:: Monday, December 27, 2004 ::

NEW WRITING: Net response -- Arts culture, tissue culture and autonomy
BY: Molly Hankwitz

One of the most promising and exciting aspects of Net art and its networked culture is that it, more than other media is continually morphing. It has close proximity to technocultural change and is incorporated or exploited or extrapolated upon as part of this change. Tools, names, processes and knowledge evolve with new media technologies like painting does with oil paint, or film and sculpture with celluloid or clay. The artistic will to improve, manipulate and expand upon "materials" is found all the time in net art. It is simply an electronic art form, carrying with it all the materials and mythologies bound up with being electronic. The artists push and create the net; many might argue that definitions of net art must be expanded to include communications law activists, programmers, and software engineers.

But artists produce culture, which is distinguished as ‘art’, and which is separated by judgement from commercial and industrial art forms. Yet it is also a net art history to acknowledge that between the product and the cultural manifestation of artwork is multidirectional collaboration that goes into producing the work. New media art work, net art and networked culture has a long history of such creative effort that has been discussed widely and whole areas of electronic art publication and production are devoted to fostering collaboration between scientists and artists or engineers and artists; dancers, musicians, sound artists and computer hacks. The net, thus is a widely inscribed, shape-shifting, responsive architecture in which artists intentionally play with its flexing characteristics and abundant aesthetics reinventing them through many means such as 'community' 'continuity' and 'distribution.'

But what is a net artist? Is it someone like ]mez[ only, who has dedicated her life to creating an online persona as an artist and her own net.language to promote her work? Or is a net artist anyone who does something for purposes of creativity, on the net? Or is a net artist someone who is recognized by arts and cultural institutions?

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly where net art falls. There are techno-artists, net artists, online artists, communication designers and artists, online performers, and so forth. One area that this author feels is contributing to a blurring of net art with networked communication, for example, or with 'independent media' and media arts is in the area of ‘open publishing’.

We are currently witnessing widespread proliferation of *free* open-publishing softwares from 'blog' servers to 'wiki' and more. Photoblogs, travel and personal blogs abound on artists’ sites and in virtual communities on the net. Artists who are painters or photographers are using online means to produce regular evidence of their travels and their work. Other artists are programming new search engines and creating entire narrative-element sites. Entire cultures of publishing on and off line are cropping up around the use of readily available open-publishing softwares to which “anyone” can contribute and some theorists write of major changes in media production, audiences and consumption as a result of this blurring.

Moreover, companies such as Google and Yahoo are providing space for artworks and specialist search functions, expanding through their consumer-base and providing for the flourishing of cultures around their companies tools. Open publishing, once an "open source" concept reserved for anarchy and techno-utopia has been trundled into an "anyone can do it" practice with many commercial open publishing softwares becoming available. Wikipedia encyclopaedia, a rich information source, allows anyone to start a topical web page and that page in turn can be edited by anyone else. The concept of online collaboration as a typical web-based practice is key to this form of exchange. "Anyone" publishing is a democratic idea, but it may well also be simply an amelioration of net art practices into the everyday rendering them a function of the banal; no longer interesting or provocative, but soft and pluralistic.

Commercialisation of softwares means necessarily a mainstreaming of 'idea' as more and more ‘non-artists’ become absorbed into the jelly-like mass of the world wide web, believing there are participating in something real. What is 'open' about something simply more available? The public commons, which includes net art cultures does not necessarily benefit from increased capitalization on and commercialisation of its processes. Such ‘open’ conversation is also more inconsequential, a naïve acritical noise, fluff and manipulation, in the interests of whom? Aesthetics of databasing, theorized initially by Lev Manovich as a productive creative counterpart to avant-garde film, have rightly evolved into robust cultural critique of search engines and emerging database technologies in terms of their taxonomic biases in the structuring of information and its flows. The question is how can we, if we can, construct and imagine "autonomy", in an age of mass amalgamation of ideas, IP, and information? In this phase of the Internet, do we need to continue to consider critical difference and autonomy and what it means? Of course, we do, is the answer. Otherwise we allow fundamental issues about who controls the net.waves and real interests behind these debates to be obscured.

New York-based cultural critic, McKenzie Wark writes in his recent book, "A Hacker Manifesto" that we are living in a time of gross commodification of information. Is the current interest among techno-artists in 'automation' and 'robotics' any indicator that what was at one time thought to be 'human' is now thought to be 'machine'? Is it a response to the over-industrialization of digital media? A numbing out? If corporate gentech has anything to say about it, the answer is "yes."

The ability of Australian bioengineering artists Oron Catts, Ionat Zurr and Guy Ben-Ary of the Tissue Culture & Art Project (http://www.tca.uwa.edu.au/) and the Pigs Wings Project in which the already fictionalised object of 'pigs wings' are hand-crafted in flesh-form from pigs ears cells or in which a miniature leather coat is created out of mouse ear cells in 'Victimless Leather', provide a fascinating position on bioengineering and its place in culture at large. These works look at the sorts of fears and imagination biotech engenders. Earlier in the bio-art history, performer/engineer Stelarc's prosthetic fantasies of second arms and ears and Patricia Piccinini's notorious digital photographs of infant-like bioengineered critters contextualized this strand of cyberart as sinister, macabre, and other worldly, playing directly off fear of the unknown. Their very strong work commented on cultural fictions/non-fictions and the prevalence of science fiction while subverting technodeterminist narratives and declaring, in a sense, a permanent crossover between science and art. Humour and aesthetic beauty of 'tissue' were the medium.
Other interpretations may well describe this art as more a response to the imagination of work and the vast hype and desensitisation surrounding autocratic, technoscientific imaging. Stelarc and Piccinini endeavour to be funny and horrific, while they are pointing to real horrors -- the complete collusion of culture with nature to the point of a third – nature, one neither human nor machine.

While new technologies are being developed for almost every field of human endeavour from agriculture to human reproduction, weapons manufacturers and the surveillance society drive much of their future. Good and evil “uses” are played out in liberal philosophy and advertising while bioengineering art deterministically appropriates the techniques and materials of science, much as Da Vinci did, to say “art is cultural and creative”; these are the objects of its imagination. Human and machine, if not linked directly in the flesh, are at least linked in an imagination of the flesh. Pigs’ wings are hypothetical after all, just as the process of cloning or organ replacement through tissue once was. Is bioengineering art then, in part, an effort to reinvent cyber communications through a radical surrealism? Are its images and ideas created to cut through dominant knowledge and culture, tap the pseudo-scientific mythologies in popular culture, which crop up, and crack technoscience’s hold on discovery? How similar is this culture hacking to the work of database theorists examining how knowledge is surfed and systematized? Moreover, where has it crossed into net art?

Part of the ‘pigs wings’ critique is that it places the hand of God in our ability to construct the “real” out of ordinary folklore and, secondly, it begs citizens’ participation in bioengineering culture. The possibility that pigs can fly becomes almost real if not also absurd; if the flesh they are made of is real, however manufactured and it resonates with the biotechnology work of Steve Kurtz and the Critical Art Ensemble, which tied them up with the FBI. By bringing the processes of GMO food testing into the ordinary household through easily and legally obtained tools, a high-concept, low-tech critique of corporate power over our bodies is expressed. What appears “real” fact in the corporate spectacle – that only scientists can manipulate food or that pigs can fly – is rendered an absurd political fiction. And flesh is and will be the contested terrain of the 21st century arts and sciences just as it and its use and representation is historically the contested terrain of lawmakers, moralists and politicians. The propensity for younger artists, in particular, to play with automation and generative processes, processes which exclude the hand of the artist very often and in which the perfunctory role of machines is central, may well be about the body and its changing role in everyday life, medicine and genetics. By giving up to the machines, there is an abdication of authorial presence; there is an abdication of time. We have produced the human genome project and Adam can be downloaded. How, then will net artists deal with the body, the networks and the changing role of the machine with its ever miniaturizing, invasive and, even edible presence in our lives?

NEW.WRITING: Leon Ferrari y la Iglesia Catolica/ Leon Ferrari and the Catholic Church
BY: Ignacio Nieto

Translated into English by Brenda Banda / Traducido al inglés por Brenda Banda

Quise escribir este artículo el 25 de diciembre, día donde el mundo cristiano celebra la llegada de Cristo. Quisiera recordarle entonces a la parte querellante y a la jueza Liberatori la carta remitida al Papa y firmada por una serie de artistas e intelectuales incluído Ferrari en contra juicio final y ver la gran generosidad existente en ella, si esta fuese aprobada que se podria comparar a la expresada por Cristo cuando muere por "nosotros".

Leon Ferrari uno de los artistas con mayor trayectoria en Argentina, se le ha clausurado su retrospectiva en el Centro Cultural Recoleta por una orden emanada de la Jueza Elena Liberatori a pedido de la agrupación católica "Cristo Sacerdote."

Me acuerdo una pequeña conversación que sostuve con Christian Ferrer pidiéndole informacion acerca de alguna posible monografía de Ferrari. Christian en esa oportunniadad me dió un correo electrónico y me dijo que León Ferrari siempre tenia problemas con la iglesia católica y viera que no, pasado cinco meses de esa conversación una jueza aplica mediante una figura legal el cierre de su exposición a pedido de un grupo religioso denominado "Cristo Sacerdote." El gobierno de la ciudad interperpuso una apelación a la medida, la que se debera resuelta en los proximos días.

Un hecho similar sucedio en la ciudad de Córdoba, ciudad ubicada al noroeste de Buenos Aires, en donde una exposicion fue cerrada en el Cabildo de la ciudad por herir la sensibilidad religiosa.

Buenos Aires, 24 de diciembre de 1997
Juan Pablo II
Ciudad del Vaticano

De nuestra consideración:

Se acerca el fin del milenio. Se acerca, posiblemente, el Apocalipsis y el Juicio Final. Si es cierto que son pocos los que se salvan, como advierte el Evangelio, se acerca para la mayor parte de la humanidad el comienzo de un infierno inacabable. Para evitarlo basta volver a la justicia que Dios Padre dictó en el Génesis. Si El castigó la desobediencia de Eva suprimiendo nuestra inmortalidad, no es justo que el Hijo nos la haya restituido, tantos siglos después, prolongando padecimientos. Si una parte de la Trinidad dicta una sentencia cuya pena termina y se completa con la muerte, no puede otra parte abrir cada causa, agregar otra sentencia, resucitar el cadáver y aplicar un castigo adicional que repite infinitas veces el castigo ya cumplido por el pecador una vez muerto. La justicia del Hijo contradice y viola la del Padre. La existencia del Paraíso no justifica la del Infierno: la bondad de los pocos salvados no les permitirá ser felices sabiendo eternamente que novias o hermanas o madres o amigos y también desconocidos y enemigos (prójimo que Jesús nos ordena amar y perdonar) sufren en tierras de Satanás. Le solicitamos entonces, volver al Pentateuco y tramitar la anulación del Juicio Final y de la inmortalidad.

Lo saludamos atentamente

(Club de impíos herejes apóstatas blasfemos ateos paganos agnósticos e infieles, en formación)

28 de diciembre a las 11 hs frente a los Tribunales de la Capital, Av. de Mayo 760, para expresar su repudio a la censura de la exposición de León Ferrari y con las consignas de “Si a la libre expresión y no a la censura".


I wanted to write this article on December 25th, a day when the Christian world celebrates the arrival of Christ. Then I'd like to remind these people and judge Liberatori, the letter sent to the Pope and signed by a group of artists and intellectual people, included Ferrari, against the Final Judgment, and see the great generosity if the propose would accepted, which could be compared to the one expressed by Christ when he dies for "us".

Leon Ferrari one of the artists with more years of working in Argentina, has suffered the closing of his retrospective exhibition in the Recoleta Cultural Centre, by an order of Judge Elena Liberatori, in response to the demands of the catholic group "Cristo Sacerdote."

I remember a small chat I had with Christian Ferrer, asking him information about some monography of Ferrari. Christian gave me an e-mail address and told me Leon Ferrari was always having problems with the Catholic Church, and there we have, only five months after that talking a judge use her legal figure to close down his exhibition Exposición thanks to a religious group called "Cristo Sacerdote." The city government did try to appeal, and it will be resolved one of these days.

A similar fact happened in the city of Cordoba, in the northwest of Buenos Aires, where an exhibition was censored in the Cabildo because it offended religious sensibilities.

Buenos Aires, December 24th, 1997
John Paul II
City of Vatican

For your consideration:

The end of the millennium is close. With it, it's possible, the Apocalipsis and the Final Judgment. If it's true that just a few will be saved, as said in the Testament, is coming the beginning of an endless hell for a big part of humanity. To avoid it, just look back at the justice God dictated in the Genesis. If Him punished the disobedience of Eve removing our immortality, it is not fair his Son gave it back to us, so many centuries after, prolonging our suffering. If a part of the Trinity order a sentence which ends with death, the other part can't open every cause, add another sentence, reanimate the corpse and give an additional punishment that repeats infinite times the punishment already fulfilled by the sinner once he's dead. The justice of the Son Hijo contradicts and violates the Father's. The existence of Paradise doesn't justify the existence of Hell: the goodness of a few saved won't let them be happy always knowing that girlfriends or sisters or mothers or friends and even unknowns and enemies (the other Jesus command us to love and forgive) are suffering in Satan land. We ask you then, to go back to the Pentateuco and transmit the annulations of the Final Judgment and immortality.


(Impious heretics appestats blasphemous atheistic pagans agnostics and unfaithfuls club, in development)

December 28 11:00 AM in front of the Los Capital Court, Av. de Mayo 760, to express the against the censorship of the exposition of León Ferrari with slogan “Yes to the freedom of expression no to the censorship".