issue #20
03.27.00
issue#20
WebWalker   DAILY    02_11_00-04_30_00
from steve dietz    guest editor: sarah cook
gallery 9, walker art center, the internet, and digital culture
ART ENTERTAINMENT NETWORK


1. jon ippolito
2. steve dietz
3. keith frank and jon ippolito
4. jennifer crowe
5. robbin murphy
6. steve dietz
7. philippe, philippe, philippe, philippe
8. jon winet
9. jon ippolito
10. next course
11. links
 
EAT: ENTERTAINMENT, ART, TECHNOLOGY
http://www.walkerart.org/salons/eat/

eat digest no. 6 COMPETITION
March 20 through March 25

contents:

1. Jon Ippolito
2. Steve Dietz
3. Keith Frank and Jon Ippolito
4. Jennifer Crowe
5. Robbin Murphy
6. Steve Dietz
7. Philippe, Philippe, Philippe, Philippe
8. Jon Winet
9. Jon Ippolito



________________________________________

 

1. jon ippolito


 

From JIppolito@guggenheim.org Mon, 20 Mar 2000 16:21:46 -0500
Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2000 16:21:46 -0500
From:
Jon Ippolito JIppolito@guggenheim.org
Subject: [Eat-raw] competing without winning or losing


Melinda Rackham wrote:
>i should imagine that museums now love net.art because they can still get away with paying net.artists so little to link to or show their work.

Patrick Lichty wrote:
>In thinking about competition as such, recognition, and the various aspects of Social Darwinism that infect all aspects of human society (especially under Capitalism), what we usually talk about is the usual binary of win/lose or grant/no grant among others.

Instead of engaging the binary, what I find more interesting is to look at the matrix of success, failure, material, recognition, media, and a host of other attributes pertaining to the artistic milieu.

For museums and other art institutions to face Internet culture on its own terms rather than merely profiting from it indirectly, they're going to have to change the way they support artists. You can't reap the full advantages of an online gift economy and still walk in lock-step with an art market largely defined by exchange.

That having been said, I don't see the use of saying "it's all part of a matrix...." SFMOMA can justify its prize by claiming (rightly so) that "it's just part of the matrix," even though in my book the exclusive nature of a Webby is antithetical to a networked aesthetic. The winners-and-losers mentality--whether by itself or embedded in a more complex milieu--is usually destructive, both to the winners and the losers. Keith exaggerated his claim that artists who successfully profit from a capitalist system always become less experimental, but even if it's not a rule it is a tendency. Artists need understand the causes of this tendency if we are to avoid letting our own work go stale.

Patrick's remark above suggests it may shed light on these causes to compare the competition among artists in the current art world to other paradigms of competition. The useful comparison, however, is not to Social Darwinism, which is little more than a flimsy apology for economic and racial exploitation, but to Darwinism proper, which is a good deal more sophisticated. Of the structural differences between the ecosystems antelopes and artists inhabit, perhaps the most important is how success is rewarded. If a particular strain of antelope can run faster than its competitors, its population will grow. If this variety of antelope reproduces too much, however, the second generation will have outgrown its food supply, and much of the herd will starve or be weakened by hunger. The second generation of lions, on the other hand, will have a field day feasting on the weakened but plentiful antelopes. In the long run, the momentary ascendance of the antelopes will subside as a new ecological equilibrium is established.

Contrast the negative feedback loop of the Sahara ecosystem with the positive feedback loop of the Chelsea ecosystem. An artist gets a gallery show, it happens to be reviewed in the New York Times, cognoscenti drop the artist's name to impress each other, the artist's reputation snowballs...it's a familiar story. The problem here is not competition itself, but a system--whether trading on cash or "mindshare"--that amplifies the difference between winners and losers. Frank Duford wrote an incisive commentary on March Madness recently, in which he claimed that the most interesting day of the basketball season was the day before the games began. The Guggenheim's Hugo Boss exhibitions (which I was involved in only peripherally) were much more interesting before everyone found out who the winners were.

Drop winning and losing from the equation and competition becomes a much stronger stimulus for creativity. Perhaps instead of thinking up exclusive prizes with 5-figure pricetags, institutions that want to support the arts should find more inclusive alternatives to "make-it-take-it" competition.

jon


________________________________________


 

2. steve dietz

 

From stevedietz@yproductions.com Thu, 23 Mar 2000 00:29:33 -0600
Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000 00:29:33 -0600
From:
Steve Dietz stevedietz@yproductions.com
Subject: [Eat-raw] Re: Superiority


Melinda and Jon and everyone,

At the risk of starting a firestorm, I have some wondering about this.

First, assumptions:
1. Agree 100% that net artists have right to equitable income 2. Agree 100% that institutions, especially in the U.S., have been poor at best in supporting net artists' work economically, and I include the Walker here.

When I speak to my colleagues, it often seems a bit strange to them that artists expect to be paid for participation--for being shown--in an exhibition. This is not the norm in the visual arts. (Paid for installations, yes. Paid for work to be purchased, yes.) In the performing arts and presentation of film and video, it is much more common, if not the norm, to pay a fee, although it various widely from net-equivalent rates, so to speak, to _very_ large sums.

I guess my question is what models are out there--or need to be created--that make sense? What would be equitable "in a museum context just like any other artist?" And to try and keep this related somewhat to the competition theme, are there intangibles that an institution offers that are of actual value to the artist in a competitive marketplace, whether financial or mindshare, whether as part of a capitalist economy or a gift economy?

Is it possible to discuss this?


________________________________________


 

3. keith frank and jon ippolito


 

From kandbfrank@email.msn.com Thu, 23 Mar 2000 23:53:16 -0500
Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000 23:53:16 -0500
From:
Keith J. Frank kandbfrank@email.msn.com
Subject: [Eat-raw] near-sitedness


Keith and Jon I. here. We don't often agree 100% on anything, but both of us are having trouble seeing the outpouring of support for Steve's proposal of free server space as something more than opportunism. Is Brad Brace's self-promoting cynicism about art institutions so convincing that the best we can expect from museums is handing out free brushes and canvas? Steve's gesture was nice, but we should expect better. Like helping the average Joe understand why online art is interesting, or coming up with strategies for extending the lifetime of media threatened by accelerated obsolescence.

For a museum to dole out server space wouldn't move brick-and-mortar institutions closer to an egalitarian network aesthetic--it would move the artists who participated further away. How long would it be before artists handed out business cards with frank.walkerart.org on them? ("Wow, you have a museum domain!") Sure, it's more prestigious to be Saks Fifth Avenue than Saks 125th Street, but that's because in real estate, "location is everything." On the Web, location can and should be meaningless; lots of online art, including ours, pulls texts and images from servers around the globe to make a single page. All of the benefits people have cited so far in their reaction to Steve's proposal could easily come from creating a Web site built from projects on different servers--except, perhaps, that the Walker would pay their hosting bill. Neighbors on the Internet should be defined not by sharing a zip code--nor by sharing a domain name or the partition of a hard drive--but by sharing ideas and interests. Isn't that the point of a virtual community?

Funny how Brad hangs out on listserves sponsored by the same institutions he rails against, like the kid who throws rocks at the windows of his affluent neighbors but happily accepts an invitation to come in for lunch. Maybe he should knock on artists' doors for a "change." Then he might actually see one.


________________________________________


 

4. jennifer crowe


 

From jc749@bard.edu Fri, 24 Mar 2000 10:33:10 -0500 (EST)
Date: Fri, 24 Mar 2000 10:33:10 -0500 (EST)
From:
Jennifer Crowe jc749@bard.edu
Subject: [Eat-raw] Re: Superiority


>
> First, assumptions:
> 1. Agree 100% that net artists have right to equitable income
> 2. Agree 100% that institutions, especially in the U.S., have been
> poor at best in supporting net artists' work economically, and I
> include the Walker here.


I believe that there is a place for internet art within exhibiions and expecially engagement with online artists under their auspices. Institutions must be held accountable to accomodating the unique set of conditions that Internet artists and their projects present. So far, it is clear that these conditions are still being defined and only by an ongoing engagement with process, can any of these issues be dealt with.

I commend the Walker ( and especially Steve D. and Sarah Cook, who organized this excellent forum, in particular as the Walker's agents) for being upfront, and not sweeping any of this under the rug.

Steve writes:
>
> When I speak to my colleagues, it often seems a bit strange to them
> that artists expect to be paid for participation--for being shown--in
> an exhibition. This is not the norm in the visual arts. (Paid for
> installations, yes. Paid for work to be purchased, yes.) In the
> performing arts and presentation of film and video, it is much more
> common, if not the norm, to pay a fee, although it various widely from
> net-equivalent rates, so to speak, to _very_ large sums.
>

The current models of online exhibition (the Net_Condition experience, and even AEN, among others) show a history of linking up an extraordinary number of projects per show that in itself creates the justification for the non-compensation of artists for their participation.

I acknowledge that artists generally receive no compensation for, say, when their gallery or a museum who owns one of their works loans a painting to MoMA for an exhibition. In these instances, the loan fee goes to the gallery as an act of capitalist exchange, or to the lending institution for upkeep, conservation, to pay for paperwork processing, etc.)

Online artists, whose work is openly distributed free online have no recourse when it comes to compensation, no gallery sales, and in the US, no governmental or organiational support. Under the current models of online exhibition practice, even the service provision that offline, conceptual artists have occasionally been able to wrestle out of institutions as compensation for their labor seems to have skipped the online artists.

Conceptual works usually does not include a tangible product, but i don't think that institutions would disagree that they have an ethical obligation to compensate them in some way (pay for plane ticket, provide an artist fee, honoraria) for participation.

Online artists are subject to a myth (that current exhibition strucutres perpetuate) that Internet art is "fast, cheap, and out of control" and that there is no requirement to engage with artists directly in the creation of thier work because, supposedly, it is already there for all to see. it can easily be linked to and there is therefore, so it seems, no reason to compensate for particiaption. It free, after all, and presents none of the rarity (and therefore value, and eventually, the need for compensation) that presence within an art institution formerly indicated.

On the contrary, Internet art is often slow, expensive to produce, and very calculating in it's structure and execution. Why, therefore, do exhibtions need to have 40-60 projects when there is so much comlexity that needs to be explored that currently isn't within 5-10 of them?

> I guess my question is what models are out there--or need to be
> created--that make sense? What would be equitable "in a museum context
> just like any other artist?"


In other words, what we need to do is not pay for only links, but pay for practice, engagement, and dialogue between the artists and institutions in the form of artistic service, so that what comes out of the process can be forwarded.

Those creating online exhibitions need not, from a purely legal standpoint, even inform artists that they are linking up, including them in the "show". They, of course, have an ethical responsibility to do so. Is it not also an ethical responsibility to enter into meaningful and extended dialogue with the artists whose projects they feature? Not that instutions do not communicate with artists, but the current models remove any incentive to expand the terms of engagement. There is no need: everyone can just link up and call it a day.

And to try and keep this related somewhat
> to the competition theme, are there intangibles that an institution
> offers that are of actual value to the artist in a competitive
> marketplace, whether financial or mindshare, whether as part of a
> capitalist economy or a gift economy?


Creating a need for the intagible services that artists provide to the insitutions featureing their work is the first step. Working with artists on individual project or small groups of projects elimiates the "fast, cheap, and out of control" model that dominates online exhibition practice and leaves artist compensation out of the the equasion.

Food for thought. EAT has been a very satisying meal,indeed.


________________________________________


 

5. robbin murphy


 

From rnm7789@is9.nyu.edu Fri, 24 Mar 2000 16:11:22 -0500 (EST)
Date: Fri, 24 Mar 2000 16:11:22 -0500 (EST)
From:
Robbin Neal Murphy rnm7789@is9.nyu.edu
Subject: [Eat-raw] near-sitedness


Keith and Jon I. wrote:

>>>> Steve's gesture was nice, but we should expect better. Like helping the average Joe understand why online art is interesting, or coming up with strategies for extending the lifetime of media threatened by accelerated obsolescence.<<<<

The Walker isn't a museum like the Guggenheim, it's an art center so it already has a mission that goes beyond the museum's mandate to "collect, preserve, and educate." The art center movement, a holdover from the 'sixties, isn't well understood and perhaps Steve or someone else could provide some background. I understand The Walker is about to start an expansion program that would situate it as a kind of commons within the larger Minneapolis urban environment.

>>>>For a museum to dole out server space wouldn't move brick-and-mortar institutions closer to an egalitarian network aesthetic--it would move the artists who participated further away. How long would it be before artists handed out business cards with frank.walkerart.org on them? ("Wow, you have a museum domain!")

I suggested to David Ross in 1994 that the Whitney should do that. Museum members could have a member@whitney.org email address. It would have been ubiquitous by now. Even Thomas Krens (Guggenheim director) said he liked the idea of the Guggenheim being next to the hot dog vendor on the street, though now it would be next to yahoo.com.

>>>> Sure, it's more prestigious to be Saks Fifth Avenue than Saks 125th Street, but that's because in real estate, "location is everything." On the Web, location can and should be meaningless;<<<<

Uh, oh. You should chat with Olia Lialina about the importance of domain names. You are your domain name on the net. That's the net.art mantra.

>>>>Neighbors on the Internet should be defined not by sharing a zip code--nor by sharing a domain name or the partition of a hard drive--but by sharing ideas and interests. Isn't that the point of a virtual community?<<<<

That's why I say the Walker should create a "freenet" where autonomous entities can interact with the institution. Create the interfaces we need. It could be the place to find the technical expertise you need, which is what artnetweb.com tried to do.

>>>>Funny how Brad hangs out on listserves sponsored by the same institutions he rails against, like the kid who throws rocks at the windows of his affluent neighbors but happily accepts an invitation to come in for lunch. Maybe he should knock on artists' doors for a "change." Then he might actually see one.<<<<

Brad has been here from the beginning. He's like a cherished elder by now who remembers all the old chants. The fact that he doesn't sing them very well sometimes doesn't matter to me. He is, in his own way, acting more like a responsible museum than most museums.


________________________________________


 

6. steve dietz


 

From stevedietz@yproductions.com Sat, 25 Mar 2000 02:36:35 -0600
Date: Sat, 25 Mar 2000 02:36:35 -0600
From:
Steve Dietz stevedietz@yproductions.com
Subject: [Eat-raw] near-sitedness


I don't really have a lot to add right now to what Jon/Keith, T.Whid, murph, BB, Patrick, Jennifer and others have said about the server issue except that I do want to be greedily opportunistic about the discussion. I do agree with TWhid that I think the issue is potentially more one of support than domain name. I think the hardest issue, for me, is what Jon/Keith raised re the net effect of such support being counterintuitive, although I like TWhid's DJ analogy (in a different discussion) about how roles are breaking down to some extent--at least that was my interpretation.


________________________________________


 

7. philippe, philippe, philippe, philippe


 

From philippe.vergne@walkerart.org 25 Mar 00 12:01:42 -0600
Date: 25 Mar 00 12:01:42 -0600
From:
Philippe Vergne philippe.vergne@walkerart.org
Subject: [Eat-raw] Superiority
Reply to: Re: [Eat-raw] Superiority


"..i should imagine that museums now love net.art because they can still get away with paying net.artists so little to link to or show thier work.. now when all of us take our sites offline unless we are paid similarly to the other types of artist that show in museums..i don't see how that will change.." Are you serious? I would do the opposite. I would over saturate museum site with net and would stop when I am paid similarly to Julian Schnabel.

*

From philippe.vergne@walkerart.org 25 Mar 00 12:53:45 -0600
Date: 25 Mar 00 12:53:45 -0600
From:
Philippe Vergne philippe.vergne@walkerart.org
Subject: [Eat-raw] competition in the gift economy
Reply to: RE: [Eat-raw] competition in the gift economy

I know, I am late reacting to the conversation, but I am so happy you wrote that Jon. I am so happy that you are trying to move the conversation outside "making money" or "being in or out the institution" or even worst the cliche idea that "gallery artists (whatever it means) are priviledge in term of $$.
I am so happy because reading those message I was thinking that the issues were so very narrow.

*

From philippe.vergne@walkerart.org 25 Mar 00 17:16:33 -0600
Date: 25 Mar 00 17:16:33 -0600
From:
Philippe Vergne philippe.vergne@walkerart.org
Subject: [Eat-raw] Winning

>>>>The conversation around net.art suggests to me that competition is a mixture of a sense of justice or equity with a healthy dose of self-interest.

The conversation around net.art suggests to me that competition is a mixture of winning and whining (nothing personal here)... something like "whining.com"

*

From philippe.vergne@walkerart.org 25 Mar 00 13:16:51 -0600
Date: 25 Mar 00 13:16:51 -0600
From:
Philippe Vergne philippe.vergne@walkerart.org
Subject: [Eat-raw] Re: Superiority

Steve,
I would ask the question What is "equitable income"? What is the norm of equity here. I disagree about this cliche regarding gallery artists. Are you talking Richard Serra or are talking Jim Lambie? I would fight for equitable income for Jim Lambie as well as for valery grancher. I think it a wrong issue. Also, regarding installation. it is still an issue for visual artists to be paid for installation. It is not a given. One artist has been advocating for that for years: Daniel Buren. The model to follow is performing art. They have fee for rehearsal. So instead of trying to make a difference between net artists and the others (us and them), let's get organized together. But, I swear, installation fees are still a battle. Of course there is a difference in terms of treatment. But because there is an history of " gallery artist" fighting the battle. Digital art or net is younger. And it is not through making a romantic distinction between the 2 that it is going to be better.


________________________________________


 

8. jon winet


 

From jonwinet@yahoo.fr Sat, 25 Mar 2000 21:46:48 +0100 (CET)
Date: Sat, 25 Mar 2000 21:46:48 +0100 (CET)
From:
Jon Winet jonwinet@yahoo.fr
Subject: [Eat-raw] "Is it possible to discuss this?" --- fees to artists
and artists' organizations


Philippe, Steve and all -

I'm glad we're discussing the issue of fees to artists-across the playing field. And not only is it 'possible to discuss,' I think it's important to note that the trail has been blazed in the United States by the National Association of Artists' Organizations (NAAO http://www.naao.org) and its member organizations (Southern Exposure in San Francisco, Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis, Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center in Buffalo, etc, all of whom have a commitment to the payment of artists fees. (Canadian artists organizations also have a remarkable history in this regard as well.)

It's such a seller's market-artists are in such fierce competition for limited 'sanctioned' exhibition space- that any effort to argue that artists deserve to be paid for their work is a courageous stand to take. And as noted, the institutional practice on the Internet not surprisingly parallels that in the 'rw.' (real world) I join Philippe in advocating for a joint effort.

Jon


________________________________________


 

9. jon ippolito


 

From JIppolito@guggenheim.org Sun, 26 Mar 2000 01:05:02 -0500
Date: Sun, 26 Mar 2000 01:05:02 -0500
From:
Jon Ippolito JIppolito@guggenheim.org
Subject: [Eat-raw] no collaboration without competition


I'd love to continue the fight for distributed over centralized online art, but the scoreboard clock is ticking down and the coach is yelling at us to kick the ball down field...so here's some concluding thoughts on offline competition.

I have a love-hate relationship with sports: I love to play them but hate to watch them. I will admit, however, that observing sports carefully can hone certain critical skills, from imputing motives (why is the quarterback fading back?) to recognizing deceptions (she's just drawing the goalie out of the box) to comparing strategies (he wields his foil like an epee fencer). Unfortunately, the fact that every organized sport mandates winners and losers shrouds these potentially valuable perceptions in a cloud of emotional Manichaeism (crowds of old women at Italian soccer games shouting "Bastardi! Bastardi!").

If we could only get winning and losing out of our heads, we would recognize the central role competition plays in structuring our world. The street plan of Paris, the papacy, the English language, even the wiring of our brains are not top-down designs issued by a univocal god or government, but the historical residue of temporary alliances among warring factions. According to my 8th-grade history teacher Mr. Leach, the division of the U.S. government into the executive, legislative, and judicial branches was designed as the logical way to ensure "checks and balances." Mr. Leach was close, but the checks and balances came *first*, then the design: each of the three branches wanted a piece of the action, and the current organizational chart just reflects the compromise reached at the Constitutional Convention.

Unfortunately most art critics and historians make the same mistake as Mr. Leach when it comes to analyzing the design of a particular artwork. They either assume art springs from the solitary genius of its creator, or conversely that it reflects in a microcosm the ideology dominant in the culture at the time. When talking about established artists, however, we have to recognize that most work in a collaborative environment, whether it's Richard Serra paying studio assistants to make oil-stick drawings or Jenny Holzer asking a programmer to code _Please Change Beliefs_. There's tension in any collaboration, simply because everyone has different values and objectives. The fact that artists usually bury this disagreement in the final form of their artwork makes it easier for viewers to miss the crucial role competition has played in its production--and hence to swallow the myths propagated by art critics and historians. Maintaining an artificial "unified front" may gratify an artist's ego, but it's bad politics to conceal the real dynamic--not to mention the real people--involved in making the work.

As Jon Winet mentioned, you can never tell how a competition is going to turn out, and this element of unpredictability is why it's empowering to look at the world through the lens of competition. If a result isn't preordained, then maybe our own diminutive actions can have an effect on the outcome.

That's why Janet Cohen, Keith, and I get impatient with artists who tell us how their recent multimedia project really just "came together" thanks to the "group effort" of all the contributors grooving to a "collaborative mindset." As we say at www.three.org, there is no collaboration without competition.


________________________________________


 

10. next course


 

Please join me in welcoming our newest group of dinner guests to the table as we proceed with the next course: mischief.

Natalie Bookchin lives in Echo Park in Los Angeles in the United States of America close to the 2, the 5, the 101, and the 110. She occasionally goes to the beach and works in her sometimes succulent Southern California garden-in-progress.She also drives a lot.

Charles Tonderai Mudede is a native of Zimbabwe. He now lives in Seattle and, along with teaching literature through Seattle Arts and Lecture, contributes film criticism and reviews to Seattle's alternative weekly The Stranger. He is currently working on a novel.

Natalie Jeremijenko is a design engineer and internationally renowned techno-artist. Her work includes digital, electromechanical, and interactive systems in addition to biotechnological work. She has a retrospective of her work forthcoming at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Australia.

Rachel Baker has been working since 1997 as a net.artist, specialising in techniques used in contemporary marketing to gather and distribute data for the purposes of data control. Her net.radio projects include a net.radio magazine called TMSelector as well as webcasting with Backspace.Org and others. She is currently working on the analysis, design and management of Irational.org's information systems, to continue its project of social radicalism in conjunction with technological opportunity.

®TMark is a system of workers, ideas, and money whose function is to encourage the intelligent sabotage of mass-produced items. They are a brokerage that benefits from "limited liability" just like any other corporation; using this principle, RTMark supports the informative alteration of corporate products, from dolls and children's learning tools to electronic action games, by channelling funds from investors to workers for specific projects grouped into "mutual funds."


________________________________________


 
links

  Art Entertainment Network (AEN)
http://aen.walkerart.org/

Entertainment, Art & Technology (EAT)
http://www.walkerart.org/salons/eat/