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: 01.23.04
Date: Fri, 23 Jan 2004 18:21:32 -0500

RHIZOME DIGEST: January 23, 2004


1. Francis Hwang: Help Rhizome improve its search engine!
2. Jordan Crandall: Under Fire
3. 220hex: BEK survives (was: URGENT - BEK: Call for support)
4. James Oliverio: Digital Media and Arts Conference March 10-12, 2004
Orlando, Florida, USA

5. Lynda Chau: Call for Submissions for Digifest 2004 in Toronto

7. Rachel Greene, Pall Thayer, Jim Andrews, Lee Wells, Michael
Szpakowski, JM Haefner, twhid, Ivan Pope, Jessica Loseby, Patrick
Lichty, Nicholas Economos, Atomic Elroy: Question for artists who seek

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qualify you for a 10-20% discount in items in the New Museum of
Contemporary Art's Store, and a
donation of $50 will get you a funky Rhizome t-shirt designed by artist
Cary Peppermint. Send a check or money order to, New Museum,
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Date: 1.19.04
From: Francis Hwang (francis AT
Subject: Help Rhizome improve its search engine!

If you are a Rhizome user who lives in the New York City area, you can
help us improve our search engine by coming to our office and
participating in a usability study.

This study will take place during the week of February 2 to February 6,
at our office in the New Museum building in the SoHo neighborhood of
New York City. It should take around 30 minutes of your time.

Study participants will receive a one-year extension of their current
Rhizome membership. You can participate if your membership has expired;
in that case you will receive a membership that is good for one-year
after the day that you come in.

Please email me if you would like to participate.


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Date: 1.20.04
From: Jordan Crandall (crandall AT
Subject: Under Fire

UNDER FIRE: an online forum on violence and representation
organized by Jordan Crandall with co-editors: Asef Bayat, Susan Buck-Morss,
Hamid Dabashi, Brian Holmes, and Gema Martin Munoz

Under Fire explores the organization and representation of contemporary
armed conflict. The project consists of a series of presentations and
discussions that will occur online and in Rotterdam, beginning January
22, 2004. The discussions will involve participation from individuals
working in politics, theory, criticism, the arts, and journalism from
both the West and the Middle East. A series of publications will be
released during the course of the year.

mailinglist, please send an email to underfire-request AT with
the following word in the SUBJECT line: subscribe

Under Fire explores the organization and representation of contemporary
armed conflict. On the organizational front, it looks at the forms of
militarized agencies that are emerging today, including Western defense
industries and decentralized terrorist organizations. It explores the
forces that contribute to their emergence, whether operating at the
level of economy, technology, politics, or ideology. On the
representational front, it looks at the ways that armed violence
materializes as act and image, searching for new insight into its
mechanisms and effects. In so doing, it engages issues of economy,
embodiment, symbolic meaning, and affect.

The project delves into the economic underpinnings of contemporary armed
conflict. It looks at the legacy of the "military-industrial complex,"
the rise of the privatized military industry, and the repercussions of
the commercialization of violence. However it does not simply prioritize
economy. It looks to contemporary conflicts as driven by combinations of
territorial, market, and ideological imperatives, and new attempts at
the reconciliation of identity and universality. It looks to emergent
processes of organization that operate on multiple levels of temporality
and implicit form. Through this approach, the project aims to articulate
emergent systems of decentralized control and new global dynamics of
power. Building on historical conceptions of hegemony, it attempts to
understand the nature of emergent power and the forms of resistance to
it, situating cycles of violence within the modalities of a global

The project emphasizes the role that representations play as registers
of symbolic meaning and as agents of affective change. It engages images
from commercial and independent news media, as well as representations
from artistic, literary, and popular entertainment sources, both in the
West and the Middle East. These images are regarded in terms of
attention strategy and perception management, but they are also regarded
in terms of cultural imaginaries of conflict, where they can operate as
"fictionalized components of reality." They are studied in terms of the
deeper truths they may offer about collective identifications and
aggressions, and their roles in the formation of a new body politic.

The project consists of as a series of organized discussions that will
occur online and in Rotterdam, throughout the year 2004. These
discussions will involve participation from individuals working in
politics, theory, criticism, the arts, and journalism from both the West
and the Middle East. Rather than relying on discourses based upon
Western conceptions of modernity, the project is dedicated to opening up
new historical perspectives, exploring the potential of Islamist
discourse as a source of critical and political debate. It will thus
include participation from progressive thinkers in the Islamic world.
While most of these discussions will be conducted in English, sections
will be translated into Arabic.

A series of publications will be released during the course of the year.
Each of these publications will be organized around a key interpretive
concept that emerges in the proceedings.

Through this approach, Under Fire aims to help open up a discursive
terrain that can offer new insights into symptomatic violence, and
alternatives to its perpetuation.

For more information contact Witte de With at info AT Witte de
With, center for contemporary art, Witte de Withstraat 50, 3012 BR,
Rotterdam info AT

special events: January 24: Presentation of the project by Jordan
Crandall in Witte de With, Rotterdam, at 5.30 p.m. Exhibition open daily
from 11 a.m. till 6 p.m. January 27: Lecture by Jordan Crandall in the
context of the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Location:
Off_Corso, Rotterdam, 3 p.m. (For information see May 28-30: Conference at Witte de
With, Rotterdam with editors Asef Bayat, Susan Buck-Morss, Jordan
Crandall, Hamid Dabashi, Brian Holmes, and Gema Martin Munoz.

Asef Bayat is the Academic Director of the International Institute for
the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM) and the ISIM Chair at the
University of Leiden. He has taught sociology and Middle East studies at
the American University in Cairo an has held visiting positions at the
University of California, Berkeley, Columbia University and the
University of Oxford. He is currently program director of an ISIM
research program on socio-religious movements and social change in
contemporary Muslim societies.

Susan Buck-Morss is Professor of Political Philosophy and Social Theory
in the Department of Government at Cornell University, where she is also
Professor of Visual Culture in the Department of Art History. Her books
include The Origin of Negative Dialectics: Theodor W. Adorno, Walter
Benjamin and the Frankfurt Institute (1979); The Dialectics of Seeing:
Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (1991); Dreamworld and
Catastrophe: the Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West (2002); and
Thinking Past Terror: Islam and Critical Theory on the Left (2003).

Jordan Crandall is a visual artist and media theorist. He is Assistant
Professor in the Visual Arts Department at University of California, San
Diego. He is the author of Drive: Technology, Mobility, and Desire
(2002); co-editor of Interaction: Artistic Practice in the Network
(1999); and founding editor of a forthcoming journal of philosophy, art,
cultural studies, and science studies.

Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and
the director of Graduate Studies at the Center for Comparative
Literature and Society at Columbia University. His research interests
include the comparative study of cultures, Islamic intellectual history,
and the social and intellectual history of Iran, both modern and
medieval. His publications include Authority in Islam: From the Rise of
Muhammad to the Establishment of the Umayyads (1989), Theology of
Discontent: The Ideological Foundation of the Islamic Revolution in Iran
(1993), Truth and Narrative: The Untimely Thoughts of Ayn Al-Qudat
Al-Hamadhani (1999), Staging a Revolution: The Art of Persuasion in the
Islamic Republic of Iran (with Peter Chelkowski, 1999), and Close Up:
Iranian Cinema, Past, Present, Future (2001).

Brian Holmes and is an art critic, cultural theorist, and activist,
particularly involved with the mapping of contemporary capitalism. He is
a member of the French activist association Ne pas plier (Do not bend).
He has recently published an anthology of his critical writing called
Hieroglyphs of the Future (2003).

Gema Martin Munoz is Professor of Sociology of the Arab and Islamic
world at Madrid Autonoma University and Director of Maghreb-Middle East
at the Centro de Relaciones Internacionales, Madrid. She is editor of
Islam, Modernism and the West: Cultural and Political Relations at the
End of the Millennium (1999).

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Date: 1.22.04
From: 220hex (gif AT
Subject: BEK survives (was: URGENT - BEK: Call for support)

Last autumn BEK, Bergen Centre for Electronic Arts, was running the risk
of having to close down due to lack of future fundings. To prevent this
we launched a massive lobbying campaign towards the Ministry of Culture,
The Norwegian Parliament, The Municipality of Bergen, etc. We also
called for artists and others concerned to express their support for BEK
at our website. Almost 600 persons responded to this call for support.
Concidering that BEK is a small and young organization, that was very
impressive. The support statements were forwarded to all relevant
politicians and bureaucrats:

Shortly before christmas the Parliament decided to grant support for BEK
for the future. In the beginning of January The Norwegian Council for
Cultural Affairs and the Ministry of Culture desided to provide
additional funding for BEK. BEK now has a long-term security concerning
fundings that we have never experienced before.

On behalf of everyone involved with BEK (staff, artists, users, etc.) I
want to express our gratitude towards all of you that supported us.

Gisle Frøysland

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Date: 1.22.04
From: James Oliverio (jamesoliverio AT
Subject: Digital Media and Arts Conference March 10-12, 2004 Orlando,
Florida, USA

The International Digital Media and Arts Association (iDMAa) will host
iDMAc 2004 in Orlando, Florida on March 10-12, 2004.

iDMAc 2004 is a conference with a unique structure designed to answer
the key questions for artists, faculty and administrators building
Digital Media and Digital Arts academic programs. The conference will be
held in Orlando, the heart of a burgeoning digital media community, and
coincides with the 2004 Florida Film Festival. Papers, artwork and
innovative presentations are welcome. For more information on conference
registration, please visit :

Featured Opening Speaker will be Art David, a master of cinematic
composition for special effects production. His firm, Wavelight, has
contributed effects for many feature films including The Matrix, Signs,
Men in Black 2, Starship Troopers, Contact and Superboy. Mr. David has
won two national Emmy awards for editing.

The Closing Speaker will be Jim Spoto, Computer Graphics Supervisor for
Electronic Arts (EA), the world's largest computer game and electronic
entertainment company. His talk entitled "The Future of the Electronic
Game Industry (or why your students all want to work for me!)" considers
the future of interactive entertainment as videogames mature and
converge with mainstream culture. Mr. Spoto will also discuss the kinds
of skills that EA seeks when interviewing potential employees.

The International Digital Media & Arts Association was organized by and
for people working in at the leading edges of disciplines including Art,
Communication, Computer Science, Film, Information Science, Journalism,
Media Studies, Music, Psychology, Video, and Theater. Founding member
institutions include Ball State, Bowling Green, Columbia College,
Florida State, Stetson, SUNY, Union, and the Universities of Central
Florida, Denver, Florida, Georgia, Montana, Warwick, and Wisconsin.

Professionals working in all fields related to the emerging growth area
of digital media are invited to attend the iDMAc 2004 in Orlando,
Florida on March 10-12, 2004. The event boasts industry sponsorship from
Electronic Arts and Pearson Prentice Hall with academic sponsorship from
Ball State University and the University of Central Florida.

For more information on iDMAa, please visit:

Or contact:
Jeff Rutenbeck
President, iDMAa
jrutenbe AT
Phone (303) 871-3949

James Oliverio
Chair, Public Relations
oliverio AT
Phone (352) 294-2020

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Date: 1.19.04
From: Lynda Chau (lynda.chau AT
Subject: Call for Submissions for Digifest 2004 in Toronto

The New Voices Competition is an opportunity for emerging and mid-career
designers, artists, and technologists to showcase their latest
innovations in digital media technologies.

Winners of the competition will receive travel and accommodations to
present their work at Digifest 2004: On the Move in Toronto, May 13 -
16. Winning entries will also be highlighted in both the Digifest
program and an online catalogue hosted by Design Exchange.

This year¹s theme is ?On the Move¹. We¹re challenging you to submit work
that examines or demonstrates the impact of digital technologies on

Submission Categories
1. HOME - virtual homes, homelessness, migration, security,
wirelessness, nomads, transportable environments...
2. SELF - wearable computers, bio-engineering, identity, prosthetics,
romance, telecommuting...
3. TRIBE - wireless culture, transient communities, magnets,
psychogeography, mobs, robots,

The deadline for entries is January 26, 2004. For more information and
to download a submission form, visit

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Date: 1.20.04
From: Rachel Greene (rachel AT



+Deadline for proposals: February 15, 2004+ is pleased to announce that with support from The Jerome
Foundation and the Greenwall Foundation, five new net art projects
(works of art that are made to be experienced online) will be
commissioned in 2004.

The fee for each commission will range from $1,500 ­ $3,500. is an online platform for the global new media art
community. We are committed to supporting the creation, presentation,
discussion and preservation of art that engages new technologies in
significant ways. We emphasize innovation and inclusiveness in all of
our programs and activities.

Artists are invited to submit proposals for works of art that focus on
the theme of games.


For the last several decades, computer-based games, through their
ubiquity, economic influence, and innovative use of new technologies,
have become a significant cultural force, surpassing Hollywood films in
total revenues.

For a number of years, new media artists have been exploring the
possibilities of gaming platforms and creating art games that mix the
best qualities of commercial games ­ accessibility, interactivity,
user-engagement ­ with critical and progressive approaches to narrative
and aesthetics.

Artists seeking a 2004 commission should propose projects
that will contribute to the art game genre, or reflect in some way on
the following broad interpretations of ³game² found at,

Viewers/players should be able to access the projects online, whether by
playing them through a web browser, downloading software, or some other
use of internet technologies.

When evaluating proposals, the jury will consider artistic merit,
technical feasibility, and technical accessibility.

Although we will provide some technical assistance with final
integration into the web site, artists are expected to
develop game-related projects independently and without significant
technical assistance from Commissioned projects will be
listed on the main Rhizome Commission page and included in the Rhizome

+ How to Submit a Proposal +

The jury will only consider proposals from members of To
sign up for Rhizome membership, please visit:

There are two parts to proposal submission:

1. You must create a proposal in the form of a web site that includes
the following key elements:

+ Project description (500 words maximum) that discusses your project¹s
core concept, how you will realize your project and your project¹s
feasibility. If you plan to work with assistants, consultants or
collaborators, their roles and (if possible) names should be included.

+ You are encouraged, but not required, to include a production timeline
and a project budget, which should include your own fee. If you have
other funding sources for your project, please indicate this in your

+ Your resume or Curriculum Vitae. For collaborative groups, provide
either a collective CV or the CV¹s of all participants.

+ Up to 10 work samples. Note: More is not necessarily better. You
should include only work samples that are relevant to your proposal. If
your proposal has nothing to do with photography, don¹t include images
from your photography portfolio. Please provide contextualizing
information (title, date, medium, perhaps a brief description) to help
the jury understand what they are looking at. The work sample can take
any form, as long as it is accessible via the web.

When designing your web-based proposal, please note that the jury will
have limited time for evaluations, so try to make your site clear and

When your web-based proposal is complete, you are ready for Part Two of
the proposal process:

2. Submit your proposal for a Net Art Commission via an
online form at We do
not accept proposals via email, snail mail or other means. Proposals
will be accepted until 5:00pm EST (that¹s New York time) on Friday,
February 15, 2004. The form at requires the following

+ Name of artist or collaborative group + Email address + Place of
residence (city, state/province, country) + Title of the project (this
can be tentative) + Brief description of project (50 words maximum) +
URL of web-based proposal

+ Jury +

Proposals will be reviewed by a jury consisting of German critic Tilman
Baumgartel, artist Natalie Bookchin of CalArts, Rachel Greene of, Francis Hwang of, and Japanese curator Yukiko
Shikata. members will also participate in the evaluation and awarding
process through secure web-based forms.

Winners will be contacted on or after March 15, 2004. Each winner will
be asked to sign an agreement with governing the terms of
the commission.

+ Winners +

Winners will be announced on March 29, 2004. Commissioned projects must
be completed by October 1, 2004.

+ Questions +

If you have any questions about the Net Art Commissions,
please contact Feisal Ahmad at feisal AT or 212.219.1288.

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For $65 annually, Rhizome members can put their sites on a Linux
server, with a whopping 350MB disk storage space, 1GB data transfer per
month, catch-all email forwarding, daily web traffic stats, 1 FTP
account, and the capability to host your own domain name (or use Details at:

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Date: 1.21.04-1.23.04
From: Rachel Greene (rachel AT, Pall Thayer
(palli AT, Jim Andrews (jim AT, Lee Wells
(lee AT, Michael Szpakowski (szpako AT, JM Haefner
(webgrrrl AT, twhid (twhid AT, Ivan Pope
(ivan AT, Jessica Loseby (jess AT, Patrick Lichty
(voyd AT, Nicholas Economos (economos AT, Atomic Elroy
(atomic AT
Subject: Question for artists who seek commissions

Rachel Greene (rachel AT posted:

I am interested in finding out from artists who seek commissions...

Do you prefer when there is a theme to the commissions or if the CFP
(call for proposals) is completely open? I would assume the latter but
want some feedback. Thanks, Rachel

+ + +

Pall Thayer (palli AT replied:

Definitely completely open. Themes tend to feel like someone's trying to
tell you what your work should be about. I usually think, wow, a 3000
dollar commission would be really nice but their theme really has
nothing to do with what I've been working on for the past 10 years. If I
turn around now and do something entirely different just for the money,
I'll feel like a traitor.


+ + +

Jim Andrews (jim AT replied:

if there is coincidence of interest and concern, that bodes well for
meaningful communication between artist and 'client'.

yet is 'artist-client' the relationship? yes and no. no, in the sense
that the 'client' does not specify anywhere near as definitively what
they want as a 'regular client' does. But, then, commissions are only,
typically, $2000-$5000. Even monetarily the specifiable is thereby
narrowed: the less the pay, the less you can specify.

it has been interesting to see rhizome specify constraints that place
the work within the rhizome interface as important parts of the
interface. interfaces into the artbase, for instance, was one of the
foci, was it not?

chris fahey's piece was a delightful project that contributed to the
searchability and experience of the artbase.

i would say you got a deal if you got that for $5000.

there was coincidence of interest and concern between rhizome and chris

building web applications like that can be very expensive in the

also, there is the question of whether getting web development on the
cheap by giving it exposure and platform in an art context is a
worthwhile prospect 'politically'.

some would say that if you really want art, don't make it serve the
rhizome interface.

fahey's project is a kind of counter-example which shows the potential
value of such a focus.

foci of functionality in the rhizome interface does encourage a kind of
funk that i like: it is a type of art that bears relation to google's

in mathematics, number theory has been called 'the queen of mathematics'
presumably because it is beautiful and useless. of course it is useless
no more: big primes are in the realm of encryption and number theory.

so too art needn't be useless.

it needn't have a 'use' other than zephyr. and you bar the zephyr with
spec. or zephyrs incongruent in interest and concern.

so i think one must admit that foci of functionality in the rhizome
interface has yielded some memorable art as well as a more enjoyable
interface into the artbase, which the artists appreciate, but it is not
a type of project that i would want to embark on myself, my zephyrs

so perhaps my note is more a comment on the phenomenon of defining specs
for art comptetions that focus on functionality in the org web site.

are you thinking of specifying such constraints again or what? apologies
if i missed the announcement.


+ + +

Lee Wells (lee AT wrote:

A Theme please.
Something to rally around.
Something to create towards.
Something to have fun with.
Something to inspire others to do somethingslightly different.

An open call for proposals is so 1999. An open call for proposals does
not foster any sense of community.

Themes drive individuals together by working towards a unified goals
that have nothing to do with one another.

Collaborations are where its at.

Would it be possible to get everyone truly collaborating together in the
Rhizome community?

Just an opinion.

Cheers, Lee

+ + +

Lee Wells added:

Make something new.
Maybe you would learn something new.

+ + +

Michael Szpakowski (szpako AT replied:

I've been a bit out of it & not really following things properly but I
did want to add my threepenn'orth to this- if I'm out of touch with the
ebb & flow of the thread forgive me. A completely personal & subjective
reaction but I *love* restrictions - I find they really stimulate my
imagination. Having said that it tends to be *technical* restrictions
that really get me going - I personally love things like and ten
second , where you're fighting the intractibility of the
technical brief but the subject matter is your own. FInally I agree 100%
about collaborations -I love them, I do as many as I reasonably can & it
would be nice to encourage more both because I think they're
aesthetically of interest but also because they break down a lot of the
unecessary and harmful barriers between artists that our competitive
world constantly fosters and renews as I say, just my feelings,

+ + +

JM Haefner (webgrrrl AT replied:

My sense is that things will fall pretty evenly on both sides.

(0) Some cannot stand the constraints of a theme, or some already work
within a theme that they don't think can fit in.

(1) Others love the challenge of a theme or find it easier to work with

I prefer (0) theme, but can apply myself to one (1).

Now . . . , the idea of technical restrictions really does sound


Jean Haefner BFA, MFA
Artist | Designer | Educator

+ + +

twhid (twhid AT replied:

Yes! This is the main problem. If curators or art orgs (even one's as
nice as Rhiz) decide to apply themes to art not-yet created we have the
problem that art is being made that is at least a year or more behind
what artists are thinking. The artists are leading the thinking, the
orgs follow behind. It's fine to curate work that is already created and
pull out themes from the evidence of the work, but to attempt to steer
artists thinking is always going to miss the mark of what is really
going on.

For example, this theme of games, artists who are making cool stuff
along these lines have been working on it for years already. Progressive
artists are already onto something else, but we don't know what it is as
it hasn't surfaced yet.

Plus, as an artist who is working on ideas that are many times
un-stylish or not seemingly current, I usually don't have any interest
at all in the themes. I don't wish to pander to an institution for $$
and it's dangerous to one's work as it can sidetrack you as you attempt
to develop a body of work with themes of your own devising.

My question is: Why do institutions feel the need to slap
thematic/content restrictions on work they commission?

+ + +

Ivan Pope (ivan AT replied:

Personally, I'm not above just submitting whatever I've got on the go at
the time and seeing whether the curators have any idea of their own
theme. Generaly not. Or they are fishing for whatever comes through the

Consider the current Rhizome call (not to attack it or anything, for

Artists seeking a 2004 commission should propose projects
that ... reflect in some way on the ... interpretations of "game" found
at, [which includes]:

Informal. 1.. Evasive, trifling, or manipulative behavior: wanted a
straight answer, not more of their tiresome games. 2.. A calculated
strategy or approach; a scheme: I saw through their game from the very
beginning. Seeing as artists tend to avoid (or should avoid) literality,
I would suggest it is up to the viewer to decide what the 'theme' of
work is.

Submit it and see.


+ + +

Jessica Loseby (jess AT replied:

I generally prefer open commissions themes, as usually I have to
slightly sledge-hammer my ideas to fit themes. Arguably this is down to
the gap I perceive in what curators look for (in terms of a curatorial
thematics) for shows and what is actually the wide reaching thematics
net (and digital) artists. I find it slightly depressing that curators
feel that only certain themes 'sell' a show and others don't - it shows
a lack of trust/faith in the artists. I must admit to stifling a yawn
when I read the theme for the rhizome commission (for example) was
games. It not that there isn't fantastic work being done in this area,
but it (as a thematic) is so unrepresentative of the diverse ideas
currently explored by net artists. I worry that high profile commissions
sticking to these 'safe' areas simply re-enforce the (misguided) notion
that net (digital) art is simply PS2's slightly eccentric sister. o

+ + +

Patrick Lichty (voyd AT replied:

This is the main problem. If curators or art orgs (even one's as nice as
Rhiz) decide to apply themes to art not-yet created we have the problem
that art is being made that is at least a year or more behind what
artists are thinking. The artists are leading the thinking, the orgs
follow behind. It's fine to curate work that is already created and pull
out themes from the evidence of the work, but to attempt to steer
artists thinking is always going to miss the mark of what is really
going on.

This appears that what I read is that there should be shows where
artists should be asked to participate in an exhibition solely on their
name recognition/historical body of work, etc. with less emphasis on a
narrative arc from the curatorial staff.

Being that I've been working with curators, artists, writers, and now
film makers, my sense of perspective of the ways cultural production
reaches the masses has been greatly illuminated.

First of all, I have come to the realization that methods of cultural
production such as curation, film production, etc., are subject to a set
of constraints which lessen their hold the further you get from the
institution. However, there is an inverse correlation to legitimacy as
well, which is a problem.

If I am reading this properly in that what is proposed is an
artist-driven cutting-edge show with little through-line of a narrative
arc for people to grasp, and that the engagement factor will be driven
solely by the amazing work of the artists, I can only say that this is a
weak premise. From an artistic perspective, it abandons the crucial
element of concept. From an audience perspective, it elides any mnemonic
for the patron to grasp. From an institutional perspective, it's well
nigh impossible to get a board to approve such a thing as it's so
amorphous. From a funding angle, foundations need to have some sort of
indication of the work that is being produced from the institutions they
are funding. And, from a curatorial perspective, it's unbelievably
difficult from the perspective as to how one would have a bunch of
artists, probably going in separate directions, doing their own thing,
probably in discord with one another.

I try to curate shows that have a higher standard than many independents
from a scholarly and conceptual perspective, but from my experience with
curatorial practice/interfacing with large institutions, metanarrative
is essential as a form of mnemonic so that they and the audience can
better engage with what's being shown.


My question is: Why do institutions feel the need to slap
thematic/content restrictions on work they commission?

My first reaction was: "You're not serious, are you?" Mainly due to
institutional constraints that call for accountability for the use of
the funds, as well as the fundraising process, bureaucracy of arranging
shows, publicity, creating support material and so on, you really have
to have a narrative of some sort to get people to sign on, or just to
understand and want to see the show itself. Art is a fairly niche
culture, and net art is still a very, very small subset of that niche.
To propose that the artist should be placed in control of the
institutional agenda is a really interesting, if almost completely
untenable idea.

>From a practical perspective, I would see just throwing money out to
artists and having them participate in shows/commission processes
without some sort of theme would be relatively unsuccessful.

I understand that the institution has its problems, but I now understand
much better why they have these problems. Much like the hierarchical
nature of humanity, I'm beginning to come to accept that many of the
agendas that we are railing against as artists aren't going away anytime
soon. The institution has its reasons for doing what it does (good or
otherwise, but for what it does, they're valid from a pragmatic sense).

The issue here is while it is quite exciting to do an independent
curatorial program, it loses legitimacy the further you get from the
institution unless it is backed up by solid scholarship, or if it is
done with such professionalism that it refutes the institution itself.

I think that independent curation is one of the most exciting areas that
the Internet is offering the art community, but like blogs, these shows
are proving hit or miss, but are excellent in their willingness to

In short, I've found that you need a theme to get people to back your
project and to get people to understand the works better.

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t.whid replied:

Well, I'm talking about commissions, not shows. Apologies if that wasn't
clear. It's obvious to me that when a curator puts together a *group
show* it's in everyone's best interest to apply some sort of theme to it
or it becomes --and this is m.river's label-- the Shotgun Show (as in,
it's scattered). A theme adds to the work and the viewer's understanding
of it.

But when you have an open call for commissions, that is, *new work* one
needs to ask themselves what is more important:

some sort of thematic continuity to these artworks? (And if this is
important, why is it important?)


good artwork.
(singular artworks which are driven by the thoughts and
concerns of the artists instead of the org holding the cash)

My point is that artists are always the one's driving the important
things happening in the artworld. And we would get better commissions if
the art orgs realized this.

There are plenty of granting bodies who solicit proposals with no
thematic or content requirements. To name some: Creative Capital,
Turbulence, NYFFA, etc.

The main problem seems to be the idea that you'll kill two birds with
one stone. You'll commission new artwork, while at the same time put
together a thematic exhibition and IMO the two are exclusive.

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Nicholas Economos (economos AT replied:

themes don't necessarily encourage collaboration anymore than the lack
of one hinders working together on a project. if you need a theme to
motivate you and there is an open CFP for commissions, you can make up
your own. I agree with t.whid, themes run the risk of excluding
un-stylish yet relevant work.
nicholas economos

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Atomic Elroy (atomic AT wrote:

totally open themes

And I'm not being a smarty pants!

themes help curators put together a "SHOW" instead of a mess. but narrow
themes should not be put to open call but invitation.

my humble opinion!


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