It is really hard to be an impartial journalist when, because of the critical approach hold in this professional figure and the intellectual responsibility of this role, you are almost obliged to express your opinion on what is happening into the world of elecgtronic art. Moving throught carefully between its cathedral, attending its customary things, talking with its spokemen and with memory and experiences keepers, being really into the interpretation of estethical form and communication languages with the aim of understanding how human nature express itself with electronical instruments that knock down, with increasing velocity, stylistic differences and ideological border, creative experiences and way of expression.
This is the reason why it is always harder to face impartially the story and description of a show like Connessioni Leggendarie, takeing place at Mediateca di Santa Teresa in Milan until November 10 th .
An Net Art exhibition, an attempt (maybe incomplete, as the organizers said) to give historicity and of mythicize works and actions of that bunch of cultural mixers (known anyway as artists), that create the only recognized and recognizable form of contemporary digital vanguard.
Reflecting on how the role of the artist/communicator has radically changed, on the incredible mediatic strategy and marketing guerrilla strategy have put into effect by people like 0100101110101101.ORG, Vuk Cosic, The Yes Men, odi, Mark Napier, Survellance Camera Palyers, Etoy, Electronic Disturbace Theatre, Ubermorgen, Florianj Cramer, Epidemic, Alexei Shulgin, Jaromil, Cornelia Sollfrank, Amy Alexander, Adrian Ward and some others, on how Net Art is still the only artistic current recognized by the audience and media and so able to talk to the world of contemporary art, on how Net art was able to submit the net to its demands and shocking the invisible wooves that subtend the mass medai communication, on how it could move in a constest of net euphorya and following artistic reinassance, which will have few equal in history (or anyway in the history we will be able to live), well, my doubt and my respect for net art still remain the same.
Charged in the last 10 years with net pirate, with sobversive actions, with artistic plagiarism, with positioning and autoreference, net art protagonists speak about theirselves in Connessioni Leggendarie, telling form the inside, increasing, as they admit, with this exhibition the myth, the legend about their surviving, using the space as a different territory. That is also because the net nowadays can’t allow a “legendary” grown as in the period between 1995 and 2005.
Is it to soon to look back and tell, considering this is such a young discipline? Is it wrong to talking about its success without someone telling the insucces? The advice is look at the exhibition, read the explanation forms of the works and buy the great catalogue to have a better knowledge of the subject.
My role, as I saw the development of the Net Art, is the one who ask question to start the necessary conversations between the old avanguarde and the rest of the complex world of electronic art.
I’m talking to one who set the exposition, Domenico Quaranta, in the nameof the whole scientific committee of Connessioni Leggendarie, formed by Luca Lampo, member of Epidemic, Marco Deseriis, author the book “Net Art- art of Connections”, and the couple of 0100101110101101.org.
Because, as Amy Alexander in a self interview, history of Net Art is based on interview. And the following one is just the last one…
MK: How did the idea of an anthological exhibition come? What feedback did you had with the audience?
Domenico Quaranta: Connessioni Leggendarie is not an anthological exhibition, it is an historycal novel telling a fact in which its authors were protagonists and/or partners. The matter was to isolate something that has been told several times, but as a part of something bigger. It is too soon to analyze the impact on the audience, but anyway it is a story that had to be told and, considering the first days, lots of people wanted to listen to.
MK: Why setting the exposition in that historical moment and with these few artists and works? Do you think that Net Art has nowadays nothing new to say? That its impact and importance have to be referred only to the last 10 years?
Domenico Quaranta: The idea under Connessioni Leggendarie is really simple. Into the continous stream of media sperimentation, we are able to cut out a moment, identified by a certain number of people and works. A moment in which connections were as important as results, and in which what is left had the same importance as what is still present. Someone said it was an “eroic period” for Net Art. For us, it is just the Legend. This historical moment has to considered close, so that it is possible to put into History. But our “loved one”, as Luca Lampo said in the catalogue, is pretended. The meaning of Connessioni Leggendarie is all in this contradiction: that’s why Marco Deseriis said Net Art is dead, and I say that its death is only a part of its legend. Net Art is dead, long live the Net Art!
MK: Don’t you think that you miss your aim? I mean, that maybe you are giving just a certain point of view of a precise movement, an historical and social one, considering only the last ten years..some works weren’t in the exhibition, firts of all the famous “They Rule”, but i’m also thinking about tens of other works.
Domenico Quaranta: “Why isn’t Ada web there?”, “Why is Carnivore missing?”. Most of the questions we heard were about what is not there, rather than trying to understand why is there what is present. In my opinion, the matter is which story you want to tell. The one we wanted to tell is represented by only a certain number of works, and neither They Rule ( by the way presented recently at Influencer) nor Ada web nor Carnivore were in this number. They are elements of the same landscape in which the Legend was set. Our aim isn’t to describe the whole landscape, but the works that choose it as a scenary. If you look for a sort of Rachel Grren’s book in Connessioni Leggendarie, you’ll be disappointed. But you are looking for the wrong thing. It doesn’t mean that these works aren’t important, but just that they are not included in the idea of the exhibition. And this idea augur other suggestions, so that myabe also They Rule would be included and understood.
MK: Looking at the exposition, the feeling is of an artistic movement a little bit over- estimated, expecially in its lack of coherence between its original revolutonary spirit, its capability of understanding the wrong line of information system and turning into its own way and the real result of the works, its uncapability of modifying things, the fact that it hadn’t had the impact it was meant to on custom, society, artistic and popular coscience. Just think about the Yes Men movie: what is the sense of reaching an international meeting og such importance and then being there wearing a golden suit and a fake phallus? What is the sense of show they were able to deceive the international mediatic and informative just to expose a fake nike swoosh in a square? Don’t you think it was possible to dare, in term of political and social message?
Domenico Quaranta: I must admit, I don’t want to talk about the diatribe between art and political pledge, polemists much stronger than me have already talked about it. But, since your question implies a partially faked reading of the idea between the exhibition, i’ll try to.
Art never wanted to change the world, and in the very few cases this idea crossed its mind (i.e Futurism and Surrealism) it failed. Futurism became a political party, and Surrealism imitated the Third International structure. They both won on the linguistic matter, but on the social one they were just a parody of a revolution. The fact is the effect of an artistic movement isn’t valuted by its impact on social life, but by its capability to influence the language. Luca Lampo often says what Artaud said to Breton “Make revolutionary art, but make it art”. I don’t think there is a better way to explain the matter. We try to explain Net Art as avanguarde, but we also have to say that it is a postmodern avanguarde, much more ironic than the historic ones. That’s why in my opinion it is totally wrong thinking that Vuk Cosic has the same marxist naivety as Breton.
Looking back to your examples…Being at an international meeting wearing a golden suit and a fake phallus has sense if , just like it happened, the audience considers you as a WTO envoy, clapping at your fascist sentences. And the Swoosh isn’t the aim of Nikeground, but the media throught which artists show that the reality we live in is more raving than any artistic hipotesis. If you ask Yes Men or 0100101110101101.org to talk seriously about famine, you ask them activism, not art. But art, this art, is much more powerful than activism, because it fight language and imagery, and create simbols any activism can use. Net art over-estimated? Well, I don’t think it made Christie’s break the bank, that is defended by Gagosian or that Arthur C.Danto’s strings vibrated because of it. Some american museum plunged theirselves into the fray, but they soon took back their word. I’d talk about the need to demonstrate its importance in recent hystory, to which Connessioni is trying to answer.
MK: Don’t you think was too soon to organize a anthological exhibition on artists and works that can be just the first step of an artistic movement that could need time to be recognized? Some of the protagonists of net art seem to have the same opinion, like Shulgin, Cosic, Cramer…they prefer nowadays different works
Domenico Quaranta: Avanguarde are not recognized later. Duchamp and others knew they were avanguarde. And considering Shulgin, Cosic and Cramer…well, Shulgin is co-author of Introduction to the net art (1994-1999), in a certain way, the inventor of the game Connessioni is continuing. Cosic was the first who talk about Heroic period, and Cramer is a writer.
Anyway, the exhibition isn’t premature also because, further the anthological prospective you are reading it, one of the biggest problems Connessioni has, is how is possible to conserve a fresco that flake faster than the Leonardo’s Cenacolo. The fact is we also have to ask ourselves how conservate interesting works of culture before digital degrade and software aging throw everything away? How is possible to communicate to an offline audience operations we usually have just as fragments? How popularize names and works often unconsidered also by the experts?It is not rick but vision. Do you think it is so strange trying to popularize as much as possible people and works we consider important?
MK: Why net art is in your opinion one of the main form of electronic art that was able to dialogue with the world or museum and galleries? Don’t you think is also too soon for this young art to dialogue with classical cart? Are galleries in Italy or abroad interested in this art?
Domenico Quaranta: If it were true, Toywar would be at the MoMa, rather than being a small bunch of gift on the Net. Telling itself as part of the world of museums was one of the first joke of net art, and even if it works, we’b better stop believing in it. There is a certain mrket, a few brave people that risks, Postmasters and Bitforms in New York, Fabio Paris in Italy. And cosidering the so called young art, from a ceiling in Rivoli dangle a stuffed horse, how is it older than our puppet?
MK: Why did some artists disappear (like JoDi, The Yes Men, Etoy and others)? Where are they now? Do you think, like many other, the net art has become bourgeois and lost that kind of revolution it had in its origin?
Domenico Quaranta: AS far as i know, they are all fine, thanks. Disappeared? Maybe just less visible. JoDi has just opened his own exhibition, and this is a very important one. Cosic was at the ICA in London, Etoy is enjoying his shares and the Yes Men had just closed a pro bush campain. If you think they are disapperead…Net art bougeois? It depends on what you define net art (and on what you define bourgeois). Marco Desseriis said the scene is gone, and now it’s time to officiate the Mass. But i’d rahter think that fire is ever smpouldering…
|The Yes Men||‘Reamweaver’, ‘The Yes Men as WTO’, ‘The Management Leisure Suit’|
|Surveillance Camera Players||‘Surveillance Camera Players’|
|Sebastian J. F.||‘info wars’|
|RTMARK||‘The Mutual Funds’, ‘Bringing It To You!’|
|Joan Leandre \ retroYou||‘retroyou RC series : 1999’|
|Natalie Bookchin||‘Introduction to net.art (1994-1999)’|
|Jodi||‘Untitled Game’, ‘All wrongs reversed ©1982’|
|0100101110101101.ORG||‘Life Sharing’, ‘Biennale.py’, ‘Nike Ground’|
|I/O/D||‘The Web Stalker’|
|Heath Bunting||‘Net.art Consultants’|
|Florian Cramer||Perl poems ‘and’, ‘self’. ‘The Permutation of 0 and 1’|
|Electronic Disturbance Theater||‘FloodNet’|
|Cornelia Sollfrank||‘Female Extension’, ‘The net.art generator’|
|Alexei Shulgin||‘FuckU-FuckMe’, ‘386DX’, ‘Form Art’, ‘Introduction to net.art (1994-1999)’|
|Alexander R. Galloway||‘What You See Is What You Get’ perl/text|
|Amy Alexander||‘Merry Christmas ’99 (the gift that keeps on giving)’, ‘The Plagiarist Manifesto’|
|Mongrel Project||‘National Heritage’|
|Eldar Karhalev & Ivan Khimin||‘Screen Saver’|
|etoy||‘Digital Hijack’, ‘Toywar’|
|Vuk Cosic||‘Deep ASCII’, ‘Documenta Done’|