3rd Inclusiva-Net Meeting:
Trans.Form.Work | Internet-based Art in the Real Space
“Translation is a mode.” (Walter Benjamin) — Why is it still easier to get an entire museum collection on the Internet than to get a single work of Internet-based Art in a museum space? As with the nature of this question, both aspects have to be taken into account: the field of Internet-based Art with its media-specifics, as well as the mechanisms which allow institutions to continue to filter what the public at large understands to be art. Within this balancing act between independent/anti-institutional and institutional/commercial work, a transfer of artworks created in and for the Internet into a setting which is normally dedicated to the presentation of highly valued forms of art, can only be developed from case to case and according to what the typology of the actual artwork requires. Internet-based Art is in a constant shift between the daily news and its own history, between commercial/political interests and the activism against it, between technological innovation and the cultural context, technology is embedded in and finally it oscillates between an expanded field of artistic practices and its well defined precursors — many reasons why it is stuck in a home-made ghetto between “the two cultures”. In this regard, the present essay reflects upon strategies of how artistic creation on the Internet and the translational processes of its re-formulation in the real space can be combined to develop appropriate presentational modes, suitable for both sides and finally dissolving the still existing dichotomies in favour of interdisciplinary discourse.
INTERNET WORK — Provided that there is a computer with Internet access, Internet-based Art can be viewed at any time and any location and therefore be left in its own medium of production — or, to put it bluntly, the medium equals the showroom. Over more than fifteen years, the curation of Internet-based Art in a medium of its own developed into a multifaceted communication process on content, among users of all backgrounds and provenances. Just to name a few, artists, activists, programmers, scholars deriving from differents disciplines, users/spectators of all kinds can be involved in the process of curating Internet-based Art. Curators dealing with the Internet as an artistic space are deemed “cultural context providers” (1), “meta artists” (2), “power users” (3), “filter feeders” (4) or simply “proactive consumers” (5). “Curating (on) the Web” (6), as termed in 1998 already, not only creates a public space for the protagonists of Internet-based Art, but also enables them to participate in creating their own public space, which often takes on the form of discursive contextualisation strategies and presentational models. Even more than the installation of an exhibition in a — virtual — exhibition room, by providing texts, images and links to the “original” artworks, the handling of technological developments and the knowledge about existing channels of communication are integral parts of Internet-based curating, as are providing resources, initiating collaborations and remaining in contact with internationally acting networks.
Expanding the curators’ field of action is closely linked to the media-specific characteristics of art produced on and for the Internet. It allows them to incorporate more than the supervision, contextualisation and exhibition of artworks in museums, galleries or off-spaces. Internet-based Art does not necessarily have to be presented in a customary exhibition space, because, as already mentioned before, as long as there is a computer with access to the Internet, it can be viewed and used anywhere any time. In many cases, Internet-based Art emerges only through the participation of an audience with diverse approaches to the Internet, which comments on, transforms and disseminates artworks in multifaceted rhizomatic ways. In addition, the somewhat rather communicative mechanisms on which this art is based are simultaneously its subject, thus allowing it to function as a reciprocal feedback loop between the author and the spectator, or, in other words which are more suitable for the context Internet-based Art is produced in, between a group of networked collaborators. In the 20th century, the numerous postulations on authorship and on the concept of work (Werkbegriff) as a definable entity with a definable set of limits gave way to a discourse, which is constitutive for the expanded artistic working methods and processes in the digital realm. In this vein, curators on the Internet can be understood as those “who set up contexts for artists who provide contexts” (7) and even further as those who develop discourse about artists who create discourse.
Apart from the still existing necessity to define the variable characteristics of Internet-based Art and its many forms of realisation, the question which should be rendered in the focus of the curators’ interest in regard to traditional institutional work, is not primarly what it is, but the mediation of the fact that it is art. Additionally and in parallel to the way curators present and disseminate art on the Internet, the curatorial process of transferring it in the real space results in the question of how it can be integrated into the discourses of the system of art as it exists nowadays by entering into action with public and private collections, the art market and also with independent projects, yet based on a traditional understanding of art.
INSTITUTIONAL WORK — Even if Internet-based Art does not require to be exhibited in the traditional context of museums, galleries or off-spaces, for the cultural discourse and the reflections upon the mechanisms the contemporary society works, it is more than urgent to find appropriate ways to present the tactics artists use to deal with a medium which is omnipresent and effects our daily lives impetuously and more than any other medium. With the development of exhibition strategies in form of a “living information space that is open to interferences” (8), the chance to be shown in museum-contexts, thus, equally raises the importance of a whole art genre and a whole generation of artists constantly acting and reacting to new — sometimes obvious, sometimes less visible — commercial and political developments of the everyday.
In return, talking in terms of the mutual impact of systems on each other, and coming back to the initial question of why it is easier to get an entire museum collection on the Internet than to get a work of Internet-based Art in a museum space, it has to be mentioned that the exhibition of traditional art collections nowadays “is not only accommodated by the spatial realisation of architectural spaces any longer. Increasingly influential is the way that the design of an extended typology of spaces, including the Internet, structures creative practices” (9) and raises the chance to get a broader audience and a more effective discourse, abstaining from conventional forms of display that the museum audience is used to. In other words, “like the best exhibition publications, extending an exhibition online means more than simply re-presenting it but also reformatting it for the best possible experience in the medium — in front of a computer screen, transmitted via the Internet” (10). Accordingly, the other way around, extending an online exhibition or showing an Internet-based artwork in the real space means more than simply re-presenting it but also reformatting if for the best possible experience — in a physical exhibition space with all the features and traits it can be specified with. One possible way to stress this two-way exchange between the virtual and the physical space might be a shift from a paradigmatic, technology-driven curating to a syntagmatic, context-oriented working process which abstains from the notion of exclusivity on both sides.
Traditional art institutions today continue to filter what the public at large understands to be art. The selected and thus privileged art genres of painting and sculpture, or even younger categories such as installations, performances, and video then enjoy the further attendance the institutions offer: exhibition, documentation, study, preservation, archiving, etc. By those means the art canon, the art history, and last but not least — to talk in economical terms — the material value of art on the art market are created. From the viewpoint of the reclamation of cultural value museums should take the question into account: how can a traditional institution — more or less characterised by strong hierarchies and centuries-old customs and habits — come to terms with the artworks the 21st century ‘networked society’ has developed during more than fifteen years and is still developing.
The concept of what is traditionally understood as curating is still bound to the institution of the museum and other equivalent exhibition spaces — and the same applies not only to the image of curating but also to its mode: “In its evolution since the 17th century, [curating] centers itself around the ‘expert’ opinion of the curator as educated connoisseur and archivist of various works. Thus, the curator determines the works’ cultural value, as well as, in the present day, their mass entertainment value, which is equally important in the era of ubiquitous free market democracy (at least in most of the Western world)” (11). Contrary to the work of a curator on the Internet, it is frequently ignored by art institutions that “the global network itself became the educational environment for those without direct access to institutions.” (12). Even if the early promises of the utopia of a critically engaged media-consumer/producer on the Internet, have only been fulfilled on a very limited level, the integration of alternative modes of re-presentation and the acceleration of discourse as forced by some specialists might be taken into account for the re-presentation of Internet-based Art in the physical environment of an institution.
In the context of Internet-based Art, the metaphor of an archive can be referred to the tasks of museums and to other traditional art collections: “The discursivity of multimedia, and how it can be associated with dialectical aesthetics, is characterised by the ways in which montage-like spatial juxtaposition — achieved through hyperlink structures and searchability — is drawn upon for narrative effect. The functionality of links and databases extends upon already existing tabular, classificatory forms, such as the collection archive, catalogue, and methods of spatial arrangement in galleries — all technologies intimately associated with the historical evolution of the museum. Adopting a museological aesthetics that understands, and is more effectively calibrated to digital communication technologies will see the museum emphasised as a machine for creating juxtaposition, a generator of conditions for dialogical encounters with the unforeseen (enabling, even privileging, the experience of surprise, the unexpected and perhaps the random)” (13). The ongoing neglect of those similarities leads to the fact that “a broader art audience may still place more trust in the selection, and therefore validation, undertaken by a prestigious museum, while in the online environment, the only signifier of validation may be the brand recognition carried by the museum’s name” (14).
CONTEXTUAL WORK — In parallel to the emergence of new challenges for museums and art institutions, the border between the work of an Internet-based artist and the work done by a curator who wants to show the work in a physical exhibition is shifting. Internet-based works can only be re-formatted to be shown in an exhibition space, since the original context of those artworks — the private surroundings of people consuming Internet-based Art on their computers at home — is lost. The installation of computers in an exhibition room, as done in the early stages of exhibiting Internet-based Art to simulate this context, as well as the curatorial decision to leave it open to the visitors to browse the artworks or not, is not suitable anymore (and in fact it never was). On the one hand it is the task of the curator to develop new models of display, on the other, it is the task of the artist too, who, much more than in a traditional sense, is involved in the process of transforming his artworks into — sometimes temporary, sometimes fixed — goods which are suitable to be presented in real settings without losing their ephemeral, immaterial, variable, networked, Internet-based characteristics. One possible way to escape from this dilemma might be to consider the contextual and the discursive environment art on the Internet is created in. Talking in terms of the mutual relations of curatorial and artistic practices and relying on the “the collaborative model [which] is also crucial to the artistic process itself” (15), this context can only be clarified by becoming more and more one and dissolving the strict distinctions between the working processes.
Cultural production and meta-discursive activities on the Internet have been expanded to use the online medium as an exhibition space, a distribution platform, and a social aggregator. Accordingly, its practitioners/performers have been characterised by many different terms to specify those various tasks of an online curator. Since the first generation of net.art (16) in the early 1990s, the Internet, its use as a medium of mass-communication and finally the various forms of art engaged with it, has come a long way and as did the curatorial activities concerned with it. Many of the early enthusiastic ideas, developed to draw multifaceted images of possible digital worlds, are still utopian, many of them are outdated, but some of them have successfully flourished and finally, one of the driving forces of the present web-culture seems to be the idea of social networking. The social component has been central to the debate around cultural activities in general and has re-enforced the idea of curating on the Internet within the context of “a community-based narrative of everyday life”. (17)
Nowadays — described by a perpetually utopian terminology already used in the early beginnings of artistic experimentation with the online medium — the commercial creators of Web 2.0 want their technologies to be seen as pushing “creativity, information sharing, and, most notably, collaboration among users” (18). Theoretically, this means a shift from a more traditional, consumption-oriented content to a rather autonomous and socially driven system of production, even though, in practice, “according to 2007 statistics, only between 0,5 – 1,5 percent of the users of the most popular social media sites (…) contributed their own content.” (19) Furthermore, these platforms attributed with the token 2.0 “are not just products but also services, watched and updated according to the constant dictates of their makers and those who can pressure them.” (20) Despite the criticism against the ongoing commercialisation of those technological systems and bearing in mind that their users are frequently reduced to the role of consumers constrained by pre-designed templates, this form of broader social practice has made possible that “acts, ideas and products are authorised and made credible through processes of mediation and communicative exchange”. (21) As a consequence, within this ‘system of legitimisation’, the person of the curator dealing with the dissemination of Internet-based Art on the various platforms is more than an expert of display, modelling the reception and interpretation of art; the tasks of a curator may thus be understood as those of a “global collaborator in art’s social relations” (22) who is not only responsible for the linkage of the protagonists of the art field but for the conjunction of different cultural and artistic disciplines in favor of an interdisciplinary and networked environment.
TRANSLATIONAL WORK — Within the framework of discursive strategies, the curation of Internet-based Art, online as well as offline, can be specified as translational work. The transfer of structures, meaning and (personal) experiences into documentary, mediative and distributive formats is one of the core activities of the curator and often bound to the production of written documents: the mobilisation of participants via invitation mails, calls for papers, and the creation of temporary discursive and/or dialogical situations are only some aspects of the work of a curator, as are the visualisation of processes and workflows by means of online publishing systems, the collecting of contextual information about artworks, the inventing or re-using of taxonomies or even — on a more basic level — the writing of code for the display and visual representation of an online exhibition.
Unlike the working conditions of a traditional curator, the curator of Internet-based Art is working in and within the same medium as the artist which inevitably results in the fact that curating can only be “an adaptive discipline, using and adopting inherited codes and rules of behaviour.” (23) Those explanative, meditative and finally translational strategies of curatorial re-shaping are also meant to be forms of visualising power structures and the role of Internet-based Art within the global processes of political and economical relevance. “The fact that the world around us is increasingly programmed means that rules, conventions and relationships, which are usually subject to change and negotiation, are translated into software, where they become fixed. (…) This withdrawal beyond the reach of vision and perception, [through which] the world is secretly and eerily made to vanish by means of software, also entails a dematerialisation of structures.” (24)
Translation, brought up on a global level by the proclamation of a “translational turn”, mainly within the field of Cultural Studies, is a useful metaphor to describe the task of the curator. The concept of cultural translation, as understood and widely used today for the description of trans-cultural communication and the effects of globalisation on our society, has arisen out of the criticism of linguistic/literary theory. Nevertheless, Walter Benjamin’s articulations in the essay “The task of the translator” can be applied to the field of Internet-based Art and directly referred to the curator’s daily work. He describes the relation between the original text and its translation in the following way: “Just as a tangent touches a circle lightly and at but one point, with this touch rather than with the point setting the law according to which it is to continue on its straight path to infinity, a translation touches the original lightly and only at the infinitely small point of the sense, thereupon pursuing its own course according to the laws of fidelity in the freedom of linguistic flux.” (25) This inter-dependency between the original and its translation can be compared to the inter-dependency between an Internet-based work of art and the way it is exhibited in the real space. In this case “translation is like a tangent, which touches the circle (i.e. the original) in one single point only to follow thereafter its own way. Neither the original nor the translation, neither the language of the original nor the language of the translation are fixed and persisting categories. They don’t have essential quality and are constantly transformed in space and time.” (26)
Be it the simple documentation of an artwork by means of contextualising strategies, be it the focus on only one single component of an artwork relevant for the exhibition or be it the development of derivative works, if Internet-based Art wants to become recognised as art and not as a “funny gadget industry” the display of those artworks in museum, gallery and off-space setting needs to be done carefully and also needs to vary from case to case, from artwork to artwork and from exhbition to exhibition. “The variability and modularity inherent to the medium, however, often mean that a work can be reconfigured for a space and shown in very different ways. Variability enables a fluent transition between the different manifestations a ‘virtual object’ can take.” (27) To follow the concept of variability in the virtual space on a more general level, the focus has to shift away from the notion of technology and lead to art and the processes bound to its production and reception on the Internet.
As today’s technology is more than old tomorrow, only the cultural context it emerges from, the aesthetic value it creates and the effects it has on our society can be the translational tasks a curator has to deal with. One can argue that technology itself is a cultural context, and nowadays even one of the most powerful ones. Indeed, but it is not alone: technology is embedded in a framework of cultural, artistic, and philosophical developments that has existed for a much longer time and thus reaches much deeper into what is known as the perception of man. The variability of Internet-based Art is as bound to the fluidity of technology, and likewise, the same applies the other way around. Therefore both of them can only be thought as the point of contact where the tangent touches the circle and thereupon pursues its own course, its own modes — which are modes of translation.
(1) Scholz, Trebor (2006): Curating New Media Art - Part I
(2) Scholz, Trebor (2006): Curating New Media Art – Part II
(3) Schulz, Pit (2006): The Producer as Power User
(4) Schleiner, Anne-Marie (2003): Fluidities and Oppositions among Curators, Filter Feeders and Future Artists
(5) Mutanen, Ulla Maaria (2006): On Museums and Web 2.0
(6) Dietz, Steve (1998): Curating (on) the Web
(7) Scholz, Trebor (2006): Curating New Media Art – Part II
(8) Paul, Christiane (2006): “Flexible Contexts, Democratic Filtering and Computer-Aided Curating”, in: Krysa, Joasia (ed.) (2006): “Curating Immateriality: The Work of the Curator in the Age of Network Systems”, DATA Browser vol. 3, Autonomedia, Brooklyn/New York, pp. 81-103.
(9) Dziekan, Vince (2005): Beyond the Museum Walls: Situating Art in Virtual Space (Polemic Overlay and Three Movements) (.pdf)
(10) Dietz, Steve (1998): Curating (on) the Web
(11) Lichty, Patrick (2003): Reconfiguring the Museum. Electronic Media and Emergent Curatorial Models
(12) Schultz, Pit (2006): “The Producer as Power User”, in: Cox, Geoff / Krysa, Joasia (eds.) (2005): “Engineering Culture: On ‘The Author as (Digital) Producer’”, DATA Browser vol. 3, Autonomedia. Brooklyn/New York, pp. 111-127.
(13) Dziekan, Vince (2005): Beyond the Museum Walls: Situating Art in Virtual Space (Polemic Overlay and Three Movements) (.pdf)
(14) Paul, Christiane (2006): “Flexible Contexts, Democratic Filtering and Computer-Aided Curating”, in: Krysa, Joasia (ed.) (2006): “Curating Immateriality: The Work of the Curator in the Age of Network Systems”, DATA Browser vol. 3, Autonomedia, Brooklyn/New York, pp. 81-103.
(15) Paul, Christiane (2008): “Challenges for a Ubiquitous Museum. From the White Cube to the Black Box and Beyond.” in: Paul, Christiane (ed.): “New Media in the White Cube and Beyond.” Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press, p.53-75
(16) Greene, Rachel (2004): “Internet Art”, London: Thames & Hudson. p. 55 — According to Rachel Greene this first wave of people working during the 1990s is centered around the names Vuc Cosic, Alexej Shulgin, Jodi.org, Heath Bunting and Olia Lialina.
(17) Ault, Julie (2007): “Three Snapshots from the Eighties: On Group Material”, in: O’Neill, Paul (Ed.): “Curating Subjects”, Amsterdam: De Appel, Centre for Contemporary Art, p.34.
(18) From Wikipedia: Web 2.0
(19) Manovich, Lev (2008): The Practice of Everyday Life, in: Loving, Geert / Niederer, Sabine (eds.): “Video Vortext Reader. Responses to YouTube.” Inc Reader #4, p.33-44 (.pdf)
(20) Zittrain, Jonathan L. (2008): The Future of the Internet — And How to Stop It, Yale: Yale University Press.
(21) Andreasen, Soren / Larsen, Lars Bang (2007): “The Middleman: Beginning to Think About Mediation”, in: O’Neill, Paul (Ed.): “Curating Subjects”, Amsterdam: De Appel, Centre for Contemporary Art, p.28.
(22) O’Neill, Paul / Fletcher, Annie (2007): “Introduction: Paul O’Neill interviewed by Annie Fletcher”, in: O’Neill, Paul (Ed.): “Curating Subjects”, Amsterdam: De Appel, Centre for Contemporary Art, p.13.
(24) Arns, Inke (2008): “The Serpent’s Coil. Minoritarian Tactics in the Age of Transparency”, in: Kastner, Jens / Spörr, Bettina (Eds.): “cannot do everything. Civil and social disobedience at the interfaces between art, radical politics, and technology”, Münster: Unrast-Verlag, p.133.
(25) Benjamin, Walter (2004): “The Task of the Translator: An Introduction to the Translation of Baudelaire’s Tableaux Parisiens”, in: Lawrence Venuti (ed.), “The Translation Studies Reader”, Second Edition, New York: Routledge, p.75-83
(26) Buden, Boris (2006): Cultural Translation: Why it is important and where to start with it, eipcp – european institute for progressive cultural policies.
(27) Paul, Christiane (2008): “Challenges for a Ubiquitous Museum. From the White Cube to the Black Box and Beyond.” in: Paul, Christiane (ed.): “New Media in the White Cube and Beyond.” Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press, p.53-75
CASE STUDY I — “Webcra.sh/2800″ is both the title and the Internet address of an exhibition shown in May 2008 at the Urban Explorers Festival in Dordrecht (Netherlands), which was mostly limited to the Link as representative feature of Net Art work in real space. The show was curated by Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans, better known by the pseudonym Jodi, the name under which the Dutch-Belgian artist duo has been doing media art since the mid-1990s under the label “net.art.” The selection of Net Art works was based on the strict connection of title, URL and content of the websites shown. The title of the exhibition does its part in explaining this endeavor: the top-level domain “.sh” repeats the name of the host in the first part of the URL. The hybrid word “webcra.sh” that results is supplemented with the sub-directory “/2800.” By mixing up the digits of the year 2008, hardly noticeable at first glance, the curators on the one hand reinforce the exhibition concept, which is rooted in the mutation of URLs and the corresponding websites.
What is special about the presentation of “Webcra.sh/2800″ in real space is the reduction to a single presentation format: the display is made up of portable banners on which the URLs of the various artworks are printed. The link is thus understood here as a fundamental method for connecting two or more sets of Internet content with one another and consequently creating a network of references, associations and cross-listings. Jodi use the link to represent the artwork in real space, but at the same time maintain a conceptual connection to the Internet — despite object-like displays. With this deft curatorial twist, the artworks therefore stay where they can be called up at any time, and yet are still given a re-presentation form in real space, which then pulls the visitors back into the Net and hence into their role as users.
On the formal level the banners quote the background color of the pages on the Web. In addition to designing the yellow-orange, red and blue banners, the typography of which also match the artworks in some cases, the exhibition also involved a demonstration that took place in Dordrecht with people carrying these banners. The performative and temporal occupation of the public space with Web addresses can be read as an allusion to the omnipresence of links in our everyday lives. Following the demonstration the banners were brought into the exhibition space and installed there as network nodes. In order to imitate the interaction with Net Art works, visitors to the exhibition had to themselves go into action and could only cross the room by immersing themselves in this agglomeration of references via a wooden grid laid out on the floor. The exhibition “Webcra.sh/2800″ deals mainly with activities on the Internet, which Jodi have been exploring as artists since the mid-1990s. But despite, or perhaps precisely because of its restrictive formal focus on art in the tradition of “net.art,” it is a successful example of the translation of these artworks into real space. The choice of a display form that takes its point of departure from the Internet allows for an adequate representation on both levels, i.e. online as well as offline, together with a reinterpretation of the individual works in a context as yet unknown at the time of the show.
[A longer version of this text was published by "springerin – Hefte für Gegenwartskunst", Band XIV Heft 4, Herbst 2008. It was written by Franz Thalmair and translated by Jennifer Taylor-Gaida.]
(Including the following links:
http://cologle.com (now forbidden)
CASE STUDY II — According to Neal Stephenson’s novel “Snow Crash”, the ancient sumerian nam shub of Enki was a neurolinguistic hack aimed against the standardarisation and unification of society and human life through verbal rules and laws. As described by the Austrian text-/sound-artist Jörg Piringer the artwork “nam shub” can be seen as a computerlinguistic hack targeted against a global unified culture and empire. “nam shub”, however, is a website processor which takes the textual content of external websites and applies user defined rules to generate visual poetry. These rules consist of operations that change the text or modify its visual appearance. Each set of rules can be stored and published for others to view and alter, nevertheless, nam shub web does not store any actual content, it only records commands of how to alter the external websites. In case there is a dynamic website as the source the visual and textual results change with the dynamic content.
Common text processor programs (like MS Word, Open Office etc.) only offer a very limited range of real text processing tools like the spell-checker and function for substitution and summary. For the development of “nam shub” the artist took his inspiration from music and graphic design programs, which usually offer features like realtime interactivity, scriptable and chainable operations and many more different functions. Based on this he added functions to “nam shub” to remove vowels/consonants, change the order of letters, split words into syllables, random operations on word and letter level, complex substitution and text synthesis etc. — all these functions can be combined and chained trough a powerful scripting language. “nam shub” is strongly influenced by the works and ideas of literary modernist avant-garde movements like Dada, Surrealism, Lettrism, Oulipo, Wiener Gruppe and the Beat-poet’s use of the Cut-Up technique. These movements and groups tried to extend the field of literature through the introduction of randomness or in contrast through the implementation of strict rules for the generation of texts. Almost all of them were working with the mere materiality of (found) letters, words and printed characters some of them even creating early concepts for computerised poems. Although “nam shub” is inspired by these early attempts it focuses on computer specific aspects of electronic poetry: dynamic and real time generation and manipulation of text.
This artwork exists in four different versions: at first, “nam shub” from 2007 (with precursors from 2003), a program designed as a tool for both creators and performers of text and language oriented arts, which can be seen as a combination of a modular live performance system like Pure Data and a text processor; then “nam shub web” from 2007, a web-interface and text-processor which can be interacted with online by Internt-users; furthermore “nam shub mini” from 2008, which is a limited small branch of the original software; and finally “nam shub web installation” from 2008, which was shown in the exhibition YOU OWN ME NOW UNTIL YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. in the Museum of Modern Art Ljubljana/Slovienia in spring 2008. In this installation created especially for the exhibition, a printer was installed at the ceiling of the gallery. During the whole exhibition period this installation endlessly reproduced hard copies and prints of the textual content of dynamic websites which have been stored online by users before. Over time, the floor of the gallery was covered with a high amount of single sheets of paper. In the exhibition neither the website nor the text processor where shown. The participatory part of the artwork was excluded, but, it was worked out in a way that focused on one of the main characteristics of this work: the overflow of information, the fluidity, and the text-based characteristics of Internet-based Art and Literature.
CASE STUDY III — Michael Kargl does not utilize code and the principles of its calculability for the glorification of media structures, but for a visualization of processes that are not immediately intelligible for media consumers. His awareness of the material results from his past career as classical sculptor, while the purist aesthetics of his works are based on his conceptual background. He performs his institutional criticism of the ghettos of the media art business, of the artistic production- and distribution processes in and with the new media as well as of the role of contemporary media consumers in this circle, by abstaining from effective performances. With the tools of Minimalism, he creates a new language of form and content that takes its structure from continuous appearances of overlapping and becomes itself a process of transformation, thus an interference.
In short intervals, a text sequence appears on the screen of a transparent object with the promising title “objects of desire”: white standard typography on black background, sentence by sentence, second by second, with each new beginning a new number and thus, a new piece of art, that is concluded by the words you own me now until you forget about me. With “objects of desire”, Michael Kargl looks for the determining parameters for digital art, for their role in the art business and — even more general — for the authorship of artistic works: Is it necessary to touch it and own it at first, in order to define art as such, or is a consecutive number sufficient in order to speak of an original: 1101, 1102, 1103? objects of desire is the further development of the originally purely Internet based work “the original” for the exhibition space. The self-constructed computer — thus, the transparent object (of desire) — contributes on a formal level its share to the transfer of text-based and ephemeral characteristics of net-art into real space.
In order to guarantee the data transfer between two or more computers and to be able to identify the receivers explicitly, the network nodes of the Internet consist of so called IP-addresses. The seemingly accidental arrangement of this combination of numbers and the resulting — partly even extremely conflicting — virtual neighborhoods are examined by Michael Kargl in “landscapes”. In the course of this further development of the two Internet based works “neighbourhood research” and “area research”, IP-adresses were brought to paper by means of printing transfer, in order to provide the viewers with an extract of the virtual in real space. The artist works on the net as cartographic concept and copies the context, in which websites like Google, CNN or Wikipedia are anchored. Translated into the gallery space, the viewer eventually finds him- or herself vis-à-vis works on paper whose aesthetics remind of conceptual, text-based strategies of design. In this way, the context of the shown IP-addresses is also reflected formally: in a landscape open downwards and upwards, consisting of numbers, letters and signs.
With common video formats, almost 17 million different colours can theoretically be represented on the screen today. If these are shown all at once, a condensation in pure white is generated in the digital picture production. While Michael Kargl with the internet-based precursor to “all you can see” entitled “opus magnum” was still concerned about the subject of mass production as one of the last taboos in the art market, he plays in this video with the time-based representation of structures of the digital art production, that are inherent in the system, and the processes attendant to it. The visitor gets to see all that is possible: Countless different colours are lined up linearly with a rate of 25 pictures per second in single frames and result in an 8-days-long changing process from black to white und thus from colourlessness to absolute condensation. The artist establishes through the extension of the material, perceptible for the viewer as monochrome representation, references to the colour field painting of Abstract Expressionism. In his video production, the artist dispenses with the subject and employs colour purely for its own sake. He continues in the digital medium reflections and theories that have been known for a long time from art history about the end of painting. His method: restriction, reduction and concentration in the form of extension.