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: 02.27.04
Date: Fri, 27 Feb 2004 21:29:52 -0500

RHIZOME DIGEST: February 27, 2004


1. Jordan Crandall: underfire
2. Mark Amerika: The Politics of Information
3. Sebastian: copy adorno, go to jail? doesn't think so

4. Joy Garnett: I am a pirate ?!
5. Dyske Suematsu: The Myth of Meritocracy in Fine Arts

6. Charlotte Frost: Review of Internet Art by Julian Stallabrass
7. Ian Clothier: Bloom: mutation, toxicity and the sublime

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Date: 2.22.04
From: Jordan Crandall (crandall AT
Subject: underfire

*Respondent (week of February 22): MANUEL DELANDA*

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

please join us for a series of discussions regarding the organization
and representation of contemporary armed conflict.

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

list archive:

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 system.

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 is an art critic, activist and translator, living in Paris,
interested primarily in the intersections of artistic and political
practice. He holds a doctorate in Romance Languages and Literatures from
the University of California at Berkeley, was the English editor of
publications for Documenta X, Kassel, Germany, 1997, was a member of the
graphic arts group Ne pas plier from 1999 to 2001, and has recently
worked with the French conceptual art group Bureau d'études. He is a
frequent contributor to the international listserve Nettime, a member of
the editorial committee of the political-economy journal Multitudes
(Paris) and of the art magazines Springerin (Vienna) and Brumaria
(Barcelona), a regular contributor to the magazine Parachute (Montreal),
and a founder, with Bureau d'Etudes, of the new journal Autonomie
Artistique (Paris). He is the author of a collection of essays,
Hieroglyphs of the Future: Art and Politics in a Networked Era (Zagreb:
Arkzin, 2003) and has just finished a special issue of Multitudes on
"Art contemporain : la recherche du dehors."

Gema Martin Munoz is Professor of Sociology of the Arab and Islamic
world at Madrid Autonoma University. Her research interests include the
sociopolitical situations in Middle East countries; Islamist movements
and Muslims in Europe. She is editor of Islam, Modernism and the West:
Cultural and Political Relations at the End of the Millennium (1999) and
author of Arab State. Crisis of legitimacy and islamist reactions (2000)
and Iraq, a failure of the West (2003).

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Date: 2.23.04
From: Mark (Mark.Amerika AT Colorado.Edu)
Subject: The Politics of Information



BOULDER, Colorado, February 23, 2004 --The Alt-X Online Network, a space
"where the digerati meet the literati" and celebrating its 10 year
anniversary, announces the release of a new Alt-X Press ebook entitled
"The Politics of Information: The Electronic Mediation of Social Change"
edited by Marc Bousquet and Katherine Wills. "The Politics of
Information" title officially launches our new Alt-X Press critical
ebook series:

The Politics of Information: The Electronic Mediation of Social Change
Edited by Marc Bousquet and Katherine Wills

Contributors include Charles Bernstein, Bennett Voyles, DeeDee Halleck,
Fran Ilich, Bruce Simon, Mark Amerika, Katherine Wills, Geert Lovink,
Ricardo Dominguez, David Golumbia, Tiziana Terranova, Nick
Dyer-Witheford, John Monberg, Matt Kirschenbaum, Donna Haraway, Lisa
Nakamura, Mark Poster, Kembrew McLeod, Caren Irr, Tara McPherson,
Anne-Marie Schleiner, Paul Collins, Harvey Molloy, Marc Bousquet, Ken
Saltman, Timothy W. Luke, Stephanie Tripp, Katie King, Laura L.
Sullivan, Susan Schreibman, Chris Carter, Gregory Ulmer, and Victor

"The Politics of Information" is an essay collection in five parts
covering a broad panoply of discourses, practices, and institutional
change that can be garnered under the rubric of "materialist
informatics." The editors, Marc Bousquet and Katherine Wills, have
brought together a strong and authoritative collection of essays in the
context of this synthesizing, yet at the same time diversifying concept.
Recalling that Donna Haraway's cyborg was never meant to be a wired,
blissed-out bunny, Bousquet and Wills recover the political dimension in
socialist-feminist thought. "The Politics of Information" brings class
back into cultural studies, considers the Web as crucial to the
expanding "informatics of domination," and recovers the cyborg as a key
figure for an entire world of labor and lifeways. The authors in this
wide-ranging collection, most of them pioneers in the development of
Internet content, address the concerns not only of designers and users,
but of everyone in the service and homework economy: janitors,
perma-temps, motherboard assemblers, and all who provide the feminized
labors of reproduction that include child care, health care, and a
deeply instrumentalized education.

Unconstrained by the hidden assumptions of print publication, where
discursive weight is too often held in check by the literal weight of a
fixed edition, this critical e-book is unapologetic in its length, its
scope, and its degree of engagement. Essays appear in combination with
interviews; critical discourse alternates with story-telling; conceptual
writing plays off first person reports from the field. Through
massiveness and a direct encounter with materials in multiple media,
this volume is literally unbound in energy and offers both incisive
insights into the technocapitalist condition even as it achieves a Web
credibility unusual in scholarly writing. The ebook's orientation is
given by Bousquet's five section introductions, and the publication's
technical bookmark feature allows readers to navigate through this
enormous body of text with the simple click of a mouse.

"A wonderful addition to the ALT-X catalogue. Indeed, it is a worthy
volume to be considered as the first critical book in the ALT-X.ebr
ebook series. If there is such a thing as the 'right' volume for such an
honour, it should be a book that addresses the informatic turn in
culture." - Darren Tofts, author of "Memory Trade: A Prehistory of
Cyberculture" and editor of "Prefiguring Cyberculture: An Intellectual
History" (MIT Press, 2003)

"The thought of what America would be like, if academic cultural
criticism found its activist edge and a worldwide distribution, disturbs
my sleep." - Joseph Tabbi, series editor, Alt-X/ebr critical e-books;
author of "Cognitive Fictions" (Minnesota, 2002)

You can download "The Politics of Information" ebook as well as other
Alt-X ebooks for free at

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Date: 2.24.04
From: Sebastian (sebastian AT
Subject: copy adorno, go to jail? doesn't think so

Copy Adorno, Go To Jail? Doesn't Think So

The Hamburg Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Culture,
presided by Jan Philipp Reemtsma, has just advanced science and culture
to a whole new level: Sebastian Luetgert, the founder of, is
facing a warrant of arrest and may go to jail if he fails to pay more
than 2,300 euros in damages for the alleged copying of two essays by
Theodor W. Adorno that the foundation claims as their "intellectual
property". Reemtsma was kindly asked to settle, but refused.

The case dates back to August 2002, when the foundation filed for a
preliminary injunction against Luetgert at the Hamburg State Court,
referring to the alleged distibution of two works by Theodor W. Adorno,
"Jargon der Eigentlichkeit" and "Fascism and Anti-Semitic Propaganda".
Since not a single e-mail was sent to notify of the matter,
and since written notification failed to reach the defendant,
only learned about the issue after a few days. The works in question
were immediately removed from the site to avoid any further legal

In December 2003, Luetgert found himself confronted with a warrant of
arrest, obtained against him by the Hamburg Foundation, citing unpaid
claims related to the unauthorized copying of said works. In January
2004, Luetgert addressed the issue in a letter to Reemtsma and asked for
a scholarship so he could pay this debt and avoid jail time. Reemtsma
did not reply, but handed the letter over to his foundation's lawyers -
Senfft, Kersten, Voss-Andreae & Schwenn - who insist on the payment of
2,331.32 Euros for alleged damages and legal fees. believes that an "intellectual proprietor" of Theodor W.
Adorno and Walter Benjamin who claims to advance science and culture by
sending people to jail for taking Adorno and Benjamin serious is
seriously wrong on a whole number of points. The Hamburg Foundation
undererstimates the resistance of their possessions against their legal
protection just as much as their lawyers underestimate the ability of
the Internet to route around damage. In the end, they may even be wrong
in thinking that they will ever get their property back.

Today, in an open letter (,
Reemtsma has been notified that his foundation's "intellectual property"
has been returned to the public domain. This first-of-its-kind protest
signals a refusal to let copyright holders and lawyers censor the very
works they pretend to protect and control what the public can archive or
read. There is a universal right to copy that will never cease to apply,
and there is copyright legislation that will. The spectre haunting the
scientific and cultural industries is a new commons materializing before
their very own eyes. We're just at the beginning.
February 24, 2004
mailto:textz AT


How you can support

- Spread the word. Tell your friends, tell a journalist, write about it,
put it on a website, post it to a mailing list, etc. is also
available for interviews, just mail to press AT

- Sign our petition at

- Write a letter to Jan Philipp Reemtsma, Hamburg Foundation for the
Advancement of Science and Culture, Mittelweg 36, 20148 Hamburg,
Germany. If you like, send a copy of your letter to textz AT

- Donate to via

- Buy a copy of Robert Luxemburg's "The Conceptual Crisis of Private
Property as a Crisis in Practice" ( All
proceedings will go to's fund for legal expenses.

- Put our "Free Adorno" banner ( on
your website, and/or link to

- Meet at Neuro Festival, February 26-29, Munich, Germany
(check for details) and join our discussion about
further strategies in this case.

- Select all, copy, paste, save, upload, share. Reappropriate. (And
remember: there is no need to break what you can circumvent. Don't
innovate, imitate.)


Related links:

Documentation of our correnspondence:

Press coverage:

Open Letter to Jan Philipp Reemtsma:

The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction:

Franz Kafka on "intellectual property": mission statement, early 2001:

What others say about

The textz that is all about:

Some state-of-the-art copyright circumvention technologies:

Some more stuff we have not yet been sued for:

Drop us a line, send us a text, or subscribe to our newsletter:

Finally, while freeing Adorno, please free the Grey Album too:

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Rhizome is now offering organizational subscriptions, memberships
purchased at the institutional level. These subscriptions allow
participants of an institution to access Rhizome's services without
having to purchase individual memberships. (Rhizome is also offering
subsidized memberships to qualifying institutions in poor or excluded
communities.) Please visit for more
information or contact Jessica Ivins at Jessica AT

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Date: 2.26.04
From: Joy Garnett (joyeria AT
Subject: I am a pirate ?!


the most interesting thing just happened: I'm being sued for copyright
infringement (does it mean I'm finally a grown-up?). the joke is I was
served the letter the day after I met with an arts funding rep who
encouraged me to list "sampling" on my grant application as part of my
painting practice. It made the whole thing seem almost funny.

the plaintiff is a world-famous photojournalist who takes pics in
war-torn regions; the pirated image is a detail of a photograph taken in
1978. Months back while trolling the Web for news images and such, I
found the cropped detail w/ no credit line, probably on some
anti-NAFTA/anarchist solidarity website, printed it out and stuck it in
a folder to paint later. I had no idea it was a detail of a pic by a
Magnum photographer or that it was from their most seminal series and
book. The joke is definitely on me.

To my mind of course my derivative artwork has very little to do with
the original photo. First of all it's a painting; it also happens to be
6-feet tall and rather decontextualized from whatever its original
context was. And it's wildly cropped and brushy and all that painterly
stuff. But apparently the use of a different medium doesn't make it any
more justifyable to "derive" under the present copyright law.

how did the plaintif find out about it? I was ratted out by a supposed
friend, also a photojournalist, who recognized the image--they stick
together. also: the painting was in my solo show that just came down
last week; the image was used for my announcement card and is on the
gallery's and my websites. The show was reviewed in the New Yorker and
the derivative artwork in question was praised. Basically I'm screwed in
terms of wanting to fight it--the plaintif is wholly within their

Here's the thing: for all that my dander is up, the plaintiff is being
pretty cool considering their permissions-centered world-view: they are
basically asking only that I supply a credit line, and that I ask for
permission in writing to exhibit/reproduce in the future. They don't
want $$ for this particular infringement. basically they chose to
license the image to me for my exhibition after the fact. It seems
reasonable and rather decent.

However being sued does bring up the whole issue for me in a weird way.
I mean, my work is ABOUT the fact that images are uncontrollable
entities. It's about what happens when you remove context and framing
devices. my work is derivative by definition, and thoroughly reflective
of this age of sampling and remixing. This will no doubt happen to me
again. And although the permissions people--photojournalists, the
recording industry, etc. --are fighting a losing battle, you can bet
they are going to fight til the death. I may be getting off easy this
time, but it seems that when your aquaintances lie and then turn you in
for copyright infringement, the climate of creativity--not to mention
general decency--is in serious danger.

I see an art lawyer later today.

all the best,

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Date: 2.25.04
From: Dyske Suematsu (dyske AT
Subject: The Myth of Meritocracy in Fine Arts

The Myth of Meritocracy in Fine Arts

By Dyske Suematsu

The art world has a gentleman's agreement about preserving the façade of
meritocracy. They feel that it is necessary to be respectable. It is
understandable since they are often criticized for not being more
meritocratic. The general public and many artists themselves see
meritocracy as an ideal system of rewarding artists. I argue that
meritocracy is impossible in fine arts, and there is no reason,
therefore, to pretend to honor meritocracy. If the artist is famous, and
if his artwork commands a hefty price, there is no reason to question
him further; he is a good artist.

In a field like fine arts whose primary concern is subjectivity, what
does meritocracy mean? Merriam-Webster defines it, "a system in which
the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their
achievement." That is, a meritocracy assumes that achievement and reward
are two separate issues. In sports, science, and business, for instance,
meritocracy is relatively easy to define: winning competitions,
discoveries, inventions, profits, and so on. Meritocracy is a system of
rewarding based on measurable merit. Unless the achievement is
measurable to some degree, rewarding based on merit is impossible.

Andy Warhol once said that a measure of good art is its price. In
response, some would argue that an artwork could have a high price tag
but be devoid of any artistic merit. Such presumed discrepancies are
what often bring up the question of meritocracy. That is, we assume that
a price of an artwork should reflect its merit.

What Warhol means is that the price of an artwork is its merit, that is,
the two are one and the same thing. What this essentially says is that
it is not possible to have a meritocracy in fine arts, and that there
are therefore no other ways to gauge a value of an artwork than its

We normally interpret such a view about fine arts as an expression of
cynicism, but I argue that there is nothing cynical about this. To
believe in meritocracy in fine arts would be to believe in the existence
of a standard by which all art can be measured. Just as it is pointless
to criticize people for their lack of meritocracy in choosing their
lovers, merit has no place in fine arts. A price of an artwork does not
point to anything but to itself.

This is not to say that an artwork could not have personal merit
independent of price, but we need to remind ourselves that meritocracy
is a social concept that comes into play only when two or more people
are involved in determining value of something. Since the only thing
about art we can agree on is the fact that we all disagree, we have no
choice but to accept the impossibility of establishing a meritocracy,
which leads us to a conclusion that, in fine arts, you do whatever it
takes to raise the price of your artwork. Again, this sounds like a
cynical statement, but it is not.

Here, a story Tim Rollins told us when I was in college comes to my
mind. For one show, he and his team of kids made a series of small
artworks which ended up selling like hotcakes. They were excited by this
good news and decided to make a lot more of them. This time, only a few
(or none at all) were sold. Rollins said his team had learned a valuable
lesson: When you become too opportunistic, people can sense it.

Many good things in life have this quality. Spiritualists who seek
enlightenment, at one point or another, face a maddening dilemma: The
more you crave for enlightenment, the further away from it you get.
Often the best way to achieve your goal is to keep it only in the back
of your mind. I argue that the same applies to fine arts. Your goal as a
fine artist is to achieve the highest price possible as Warhol
suggested, but if you let this be your preoccupation, you get further
away from it. A cynical attitude towards making money seldom pays off
like you think it would.

Then what does it mean to be sincere? It is no accident that those who
are successful in fine arts are often skillful salesmen. They seem to
have an intuitive understanding of how to influence people and how to be
recognized. This type of talent is often looked down on. Many would
argue that salesmanship is independent of artistic talent, but I
disagree. Great artists are often the keenest observers and interpreters
of our society and culture. Their artworks fascinate us because they
reflect their keen observations. If they possess a talent for observing
and understanding aspects of our culture that most of us cannot see, it
would only make sense that they would be good at influencing and getting
recognized by that very culture. Their talent for salesmanship is not a
separate talent from their artistic talent. They are one and the same
thing. They are as sincere and passionate about their salesmanship as
they are about their art, and that is why they tend to succeed in
influencing others.

Why does salesmanship get such a bad rap in the first place? We often
hear comments like this: Artist X is successful not because he is a good
artist, but because he is a good salesman. From the perspective of
salesmanship being just another expression of artistic talent, such a
statement is a contradiction. Since much of modern advertising is banal
and vulgar, we tend to forget the significance of advertising and
salesmanship. Our cultures evolve because we let others know who we are,
what we do, how we feel, and how we think. At the level of individuals,
advertising ourselves seems like a selfish act, but without our urge to
be known, understood, and recognized, our culture would not evolve.
Advertising is an integral part of being a productive member of a

If salesmanship is an expression of artistic talent, it would be
interesting to analyze how some of the successful artists achieved their
recognition. Below, I am going to give some case studies.

In "Time Out Guide to the Saatchi Gallery", there are a few articles
that describe how so-called "YBAs", Young British Artists, lead by
Damien Hirst, achieved their international fame. Their beginning is the
most interesting part. Counter to the romantic and idealistic notion
commonly held by young artists, Damien Hirst appears to have understood
that success cannot be achieved alone or based solely on presumed
artistic merits. He enlisted his friends from college, like Sarah Lucas
and Gary Hume, to work as a team. He organized a group show called
"Freeze" for which he sent taxis to fetch important figures of the
British art world. Even his relationship with Saatchi is a

I speculate that Saatchi, in order to establish himself as an
influential figure in the art world, needed more than just money.
Initially he collected New York artists like Donald Judd, Andy Warhol,
and Brice Marden. In 1985 when he first opened his gallery, these names
were already well-established. For him to earn respect as a collector,
he needed to discover artists of his own. Saatchi, being an advertising
guru with a deep pocket, found the perfect product in Hirst. Their
partnership had all the signs of success. For those in the advertising
business, Saatchi's hit show, "Sensation", felt oddly familiar and was
easy to relate to. Their success reflects their uncanny understanding of
how our culture works.

Working as a team to self-promote, like the way Hirst and his friends
did, is a common pattern we find in the history of modern art. If you
are not familiar with how self-promotion works in the art world, you
might find it odd that many famous artists knew each other even before
they were famous. If artists were to be famous for presumed artistic
merits alone, what are the chances that two genius artists happen to
know each other years before they became famous? The reality is the
other way around: They became famous because they worked together to be

When you read the collection of writings by the 60's conceptual artists
in "Conceptual Art" published by Phaidon, you notice that many of them
often wrote about each other before they were successful. This strategy
must have worked quite well. If you write how great you are yourself, no
one would listen to you. To get around this problem, you write about
each other. For the same amount of effort, the latter is far more

We can find many such groups who made self-promotion a team effort in
the recent history of art. For instance, the Black Mountain school which
included John Cage, Merce Cunningham, and Robert Rauschenberg. The New
York school of Abstract Expressionists which included Jackson Pollock,
Willem de Kooning, and Mark Rothko.

The group strategy makes sense in many ways. You can tap into each
other's resource (studio space, equipment, social connections, etc..).
You can share skills and knowledge. Each person can specialize in
certain aspects of promotion (writing, socializing, designing, getting
publicity, etc..) What you say about each other would have more
credibility to outsiders than if you had to talk about yourself. It is
easier to organize an event or a show if it is done as a group. If one
of them becomes successful, he could direct some of the attention to the
rest of the team by frequently talking about them, by trying to
introduce them to powerful people, by including them in a group show,
and so on. If you work as a team, even if success is a matter of pure
luck, the chance of one of the members becoming successful is much
greater than you yourself becoming successful. By working as a team, the
overall impact would be greater than the sum total of individual
contributions, which is a phenomenon called synergy.

The concept of synergy is a common sense in the business world. The only
reason why it is not in fine arts is because art is presumably about
individual expression. It does not occur to many artists to work as a
team, unless the point of it is an artistic collaboration. A nameless
team can be formed only for the purpose of self-promotion. It is not
such a foreign concept, if you think about the fact that, in
conventional business, we form teams to make money, but each of us
pursue different ideas of happiness in our private lives.

The fact that working as a team is more effective than working
independently comes as no surprise. We could argue that human beings as
well as most living creatures on earth are designed to work in teams.
Teamwork is something fine artists are not particularly known for
because they tend to focus on the notion of individual. The ability to
organize, lead, and work in a team is one of the most mysterious,
profound, and creative aspects of human social life, yet many fine
artists rarely experience being leaders or organizers of groups, and
choose instead to work in solitude. It is somewhat ironic that artists
who have little or no experience with organizing are often the most
vocal critics of the major organizations of our society. This is all the
more reason why artists like Damien Hirst who know how to work in teams
deserve credit.

Some might feel that there is something almost underhanded about working
in teams to self-promote, but the word "underhanded" would imply that
there is a way to measure something to be fair and unfair in fine arts.
Again, this argument implies a meritocracy as an ideal system. Fairness
too comes into play only if something is measurable like in the
Olympics. Furthermore, if you apply Game Theory to fine arts, it is
possible that each artist's selfish desire to become famous is what
drives the art world to evolve. I would say, in fine arts, anything

>From this conclusion, I feel that it is time for us to go beyond the
romantic notion of meritocracy, and sincerely recognize the significance
of the salesmanship of artists. At least in Western art, talent for
self-promotion is an inextricable part of what art is. Here are some
ways in which sincere recognition of salesmanship can manifest in

Galleries and museums put up façade of meritocracy, when what goes on
behind the scenes has nothing to do with it. They are supposed to choose
artists based on their artistic merit, not based on their friendship
with famous artists, nor based on the power of their dealers. I feel
that it would be healthier, if a museum exhibition, for instance, would
be organized based on current market price, rather than pretending to
know the merits of the artworks they present. In the end, they will
achieve the same result, but the upfront premise would be more honest.

For galleries, it is rare that they would select their artists
anonymously from a pile of slides based on presumed artistic merits. So,
why not make the information public about the connections through which
their artists came to be known to them? Perhaps even present a flow
chart of connections.

Here is another justification for recognizing artist's salesmanship. We
tend to assume that an artist becomes famous because he was influential,
but the opposite can also be true. Marcel Duchamp became an influential
artist when he brought a urinal into a gallery, but at that point, he
was already a successful artist. If he was only an unknown, struggling
artist, the chances are the art world would have completely ignored his
urinal. Or, it is possible that he would not have had any gallery to
take his urinal to. That is, he became influential because he was
famous. Fame is not necessarily a reward for being influential. Often it
is the other way around. Fame can be an artistic tool, just as money can
be. In this sense, as an artist, there is a point in trying to be famous
for the sake of being famous, so that you can use it artistically. This
should not sound so unusual for those artists who have day jobs where
their only aim is to make money, so that they can spend it on making
their art. In other words, salesmanship is a craft like any other. Being
able to effectively self-promote is no different from being able to
paint well. It is a skill that can be used artistically, and is almost a
necessity for an artist in today's world.

In "Illusions of Immortality", David Giles says, "[P. T.] Barnum's real
'show' was not the exhibition but the performance of the publicity." The
same can be said of the modern fine artists; their real "art" is not the
objects they make, but how they become famous.

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Date: 2.23.04
From: Charlotte Frost (charlotte AT
Subject: Review of Internet Art by Julian Stallabrass

Net Art is Rarely Black and White

Book Review of:

Internet Art: The Online Clash of Culture and Commerce Julian
Stallabrass (Tate Publishing, London, 2003)

By Charlotte Frost

For Julian Stallabrass, the gap between culture and commerce is nowhere
narrower than on the Internet. His latest book, Internet Art: The Online
Clash of Culture and Commerce (Tate Publishing, London, 2003) notes that
although net art and commercial web exploits have vast distinctions,
their co-inhabitation of an essentially commercially driven space unites
them, and further than this, net art often treats its cyber-neighbour as
a somewhat ironic muse.

Initially Stallabrass appears to posit culture and commerce on opposing
sides. The book title, chapter headings and subdivisions, and even the
black and pink colour scheme of the cover appear to have been chosen to
show how the brash world of commerce clashes with the more activist
elements of net art. Reading texts on the net can illustrate this

"...delicate works that should act as lessons in the postmodern virtues of
the borderless, the liminal, the self-referential are contending with
powerful commercial hierarchies." (p.59)

As Stallabrass clearly explains within the covers of this book however,
sometimes the bringing together of apparently disparate elements can
create something different and innovative ­ not just a new colour
combination ­ and sometimes, clashing is good!

For entities to oppose each other, they must first be brought together,
and by looking at works which have both shaped the terrain of net art
and simultaneously shaped a relationship with commerce, for example
Rachel Baker 's alternate Tesco reward card scheme with its exploitation
of customer exploits, or works which show systems we have bought into
like Tomoko Takahashi's Word Perhect or events such as the Etoy battle
where the artists appeared to almost swap roles with their oppressors,
Stallabrass is able to describe a rather more blurred boundary between
culture and commerce.

Culture and commerce have never been distinct from each other before,
and net art is no exception, so perhaps Stallabrass is suggesting that
it isn't the relationship with commerce that makes net art unique, but
actually, it is what makes it a legitimate member of the art
establishment, whether netties like it or not.

The thematic arrangement of the book also shows that Stallabrass sees
net art as more than the fusion of two apparently opposing elements. The
sections map out the obvious, but fundamental factors in any discussion
of net art and there are certainly more than two areas of inquiry: the
idiosyncrasies of the Internet; the forms of art in such a vast
category; the imposition of time and collapsing of space; interactivity;
advanced business capacity on the net; the potency of online politics
and the complications of collection both for institutions and artists
making a living. Finally he looks at the increased levels of critique
and conversation surrounding all these areas ­ which of course is
expanded further by the presence of this book, and further again by my
critique of it...

If commerce and culture are this harmonious, Stallabrass must seek a
clash elsewhere ­ with the less easily definable or dividable elements
of net art. He finds that perhaps there are other factors which make it
reactionary, such as net art's relationship with the predominant
discourse of the history of art? Stallabrass notes that with
peer-to-peer systems, artists and activists can damage big business, but
by affecting commercialism, they affect the commercial side of art and
'the zealously guarded value of the art object' (p.104), making
commercialism merely a catalyst for bigger clashes.

It is this relationship with art history, rather than commercialism,
that really highlights net art's distinct persona for Stallabrass. By
looking at artists who have discussed the apparently anti-art historical
tendency of net art, such as Vuk Cosic who prepared his website with
non-existent monographs of net artists or Alexei Shulgin who made
tongue-in-cheek nettime predictions of the impending arrival of net art
legends back in 1997, Stallabrass shows that net art is just as likely
to engage in debates about art-world validation systems as it is with
commerce. So whilst net art is deeply commercial at times, it is also
deeply anti-art at times, and here is the real clash ­ perhaps one on a
level of red and pink!

The featured artists are the familiar crew: RT Mark, I/O/D, Alexei
Shulgin, Vuk Cosic, Maciej Wisniewski, Heath Bunting, Rachel Baker,
Jodi, Thomson and Craighead, Olia Lialina, Mark Napier, Anna Best, Etoy
and Mongrel, amongst others, but rather than engaging in
self-historicisation, you could be forgiven for thinking that this time,
they have got an art historian to do it for them, but you soon discover
otherwise. Stallabrass states that:

"Those who engage in this mourning idealise the early period of
production, and by marking it off as a discrete movement, attempt to
maintain their places within its frozen pantheon." (p.128)

He clearly hasn't written this book as an insider but like his target
reader, he wants to get a handle on an elusive area of the arts, and for
a senior lecturer on Contemporary art at the Courtauld Institute,
Internet art must present a particularly relevant challenge. He could
also be trying to show that net art doesn't clash with the well-trod
trajectory of art historian. His impartiality is refreshing as he
himself notes that mainstream art world discourse is '...often secretive
and disingenuous...' (p.110). Of course he has to look at these artists
because many of them are the very artists who shaped the terrain of net
art, and although a follow-up to this book might have the luxury of
including more disparate work, an initial delve must sacrifice
inclusivity for clarity and individuality for collectivity if he is
going to show any dominant trends in such a disparate area.

Stallabrass' definition of net art is therefore less about divisions,
and more about combinations.

"Freed of their material weight, works of art become tokens in a
cultural game, a shuffling of novel combinations of symbols. Putting art
on the Web does not in itself cause this phenomenon ­ which is as
evident in museum shops' postcard displays as online ­ but makes plainer
art's wider condition." (p.129)

Internet art and commerce are just two sides of exactly the same coin,
but having appeared, to begin with, to suggest that on the one side you
have art and the other commerce, Stallabrass suggests that on the one
side you have art and on the other, the critique of art or as he puts
it: "Perhaps the distinguishing feature of online culture is precisely
that it is impossible to say where art starts and finishes?" (p.141).

But even the critique isn't without paradox. In fact, whilst Stallabrass
felt a book was nonetheless important, he knows it too can clash with
net ideals,

"To write about art on the Internet is to try to fix in words a highly
unstable and protean phenomenon. This art is bound inextricably to the
development of the Internet itself, riding the torrent of furious
technological progress..." (p.12)

And at the same time he believes that list-serves don't always

"Despite the valuable role that it has played in the exchange of
information and the development of interest groups, much BBS discussion
can be banal and incoherent." (p.111-112)

So Stallabrass has written a book that will be more available to readers
who are less familiar with list-serve-life, as well as one that
complements a strong net-knowledge.

Although it is a book, and not online, there is something itself very
'open source' about the way Stallabrass provides his take on net art, as
though he is providing some tools to understand the field, but leaving
it up to the reader to write their own programme. This book is a
valuable resource and I imagine it will become a staple on new media
reading lists, as well as becoming a book which will provide a template
for future endeavours by other writers. It is also full of such concise
explanations that it is the perfect essay writer's companion for quote

In the end you discover that Stallabrass doesn't't think black and pink
clash at all. Although they make a statement, they work very well
together as their fusion doesn't create a singular burst from jarring
sides, but rather a continued sparring with continued effect; they
highlight each other, and in doing so, make deeper contrasts and facets

Whilst you might have been told not to judge a book by its cover, in
this case, I think you can!

Charlotte Frost

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Date: 2.26.04
From: Ian Clothier (i.clothier AT
Subject: Bloom: mutation, toxicity and the sublime

Bloom: mutation, toxicity and the sublime
A review by Ian M Clothier

When I run over the frightful catalogue of my sins, I cannot believe
that I am the same creature whose thoughts were once filled with sublime
and transcendent visions of the beauty and majesty of goodness -
Frankenstein's monster [1].

Sins of the grotesque:

Where once dark angst pervaded the frames that conveyed monstrous
abnormality, thanks to software and Patricia Piccinini (In bocca al
lupo, 2003) the vast, ghastly enterprise of biomorphic modulation can be
seen in the clear twilight of digital media. Her luridly bulbous
animations, replete with suggested orifices and given character by
flaws, were suspended and more horrific for their lack of anatomical
specificity. It is as if indeed a mad scientist had bred not pigs with
human ears, but generic organs made of the every humanimal. Organs
coated with the imperfections of human skin - moles and veins, nipples
and warts - twisted and gyrated until one hapless pustule detached from
its foothold and disappeared. It was undeniably grotesque yet the
question could be asked of it: what exactly is there to be afraid of?

What was perhaps surprising about Bloom: mutation, toxicity and the
sublime [2] was not the round condemnation of things genetically
modified but rather the ambivalence of the artists on the subject of
conceptual relationship to notions of the sublime (surely a well visited
notion in Western art history) and the articulation of its related

A video piece by Motohiko Odani (Rompers, 2003) featured frogs with
human ears, neighbours on the genetic tree to the rats with human ears
that have actually been nurtured in the science laboratory. The frogs,
bees, birds, worms and squirrels of Odani's bestiary frolicked around an
Alice in Wonderland type character, who had a tongue to catch flies, and
some false brow work to underline the fantasy. Condemnation in this
colorific paradise seemed out of order.

Sins of the toxic:

This is not to say that the tragic side of the toxic was overlooked. Jun
Nguyen-Hatsushiba (Memorial project Minimata: neither either nor neither
­ a love story 2003) makes video and performance based work around the
dumping of mercury in Minimata Bay Japan, a tragedy of real human
proportion (initially denied by authorities). In dream like video
sequences a performance began to unravel and a state of suspended grace
was evoked, where the eerie depths of the bay projected as a toxic
sublime. The participants in the performance shared oxygen, risking
tragedy while reflecting it.

Danger signs would also be entirely appropriate to Denise Kum's
installation Flocculate flow (2003). In lurid whirls of coloured grease,
Kum used soap and petroleum based products to create the scenario of a
toxic waste dump, complete with modified industrial palette footbridge.
This was sculpture dematerialized into gloop, coloristic sensibility
gone emphatically and post-Pollock berserk. Kum spun on a coin that
shimmered playful seductive colour on one side and industrial slag heap
on the other. Ambivalence.

Susan Norrie's Undertow (2002) invited a contemplative and even solemn
reflective state, providing equal measures of horror, spectacle,
tragedy, monstrosity and positivity. The installation took place in the
semi-light of the sources, the projections generating a physical,
digital twilight. In this light the tragedy of toxic spillage is
countered by an enduring sense of the positive: toxicity and nature,
united by awe. The work consisted of a multiplicity of moving image
sources - four data projectors (three encased in Star Wars reminiscent
giraffe legged boxes), a video monitor and digital hand-held device (the
latter two separately encased in the wall). One projector threw fourteen
foot high images of the sea, a lake on fire, and a dust storm over
Melbourne. A second projected a persistent shot of mud pools, while a
third showed a meteorological service film about weather balloons and
the fourth displayed images of oil slick being cleaned from birds that
were then put back in cardboard boxes. The TV monitor played home video
of cherry blossom watching in Japan, occurring early due to global
warming according to one website [3]. The hand-held device, the site
stated, shows a scene from the Orson Wells' film The Trial - Anthony
Perkins character K (the guilty party) watching Naydra Shore carrying a
large suitcase over nondescript badlands.

Putting these images together in backwards respective order, we have
flight and guilt, global warming framed by home video, environmental
devastation, attempts to define and control weather, the persistent
energy of nature, and the power, spectacle and strength of nature.
Structurally, the images of this artwork together create an articulation
of superpositions [4] rather than a singular expression of environmental
negativity. Resilience to singular reduction is what makes the piece so
successful: within the articulated superpositions there is sufficent
room for many readings. Norrie has undoubtedly created a major new media
artwork, inexplicably pulling together a space of contemplation using
images that range from the banal to the awe inspiring.

Sins of the genetically modified:

Christine Borland (The Aether sea, 1999) took real, actual human DNA and
altered it, giving it the character of jellyfish that glow in the dark.
Across the walls of a darkened space swam moving images of said
jellyfish, ambling through the depths. In the centre of the room, a
gently tipping tray held a sheet of genetically modified human DNA and
rocked back and forth to a tide made by a chemist's machine. The
interspecies cross-fertilisation of genetic material is of course highly
contentious, and the medical use of this fluorescent dye as a marker for
rogue cancerous cells can be offered as excusing its use here and in
medical quarters. Maybe. Contention and counter argument twist around
this work, strangely reflecting the structure of the gene. All the
while, the jellyfish swam oblivious to the angst they generated - twin
projections enhancing a sensation of freely floating sublime.

Eduardo Kac went one step further and created a transgenic artwork [5]
that invited the viewer to take part in genetic modification, live via
the Internet. In Genesis (1999-2003), Kac took a line from the biblical
Book of Genesis, translated it into Morse Code, and then into strings of
the ACTG base pairs that create DNA chains. This synthetic gene was then
incorporated into bacteria.

Images of the bacteria moving around were projected in a dark, tight,
and nearly claustrophobic installation area. In fluorescent green text
on three remaining walls were the originating Genesis sentence "Let man
have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air,
and over every living thing that moves upon the earth," its Morse Code
translation, and the DNA sequence. Viewers could log onto a website, and
turn an ultraviolet light above the bacteria on and off, altering not
only the physical structure of the bacteria, but also its genetic
makeup. Which is to say, metaphorically at least, that the originating
sentence had been altered, itself genetically modified. The website
experience was counterpoised to the experience of the installed
component, creating a distinct sense of dislocation when interacting
with the website. The consequences of user acts were blind, though it
must be said that a spatially dislocated online experience is not
inappropriate to the Internet.

In a way similar to Susan Norrie's Undertow, the various parts of
Genesis together create a sense of articulated superposition. In
addition to the use of the web as the basis for interactive structure,
there is the intersection of the Internet and electricity (turning the
UV light on and off using 'Bluetooth' type technology); a further
intersection/superposition with the sphere of the biological; yet
another superposition of biology and genetic structure; which in turn is
overlaid with the codification of language (English/Morse Code/DNA
phrasing); and finally an association with culture and religion -
Western culture and the Book of Genesis. This articulation of
superpositions lies at the heart of Kac's Genesis. The conception is
majestic and the work provides one benchmark of new media practice, of
dynamic systems integration that replicates systems processes rather
than mimics visual reality. Western culture's myth of creation is here
presented without illusory perspective.

Grotesque, toxic and genetically modified: an excellent catalogue of
sins, twined with the sublime.


[1]. From Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, page 91 (Wordsworth edition

[2]. Curated by Gregory Burke, director of the Govett-Brewtser Art
Gallery. Image courtesy of the Govett-Brewster and Ó.

[3]. Deferred detonations: thrilling pessimism by Robert Cook rt55/cook.html

[4]. The phrase 'articulation of superpositions' is sourced in the
writing of Deleuze and Guattari, cited in Manuel De Landa's A thousand
years of nonlinear history, page 64 (Zone Books 1997).

[5]. Further information about this work can be obtained from Kac's

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