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Re: <eyebeam><blast> Other

olu oguibe wrote on 2/22/98 4:14 PM

>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. 

I appreciate your concerns Olu, but can not agree with your
conclusions.  Let's see some of the problems that I have with your

You are throughout the text of this contribution wishing away our REAL 
differences. And somehow suggesting indirectly that this is a desirable
goal.  You are subscribing to a world with out the OTHER, if I
understand you correctly.  And if that were true, I could not disagree
more.  I find that our otherness is something that enriches the
experience of living, and offers the world an opportunity much like the
diversity of species, only in this case related to culture.  What is
this with this need to belong to a so called "mainstream" rather than
accepting the virtues of the otherness. Ironically the US, for all it' s
quest to create a "melting pot" has created everything but that. 

>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, 

You might argue that it is not yet in full force, and you would be
correct, but to negate any of it's existence as you are doing is
misleading.  For starters, you and I are here, so already the argument
doesn't fit. 

>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? 

the answer is very simple, I do, you do, and so does everyone else.
Don't think for a minute that I don't consider you as the "other", and I
am sure you do the same with regard to me.  There is nothing wrong with
that either, because we are that, "the other".  

>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 

A new order of people?  WOW!  The Communists already tried that and as
you well know failed at it dismally. so what are we going to create now,
a new "utopia"....based on computers? 

>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.

Olu, I detect in you a very caring and sympathetic -humanist if you
will- trait in what you are describing.  But as I see it, equally
confused with regard to the real world we belong to. I repeat what I
wrote earlier, you seem to wish away the factual evidence of our
otherness.  WE ARE OTHERS.... and I also repeat, there is nothing to
fear about such "branding".  What seems to be missing in your argument,
is not that we should deny otherness, but that we should learn to
RESPECT it.   I believe we can do ourselves a lot more good by insisting
on our differences, while at the same time also insisting that this
requires _tolerance and respect_ as well as _equal opportunities_. 
>On the question of different web arts, just as there are no different 
>arts along geographical or ethnic lines, 

Where did you study your arts Olu?  because my life long experience
tells me otherwise. Do you think for a moment that a Chicano working out
of Los Angeles comes up with the same art that a Mexican artist in
Mexico City? Because if you do, I think you better start doing some
research along those lines. And my reference to this axis Los
Angeles-Mexico City, could be extended into any other region on the
globe.  How about a Jewish and a Palestinian artist , do you think that
they are producing the same sort of imagery? 

>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. 

So all of a sudden you have all but disappeared any trace of cultural
identity leaving it at the doors of a "thematic concern".... I ask, and
what does "thematic concerns" come from? thin air?  How about the
influence of ones culture in such "thematic concerns".  Your statement
of  "all art is art in an increasingly globalist world" isn't even true
for  the world of Mickey Mouse. 

>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, 

You might be right with respect to the "purity" issue.  That is, if
someone would have suggested that a "national" art is about being PURE. 
To my understanding no one is suggesting such nonsense, unless you look
back to some fascist period or the more recent socialist regimes. But
other than those distorted perceptions there is no room to consider that
a national art is to be understood or seen as pure. But the fact of it's
hybridity is no reason to dismiss national art either.  

>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.

Again you are wrong in my view. The argument is precisely the inverse.
The more that artists can exchange their ideas and familiarize
themselves with forms and practices elsewhere, the more they discover
what makes them unique, not the other way around.  And what is more,
they can also exert influence abroad in ways that before were not
available. Let me give you a parallel to this idea. When regions within
Mexico that have been far and remote got to have roads and electricity,
life in those villages was altered forever. Conservative anthropologists
would always argue against such (roads & electricity) arguing that the
local customs would be lost. [ never mind the contradictions that such
anthropologists were quite willing to sacrifice the Indians access to
"modernity" for fear that traditions would be lost, but had no qualms
about themselves having all the accouterments of modernity to benefit
from ] . The fact is that the anthropologists were looking for that
"purity" we were commenting on before, without even giving further
thought that what they considered "pure" was in and of itself already
the result of hybridity.  Yes the villages changed their life style, and
so did their art, but the roads were a two way road. They got new
influences of all sorts, but they also brought some of their own forms
to the rest of the world.  

A case in point is what has been happening with dance music that has
gone from Mexico to California, and then been recycled  there into a new
form, only to come back to Mexico and influence the local scene with the
music called "Quebradita" created in the United States. 
>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 

A Mexican Style? you ask....no there is not ONE Mexican Style but many, 
just as there are many Mexican people. I don't have an ounce of Indian
blood in me, and yet an Indian and I living in Mexico have been
influenced by our experiences of living in this country. But Francisco
Toledo who is one of our foremost artists and comes from Oaxaca, can be
differentiated from any one coming from a different culture. His art
might be sold in the mainstream galleries around the world but make no
mistake about it, his art is totally Mexican. It couldn't be Hungarian
for instance. 

American style? why do you think Hollywood films are made in Hollywood
and not in Zacatecas?

Chinese Style?  following your arguments, I assume you would not find
any difference between a Matzo Ball Soup and Won Ton Soup. 

I don't know what you mean by "grand monolithism" but what ever you
place under such an impressive label, I can't imagine that it will alter
the fact that indeed there are big cultural differences between and
among peoples. My Jewish mother taught me things that where a world
apart from that of my Indian nanny. 

>What, stylistically, could possibly bind Jacob Lawrence and 
>Jeff Koons under the girdle of a national style;

One thing: The "national identity" for hype that Jeff Koons produces is
called the "international art  market" and that is the culture to which
I think it belongs to. The culture that such work is devoted to is HYPE,
and for such work you might be right, it defies any national identity.  

> 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.

You suggest that "we cannot speak of the One and the Other". Well, let
me turn you on to an interesting excercise. If you go to the FORUM
section at ZoneZero ( http://zonezero) you will discover that we have
the same identical topic for Spanish and English speaking audiences. If
you read what is stated in one  section and compared it to what is
written in the other, you will have no doubt  found that indeed there
different perceptions and interests and responses to the exact same
issue depending on your language, and that in turn is a reflection of
where everyone comes from.  And all this, not withstanding our itinerant
nature, of which there is no denying. 

I sent you my best greetings even though we disagree, hoping not to
convince you of anything other than to acknowledge that indeed we are
different  and in need of our mutual understanding.

All best
Pedro Meyer
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