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: 5.07.04
Date: Mon, 10 May 2004 03:04:44 -0400



1. Peter Sciscioli: Digital Happy Hour AT The Kitchen

2. Marisa S. Olson: Call for Entries: Improbable Monuments
3. tom holley: Artist in Residence Opportunity

4. Jo-Anne Green: Turbulence Artists' Studios: "SMS-Series 13" by David

+scene report+
5. Jonah Brucker-Cohen: Report from Ciber-Art Bilbao Conference

+book review+
6. Gloria Sutton: Getting Below the Surface [review of "Surface Tension:
Problematics of Site", Edited by Ken Ehrlich and Brandon LaBelle]

7. curt cloninger, Geert Dekkers, Michael Szpakowski, Rob Myers, Myron
Turner: setting up the punch line

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Date: 5.05.04
From: Peter Sciscioli (peter AT
Subject: Digital Happy Hour AT The Kitchen

Wednesday, May 12 at 6pm, The Kitchen (512 W. 19th St) hosts Digital Happy
Hour, featuring animation artist Marina Zurkow in discussion with KT Salen
(Program director at Parsons MFA DT). Tickets are $8 and can be purhased on or through The Kitchen's box office (212) 255-5793 x11.
For more information, please visit or to view Marina's
work, visit

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Date: 5.04.04
From: "Marisa S. Olson" (marisa AT
Subject: Call for Entries: Improbable Monuments

please post/forward...

SF Camerawork

Receipt Deadline: July 30, 2004 [ed. note: changed from 2003]

Online and Web proposals for
Improbable Monuments
(Part of our upcoming Fall 2004 show, Monument Recall)

Monument Recall is an exhibition of work by artists who are challenging
ideas of what a 'monument' can be. Through scale, material, point of view,
location, subject, and concepts, work in this exhibition challenges the
conventional expectations of public monuments in public spaces.

As part of this exhibition, we are looking for work in proposal form only,
to be exhibited online.

Submissions should include:
1. a description of your Improbable Monument
2. a visual rendering of the idea, in images, animation, digital video, etc.
3. a description of its purpose and function within the context of
improbable monument.
4. all current and pertinent contact information.

The ideas should not be restricted by materials, funds, and subject matter
or by any other practical considerations. Instead, we're looking for grand
visions of what monuments can be without regard to the usual constraints. We
are particularly interested in how ideas can function specifically within
the cyber realm,

All submissions should be available online or in Web-ready digital files on
a CD-ROM. If the work is already online, please send the URL. Otherwise,
send the CD-ROM to the address below. Please include an Artist Statement &
Vitae, as well as a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the return of your
materials. Mail the material to:

SF Camerawork
1246 Folsom Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

or email material to: Laurie Blavin
<laurie AT>

For more information, contact any of the exhibition curators:

Paula Levine (plevine AT
Trena Noval (tnoval AT
Laurie Blavin (laurie AT

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Date: 5.07.04
From: tom holley (tomholley AT>


+ + DEADLINE: FRIDAY 28 MAY 2004 + +


Residency Period
3 months

July 04 - Sept 04

Huddersfield, England

The AiR programme at The Media Centre aims to
support the exploration and development of new
work in digital/interactive/network media and
technology based arts practice. The residency
provides time and resources to artists in a
supportive environment to facilitate the creation
of new work; we encourage a cross disciplinary and
experimental approach. This is a practice based
residency designed to enable the development and
completion of a new work.


+ Time and space to develop ideas
+ Accommodation in large 2 bedroom apartment
+ 24/7 access to technical facilities
+ Technical support
+ Contribution to travel costs to and from
+ Free internet access
+ Bursary of £700 [GBP] per month
+ Small materials fund
+ Opportunities to present your work
+ Introductions to regional and national
+ Invitations to cultural events
+ Introduction to local art/cultural scene

* Applicants may bring partners or families but
we cannot offer financial support for them.

If you would like to know more about this
opportunity please visit:

Tom Holley
Creative Director
Media Centre Network

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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 Rachel Greene at Rachel AT

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Date: 5.07.04
From: Jo-Anne Green (jo AT
Subject: Turbulence Artists¹ Studios: "SMS-Series 13" by David Crawford

May 7, 2004
Turbulence Artists¹ Studios: "SMS-Series 13" by David Crawford

"SMS-13" is a 5 minute linear remix of footage shot for previous SMS
installments in London, Paris, Boston, New York, and Tokyo. The familiar
SMS series' algorithmic montage that constitutes each clip's DNA remains
intact, while the individual sequences are now composited within a
linear framework. The speed of the transitions is based on network
connection speed.


David Crawford was born in Riverside, California in 1970. He studied
film, video, and new media at the Massachusetts College of Art and
received a BFA in 1997. In 1999, his Here and Now project was
commissioned by New Radio and Performing Arts with funds from National
Endowment for the Arts. In 2000, Crawford's Light of Speed project was a
finalist for the SFMOMA Webby Prize for Excellence in Online Art. In
2003, his Stop Motion Studies project received an Artport Gate Page
Commission from the Whitney Museum of American Art and an Award of
Distinction in the Net Vision category at the Prix Ars Electronica.

For more information about Turbulence please visit

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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: 5.7.04
From: Jonah Brucker-Cohen (jonah AT
Subject: Report from Ciber-Art Bilbao Conference

Report from Ciber-Art Bilbao Conference
April 25-29, 2004
Bilbao, Spain

By Jonah Brucker-Cohen (

Set in the post-industrial city of Bilbao, Spain, the Ciber-Art Bilbao
conference was a lively mix of interactive art exhibitions, performances,
concerts, and a comprehensive paper session where artists and practitioners
presented their work and theories on the future of digital culture. The
festival's main objective was to situate Bilbao on the digital art map by
creating an event with global participation from internationally known media
artists. Although the art exhibition opened a week earlier, I arrived as the
five day long conference sessions began. One problem with the structure of
the conference was the attempt to integrate the local media art presence,
since the program booklet failed to translate Spanish speaker's talks into
English and vise versa. This is an account of what I was able to experience,
although with concurrent panels running back to back, the breadth of the
conference was impossible to completely cover.

The opening presentation was by "Free Software" pioneer and grassroots hero,
Richard Stallman. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Stallman, who wrote the
GNU (which stands for GNU's Not Unix) operating system as an alternative to
proprietary systems like Windows, outlined the four tenets of the free
software movement: 1) The ability to run a software program, 2) The freedom
to help yourself to the source code and change it, 3) The freedom to
distribute copies of your modifications, and 4) The desire to help to build
your community by publishing a modified version. His talk outlined why these
freedoms are important to the premise of giving you complete "control" over
your computer and your ability to use it freely. Having unrestricted access
to source code and the work of like-minded programmers perpetuates the
proliferation of goodwill and
exchange among independent producers. He went on to demonstrate whether or
not these ideas applied to hardware, as well as software by trying to
deconstruct the use and misuse of a physical object: a chair. However this
argument fell short because software allows for an economy of scale. When
creating software it is easier for an individual to create many copies than
one, whereas with hardware making many copies is more difficult and costly.

The paper topics presented over the next few days ranged from examinations
of online memes, location-based GPS art projects, networked accessories, and
formal overviews of art and technology practice. Mirko Tobias Schafer, from
the Institute of Media and Re/presentation at the University of Utrecht
spoke about how the hacking and modification of existing technology has been
integrated into the next versions of the hacked object. One example is the
website,, which profiles a hobbyist's software and hardware
mods of the popular robotic dog, some of which Sony plans to integrate into
their next version. Giving an overview of academic institutions in the US
supporting art and technology, was Duke University's Edward A. Shanken.
Shaken sees collaborations between artists and scientists as an interface
for research to engage with the public. This attitude was also prevalent in
Susan Kozel's keynote address where she outlined details of her wearable
projects that aim to engage the public through social performative
experience. Kozel, a professor at Simon Fraser University, outlined her aim
to develop clothing that can connect its wearer's biometric data with others
over a local network and produce vibro-haptic feedback on the surface of the
garment. Thus the clothing becomes a relay of mood and emotion within social

Also exploring immediacy of interaction, Eric Paulos of Intel Research
Berkeley, gave the third keynote about his recent work in "Urban
Atmospheres". The project is a detailed account of the proliferation of
close-knit urban spaces where public passivity often upstages collective
engagement. His aim is to reverse this assumption through a
"carnivalization" of everyday encounters into playful interventions where
everyday individuals can engage with the people or strangers occupying
similar spaces. His latest project, "Jabberwocky" manifests itself as a
Bluetooth enabled mobile phone application that connects to others to
visualize and encourage connections between 'strangers' who frequent similar
spaces. Paulos was asked if this type of community reflection could have a
negative effect for people who enjoy their anonymity. Like most tracking
related projects, the obvious answer is that most people give up a certain
amount of freedom regardless of their desire to be tracked, simply by owning
a mobile phone or using a credit card. This type of surveillance fear was
debated through the conference as the promise of technology in most
presentations often left out the repercussions and baggage it entails.

Across town, in a large warehouse space, the art exhibition featured several
large-scale interactive installations, and hundreds of screen-based
terminals behind giant car-wash plastic flaps. "Evident Traces", a mini-show
at the festival, curated by Christiane Paul,
featured several works that attempted to engage the user on a physical
level. One of these projects was NYC-based artist, John Klima's long awaited
"Terrain Machine", a real-time depth display with hundred of motorized
potentiometers with stretched spandex connecting each point. The result is a
moving "terrain" with a projected image of a woman floating on the surface,
allowing users to manipuate the depths of the pots as they cast a shadow.
Also in Paul¹s selection was Susan Kozel's "Between Bodies", the second
phase of the wearable sensing project, "whisper",but featuring a series of
skirts that send signals amongst each other via PocketPCs to effect physical
stimuli such as electric fans and motors. Also present were Sibylle Hauert
and Daniel Reichmuth's "Instant City", a tangible sound installation that
allows people to create sound mixes by placing translucent plastic blocks on
a light table. Depending on the amount of light that passes through the
stacked blocks, different sound samples would play. Other notable additions
were NYC based artist Daniel Shiffman's "Reactive", a particle-based video
parser, and MEART - The Semi Living Artist¹s ³Symbotica², which used
artificial life simulations coupled with a pneumatic robotic drawing

Leaving the conference early, I missed out on the Planetary Collegium events
scheduled for later in the week. Regardless, it seemed as if the prevailing
attitudes expressed outlined how the promise of technology as a social
leveler becomes more evident with re-appropriation and disruption of
existing contexts of interaction, place, and social engagement. Is
creativity the ultimate social equalizer? When does technology lose
relevance to the idea trying to be conveyed? From the numerous installations
that challenged how forms of media can displace their traditional modes of
representation, to papers that explored how the proliferation and mutation
of ideas is causing a rift in popular culture, the Ciber-Art
Bilbao provided an interesting perspective on the role of the digital

- Jonah Brucker-Cohen (

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Date: 5.7.04
From: Gloria Sutton (suttong AT
Subject: Getting Below the Surface

Getting Below the Surface

Surface Tension: Problematics of Site
Edited by Ken Ehrlich and Brandon LaBelle
CD selection by Stephen Vitiello
Published by Errant Bodies Press with Ground Fault Recordings (2003)
ISBN: 0-9655570-4-9

Often times when we are describing the types of interactions that take place
via email and postings on websites we end up attaching social descriptors to
humanize these data infrastructures. The Internet becomes a communication
³space,² a public ³sphere,² and a ³site² for dialogue. And when we strain a
little further to describe the social conditions on the net, it pretty much
looks like the artworld­ a fairly anglo-centric and male-dominated space.
While the social structures that have come to define and determine our
notions of online space are sometimes lost under a cloud of political
rhetoric, the cultural construction of ³space² (on or off­line) has been the
subject of intense scrutiny by artists, architects and historians under the
rubric of ³site-specificity.² One of the most engaging and creative
contributions to the ongoing conversation on site-specific art practices is
found in the critical essays, artist projects and sound pieces collected in
the anthology, Surface Tension: Problematics of Site edited by Ken Ehrlich
and Brandon LaBelle, two Los Angeles-based writers and artists and recently
published by Errant Bodies Press.

Highly nuanced essays such as Juli Carson¹s performative reading of the
public hearings and related ³documents² prompted by Richard Serra¹s Tilted
Arc (1989) provide an object lesson for current debates surrounding the
production and exhibition of new media art. Carson is adjunct Assistant
Professor in the Department of Art at UCLA where she teaches critical theory
and contemporary art. In ³Two Walls: 1989,² she deftly breaks down the
subtle dialectic in a work of art that ³transcends any physical union with
its site² while ³transcending any physical contradiction with its site.²
Carson¹s argument emphasizes the moment when a work of art becomes
³discursively bound (and for many, first-received) off-site²: public
hearings, books, news articles and other written sources.

Carson¹s astute reading of ³discursive site² complicates issues of
publicity, public record, and public space key to many new media art
projects such as Rafael Lozano-Hemmer¹s ³Body Movies² and ³Vectorial
Elevations.² Lozano-Hemmer, who is a Madrid-based artist, discusses these
projects in Surface Tension and bills them as ³relational architecture
installations.² He maintains his projects are relationship-specific rather
than site-specific, yet they still have to negotiate the same terrain
between a live event enacted in a public square, soliciting participants via
his website and then posting photographic documentation of the results.

The interplay between sites of production and sites of reception are taken
up throughout a variety of the essays in Surface Tension including an
interview with Dutch artist Paul Panhuysen, director of the influential Het
Apollohuis, an experimental music and sound venue in Eindhoven from
1980­1997, who discusses using site-specific properties of a given location
in relation to musical performance and tonality. In particular, many of the
essays and projects grabble with the tensions that arise when global
phenomena such as the rise of digital computer networks and overdevelopment
run into what can be thought of as ³the site-specifics of everyday life.²
This is the basis for Brandon LaBelle¹s analysis of the current shift from
the material city toward the immaterial flow of information in his essay,
³Split Space: Practices of Transurban Life.² Los Angeles-based artist and
curator Lize Mogel¹s bus shelter maps showing the accessible green space in
Los Angeles make what she calls the ³symbiotic relationship between the
development of parkland and the growth of the city² very clear.

The editors themselves have cleared a little conceptual room in the book¹s
layout for both production and reception by contributing ten blank pages as
³public space.² While the term ³public space² is deployed over and over, the
subject is never presented as fixed or residing on stable ground. In fact,
interesting temporal complications are forced by the inclusion of historical
material such as a 1976 interview with artist Gordon Matta-Clark (1943­1978)
and contemporary artist Simon Leung¹s compelling account of his project
³Waren Piece (In the ?70s)² and its subsequent retellings at conferences in
New York and Los Angeles. Moreover, In a new essay by legendary critic Lucy
Lippard, ³Land Art in the Rearview Mirror,² Lippard self-reflexively
implicates her earlier writing of the 1960s as the ³macro-pronouncements
about paradigms² that she is currently arguing against by promoting
³micro-view that relies on grassroots connections.²

Advertised by word-of-mouth and distributed by a micro press itself, Surface
Tension may be one of those books that you only hear about (especially its
irreverent accompanying CD that includes ³Lunar Rambles² by Bay-area
performance pioneer Terry Fox, ³Rhythmic Stamping² by Bruce Nauman, Yoko Ono
coughing and more), but never get the chance to pick up because it might not
be front in center in your local Barnes and Noble or even in the new super
glam set up of architecture bookshop Hennessy and Ingalls in Santa Monica.
But isn¹t that what grass roots networks like Rhizome are for?

­ Gloria Sutton

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Date: 4.29.04 - 5.07.04
From: curt cloninger (curt AT, Geert Dekkers (geert AT>,
Michael Szpakowski (szpako AT, Rob Myers (robmyers AT, Myron
Turner (myron_turner AT
Subject: setting up the punch line

[Editor¹s note: this discussion has been trimmed and includes excerpts from
the stream of opnions generated over the week in response to Curt¹s original
post (which is here in it¹s entirety). For the complete correspondence (and
more copy+paste notation detailing/directing references between posts),
check fresh texts at]

curt cloninger (curt AT posted:

Setting Up the Punch Line:
Some Thoughts on Para-Art Media

I've been thinking a lot lately about media that accompanies an artwork, and
the kind of artwork that relies on such accompanying media. Accompanying
media can include the artist statement, but it can also include instructions
on how to use the work, as well as an explanation of what the work is
actually doing.

Let's deal with each type of accompanying media in turn, citing specific

1. Artist Statement:

Think of Sherry Levine's "After Walker Evans," where she takes pictures of
Walker Evans' pictures. Without the explanatory artist statement, we think
we're looking at pictures of Alabama sharecroppers taken by Walker Evans.
We wonder what these pictures from the turn of the century are doing in a
contemporary art gallery. It's only after we read the artist statement that
we understand we are looking at pictures of pictures, and we get it.

I've dissed conceptual work like this before, and it's not my intention to
kick that dead horse again. I just want to point out that, although the
"art" of this piece is in its concept, the punch line of that concept is
revealed in the actual accompanying media of the artist statement. The
artist statement is like the "Da-dum-bum!" that cues us to the joke. So
although Levine's meta-media conceptual artplay is supposed to be heady and
subtle, the gag is actually revealed with all the subtlety of a vaudeville
clown. Understated, Steven Wright-type humor this ain't. When Steven
Wright pauses for a very long time, then mumbles "I stole all the erasers to
all the miniature golf pencils in the world," the joke is as much in the
subtlety of his delivery as it is in the content of his punch line. We get
no such subtlety from artwork that relies entirely on accompanying media to
convey its concept.

2. Instructions on How To Use the Work:

This is just one example of many, but check "Free Radio Linux":

There is an introductory text blurb at the gallery9 site itself. Then after
you link to the URL of the actual piece, there is even more accompanying
media before you get to the piece itself, telling you how to get to the
piece, what software you need for the piece, etc.

These instructions are necessary for the use of the piece. To his credit,
the artists tries to tie-in the tone of the instructions with the overall
concept of the piece. The piece deals with sourcecode, and the instructions
are written in a "readme" type of voice. Still, all of these how-to
interruptions place barriers between the user and the piece itself. If this
were Amazon and the piece itself was a book being sold, few people would
ever get around to clicking on the
"buy now" button. Which may be just as well in this case, since the piece
is just an audio stream of translated software code with little aesthetic
appeal. The instructions of how to access the piece may be as interesting
as the actual piece itself.

To return to our stand-up comedy analogy, this piece is like a comedian who
spends his entire routine testing the sound system and the acoustics of the
room, and then he tells a fart joke and walks off stage. My critique is
that the accompanying explanatory media distracts from the impact of the
art. It's not setting the user up in any intentional way to experience the
art. It's not leading her into the art. It doesn't help contextualize the
art. If anything, it decontextualizes the art. Just like labeling every
tree in the wilderness with a placard describing its uses and phylum and
genus detracts from my hiking experience rather than adding to it. (This
critique admittedly presumes that art is meant to have some sort of overall
experience on a person besides just explaining something to her intellect.)

3. Explanations of What the Work is Actually Doing (when you can already

A lot of times, these explanations of what a piece of work is actually doing
are gratuitous, because it's quite obvious what the work is doing. Yoshi
Sodeoka recently had a piece at Turbulence
where he was asked to come up with some sort of introductory statement as
part of the commission [ ]. The piece
doesn't need an introductory statement, and Sodeoka solved this problem by
giving a sort of non-introductory statement in the form of a FAQ --
Q: Why do you believe that this will be entertaining?
A: This is a question that you will have to answer for yourself.

Sodeoka's evasiveness was pegged (derided?) by Eduardo Navas as enforcing a
kind of structuralism. And in a sense, he's right. Sodeoka, as a graphic
designer, is used to being able in maintaining contextual control of the
user's experience of his work. His work is meant to be visceral and
somewhat disorienting. So accompanying textual media that orients his users
actually runs counter to the experience he is trying to create. But I don't
think it's any kind of intentional structuralism as much as it is a desire
to sneak up on the punch line, to keep the audience guessing. It's mostly
an issue of timing.

Back to the stand-up comedy analogy -- Sodeoka is a Gallagher-like comedian
who likes to run out on stage and begin throwing rubber chickens into the
unexpecting audience. In this instance, he's hired to play a comedy club
(Turbulence) where the house rules dictate that every comedian must have a
proper biographical introduction. This requirement undermines his comedic
surprise attack, so as he's being introduced, Sodeoka sits in the wings and
throws rubber chickens at the MC.

3b. Explanations of What the Work is Actually Doing (when you can't
tell otherwise):

Now here is a problem I'm encountering in my own work. One of the fun
things about the web is that you're not obliged to contextualize your art as
art. You needn't have any accompanying explanatory media whatsoever, and
you can simply throw your user straight into your piece. You can even
create faux accompanying explanatory media that actually sets-up your user
for your punch-line (cf: ).
Mouchette is the classic example.

But there is a problem with new media that foregoes an accompanying
explanation -- if your technology is not *apparently* doing what it's
*actually* doing, nobody will know what it's doing.

A case in point is this piece:

There are user instructions, but they are cryptic ("wait for a magic
transformation"). The underlying technology is calling in discrete images
and autogeneratively collaging them according to a semi-random code. You
can watch each card and see sometimes thousands of different combinations.
But you may have to keep watching before you realize that these collages are
being generated in real-time. Otherwise, you might watch 4 or 5 different
collages, and think that each one is a static, pre-fab single image. In
which case, it seems like you are watching a slide show of a few discrete
collages, when in actuality you are watching a collage-generating machine.

My honest questions are:
1. Would adding an accompanying explanation of the underlying technology
make this piece more enjoyable and meaningful? Would it increase the value
of the user's experience?
2. Would adding such an explanation detract from the whimsical, disorienting
context of the piece in a way that hurts the piece?
3. If a new media piece needs accompanying text to explain how it works, if
its underlying workings are conceptually important but not experientially
apparent, then does that piece fail as an autogenerative/reactive piece? If
I'm looking at one of Lev Manovich's autogenerative database cinema pieces,
and it just looks like a linear movie to me, then has he achieved his
artistic purpose?


Personally, I suspect that the most successful pieces evince their
underlying workings and concepts without the need for a bunch of
accompanying explanatory text. Without the accompanying text, the artist is
allowed to hijack more of the user's context. This gives the artist the
ability to dialogue with a more holistic/gritty area of the user's
mindspace; it makes the work less antiseptic and quarantined. Granted, the
artist who is comfortable relying on accompanying explanatory text may
object, "But what if the user doesn't get it?" My knee-jerk response is,
"Then it's probably not that good." But things are probably more
complicated than that. I'm coming to believe that a piece of work may well
be enhanced by accompanying explanatory text, *provided that*:
1. it's absolutely necessary
2. the tenor of its copy is in dialogue with the approach of the piece.
3. it serves to contextualize the piece rather than de-contextualize it.
[cf: ]
4. it isn't full of a bunch of blah blah Adorno-quoting art school bullshit
[cf: ]. Oftentimes the
accompanying explanatory text is used like overabundant A1 sauce to mask the
rank taste of an underlying cut of bad beef. If your piece sucks, alluding
to John Cage isn't going to make it any less sucky.

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Geert Dekkers (geert AT replied:


I don't think I really understand your question here -- do you mean that
it's not overly clear what's happening in the piece. Or perhaps you realise
that you're testing the viewers' patience -- asking the viewer to stay for
longer than a few seconds to appreciate the piece.

In this context, one of the things I hate about (or, for that
matter, all art that is supposed to compete with mass media -- like video
works broadcasted on primetime) is the ease with which the viewer/user can
click away from the work -- considering the trouble it takes to go to an art
gallery or museum. The very ease of the medium is a downfall for (some of)
it;'s content.


As always, an explanatory text is just one of the many aspects of art
waiting to be freed from it's functional shackles. (In there with resumes,
documentation, book-keeping, paying bills, debts, bubble-gum stuck to the
undersides of the studio tables [seriously!].) Pieces will suck less if the
artist realises this.

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Curt Cloninger replied:


Such attention to contextual detail I would expect to find in contemporary
art (particularly in contemporary conceptual art interested in questioning
context and playing with viewer expectation), and yet there is an almost
tacky sloppiness about the way many contemporary artists allow galleries
(online and off) to present their para-art information and to contextualize
their pieces. It's as if the artist assumes "the art starts here," and then
whatever happens outside of that "art" area is subject to the (often
aesthetically boring) rules of the academy and gallery culture.

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Geert Dekkers replied:

Right. But sometimes there is more to a piece than can be taken in on face
value. The process can be equally important (of course you know I'm not
speaking specifically of the piece you mentioned above, which I have not
experienced personally) and sometimes more so. Interactivity in a piece
implies in principal a radical depart from the traditional relationship
between de artist, the work and the audience -- of course this implication
must be made explicit for the piece to work. All depends on the way in which
the artist/initiator crafts the interactivity. Which just goes to show that
-- what? That bad art sucks?

Back to your initial question here: what if the technology isn't
"apparently" doing what it is "actually" doing -- what does that mean,
actually? In your piece, the randomness subtly changes what could be
thought of as a series of static images. So that we don't and can't figure
out when the series loops, because it doesn't. Imagine a piece where the
viewer/user is confronted with a piece that does loop, but loops for one
session only. So that only in communicating with other viewers/users could
ever be deduced that the piece is in fact not a series of static images but
is in reality randomised. Would this be a good example of a piece that is
"apparently" doing something else than it is "actually" doing? And now --
why does this matter? Isn't it true that the code itself presents and
represents the true colours of the piece? That the fact that we humans are
experiencing the current instance of the presentation of the code as a
series of static images is irrelevant for the importance of the piece?

There's an anology with written music that might be interesting -- in Bach,
we see musical notation that literally depicts the two beautiful brown eyes
of some lady -- but of course, the viewer/user/consumer of that music
experiences nothing of the sort. Just two G's. Or are they no more than
that, just two G's?

+ + +

Geert Dekkers added:


Again. you could turn this around if you like. In the work of Joseph Beuys,
his text, the flow of his language (because he was first and foremost a
teacher), was his life's work, and the pieces he made in the process could
be called "examples". But not only that. Beuys would have never been such a
well-known artist had he stayed silent and just produced pieces. (Of course
not! we all realise) And, in effect, his art would never have been as GOOD
as it is (or "is considered", take your pick) had he stayed silent.

It all depends on what kind of artist you're trying te be. If you make
(good) pieces and then go around saying: "Duh, it just came to me" you
become an "expressive beast" artist, relying and depending entirely upon
your more linguistically affluent bretheren (users/viewers, critics) to put
the pieces together. This is one end of the spectrum. On the other side,
there would be an artist unfathomably more hermetic than Beuys, succeeding
in piecing together his works on his very own. (No-one would be allowed to
breathe a word about his work other than he.) Of course, in the everyday
practise of things we oscillate between the two. And let the two influence
each other. (Work on pieces, talk about them, show them, talk about them
more, work on more pieces.)

So -- is it cheating to give that didactic bit of para-art instruction?

I'd say that silence is a sentence too.

+ + +

Rob Myers (robmyers AT replied:


Absolutely. Titling a work "Untitled" speaks volumes. And if anybody can
point out an artwork that functions without context, explanation or external
reference I'd be very interested to see it. Assuming anybody could. :-)

+ + +

Rob Meyers added:

"Art, for Jackson Pollock,
Was inner neccessity
But it was surplus value
Got his place in history."

- The Red Crayola with Art & Language (Kangaroo?)
A Portrait of V. I. Lenin in the Style of Jackson Pollock (Part I)

Also see "re:evolution", Terence McKenna, The Shamen (Boss Drum) :

- Rob.

+ + +

Michael Szpakowski (szpako AT replied:


something slightly tangential intrigued me, which bears on the arts/crafts
question: <It's often so that the difference between great art and mediocre
art is in the finishing and polishing.> [ed. Note: Geert Dekkers said this]
Now is this true ?.. I accept the qualifier "often so" but what interests me
is how quite often figures in the fine arts tradition are relatively
*uninterested* in finish, in polish ..and I'm thinking specifically here of
a great Degas piece in the National Gallery London swathes of which are
manifestly unfinished. ( and this is by no means a unique example)
Now of course the commodification of such pieces means that work that was
not finished ( and not felt to be finished by the artist) can now find
itself displayed but it seems to me part of the practice of many
interesting artists (especially but not exclusively in drawing) to focus on
something beyond surface finish. There's also many centuries of tradition in
Japan of an aesthetic that actually prioritizes sketchiness, impermanence,
lack of finish.


To speculate as to why -the craftsperson is always embedded in some sort of
economic relationship -producing for the market, or the feudal lord, or the
church or whatever. The artist (although her products, once made, move
into the world of commerce) not primarliy so. Milton wrote "Paradise Lost",
said Marx, not for money but because it was *in his nature*. I think here we
see the shamanistic roots of art very clearly - the fact that the finest
work arises out of some very deep need in the depths of the human psyche.

+ + +

Geert Dekkers replied:


I never meant to say that "polish and finish" was ever exclusively about a
literal surface. It could just as much be about a conceptual surface. In the
case of Japanese line-drawings, there is this saga that I suppose everyone
knows: -- a draughtsman was commissioned to do drawings of a bird -- he went
off for months on end, came back at the designed time but without drawings.
The drawings he made on the spot, in a matter of seconds. When questioned,
he told the commissioner that he had spent the time away comtemplating the
subject so that he may capture its essence in a single line. So I wouldn't
say "sketchiness", "impermanence", "lack of finish" because they are
negative qualifications. There is no "lack" -- the way the subject is
rendered is the best way possible given the intentions of the artist.

+ + +

Michael Szpakowski replied:

< if anybody
can point out an artwork that functions without
context, explanation or
external reference>

Three different things!

(1)Context isn't decided or given by anyone -context exists -historical,
political, social, psychological, artistic. Of course emphases may differ
radically in the explication or interpretation of context.

(2)External reference - OK many artworks clearly have external reference
-how it operates for a particular artwok is a much more complex question.
Even for artworks that have no obvious external reference it is often
readable, surmisable by an appeal to the context discussed above -an example
would be the work of the abstract expressionists.

(3)Explanation -now this is something else again and we can divide it into
two kinds -explanation by the artist and explanation by others: critics,
casual viewers, journalists, sociologists of art, whatever. Here explanation
by the artist is at issue. Technical explanations I personally have no
problem with -its a practical matter -sometimes you maybe need to give
people a clue, especially in interactive work ( but with generative type
stuff personally I've gritted my teeth and thought 'well if they want to
find it they will') but I guess if you do it you would want to try and do it
elegantly and in an integrated way. My big bugbear is the artist statement,
the artist's explanation of what their piece is about. I've never read one
that I've found anything but massively irritating - I think that artists are
usually the last people who should explicate their work, unless it is so
dully one dimensional and tedious ( and God knows there's enough of that
about) that it is susceptible to a linear straightforward and unambiguous
statement of its meaning and intentions.

+ + +

Rob Myers replied:


With avant-garde work, the culture does not teach viewers the iconography
and technique from kindergarten, so it may need explaining. It takes an
incredible amount of knowledge to "see" a post-renaissance oil painting, but
people have been taught it before they come to one.

+ + +

Michael Szpakowski replied:


I *was* addressing simply the question of literal finish -I do think Curt's
original point vis a vis craftspeople and artists has force in this entirely
literal sense. I often feel that commercial graphic design, films &care in
some sense denser , more finished , more carefully constructed than many
artworks appear to be.Does this make them "better" -well I think not. Can we
learn from them -absolutely. Is there a difference between lack of surface
finish where the value of the artwork is undamaged and indeed enhanced by
the artist's focus on particular details at the expense of others, and
sloppiness/laziness/ contempt for the audience - of course. Both exist and
we have to argue about which is which!

+ + +

Curt Cloninger replied:

I still think surface polish is just one aspect of
rigor/thoroughness/purposefulness -- the most initially obvious aspect but
not necessarily the most important. Think of Matthew Barney's films. They
are very polished visually in terms of a high-budget production sheen, and
he's taken some crap from the art world for that. But his narrative is far
from closed. I think it can fairly be argued that the films reward multiple

It's like comparing the White Stripes to Stereolab. The former is one-off
and raw-edged; the latter is intricate, layered, thoroughly arranged, with
an ultra-glossy lounge production sheen. But both reward repeat listenings
(and stereolab even moreso).

There is a contemporary cliche that says gorgeous production value =
commerce = not art, while low-budget technical shoddiness = legitimacy =
art. I don't think it divides so neatly along those lines.

But then I think "Summer Breeze" by Seals & Crofts is a work of sublime
genius, so there you are.

+ + +

Michael Szpakowski replied:

Hi Curt
I claim it as no more than a tendency or perhaps better, one possibility
amongst others... but I do think its there and there are material reasons
for it. By the way, in my opinion you're entirely right to seperate the
critical and artistic spheres in the way that you do. >From the artist's
point of view rather than reams of explanation I wonder if there isn't some
milage to be had from the idea that we make stuff not for an ideal viewer
but for a "competent" one. So in the case of generative stuff they would
perhaps have experienced similar work enough to know what to look for. When
I watch something like Tarkovsky's "Mirror" in the cinema -I can enjoy it
initially in a purely visceral, affective way -its a beautiful and
hearbreaking film. But if I do a little work- say on Russian history and
come back to it a second or third time my enjoyment and what I get from the
piece is much enhanced thereby. ( of course the fact that I watch it with
subtitles is I suppose a kind of 'explanation' -although even here my
extremely poor Russian occasionally allows me to get closer to the heart of
a scene -if I acutually did some serious work on it I'm sure it would be
work repayed) Despite the fact that I grew up with and continue to love pop
culture with a fair bit of passion I do think one of the negative outcomes
of its hegemony has been the idea that cultural experience should be
available immediately , without effort on the part of the viewer. ( and this
is not an argument for elitism but for more opportunity for more people to
learn about and participate in artistic activity). An interesting

+ + +

Myron Turner (myron_turner AT added:


Recently, Ryan Griffiths contributed an excellent post on 'The Social
Construction of Blogspace'. What his piece communicates most of all is his
sense of the net as a space--both personal and public. Such a space is ripe
with opportunities for art. The art of the punch line takes its queues from
video and cinema, and there's no doubt that there are analogies to be made
with both of these forms, just as there is with the book. But the art which
explores the intersection of public and private space is architecture, and
it's here where I believe that the art of the Internet will ultimately find
its most profound analogies. It is no coincidence that we speak of computer
architectures when referring to operating systems and systems of code--the
net is founded upon these "architectures"--these technologies which organize
and enable the public and private spaces of the Internet. Mathematicians
speak of the beauty of mathematics, software developers speak of the
elegance of code. In the very notion of computer architecture there is
buried an aesthetic recognition. The question for net artists is how to
understand and organize public and private spaces and their intersections so
that these spaces become aesthetic and then, while doing this, to create
just what is meant in such instances by "aesthetic".

I don't deny aesthetic value to the art of the one-liner and the usual web
project, of which I have myself been guilty. But it's not enough to treat
the screen like a wall in a gallery--to hang a work there on its glassy
surface. The computer is a trans-prosthetic device--the monitor a virtual
extension of what the phenomenologists call our "intentionality"--of the
means by which we explore and know the phenomenal world, an extension of our
mental space. In other words, it's not an object to "behold" but an object
which extends our ability to behold. And it's here, where the computer has
been internalized and where public and private meet that we can possibly
create an art which like the art of galleries and architectural space takes
us beyond the short attention span of the punch line.

+ + +

Curt Cloninger replied:


I find the architecture analogy more desirable than the gallery analogy,
unless you mean some expansive installation piece that takes over the
context of the entire gallery. Otherwise, the gallery is *not* what net art
wants to be -- discrete piece after discrete piece, neatly labeled and
formally contextualized as art.

I'm guessing that artists are more free to work/exploit the network and new
media when they aren't always having to fit their work into some contexted
"art" box (as alexei shulgin could have told us in 1995). For example, only
one of these pieces is self-aware "art" (florian kramer's "permutations"),
yet the rest of the pieces are interesting along the same lines:

Some other possible examples of un-art
In the physical offices of Google, there is a digital screen displaying
ongoing, real-time text feeds of live google search phrases as they are
being typed in by users all over the world (cf: ). T.
Whid (disparagingly or astutely) observed that this is the coolest piece of
net art anybody's ever made [i'm paraphrasing]. In a similar vein, Auriea
Harvey once commented that NN would eventually be remembered more for her
funky bulletin board rhetoric than for her Nato55 software [again, i'm

So maybe visiting and searching for "curt cloninger"
presents a better example of my "" than

But then, maybe not. I'm not opposed to what some dismissively call web art
or screen art. To me, heavy conceptual use of the network is not a
pre-requisite for valid online work, nor does it de facto guarantee
interesting online work. I'm just opposed to cheezy one-liner art (whether
online, offline, in a boat, with a goat, etc.). I don't just want to "get
it." I want to be engaged by it.

+ + +

Myron Turner replied:


As to your qualificaton about "expansive installations" pieces--I agree: I
think of architecture as a metaphor for virtual space, not as an actual
space where installations could be mounted. I like the metaphor because
architecture, despite its potentially massive physicality, or perhaps when
it is most massive and cannnot be taken in all at once, requires an
internalized imaginative grasp of space. And it's an internalized
imaginative beholding of space that, I feel, is the defining characteristic
of networks as aesthetic constructions.
I hope that this doesn't sound like too much of a stretch--but it helps me
to view the net in the idealistic terms that have always appealed to me.

+ + +

Curt Cloninger replied:

I think I understand what you are saying. You're not comparing architecture
to the net in terms of a William Gibson cyberspace VR type connection (an
awkward/unnatural imposition onto a network that wants to be more about code
[programmatic, semantic, even iconic] than 3D space). It seems like you're
saying architecture is cool becauese you can't out-meta it. You're not
going to put somebody's architecture into a gallery. Architecture defines
its own context (or its context is simply worldspace). And the network can
be that way too. It's not just a "place" to show your art; it is itself an
artistic medium, with its own kind of implicit unboundedness (Eric Raymond
likens it to the noosphere -- realtime mindspace). Heady stuff, but I don't
think it's entirely unfounded.

+ + +

Rob Myers added:

What about architectural-scale art? Or architectural models? Or designs.
Exhibitions of architecture are very common (Archigram are on at the moment:
Conceptual Architecture from the 1960s...). Art on the scale of architecture
is also common.

You can always paint a picture of architecture. It's harder to make a
building of a painting. The desire to control space and behaviour that
architecture seems to offer to satiate can be achieved through art as well,
although it's hard to get a new kitchen fitted in a Picasso.

+ + +

Curt Cloniger replied:

Per this thread, it's less architecture's control of space and behavior
that's being admired as it is architecture's ability to achieve a kind of
most-meta-ness. I agree that "art" can also achieve this (without
necessarily being big or even physical). But (by definition) it can't
achieve most-meta-ness while hanging on a gallery wall with a label under

+ + +

Rob Myers replied:

But what is architecture most-meta to? It's real-space (unless it's a
mall...). In terms of abstraction, generality, referentiality (etc.),
art wins hands-down.

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Rhizome Digest is filtered by Kevin McGarry (kevin AT ISSN:
1525-9110. Volume 9, number 19. Article submissions to list AT
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