a precise intention for each project. The reference and scope for
interpretation is defined to such an extent that readers are left with
no choice, but to accept her version as fixed or final. By eliminating
any nuance or historical difference in various actions-Adrian Piper's
street actions (Catalysis III and IV) are paired with Sophie Calle's
reverse stalking project from 1981 (The Shadow)-Buskirk re-in enforces
the dominant narratives established for a group of works which cannot be
seen or experienced by contemporary viewers, but are cited with such
regularity that they have acquired a myth-like status in the art world.
There's a significant difference in historical context between Piper's
highly charged physical confrontations with strangers on the streets of
New York City in 1970 and Calle's staged dramas enacted over the course
of the 12-day Bacchanalian fest such that was the Venice Biennial in
1981. Moreover, Buskirk never expands her peripheral vision to include
works that fall between the cracks or outside of the purview of the
gallery or museum such as early film and video.

Overall, Buskirk's tone strikes a balance between exultation and
nostalgia for the types of work that put down stakes and challenged
categorical definitions of art production. More specific to Rhizome
readers, The Contingent Object of Art details how the incorporation (the
collecting, curating, and producing value for) new media art and
in particular by museums, has obvious precursors in the galvanizing
treatment of installation art in the 1990s, but the prerequisite for
institutional legitimacy is afforded by its incorporation of earlier
conceptual art practices. Conceptual art has reconfigured the way
viewers examine art; the demands we now place on it and the need to have
a serial crescendo towards the intensity of experience. In pragmatic
terms, issues of copyright, authorship, duration, documentation,
built-in obsolescence and the privileging of interactivity, which are
all core conditions of new media art find a precedent in the
institutional incorporation of Conceptual Art. By presenting works
previously regarded as mutually exclusive, The Contingent Object of Art
does a great deal to further the conversation on contemporary art away
from static issues of form and content toward strategies and operations.

-Gloria Sutton

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Rhizome Digest is filtered by Feisal Ahmad (feisal AT ISSN:
1525-9110. Volume 8, number 49. Article submissions to list AT
are encouraged. Submissions should relate to the theme of new media art
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