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<eyebeam><blast> Closing Statement

Dear fellow travellers on this long trip ...

I haven't been as active in the discussion as some of the other
co-hosts, but I would still like to take this opportunity to add a
critical tone to this farewell party. Not because I want to spoil the
party, but because this forum has been too important as an initiative
and as an event for its memory to be drowned in pure praise. I am
setting myself up as the devil's advocate here, but so be it. (The
quotes are some of my favourite snippets from the forum.)

>By clicking the link below, you confirm, that you understand English
>and that you have read, understood and accepted this warning. (spiller

My 'Blast' Folder contains a bit over 650 messages, 3.5 MB of ASCII. I
guess that quite a few of us have a folder like that sitting around,
half-read messages, scattered threads. Over the last three months, I
made an effort to look at every message and read most, which meant
enormous delays and some late nights, trying to catch up.

I am sure that the experience of following the list must have been very
different for those who could stay on the ball on a day-to-day basis.
The advantage that you have as a retrospective reader is that you can
follow the threads, rather than having to listen in on three or four
parallel conversations all the time. An interesting phenomenon was to
see how, as a general tendency, even within certain threads the
discussion got more and more scattered over time. To be honest, I found
the frequent lack of concentration on certain topics quite frustrating.

> more ramblings--

Probably I am just not the type who enjoys this kind distracted
conversations that have little in terms of shared experiences and shared
starting points. Some discussions seemed outlandish to me, others
completely irrelevant. But so it goes. Sure, it is not necessary that I
personally have fun here. But from the back-channel communication that I
have had with people I get the impression that many others have had the
same experience.

>First thank you for the very interesting discussions on the list. I 
>wish I had more time to follow it.

What really bothers me is that, due to the chosen economy of writing,
moderating and reading, a lot of people who I would have wanted to hear
from were simply crowded out of the debate. I understand that Jordan
didn't want to do this, but I would have preferred a much stricter
moderation regime that would have imposed a more focused style of
writing and of responding. (I also think that the timing of the postings
was not very helpful. Here in Europe, we would mostly get a chunk of six
to eight message some time in the early afternoon, and because that was
the K-contingent for the day, the list fell silent again after that. A
steady stream of mail coming in from different parts of the world is
much more interesting.)

Another thing that is hard to avoid but that gets intensely boring when
you read larger chunks of the forum at a time is to see how the forum
has turned increasingly 'acclamatory', with people repeating over and
over that and what they have enjoyed reading. This is again something
that could have been reduced through more rigid moderation. I know that
you lose a good deal of the sociable atmosphere if you reduce the
'social/emotional noise', and this again is a decision that has to be
taken at the outset, whether you are looking for an international
conference (with some of the best people in the field on the list, yet
they never raise their voice because of the babble), or at a salon where
conversations meander around and where you are more or less supposed to
wander in and out. As a conference, this forum was not very successful.
(Imagine: you ask a conference of 500+ people:)

>What do you all think?

Yet, as a salon conversation it probably was. The forum brought together
a nicely mixed group of people and has meant the circulation of
theoretical knowledge and ideas which would be familiar to specialists
from the different disciplines, but which people in the art world often
don't have the time to research. This does not always make for
interesting reading ('can anyone give me the reference to ...'), but it
shows a demand for information about theoretical discussions and
literature. The 'localisation' thread was an eye-opener and, for me, one
of the great successes. The forum was also a place where issues - like
those about Brazil, Mexico, Japan - could be brought up in a casual yet
very illuminating way. Good after-dinner conversations with some
interesting people. And some self-promotional bores.

The commitment to non-linearity went so far that there was little sense
that what was said at the end had much to do, and was indeed building
on, what had been said at the beginning in February. In some cases, the
discussion towards the end seemed to fall way behind what seemed to have
been achieved at the beginning. And at times, 'off topic' seemd to be
established as the main site of debate. This has all sorts of reasons,
but a result might be the realisation that a period of three months is
too long to maintain a meaningful discussion with such a diverse group
and with too many foci of interest.

On the whole I was surprised how little discussion there was about the
core theme of the forum, 'critical artistic practices in the networks'.
The few examples that were given, from artistic as well as from
political and technological contexts, were rarely developed. It is well
possible that I am frustrated that my own hobby-horses weren't pursued
more consistently, but I found it striking that so little reference was
made to art using the networks, and so much reference was made to
art-art, i.e. gallerism etc. Apparently, the experience in the networks
doesn't exist yet, but I am not sure whether most of those 3.5MB will
help very much to answer the questions that were raised at the outset.

My guess is that the answers lie somewhere in the periphery. I am
curious about the single-message threads, those messages which were not
even commented on by those people on the list who have something to say
to everything, and more. I'll look at those single-message threads
again, hoping that there might be indications for that which has not yet
been understood in that which has passed by the attention of the
'instant commentators'.

I am sorry if all this sounds too negative and snippy for your taste. I
am glad that I was part of the forum, and I am grateful to Jordan for
all his efforts to bring and keep us together in this virtual conference
hall. There is a lot of interesting stuff I have come across, and some
really good people. How much more can you ask? I only hope that we learn
something from the difficulties of this experience to make the next one

With best wishes from Berlin,


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