Saturday, 6 August 2011

Reply to Helen Bridwell

Since Blogger seems to have disabled commenting on comments, this goes here for now, in reply to Helen Bridwell's comment on the original post, below. If anyone knows how to fix my internets, please let me know. Yours incapably, etc.


That bit about net utopianism, that is the single most torturous sentence in the whole thing, Timothy Thornton picked me up on those objects too, and in fact suggested "phantom" as a means of distinguishing them as the most ghostly part of the whole set-up. By me, that is. They are the significant lack of the whole thing. What are the objects that net utopianism purports to critique? Tim was right to say that they are at least phantom, because the "critique" of some of this stuff is non-existent. Still, the sentence felt *right* to me, in a way that perhaps only scrolling down some of the comment sections on Art Fag City blog posts could ever attest to. For example, this from a year ago in response to Price's piece:

"Hi, Seth. It seems you are more interested in books than the Net. Many of your references to the Net are negative or written in a dry, anthropological tone. ("Self-consciously generous transparency," "an infantilizing rationality," "circumvent[ing] traditional ethical standards," and so on.) You sound at times like a threatened print writer criticizing bloggers. Your collection is also a disconnected hoard of images but the subject matter is books and magazines. Is having the fingers in each shot to distance yourself, as the antiquarian lover of one type of medium, from the complained-about effects of the medium in which you are communicating? The idea of showing books as a retro "hoard" page is great but could probably do without the accompanying talking down to Internet users. Books and magazines have their limitations and pathologies as well. (Maybe that's the point you're making--if so it could be clearer.)"

The same astonishing distinction between being, like, "negative" about the innernet, but having a "positive" outlook crops up everywhere, which is slightly alarming, a kind of binary code dialectics for schmucks. In "Kool-Aid Man in Second Life" Jon Rafman / Kool-Aid Man bats off this exact nonsense when his interviewer poses the question: "Yeah, a lot of this sounds very pessimistic, yet the work...seems very optimistic", to which Rafman / Kool-Aid Man responds: "Yeah that's a good question, how can we take so much pleasure in a movie in which all humankind is completely annihilated?".

It's a speculative piece, so in a sense I'm creating a version of "net utopianism" out of all the bad net art and half-baked London shows I've seen over the last year and a half or so and then lambasting it with an impossibly shit parody of itself. Those "objects of critique" are actually just what bad net art ignores, or rather, what feels to me is being deliberately and scathingly dispensed with when I'm enjoined to celebrate amorphous and nebulous concepts like "multiplicity" and "plurality". That's what got my goat about the Vierkant article. Consider his:

"The use of “We” is not to advocate solely for participatory structures of art but to insist on a participatory view of culture at large, and ultimately of taking iconoclasm itself as a quotidian activity. Whereas in previous times it was legitimate to conceive of culture as a greater system with impassible barriers to entry and a finitude of possibilities, culture after the Internet offers a radically different paradigm which our “They” idiom does not allow for. This is not to say that we have entered a fully utopian age of endless possibilities but simply to claim that culture and language are fundamentally changed by the ability for anyone to gain free access to the same image-creation tools used by mass-media workers, utilize the same or better structures to disseminate those images, and gain free access to the majority of canonical writings and concepts offered by institutions of higher learning."

So what, we haven't quite got to the "fully utopian age of endless possibilities" yet, but since regular folk can freely torrent a cracked version of the latest Photoshop and spam away we're at least on the right track? The necessary but unspoken corollary to this thinking is utopia as image management, the point at which the best of all possible worlds is not one without any advertisements but one in which we all make our own advertisements, and they're all equally as effective and equally as fucking massive. This is what Ciscso Systems is telling us, if only we could all listen at once. Net utopianism, insofar as I've constructed it, can't critique anything, let alone an object, because what it wants is for us all to imagine that a free online community is interesting to the world at large for anything other than selling discount Xanax. It's a necessarily gross speculative construct, because I wanted to argue against an extreme side of things that probably doesn't really take effect outside of a general tendency not to think too hard about what the work is doing.

Next I want to have a go at this:

"my best guess is that they/it are the real world of commodities, which is to say infinite plurality of virtual worlds, which is to say RL?"

Because I think what you've written there, and what you infer, and what happens when I read that, are all different and competing things, the structures of contradiction inherent in every object virtual or otherwise, the snake eating its own tail in the animated .gif of fetishized transcendence.


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