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Re: <eyebeam><blast> Prelude: Sensar Inc. Sees Eyes

i believe that a fruitful artistic practice on the new information
network [there always was and has been networks for artistic practice,
so it is important to clearly identify and perhaps peculiarize _this_
network] requires a critical practice not only situated in, but also in
tune with, the network. given the uniqueness of this network--the
peculiarity that i speak of: its grandiose, convoluted, almost seamless
and often insidious
nature--it is important, also, that artistic practice be aware of and
borrow where necessary from values and criteria developed within other
interactive practices across the network. obviously, so-called
_artistic_ practice is not at all among the pervasive phenomena on the
net. we have to award that accolade to amateur journalism, goods
exchange and pornography, even writing [which is quite different from
"rhetoric", whatever mediocre university creative writing professors
mean by that...] it is interesting how the virtual world of the new
information network replicates the real world: as is the case with
museum art practice and print art criticism, the art circle has to look
to literature, philosophy, and the social sciences for critical, legal,
and ethical models. i doubt that this is necessarily a bad thing; i only
wish that we would move even quicker with sharpening our views and
outlining our tenets on those fronts. it is here that critical exchange
is indispensable.

for me there are a number of key issues that deserve concerted and
shared brain-storming among artists and critical practitioners. there
is, first among others perhaps, the undecided question of lingering
incompetence in the understanding and mastery of the network as an
artistic medium, a question that critics and most artists have not as
yet seriously faced, in my thinking. so far we have failed to make a
distinction between the use of _the_ network as a vehicle for
conventional art forms, and the emergence and recognition of art
produced with the network as medium. and failing in this, not many have
noted or bothered to comment on the virtual absence of truly challenging
net. art. again, it is my thinking that more progress has been made in
the area of fiction and virtual narrative. which, of course, is not to
discount the relevance of the network as a vehicle or to disparage
conventional forms trasmitted via the network, which has its place and

second is the question of continuing confusion over the peculiarities of
artistic practice on the network as it relates to the perennially
difficult matters of authenticity, originality, genius, intellectual
property rights, free circulation, quotation, miming, parody, protection
and theft. so far there have been rather too many voices and interests
involved in these matters: from publishing interests and image owners,
to teachers, commercial businesses and politicians. it does seem to me
that the least vocal on these matters are artists and critics, obviously
the two most important interest groups. i do of course have my views on
all of the matters enumerated here, and many would differ on them, which
is the way it ought to be. what, perhaps ought not to be is that we
should be the least active participants in debates over matters at the
very heart of our practices.

third in this rather sketchy outline of problems, is the fundamental
question of the social peculiarities of the new information network, by
which i imply its numerous social implications from the matter of access
to those of geography, privilege, location, mobility, vulnerability, and
power. again i believe that artists and critics ought to be more
involved in debates and discussions over these matters. it is easy
enough to imply that artists are rather slow in challenging the public
with work that utilizes the network as a medium, yet not to be ignored
is the fact that as i have pointed out elsewhere, in order to use this
medium, one must have access to it. it could be argued, of course, that
there is a question of responsibility, vision, and daring, too: that in
same manner that artists took to video and the cinematic media, it is up
to them to obtain access to this new medium and put it to use. what may
be missing in that argument is an acknowledgement of the fact that so
far this new medium seems entrapped still in a certain geographical or
locational identity that appears irreconciliable with the conventions of
the artist's practice. we find the interfaces aligned still to school
laboratories, offices, and the home study, all of which seem to lack the
romanticism of the artist's studio or the open field.

i have gradually moved away from the preoccupation with economic
explanations for lack of access. it is my conviction that in same manner
that we acknowledge that different artists use different media decided
through the vectors of preference, tradition, and means, we ought to
recognize that not every artist--or individual for that matter--will
have access to, need, approve of, or indeed desire, use of the network.
i have also pointed out that when we consider how much those geographies
that we traditionally provide economic excuses for absence from the
network, expend on technology, such arguments collapse irretrievably.
when we consider, for instance, how much the inner cities spend on
largely unnecessary pagers, home entertainment equipment, games and
other technological tools, it is more difficult to argue that they
cannot afford access to the network. In same manner, when consider what
artists expend on the conventional media of their practice, tempting
though it may be, there is nevertheless little ground to suppose that
their rather unimpressive efforts with the network as medium should be
traced to deprivation.

there is a fourth issue concerning the manners in which the network have
affected or will and should affect both artistic and art-critical
practices. much has been done along the lines of projection in the areas
of social implications, visions for literary culture, the economy and
the question of freedom of expression. we are yet to see truly visionary
prolegomena for artistic practice on the network. which promts one to
admonish that we cut down on the diddly and get on with deep,
philosophical explorations of the
possibilities and implications of this new medium; that we, artists and
critics alike, review and rethink the timidity that still characterizes
our attitudes and positions, and come up with challenging rather than
simply witty ideas that could explode the very borders of artistic

olu oguibe
tampa, florida

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