How Mr Net.Art Was Elected: the jury proceedings

published: 
January, 1998

The Mr Net.Art contest was a tongue in cheeck comment on the social environment of net.art in the mid nineties. The idea was to create a competition in which the true focus really was the all female jury. The title Mr Net.Art was ultimately won, after much debate in the jury, by a piece of software, namely Webstalker by the artist group I/O/D.

 

 

Edit from mails of the Mr Net.Art jury from January 28th - February 9th.

 

1-28-98 (from internal report from jury chat)

 

So, as we were quarreling again about criteria and who is the best, (x) came again with the jury adagium: JURY ABOVE ALL. The jury must win. As (x) is not too fond of the latest rage online of male fantasies made virtual flesh in numerous female idoru's, the idea soon emerged to have a fake candidate, which the jury designs.

 

After some to and fro's we decided to make this candidate, and to make him the best mr.net.art-candidate ever. We realise he should not be an obvious clone of Keiko, but after Keiko's kidnapping we had already discussed creating Keiko's brother. He should be TOP OF THE BILL. To be the winner, this candidate should have the best of all net.art worlds. He should have be: a net.performer, a htmljavaetcwizzkid, a poet, a mediatheorist, good looking, a salesman, you name it.

 

What we are going to do: we will steal webpages of net.art from many great places, mostly candidates. Our candidate has a name, which we borrowed from one of the Serbs we keep meeting in the chatroom: Hogar. We name him Hogar Herohito. He already has an email address and we can also make a site at classroom.opennet.org.

 

--reply--

 

Generally I think it is a brilliant idea to invent our own mr.netart, BUT that means that out of a little, but good joke a big art project is growing. This loose group of women is going to become an artist group and has to work together for a longer time and also show responsibility for mr.netart over the whole year.

 

Maybe some could start now and others take over for a while in 2 months or so???

 

--reply--

 

I would rather a person (including entered contenstants) didn't win mr.net.art : perhaps a space, a server, a software should win. it's not just that I am not thrilled by the gang who turned out, but that is part of it. It is also that I prefer to go in another direction altogether, for example, what would it mean if Webstalker was mr.net.art?

 

I don't want to mimic the whole Keiko Suzuki caper. I feel strongly that we should depart from that experiment. To me, frankly, appropriating identity is... sort of old. Though I admit that this would be a new experiment, with a collection of women coding Hogar... of course it would be original in some ways.

 

What might end up being the most interesting direction for the project is to retrieve someone/something from the outside of our the circle. Someone/thing who would be up for experiment and play, and who doesn't know all the names and possibilities.

 

--reply--

 

I love that idea of not having a person or identity win. I can imagine that your ideas to have software or a server win thrills some of us very much (xx?), it certainly got my SF-glands working.

 

I don't think what you propose with getting someone 'innocent' in will be interesting just like that. This needs guidance of some sort. (Also) one does not necessarily have to bring *literally* innocent blood in. What we could also do is produce a solution, or way, that is so open and inviting that it inspires new blood.

 

It would be nice if somehow we could create a website/domain that is a meetingplace/hotspot that is not so centered around two or three net.artists, but centered around many: the mr netartcandidates, those that should have been mr netart candidates, and the jury. And newcomers of course. I would like a mailinglist to be one part of that (my plan was to come up with this once we had the mr netartsite for hogar). It could also have a chat section, like the one on Jeanne D'Arcs site (the only female(?) candidate). It should also be possible to attach pages without restrictions. So people can boast about themselves, or show themselves and their ideas in the same free and random way as it happened with the candidate submissions.

 

--reply--

 

I can see you want an alternative to 7-11/amex and I have sympathy with your desire to refocus away from the nauseous colonisation of netart by a few, but should we compete on the same turf? Do we need more forums for chat? A living project involving many does not have to exist as a mailing list with webpages...

 

I like the idea of creating Hogar as an online database attesting to issues about the boundaries of public and private

 

1-29-98

 

was just reading thru x-x-s summery of the chat I couldnt attend and it seems that a similar idea emerged at the chat, only I want to emphasize that I am voting for more of a monster than a master, a construction much more awful than awesome, and also filled with contradictory charactor traits, selfish AND generous, vain AND self effacing... etc..

 

--same day, reply to website/hogar/stalker thread--

 

>online database but not attesting to issues about public/private, with a strong focus on net.art/net art keeping the relevant mediatheory/net.socio- logical/technical environment also, in which public/private are embedded. Everchanging, evolving, with many opportunities to create 'unidentities'. The character of Keiko for instance, who I DID like, was far more complex then just some male fantasy, at least if you followed her in all her undertakings, on 7-11 mostly. She had great depth there. She even did webpages, eventhough we mostly know who really did them. I like this vagueness, as if the net itself creates them. At the same time different styles will become more clear.

 

There is nothing against more places. What is important is who makes the place. Like it is important who uses that computer or who makes the art, not that a computer is used or art is made.

 

--same day--

 

I vote NOT to have another mailing list at the moment. I don't think it's the right time. I agree with (x) -- a database is very interesting theoretically. I don't want to rip-off Natalie Jerimijenko and the Bureau of Inverse T., but maybe we could do an online sperm bank. Perhaps we should push a bit farther into the future and make ours an online gene bank. Maybe we could even use Webstalker technology...

 

There is a project called dream map http://www.itp.tsoa.nyu.edu/~windeatr/dreamMap.html which uses database technology and allows people to organize their dreams... there is the new filemaker which is Web friendly... I don't know.

 

I guess my vote is for a project that either is the web stalker or uses it -- perhaps in the construction of an online gene/sperm bank. I have fuller rationale for my choice == but suffice it to say for now that the web stalker seems to me the most dashing, glamourous, intelligent, dynamic, complex and sexy net.entity.

 

--reply--

 

You seem to not read my plea about a more lively webplace. Why have a database -or a mailinglist -or a chatroom -or a website it all seems so restricted and confined to me.. (..)

 

The only thing that is interesting about a database is what you put in. A spermbank or genebank I really do not understand, such very specific and specialized (even if meant humorously) topics.

 

--reply--

 

I think databases are interesting in the way they confine choices into categories.

 

But also, point taken: perhaps sperm/gene is too specific and perhaps a database is too static. But what if the database were open to the Web? Moderated? Sort of like a mailing list, but dynamic in that people enter things into fields...? I mean it would be locally held, but could contain urls, addresses, and who knows what else...

 

--reply--

 

I vote against (Webstalker) because I am against giving the award to one male, and this would be in effect, doing so, as Webstalker was done by matt fuller. I think giving it to one wo-man would be just as uninteresting. I would rather like to question the notion of making a single hero of net art for the year. Alternatively, I love the idea of constructing a fiction, an meta-body, not software made by a male body (webstalker) but maybe one made OF the male bodies who are entered in our contest.

 

>net.identity construction was and is a popular thing to do >but i never came across any distinct male creations

 

EXACTLY!!!! look at the old 7-11 hostess-- female exotic with a smattering of colonialism mixed in and now a new hostess once again on am -ex. This time a tough bitch but a babe all the same. YAWN.

 

Anyway I am happy to participate in this discussion, and give in to web stalker... I really don't care that much.

 

1-30-98

 

-I'm against Webstalker, cause it is a too serious and too good art project. selecting it (him/her) would mess up the idea of the contest too much. Furthermore you definitely get the artist with the work. Don't want him to be related to mr. net.art. It already became very confusing, and many ideas are not properly thought through. (hogar is enough!)

 

--reply to hogar/webstalker/database debate--

 

MAILINGLIST or DATABASE We could do both but I say less chat, more creative code Hogar will be an amalgamation of contestants But Hogar should be a method not a result

 

well like (xx) I am fascinated by databases ( --, didn't you make a database?) defining fields, the process of categorising, cataloguing.. A database is a kind of community, reductive though... Challenge for me is to abduct: data abduction

 

2-3-98

 

Here are our results: 1. HOGAR 18 points 2. WEB STALKER 15 points 3. ZUPER 5,5 points just missed the boat 4. cosic 4,5 5. tilman 3 6. shulgin 3 7. dasilva 2 8. superbad 1,5 9. pit 1 10.murph 0,5

 

--reply--

 

I would like to withdraw my vote, I do not vote for hogar anymore. Nor does (x), she votes for: 1)webstalker 4pts 2)superbad 2pts

 

-- PRESSRELEASE, final results, same day (feb 4th) --

 

____ 1. WEB STALKER 20 points ____ 2. HOGAR 15 points ____ 3. BEN BENJAMIN 5,5 points ____ SHARED WITH MICHAEL SAMYN 5,5 points (ZUPER)

 

2-4-98

 

I'm confused and have no idea what to write about the competition as I think there should be a winner who is something different from a web.art project. Hogar would be fine cause he is at least an online personality, the Web stalker is NOT.

 

I also find it problematic to 1. change vote after the deadline 2. to vote for "someone" who did not apply and is not in the candidates list

 

Looking forward to a discussion and real arguments for Stalker (I cannot think of any)

 

--reply--

 

Seems like its too late for chat/meeting as winner was announced. I find it disappointing that no dissenting voices were heard in the announcement...

 

2-6-98

 

if you look at the entry form you'll see that

 

1. contestants were asked "personalities" questions. and they played this game.

 

2. no one named web stalker answered these questions

 

If the majority is for webstalker and it wins, I'm not against it. But I'm sure it'll be better to find another case to advertise. What does it give to stalker? To this competition? What should webstalker do with domain mr.net.... and how to chat with it? :)

 

--reply--

 

Why webstalker? It makes it sexy

 

What does it add to the competition? I like the idea of sabotaging our own competition

 

What should webstalker do with domain.... use it to distribute stalker

 

2-8-98

 

>why not to announce that mr.net.art is easylife/xxx or vuk/dx or >superbad.com? that is all self -expression which is great but... webstalker is the opposite of that, so opposite that it has a personality born of itself, not imposed by the makers.. it has a life of its own.

 

Voting for product in a competition about personality is THE PERFECT comment about all personality competitions, which are absurd. We set up a personality competition and sabotage it by voting for product not personality. Personality is an implicit by-product of MAKING that should not be judged.

 

I thought the competition was supposed to lampoon the competitive posturing of our beloved male netartists...

 

For my part I was more interested in the jury's personalities (profiles) and the power we bestowed upon ourselves to Judge and from the beginning tried to foreground that by expanding the original jury.

 

--reply--

 

Sounds beautiful, and sure creating a browser is a new level, new step, its different to experiments with/in browsers, but in no case it's opposite to selfexpression. Why? It's selfexpression in a cube.

 

And they don't hide their names. Their pr politic is a politics of personalities. Enough to read what matt fuller and i/o/d say to journalists, their press releases.

 

>personality competitions, which are absurd You are right, absurd, of course, as all other art competitions. The announcement of the mr.net.art. competition WAS THE PERFECT comment on it. Voting for product adds nothing to it, I guess..

 

> i like the idea of sabotaging our own competition Me too, but if it is a real sabotage. Web Stalker winning is not a sabotage, but simply a decision of the jury...

 

Again, web stalker is nice project, the best, let it (but in fact its creators) win. But reasons that it's not selfexpression or that there is no personality or selfpromotion in it I don't find attractive.

 

--reply--

 

Well, I guess you could argue that anything created is form of self-expression and webstalker contains the sensibilities of its creators. It CONTAINS self-expression, implicitly, but is not explicitly about selfexpression. It CONTAINS its creators but is not ABOUT its creators playing with webstalker you don't learn about Matt, Simon or Colin, you learn about the materiality of the web. Webstalker succeeds in being more than the sum of the personalities that made it, it allows for a personality to emerge independent of the personalities that made it.

 

pr is fascinating area, products have to have personality imposed in order to sell... In this contest we turned candidates personalities into product and a product into personality!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

There is personality and promotion involved in the SELLING of webstalker, but not intrinsically in the product itself. The fact that it is vacated of personality, a machine, makes it easier and more pleasurable to impose personality, in which case, it is the perfect winner of a personality competition.

 

--reply--

 

I still don't agree. you learn about the materiality of the web as well as about matt, simon or colin. > it allows for a personality to emerge independent of the personalities >that made it

 

it's easy to say this about a lot of projects, when you like something it inspires to invent advantages and high words. Webstalker is a smart, perfect idea, a perfect realisation. It's different to other projects (I already wrote why on my point of view), but giving the prize to it we only show our opinion that the best art project of this recent time belongs to iod, even if we write an elegant pressrelease about product-personality...

 

Some paragraphs before you didn't want contestants to win because they are personalities and in their works there is only their personalities, now appears that they have not enough personality. Maybe I misunderstood.

 

2-9-98

 

Most people supported Hogar the anti hero, mostly because the idea of a piece of software winning was not well thought through yet, and thus hard to support. On the other hand constructed personae are now well enough known for all of us to be able to play with them more freely. During the weekend of the deadline, I was very worried about the pressure on mostly (x) to create Hogars website. It became slowly clear that this was too much work in too little time. Not much later, after the votes were counted, (x) decided she did not like Hogar, and Webstalker should win. Understandable considering the circumstances.

 

I thought about what is the difference between a constructed person and this piece of software. I agree with (xx) that Webstalker inevitably shows signs of its creators. With IOD this is even more inevitable I would say. But that is not a problem for me. Problem is how to approach this winner. Why did it have to win?

 

We wanted to construct a personality. What is the difference really between Webstalker and Hogar? (Looking at it from a theoretical point of view, as Hogar was never really constructed, of course.) Constructed personalities offer most things for instance Webstalker offers us as well, if handled in an original way. The software or another technical approach winning is actually just a more packaged and prefabricated version of the constructed candidate. We don't need to work for that at all anymore. Now that is of course something all of us like to hear: no more work, we are done! The biggest difference is however, that Hogar would be OUR construction, and Webstalker is the construction of some very nice outer-jury Londoners. What Hogar had was a mixture of possible innovation (if we had taken time to let it grow) and personality. The closest Webstalker gets to personality is an alternative artifial lifeform. I can understand well the argument that personality is uninteresting and even old fashioned (even if that was not the exact word used). Personally I love the die hard cyborgian posthuman sci-fi approach of the net, and if it is that what we want, it should be a clear choice.

 

It would be a positioning outside of reasonable discourse to force a distinct and clear development of a theory and culture that is without precedence, and which is unwilling to slow down to explain its efforts or take responsibility for harming very sensitive souls. Even in that position there is awareness however, and knowledge of context/history is more then just interesting there.

 

Are personalities that outdated ? It sounds a bit to me like declaring the body obsolete. What is interesting about working with the personality metaphor when constructing a new creature, is the power of identification this object then gets. Though alienation can also be a powerful tool to communicate certain ideas, I think identification has more possibilities. It is simply because we are human and working with a human audience.

 

+ + +

 

(The discussion continues. The announcement of the winner, in the case of this contest and this jury, does not equal the results of the jury: the results of the jury is not it's elected winners, but the process towards and around the election and future products coming from this process. Webstalker is definitely our winner though, in the context we think Webstalker to be in, and we aim to reward Webstalker separate from its 'creators'.)

 

+ + +

 

the jury: JOSEPHINE BOSMA (jesis@xs4all.nl), SANDRA FAUCONNIER (sandra.fauconnier@rug.ac.be), RACHEL BAKER (rachel@irational.org), CORNELIA SOLLFRANK (cornelia@hamburg.snafu.de), RACHEL GREENE (rachel@rhizome.com), VESNA MANOJLOVIC (becha@opennet.org), OLIA LIALINA (olialia@cityline.ru), DIANA MCCARTY (diana@mrf.hu), CAREY YOUNG (carey@irational.org), NATALIE BOOKCHIN (bookchin@jupiter.ucsd.edu), KASS SCHMITT (kass@hot-schmitt.co.uk)