:: Sunday, January 11, 2004 ::

ORIGINAL POST: Fri Jan 02, 12:15:10 PM
BY: Eduardo Navas

Government intelligence has been a public interest for a long time. A particular aspect that has become fictionalized--via James Bond movies and other spin-offs--are special gadgets that seem like normal everyday objects at first glance but turn out to be some sort of special weapon. This fascination has found a new form of presentation as an online project in The Central Intelligence Museum by Danny Goodwin.

Goodwin created web pages featuring various gadgets that could have been used by the U.S. Government in special spy missions. The pieces include descriptions and photos of a camera hidden behind an electric outlet, cigarette explosives hidden in a regular cigarette pack used to create bigger explosions, a gun hidden inside a briefcase ready to shoot, and eyeglasses containing escape devices.

I was fascinated to read about each gadget, thinking how real these may be. Unfortunately, the web project does fall short in terms of presenting a coherent voice. The Central Intelligence Museum rides on a hesitant position, aware that parodying may not be well taken during times of high security, which is quite obvious from the introductory page offering this disclaimer in big red letters: "THIS IS NOT AN OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT SITE!!" Also, the project does not make the most of appropriation; the viewer knows almost immediately that the pages are all fabricated by the artist (Goodwin also makes this clear in the introductory page).

In short, while it could have followed the tradition of Randall Packer's online project U.S. Department of Art and Technology or the more established internationally known Museum of Jurassic Technology (where the viewer is not quite sure if the material is real or not), the project ends up presenting great potential with limited formal expression. The two latter projects are strong because they ask the viewer to question their belief of what is "real," whether they’re looking at something that is really part of history and my contemporary reality, leading to a skeptical position. Such skepticism, unfortunately, is not part of The Central Intelligence Museum. Nevertheless, the project is worth an online visit.

ORIGINAL POST: Sun Jan 04, 01:08:56 PM
BY: Garrett Lynch

Following the honorary mention of openforge (an open-source development network) at the Prix Ars Electronica this year, the following question surely needs to be asked: when will art institutions look sideways at commerce and how software companies and developers have adapted to use the network as a fused combination of space for initiation, collaboration, dispersion, distribution and beyond to do likewise for art forms and disciplines such as net art. Net art having a long history of practitioners who are programmers, it seems that obstacles and technical hurdles lie in the domain of the institutions rather than the artist.

One such approach is Ars Publica, "a digital art publisher and agency established for providing and funding new media art, activities and resources in affiliation with the art server Noemata.net," currently supported by the Council of Cultural Affairs in Norway. Yet cultural or physical borders don't hold for this open content site.

Through a no-restrictions policy, regardless of where the content originated or what language is used, their "policy is to support collaboration, community, transparency and immediacy in the arts: net art, media art, correspondence/mail art, network art, context art, or other otherness and marginal artifactualizations." The server space embraces art work and its byproducts in all shapes and forms, functioning and non-functioning; in fact, it revels in the successes, changes and even failures of the combinations of art and technology, documenting work as it is, in an almost dadaesque manner.

Individuals and institutions can participate in two ways: they can add, modify or remove material on the server to contribute to the work; or they can purchase shares of noemata.net...

"Shares can be browsed and purchased from the catalogue, establishing ownership in Noemata. The art will usually be delivered to you prior to your order. Digital art being freely available on the net, the audience--potential buyer--is already the owner of the art work; it is already distributed and downloaded by being browsed, much like quantum mechanics, readymades, Zen, or similar commodities. In addition, the art of Noemata is open-content licensed (meaning no fee can be charged for it); so that's another problem--no order, no payment (if you figure out a way to pay us we'll consider whether to accept it or not). By buying shares of Noemata in the form of art, we in Ars Publica fancy having provided a solution where you can order something you already possess and purchase something for which you may not be charged. These are problematic issues, maybe paradoxical. We'll have a shot in the arm at it."

While Ars Publica should be felicitated on its approach, it does seem like the attempt lacks dedication to posterity. True, art can be added in any way, but how is that art contextualized? How does it exist in relation to the piece next to it? And how will it be cataloged for users?

Lastly, because of the nature of the work that Ars Publica contains (often collaborative, contributory and variable), and the fact that it can contain many works, how do we define the border between the works and the space? Where are the indications you would have in a classic space such as a gallery, indications disposed of to free the space yet possibly to the compromise of context? How do we stop the space itself from just becoming an immense collective net-art work in itself? Is this good or bad? Do we consider galleries as collective art works?

For more information on Ars Publica and their approach see the site or contact arspublica@kunst.no.

ORIGINAL POST: Sat Jan 03, 08:01:46 AM
BY: Kristen Palana

Agora Phobia (digitalis), by Dutch artist Karen Lancel, is both a physical installation and an online project.

The installation part of this project takes place in an inflatable, semi-transparent ISOLATION PILLAR, placed strategically in crowded city squares, parks, etc. People are invited to step inside, one at a time, and simultaneously experience feelings of safety, softness, isolation, and vulnerability.

Inside the pillar is where the online component takes place. Visitors inside the pillar may have internet dialogues with people living in isolation: a prisoner, a nun, a hermit, an agoraphobic, a refugee, etc. The chatting takes place on a secure website where the participants will not be disturbed by others. I found the dialogues between participants to be quite interesting because both participants are isolated, yet both know that their words are being viewed and displayed to hoards of people they cannot see. It's kind of Exhibitionism for shy people, or at least very similar to the kinds of anonymity that can be achieved via the web, emails, and blogs. Hey, I'm doing it right now, aren't I?

There are many chats to choose from, including those from past venues such as the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Berlin Artfair. People may visit this web archive at any time and participate in the Monologues section of the site. Your monologue will be published within a week in the archive. Parts of it will appear in a book and performances of TraumaTour.

The physical aspect of this project was most recently shown at Eyebeam in Chelsea, New York in September 2003 and will next be shown in Paris at Biennale Villette Numérique Parc de la Villette in 2004.