Web Art 2.0 Discussion Afterthoughts 2

From the Rhizome.org discussion boards (edited slightly for length, clarity). We are discussing net.art (pre-2000) vs the so-called Net Art 2.0:

Damon Zucconi: in my mind a shift occurs when there is a move from highly 'fragile' and [technologically] complex situations to things composed of much more autonomous and portable 'bounded media objects' (youtube embeds, etc...).

Tom Moody: ...This sounds interesting but examples would help us visualizationally challenged folks.

Damon Zucconi: overly specific but 'fragile' and [technologically] complex situations:
http://muse.calarts.edu/~line/history.html [Natalie Bookchin's internet art timeline from 1994-2000 --ed.]

autonomous and portable 'bounded media objects':

Tracky: It seems that we (3rd generation net artists as Olia calls us) were trashed with all that cultural content by the media and finally grew up to communicate in a way which is all about quoting or remixing that garbage (even if it concerns new phenomena); whereas 1990s net.art was more trying to come up with a intentional concept and seemed to have an answer prepared for even the un-asked questions. To me it really seems like the newer net art is more about processing cultural input than it is about the dimensions and the possibilities of the web. Frames and hypertext, code and generative art, Mille Plateau and Rhizomes; [those are] all very interesting things concerning the concepts of mediated perception. But to me the stuff which is going on today is more about presets and terms of mainstream perception... Call it reactionary, but I feel like anything you do (appropriate, remix, or just getting inspired) is some sort of reaction since we have been so exposed to media (old and new). Whether it's cheesy marquee tags or fancy iChat effects or (whatevs) it's all about the cultural competence and less about a new frontier.

Tom Moody: Tracky, I'd like to amend your statement ("the newer net art is more about processing cultural input than it is about the dimensions and the possibilities of the web") to say that it's not just something your generation of artists is doing. Damon's list bugs me for being so generation-specific. Some of us have been practicing and preaching the presets gospel for years. The difference is it's done with an element of conscious opposition to old-guard net art practice, much (not all) of which is over-intellectualized and looking back to '60s (text-centric, gallery-centric) conceptual art for models. I prefer my Fluxus on the fly (hence the interest in 4chan) not through stating a proposition of what a piece is going to be and then "proving" (ie, illustrating) it.*

Damon Zucconi: I, by no means, consider that to be some sort of comprehensive list or anything. I don't particularly want to get into the business of canonization ;)

"processing cultural input" is a nice way of putting it... content with a lowercase -c...

guthrie: Yes, the newer net art treats the Internet as the present/past rather than as the future. It's too skeptical of the technology to use it in some fancy innovative way...

*In case this isn't clear, the "it" in the fourth sentence refers to "practicing and preaching the presets gospel" and the "which" refers to "old-guard net art practice." Tracky asked for examples of the oppositional practice I was talking about. It's basically 7 years of my blog(s), where I put up a lot of junk mixed in with the art and left it to the viewer to sort it out, and where I opened up a dialog to all comers as opposed to swapping grant-friendly tech talk on a ListServ. One place where I part company with Damon's canon, sorry, list, is I've put up media objects but never as embeds. I'm about being surfed by people at work and on dialup and I never put anything up that requires Flash updates or might never load (links to that, yes). I got interested in GIFs because they were a low-bandwidth way to do media stuff. Also, I'm more concerned with original content than appropriating. By "text-centric" and "gallery-centric" I was referring to net.art 1.0's application of Lawrence Wiener, Sol LeWitt, et al to web practice, not the design of websites. Damon made a later point about the blog form vs wikis, etc. and I agree the weblog format is a lot of what made me different from the Bookchinites and will probably date me if it hasn't already.

Surf Clubs vs 1 Minute Marxism

A specialty of the veteran Internet artists who dominate the Rhizome chatboards is a kind of instant dialectical materialism. Whenever a new form ("thesis") comes along, they resist and ridicule it ("antithesis"), then burn rubber to claim they were always already doing it ("synthesis").

This happened with the "8 Bit movement" and now the "surf club movement."

In the latter case, the race to the nebulous center can be seen on this discussion thread. A Rhizomer states that "discourse collapsed" with the "found object gamesmanship" of current practitioners. This statement is challenged. Soon another Rhizomer posits the existence of longstanding camps and claims the current movement has proven them both correct.

I am oversimplifying (conflating the surf clubs with Web 2.0) but that's the general drift of the discussion. Unfortunately you could never follow it because of another tendency of the veteran Rhizomers: the asynchronous verbal pile-on. This is accomplished in part by the tactic of replying to current comments with long arguments appended to earlier comments. An impossible hairball of words accumulates and all thought disappears to an outside observer. (It's also a bit like a Nature Channel show I saw where bees kill an invading Japanese hornet by smothering it with their bodies. Eventually the hornet's body temperature is raised and it cooks to death.)

But seriously, some interesting exchanges can be teased out of the hairball and I plan to post some of them with afterthoughts, in the coming weeks, prior to the Net Aesthetics 2.0 panel at the New Museum. I hope to talk about my own work vis a vis Net Art 2.0 but it will be good to have some of these arguments in mind.