Von Editor: Josephine Bosma am 08. Dezember 2002 um 00:00



CREAM_11




It is getting colder in Europe. Darker too. It is December, time for
contemplation, but also for parties and sharing food and gifts. Here is
your new cream. Have it with some hot chocolate. Or with some ice cream,
if you live on the southern hemisphere! Let your deadlines leave the
room for a moment. This is the first cream new style. We have invited
new writers and started fresh collaborations. The theme for this first
new cream is - GENEROSITY -.

Many net cultural enterprises are based on a so called exchange economy.
This exchange economy is not about exchanging one thing for another
literally. Most of the time people give something, offer something,
while they do not expect immediate rewards for it. This can be anything.
>From news to code, from software to music. Ever since the developments
in wireless internet connections offering access to a wireless node is
also part of the exchange economy generosity spectrum. Former Telepolis
editor and writer Armin Medosch was co-organisor of a conference on
wireless internet cultures in Berlin recently. Armin Medosch lives and
works in London since a few years. He had the idea to bring the lively
wireless cultures of London to Berlin, having them meet in one of
Berlin's most prominent media labs: bootlab. Thus BerLon
http://bootlab.org/berlon/ was born. Those who still think initiatives
like this one (and all internet related enterprises) are weightless,
disembodied, unnatural phenomena should definitely read Armin's text
below. Also those of you who are aware of all human considerations and
efforts net cultures are a result of might well enjoy a bite of his
Wireless Goulash.
In his contribution to this cream Uli Wegenast, art historian and part
of the organization Wand5 from Stuttgart (which amongst other things
organizes the Stuttgarter Filmwinter, an interesting 'festival for
expanded media'), wonders about the contradictions between ideologies
and practices in net cultures. He seems to confuse the nettime mailing
list environments with the practices in net art circles, but still Uli
Wegenast has a few very good points. It is true there is a certain
tension between early and late adapters to net art and there always has
been. Uli Wegenast criticizes the emphasis veterans place on knowledge
and experience when it comes to approaching net art and net culture at
large. Would he criticize such an emphasis in a more general art
environment so vehemently too, I cannot help but wonder though. His
questions and criticism do point to one sometimes too easily forgotten
issue: it is important to keep a lively discourse going, to keep
developing and welcoming fresh insights to art and net cultures.
Wegenast's text seems to ask for more generosity from the side of old
die hards in the field of net criticism. There is one thing which seems
sure: the nostalgia around the old notions, traditions and network of
net.art has to go.
Last but not least Karin Hinterleitner of the german web site
betacity.de wrote an ironic, contemplative piece about her recent
experiences in the meat space of European alternative internet culture.
It connects to Uli Wegenast's observation of the traces of confusion
and nostalgia which can be found in many net scenes. In a light way she
describes the slight feeling of unease which seems to haunt her and
others who try to find their way in the changed landscape of a
post-dot.com internet and its real world spin offs. I love the dry
observation of one of Karin Hinterleitner's respondents to her
questionnaire about collaboration and net culture. "the notion of net
culture seems a bit boring and local". Yes indeed, it is time to also
investigate the influence of 'the local' in net cultures deeper and to
not get lost in globalities anymore.

Coming to the end of my intro, and getting close to letting you have
your well deserved portion of cream, I would like to dedicate this
edition of cream to http://www.laudanum.net , which has generously
hosted and supported us for almost two years now. Laudanum is the home
of two artists, Zina Kaye and Mr. Snow. They host the work of many
fellow artists and also of writers on their site. It is not often people
offer to build you a database out of kindness, but laudanum has done
just that. Thanks for that, you are fantastic!!!


Josephine Bosma, Amsterdam, December 4th 2002.


ps: Some of you might know I have been editor of all creams so far. As
cream will have a changing editor every month from now, I hereby leave
you in the hands of my skilled successors!


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contents of this cream:

Armin Medosch - My Wireless Goulash
Uli Wegenast - Net Criticism and the Inner Circle
Karin Hinterleitner - Group/Ungroup

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Armin Medosch - My Wireless Goulash


Imagine a meshwork of ideas, like a big pot of goulash full to the brim,
steaming with virtuality. Invite friends, buy food, wine, start cooking,
enjoy contact with ingredients, clean, wash, chop: onion, garlic,
tomato, meat, chop chop, throw everything into a big pot, pour water,
stir, cook slowly, answer doorbell, take fresh breath of air that people
bring with them from street; let people unwind, serve drinks, listen to
stories, while the room slowly fills with the smell of goulash. enjoy
listening, keep stirring, while more people arrive, greetings, kisses,
hugs, more stories, more particles flying in ether net of friendship,
members of peer group routing empathy packets, requests for comment,
temporary buffer overflow, condensation on windows and reddened cheeks;
goulash, meanwhile, smells really strong, more wine needed,
conversations settle in, everybody is here now maybe except for one, or
two, or three, who knows? Goulash has highly flexible scalability in
number of eaters. everybody is hungry now, many jokes, much laughter,
plates, cutlery distribute themselves over table, eating starts, tongues
tasting, licking, fluids starting to reach throat, stomach, warm
pleasure of food distributing energy throughout the body, while
conversational packet switching reduced to minimum, keeping all
bio-ports accessible, expectations lingering.

A few weeks ago, shortly before BerLon, the Berlin - London wireless
culture workshop, I felt the necessity of bringing all the London
participants together in a social context before we would go to Berlin.
I invited them for a dinner. I must admit, I felt awful at that time. I
had too much to do, I hardly got a foot on the ground, I was very bad at
taking care of myself in terms of healthy nutrition, living mainly of
the various take-away food outlets in the area. But once I had made up
my mind to do this dinner there was no way back. Luckily, I found a very
able volunteer to help with the cooking. We practiced collaborative
cooking: I made a goulash, she made fish and a vegetarian pasta. It all
went very well. I was so tired by the time we went shopping, but once I
had my goulash stew going and a couple of glasses of white wine inside
me, I felt gradually better. The goulash was appreciated, I think,
because almost everything was eaten up. A few unannounced guests
appeared. The after dinner conversation that we had was really important
to bring everybody on board in terms of sharing a similar level of
information and we re-asserted ourselves of what we had set out to do at
BerLon. At the end of the evening I had recharged my batteries with
friendly feelings and renewed confidence.

There are some shared qualities between making a dinner and sharing your
bandwidth by setting up a wireless access point, not only in regard of
figures of speech such as "cooking pot markets" (R.A.Gosh, First Monday)
but also in relation to the actual deed itself. You do not expect some
tit-for-tat immediate reward, like being invited for another dinner next
week. But you do get something back, and even so you are not quite sure
yet what this will be, you do it, anyway, you open up your server, your
kitchen, for what use anybody might make of it (and this is the point,
"what use"), and you embed yourself in a social network and get your
feelers out in a 3600 radius. Initially you are sending out just a
beacon, that basic radio signal which gets transmitted every odd second
or so, by a wireless access point. And once this is received by someones
computer and the right software instantiated, TCP/IP and all that it can
carry starts to flow in two-way directions. The network from your house
gets expanded and you start to lead a public life. For me, this basic
choice comes down to a very political question in times like this, it is
something that actually could make a change, the wireless, the joint
cooking experience, the sharing, the opening up of your cellars and
attics.

Aware of the fact that I can only say this from a position of relative
wealth, having a house, a kitchen, a stove, being able to spend odd quid
something on food and (admittedly, in that instant, quite cheap) wine,
it has to be added that there needs to be some sort of surplus in
order to be able to share. Surplus of food or bandwidth or, at the very
least, emotional energy. This is something else that I believe in that,
even so we are constantly told that there is scarcity all around, there
is a lot of surplus that has just not been tapped into and there are
actually limitless resources if we humans handle things well. And from
this point of view, the culture of sharing and peering might be a
political program that could end capitalism as we know it, which would
be widely appreciated, I guess. Cause many are sick and tired of the way
things go now, many don't want to wait much longer for an urgently
needed system change in the West. But if, apart from the grander scheme
of things, all I can contribute now is to make dinner or put my antenna
out there to distribute bandwidth, this might be just as well the
perfect thing to do at this point in time.


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Uli Wegenast - Net Criticism and the Inner Circle


Its obvious that art servers and net culture platforms have contributed
very much to make net art visible beyond the relevant net scene. There
are still a lot of problems and clichis to face though. Some of the
problems are 'home-made'.

I asked myself why net artists and net activists often give a kind of
ban of speaking to people who are newbies or aren't programmers. I
understand the concept of "Do It Yourself" quite well. It reminds me a
little bit of the punk attitude. But there's a big difference: in punk
movement the "mastery of technique" was absolutely peripheral. If you go
into the subject of formation of circles in the net you see that there
are various, sometimes very different reasons for this tendency amongst
net pioneers to emphasize knowledge and experience.
Indeed, every movement tends to distinguish. It's commonplace that art
groups and youth movements always want to set themselves off against the
"others". Also there is nothing wrong with constructing "net islands"
as Padeluun described in his "thesis for a linked world". Nevertheless
it's astonishing that net artists and net activists tend to withdraw
themselves from an open discussion which always comprises insufficiency
of the misinformed. The problem is known generally in all virtual
communities. But it's absurd that especially news groups and online
media in the field of net art and online activism, which almost always
are preaching about the democratic possibilities of the net, bring
forward the difference between the inner circle of net activism and the
uncultured. If they can't distinguish themselves through technical
knowledge they call the others "late developers" or "late beginners",
like in the manifests of nettime. Maybe this position results out of
the awareness of the early advocates of net culture that they are ousted
by the massive and confusing development of the net. Also there is a
change of generations going on like Lev Manovich explained in his
article "Generation Flash". The early arguments and warnings of the
lords of net critique went unheard. Facing the fact that its impossible
to gain permanent attention they start to build up a canon of net art.
Writing his book about "net art", the author Tilman Baumgdrtel was quite
aware that he was constructing something like a canon of net art. In
the introduction of his book he writes: "At the same time I'm aware,
that the book itself will partly contribute to the process of selection
and canonization of net art which is probably inevitable for the art
system. Whether I like it or not." Because there's no real solution how
net art will conserved in future times also the artists have a big
interest in printed publications. Tilman Baumgdrtel concludes his
introduction: "If sometime in the future all net projects are lost
(because they were deleted, because artists have lost their interest in
net projects, because the internet isn't existing anymore, because no
museum dont care about conserving them...), then one can at least read
in the interviews of this book, that there once has been something."

Observing a shift in net culture as well as in distribution and
conservation strategies maybe this debate about self organizing net
critique is coming to an end. To an increasing degree state driven
institutions in Europe and mighty foundations and museums in North
America take on the preservation and production of net art. A consortium
of important museums in the United States has joined together to develop
the "Project Archiving the Avant-garde". This consortium wants to draw
up a list of standards how to record and archive outstanding works of
digital art. In this initiative of museums the Berkeley Art Museum, the
Pacific Film Archive, the Guggenheim Museum, the Walker Art Center, the
Franklin Furnace Archive and the Cleveland Performance Art Festival have
joined together. Also "Rhizome" is a member of this initiative. The
stable structures of institutions seem to take the place of the
initiatives of individuals (with the unstable structures that come with
those). But I fear that a certain arbitrariness in the selection of
projects and discourses will remain. Additionally it isn't unlikely that
in times where funds are permanently cut back that institutions like
museums will neglect the promotion and preservation of net art because
this form of cultural practice still doesn't fit in the concept of a
museum and doesn't reach a mass art audience. Experience has shown that
payment and production conditions for net artists in big institutions
isn't automatically better. Often these institutions refuse fees with
the explanation that the fame of the institution will promote the work
of the young artists. But in a field of art where theres nothing to
sell nobody can expect that traditional galleries become interested to
distribute net art work.
In the field of independent and experimental film similar processes
happen. For example the Guggenheim Foundation was keen to take over the
film archives of the Anthology Film Archives. Its film stock threatened
to decay. The preservation is so expensive that it seems to be very
difficult for an independent institution to solve the problem alone. We
already have comparable cases in net art. Dda'web is now hosted by the
Walker Art Center and sooner or later the "Rhizome" data base of net art
could be taken over by big art institutions as well. Indeed it's better
that mighty institutions feel responsible for the maintenance of net
culture than seeing its art disappearing. We are not in a situation that
the internet stops to exist. But it's one of many paradoxes that net
activists like Wolfgang Staehle, initiator of "The Thing" who always
wanted to work outside of the institutions of art, now seem to become
assimilated.
But net art and net critique should not become a mere problem of
conservation of a no longer existing alternative, subversive online
practice. It is necessary to keep the discussions and the platforms
alive and set up new communication forms and channels. The internet
still exists and, despite of the dead.com mania, it becomes more and
more important in political, economic and everyday life. With a
retrospective rhetoric of the "New" and a retreat in a position of
founding members and pioneers it's quite likely that net critique would
become merely another topic of historic research, instead of a living
discourse. And that is the early advocates of net critique like Geert
Lovink do not seem to want to happen. They have always propagated an
almost romantic attitude: "Intellectual involvement could no longer be
metacritique from the safe position of the outsider. Activism was
required."


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Karin Hinterleitner: Group/Ungroup

"It is always nice to meet net culture people for real"


The end of the new economy does not just burden former
dotcom-professionals, but it also burdens the collective unconscious of
those people that don't even try to hide a certain malicious enjoyment
about the burn out of venture capital. For those people it is good to
meet at conferences, festivals and openings, just to confirm the
validity of mutual, unquestioned basic assumptions. Let me give you
three examples:

1) At the Dortmund Server Festival a truly contemporary event format was
invented: the autistic meeting. After traveling from far and near net
activists would meet in back rooms, plug into the local network and
exchange the latest gossip while never taking their eyes of their
computer screens.

Not far from this important issues were dealt with: at last I found out
who is behind microprozessor.org while I was able to eliminate the
suspicion that I am the person hiding behind the nick name 'Kuprac' at
the same time. Then the quarrels on the The Thing Frankfurt mailing list
(about the '10 years of The Thing Frankfurt' meeting) were topic of
heated discussions. At some point the evening ended, we packed up our
laptops and were happy to have met again. We said good bye while saying:
next year in Dortmund!

Because of lack of time I am hardly capable of keeping track of mailing
lists, let alone specific threads. I was happy to have been able to get
my hands on some insider information (the advantage of being in
touch!)about the next net activist meeting, '10 years The Thing
Frankfurt', at this same Dortmund server festival.

2) The 10 years of The Thing Frankfurt jubilee treated its guests to
coffee and cake. Screen shots of the invited net projects were hanging
on the wall. A complete mailbox archive of the first years of The Thing
Frankfurt was on a stand alone computer. All visitors got into deep
conversation. A hand painted Dppelwoi-Bembel with the inscription '10
years The Thing Frankfurt' represented translocal claims (1).

During the introduction and discussion rounds it became clear there was
something all net projects shared: basic existential questions haunt the
once young activists: for whom, why and from what. This did not exactly
create an atmosphere in which future collaborations could take shape.
Matze Schmidt made a 'killer proposal' during the discussion round. He
proposed to end certain projects in order to explore new issues and new
forms of activism. Yet nobody wanted to be lured into a defeatist
attitude. The atmosphere became more relaxed. Music started to play -
and no matter what: we were never as valuable as we are today!

It is an old trick from the capitalist avant garde to get people to
create their own disruptions. People start to feel they need to break up
camp and dissolve connections, only to proceed - out of the frying pan
into the fire. No, no, in times like these one should not prematurely
un-group. Groups guarantee continuity - something one should not confuse
with stagnation, of course. Corporations like Dell or Ikea may be able
to afford to think about possibilities instead of about people - but we,
we think long term, because what are we without our personal network?

3) In the beginning of November Station Rose organized a congress with
this topic, networks. Unfortunately I was not able to attend, but
luckily my personal network was represented there. These are some of the
questions this network came up with: Did the Station Rose congress
organization expect loss of coherence due to its grossly generalized
theme ('cybernetic media world from pop to recycling')? Was the
techno-social ensemble only technically faltered (the web stream from
London didn't work very well)? Or are there simply no more revivals of
utopian thought in post utopian times? Whatever it was, there were
barely twenty-five people in the room. Two contributions of a more
refreshing nature were described to me. One was 'nets as universities'
by Ralf Hohmann and the other was an outer program 'post it sticker
action' by Matze Schmidt. The guest on stage felt clearly disturbed by
the sticker action and removed all stickers, thus providing the dramatic
highlight of the evening.


Epilogue:


In preparation of the before mentioned server festival I invited people
(through mailing lists) to take part in a questionnaire about net based
collaboration and net culture. Only the third and fourth mailing, and
especially sending the questions directly to acquaintances, gave some
results. One answer in particular, to the question what role
communication plays in group projects on the internet, bugged me a lot:
for this man the internet is no means to communicate, but it is only an
environment. This person, his name is Etienne Cliquet, actually finds it
a shame that art is forced to be communicative in order to exist within
the net. Communication should not be a systematic wrap up of artistic
content on the internet.

All answers were drenched in a pragmatic approach of the net. Being an
ironic pragmatist myself this felt like a pleasant confirmation. To
understand the internet as an environment for learning, as
simultaneously a reason and an excuse to use new technologies and new
theories. This is what Etienne Cliquet says is a maybe banal but still
important aspect of net culture for him. Peter Haury, another respondent
to the questionnaire, is an artist and 'net user'. He points at the
connectivity within net culture: "I mistrust the overrated alleged
communication that centers purely around technical possibilities and the
creation of contexts and platforms, whereby human and meaningful
connectivity is lost". Stefan Merten expands on this; he does believe
that the internet helps one find like-minded people, but nevertheless he
sees the communication through the internet as a cultural technology
first of all, a technology not well controlled by most of its users".
For 'Liz' net culture equals networking, nothing more. Besides that the
notion of net culture seems a bit boring and local to her.


(1)
http://www.n0name.de/pixtream/archive/pixtream-ttf/pixtream-ttf8.jpg.htm

Dortmund server festival: http://www.serverfestival.net
The Thing Frankfurt: http://www.thing-frankfurt.de
Station Rose conf: http://www.stationrose.com/netzwerke.html
Questionnaire and outcome:
http://www.betacity.de/serverfestival/answers.htm


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cream is an experimental collaboration of writers and curators in the
field of art, with a focus on art in networks. You can subscribe to
cream and we invite you to forward this mail to anybody you feel might
be interested in the content of cream.

Contributors and supporters of cream so far: Saul Albert, Inke Arns,
Tilman Baumgaertel, Josephine Bosma, Sarah Cook, Florian Cramer, Steve
Dietz, Katharina Gsvllpointner, Karin Hinterleitner, Frederic Madre,
Armin Medosch, Robbin Murphy, Tetsuo Kogawa, Uli Wegenast.

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cream is moving. The next few months we will move from Laudanum.net to
its own domain. You will be able to find us at our old adress for a
while too, which is:
http://www.laudanum.net/cream
But from Januari 2003 cream will be at:
http://cream.artcriticism.org

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cream would not be possible without the work and hospitality of the
House of Laudanum, http://www.laudanum.net .

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