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This is a transcript from
an informal roundtable
discussion that took place in the
PORT gallery at the MIT List Center
on March 29, 1997.

Roundable Participants:
MITleaf Robbin Murphy organizer, Remo Campopiano organizer
G.H. Hovagimyan core participant, Carmin Karasic participant
John Kim volunteer, Canadian Spy visitor
Mark Tribe visitor, Several unidentified visitors


REMO CAMPOPIANO: First of all, what's your background so I know who you are? (to Visitor One)

VISITOR ONE: I'm a visual artist and a member of an artists group and I work with the role of the art image in our culture. Some artists will suggest to me that, oh, this should be on the Internet, because I manipulate iconographic images from Western art and  ask people to manipulate them. But I don't use anything high tech at all (laughs). So I'm just interested in what's going on.

REMO: Good this just gives me a sense of where you're at. Let me start off with what I tell people when they walk in the door.

When people come into here I usually say this is an art installation that's set up to receive performances over the Internet. The focus of it is on the performative aspect, therefore most of the work is in real time. The performances don't take place physically in this space, they happen in different places around the world. Sometimes in one location, other times in several locations brought together for the performance.

The platform, or the stage, is the Internet itself. PORT, this physical installation here, is one of the ways in which you can view, participate, be a visitor or otherwise engage in the performance. So, in a way, PORT, or the physical space here, is an elaborate version of what you have at home or at work: a computer with a screen.

What we've done is we've put in this space four computers with four large screens and projectors and we've positioned the four screens so you feel as though you're inside of or immersed in an environment. So that gives us a little bit of context.

I think mainly what we're looking to do with this roundtable is have some of the primaries talk together and with visitors to see what our expectation were, what actually happened and what we can do with this the next time around.

ROBBIN MURPHY: We kept a journal of the entire process (points to projection of the journal Web page on one of the screens). PORT started last summer when Remo met with Katy Kline, the director of the List Center, who was thinking about doing an exhibit that was an adjunct to  the Joseph Kosuth exhibit that's in the main gallery next door. She thought it would be a good opportunity to do something with the Internet since that seemed to be an extension of what Joseph Kosuth had been talking about with conceptualism.

REMO: I wonder about how she made that conceptual leap. Has anybody on the listserv discussed how Joseph Kosuth relates to the Internet.

ROBBIN: Well, we did in the very beginning. Kosuth had written in the 'seventies about art and religion and other media being a window of belief and a deus ex machina holding the visitor in check. A window is something we open up in order to see the flux of the world going by and that's a basis of conceptualism. We have these windows of belief that are a lot like observing the quantum particle -- since you can't really see it you have to devise ways of looking at it that give you some idea of what its form is and how its acting. But that doesn't mean we are seeing the particle.

REMO: How do you think we've done that here?

ROBBIN: Kosuth  proposed  Conceptualism as a way of working before that window of belief, in the language that creates that window to understand how we create these windows.The Conceptualism thread in art has been going on for the past thirty years, based in language. It seemed to me we were entering another arena now because of the networked possibilities of the Internet.

Language is changing because we have different ways of communicating because of this network. That might mean rather than these windows -- whether it's the twentieth century habit of dividing art up into "isms", Cubism, Impressionism, modernism, whatever -- there was a new way of ...

G.H. HOVAGIMYAN: Wigglism!

ROBBIN: Ah, yes, Ebon Fisher's Wigglist theories are the newest example.

CANADIAN SPY: What is the word? (note: Our Spy is French-speaking)

GH: Wiggle

SPY: Weegel?

GH: W-i-g-g-l-e

(NOTE: Ebon Fisher's Wigglism is a call for a more biocentric view of the world. More information can be found on his Web site: http://www.interport.net/~outpost/ebon.html)

ROBBIN: So, the original working title for the show was "Windows of Beliefs" since that seemed to be what the network provides. Not one window opening up, opened by whomever is in control of the art, whatever group it is that's decided what art is, or what religion is in terms of history. We have the opportunity now to have a lot of different perspectives, many windows.

REMO: Because of the democritization of the net.

ROBBIN: I wouldn't call it democritization because the concept "democracy" is one of those windows that we've invented to describe political interaction. That's why it's so hard to talk about the Internet and about digital art,  because we don't have those words. Those words are also the windows we create, just in order to be able to communicate about things. That's why it seems so frustrating at times, especially to someone who's very scientifically minded and wants things very orderly and precise.

GH: If you look at the thrust of modernist philosophy, for example, if you take Wittgenstein basic principles that the meaning of a word is its meaning and the meaning of a word is its use. Even  within that there's a dialectical set-up between meaning and use. Within that particular -- time to use the big words -- ideational field -- you find when it's applied to art you have this condition of first principles reducing everything down to basic elements. You also have language games in which anything can be used in the language game format which is the condition of post-modernism. What everyone who interfaces on the internet understands is that there's a disjunction between that, there's a break between that.

REMO: There's a break from that?

GH: Yes, it's just no longer relevant.

REMO: The opposite of reductivism is what?

GH: It's not an opposite. There's no dialectic going on. Networked communication is not dialectical. It's a rhizomatic structure. The internet is anti-hierarchical, it's rhizomatic.

REMO: I don't understand what that word means.

GH: Rhizomatic is the root structure of a lawn, it's spread out and creates a form, they're all interconnected and has a life sense to it but not a standard form.

REMO: You're talking about a hierarchical root structure and the interrelationship of all those roots.

CARMIN KARASIC: Non-hierarchical.

ROBBIN: Like a potato, too. There's no one plant after a while, like one tree that's sending off shoots.

REMO: Like the ant colonies I use in my work where they're all individuals but their all interrelating in different ways. There's no head of the ant colony.

GH: Says you.

CARMIN: I think the ants probably have a hierarchy.

REMO: They really don't.

GH: They have another kind of social organization.

REMO: It's a very horizontal structure...



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