January 7, 2005

Bookchin on the Death of Net Art

by Nick Montfort · , 11:38 am

Looks like Natalie Bookchin’s speaking on January 25 at the next Global Interface UCR Mellon Workshop. Bookchin (creator of “The Intruder,” Metapet, and, with Jackie Stevens, agoraXchange) “will examine debates about the life and death of net art,” and she’ll apparently attempt to resurrect it, a surprise for the many of us who didn’t know it had died, and an even bigger surprise for the huge number of others who never knew net art was alive to begin with. I think the period in between “net” and “art” may have finally died, though, and it certainly deserves a eulogy.

I wish I could make it, because Bookchin’s talk is going to “offer a proposal for a speculative social network for the future, where visual artists use the Internet to gain more control of the reception and circulation of their work and ideas,” and this sounds so backward and painfully tedious that it’s truly intriguing. I can’t even imagine where she might be going with the idea. The promise of the Internet has always been exactly the opposite – not to reproduce the ability of the gallery system to tightly curate and to control how some pathetic handful of people who walk inside will receive one’s art, but to duplicate and propagate one’s work in all sorts of outrageously unanticipated contexts, so that you might run into Young-Hae Chang’s Dakota not just inside the Whitney and the Phildealphia ICA, but also in a Black Sheep pub in Philadelphia, thanks to someone who whacked the Dakota page and the Flash file onto his PowerBook, and even on the very low-cultural site Albino Blacksheep, alongside animutations and other things that you’d never see in an art gallery. Ah, well, those who attend will see what the application of galvanic force can do for dead ideas…