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                          cream 4


Summer is here. Have your cream before it melts. In this cream we 
concentrate on the heart of the critical matter, if we can still speak of 
one in the digital arena. Can we define 'criteria for net art' and if yes, 
what are they? Sarah Cook reports from Venice and describes what she found 
at the Slovenian pavillion. Two different curators with two different mind 
sets and two different catalogues in one exhibition: one the official 
curator, one an artist. Then cream offers you two very different attempts 
to get some grip on those slippery net art criteria. Steve Dietz reflects 
on the nature of the changes networked media bring to the arts. His 
thoughts will no doubt create some disturbance. Does it still make sense to 
write criticism at all and what does it serve? Sarah Thompson looks at 
examples of net art to see what she thinks works best. What are the strong 
sides of network art, what kind of projects work best and why? Enough said, 
enjoy! And do share some cream with your friends.

::::::::: In this fourth issue:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

              :criteria for net art:

Report:     Sarah Cook  -  Twice Curated - the criteria for net art in the 
economy of the Venice Biennale
Thought:   Steve Dietz  -  Criteria {net.criteria}
Thought:   Sarah Thompson  -  Art grows up?


Sarah Cook is a PhD researcher at the University of Sunderland, England
where she co-edits a site called the Curatorial Resource for Upstart
Media Bliss (

          -   Twice curated -

    the criteria for net art in the economy of the Venice Biennale

In the introduction to his catalogue to accompany his presentation in
the Slovenian pavilion at the 48th Venice Biennale Vuk Cosic writes (and
I think it bears reprinting in full):

"While it would be truly polite to congratulate ourselves for the
inclusion in the Biennale, it is nevertheless important to offer a fair
account of how it actually happened. The fact that has become
part of the official history of the Biennale is a consequence of the
art-political vacuum in Slovenia. The previous selection of artists for
this show have raised so much bad blood (mauvais sang) that the key
institutions have de facto boycotted the selection process staged by the
culture ministry. I am mentioning this in order for the historians of not to fall into unjustified glorification of Slovenia or
Eastern Europe as a natural basin for to establish itself as
mainstream like the recent issue of CIAC magazine from Montréal is
suggesting. The relationship between and the art system remains
silly, and possibly the expression '' expresses its

In fact the Slovenian pavilion, titled "Absolute One" includes three
artists: Vuk Cosic, and Tadej Pogacar. The
exhibition was curated by Aurora Fonda (her name writ large on the
posters like the Aurora Borealis, scarcely a mention of the artist's
names). Her criteria, from her introduction states:

"Absolute One is a project which began with the proposal to highlight
the differences which still exist in forms of cultural and artistic
expression flourishing in the so-called "non-Western" countries, in
which a market is still in a phase of adjustment - and in certain cases
still inexistent - plays an important role in the development not only
of the arts, but generally in man/object relations."

It is in light of this, she argues, that she chose work that finds its
home on the web - a different kind of economic market space - and in its
disdain or lack of need for actual exhibition space and hence actual
museum or art world institutional structures.

But what is the validity of such a gesture (this art doesn't need
exhibition space, so let's give it some in Venice to highlight that
aspect of it)? In fact, if you look at just economics alone you discover
that an unfortunate divide was evident in Venice: Eastern European and
other fiscally-challenged small countries decided to show the work of
many artists (3 for Slovenia, 3 for Latvia, 3 for Greece, 15 for
Armenia, 5 for Turkey, 6 for Ukraine) -- getting more bang for their
buck? -- whereas the countries which are recognized as having a center
of the art world market within their borders were able to show one or at
the most two of their star artists (France, England, Germany, USA).

 From Vuk Cosic's perspective the gesture wasn't enough and it didn't
actually speak to the real economies of scale at work in the selection
process. Therefore, he gambled away a year's salary and curated an
exhibition of as part of his presentation within the pavilion,
to, as he says contextualize the work. He called this show the Temporary
Autonomous Pavilion and it was based around the theme of New Low Tech
Media. It included in addition to Vuk Cosic:, Heath
Bunting, Tom Jennings, Vinyl Video, Jodi and RTMark.

In light of the fact that the Venice Biennale was itself a huge event
(65 countries, 286 artists and more than 30,000 square meters of
exhibition space - and that's not including all the national pavilions
outside the Giardini and the Arsenale), you wouldn't think that one
tightly budgeted, temporary and autonomous exhibition would have much
impact. But of course it did: it pointed out the fact that, like the
"Manchester Pavilion" -- a bar run by some British artists -- across the
canal, you don't need the sanction of the art system in order to be
included in and noticed by the big art world, that you can define and
set your own criteria, depending on how big a loan you can secure.


Steve Dietz is curator of new media at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis,

          -  criteria{net.criteria} -

  "Whatever the time spent swooning, the mathematician, like the
lepidopterist, is _professionally_ engaged in an effort to limit the
loveliness that he sees [infinitude], the mathematician fixing in formalism
what the lepidopterist fixes in formaldehyde. But the desire to see and the
desire to ratify what one has seen are desires at odds with one another, if
only because they proceed from separate places in the imagination."
David Berlinksi, "The Advent of the Algorithm"

The desire to understand--to ratify what one has seen through naming,
classifying, formalizing--is not limited to "professionals," of course. It
is human nature. Yet, is there not the assumption that the professional has
a special burden: to make judgments, to provide explanations, to be
authoritative? And what are the criteria for being a net art critic or a
curator of new media, anyway?

Which is what interests me about the net. It changes everything. Or does it?
How quickly we have gone from infinite possibilities to the construction of
limits. Infinity is too difficult to grasp and besides, we're getting tired
of ideas that don't work; work that doesn't produce. When will we see some
real art? Some net art we can really value, in the market?

The Duchampian gesture of the readymade suggested, at least initially, that
art could be what the artist asserted. It changed ... a lot. To say that
Michael Heizer's "Double Negative" owes something to Duchamp is not to
suggest it is a readymade or to deny that it is executed in a medium with
some of its own distinctive characteristics. It is to acknowledge the
definitional role of artistic practice per se.

In this sense, net art is more of Duchamp. It is what the artist makes of
it. Duh. What is different, perhaps counterintuitively, is the network of
distribution; of access. Disintermediation was the rhetoric. The
critic-curator as filter is the return of the repressed.

Net works compel the desire to understand.  The network  is an infinite
ratification process, so to speak, for which criteria are points of view not
authority; for which consensus is distributed, cumulative, and mutable not
stone-cold commandments from on high; for which diversity is a system not a
regret. The network changes ... some things--not human nature but, perhaps,
the imagining of professionalism and institutionalization.


Sarah Thompson writes , a website dedicated
to reviewing net based art practice. She has studied FineArt, contributed
reviews to Rhizome under the e-name of Aurora Lovelock, taught art
and visual theory and is currently also a part time carer.

      - art grows up? -

With net art, art 'grows up'. Net art separates art from the colonizing
effects of art institutions, retaining a relationship but of a different,
perhaps more adult, kind. From Harwood's Tate de mongrel website, via the
Temporary Autonomous Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, to the open source
net art histories at the Whitney Museum, net art sets about demystifying
the relationships between art, institutions and audiences. Meanwhile the
absurdist, playful side of net art lies more often in the exploration and
subversion of the computer and its uses, as well as the 'user' controlled
by technology: "you are now inside my computer" and the other boundary
games of browser art, surprise the unsuspecting net idler.

The net art work by Michael Daines: "it is now safe to turn off your
computer" plays with these dilemmas of separation. Is the user in control
of the boundary between human and machine or have they become totally
enmeshed? As a work it is very relaxing. Just one page. "There are many
dangers beyond the protective sphere of your glowing computer screen, and,
were you to turn the machine off at the wrong moment, you might risk
injury, death, or worse."

Is the net safe, or does it overly feed our anxieties and fantasies? uses the 'net-art perspective' to explore suicidal
depression. 'Seminal creator "innergirl" becomes fascinated with his/her
own damaged mental process and charmed by the spell of self-deprecation.'
What is the culture surrounding innergirl's depression? An invaded sense of
self? Online, it takes the form of 'pure' and painful revelation within the
paradoxical boundary of anonymity. In fact, it is proposed that only
through anonymity can artistic integrity be preserved.

Richard Saul Wurman has said, "We are what we read... The information we
injest shapes our personalities." (Information Anxiety, 1989).  According
to Wurman, the only way we can control the influx of information, for our
own self-protection, is by a) going on an information diet and/or b)
consciously developing a subjective view of the world - separation based on
what interests us as personalities, and importantly, without guilt.

Heath Bunting is very good at this. His recent splash page for Rhizome,
"stuff done by heath bunting over the past five years", is a bit like
Wurman's suggestion of a "curriculum verite", which is like the curriculum
vitae, only honest. Bunting lets us meander through some select personal
experiences and quixotic moments and it's so relaxing.

In an information society, the user must find ways to interact differently
with data overload, to build their own subjective mapping techniques in
order to cope with the anxiety cultural data flows inevitably cause. Net
art makes subjective mapping manifest by subverting the dominant codes of
institutions, corporations, interfaces and now language itself, while at
the same time emphasizing participation. Furtherfield's DIDO - Day in Day
out global diary, and Twenteenth Century Studios' Dicshunary both currently
ask us for textual participation. Its werds, werds, werds.

When does net art not work so well? When the individual artist demands too
much attention,  - enfant terrible like - without being humorous about it.
This goes against the aesthetics of net art. It also conveys the wrong
signals to the browsing public. Bookchin & Shulgin's Introduction to Net
Art (1994-1999) states that net art should be: "...3.b. Beyond
institutional critique: whereby an artist/individual could be equal to and
on the same level as any institution or corporation. c. The practical
death of the author." Net artists want the public to treat them like
adults, by becoming responsible for informing themselves about art as well
as everything else.

Net art works best when it is sufficiently exaggerating dominant codes,
either explicitly, like entropy8zuper or implicitly like Bunting. As soon
as net art moves into the realms of converging media, like e-books, web
operas etc, then it no longer exaggerates dominant codes - but instead
proposes new forms, in the processes of evolving. These new forms are
trying to find new bounds, and their transitional morphologies are not
subverting but redefining and reforming. These are often new, but as yet,
insufficiently mapped territories. Territories which are being opened up by
net art.

it is now safe to turn off your computer

stuff done by heath over the past five years




cream is an experimental collaboration of writers and
curators in the field of net art. cream will come to you as a (sometimes
irregular) bi-weekly newsletter devoted to theory and criticism
concerning art in network culture. All texts and reviews are kept as
short as possible, they are not introductions to larger texts elsewhere
on the net. The idea behind it is to provide a continuous injection of
critical thought into the net art field, to provoke a more prominent
critical and theoretical discourse around art in net culture and to do
this in a way that asks for discussion rather then that it obstructs a
flow of discourse. 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 to cream: Saul Albert, Inke Arns, Tilman Baumgaertel,
Josephine Bosma, Sarah Cook, Florian Cramer, Steve Dietz, Frederic Madre, 
Tetsuo Kogawa, Sarah Thompson.


cream site (under construction) :

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cream would not be possible without the work and hospitality of the
House of Laudanum, .