On June 9th, the 49th International Art Biennale of Venice will open to the public including in the Slovenian Pavillion, the work of net artists Vuk Cosic, 0100101110101101.ORG, and Tadej Pogacar in Absolute One curated by Aurora Fonda. There will be several parallel events and works not least in the Temporary Autonomous Pavillion : " The parallel exhibition is happening in S. Maria del Soccorso ... which is a chappel out of service, like an abandoned gas station or something. I have invited Alexei Shoulgin, Heath Bunting, Jodi, RTMARK, Tom Jennings, Vinylvideo and 0100101110101101.ORG. The show is about being together. Since Venice is such a venerable ocasion mostly known works will be displayed." 2* There is also a computer virus, "bienale.py", "...the product of the collaboration of two entities, 0100101110101101.ORG and epidemiC, already known for other shocking actions, often bordering with crime. "biennale.py" is both a work of art and a computer virus." 3* which will be 'spread' on the 6th. " Paradoxically, such as in biological viruses, "biennale.py" will spread not only through machines but also through men."4* - there will be T-shirts for sale with the source code printed on them.
Absolute One, 'between one and absolute zero', is "starting from the basic question on how the artist could consctructively operate and actively respond to the globalization process, offers a strong and optimistic signal instead of the spreading fatalism and of the idea of inevitability" 5* The net.artists are acting 'as one', and the related site is careful to include many of those who have been involved in the area in terms of texts, discussion lists and ideas, spanning many countries. Vuk Cosic has explained how "The fact that net.art 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."6* In other words, it seems that due to the de-stabilizing effects of the wars in the Balkans on the official culture of Slovenia, net art has been able to offer itself as an alternative option. It also coincides with the fact that for many net artists, the value system of the art market has been a point of contention, and not least as an expression of late capitalism and global economics.
Contextualising networked art practice within a cultural economy where the market is "still in a phase of adjustment - and in certain cases still inexistent"7*, means that it is possible to see the work as simultaneously a challenge to, and an affirmation of, the 'free market' principles of global capitalism. Free is good in terms of inclusion, culturally and socially , in collaboration and participation. However, it can also be seen as problematic if simply left to the power of capital to decide what becomes part of the establishment. As with art critique of the QWERTY keyboard and the Microsoft OS, economic debate often now rests on issues of a dominant coding practice aquiring cultural power through simple frequency of use - consumer 'choice'- or patent protection rights: "In discussions of computer interface design it has become commonplace to note that the standard QWERTY keyboard and its international variants is an anachronism, designed for the pace of nineteenth century machine typewriters. Having become the standard, it is a design that apparently proves impossible to break."8* The question is: are these systems the 'best' ones to evolve given the so-called free market Western economies, or do their very inadequacies prove that a new approach is needed? The net.artists have applied this principle to the art market, resisting attempts to become totally integral to that system, which is one of authentication and copyright protection, and the nets have been essential in terms of making this a reality.
It is a difficult line to walk, however. The free market operates on the principle of competition and 'take-over'. In order for an alternative competitor to win a place in the market, they have to take a bigger share than their market opponent. Hence, corporate take-over. In computing culture the challenge of not falling into the corporate trap is met by open source codes, and operating systems like Linux, 'An OS and its design philosophy "exert an extremely strong influence on the technical cultures that grow up around its host machines," as the motto goes. Passionate groups of devotees and cults form around OSs, defending and promoting them with almost religious zealotry. When Umberto Eco classified the Mac OS as catholic and DOS as protestant, he unleashed a minor religious war. "Technical cultures" refers first to the cultures of technicians. More generally, though, all cultures that are based on media are always technical as well. An argument could even be made that the phenomenon that is society represents nothing other than an effect of the interconnections created by media technology.' 9* In the art world it has been net.art, and more specifically and recently, it is 'life_sharing' with 0100101110101101.ORG which has taken up the challenge of deconstructing latent corporate computing, or as Marina Grzinic puts it : "0100101110101101.ORG is creating a hole in the brain of the machine as a kind of alien situation, a de-realization of the system of the computer and of the content of so called everyday life."10*
At Absolute One, the possibility is announced of buying the virus bienale.py : "The paradox becomes even more clear if you think that the virus, a vague and dangerous entity by definition, is for sale to adventurous curators and collectors. To buy a computer virus is probably on the most exciting investment one could make today."11* So the idea is clearly put forward of collectors buying software, but in this case in the form of a 'unique' virus. It also confronts the technophobic art lover with an embodiment of their fear of computers in the form of a quite scary artwork, which they can interact with just by wearing a T-Shirt...
Obviously, there are contradictions which might superficially appear to undermine the stated intentions behind this work. These radical artists are in the Venice Bienale... they are selling their work... 0100101110101101.ORG have taken-over as most famous net artists by criticising fame... Vuk Cosic is publishing a book about net.art... and he's working with Sarah Cook12* on analysing how best to exhibit net art. But this would be to ignore the most important principle about all of this work - of openness, of being able and free to improve on a piece of code - and not to be prevented because of copyright or other authenticity rights, which is the fundamental technique of cultural and political change being employed here, "The usefulness and beauty of digital technology is exactly that it does also resist representation, and is always finding itself as a new way to make itself other.."13*
1*, 7* Aurora Fonda, Between one and absolute zero,
2*, Vuk Cosic, Vuk's Venice Bienial PR, Sat, 2 Jun 2001, http://www.nettime.org
3*, 4*, 5*, 11* Aurora Fonda, biennale.py: A Virus in the Venice Biennale, NEW-MEDIA-CURATING@JISCMAIL.AC.UK, Sun, 3 Jun 2001
8*, 13* Matthew Fuller, Eating Disorder: The Story of a Shape , C-Theory, 23rd April 1997 http://www.ctheory.com/article/a045.html
9* Volker Grassmuck, Concept for "Wizards of OS" 2/2, Sat, 19 Dec 1998, http://www.nettime.org/nettime.w3archive/199812/msg00072.html, also from this message - " Thomas Wulffen unleashed the term "Betriebsystem Kunst" ("Art Operating System") to the world. The term represents a flat analogy relating more to the "functioning systems" of sociological system theory than to computer science. What's meant are collections, museums, galleries, art schools and art publications, that is, elements underlying the variety of possible "applications" which define the total art system and keep it running."
10* USELESSNESS, THEORY AND TERROR VS. ABSTRACT COLLABORATION , Marina Grzinic, http://absoluteone.ljudmila.org/grzinic_en.php
12*, Sarah Cook, minimal analytical unit problem, Fri, 1 Jun 2001, NEW-MEDIA-CURATING@JISCMAIL.AC.UK, www.newmedia.sunderland.ac.uk/crumb/maup/maup.html, also from this message - "At the Baltic Seminar Vuk Cosic and I decided it was time to create a database and look - in the spirit of map-making - at what constitutes the minimal analytical unit problem (MAUP) - in other words, what is the minimum we need to know in order to make sure we don't keep making the same mistakes (or looking in the same place for the answers) as the curators who have come before? How do we widen our field of vision to take in greater and more varied examples for the consideration of the exhibition of new media art work?"
49th International Art Biennale of Venice
Press opening: June 6th, 7th and 8th 2001; Opening June 9th 2001
official site of the Slovenian pavillion, also containing the full text of the 'Net.art per me' book, by Vuk Cosic
Temporary Autonomous Pavillion
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