File spoon-archives/avant-garde.archive/avant-garde_1999/avant-garde.9902, message 32

Date: Tue, 23 Feb 1999 14:23:31 +0000
Subject: A poem is a piece of literature (usually)

In message <l03130300b2f83137e512-AT-[]>, Heiko Recktenwald
<> writes
>Hi, there have been so many replies to the "netart" thing, or or
>.netart or or or as some like it, thanks. I think the point was clear. Its
>a question of language. Language. What words mean. Usefull sense.
>Lets take an example which isnt electronic art, a simple poem. I write a
>poem for a girlfriend or for whoever you like.
>If I say it to the person, spoken language, is it speakart ? 

No, it is Poetry, which has become a subset of Literature, and which, if
designed for oral performance, has a subset of Poetry called 'Dramatic

>If I speek to
>a bigger audience, is it audience art ? 

No, it is still Poetry, which has become a subset of Literature, and
which, if designed for oral performance, has a subset of Poetry called
'Dramatic  Poetry'.

>If I write it down etc, is it paper
>art ? Bookart? Publishinghouseart ? Copyshopart ? 

No, it is still Poetry, which is a subset of Literature.

>If I write it with a
>wordprocessor, is it wordprocessorart ? Computerart ? 

No, it is still Poetry, which is a subset of Literature.

>So why should it ever
>be "netart" ???????

It shouldn't !
Unless, that is, in its online manifestation, its essential character as
an artistic work depends in some way upon the medium of communication
and its presentational parameters.
In that case, the poem would take on a dual character as both a piece of
literature and as a piece of "netart" (and there would be nothing
unusual or cotroversial about that, since all poetry already has such a
potentially dual character given its communicability in either oral or
written form).

>I dont think there couldnt be netart in the strict sense.

Well, Heiko, there we must differ, because I and many others believe
that the Internet is a unique and complex new medium of communication
with its own particular, inherent, powerful,  transformative and
presentational aspects as a communications mechanism. 
We believe that this results in a situation where it is possible to open
up a new category of cultural objects which are defined, in large part,
by their potential for online communicability.
For my own part, as a stubbornly traditional non-anti-retinal visual
artist, I have tended to home in on a subset of NetArt dubbed 'WebArt'
which can be identified as 'Art which depends upon HTML code, 
including HTML's derivatives and successors, as the medium for its 
creation, presentation, communication and expression.' 
Many people have been surprised by this definition, and have objected to
its 'narrowness' (or simply objected to there being an attempted
definition period ! - strangely, those people expressed their objection
in words, which have to have a definition in order to have meaning and
therefore be intelligible as an objection...) etc.

Whether the definition is right or wrong isn't really the issue though:
the real issue is that increasingly large numbers of diversely talented
artists are using the Internet and related networks as the basic mode of
expression and communication for their work. It is also important that
there is ongoing discussion that refines and extends the critical
framework for their activity.

> If Usenet, this
>permanent flow of things, would be art, ok. Or etc.
>We had this inflationiest use of the word radioart in the 70s and even 80s.
>What some people did with microphones, taperecorders etc. Just to make some
>radiostations more interesting. And some persons in those stations. Sotosay
>pure propaganda. Roaratorio was a great piece also without this word. More
>examples. Sateliteart.
>We dont have to agree on this. Yes, all media have there special
>connotations. A spoken poem is something else to a written poem. But if you
>concentrate a little bit, the content is allways the same. And this kind of
>concentration is important for all kind of art reception. Else...
>So lets try to concentrate of the things. One could even doubt there is
>much genuine electronic art.Compare it to music. Or cinema. Electronic
>media, what else. Nobody would speak of CD music, or LP music, or mp3
>music. Arte povera...
>We should reserve the word "netart" to very special things, that are too
>important to be mixed with things that are just, and I like this, it might
>change a lot, distributed via internetcables. Otherwise, its just hype of
>the AOL style.

I think your view is valuable as a counterbalance to the nihilist
approach which says ' If it is on the Internet, then it is automatically
NetArt, so the category is so broad as to be meaningless.' I think your
insight is to say
>We should reserve the word "netart" to very special things
- I am unsure about what would count as 'very special', but I also
suspect that it is worth developing this line of thought in order to get
at a good general description of the kind of cultural objects that
really do require (or were designed for)  the Internet and its
successors as their mode of communication.

I also think there is a unique obstacle to the development of this line
of thought and its acceptance into the critical/academic mainstream
(and, folks, I think we have to accept the fact - unpalatable as it may
be be to some - that 'avant-garde' is now constructed as a mainstream
critical concept...): the social groups (critico-academic art world
gatekeepers) that would normally grab the idea and run with it, are
precisely those whose influence would be most systematically undermined
by the democratisation of access to cultural objects that the Internet
threatens to create !

That is why I think that Brad's recent comments are so insightful:
cyberspace genuinely challenges a whole series of power and property
relationships that we formerly HAD to take for granted. Included amongst
those relationships are things like copyright, the social construction
of league tables of critical approval etc. etc.  Mediation of these
relationships really is democratised (not completely, but in a
completely new way) in the online world. This threatens the previous
status quo whereby a nexus of galleries, museums, academics, critics and
dealers could determine the social construction of public taste and,
through that, a system of commercial art values.

The beauty of this threat is worth defending. Part of that defence is
the cultivation of a growing acknowledgment of the fact that the
Internet is midwife to the birth of some fascinating and powerful new

Gerald O'Connell

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