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Mark Tribe Presentation
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Mark Tribe Presentation

11.05.2001
> transcript  


Speakers:>  Mark Tribe

[Mark Tribe talks about 'Rhizome.org', and 'Net-Ephemera']

[] in 1999 - we started archiving works of Net Art themselves. We call this the 'Art-Base'. [] Although in the 'Art-Base' we do allow people to update their projects, nonetheless, a lot of pieces change every day. So we decided to have two different types of works archived in the 'Art-Base' - linked objects and cloned objects. [] there are four preservation strategies. One is documentation. Which is simply making screen charts or maybe creating a quick-time movie and click through of the project. Interviews with the artists, ephemera related to the production of the work. Not that satisfying a solution, but we found that in archiving, everything involves compromises really.

The second strategy would be migration. So let's say something was written in HTML 2.0, a lot of those tags no longer work in Netscape 6. They are deprecated - they're obsolete. So what you can do is run a Perl script that replaces all the deprecated tags with the new ones. Of course that only works for some kinds of projects. The next more radical step would be emulation. So much as you can by using say Virtual PC emulate an Intel operating system, a Windows operating system in a Macintosh environment or the way in which you can emulate Atari games on a PC and theoretically run the work. But even so, that may not work for a lot of projects. Take for example, Mark Napier's 'Shredder', which shreds other Websites. Well, in a world in which HTML perhaps is completely obsolete, the shredder wouldn't work. So maybe what you would want to do is take the concept of letting people submit network addresses and mix up and shred the results could be reinterpreted and applied in a totally new technological environment. The problem is, how do you do this if you don't know what's most important about the work - and if you don't have explicit permission from the artists? So what we do actually, in the case of cloned objects, is ask artists to fill out a really lengthy multi-page questionnaire on our Website on which we explain all these possible preservation strategies and then ask them basically to say what is most important about the work. Is it the hues of the colours? Is it the way in which the interactivity functions? Is it simply the concept? Is it the fact that you're using readymade technology or customised technology? A lot of the artists will say 'No, you can't document it, you can't migrate it, you can't emulate it and you can't reinterpret it'. In which case the work simply would then exist as the metadata - as the title and original URL and description and bio and thumbnail - and that's it.

Of course 'Art-Base' is totally a grass roots archive. We don't go out and invite people. Sometimes we do send out casual invitations, but it's really a DIY thing. The concept is to be inclusive, rather than exclusive [] The technology that we use is one hundred percent open-source. [] One cool thing about the 'Art-Base' is that it uses the same database platform and metadata structures as the Text-Base, so when you do searches, say you do a query on cyberfeminism or something like that, then it will come up with a mix of art projects and texts that connect with it in some way or other. So it is an attempt to embed the work within the context of the critical discourse that surrounds it at the time.

[] my main thought about Rhizome in connection with curatorial practices is this notion of filtering rather than curating, of having multiple layers ranging from totally open to progressively filtered in different ways. I think filtration is fairly necessary in order to help people find what they're looking for and to create a coherent content resource. But at the same time what we do really reverses the traditional paradigm of curating or publishing in which you have a few people creating contents from many instances. We're trying to create a many-to-many communication environment.

On to Net Ephemera. [] Initially I was looking at the different ways in which curators had been trying to solve the problem of how to put art that was made to be experienced online in the physical space of the gallery and you have a lot of really badly botched attempts like the 2000 Whitney Biennial in which they just projected works on the wall without really discussing it with the artists much. In that case you had artists like Entropy8Zuper pull out because they didn't want their work to be experienced out of context in that way. The approach that I favoured ideally was what we would call the Data Dynamics approach or some of the stuff that Tamas has done at Postmasters, where you invite the artist to make a work that bridges the physical and the virtual, rather than taking work that was meant to be experienced online and just sticking it into the physical space. I didn't have the resources to do that, and also I really wanted to do a large group show. I was also very interested in the process of making the work. So I decided to show - as the title of the show implies - ephemera, relating to the making of the work. Things like drawings, diagrams, notes, flyers, postcards, receipts, cheques and things like that, that would somehow shed light on the process of making the work and what the artists was thinking really, what the significance of the work is in the artist's mind.

Another train of thought that intersected with my decision-making process sprang from being asked repeatedly how or whether art-net was being sold and how it would eventually be sold in galleries. [] So one of my stock answers was 'Well, it will probably be productised much in the way that conceptual art, earthworks and performance art have been - which is through the ephemera. So you have works from people like Michael Heizer. He released five cubic litres of helium in the Mojave Desert - well how do you sell that? but he took some black and white photographs of it, which in fact just look like photographs of the Mojave Desert because of course you can't see the helium. But those he did sell. [] So in imaging that, eventually certain net-artists will be able to finance their work in a similar way. []

I never formulated it this way in the press release or a catalogue or anything like that, but I feel that in a way this show is an art project, of which I am the artist in a sense. That things in the show aren't really art in themselves, but that the show itself has an overarching concept, and forcing the work into this minimal formal device and a few other decisions that I made, made it feel like making art-making to me in a way. To me, it just drew attention to the fuzzy line between art-making and curating, when you have artists playing as curators. []

Audience responses:

NINA CZEGLEDY:

I have a very practical and pragmatic small question and this has to do with artists' fees or honorariums when it comes to showing net art projects - not necessarily commissioning, which is another story, but existing net projects. What do you do? Do you have guidelines?

MARK TRIBE:

Yes. Yes, we've just recently started to get funding to be able to do that, so we've started paying honoraria to artists who talk at our events. We do this nomadic event series called 'Remix', where artists show and talk about their work. We have DJs and serve drinks and have a party. So we got some funding to be able to offer honoraria for that, and we've just got a grant to do a commissioning programme. So in the vein of 'Starry Night', which I didn't really get to talk about, which is an interface to our database, we're going to start commissioning artists to make other ones. Interfaces for the 'Art-Base' or interfaces that help you access content from our database and others. Like maybe do a search across Nettime and Rhizome. It would really be up to the artists and see what they propose. We've also started paying writers fees. []

PETER RIDE (DA2):

[] where is the line drawn and does it matter whether an organisation like Rhizome describes itself as showing curated work in the way that say the Dia Center Website does - because you are doing that! As far as your audience is concerned, they'll come to you to see interesting work.

MARK TRIBE:

It is sneaking up on us I think, and it's a little dangerous and we're at this point now where lots of people are coming at us with ideas and partnership opportunities and we don't really have, right now, a very clear set of criteria for evaluating opportunities and making decisions about what to do next and how to expand and how to grow. Actually we've just initiated a strategic planning process that will take about six months [].

CLARE DOHERTY (SPIKE ISLAND):

[] I think the other thing that's been coming up in the discussion is this nervousness over actual criteria of judgement. How do we judge them to be significant, whether they be artworks physically within a space or online? I was wondering whether you could talk a little bit about your advisory panel and some of the discussions that you may have had over criteria and judgements.

MARK TRIBE:

Well one thing to note is the advisory panel is not involved in the selection process for the 'Art-Base', but they did help us come up with the selection criteria. Really, what we did was just bounced them off them more than anything. To be honest the advisory panel's basically just an e-mail list of twenty people and we send things out to them and then half a dozen will respond at any given time. Some never participate - like Peter Weibel, I don't think has ever responded, but we get to use his name.

These are the selection criteria for the 'Art-Base'. The primary two selection criteria that then get broken down are: is it net-art and is it potentially historically significant? So we define net.art as art that is meant to be experienced online and for which network topologies in some way is fundamental or integral. Then historical significance is a little bit trickier to determine But we look at how aesthetically and conceptually sophisticated the work is; how politically relevant it is. Whether or not it's been talked about in places like Nettime, Rhizome or in more mainstream publications. We look at its provenance and if it was commissioned by or exhibited by some interesting place or something like that.

HANNAH REDLER (C-PLEX):

I'm just curious that on this selection panel there's nothing about technological innovation and I've really enjoyed the last two day's presentations, but I've been struck by the lack of discussion around artwork where the artist is a technological innovator

MARK TRIBE:

You are totally right, its completely missing, but it's a really important selection criteria. [] sometimes there's really, really technologically sophisticated work that isn't particularly interesting, but it's really great when the two intersect. We recently had an interesting issue come up - we realised that we'd included 'Auto Illustrator' by Adrian Ward in the 'Art-Base' and then it occurred to us a while later that it wasn't net-art in any way. We really like it - it is by somebody who is very involved in the net-art community and it's really smart and sophisticated on lots of levels, but unlike say 'Netomat', it's not a Net application so we had to take it out. Otherwise we would have had to accept all that Photoshop stuff. We're getting about a dozen submissions a week right now and a good half of them are Photoshop art or somebody has scanned in watercolours or whatever.

 

 
Keywords:

  net.art
  drawing
  database
  time
  space
  interface
  conceptual art
  databases
  audience
  commissioning
  press
  funding
  publishing

People:

  Mark Tribe
  Peter Weibel