Knowledge commons of the Internet

In an attempt to understand the implications of the upcoming decisions on repealing net neutrality laws in the USA, I reread Charlotte Hess and Elinor Ostroms piece ‘An Overview of the Knowledge Commons’ from the Ecologies of Information week and Susan Leigh Stars piece ‘The Ethnography of Infrastructure’  to glean  what kind of commons this act will change the internet into, and where it currently falls in terms of its definition of subtractablilty and excludability.

With net neutrality there has been low subtractability and excludability thus far, but with further privatization of the infrastructure it could soon become a high subtractability and excludable space.  Besides the larger economic control that providers will have on the ‘infrastructural highways’, how will this changing shape of the internet alter peoples behaviors?

Several years ago the Scientific American published an article looking at how our users had adapted to internet use.  The outcome that this article and others have found is there there is less reliance on other humans for information, or traditional ‘hard’ copies of knowledge, and more on the ability to ‘find’ via the internet the answer. What will the shift from users having had open range or *algorithmic*  access to information and data to it being privatized do to peoples cognitive patterns of storing and accessing information?  Does this tightening of access to knowledge signify that the era of individuals ‘attention as products’ use (‘If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold’) is changing?



Epistemological Aesthetics

For my presentation I chose to look at several artists that examine the ideas of the Anarchive, the archive and the library in their work and how that work has functioned in the discipline of art.

Zielinksi termed the AnArchive ‘the utopia, the non-place, which in an ongoing process reshapes and reinterprets the materials from which memories are made. Anarchives necessarily challenge, indeed provoke, the archive: otherwise, they would be devoid of meaning.’

The artist On Kawara’s explored this idea of the non-place that was able to then be reshaped through different contexts both during his lifetime, and after.  Kawaras work was the deliberate and consistent chronicling of the daily processes that he found value in but was stripped of noted value other than that they existed to others by their time stamps, noted course on a map or with use of other basic technology at the time. These tracings bundled together and viewed in relationship to the fine-art industry, specifically contemporary art, they show analysis of intent.

Joselits proposes that art work must have a proposition. This proposition ‘functions like a score, which can generate a profusion of enunciations or remain without issue, as pure potential.’ This is the question that Kawara asks throughout his projects—the work itself behaving very much like a score,  a basic tracking of his existence—what is an archive vs. AnArchive and letting the audience decide by how they engage with the work.

Registration of time throughout the work offers the audience an access point that is malleable. Collectors of his work pick paintings off significant dates in their lives, birthdays, anniversaries, a mnemonic tool that comes from a place of another person’s making. This ties the audience and artist together in a web that Candida Höfer investigates in her documentation of the collectors placement in his Today series date paintings.

Höfer, who looks at ideas of cultural identity and ownership through monuments in her work, travels to various collectors’ homes and looks at how these patrons put Kawara’s project into their space. As both a nod to the art, but also a critique of the ‘International style’ that Joselits discusses. Joselits looks at how the ‘elastic’ nature of international style is about ‘the enunciations made within this language in relation to particular places and times’. These ‘enunciations’ are the grooving of the work into collectors’ identities, the ownership now of a part of Kawara’s lifetime, a reification of time between Kawara and the owner of the work through their painting and its placement within their home, that hundreds of other people now also have in their homes.

The same addressing of ownership is seen in Höfer’s other projects of libraries, archives and museums, primarily in Western cultures. She examines the recognizability of the spaces and the monumentalism of the structures themselves. The scale of these spaces is overwhelming and vast, representations of the accumulation of information within the culture, but at the same time questioning what all the content is. The architecture is magnificent, but is also indicative to the elitism that comes with feeling both comfortable or uncomfortable being in the spaces that she shows.

Water Towers, Bernd and Hilla Becher

The Kunstakademie Düsseldorf is where Höfer studied under Bernd and Hilla Becher, well known for their work documenting the structures of industrialization in Germany in the 1950’s and ’60’s. Bernd has been quoted saying he photographed because he “was overcome with horror when I noticed that the world in which I was besotted was disappearing”.  Their work was an investigation and fascination with the onset of new buildings that represent a different kind of visual world. Architecture represents to the person who doesn’t go in, or have access to the interior of a space or system is how most people interpret the content of interior material or action of a structure. This seems to be a large part of Höfers work, not just the architecture of the building, but also the architecture of the books themselves. Almost metaphorically, the books are the buildings and the structure of the building is the landscape that systemically allows for the books to be accessed, or not.

The idea of access to books being political is seen in the work of Marta Minujín in her project Parthenon of Books. The project, originally done in 1983 in her native Argentina, was a response to the collapse of the Argentinian military dictatorship. During the dictatorship there was a ban on books, primarily Marxist works and others that had references to political structures and philosophies. Once the dictatorship collapsed, Minujín gathered the banned books and placed them in a structure shaped as the Parthenon. The reference to the Parthenon, the Grecian temple dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom and freedom, establishes a timeframe for the importance of the passing on of knowledge through literary channels. Three months after the project in Buenos Aires was built the structure was tipped and the public was given access to the books. Minujín recreated this project in the 2017 art fair Documenta where she requested banned books from around the world to be added to the structure, both speaking to the idea of global knowledge and the collective need for engagement in helping each other in different spaces to have access to knowledge and ideas, especially those that have been suppressed.  After the show closed, these books were redistributed to the public.

All of these artists are playing with the ideas of either national, cultural or personal distribution of information.  In doing so, they each look at how access to information is nested within the larger structures of access to libraries, archives, anarchives and technologies.

Following up from this week’s wonderful discussions about artists and projects along the aesthetics of the “archival” (thanks to Loribeth, Maris, Ding and Julianne!), I wanted also to share with the class on a Singapore-based artist collective known as (2001-2005). Given that there are some artists and people deeply involved/interested in art, and that there was a mention of Rhizome’s Net Art Anthology, I thought it would be nice to introduce an artist collective from (my) home that had been working on the geopolitics of the internet’s physical infrastructures, a decade before we’ve seen a proliferation of so-called “post-internet art” or the likes of artists such as Trevor Paglen, Tyler Coburn, and Nina Canell dealing with similar issues. In fact, Rhizome included an entry focusing on’s project alpha 3.4 (2002) commissioned for Documenta XI:

Yet, the collective remains pretty much on the margins of net art’s history as “outsiders” (word is, they were unknowns at Documenta, invited in a last-minute attempt to have some representation from Southeast Asia); but also strangely un-discussed within Singapore’s own art history as well. That the artists came out of a formative performance art period in Singapore also meant that they favored an ephemerality to their alpha projects; hence not much documentation of their work remains today – further complicating their non-inclusion in the archives of art history.

Lastly, I guess I’m sharing this as I’m hoping to research further on’s body of work for my final project.

The Racial Imaginary Institute: An Aggregate of Archival Art

What is recognized and represented as “knowledge” in the archive is inextricable from the institutions that authorize its contents into discursive existence (from Foucault’s Order of Things). But from a media studies perspective, any (re)production of knowledge will render multiple processes of reception, feedback loops, networks of information.

Hal Foster’s analysis of ‘archival artists’ and their practices provides a model for re-imagining archive “retrieved in a gesture of alternative knowledge or counter-memory” (4). Neither internet database art nor white-walled museum art, archival art re-positions the spectrum of archival material in a “matrix of citation and juxtaposition” (5) to allow different unfoldings of history and memory for the viewer.

Although embedded in the digital, this formulation reminded me of a panel I attended earlier in October, at NYPL’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, where author Claudia Rankine launched The Racial Imaginary Institute, an archive of artists working through notions of race and power. Rankine described this project as a website of “deep memory,” that confronts the “unitedness of whiteness” and the “capacity to hold difference in the united states” with a commitment to the counter-narrative.

As Foster suggests, “archival art is rarely cynical” and “concerns love as much as knowledge” (6). If you are familiar with Rankine’s nonfiction (a must read – Don’t Let Me Be Lonely), there is a rather depressive but painfully real register to her writing as a black woman voicing ‘micro-aggressions’ in a racially-triggered world. In contrast, she expressed a serious optimism in this collaboration with artists making possible the ‘institutionalization’ of intertextual truths in the face of fake news (which is not new).

Alexandra Bell’s Counternarratives precisely challenges the institutionalization of information. Making editorial notes and black-out text on New York Times articles and making massive prints to wheat-paste on public walls of Brooklyn, Bell’s work thinks about “historical revisionism” as part of daily archival practice. In a world where people of color cultures have had their history written over for them, Bell recovers the agency for artists to rewrite their archives from the margins.

Because of the diversity of mediums represented in their website archive (journalism, sculpture, conceptual art, performance, visual arts and more) and allowing “asynchronous objects to occupy a common space” (Joselit 18), The Racial Imaginary Institute constitutes a kind of “aggregate” of awareness on race and its power networks. It is open to the public to submit material and thus activates the promise of the archival impulse.

Call for Proposals: Research Grants 2018-2019 Deviant Practice @ Van Abbe Museum Archive & Collections

In 2016 the Van Abbemuseum launched the research programme Deviant Practice. Following the conclusion of nine research projects over the past year, we are seeking new proposals from artists, curators and writers for 2018. Researchers will be awarded a grant of 2,000–10,000 EUR depending on the project for a mutually agreed period of work in and with the museum.

We understand deviance as veering off the entrenched path. For the modern art museum such as Van Abbemuseum these paths emerged from the west’s understanding of itself and by inference its relationship to others. Deviance therefore necessarily involves challenging long-held institutional, racial, geo- and bio-political assumptions. We understand the prefix “de” in deviance in relation to notions of demodernising, decolonising, deprivileging or decentralising—key strategies we hope to continue to explore. We also understand deviance as an opportunity to reflect on the manner in which we approach our own practices and protocols: questioning past suppositions, hierarchies and modes of working might be one way to institute deviance. At the same time, deviance should also concern itself with how we find paths through the present and towards the future.

TWO RESEARCH FRAMEWORKS: Archives & Constituencies

Descriptions of current research projects can be viewed here.

Proposals should be sent to by the November 17, 2017.

To read more about this research grant for artists, curators and writers, CLICK HERE