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Re: <eyebeam><blast> Different Web Art

My initial contribution to the discourse of new information technologies 
was on the question of the 'Other' in the digital age. However, I have 
great difficulty with the concept of an ethno-designated internet, a 
"western" or "other" internet. It makes little sense to me to think of a 
very "western" internet, or of "others" on the net. For one such ideas 
do no more than perpetuate the binary of the One and the Other which 
some of us have fought outside virtual space. While one does not dismiss 
the fact of ethnicities on the net, it is nevertheless necessary to make 
a distinction between this and an ethnic characterization of the net 
whereby the bogey of a dominant self is lent credibility and validity. I 
would rather that we argue that the "Other" of the internet age is not 
on the internet yet, that what I have refered to as the "New World 
'Other' " is not geographically or ethnically inscribable, but part of 
that mass which the netizen refers to as PONA, persons of no account, 
those who have no access for any myriad of reasons, to the facilities 
and structures of the internet. Outside of this territory, which is 
human rather than strictly geopolitical, to think of any presences on 
the internet as "Others" is to invite questions over who on the net 
indeed has the right to selfhood and apart from whom anyone 
else--everyone else--must be consigned to "Otherness"; who has the right 
to confer this centrality and preeminence? If we can think 
progressively--realistically--of a network of citizens, a new, digital 
nationality albeit with varying levels and kinds of privilege, 
difficulty, agenda, and concerns; if we can think more of difference 
rather than dichotomy, only then are we truly able to imagine, and 
indeed allow, a new territory and a new formation, a new order of 
people. We cannot afford to state, quite glibly, that there are "others" 
on the net, for to designate as "Other" is to brand--and to a certain 
extent deny--significant contigents who arrive in this community of 
peoples, sometimes at great cost and exertion, with the determination to 
belong and to make their presence felt.

On the question of different web arts, just as there are no different 
arts along geographical or ethnic lines, there are no different web arts 
along those lines. all art is art and in an increasingly globalist 
world, what separates one image, form, or artistic entity from another 
is no longer strictly its provenance or any discernible national style 
but the thematic concerns of its maker. In my lecture at the recent 
forum on international contemporary art in Madrid, I pointed out that it 
is an illusion to think of national arts or national styles with any 
sense of purity or even discernibility, for what we may describe as 
national styles are only possible within contenable societies with 
centralized patron institutions that also serve as arbiters of taste. 
The further we have moved from such formations, the more prominent the 
individual element has become, the more untenable it has become also, to 
think of national styles. The greater access that artists have to 
exchange ideas and familiarize themselves with forms and practices 
elsewhere, without the inhibiting presence of a monolithic patronage 
system, the more regional or national speficities have eroded.

What possibly could be described as a Mexican style, for instance, or a 
Chinese style, or a South East Asian style, or an American style, or a 
Western style, without making the implausible mistake of grand 
monolithism? What, stylistically, could possibly bind Jacob Lawrence and 
Jeff Koons under the girdle of a national style; or indeed Kara Walker 
and Lyle Ashton Harris. Or Ana Mendieta and Alexis Leyva? What might we 
possibly claim for Carey May Weems that we may not also find in 
Christian Botanski?

And the above within the parameters of the real world with its 
shortcomings of mediated access and interzonality. With the very nature 
of the internet as a thoroughfare, and the intense solitariness of 
on-line engagement, it seems to me rather peculiar that any should speak 
of, or indeed expect, "national" internet arts, or a "different web art" 
except along the lines of individual styles. In same manner that we 
cannot speak of the One and the Other on the internet, we likewise 
cannot speak of national differences in web art in the age of the 
itinerant artist.

Olu Oguibe
[ http://www.arts.usf.edu/~ooguibe ]
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