Thanks Johannes. Glad to have been amusing! When in Riga for the Media Art
History conference Giselle Beiguelman did say to me that she had also found
it an amusing comment and also, more seriously, she did also feel the
discussion on this list had been very US-Euro centric. I do hope she might
be reading this and in the midst of her very busy schedule perhaps comment.
I did find your mini-synthesis - below - very good to read. My own response
has veered from happiness to read about things which have not yet been
digested by historical processes of analysis and interpretation and some
concern that by biting into the offered apple those very undigested,
valuable, narratives might end up centralised and possessed in some
privately owned academic vault, having been lured in by responding to a
call for sharing and openness. This might seem cynical but I've been very
much reminded of a parallel development, in 1995-1996, when i started
working as Senior Live Art Officer at Arts Council England and one of the
projects I inherited from my predecessor was called the National Live Art
Archive initiative. It had involved a verbal agreement by ACE to hand over
its archive about live and performance art - including many valuable
documentary videos and ephemera built up over some decades and deposited
with ACE in the expectation that they might remain there - to one
university, which had promised to 'digitise' the database thus showing
initiative and gain institutional leadership in a yet to be fully
academised field. They would receive the material without payment but
would offer zealous enthusiasm (genuine) and commitment to building the
technical systems. They wiuld make the material to other researchers of
course; they wished to simultaneously start to collect actual material
collections (live and performance art being then also at the fragmented,
boxes in various attics, not sure if its got value) or, if you like, vinyl
The challenge for ACE was to prepare a policy framework and in the end a
legal agreeent which would protect this distributed collection from future
changes, ie becoming in any sense inaccessible to others - and most
importantly not surrendering responsibility of 'ownership' to the most fast
moving institution staking a claim to (in a sense) look after it. So legal
agreements were signed allowing ACE to take the archive back at any point -
but immediately it became clear that having, for eg, digitised the data
around it, the organisation digitising it, doing the input, now had rights
over it. I am mentioning this by way of analogy: live art is even more
prone to time-detrimental-erasure than online lists are, much remains in
distributed social memory, there is no repeatable source code. In the
event, we began a publishing initiative called The Vanishing History of
Peformance Art offering small grants to various distributed mico and
otherwise live art archives to avoid what I saw as a death-trap, of
monopoly by one institution. In the end, Nottingham Trent, which also ran
the Live Art List, passed on its repositories to another university, which
continues to conserve and use it today though the list has passed away.
With apologies for not being as brief here as usual, I guess my linking
thought is (and I am interested in other views) that it is magnificent that
Charlotte's action here has flushed out of the depths hidden tales at least
from some of the precursors and has been an extraordinary catalyst to make
this valuable information visible and presumably valuable to anyone
interested in doing scholarship around the works and initiatives exposed.
It seems vital that the movement to centralise information doesn't negate
the distributed and divergent nature of the material and the narratives.
Of course having now placed this material partially in the public domain
via publication in this list anyone can use it and that's welcome. A
concentration in one (private?) university of follow up to this for eg by
collecting various list archives in an exclusive way makes me very nervous
based on previous experience, as above. This is a distributed and
collective art history.
My final observation: it was great being in Riga listening to many voices
which don't turn up on this list who were describing projects going on in
very specific localities and often these seemed wonderfully obscure for
this reason all the more interesting at least to me...
all the best
On Saturday, 26 October 2013, Johannes Birringer wrote:
> dear all
> Bronac's observation/comment, quoted in the header, was funny wouldn't you
> and yet after some pondering, I would say this month has been a
> riveting affair, if one observed the outpourings, and much much more than
> a Grateful Dead reunion tour.
> even though there was that, too.
> I appreciated learning much, also noting the care with which list members
> tried to remember and fill gaps or point to others, the was a real
> collective spirit amongst the showing of the personal collections.
> Then there were some reflective postings that I found tremendously
> thoughtful, for example Johannes Goebel's "what's art history got to do
> with it?"
> on October 10; and Tom Sherman's "Way Back in 1995!" on October 20; but
> also the critical feedback regarding differences between
> art critics, historians and theorists was very helpful - and here someone
> [Simon Biggs I think] evoked the problematic idea that new media
> artists/digital artist best write their [own] histories
> themselves or have in effect done so, well, in extension, also curated
> themselves - and then written/indexed their exhibition histories ......? –
> and undoubtedly there is or has to be a link to the academy, then, and to
> places where we teach or get invited to show our work, or where requests
> may come from
> regarding our work that someone is studying as if we were already
> gratefully dead etc , and then Simon Biggs added some provocative comments
> on the conservativism of university
> art schools or art history departments or organizations (the CAA was
> mentioned a few times).
> Trying to look back at the "crowd-sourcing" idea behind Charlotte's "call
> for papers" this month, there are still some open questions to me (about
> Charlotte's TWO books/Arts Future Book project, which, as I had asked her,
> seemed already written-to-be-published after peer review to be accompanied
> by a second book to be peer reviewed? and so the Crumb discussion this
> month, how does it effectively become the second "book", while the very
> notion of book is questioned here directly using a list for
> research/writing.... , and what are these here collection-energies now
> manifesting, at this point? Charlotte also mentions a list archivisation
> project as a third meta thing! [a propos, a mentioning of Jon Ippolito and
> "Unreliable Archivist project" - i think most archives are unreliable, and
> I love the scene in "Rollerball" where John Gielgud as keeper of the
> world's centralised computer memory bank in Switzerland has to confess that
> a slight mistake had happened and the 13th century got deleted).
> también I observed the net that was thrown by Charlotte was getting wider
> and wider and maybe
> this widening of practices, on and off line, and 'histories' (language
> stubbornly remainng english, strangely, and perimeter was USA-Europe
> largely, I saw no posting from colleagues in Japan and S Korea for
> example, surprisingly, also very few or no reference to new media art
> history and online action in Brazil and Latin America) , is most likely
> uncontainable and unwritable.
> I propose this proposition (this month) cannot go anywhere except into
> countless fragmenting alleys and stories, re/collections and myths,
> incomplete just as other older "art history" ever was [whose art history?
> whose "repressed exhibition histories," to cite Beryl's comment of Oct.
> 16], western, european? published in whose service? Thanks to Sally Jane
> for mentioning some others, like the "non-cultural" world..]
> At one point Honor Harger says that a list (Syndicate) changed her life,
> which is an astonishing comment (and one that I could never make); after
> noting that people have migrated to other lists or social media, Honor
> bemoans the
> discursive quality that's missing ("I think that's probably as much down
> to the way that people's behaviour on mailing lists have changed, in the
> wake of social media" - interesting, can you please say more about that?
> my behavior hasn't changed at all, I hope)
> Charlotte brings Renee McGarry's letter forward, and Renee bluntly says:
> "When I think about digital art history I'm left with a lot more questions
> than answers....".
> Yes, that is also the case for me.
> When Charlotte added questions ("what's art history got to do with it?")
> and then half way through the month again, more questions ("Half-time
> discussion refresher"), I did think they were often of course to the point
> and well asked, such as the point about who is writing art criticism today
> (and where)["Anyone can take on the role of the critic in our digital age,
> with online art journals, blogs and other sites," Lori Waxman thinks) or
> who are the historians/forensicfactfinders (and, thanks Rob, why not more
> wheel sharers?).... but ultimately now I felt the month was overwhelmingly
> dislocating, we were turned to very many directions, and the debate about
> critics/bloggers not able to be critical of work created in their community
> is disheartening. Charlotte, had we seen your book we could have been more
> critical here.
> I also sensed a tremendous sense of melancholia.
> How do others feel about it?
> Johannes Birringer
> [Goebel schreibt]
> What could be a positive consequence for us little people (the ones
> without power to port what we discovered) out of this? Liberation from
> creating our own monuments and making and living time-based arts which are
> only good for the moment when they are happening. (So now we are thinking
> performing email lists!)
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