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: 5.2.07
Date: Wed, 2 May 2007 15:14:06 -0700



1. Marisa Olson: Rhizome Commissions Finalists

2. Lalya Gaye: Registration open for the 4th International Workshop on Mobile Music Technology
3. Quentin Drouet: CFP : Areas of conflu(x)ence - Art, Space & Technology in the Digital Age
4. Oliver Luker: Call for Proposals | Appropriation in Creative Practice
5. Marisa Olson: Fwd: Reminder:: Conflux 2007 Call for Proposals Deadline May 10th

6. criorf AT The 1st International Festival of NANOART - Finland 2007
7. Søren Pold: The Aesthetic Interface Conference, Aarhus Denmark
8. marc: New Reviews on Furtherfield 30/4/07
9. Drew Hemment: Futurevisual at Futuresonic 2007 (in flames)

10. Jim Andrews, curt cloninger, nathaniel, anniea, Michael Betancourt, Jason Van Anden, Corey Eiseman, Michael Szpakowski, neil winterburn, patrick lichty, Pall Thayer, Don Relyea, salvatore.iaconesi AT, Geert Dekkers, Joseph Franklyn McElroy, Lee Wells, jmh AT, Max Herman, Eric Dymond, Sean Capone, Barry Smylie: is art useless?

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


From: Marisa Olson <marisa AT>
Date: May 2, 2007
Subject: Rhizome Commissions Finalists

Hello. I wanted to let you know that Rhizome members have voted and identified 35 finalists for the 2008 Rhizome Commissions. They are listed below.

Members can now rank the finalists, here:

And if you're not a member, you can become one here:

We hope you enjoy reviewing the proposals.

+ + +


Generative Memorial: Collateral Damage


ShiftSpace - An OpenSource Layer Above Any Website

Second Life Dumpster

VF, Virta-Flaneurazine-SL, Proposal for Clinical Study

Perpetual Museum

The Story Engine


Remote Instructions

Art Market Scrolling Ticker (AMST)



Public Apologist


Jello Time

Meet your avatar

The web ecosystem

Spiral of Silence




Oribotics [network]

Internet Awareness Day 2008

The Wrench


MIXIN, Evolution of the Remix

Virtual Sweatshop Travesty (VST)

Media Kombi

Snow Signal

Beneath Memory


Cycles, Elements and Spaces in Between

Acting Stranger

+ + +

Marisa Olson
Editor & Curator
Rhizome at the
New Museum of Contemporary Art

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Organizational memberships with Rhizome

Sign your library, university or organization up for a Rhizome organizational membership! Give your community access to the largest online archives of digital art and new media art-related writing, the opportunity to organize member-curated exhibitions, participate in critical discussion, community boards, and learn about residency, educational and professional possibilities. Rhizome also offers subsidized memberships for qualifying institutions with limited access to the Internet. Please visit for more information or contact Ceci Moss at ceci AT

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


From: Lalya Gaye <lalya AT>
Date: Apr 26, 2007
Subject: Registration open for the 4th International Workshop on Mobile Music Technology

Amsterdam, Holland, 6-8 May 2007

*Registration for the 4th International Mobile Music Workshop in Amsterdam 6-8 May 2007 is now open to the public*
Places are limited. go to for more information.

We are very pleased to announce this year's keynotes speakers at the mobile music workshop: Teri Rueb (, Michel Waisvisz (, and Régine Debatty (

The programme of the workshop is now online ( and features peer-reviewed paper presentations, poster sessions, in-depth discussions about crucial issues of mobile music technology, demos of state-of-the-art projects, break-out sessions and live events.

The workshop is hosted by STEIM and Waag Society in Amsterdam and partners with the Futuresonic Festival in Manchester. The International Steering Committee is formed of Atau Tanaka (Sony CSL Paris, France), Frauke Behrendt (University of Sussex, UK) and Lalya Gaye (Viktoria Institute, Sweden).

Please register now for the last remaining spaces at the 4th International Mobile Music Workshop in Amsterdam 6-8 May 2007, through the registration website at

Regular fee is 75 Euros, and reduced student fee is 45 Euros. You can also buy a Futuresonic and Mobile Music Joint Ticket for 115 Euros via the Futuresonic website

About the workshop series:
Combining music and mobile technology promises exciting future developments in a rapidly emerging field. Devices such as mobile phones, Walkmans and iPods have already brought music to the ever-changing social and geographic locations of their users and reshaped their experience of the urban landscape. With new properties such as ad hoc networking, Internet connection, and context-awareness, mobile music technology offers countless new artistic, commercial and socio-cultural opportunities for music creation, listening and sharing. How can we push forward the already successful combination of music and mobile technology? What new forms of interaction with music lie ahead, as locative media and music use merge into new forms of everyday experiences? The series of Mobile Music Workshops (Gothenburg 2004, Vancouver 2005, Brighton 2006) discusses this newly emerging field of interest.
Please refer to for further information and proceedings.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Support Rhizome: buy a hosting plan from BroadSpire

Reliable, robust hosting plans from $65 per year.

Purchasing hosting from BroadSpire contributes directly to Rhizome's fiscal well-being, so think about about the new Bundle pack, or any other plan, today!

About BroadSpire

BroadSpire is a mid-size commercial web hosting provider. After conducting a thorough review of the web hosting industry, we selected BroadSpire as our partner because they offer the right combination of affordable plans (prices start at $14.95 per month), dependable customer support, and a full range of services. We have been working with BroadSpire since June 2002, and have been very impressed with the quality of their service.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


From: Quentin Drouet <kent1 AT>
Date: Apr 27, 2007
Subject: CFP : Areas of conflu(x)ence - Art, Space & Technology in the Digital Age

Our apologies for X-postings

++ Call for Papers
++ Areas of conflu(x)ence - Art, Space & Technology in the Digital Age

Location : Sibiu, Romania
Dates : October 4-7, 2007
Deadline for proposals : Mai 4, 2007

Areas of conflu(x)ence, the international conference on Art, Space &
Technology in the Digital Age, will be held October 4-7, 2007 in Sibiu,

The international conference Areas of conflu(x)ence is organized by 2580
Association in partnership with Arscenic Association Paris, Czech Cultural
Center Bucharest, Kibla Multimedia Center Maribor, Planwerk Association Cluj,
Visual Arts and Design University Cluj, Tranzit Foundation Cluj and Gong
Theater Sibiu.

Details concerning the registration and the full conference agenda will be
posted as they become available to the website :

- About the conference -

Areas of conflu(x)ence proposes an international debate on the relationship
between art and technology in the present digital era, focusing on the impact
of the new media in our lives.

Today’s digital technologies have created a new model of understanding
different aspects of reality. The change they produced compels us to
reconsider the conditioning of our modern lives while their potential demands
to be explored. Post-modernist syntax is today reevaluated and there are
positions that support the thesis of a hyper-industrialized society.
Science and technology are expected to push forward the frontiers of
knowledge, while art is asked to mirror these new experiences. The way we
handle our lives and our expectations is changing continuously according to
these new frontiers. The place we give to the different aspects of our lives
and the spatial articulation of our activities are subjected to constant
conceptualization based on a continuous flux of discoveries. What kind of
models are we using in perceiving and understanding our new environment ? If
the tools we use have an influence on the way we deal with our environment,
how do we use their potentiality ? What traps are to be avoided ? What do we
expect from technology ? Should the new technologies be a matter of concern ?
By trying to answer all these questions, the conference intends to identify
the present condition of our data driven lives and the factors that influence

On the basis of artistic and aesthetic experiences, we will study the ways in
which image, sound and space are today affected by the digital technologies.

- Call for papers -

Our conference hosts papers and project presentations from any discipline,
methodology or combination of different disciplines that address the
following three areas :

I.Types of Imagery and Sound and Their Interaction : digital and new media
art, techniques of representation, imaging technology, sound technology,
sound visualizations, performance sciences.

II.Spacial Forms : physical and virtual spaces, space/place/territory, space
and everyday life experience, private and public spaces, mobility and mobile
platforms, utopian spaces, urbanism, landscape, space organization,
cartography, topography, space policy, environment.

III.Types of Memory : archiving forms, data systems and models, memory and
Papers and presentations will be selected from the submitted proposals on the
basis of multiple blind peer reviews by the members of the Conference
Committee. Authors will be notified on the results via email by June 15,
The conference will also include multimedia performances, an exhibit hall of
innovative projects and tours of the art installations.

Working languages : English and French

- Invited speakers -

Inke Arns - Hartware MedienKunstVerein (Dortmund), Michael Bielicky – ZKM
(Karlsruhe), Irina Cios – CIAC (Bucharest), Christian Denker – University of
Vienna (Vienna), Ana-Maria Avram & Iancu Dumitrescu – CREMAC (Bucharest),
Anne-Marie Duguet – Paris 1 “Panthéon - Sorbonne” University (Paris), Paulo
Ferreira-Lopes - ZKM (Karlsruhe), Pierre-Damien Huyghe – Paris 1 “Panthéon -
Sorbonne” University (Paris), Augustin Ioan – architect (Bucharest), Marko
Kosnik – artist (Slovenia), Ciprian Mihali – « Babes-Bolyai » University
(Cluj), Antonio Pinto Ribeiro - Gulbekian Foundation (Lisbonne), Zoltàn
Sébok – (Budapest), Bernard Stiegler – G. Pompidou Center (Paris) and Steina
& Woody Vasulka – ZKM (Karlsruhe). The invited speakers are unconfirmed.

- Important dates -

Deadline for abstracts (500 words) and biography (100 words) : Mai 4, 2007
Notification of acceptance : June 15, 2007
Deadline for full paper submission (3000-5000 words) : July 31, 2007

Submissions should be sent to papers AT in “.doc” or “.rtf”
format as attachments only.

For more information please contact Tincuta Parv or Barbu Bejan via email at :
info AT

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


From: Oliver Luker <oliver AT>
Date: Apr 27, 2007
Subject: Call for Proposals | Appropriation in Creative Practice

Dispatx Art Collective ( is now accepting proposals for full-length collaborative projects related to the theme in exploration, Appropriation in Creative Practice.

Contemporary artists regularly appeal to theory and philosophy as justification, premise, or point of departure. More recently some artists have begun to incorporate theoretical texts as a material for their work. This treatment of philosophy, as if it were cardboard or paint, questions perceived boundaries and dependencies between theoretical idea and creative practice.

How can theoretical ideation and structure be appropriated by different creative practices? What effect might this have on the development of work or on the creative method in general? Crucially, in what ways can ideas themselves be treated as material substances, rather than as jumping-off points or conceptual armatures, and does this alter their influence and status?

Full-length projects make up the majority of the Dispatx collections. The documentation of their development is made fully visible in Make, allowing site visitors to interact with the project development via tags, comments, and creating their own private collections. This means of participation is directed above all at art professionals interested in a rigorous investigation of creative and curatorial practice.

For details of the theme and how to collaborate, please visit

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + 2005-2006 Net Art Commissions

The Rhizome Commissioning Program makes financial support available to artists for the creation of innovative new media art work via panel-awarded commissions.

For the 2005-2006 Rhizome Commissions, eleven artists/groups were selected to create original works of net art.

The Rhizome Commissions Program is made possible by support from the Jerome Foundation in celebration of the Jerome Hill Centennial, the Greenwall Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Additional support has been provided by members of the Rhizome community.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


From: Marisa Olson <marisa AT>
Date: May 2, 2007
Subject: Fwd: Reminder:: Conflux 2007 Call for Proposals Deadline May 10th

Conflux 2007 Call for Proposals Deadline May 10th

Conflux 2007 will take place in Brooklyn again this September and we
want you in it! The call for proposals is at and has all the information you need on how
to participate. The deadline for proposals is May 10th, which is just
around the corner..

The Conflux festival has been described as "a network of maverick
artists and unorthodox urban investigators…making fresh, if
underground,contributions to pedestrian life in New York City, and
upping the ante on today's fight for the soul of high-density
metropolises." At Conflux visual and sound artists, writers, urban
adventurers and the public gather for four days to explore the
physical and psychological landscape of the city. For more information
about Conflux, check out the Conflux 2006 site

Please help us get the word out about the call, and see you in September!

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


From: criorf AT <criorf AT>
Date: Apr 26, 2007
Subject: The 1st International Festival of NANOART - Finland 2007

The 1st International Festival of NanoArt will be hosted by the Kotkan Valokuvakeskus Gallery in Kotka, Finland between May 4 and May 31, 2007. The show is curated by Cris Orfescu (USA) and Timo Mahonen (Finland).
This event will exhibit NanoArt works authored by 15 artists from 4 countries: Chris Marshall (Australia), Carol Cooper, Eva Lewarne (Canada), Bjoern Daempfling (Germany), A. John Valois, Abigail Kurtz Migala, Chris Robinson, Darcy Lewis, Dolores Glover Kaufman, Fred Marinello, Gregory O'Toole, Jan Kirstein, K. Elise Cohen, Lisa Black, Ursula Freer (USA).
To view the artists' NanoArt albums please visit

NanoArt is a new art discipline related to micro/nanosculptures created by artists/scientists through chemical/physical processes and visualized with powerful research tools like Scanning Electron Microscope or Atomic Force Microscope. The monochromatic microscope images are processed further to create pieces of art that can be showcased for large audiences to educate the public with creative images that are appealing and acceptable. To read more about NanoArt and Nanotechnology please visit
For more information please contact the gallery director Timo Mahonen at:

Tel: +358 5 2250 221 or +358 40 5677 152
Fax: +358 5 2609 502
E-mail: info AT or timosan AT

or Cris Orfescu at criorf AT

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


From: Søren Pold <pold AT>
Date: Apr 30, 2007
Subject: The Aesthetic Interface Conference, Aarhus Denmark

The Aesthetic Interface

9-13 May 2007

Aarhus University, Denmark

The interface is the primary cultural form of the digital age. Here the invisible technological dimensions of the computer are given form in order to meet human perception and agency. This encounter is enacted through aesthetic forms stemming not only from the functional domains and tools, but increasingly also from aesthetic traditions, the old media and from the new media aesthetics. This interplay takes place both in software interfaces, where aesthetic and cultural perspectives are gaining ground, in the digital arts and in our general technological culture – keywords range from experience oriented design and creative software to software studies, software art, new media, digital arts, techno culture and digital activism.
This conference will focus on how the encounter of the functional and the representational in the interface shapes contemporary art, aesthetics and culture. What are the dimensions of the aesthetic interface, what are the potentials, clashes and breakdowns? Which kinds of criticism, aesthetic praxes and forms of action are possible and necessary?
The conference is accompanied by an exhibition and workshops.
Christian Ulrik Andersen(DK): ’Writerly gaming’ – social impact games
Inke Arns (DE): Transparency and Politics. On Spaces of the Political beyond the Visible, or: How transparency came to be the lead paradigm of the 21st century
Morten Breinbjerg (DK): Music automata: the creative machine or how music and compositional practices is modelled in software
Christophe Bruno (F): Collective hallucination and capitalism 2.0
Geoff Cox (UK): Means-End of Software
Florian Cramer (DE/NL): What is Interface Aesthetics?
Matthew Fuller (UK): The Computation of Space
Lone Koefoed Hansen (DK): The interface at the skin
Erkki Huhtamo (USA/Fin): Multiple Screens – Intercultural Approaches to Screen Practice(s)
Jacob Lillemose (DK): Interfacing the Interfaces of Free Software. X-devian: The New Technologies to the People System
Henrik Kaare Nielsen (DK): The Interface and the Public Sphere
Søren Pold (DK): Interface Perception
Bodil Marie Thomsen (DK): The Haptic Interface
Jacob Wamberg (DK): Interface/Interlace, Or Is Telepresence Teleological?

Organised by: The Aesthetics of Interface Culture, Digital Aesthetics Research Center, TEKNE, Aarhus Kunstbygning, The Doctoral School in Arts and Aesthetics, .

Supported by: The Danish Research Council for the Humanities, The Aarhus University Research Foundation, The Doctoral School in Arts and Aesthetics, Aarhus University's Research Focus on the Knowledge Society, Region Midtjylland, Aarhus Kommune.
The exhibition is supported by:Region Midtjylland, Århus Kommunes kulturpulje, Kunststyrelsen, Den Spanske Ambassade, Egetæpper

Updates, programme and details:

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


From: marc <marc.garrett AT>
Date: Apr 30, 2007
Subject: New Reviews on Furtherfield 30/4/07.

New Reviews on Furtherfield 30/4/07.

- Jess Lacetti interviews Chris Joseph (Babel):
Chris Joseph is Digital Writer in Residence at De Montfort University,
Leicester, UK. He is a writer and artist who has produced solo and
collaborative work since 2002 as babel. His past work includes Inanimate
Alice, an award-winning series of multimedia stories produced with
novelist Kate Pullinger; The Breathing Wall, a groundbreaking digital
novel that responds to the reader's breathing rate (also with Kate
Pullinger); and Animalamina, an A-Z of interactive multimedia poetry for
children. He is editor of the post-dada magazine and network

- Article on Yves Klein by Joseph Nechvatal.
- Long live the immaterial! Yves Klein,
The Chelsea Hotel Manifesto.
Yves Klein is for me, and many others, the most important French artist
after Henri Matisse. This may sound somewhat appalling to some, as Klein
enjoyed only a very concise, but invigorating, seven-year artistic
career. But I will clarify this controversial judgment by pointing out
his historic relevance to our era of digital culture. The emphasis here
will be on Klein’s conceptual articulation of the spatial and the
ephemeral/immaterial in relationship to our current actual state of
virtuality. Indeed the subtitle of the exhibition, CORPS, COULEUR,
IMMATÉRIEL (Body, Color, Immaterial), itself brings out the salient
viractual aspects of Klein's art.

- What If We Played A War and Nobody Won?.
- Review by Natasha Chuk.
What If We Played A War and Nobody Won?: Critical Approaches to War in
Videogame Art is a mouthful of a title that asks the big question that
lingers in our contemporary culture’s collective mind and begs its
audience to consider the possibility of deconstructing war through game
metaphor. This online exhibition is comprised of six online games that
tamper with the rules and styles of standardized games. Each explores an
aspect of war -- from its gruesome realities to its philosophical
blurriness – through play. What is being reinvented here is not the act
of play and the skills required to “win”, rather the motivation behind
play and how it relates to our perceptions of war.

- The Last Tag Show by Pash*.
- Review by Nathan Lovejoy.
The Last Tag Show cleverly took advantage of Last.FM's technical
structure to pull off a 24 hour performance. As the allotted time
progressed, viewers saw tracks and artists appear in succession on
Last.FM user profile lasttagshow's profile page. These were no ordinary
songs however, the artists instead altered the metadata of audio tracks
such that when they were uploaded to the Last.FM servers they appeared
as a multi-character dialogue. The principal personages in the
performance include “Moderator,” “Hannah,” “Voiceover,” “Instructor,”
“Marck,” “Zita Vass,” and “Gregg,” with occasional guest stars like Thom

- The Postnational Foundation by Dan Phiffer.
- Review by Luis Silva.
Dan Phiffer, a computer hacker from California (now based in Brooklyn),
interested in exploring the cultural dimension of inexpensive
communications networks such as voice telephony and the Internet,
created the Postnational Foundation, a website/series of public
interventions, defined as “an ongoing series of brief, personal
interventions, an open-ended question about personal agency and a
starting point for doing something meaningful”. Each of these three
goals contains a very important concept, contextualizing Phiffer’s
practice (and discourse): interventive behaviour, personal agency and
meaningfulness. In these three concepts we can anchor the importance of
The Postnational Foundation, in the steps of Lyotard’s views of the
contemporary world.

Other Reviews:

About Furtherfield Reviewers:

If you want your work reviewed or to be a reviewer on Furtherfield,
contact - marc.garrett AT

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


From: Drew Hemment <drew AT>
Date: Apr 30, 2007
Subject: Futurevisual at Futuresonic 2007 (in flames)

(For those of you in the UK, yes that was our office in flames
on national TV, but no one was hurt, and the show will go on.)

10-12 May, Manchester

A celebration of all things audio-visual on the 40th anniversary of
seminal multi-media events that took place in the halcyon year of
1967. The famous UFO Club, the focus of the 60's London multi-media
scene, is reborn for Futuresonic 2007. Futurevisual brings together
legendary figures from the 1960's with some of the most cutting-edge
AV artists working in the world today.


A part of FUTURESONIC 2007
10-12 May, Manchester

Download Advance Brochure (9.5mb)

Ticket Info


10-12 May, Manchester


Barry Miles - Legendary underground activist, UFO Club roving
ambassador, Pink Floyd chronicler and co-founder of International
Times and Indica, speaks of the heady days of 1967 and the "Multi-
media" of the 60's.
Followed by a very special screening of iconic films and AV from the
last 40 years, drawing a shimmering arc between '67 and '07,
presented by Michael Connor.

Thursday 10 May, Contact Theatre
6pm - 8pm


Semiconductor's live sound films reveal our physical world in flux;
cities in motion, shifting landscapes and systems in chaos. An
immersion in the sensuality of random precision.

Friday 11 May, Contact Theatre
7pm (Follows Spirit Of '77 music talks with Faust at 6pm)


Telcosystems create stunning, organic live performances by delving
deep into musical and visual code. The result is captivating and
lucid, algorithmically generated experimental image and sound.

Saturday 12 May, Contact Theatre
7pm (Follows Spirit Of '87 with Kraftwerk's Wolfgang Flur at 6pm)



The seminal UFO Club was the focus of the 60's London multi-media
scene. Futuresonic 2007 brings the UFO Club back to life, not frozen
in amber, but with the main players from the 1960's collaborating
with the bright young things of today - Manchester's very own TRAMP!
Featuring music from artists who span the generations: a DJ set from
Kraftwerk's beat-master Wolfgang Flur and the strange, beautiful,
glitter-ball discovery of the century, Black Devil Disco Club, whose
seminal dark electronic 1978 disco masterpiece '28 After' is the
stuff of legends. Presented

Saturday 12 May, 9pm - 2am
Club Underground, Sackville St (campus, opposite Retro Bar), Manchester


The Futurevisual Lounge plays host to three special screening
programmes over the festival weekend, plus a number of installations,
with a special champagne cocktail bar for the discerning audio-visual

Exceptional audio-visual works selected from an Open Call for
submissions by Futuresonic's international judging panel.

A selection of outstanding video works presented in the 2007 edition
of the Berlin based Transemediale festival for art and digital culture.

A preview selection of films by Semiconductor & Telcosystems who will
be performing in Futurevisual Live.

Audiovisual art projects and light and sound installations in the
unique gallery space of Contact foyer.

Contact Theatre, 10am - 8.00pm
Thursday 10 May - Saturday 12 May


Works from Futurevisual shown as part of The Bigger Picture, Big
Screen Manchester on a 25 square metre video screen with full sound
system situated in Exchange Square, a public area regenerated after
the IRA bomb in 1996, that has an estimated daily footfall of 50,000


Big Screen Manchester, Exchange Square
Saturday 12 May - Friday 18th May



Thanks to the Futurevisual International Jury :

Casey Reas (Processing, USA)
Charlie Gere (Institute for Cultural Research, Lancaster/UK)
Colin Fallows (Liverpool School of Art & Design, UK)
David Butler (Screen Studies, University of Manchester, UK)
Drew Hemment (FutureEverything, UK)
Jose Luis de Vicente (ArtFutura/Sonar, Spain)
Kwong Lee (Director, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester/UK)
Lassi Tasajärvi (Creative Director, Evenlake Studios, Finland)
Lucas Bambozzi (Curator,, Brazil)
Michael Connor (Head of Exhibitions, BFI Southbank, UK/USA)
Patrick Lichty (Artist & Editor-in-Chief of Intelligent Agent, USA)
Suhjung Hur (Curator, Art Center Nabi, South Korea)


A part of FUTURESONIC 2007
10-12 May, Manchester
Features a sensational line-up of over 300 inspirational artists from
around the world at more than 30 major events, crammed into 3 days of
sounds, sights and delights.

Download Advance Brochure (9.5mb)



Weekender Wristband (Access to over 30 events)

Delegate Pass (Includes Social Technologies Summit)
£45 / £10 Students

Barry Miles & Greatest Hits of Multi-media
£5 / £3 Concessions / Free to Delegates or Wristbands

£5 / £3 Concessions / Free to Delegates or Wristbands

£5 / £3 Concessions / Free to Delegates or Wristbands

UFO Club vs TRAMP!
£12 Adv. / £14 on the door

Futurevisual Lounge Screenings & Installations

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


From: Jim Andrews <jim AT>, curt cloninger <curt AT>, nathaniel <nathaniel.stern AT>, anniea <a AT>, Michael Betancourt <michael.betancourt AT>, Jason Van Anden <jason AT>, Corey Eiseman <corey AT>, Michael Szpakowski <szpako AT>, neil winterburn <neil AT>, patrick lichty <voyd AT>, Pall Thayer <p_thay AT>, Don Relyea <don AT>, <salvatore.iaconesi AT>, Geert Dekkers <geert AT>, Joseph Franklyn McElroy <joseph AT>, Lee Wells <lee AT>, <jmh AT>, Max Herman <maxnmherman AT>, Eric Dymond <dymond AT>, Sean Capone <sean AT>, Barry Smylie <barrysmylie AT>
Date: Feb 27 - April 30, 2007
Subject: is art useless?

Editor's Note:

This was a long conversation that began on Rhizome Raw, in late February and was recently picked-up again. The following thread contains excerpts from both legs of the long conversation.

+Jim Andrews posted:+

the notion that art is necessarily useless seems to me an exclusionary
tactic rather than a compelling argument.

what are some arguments for the position that art is necessarily useless?

+curt cloninger replied:+

I won't argue that art is *necessarily* useless, but I'll argue that an art practice necessarily needs to be willing and open to lead to the production of art that is "useless." Of course, uselessness or usefulness are in the use of the user. One assumes that an artist's art is at least useful to her. But it seems like the most game-advancing art is made by people who are willing to let their practice lead to a place where (at least for a season of indefinite length) it produces art that is useless even to them. There is something culturally invaluable ("useful" is too weak an adjective) about a form of inquiry that proceeds without the burden of having to arrive at anything the least bit useful, or the least bit useless for that matter. To say that art is *necessarily* useless constrains the artist to arrive at a specific place that excludes usefulness. The most intriguing art practices are not obliged to answer to any kind of predicative dichotomy (useful/useless, beautiful/not beautiful, political/not political, art/not art, commercial/not commercial, conceptual/not conceptual, digital/not digital, object-centric/ephemeral, curatable/not curatable). They're not even obliged to subvert such dichotomies. If they are under any ethical obligation at all, it is simply to keep making and see where it leads.

"Work leads to work." (John Cage)

"When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty... but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong." (R.B. Fuller)

"Na na na na na-nia, na na na, na na na na, na na na." (Merredith Monk)

+nathaniel replied:+

This is a draft excerpt from a paper I'm currently working on; it's a
very first and not yet cited draft I just finished minutes ago, I
might add (and actually has little to do with the paper's central
theme), but I thought it relevant to this discussion....


I worry at things.
I complexify, perhaps even complicate. Sometimes my anxieties are
debilitating, prohibitive, a detriment (my wife would agree). But
I’ve come to realize that, very often, it’s productive. A tension. An
I involve and revolve, incorporate and extricate, produce ideas and
questions, writing and artworks that only lead to more of the same.
Entwined, engrossed and preoccupied, sometimes to the point of
knotting, I keep pulling and pushing until something emerges; or, at
least, the state of emergence becomes more interesting.
This paper is an invitation to worry, an explanation of my worrying,
a worrying itself, several case studies of how I got others to worry
(or how others worried me), and perhaps a guide on the kinds of
worries artists might produce in the near future. It’s not a new
philosophy, an answer to a question, or a mediation on things passed.
It is, mostly, an artist’s mode of worrying – in various art media,
in text, and in body – as his process of making.

The following is edited from a talk I often gave on my work in 2005
and 2006:

I see myself as kind of snowballing in and around a projectile of
questions and failures, inconsistencies, some good critique from
others, the occasional new computer gadget… I’m really snowballing
down a never-ending mountain, going up ramps and flying over trees,
bashing into things, occasionally loosing bits of myself, sucking in
a dog, more snow, another artist, a book, or some poop here and
there, getting bigger and bigger, too big in fact… and, once in a
while, through my dizziness of failure, I manage to look over my
shoulder and I’m like “Hey! That was curious!” and that’s really
where most of this stuff comes from, and then somebody, usually my
wife, says, “Yeh it was! That WAS curious! Let’s take a closer look,
shall we?” – and then usually it’s crap.
But… sometimes my foot gets caught and drags something along for long
enough that if we don’t get fed up with each other, THEN, I might,
frame it. Or build a space around it… that’s my process. Messy, fun,
anarchic, inherently collaborative, sometimes I miss great stuff that
passes me by, or make crap. Sometimes things lay dormant and I go
back to them years later. But always, the stuff I pick up along the
way comes out, the failures and questions and occasional successes
are always already built into the next snowball fight, otherwise
known as an exhibition or performance.

My process of art-making is not dissimilar to that of Massumi’s
writing (pages 17-18, Parables):

I have tried to take seriously the idea that writing in the
humanities can be affirmative or inventive. Invention requires
experimentation... The writing tries not only to accept the risk of
sprouting deviant, but to invite it. Take joy in your digressions.
Because that is where the unexpected arises. That is the experimental
aspect. If you know where you will end up when you begin, nothing has
happened in the meantime. You have to be willing to surprise yourself
writing things you didn’t think you thought. Letting examples burgeon
requires using inattention as a writing tool. You have to let
yourself get so caught up in the flow of your writing that it ceases
at moments to be recognizable to you as your own. This means you have
to be prepared for failure. For with inattention comes risk: of
silliness, or even outbreaks of stupidity. But perhaps in order to
write experimentally, you have to be willing to “affirm” even your
own stupidity. Embracing one’s own stupidity is not the prevailing
academic posture (at least not in the way I mean it here).

Just as you might imagine the above two quotations to have been, this
whole project is a performance, a tension, and a plea for attention.
After all, what is a successful Work of Art, if not the most worrying
of provocations?


+ anniea replied:+

art is not useless

art is that what is, when something
cannot be used by some other societal purpose
is not of economic use
is not politically exploitable
doesn't help juridical purposes
doesn't incarnate scientific values
flees religious beliefs

art is a useful leftover?

art helps art
art reinforces art
art augments possibilities of being out, unadapted
art can make the precarious valuable

art is also a market
but that is another question

+Michael Betancourt replied:+

I disagree.

Art has one very singular, significant purpose: as a designator of social class.

The idea that art is "useless" is camouflage for its role in separating upper classes from lower classes. That class is no longer necessarily a stable value is evident in both the continual need to invent "new forms" that "violate" the lower classes accepted notions of art. This is in large part why, historically, popular art == bad art and avant-garde == good.

This observation is not a value judgement, simply an assessment of what art is "for" in our culture.

+Corey Eiseman replied:+

Jim, I know where you're coming from. Maybe I have an interesting story
for you. About a year or so I read an article in mental_floss about how
throwing away old computers was horrible for the environment. Now my
first reaction was yeah right, who would throw away a computer! But then
I rode my bike around my neighborhood on trash night and holy moly! I
found two computers that night, and many more since. Taste the waste,

So I have been rescuing as many as I can, and now I have all these old
computer parts laying around.. I could recycle the pieces into an art
object, but I'm sure that's been done before. So... I'm working on an
art object that is also a working computer. I'm considering doing this a
lot more.

you can't have functional art without fun!

+Jim Andrews replied:+

Sounds great, Corey. There is so much to be done and undone. I'm all for
objects of contemplation but, also, there's a lot to be said for helping
people do interesting and useful things with style and energy.

Art is a tool, is a key through the doors of perception.

+Michael Szpakowski replied:+

this is possibly dull & old hat & not at all witty or
fashionably cynical but quite straightforwardly I
think that art (maybe culture would be a broader,
better term) is pretty central to what makes us human.
Of course strictly for a defining feature we're
probably talking some kind of tool use/language
combination but it is significant that those cave
paintings still speak to us ( well, they do to me..)
"Use" is difficult - I think it's the very
uselessness of art, in every sense except this central
one, that makes it so important, so defining, indeed
that allows it to be so -precisely *because* the best
art doesn't have a one dimensional "use": it can carry
the most rich & varied freight of meaning, reference,
history & prophecy..( Which is why art is *not*
culture bound; why as a card carrying atheist I can
still be shaken to the core by Piero della Francesca
or Giotto)
I'm not dogmatically opposed to the idea of usefulness
in other more limited senses but as a cautionary note
I would point out both Stalinism/Zhdanovism (tragedy)
& Blairite "cultural" policy in the UK of the last ten
years (farce).
The fact also that art continues to be made, to be
discussed, under the most appalling circumstances
-think of the Dante section of Primo Levi's Auschwitz
memoir "If This Is a Man" - suggests that is is
something with enormously deep roots in us..
I just did an arts outreach project( & *there's* an
interesting byway of this discussion!) in Tottenham,
Lnodon & I got some footage, first take, of six young
men from 13-16 years old, MCing, unprepared &
completely impromptu, with a panache & skill that
filled me with both joy & I have to say, a degree of
I'm still idealist enough to want a world where I make
myself unemployed as a specialist - where *everyone*
has the basic material necessities & so is able "to
hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear
cattle in the evening, criticise [or perhaps make
art!] after dinner"

+neil winterburn replied:+

Just talking in terms of the useful/useless debate,
I think in terms of how we see ourselves, we can sometimes ghettoize ourselves
in a very little, anti-functionalist corner.
By positioning ourselves (in the da-da ist tradition) as "crazy artists" who
take everyday practices/techniques/technologies & subvert them, make them
useless, we often create a dichotomy between the "real" useful (rational,
practical,real looking, with a role in the world outside the art context)
stuff, like businesses, technology, etc
& "art", which is useless (irrational, impractical,wacky looking, subversive,
not effecting the wold beyond the art context).

I know that a lot of people are doing really interesting stuff which
challenges these ideas, but I do see a lot of work that just, takes a piece of
technology & then makes it go wierd. (Some of which rocks, lots of which
This can be a lot of fun, but dosent this way of thinking limit what we do?
I'm only writing this as a kind of confession, personally I find myself doing
this a lot.

I'm not arguing that art should be functional in the traditional narrow sense
of the word at all, just that we should stop
doing the exact opposite of what functional society produces/does, as a knee
jerk reaction. And find different, more expansive,
complicated, fluid, aims for our selves.

I would argue for an approach to one of the official aims of art (to be as
creative as possible) similair to that Greek guy, approaching medusa. Never to
look at her directly.
er ,,
what the hell am I on about?
Oh yes,

Not that I want to
a)get into bringing up Greek mythological references that I plainly know
nothing about, or
b)start talking about the "muse" as a woman or anything as pathetic as that,
Just that finding aims, functions, issues to focus on (your reflective shield
- gedditt?) instead of "creativity",
will,, er,
slay the evil snake headed monster.
what do y'all think?

+patrick lichty replied:+

Personally, I feel like the idea of "use" translates to material
"utility", which then translates to "function". This then is the mandate
of the materialist capitalist society that equates art school with a
job, that everything has to have some sort of productive function, and
that every moment of our lives has to have some Taylor-esque 'productive
use', or 'material value'.

I don't want to live in that world.
Can't I just dance once in a while, without worrying about the good it's
doing my heart, or paint my walls blue without worrying about my

Where is the inspirational, prevocational, or even the ludic in this

It's almost the argument "What is art?", which usually tends to be that
which inspires or agitates, is noticed, and becomes propagated and
accepted as such within its context.

+Pall Thayer replied:+

The fact that the question of usefulness or uselessness even arises, is the sign of a grave misunderstanding. Whether or not a piece actually has some physical utility or not, doesn't necessarily have anything to do with its "artful" usefulness. For instance, The Command-Line Pizza Ordering program by Cory Arcangel and Michael Frumin ( has function and utility. You can use it to order a pizza. But it also has an entirely different usefulness and utility as a work of art. A usefulness that becomes appearant without even using the program. It causes us to reconsider the idea of the computer/internet combo as the do-all and solve-all of contemporary times. Do we really want it to go this far? Is using the command line to order a pizza really any better or more convenient than calling up and ordering a pizza? Who knows? I could use it to set up a cron job that orders a medium pepperoni pizza for me every Thursday of every other month at 6 pm. Am I better off? Am I absolutely sure that I will want a medium pepperoni pizza every Thursday of every other month? It doesn't try to answer such questions, but proves itself useful in an art-sense simply by invoking them.

So, essentially, it doesn't matter one way or another whether or not a work of art can be said to be useful or useless in a utilitarian sense. That has nothing to do with its usefulness as a work of art. This "artful usefulness" is of a much more cerebral/philosophical/spiritual nature.

+Don Relyea replied:+

From: <salvatore.iaconesi AT>
> how do you define "useful"? defines it as....
use·ful /ˈyusfəl/ [yoos-fuhl]
–adjective 1.being of use or service; serving some purpose; advantageous,
helpful, or of good effect: a useful member of society.
2.of practical use, as for doing work; producing material results; supplying
common needs: the useful arts; useful work.

—Synonyms 1, 2. profitable, efficacious, beneficial.
—Antonyms 1, 2. useless.

I have always thought that the statement "All art is quite useless." was a
very clever statement. It is clever because it can be interpreted as being
relevant on many levels. It can be used to justify many arguments about art,
like "Thomas Kinkade's work is not art because it is simply a useful
component to a business model employed by the artist" and so on.

But like most quotes, this quote is taken totally out of context with its
origin as part of a quote from the preface to Oscar Wilde's work, "The
Picture of Dorian Gray". Here it is in context:

"We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not
admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it
intensely. All art is quite useless "

So really what Wilde is saying is the only justification for making
something useless (art for example) is that at least one person appreciates
it. This is different from the common perception that art must be useless to
be art.

+salvatore.iaconesi AT replied:+

that piece of The Picture of Dorian Gray is really interesting, and it brings
up ne more qestion: is art "useful" if that single person throws-up, or gets
scared? or if he hurts himself?

i just guess things change with time, place and people.

useful in an "ordinary" context is one thing that seems simple, but it isn't:
different people see different degrees of usefulness in the same object.

but this is also true in an "artistic" context: i'm sure everyone can picture
two persons arguing about the importance/signifiance of a painting or of a
software art object, each of them convinced that his point of view is the
correct one.

i, for example, love toys. i make toys and i sell them.
i also do software art. and instllation. and performances.
i also cook quite well.
i can play the bass guitar.
i can have my dogs run like hell to catch a freesbee and take it back.
and several other things.

and i actually cannot tell the difference in "usefulness" of all of these

maybe art is in the person, not in the "work of art". in the process of
creation, in the life of that person as a producer of art.

so should the question be changed?

one thing that i always asked myself:

people like Benjamin talked about the reproducibility of art.

and this is fine.

but i always tried to figure out how this statement fits in with the artistic
gesture that brings art to life.

is the gesture reproducible too?

if i make a software art object, that object can be copied millions of times.
but what about the "gesture" made to create it? is art in the object or in the

and if it is in the gesture: what does "useful" mean?

+nathaniel replied:+

I think Pall and Patrick are saying:

"Is it art?" and "Is it useful?" are ways to mis-equate either of
those terms (art / useuflness) with inherent value on some level.
They're dismissive on the false presumption that "art" and
"usefulness" automatically have value, and (insert binary opposition
here) does not....

Also: blah

And with that, I agree.

+Geert Dekkers replied:+

Art isn't useless, we just don't know what its for :)

Incidentally, I'm reading Heideggers The Origin of the Work of Art at
the moment. I'd be interested in knowing what the list members use as
a reference for a wider and deeper understanding of art and its context.

For me its a short list:

- Francois Lyotard, Le Different (been reading and rereading this for
- Jacques Derrida, The Truth in Painting (see above)
- the essay "Resitutions..." on the Shapiro Heidegger controversy
lead me to reading Heidegger's original text

+Joseph Franklyn McElroy replied:+

The number of replies indicates a passion for this discussion and the
desperate lack of arguments. I would suggest that you have to put both
"useless" and "art" into a limited domain and then butt around in those
walls before you take it universal. In my domain, art serves a purpose.

+Lee Wells replied:+

I know what you are saying Joseph. I agree with you.

Maybe it has something to do more with the artist thinking that their own
art has no meaning. 21st Century wannabe art stars churned and extruded out
of art schools like marshmellows. With no idea, no meaning in their own
personal lives to speak of. No message, no purpose and after spending 60k on
school they still cannot go back and paint or sculpt because their teachers
at the time didn't know how to themselves. Half assed video/intermedia
adjunks that wish they had another job but don't know what it would be if
they had a choice, just happy to have the insurance and stability, until
they are replaced by someone better. There will always be someone better
than you both before and after, period.

In our great and honorable quest of pure decadence we all should be happy to
have not been born into a lesser social system. Implicate Self. The world is
all fucked up because of all of you and your uselessness. If you should
disagree then prove it through praxis not empty words piled on top of some
dead guys drunken/drugged rant that somehow got published back in the day.

For the good of future generations please destroy all uselessart now.
Like a paper towel in a toilet with bad plumbing, just don't put it in
there, it will clog up the system.

+Jim Andrews replied:+

I don't have a problem with 'useless' art but with restrictions on what art
can be. And, conversely, with art being absent from engineering.

There's quite a bit of software (langwidgets or languagets) and other types
of widgets being created. Mostly they don't have much to do with art. But
were the programmers and engineers to have a sense of software and, more
broadly, engineering as strongly related to art, and were engineering
informed with the atmospheres of art, and the 'values' of art, then we might
get fewer monstrosities and a discipline of engineering in which the
motivations were, more often, similar to those you find in the art world
rather than simply the marketplace. Software and other engineered entities
to make the world better and more beautiful, more interesting, rather than
to simply make dough.

Conversely, were science and engineering to be in closer proximity to art,
art might might be more Pythagorean in the sense that they were involved not
only in mathematics but music, spirituality, and commerce--there wasn't much
separation between art, science, technology, and spiritual matters.

The schism between art and science/technology makes for an ineffectual art
world and a dissassociated/schizophrenic science/technology world.

+Michael Szpakowski replied:+

sometimes when things aren't broke we shouldn't
attempt to mend them - there's a perfectly respectable
and relevant conceptual framework already existing
here of art/craft, art/design or whatever...I honestly
don't think in this post you raise anything that
William Morris, for example, would have had a problem
in understanding or sympathising with ...
That said, I think the broader discussion has been an
interesting one so's the very slipperiness of
the ideas "art" & "useful" that has elicited quite
stimulating's good to have the list
back in discussion mode & good on you for provoking it

+Jim Andrews replied:+

Are you implying that the technical dimensions of digital art can easily be
relegated to craft and design?

I appreciate interesting programmed digital art and try to create some of it
myself. The technical and artistic are so involved in each other, in
interesting programmed art, that the distinction becomes superficial and
even misleading. Programming is like Architecture, where there is more
traditional integration between art and engineering.

Also, I imagine that to Architects, the issue of use/useless is a bit
different than in many another art.

+Michael Szpakowski replied:+

<Are you implying that the technical dimensions of
digital art can easily be
relegated to craft and design?>
yes, absolutely :) Nothing *substantive* about the
involvement of programming in art forces us to need to
rethink those particular categories & to urge
otherwise is to mistake cart & horse.
(I'm not saying, of course, that there might not be
other, aesthetic or philosophical, reasons why the
lines might be redrawn, I don't believe so myself, but
I'm open to good arguments)

+jmh AT replied:+

Perhaps the issue lies in that we call it ART at all. I recall those
early Art History courses talking about when art was functional and had
no name beyond its function i.e., a spoon was a spoon, not a decorative
spoon. I’m thinking of something from Lao Tzu, “People through finding
something beautiful Think something else unbeautiful,” to have to label
this ‘art’ useful or useless is subjective and coming from another’s
view. Perhaps, being caught up in the in the making of art for a
purpose, and often thinking something has to have value for someone
else is the crux of it all.

+Jim Andrews replied:+

if you relegate programming to being a craft/design thing with no
significant artistic dimension, then you are not reading the ways in which
the programming 'speaks' as art. programming can be expressive of different
types of things than show up in a poemy poem or a video or a graphic etc.

programming is a writing, but a writing of machines.

an architect's vision for an ambitious structure is integrally bound up in
his/her knowledge of the materials and principles of construction, comes out
of what is possible there.

computers are not simply media machines. they're not simply glorified video
displays, or glorified typewriters, etc.

they are radically flexible as machines. flexible to the point where there
is no proof, and probably never will be, that there are thought processes of
which humans are capable and computers are not. they can be as flexible as
thought in process.

it is important to understand this so that our ideas of what digital art can
be do not become mired in simply producing old media with them such as
video, poemy poems, graphics, etc.

programmability is what distinguishes computers from other types of
machines. that computers are programmable is the most fundamental
phenomenological observation one can make about computers because it is the
fundamental property that distinguishes them from all other types of
machines. programmability is also, then, the key to distinguishing anything
made with computers from what is made with other machines.

to relegate programming and understanding of the theory of computation to
craft/design is to stunt digital art to being simply conventional video,
poetry etc in another form.

+Pall Thayer replied:+

I agree that computers are "radically flexible machines", much more flexible than most users realize. That flexibility only becomes apparent through programming. Armed with an arsenal of computer savvy and a few languages, the computer is like putty in one's hands.

However I have to disagree strongly with your statement that there aren't thought processes that humans are capable of and computers are not. It may be hard to prove and I'm not going to attempt to provide any proof but when you do get into programming I think it's hard not to see the "thought" constraints imposed by the computer's rigid logic. How would you program a computer to establish a favorite flavor of ice cream? How would you lend it the capability to decide that a song that was it's favorite three years ago, now sucks (and after 5 more years, decide that it's good again)? These elements of personal, conscious subjectivity involve common human thought processes that I don't see how you could possibly program into a machine. I prefer to exploit the computer's pitfalls rather than to attempt to play into the myth of machine/artificial intelligence. I'm thoroughly convinced that the only way we can possibly achieve any sort of machine intelligence is through radical redefinitions of the term "intelligence" and in some cases that appears to be what is being done in an attempt to achieve machine intelligence.

+Jim Andrews replied:+

Just because we don't see how to do something doesn't mean it can't be done.

The Turing machine is known as the "universal computer" because this simple abstract machine/mathematical model is thought to be capable of executing any conceivable algorithm. Which means that a Turing machine is capable of doing anything that any conceivable computer can do. There's a fabulous book called 'The Universal Computer -- From Leibniz to Turing' by the emminent USAmerican logician Martin Davis that is wonderfully readable, excellent and entertaining as a history of ideas and as a narrative of the lives, tribulations, and achievements of Leibniz, Boole, Frege, Cantor, Hilbert, Godel and Turing, and is understandable in its discussion of theory. I recommend it very strongly, Pall. It will be around for a long time.

There have been many attempts to show that there are thought processes of which humans are capable and computers are not, but none have been convincing. Perhaps the most famous have been made by Roger Penrose. They are popular because so many people so desperately want to believe that the mind is not algorithmic. Much like so many people wanted to believe (many still do) that Darwin was wrong about our having evolved from the simplest of life forms.

+curt cloninger replied:+

Here is a paper I wrote this year for my MFA program. It is in explicit or implicit dialogue with Heidegger throughout. Don't feel obliged to read or respond (it's 25 pages), but maybe you'll find it useful:

Currently, "What is art good for?" is leading me to answer: "Art is good for freeing things up to be good at what they are good for." Which leads to the question, "What are things good for?" Which begs the question, "What are things for at all?" Which begs the question, "What are things?" I appreciate Heidegger's understanding that things gather the fourfold (earth, sky, mortals, and divinities), because it opens things up to God and humans and the world instead of simply reducing humans to mere things (or quasi-objects perpetuated by sub-networks of mere things). Jean-Luc Marion sees things as gifts that are given out of God's goodness. These gifts act as invitations to return thanks to God. So things become vehicles of a relationship between humans and God.

Breifly stated, art can be a way of using things (light and sound included) to return thanks to God (less in a symbolic, mimetic, Michelangelo way and more in a phenomenological La Monte Young way), and letting things use me to release them to return thanks to God. Meister Eckhart says, “[Every creature] reach[es] up to my understanding as if to get understanding through me. I alone prepare creatures to return to God.”

cf: Heidegger's "Building Dwelling Thinking" and "The Thing." Also Peter Schwenger's book, "The Tears of Things: Melancholy and Physical Objects."

+Max Herman replied:+

I'll have to read this later today for a full reply about objects and their
relation to God, given the commandment against graven images and the intense
religious problems of the world today. In America at a Crossroads it was
mentioned that Westerners should or could try to take a stand for moderates
within Islam, for example in terms of democracy and women's rights.
Ferguson mentioned a disturbing observation that societies which strictly
limit women's rights have much higher birth rates. Under all these and
other pressures, it's been speculated by George Will and James Mann that
China may not go democratic in this century and therefore democracy levels
will go down across the board. Democracy has always been vulnerable to a
vast array of pressures.

Would Networkism as a reconciliation of objects and God yield a breathing
room of peace that could create the lowest possible trauma during global
climate change, increase common humanity, protect democracy, and keep
security, or is it too risky? After all, Networkism would perhaps criticize
artists John Currin, Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, and David Byrne, who
supported the New Museum at their recent gala and which in turn governs
Rhizome, on which I am typing.

There is also the weird appearance on the local City Center shopping mall
here in Minneapolis, reopening with renovations, which states on its
external billboard "Our city is what it is because our citizens are what
they are. -- Plato." If global poverty and violence are going to skyrocket
in the next fifty years, then what claim can art have to act as other than a
soporific buffer zone, soothing relaxant, or misdirection?

Then again if art's uselessness in "this world," the material or object
world, is offset by its life-giving and sanity-giving
usefulness-within-itself in the spiritual or process world (network world),
then that would be OK.

Yet you wonder if making such a different view of art accessible would be
much too inflammatory, like yelling "fire" in a crowded theater. The art
market might get rocky or something, loss of what soft power is still out
there, exasperation of rich art-fanciers, etc. And who knows if the
Democrats and Republicans are going to have an actual civil war with each
other, like in the 1860's? But as Hamlet wrote "there's a divinity that
shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will."

Also Habermas has a criticism of Heidegger in PPP which I'll post later too,
though I do in part approve of heaven/earth and divine/mortal.

+Max Herman added:+

This is a pretty complex essay and a little out of my area of
specialization. I approach religion from a much more secular standpoint
(similar to William Blake's) and also have major concerns with Heidegger.
Perhaps the main book that affected me before going to graduate school for
English was Political-Philosophical Profiles by Jurgen Habermas. This book
consists of essays about Karl Jaspers, Martin Heidegger, Ernst Bloch, Karl
Lowith, Theodor Adorno, Arnold Gehlen, Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse,
Hannah Arendt, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and Gershom Scholem.

On Heidegger, Habermas writes "This peculiar reserve is not that of a great
philosopher attaching value to proper distance; here the prophetic thinker
is paying heed to a distinction of rank. Communication does not belong to
the basic vocabulary of this philosophy." The "peculiar reserve" refers to
Heidegger's use of the phrase "For the shepherds dwell outside the wasteland
of the devastated earth."

Habermas also ends the essay with a reflection on this phrase:

Perhaps Heidegger's thought may be characterized indirectly by what it
does not achieve: It understands itself just as little in relationship to
social practice as it does in relation to the interpretation of the results
of the sciences. As to the latter, it demonstrates the metaphysical
limitations of their foundations and abandons them, along with "technology"
in general, to the mistake [Irre]. For the shepherds dwell outside the
wasteland of the devastated earth....
The situation of the category of greatness is an odd one today. Its
fragility is mirrored in our incapacity to set up monuments. Not even the
most genuine feeling of the epoch can succeed here, as Reg Butler's "Unknown
Political Prisoner" shows. The story of Heidegger's influence is great, and
most would call his work itself great. Perhaps this very case makes
understandable why our relationship to greatness is a broken one.

So, Habermas could hardly be more negative against Heidegger. I never liked
the superior but incomprehensible tone of writers like Foucault either, and
so after reading this condemnation and how Heidegger had so many followers I
decided not to read any Heidegger and never have. So, that's a caveat.

Thus there's the problem of Heidegger not liking communication and social
relationships, but other postmodernists were also against these things as
being naive or shallow. Barthes for example was against the idea of
communication between people. I on the other hand view the main part of
human history as the history of broken communication as per, which I wrote in 1993
before reading Habermas in 1994 incidentally.

Yet sometimes breaking communication is the only way to prevent the horde
from burning the city to the ground, as you might say China has to do in
sanitizing the web there. Breaking communication is also the only way to
overcome false confidence in the power of communication to do everything.
Some things require internal individual contemplation and transformation, or
just prolonged effort, or even war (the essence of which is deception as Sun
Tzu states).

The utopian vision that I would like to see is one where a new
art-historical period (inclusive of literature, as Romanticism and Modernism
were) reduces conflict levels based on expendable ethnic hatred and "men
acting as wolves to one another" (Benjamin Franklin) and simultaneously
enhances security against a global total war while maintaining "a balance of
power that favors freedom" (Condoleeza Rice).

Yet it is far from easy or likely that such a thing is possible when you
look at the dissension among people based on religion, pride, money, being
high on themselves, pretentious hogwash, desparing rage caused by poverty or
other trauma, etc. Still, that's the goal, modulated of course by due
caution and prudence etc. Plus a day job. :)

+curt cloninger replied:+

I don't read Heidegger as being against communication or social relationships. He's suspicious of passing down received world views and language without trying to get at what was originally revelatory about them. I'm not a Heidegger disciple or anything. I'm just finding a lot of his observations useful in terms of the practice I'm pursuing.

As far as world peace, that would be nice. I doubt the problem is that we are too passionate and committed. My guess is that the opposite is true. I have my doubts that a dispassionate relativism is going to lead to peace. The problem is not that I believe something passionately with which you disagree. The problem arises when I treat you discourteously, regardless of what we believe. I don't have to stop believing passionately in order to treat you courteously. Indeed, the power and humility to treat you courteously may well come from my passionate belief.

As far as making art that leads to world peace, I can't see that far down the road. I can try to make art that awakens someone to the wonder of their being in the world, or I can try to make art that tricks out a heretofore unrealized way of being in the world, or I can try to make art that plays in the world and in so doing thanks God for his gift of being, but there's no gaurantee that any of those results will lead to world peace.

+Eric Dymond replied:+

well, i had to wait. But now we have to bring this into the new milennium.
Is Artuseless?
I guess from a new media viewport as a word, it just might be.
I have been trying to imagine a Topic Map based upon Art as the root of the knowledge base. It looks to be to broad, and contentious as well. How could I organize documents based upon that word as an organizational rule?
Why is it too broad?
No user could be identified as having a common understanding of what the word Art could be. Could we come to a consenusus where "ART" could be root of a document type definition(DTD) and drill down from there?
No we couldn't.
So from a strictly semantic perspective, and I mean semantic in the new media/semantic web use of the word, I cannot organize information based upon the word Art.
see (
This is perplexing in many ways. We use/consume/deliver "ART" day after day, week after week and month after month. But it's too slippery to actually nail down (poor completion, but bare with me).
The thread has quoted Habermas, and other thinkers from the last millenium as if they carried weight in a described ontology that would be friendly to machines and humans alike.

They couldn't forsee the machinic world computer mediated knowledge exists in. So what do we have then?
Well, I'd prefer looking to Steve Pepper and Tim Berners-Lee rather than Benjamin or Habermas, or any other Euro thinkers from the non-networked millenium we left behind.

We could quote dead philosophers and seers of the past ad nauseum.
That is not the best route to travel to understand how the word "ART" would survive in this millenium.
>From a strictly ontological approach, something like "web art" or "painting" can be accomodated, there is room for qualification and quantification. But "ART" is not as easy.I do know a little bit about Information and Document theory and practice. From this small hill on the new media landscape the word "ART" is now just an adverb that connotes intent.
I tried setting up Ontopia Navigator to accomodate the word "ART" and failed to generate anything worthwhile. Of course the failure could be mine, but I think it has more to do with the way we now organize knowledge.

+curt cloninger replied:+

Hi Eric,

There are thinkers like Deleuze and after him Brian Massumi and Bruno Latour trying to think of ways in which art (and humans) might be different in a networked world. But they've all read their Heidegger and are in dialogue with him. Heidegger raises meta-philosophical questions that are still relevant. For instance: how novel is any system of ontological knowing that derives from an inherited way of being in the world which makes implicit assumptions about 'being' that have yet to be purposefully considered? Descartes says, 'I think therefore I am, and that's a pretty novel deduction,' and Heidegger replies, 'Seems like a fresh idea, but you're already making implicit medieval assumptions about what thinking and being even are.' You can construct new ontologies until the cows come home, but unless you've realized some new way of being in the world, and have considered at length what it means to create ontologies from this new place in the world, then you're not breaki!
ng with the past. You're simply carrying the past forward unawares.

To take just one example, a regular coke can in my world *at all* effects my world much more radically than a coke can embedded with a smart chip tied into a network. A reading of Heidegger suggests we should spend some time wrestling with what a 'thing' even is before we launch headlong into trying to figure out what a 'smart thing' is.

If Heidegger's understanding and treatment of "technology" needs some upgrading, it is properly done in dialogue with the specifics of what he claimed, not with a dismissive wave of the 21st Century reset button, which throws any useful suspicion he might have afforded us out with the bath water. [That last sentence mixes no less than four metaphors. Yes!]

Duchamp said, 'the function of art is to question art' (I'm probably paraphrasing or misattributing altogether). Might the function of art be to question the whole project of ontological knowing? If such is the case, art is likely to perpetually evade your constructed systems of ontological knowing (whether they are based on Leibniz or Vannevar Bush or Berners-Lee or Bigfoot). Such evasion is one of the functions of art.

+Max Herman replied:+

This is a tough thread but hey that's OK sometimes too. Not liking so many
"re's" at that start I've removed them for ease of use.

I perceive many issues cropping up here, perhaps as many as a dozen or more,
but that's OK too. These issues may be: is artuseless, if not what is
art's use, what writers/philosophers/theorists are people reading to get
understanding of art, is Networkism the new art historical period, how do
networks relate to religion and politics as well as art. I think these are
the main ones for now, but there are always lots of others that crop up too,
as each of these is very complex. Also the issue of document theory stated
below, how to define art, and such like.

By way of reference, here is a quote from a paper I wrote in 1995, at, titled
"Critique and Aesthetics: Communication and the Foucault/Habermas Debate":

Begin quote>

In his essay "The Critique of Impure Reason," Thomas McCarthy writes of
"genealogy and critical social theory" (McCarthy 248)--the respective
theoretical approaches of Michel Foucault and the Frankfurt School
(including its chief contemporary proponent, Jurgen Habermas)-- that

"They hold in common that the heart of the philosophical
enterprise, the critique of reason, finds its continuation in certain forms
of sociohistorical analysis carried out with the practical intent of gaining
critical distance from the presumably rational beliefs and practices that
inform our lives. This would certainly place them much nearer to one
another than to other varieties of contemporary theory, including the more
influential forms of textualism" (McCarthy 247-8).

This common project, however, is undertaken using approaches which, though
they share many attributes in common, also have major differences. In
fact, these differences take on the character of a struggle for
pre-eminence. Each approach acknowledges the value of the other yet seeks
to reserve to itself a degree of authority to decide if and when the other
applies. In this essay, I will argue that whereas there are no fatal flaws
in either theoretical system that might vitiate their claims to priority,
the lack of ontological determinacy concerning the nature of reason tilts
the scale toward Foucault's method on the basis of practicability (as
asserted by Michael Kelly). I will also argue, however, that an
unacknowledged but major factor in this greater practicability is the
instrumental aesthetic theory which accompanies Foucault's critical method,
and that in order to strengthen its claim to priority classic critical
theory carries the additional burden of articulating a compelling aesthetic
based on communicative principles.

So, there is the theme of communication in art which I view as running
somewhat contrary or complicatingly to instrumentalism in art (using art as
an instrument).

Therefore I see art as either communicative or instrumental in the above
essay. This comparison is one of the main issues in Habermas. I think that
this is a more complicated issue than it looks like at first glance, and
goes to the basics of any technological species. It therefore relates to
networks, art, religion, politics, and technology.

If you wanted to define Art semantically, could you say it divides into
Instrumental and Communicative parts? The word itself originates clearly
much more from instrumental, as in "art, arm, armament, arthritis, order,
etc. as stated at

If this question is still at work today in the internet age, then Habermas
and Benjamin might keep some relevance. Also the question of objects versus
processes is very important. This relates to Plato's parable of the cave
too, as well as the second commandment. One might say, "the object is not
the whole story, keep the larger processes and contexts in mind too."

While this is easier said than done, it's not avoidable in my view for any
technological species. Similarly, life could be described as a process not
an object, living things being processes not objects, and so on.

In closing I think networks go back much farther than the internet alone and
therefore drag in all the complex issues of humanity going back to square
one. It's not exclusively their newness that makes Networkism the new
art-historical period, but the necessity and value of thinking of and
practicing aesthetic-evolution based on Networkism now, because the
challenges and opportunities are most creatively and productively looked at
and dealt with in this framework so to speak.

And there's epistemology too, as well as many weak paths that wrongly
dismiss objects, create a falsely objective pseudo-process-image of
networks, make errors of all kinds, and so forth. Not to mention that
Habermas might be almost completely wrong, that objects of a particularly
good type might be the only great hope left, and communication processes far
too weak as yet to stake hopes on, and other concerns like that not at all

+Geert Dekkers replied:+

As far as I understand Being And Time (just halfway through my first reading) Heideggers object is not to answer the grand ontological question, but to discover effective ways in which to ask such a question. Heidegger covers a larger part of the philosophical discourse in order to find object and method of an inquiry into Being and Time. Which for me already answers the question "is art useful", (I know, a well-trodden path), it is useful not because it provides us with answers, but with ways to ask effectively.

Now, of course, there are many valid art forms that do not address ontological problems and do not wish to. You might even concur that there are more important things to be done in this day and age. These art forms use symbol, metaphor, and other figures as ready-mades, or mine technological veins for new figures, in order to communicate content. Much activist art falls in this category. And -- again -- this is not to say that good work is not being done. Absolutely, and I love and admire much of this work. Its "use" is obvious, because it clarifies and propogates issues that concern us all. But when I see a question of the "uselessness" of art, I inadvertedly mould this question into one of the "uselessness" of art projects asking fundamental, ontological questions.

Furthermore, when the question "is artuseless?" comes up, and especially if you read a discouraging NO in this question, you could also ask the same of Heideggers project in Being and Time. Is it useless to wish to ask these fundamental questions? Of course we then get into the notion of use, and uselessness. And again, Heideggers work, but now "The Origin of Art" can be called in. Among other things, Heidegger here attempts to clear the stage of "equipmental" work, in order to focus of the "work" of art. This clearing is in itself commendable. In other words -- there is "use" in this work, even if the object may never be reached.

Well, where is ontological problem addressed in art? In Morandi, where he questions the objects. In Barnett Newman and other post-abstract-expressionists, where he questions the artworks. In Beuys, where he questions the artist. Now in computer art there has been much work done in this last realm, and more specifically concerning the production of artworks, where a computer program takes over the artist in the creation process. That this falls short at the moment is not withstanding the importance of the programme, and I'm sure with the advances made in AI, RDF/OWL and Jeff Hawkins' HTM, the project will gain momentum in the coming years.

The importance of Heidegger is not so much in the conclusions he reaches, even if these conclusions are powerful. Even in the summary of The Origin of the Work of Art, you realise that the truth isn't all here, but just as much in the meticulous shaping of the text by Heidegger, and your close reading of it. There is use in this close proximity, there is love here. From writer and reader both.

+Michael Szpakowski replied:+

I really mean to be neither flip nor glib, but my big
problem with Heidegger is that fact that he was a
Kind of elephant in the roomish really :)

+Max Herman replied:+

Wikipedia does discuss that aspect. It would seem Heidegger is the least
demonized of any Nazi artist or writer. Albert Speer's book on the fall of
the Third Reich was pretty good though, I read that a few years ago. I
think I've heard some people also say that Leni Reifenstal was a good
director too despite her Nazi activities. It's interesting also that
Heidegger went to France after the war and affected a lot of intellectuals
there, such as Derrida according again to Wikipedia. I guess I never
thought of Derrida as being Nazi-affiliated, so could that be part of the
reason why Heidegger is not utterly rejected nowadays (completely consigned
to the dustbin of history) the way that say "Mein Kampf" is? (The Wikipedia
url below does quote Derrida on the Nazi nature of Heidegger's work. I
should reiterate that all I've read on Heidegger that I can think of is
Habermas's essay in PPP, "Martin Heidegger: The Great Influence.")

Similar issues come up though not as acutely whenever an artist was part of
a society which committed oppression or slavery, such as Sophocles, Mark
Twain, maybe even Tolstoy. Heidegger might be the most extreme case of
this, I don't know. Rudyard Kipling? I'm sure books and books have been
written on the topic but honestly I have no idea how this question is dealt
with in universities and so forth today. Is Heidegger still being taught?
If so, then something must have been viewed as having survived his Nazi
party membership.


PS--here's the Wikipedia item on the Nazi affiliation:

+curt cloninger replied:+

Not to be flip either, but that seems a convenient excuse to dismiss his writing carte blanche without weighing the merit of what he has to say. Althusser strangled his wife. Pollock was a drunk. Marx was a bum (and a Marxist!). Heck, Kierkeggard was a freaking *Christian* (for God's sake). Heidegger's involvement with the Nazi party seems less like an elephant and more like a bogey (depending on your particular flavor of literary criticism and how much it depends on the author's personal biography).

I think Geert is right. Especially with Heidegger, a close reading is necessary (and surely in German would be even better). Especially in his later writings, he's coming to understand that denotative prose isn't the best tool to use to elucidate a project of re-examining the received and calcified presumptions of language. So his language gets necessarily more poetic, and the event of reading it is all part of his overall project.

Admittedly, Heidegger is particularly keen on how a person actually lives daily in the world. He's a big proponent of doing rather than saying (which makes him useful to anyone who thinks art is a way of doing that explores realms in which words fall short). So the claims of his particular philosophy do invite a closer examination of his own personal way of being in the world than someone like Derrida. To me Heidegger's membership in the Nazi part illustrates not so much that Heidegger's philosophy is wrong or leads to wrong ways of doing, but that it takes more than a philosophy (right, wrong, or otherwise) or an art practice (paradigm advancing, politically engaged, or otherwise) to empower one to act ethically in the world.

+Michael Szpakowski replied:+

I wasn't being combative or having a tilt at you & I'm
sorry if my rather quick & compressed formulation made
it appear so, nor would I wish to simply dismiss
Heidegger. I quite agree that insight (& indeed
talent) isn't the sole preserve of the righteous,
however defined.
I *do* think there is a particular problem with
Heidegger though -the man was a *member* of the Nazi
party for over 10 years during the commission by the
Nazis of crimes against humanity that were quite
singular in their awfulness.

Even his reflections way after the time were marked
by, to put it at its most charitable, an insensitivity
that is quite breathtaking (his comparison of the
Holocaust with the mechanisation of agriculture).
So what I find difficult to accept is that there was
no connection *at some level* between the actions &
the thought ( because if there *isn't* that connection
*at some level* in a philosopher between 'say' & 'do'
then their work is either meaningless or cant) of
someone as smart as Heidegger clearly was. And that to
me is troubling. I'm absolutely *not* arguing that
everything he said is simply tainted & should be
rejected tout court as a sort of contagion; only that
a degree of caution is required. Therefore I guess I
feel that if I see a discussion of Heidegger that
doesn't at least once reference this pretty salient
feature of his life, I feel obliged to point it out,
on a kind of health warning principle.

+curt cloninger replied:+

No offense taken, and I think your warning is a fair one.

There is the possibility that a philosopher's philosophical constructions may actually be more useful than his own particular applications of them. One example with Heidegger is his willingness to consign things other than quaint hammers and shoes to the evil realm of technology. So he reads "modern" technology as commodifying, as translating things from ready-to-hand to present-at-hand. Thus all new technology forces a kind of scientific/Cartesian reduction of things in the world. But McLuhan would say that a hammer is technology as much as a computer. Perhaps Heidegger's philosophical constructions are still robust enough to afford a more nuanced consideration of computers and atom bombs as things; but someone else will have to put his constructions to this test since Heidegger himself never did.

+Sean Capone replied:+

Re: is artuseless?

A: Nope.

+Barry Smylie replied:+

I think that the string isn't about art.

I think it is about trying to define the word "useful".

I think aesthetic and decoration has a "use" but the early modern visual
artists where following a train of thought, of dextral exploration, which
questioned the traditional formulas of beauty and usefulness of art and the
traditional role of artists as the playthings of the holy and secular courts
and the bourgeois salons.

We all know that in an era which finds great resource and efficiency in the
concept that form must follow function; that art cannot contain wine but the
goblet can be adorned with art but decorative art is not condoned. I would
write that; decoration is a form of function which can contain meanings but
not necessarily in its purest, modern form. A well formed vessel is art but
it is not all that art can be.

The lone modern hero launched like Odysseus going home.

"Meaning" emerged as the content of art during the conceptual era of late
modernism at the end of the 1960's decade because meaning and message has
contemporary quickly obsolete usefulness. No one who felt the times
believed that we would live to see the second millennium. It was backward
thinking because meaning was being imposed upon artists by the academies
which judged them for exhibition in thematic showings of the salons which
revolted the impressionists. It wasn't a time for logic; it was a time of
panic, of future shock and doom. We see daily calls on the Rhizome roots
offing the chance for some recognition through an original interpretation of
an often apocalyptic theme. A sign on a symbolic sandwich board reads,
"repent". The only way to get beyond this impasse which arises from the
complacent institutionalization of an anti-institutional movement by
individuals seeking tenure is to accept the past, including modernism.
Forgive and don't forget, remember. We can't go there again. It isn't
logical and would probably be more obvious to revolt against the modern
school and especially the longest lived movement of modernism, conceptualism
but; the post-modern era must be different in its philosophical manifesto;
evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Post-modern is inclusive and
evolving and can contain exclusive hardened warrior combative institutions.

The cult of originality was an interesting experiment but doing what has
never been done before after a century and a half leads to a dead end where
very little is possible, all having been done before. It is possible to be
original within the convention of a landscape painting or in a landscape of
plantings. Within the individual self we have found a limit. Everything is
not contained in the self (which goes contrary to what our senses and egos
inform us) but there is a portion of the being within us all which has a
social desire. We have a need to know others and for others to know of us.
It is that social need from which art emerges desiring to make contact
across the vast expanses of space between individuals and the even greater
expanses between generation gaps fearful of apocalypse and unsure of the
future. The only carrier of our messages to each other which cannot
obsolete and remain valuable after the message itself has no use is good
workmanship and an appeal to common humanity. Eventually when the message,
not necessarily of a joyful content, camouflaged, protected and carried
forward by aesthetic and beauty, harmony and grace will emerge when it is
once again required... or not. Who cares it already served its purpose.
Maybe it will take on new meaning.

Art does that from person to person, generation to generation.

+Max Herman replied:+

Barry Smylie wrote:

Within the individual self we have found a limit. Everything is
>not contained in the self (which goes contrary to what our senses and egos
>inform us) but there is a portion of the being within us all which has a
>social desire.

Interesting post with many good points. The above reminds me of one reason
why Networkism should replace Postmodernism as the new art-historical period
for the 21st c. I think the individual and the polis has a lot of relevance
not only now but all through past art, so it's a useful lens to use today.
It's not always simple though, I've found it a very complex issue.

For example, Hannah Arendt (who I now know was Heidegger's mistress!) wrote
that people joined totalitarianism so that they could get a feeling of
strength by sacrificing their individuality to the mass movement
( This means
the urge to be part of the group can be very dangerous too. The best case
is a balance of individual and group.

After all, you don't have a real group in the strict sense if no one has any
individual genius--you just have a sort of glued-together mass or blob. A
group in the true sense (and in the morally desirable sense) is based on
good, healthy, positive, free relations among good, healthy, positive, free
individuals. Also arguably, fulfilled individuals need some degree of
social existence or activity, yet it's not most correct I don't think to
conflate the two types of genius completely.

So I think that Networkism addresses this better than Postmodernism.
Postmodernism strikes me more as the denouement of Modernism (which you
aptly characterize with the modern Odysseus, a reference also used very well
by Adorno and Horkheimer in one of my favorite books, "Dialectic of
Enlightenment"). Postmodernism really keeps many many characteristics of
Modernism I believe and not just the good ones. Particularly I think that
Pomo replaced Modernism's Cult of the Master Originalist (as you also aptly
mention here) with the perhaps divergent but not wholly satisfyingly so Cult
of the Master Analyst (which, I would argue, is actually a long-term
sub-category of Modernism orignating in Freud especially but also Marx and

Hence, you could call Postmodernism really Late-Modernism or what may be
most accurate of all, End-Modernism. Habermas however argues that modernity
strictly speaking is unfinished, and thus perhaps Postmodernism is more a
stylistic demobilization of Modernism with a big M, not an emergence out of
modernity with a small m as may be mistakenly argued often. Hence by no
means are we out of the woods with modernity. Could be that Pomo was
wishful thinking in that respect, and understandable during the grueling
First Cold War.

The above would distinguish Modernism as the core 20th c. art-historical or
aesthetic-evolutionary movement from modernity with a small m, which many
consider to date from the Renaissance, i.e. everything after the Middle Ages
ended around the 15th c.

This would be a big change but it could get us out of what Geert Lovink
recently called "techno-fetishism" which can be seen as afflicting internet
art and/or new media art in this decade.

You also mention institutions etc. I love my local museums, going to one
today in fact because they recreate the art pieces with fresh flower
arrangements once per year. Yet the big institutions would take interest in
a new art-historical period only after it was quite worked out and in
practice already by individuals whose early efforts had been rejected but
they kept on, like say the Impressionists or Delacroix. In this regard
Networkism would just work for free, using its own money from a day job, and
maybe distribute art by new channels other than big galleries, museums, and
academia. Then after a while there would get to be a sufficient level of
Networkism content created and the large institutions would slowly gravitate
toward it over a period of decades.

Or to capture it another way, maybe Postmodernism is really the
institutional world's internal qualification and coda of Modernism, rather
than a new art-historical period in the assertive, creative, evolutionary
sense. Not that denouement (or caesura) is not a crucial part of
evolution--it clearly is. But it's not the only part.

Regarding Heidegger, Wikipedia states that "Being and Time" was meant to be
the first of two parts, the second being "Destruktion" which some say
Derrida was after with "Deconstruction", i.e. the un-building of
philosophical history. Heidegger never did the second part, which could be
a clue to the context here. One big problem this calls forth is that you
can't jump over your shadow, you can't just drop everything, and sometimes
as the old expression goes you have to repair the boat while you're still at
sea. Put another way, what if just Deconstructing everything only leads to
a dead end, and is not creative or evolutionary but kind of just stagnant?
How can you create forward with best results while avoiding shallow cheap
Originality-mongering? Existing in time-space, humanity cannot ever just go
back to square one and start over completely. We're always starting again
in the middle or as they say "in medias res." In this regard I think
Networkism is good and workable.

Jonathan Swift seemed to imply that modernity and antiquity had to be like
two sides of an arch, each supporting the other. I think that individual
aesthetic evolution (in actual concrete examples and sui generis) and group
or social aesthetic evolution (also in actual examples and sui generis) have
to thus work together, neither claiming perfection or exclusion of the
other, which can lead to collapse. Networkism in my opinion captures this
dynamic creative tension in both theory and practice.

But how would relate to
this? Could be thematically, visually, by context, by color scheme,
allegorically, by being on the internet, traditional watercolor, etc.

+Geert Dekkers replied:+

Just to tighten the circle somewhat around the subject of this thread -- a step back.

In 1582 a Jesuit Cardinal named Gabriele Paleotti wrote a treatise on the position art should take in. The reigning form otf the time was Mannerism, an overly erudite, overly sophistocated, aristrocratic style. He advocated a simpler form, a form utilising everyday objects and scenes to better tell the story of the Catholic Church. This became the style of the Baroque.

My point here concerning the question "is artuseless" is twofold -- one, that the question is about "art" -- and, as I suppose everyone knows, this didn't exist before around 1850. What the Cardinal is talking about is "image production" -- in a time that all images where created by hand. In his day, an image was not the product of an individual mind, but rather the outcome of a complex arrangement. Texts were consulted, programmes designed. It was a team effort. Much like an ad campaign today.

The other thing -- and now we reach the "useless" part -- is that the Cardinal had something to gain from a successful image production concept. The stakes were pretty high in his day -- the Jesuit order was founded to combat the Protestant onslaught. It was essential to keep the ordinary man a believer of the Catholic faith. One of of the key factors was to use image production to instruct, uplift and move the spectator.

The problem -- one of the problems -- artists have is that they must compete with this kind of image production that is now -- mistakenly -- called art. This is apparent in the visual arts, but also true of music. "Art", as it came to rise somewhere after mid 19th century, is the product of the individual mind -- preferably a genius mind, choosing content and form as s/he sees fit. It is NOT a team effort. There is no written "programme" for a work of art, no condoning by the community. The programme of the artist is "written" as s/he works.

And from that moment on, also, "art" is in crisis. Exactly because the "programme" of the artist is not a product of community consensus, there is no intrinsic funding of a project. Artists produce artworks without security. The government -- a hugely disparate body compared to the initiators of contempory image production (ads) -- disinterestedly funds some projects. But of course budgets are laughingly low compared to what even a medium sized company spends on getting their message across.

"Is artuseless" -- well from the point of view of the general public, it is. At least, the funding of the production of NEW art is. Because for some reason or other, the big money gets to places where people congregate to see art, Preferably old art, or somewhat old art. It gets to the large museal projects that arise in our major cities. There, art is very "useful". Because where else would a tourist go to while in -- just to take a example from just down the road -- Amsterdam? Surely not just to visit that one smart shop. They go to the Rijksmuseum, to see a piece that was produced as (secular) image production. They go to the "ur" artist Van Gogh in his museum.

New art is necessarily fragile. Production without team effort, without being condoned by a community, it's not difficult to chime in on a negative tone when the question of arts "usefulness" is raised. Which is of course why artists form groups, movements, build their own communities. New art is intrinsically useless -- the production precedes argument, precedes conceptualistion, precedes budgetting, precedes programme. Thus precedes use. Thus art IS useless?

+Eric Dymond replied:+

It's an important warning, but we deal with Edmund Burke when we discuss the Romantic in Art of the 18th century:
I don't like Burkes politics, but admit he had an important role in the development of Euro thinking. I'm trying to be concilliatory here.
That said...
I still have an issue with this whole euro-centric definition of art when Near Eastern and Far Eastern aesthetics are dismissed as secondary by Western/Euro based thinkers. They make note of it, but they never really incorporate it.

Can western art embrace the *other worlds view* that art enjoys while it still trying to build upon the western view?

It's not trivial. Islamic, Vedic, African, Farsi and Buddhist Scholars make important contributions to world aesthetics without ever making reference to Western European History, which at this point is getting smaller and less influential by the second.

We can't throw it all out, but we need new views that aren't bound by the development of Aestehetics in Western Civilization.
Did Hiedegger, Habermas, Derrida become products of Euro-Nationalist thinking? Did they ever consider there was a whole world that dwarfed (and dsimissed) thier view of the planet?

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and an affiliate of the New Museum of Contemporary Art.

Rhizome Digest is supported by grants from The Charles Engelhard Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Rhizome Digest is filtered by Marisa Olson (marisa AT ISSN: 1525-9110. Volume 12, number 17. Article submissions to list AT are encouraged. Submissions should relate to the theme of new media art and be less than 1500 words. For information on advertising in Rhizome Digest, please contact info AT

To unsubscribe from this list, visit Subscribers to Rhizome Digest are subject to the terms set out in the Member Agreement available online at

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +