Port Logo
a r t n e t w e b
MARCH 1997
CONCEPT: Present the flux of digital culture
in the networked environment of the Internet
as a two month exhibition at the List
Visual Arts Center at MIT.

March 5, 1997, Wednesday

Oskar Berger from the Swedish School of Journalism and Media found the PORT Web site and asked some questions for his Global Electronic Journalism class (he either teaches it or is a student, he didn't make that clear). Here are my answers:

>1. How did you get interested in Internet as a medium?

I've always been interested in the concept of networks, systems, webs and fields in my art work and had explored them in paintings and writing up until about 1992. That was when I went back to school in museum studies and received, as a student, an Internet account. Until that time I'd worked with computers in typesetting and commercial printing but, even though computing concepts influenced my art work, I'd never considered myself a "computer artist" (and still don't). Once I went online I found a form of computing that I felt I could use as a medium, one that was involved with networks and links rather than producing graphical images.

>2. What kind of projects have you created for the Net?

In 1993 I met Remo Campopiano, my partner in artnetweb. He had created a graphical BBS for artists after moving to New York from Minneapolis, Minnesota. We started working together on artnetBBS and, after the Mosaic browser was introduced, redirected our energies to the Web and created artnetweb. We are now, with PORT, in the process of moving beyond the Web into a global wide area art network that integrates the Internet with existing art practices and social networks and provides a supportive environment for exploration and experimentation with new digital technologies. We are particularly concerned now with creating access for artists to art institutions and helping those institutions understand the possibilities of digital technologies.

I'm the "webmaster" for artnetweb, which means I maintain the site and am responsible for the content there. My personal projects can be found on my homepage: http://artnetweb.com/murph

>3. Economical terms. Can you point out differences? E.g. you cannot sell anything that is put out on the Net - or can you?

The Internet will eventually be a very important marketplace where goods will be bought and sold -- and sites such as amazon.com have already been successful selling books -- but we see it now as mainly a performative environment where artists can create and promote themselves and their ideas. If it is to be economically viable to do this we must develop new models that are not dependent on the existing market of artist/dealer/journal. That also means developing new forms of art work that are native to this environment. That is a prime goal of PORT.

>4. Is it a problem or a thrill not being able to control the environment your art is viewed (e.g. lighting conditions, screen size or other sources of disturbance?)

I'm excited about these "problems" and find it challenging to create work that is meant for a distributed reception. It requires rethinking what an object can be and what control means.

>5. Through which channels do you inform people about new exibitions on the Net - except through your home page?

We have a newsletter called artnetwebINDEX that is sent out to about 1,000 subscribers where we keep people up-to-date about what we're doing (http://artnetweb.com/newsletter)

I'm a cohost on a weekly RealAudio "webcast" called ArtDirt hosted by G.H. Hovagimyan where we talk to guests about current issues of art and technology. (http://pseudo.com/shows/adirt/index.html)

Listserv mailing lists and newsgroups.

Presentations and exhibits (like PORT) where we talk to visitors.

We are a founding member of The Foundation for Digital Culture (http://www.digicult.org) that is comprised of a variety of digitally-focused enterprises.

>6. How would you describe the way media cover Internet art?

Most media cover it from the marketplace/commodity aspect -- the Internet is a big electronic gallery where art can be bought and sold -- because that is how most media cover any art. People are not used to being in close proximity to artists and creativity much less being part of the process. The Internet, expecially the ease and popularity of homepages, is changing that. As a writer friend of mine would say it is "character driven" rather than "plot driven". And as Esther Dyson has said , "Instead of intellectual property there is intellectual performance".

The art media is still in the process of developing critical guidelines to follow in order to create the necessary art hierarchy that is needed to make advertisers happy. As soon as they can detect where the money is they will establish those critical guidelines. Academic journals are too dependent on establishing theoretical models to work from and aren't, as yet, flexible enough to embrace a global distributed network that extends outside of the academy and its concerns.

The media that best covers Internet art is the Internet itself.

>7. How would you describe the future of Internet art?

The term "Internet art" won't make much sense since the Internet breaks down those kinds of categories (like painting vs. sculpture or conceptualism vs. minimalism) into bits and bytes that make borders porous. We will sense the flow and drift of art in the culture because the Internet makes it more easily perceivable even as the Internet or the Web becomes almost invisible (like the "television" or "telephone"). That's why it's important for artists to establish precidents and protocols now while there is still a certain chaos of development. Once order is achieved it won't be so easy.

>PS If you know cool or otherwise interesting Net-Art sites or their artists, please let me know.

I keep an on-going resource list on our website where I put interesting things I find: http://artnetweb.com/resource/

March 6, 1997, Thursday

Christian Vanderborght sent this message and essay on interactivity to the list:

Thanks for all the users of Port-Mit. It's a great event and I would like to keep in contact with you. Actually, I search some partners to develop a 3D interface as a netscape plug-in to create a kind of encyclopedia. The user can move inside this interface and access to to specifics contents through different data bases on the net. If you are actually developing this kind of research, I would like to cooperate with you.

christian vanderborght

The following is a text written in 1991 by Gerard Couty and myself to apprehend what can be interactivity. Many things have appeared since this time

"The interconnected interplay of technical and creative potentials is what interactivity is." Salvatore Vanasco, Eunemia, The Love of Laws The concept of interactivity is linked with the concept of "live TV", they stick to one another. Interactivity is meant to turn the passive viewer into a "terminal citizen" and to be "active" he has to get to the access of real time. In the absolute, the terminal citizen will communicate by the means of a multiplicity of interfaces, he will have a vast choice of possibilities thanks to the interaction of the television screen and the phone (or thanks to their avatars). He will have the possibility of not only changing, modifying the TV programmes, but also interactively communicating with several networks (see mailbox and minitel) and data. A great part of the "work" activity will take place like this (home-working).

The ambition of Univers City TV is to practise interactivity in a concrete way, for we see in it the tomorrow 's "morale", that is the wrecking of "Big Brother", the mediatic parallel of the collapse of the Berlin wall Since the experience of performance, the central theme of media arts is to think that interactivity can be used to enter new spheres of research. Those artistic practices are only existing as their own fleeting monstrations, as fluctuating appearances (as well as dance and theatre) of human reflection. This languag in the process of being made, which hesitates and asserts itself is seen and perceived by the TV audience who's also acting in that virtual construction. Interactivity is an artistic answer to the modern world, the Viewer becomes an integral part of that space of representation and dialogue. European culture, becoming reality thanks to satellites and TV cables, must give the possibility of initiating a dialogue between the different individual spheres of this society and inspire us with a visonnary approach of our future culture; or then "Welcome America!". The huge anglo-saxon networks are going to leave little space. Mediane must no longer be only subordinate to the needs of the economical sphere (managing at the best the Europe shop). Mundane reality becomes unbearable next to the luscious simulations which appear to us on the screen. People are waiting to take part actively into that virtual world. They're still no more than the passive and obliged elements of that communication. The social suicide (narcose) we're witnessing comes as a result. The proposition of Univers City TV is to establish an advanced interface between artistic practice and industry. We want to set up an experimental research shared by those extremes to develop productions and a material, accessible by all in european cultural projects, to test the limits of existing technologies and to promote new evolving technologies (Hypermedia, Virtual Reality, High Definition).

To invest in this research is to establish the foundations of a new community.

March 10, 1997, Monday

This is Ebon Fisher's response to discussions on the list about the Solar Eclipse on Sunday, visible in Japan and Russia as well as on the web (http://www.solar-eclipse.org):

Subject: The Sun Wiggles Brightly

I'm curious about the degree of discussion about the Solar Eclipse. Besides the inordinate merits of seeing our great sun compromised by our sweet little moon, it is interesting to note the religious fascination it invokes amongst this highly technological crowd.

Philosophical questions about language, codes, portals, identities, modes of being, etc., are all somewhat abstract, soft, and "internal." The sun and the moon, as massive "external" entities, pull us out of our species-centric media stupor. There's some kind of psychological ecology operating here.

It reminds me of Heidegger's convoluted book, "What is a Thing?"

'The question "What is a thing?" is the question "What is Humanity?" That does not mean that things become a human product, but, on the contrary, it means that humanity is to be understood as that which always leaps beyond things, but in such a way that this leaping-beyond is possible only while things encounter and so precisely remain themleselves - while they send us back behind ourselves and our surface. A dimension is opened up in Kant's question about the thing which lies between the thing and man, which reaches out beyond things and back behind man.'

Historically, much of the above reasoning lead to miserable attempts at Structuralism, and equally miserable attempts at Post Structuralism and Post Modernism's obsession with the "Simulacrum" (all is surface).

THEN THERE'S THE SELF-EVIDENT EMOTIONALITY OF A GREAT GLOWING BEHEMOTH OF ENERGY. If the world is "new" as the plagiarism/dub/jungle junkies proclaim, let us stand up in this new cyberworld and proclaim that we have only just discovered the Sun, and it is amazing.

-Ebon Fisher

March 12, 1997, Wednesday

A telerobotic camera has been installed in the List gallery that you can access at:

It seems to like to take pictures of the floor.

Here is some info from the site:

About the camera: The camera itself is an infrared-sensitive monochromatic camera, well suited to the indirect lighting conditions inside the PORT gallery space. Human bodies (and other warm objects) appear brighter that they would to the unaided eye. It is mounted on a custom-made robotic pan-and-tilt platform suspended at a height of 8 feet from the floor in the center of the PORT exhibit. The device control functions, video processing, CGI engine and camera webserver are handled by an Apple Macintosh Quadra 660AV.


Java and CGI programming: Benjamin Tremblay

Telerobotic camera platform and device control: William Tremblay

March 24, 1997, Monday

This Saturday, March 29, will be the final day of the PORT exhibition at the MIT List Visual Arts Center. A photographer will be in the gallery this week to make a record of the gallery space before it all starts to come down on Sunday and we'll post some of those pictures on the PORT Web site. The Web site itself will remain online (http://artnetweb.com/port) as a record of the exhibition and continue to be worked on. A print catalog is also in the works.

The PORT-MIT listserv will be winding down and cease to exist in a week or two depending on the amount of traffic. The archives will either stay on the L-Soft server or be moved to another one. The list has been up and running since November 1, 1996 and I'll miss the contact with so many people -- it's remained steady at between 75 - 100 subscribers for most of that time -- but it looks like PORT will be sailing to other destinations in the future and I know now how valuable this kind of forum is. Looking back through the archives I'm able to see how this PORT took shape, how many people it took to make it happen, and how important it will be for future PORTs to have a public forum.

Six months is not an unusual length of time to organize an exhibition and I see this experiment as the preparation for the future. We have a better idea of what works and what doesn't, how much time and energy it takes to do projects and present them and how it can all be contextualized for the public. We don't know everything but we know a lot more than we did when the List Center first asked us to propose an "Internet exhibit" to go along with the Joseph Kosuth exhibit in the main gallery.

In this last week we'd appreciate reading any thoughts about PORT you might have -- both positive and negative. Think of this list as a comment book at the end of an exhibition in a more traditional museum or gallery setting. As they say, speak up now or forever hold your peace.

And be sure to join us for the Web Jam G.H. Hovagimyan is organizing for Friday, March 28 from 6 - 8 EST. We'll have details for how to access the CU-SeeMe and RealAudio on the PORT index page that day.

The final scheduled project on Saturday, March 29, "touch" by ParkBench, will bring us full circle since that was also the first scheduled project on January 25. In between we've been honored to present some of the most creative and dedicated people working today and I want to take this opportunity to both congratulate and thank them for all the hard work they've done and patience they've shown to make PORT the historic event that it is.

March 26, 1997, Wednesday

Elizabeth Kidd wrote to the listserv:

I would like to congratulate all Porters - funders, organizers, artists, participants, for a very impressive, ground breaking exercise in making the internet a place where new possibilities, new languages, new connections, new art and new ideas can emerge.

It has been a catalyst for me; I've moved from sticking a hesitant toe in the water to splashing around in the deep end - learning new strokes (despite going under a few times) and heading off in new directions. In order to participate, I've downloaded software like crazy and in the process have begun (just begun) to familiarize myself with and get excited about new technologies.

I've been mesmerized and moved to tears, groans or giggles by the discussions that have taken place - from techno-babble to the poetic. I like the way conversations have been kept loose and unstructured - participants tended to moderate each other; with a few exceptions, people did not abuse the process.

Wigglism, to web jams, solar eclipses to technological aesthetics, artdirt to avatars, Heidegger to Heisenberg, photobubbles to pulsing monkeys, L'oeil imute to map dancing. What a trip!

The gang that have made this happen have been smart, accessible and helpful - thank you Robbin for getting me into this in the first place and helping me along the way; thank you Marek, Ebon, Adrianne, H.G., Jesse and my dance partner, Remo.

I'll miss checking in with you every day. I'll come to your web jam dressed in my best costume, reconnect in Minneapolis and see what I can do in Vancouver.

Keep on wiggling.

elizabeth (aka minnie)

From: Lee Harrington

At 01:40 PM 3/24/97 +0100, Robbin Murphy said: >This Saturday, March 29, will be the final day of the PORT exhibition at >the MIT List Visual Arts Center.

>I feel like some more permanent replacement for this listserve would be a way >good thing. > >- Stephen

>It has been a catalyst for me; I've moved from sticking a hesitant toe in >the water to splashing around in the deep end

>Elizabeth Kidd

These are my sentiments also. I will miss the discussions on the list. I want to keep in contact with this group. It is not easy to find a group of artists who are working is such a good way with art on the Internet and also in "real life". Please let me know when the next list starts so I can sign up!

I've been out of town for almost a week, so have missed connecting in with the PORT exhibit until today. I just went over to check out "Raku Writing". It's always a bit hard for me at first to connect to art that is about writing. I guess my senses are doubly tapped to experience the visual and written word simultaneously. Its kind of like having to see from two perspectives at the same time. Kinda cool.

As I experienced the work, I enjoyed the fact that I could make a change in the structure of the work. I also enjoyed how the whole worked changed every two minutes. It reminded me of life. It will continue to change whether or not we participate. What I didn't like was the content of the written work. Perhaps because so many people are changing the structure, it lost its meaning, or maybe I just didn't get it.

Anyway, it was fun to participate in the work. Thank you duane whitehurst, noah wardrip-fruin, chris spain, and nathan fruin for a nice piece of art.

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