latest issue back issues definition contributors editor


                     cream  * 10 *


We're right in the middle of it: summer. Time for ice cream. Time to not
work. Time to read what you always wanted to read. Your last cream
before the cream summer break. This is not only the last cream before
the summer break, this is also the last cream old style. This fall cream
will start to work with a circulating editorship. Cream contributors
will invite writers to compile a cream according to the theme of their
choice. Your cream could have a very different flavor each time. The
main ingredients will still be the ins and outs of art in networked
cultures. Will they be sweet, will they be cold, whipped or sour creams?
I am sure each one of these will fit in your diet perfectly. And if you
want something special: there will be an addition to the cream site
where you can add ingredients you think are missing in our recipes for
This issue of cream is mostly reviews. Josephine Bosma throws in some
light, nutra sweet cream content, a review of a website of a net art
collector, Do indulge in this cream further, as
Tilman Baumgaertel stirs the common beliefs around net art history once
more with his recommendation of a book which illustrates and reveals the
practice of net art very well (without being aware of it?): Networked
Art by Craig Saper. After this you will experience a creamy richness of
taste most welcome in one of the few truly critical reviews of Lev
Manovich's Language of New Media. Inke Arns is the one responsible for
this terrific job. To finish this 10th scoop of cream there is a list
of Things To Do This Summer, or Places To Meet Your Favorit Creamies.
Take a dip. Keep cool. Lean back. Have your cream.



Josephine Bosma: Collecting Net Art
Tilman Baumgaertel: Intimate Bureaucracies
Inke Arns: Metonymical Mov(i)es
extra: Things To Do This Summer


Josephine Bosma: Collecting Net Art -

With the growing number of people and activities on line developments in
net art are becoming more and more obscured. The on line net art
community has scattered (if it ever existed). New art works and
initiatives are developing on a local rather then global scale. The
social networks these sprout from are a lot less transparent then say in
the era of They do not present themselves within a larger
discourse or they simply do not seem know how. The few initiatives which
still present themselves on bigger, more visible platforms such as well
known mailing lists no longer represent the development of net art as a
whole. They do however reveal a vague reflection of the way net art has
become part of art practice in general.
Amongst these initiatives is The name makes one
fear the worst and I must say I was very skeptical of it at first. This
initiative however is one of those which shows how you are more infected
by the popular desire for fast and immediate satisfaction on line then
you thought you were. Some things simply have to grow over time. is not the average collection of digital imagery of
which there are thousands on the web which it appeared to be at first
glance. The site was initiated by the computer artist Doron Golan, who
somehow developed into a net art collector. All the works at are part of Golan's personal collection. Some have
been given to him, some he bought. is slowly
developing into a small private net art museum. And, Golan says,: "long
term preservation is an essential part of the collection's objectives".
I often have discussions with people about what makes one project art
and another project something else. It seems there are no rules, yet at
the same time everyone seems to have unspoken rules about what makes
something art and what doesn't. People do differentiate between art and
non art, but they often don't want to admit they do and they certainly
are not going to reveal the grounds on which they make decisions about
what is and is not art. It is just one of those taboos on line. When we
discuss a website which presents someone's private collection of art
works or links we might have a similar problem. Is this site an ordinary
personal web page, merely showing someone's individual taste, or is it
something which is valuable outside the owner's private circle?
It mostly depends on the works and their presentation, of course. After
watching with big intervals I got curious again
when an announcement came about a new addition to the site by the
Austrian artist Lia, for whose work I have had a weakness for some time
now. Lia seems to be the last in what has now grown into a very varied
collection of small works. They are presented in folders on the bland
index page of Making the works appear on your
screen in this way adds to the feeling of compactness and intimacy the
site has. The art works could just as well be mp3's or software you keep
on your own hard drive. Some of the art works seem artist exercises or
sketches and not all works are equally interesting.  Yet the combination
of the many small works by artists who have become relatively well known
with bigger projects elsewhere make the site worthwhile to visit.
Additionally one of the folders contains even more projects, as they
were presented at the Moving Image Gallery in New York. Having the MIG
presentations all in one folder makes them appear smaller and less
important then the work of the artists at itself, as
these are each presented separately of course, thus boosting the value of
the collection.
To get back to what makes a site interesting though. Not only the
presentation and the works matter. There is something else which plays a
role in the background, which is like with art: intent. It matters why
something was created. In the case of this means
that Doron Golan deciding to collect net art works and saving them for
the future (and doing it), in other words consciously adding to the
history of net art, has made his effort worth while for net art as a
whole. Let's hope the collection keeps growing.


Tilman Baumgaertel: Intimate Bureaucracies
review of Networked Art by Craig Saper

So, first off all the line, that could go on the back of the book as a
ART! And that, even though this books is not even about internet art!

"Networked Art" deals with the forerunners of the art projects that are
being created on the internet today. Craig Saper, a university professor
at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, focuses on mail art,
artists books and assemblings, Fluxus kits - all these little art pieces,
that were distributed in the 60ies and 70ies in artists' networks. To
Saper, these little items play an essential, if often overlooked role in art
after the Second World War. Mail Art, Assemblings or Flux Kits are
often considered to be artists' past time or by-products of their
 "serious" works, but Saper disagrees: "The assemblings offer the first
clue that the alternative traditions in the arts have as much to do with
publicity and distribution machines used for poetic ends as with the
advocacy of presence, immediacy, and spontaneity. The growth of
these networks of participants also began to conceive of the global
village as a place to share ideas rather than showcase products or
propaganda." (p. 152)

Saper develops a number of original readings and terms for the phenomena
he describes. To him, these communications objects, the post cards,
letters, stamps, stickers, postmarks are elements of what he calls
"intimate bureaucracies": "Using all the trappings of bureaucracies for
poetic ends, these poets and artists shift the use and tone of the
bureaucratic images from signalling authority to participation in ironic
satire, parody, and inside jokes. The new tone also suggests a more
serious endeavor: to create intense dynamic relationships among those
who participate in the joke and move beyond the fascination with
bureaucratic trappings as objects of ridicule into sociopoetic
invention… As assemblings developed and took on a more conscious
awareness of the networks in which they participated, the
artists' works began commenting on these systems." (p. 16)

Saper traces the development of these "sociopoetic interventions" from
post-war Concrete Poetry and Lettrism/Situationism (and thereby creates
a fascinating account of the conflicts between the two different
groups). He is an excellent expert on the manifold and sometimes
confusing history of mail art and other networked art. His book covers
the contribution of artists like Nam June Paik, Dick Higgins, Ken
Friedman, Daniel Spoerri as well as people that are better known in the
mail art scene such as Ray Johnson, Anna Freud Banana, Vittore Barroni
or Guy Bleus. His narrative includes the neoist movement as well as the
various art strikes, and again and again Saper makes valuable
connections between the "high art overground" and the "mail/networked
art underground". But Saper goes even further into uncharted territority
and includes reference to the popular culture that surrounded the
creation of networked art. He includes a discussion of a work by John
Lennon, that borders onto conceptual art, and some very in
teresting information about the fan networks that existed in the 50ies
and 60ies in the USA, which circulated what is called "fan fiction"
today on the internet.

Unfortunately though, Saper seems unfamiliar with the artistic
developments on the net in the last couple of years. He mentions
hypertext and the structure of the WorldWideWeb a couple of times, but
doesn't really discuss any recent net or software art, even though that
would greatly extend his argument. So the task to apply his ideas to
recent net art is there for others. Anyway, a great contribution to the

Craig J. Saper: Networked Art, University of Minnesota Press
(Minneapolis/London), 2001, 200 pages, $ 16,50


Inke Arns:    Metonymical Mov(i)es
Review of Lev Manovich: The Language of New Media.

Upon reading Lautréamonts Chants de Maldoror (1869) surrealist king pin
André Breton took over the author's famous words "beautiful as the
unexpected meeting, on a dissection table, of a sewing machine and an
umbrella", thus coining the Surrealist aesthetic of jarring juxtapositions.
Almost as beautiful as Breton's observation was another unexpected
meeting taking place some years later, namely, the use of punched 35mm
movie film in order to control computer programs in the world's first working
digital computer built between 1936 and 1938 by German engineer
Konrad Zuse. This significant event which did not happen on a Surrealist
dissecting table but, interestingly, in the appartment of Zuse's parents in
Berlin-Kreuzberg, further rapproached computing and media technologies
- and thus further advanced the gradual entwinement of these two distinct
historical trajectories. It was, metaphorically speaking, this strange
superimposition of 'binary' over 'iconic' code, that, according to Lev
Manovich, anticipated the convergence of media and computer that
followed about 50 years later: "All existing media are translated into
numerical data accessible for the computer. The results: graphics, moving
images, sounds, shapes, spaces, and texts become computable, that is,
simply sets of computer data. In short media become new media."(1)
Manovich considers the historical merging of computer and media,
symbolized by the superimposition of 'binary' code over 'iconic' code,
so central an event for his argumentation that it also adorns the cover
of The Language of New Media (2001). Beautiful as this symbol may be, it
also represents the limitations of this valuable book: (analogue) media
and new (digital) media are generally equated with visual media, in
particular cinema. Although photographic and moving images are but one
element of, resp. have, among other influences, contributed to the
development of a language of (new) media, in this publication they are
made to represent the whole of (new) media. To put it bluntly: Movies
metonymically make up the language of new media. This is what one has to
bear in mind when reading this insightful and valuable publication.

Lev Manovich's Language of New Media, which in many instances is
connected to his Ph.D. thesis, is structured according to the principles
of a computer: the chapters gradually advance the reader from five very
basic principles of the underlying code via the interface, the operations
and forms to surface phenomena, literally to the surface of the computer
(screen). The meeting of media and computer, and the computerization
of culture as a whole changes the identity of both media and the computer
itself - whereby, as Manovich asserts, "the identity of media has changed
even more dramatically than that of the computer." (p. 27) Therefore, the
focus of Manovich's book lies on answering the question of how the shift
to computer-based media redefines the nature of static and moving

The most important forms of new media are, according to Manovich,
database and navigable space. Self-confidently, Manovich states in the
beginning: "After the novel, and subsequently cinema, privileged
narrative as the key form of cultural expression of the modern age, the
computer age introduces its correlate - the database." (p. 218).
Databases which Manovich calls the "new symbolic form of the computer
age" (p. 219), appear as "collections of items on which the user can
perform various operations - view, navigate, search. The user's
experience of such computerized collections is, therefore, quite
distinct from reading a narrative or watching a film [...]" (p. 219). The
database (a term which Manovich uses metaphorically, i.e. not only
strictly for databases, but in a more general sense) presents the world
as a list of items which it refuses to order. In contrast, narrative
"creates a cause-and-effect trajectory of seemingly unordered items
(events)." (p. 225) While database and narrative seem to be
diametrically opposed in the beginning of the chapter, it increasingly
becomes clear in the course of Manovich's argument that linear narrative
is just one method of accessing data among many other possible
trajectories. Manovich redefines the concept of narrative: "The 'user'
of a narrative is traversing a database, following links between its
records as established by the database's creator. An interactive
narrative (which can be also called a hypernarrative in an analogy with
hypertext) can then be understood as the sum of multiple trajectories
through a database." (p. 227)
Here, Manovich observes a very interesting change concerning the
database logic: In old media, as outlined, e.g. by Roman Jakobson,(2)
the database of choices from which narrative is constructed is implicit
(the paradigm); while the actual narrative is explicit (the syntagm).
New media completely reverse this relationship. As historical
predecessors Manovich mentions two "database filmmakers" who reconcile
database and narrative form: Dziga Vertov and Peter Greenaway. Vertov's
Man with a Movie Camera literally projects the paradigm onto the
syntagm. Man with a Movie Camera is a "database of film techniques, and
a database of new operations of visual epistemology, but also a database
of new interface operations that together aim to go beyond simple human
navigation through physical space." (p. 276) As Manovich argues, while
interactive interfaces foreground the paradigmatic dimension, they are
yet still organized along the syntagmatic dimension: "Although the user
is making choices at each new screen, the end result is a linear
sequence of screens that she follows." (p. 232). Why do new media insist
on the sequential form, why this persistence on a linear order?
Manovich's hypothesis is that new media follow "the dominant
semiological order of the twentieth century - that of cinema." (p. 232)
The author illustrates his arguments very well, not by providing images
(apart from some stills from Man with a Movie Camera there are no
illustrations whatsoever), but by always giving a broad range of examples
from his own practical working with these new media technologies.
Moreover, many examples he uses to illustrate his arguments are net or
media art projects and not Hollywood movies, thus giving a new context
to these projects, but also implicitely underlining the avant-garde role of
art in the digital realm.

While reading the book I wondered why I could not recognize the world
Manovich is describing. I would claim that one can experience new media
without ever being so massively confronted with visuals or cinematic
code as Manovich suggests. Manovich writes that "the visual culture of a
computer age is cinematographic in its appearance" (p. 180). If you talk
about computer games, or about VR discourses developed over the last ten
to twenty years, yes, it is cinematographic plus some other elements.
But, for example, if you talk about net culture, or media art, fields I have
been involved in over the last ten years, or even if you talk about practices
like chatting or SMS culture, then you just cannot claim that we have to
deal with a visual culture which is predominantly cinematographic. The
reader also has to bear in mind that when Manovich speaks about
'computer culture' he essentially talks about computer game culture, VR
development, and, partly, also about what others have at times called
the "Californian Ideology".(3)
Similarly, when he speaks about new media, he essentially means those
visual cultures that predominantly work with filmic or cinematographic
codes. Generally, any attempt to efine a field as broad as the "language
of new media" has to be welcomed quite enthusiastically. If one cannot
expect an author of such a study to include several historical
trajectories (there are, as I would claim, at least two important ones:
the trajectory of photography, film, and television, and the trajectory
of telegraphy, radio and the Internet, with television and Internet
converging at present), then one should at least expect that the author
makes clear that, while writing about the "language of new media" s/he
is focussing only on one trajectory. However, by describing in detail,
e.g., navigable space, database, and "image-instruments", he already
points to the fact that new media are not indebted to the filmic
paradigm only. Still, Manovich repeatedly comes back to implicitely
using the notion of visual media as a metonymy for media. Perhaps, thus,
in order to avoid misunderstandings, the book should have been called
"The Language of New Visual Media".

In short: Manovich's precise observations of operations and forms of new
media that can be found throughout the whole book come from his
practical experience and make the book a very valuable, sometimes funny
and even entertaining source of information on new media. This is a
wonderful example of the fact that whoever writes on new media should
also be in the state of using them actively. If one takes into account
the points I have mentioned, i.e. Manovich's focus on the visual, on
games and VR and cinema, then reading The Language of New Media is
really rewarding.

Berlin, June 2002

Lev Manovich: The Language of New Media. MIT Press: Cambridge,
Massachusetts / London, England 2001. $34.95, 7x9, 354 pages, ISBN

1 Manovich, Lev: The Language of New Media. MIT Press: Cambridge,
Massachusetts / London, England 2001. 25.
2 C.f. Jakobson, Roman: Linguistik und Poetik [1960]. In: Ders.:
Ausgewählte Aufsätze 1921 - 1971. Frankfurt/Main 1993. 83-121. Jakobson,
Roman: Der Doppelcharakter der Sprache und die Polarität zwischen
Metaphorik und Metonymik [1960]. In: Theorie der Metapher. Hg. v. A.
Haverkamp. Darmstadt, 1996. 163 174.
3 Barbrook, Richard / Cameron, Andy: The Californian Ideology. In:
Nettime 1995.


Things to do the next three months (and where to possibly meet
// Barcelona: MACBA Museum of modern art: Christoph Dreher, Fantastic
Voyages, until July 17th 2002 // Switserland: Kunstmuseum Thun: Dara
Friedman, until August 4th 2002 // Germany - Oldenburg:  Edith Russ
Haus: Machical Machines, July 5th - August 8th 2002 // Cologne: Museum
Ludwig: Matthew Barney: The Cremaster Cycle, until September 1st 2002 //
Montreal: Musee d'Art Contemporain: Janet Cardiff, until September 8,
2002 // Munich: Haus der Kunst: Jana Sterbak, until September 22nd, 2002
// Canada - St. John's Newfoundland: The Sound Symposium, July 5-13,
2002 ( // UK, Gateshead: BALTIC, The
Centre for Contemporary Art:  Margaret Crane/Jon Winet opening new
project  July 13th 2002 //
Cooperstown New York: Baseball Hall of Fame: Baseball Author Series,
August 8th and 9th 2002 // Frankfurt: Museum for Applied Arts: ‘I Love
You: Computer-Virus-Hacker-Culture’ until September, 2002 // Kassel:
Museum fuer Sepulkralkultur: Game_over, games, deat
h and afterlife, until September 29th 2002 // Kassel: Documenta 11,
(platform 5 ?): Sarai network meeting, July 18th - 20th 2002 // Canada -
Halifax Nova Scotia: Natal Day Parade, Bridgewalk, fireworks and
concert, Sat/Sun August 4 & 5, 2002 // Amsterdam: Montevideo: The
Pleasure of Language, the use of text in new media art, exhibition
August 25th - September 28th 2002 // Basel: Plug In gallery: Jodi,
September 18th - October 27th 2002 //


cream is an experimental collaboration of writers and curators in the
field of net art. 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, Katharina
Gsöllpointner, Frederic Madre, Robbin Murphy, Tetsuo Kogawa.