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<eyebeam><blast> CLOSING SUMMARY 2

<eyebeam><blast> artistic practice in the network 


As this current built up political steam, a fire suddenly raged through
it, calling into question the relation between aesthetic practice and
political intervention.

First, we begin with Andreas Broeckmann's notion of the "topology of
agency." Andreas writes that the challenge for us is to "understand not
only the new topologies of form and presence, but to tackle the problems
of agency and events in connective translocal environments.  On a
political level, this leads to the question of the possibilities of a
new type of public sphere." This public sphere "will only come into
being if there are complex forms of interaction, of participation and
learning, that fully exploit the technical possibilities of the networks
and that allow for new and creative forms of becoming present, becoming
visible, becoming active, in short, of becoming public."

Saskia Sassen replies that, yes, there is challenging work to be done
that captures the specifics of networked environments. She thinks of
these questions in terms of the kind of produced space of the net, the
political and economic dynamics enacted in that space. In considering
what we will need to have a public sphere on the net, she asks, "How
does the code through which economic power is made legible on the street
configured on the net?  Is economic power legible on the net the way it
is in other material environments? Does the growing digitization of
economic activities (finance, for example) transform the legibility of
economic power?"

According to Craig Brozefsky, Clifford Duffy asked us an important
question in the forum when he wrote about privilege, inequality, and the
poor.  "What happens when we group together a multitude of different
people under the guise of lack? In this case, lack of access to another
fabricated whole 'the net.' The poor, or more generally 'the lacking'
perform a special function here. What/Who does this homogenization of
local and global tactics into a simple dialogue of access/lack benefit?"

Andy Deck writes, "How does one address one's work to a wide audience on
the net without getting caught up in the maelstrom of reorganizing
protocols, procedures, and versions? This instability does not only
provide possibilities, it also keeps artists from developing sustained,
personal processes."

Brian Holmes asks "How can the Internet be used to strengthen and expand
politically oriented cultural collaborations, with their necessary
inscription in located and embodied day-to-day existence?" How can this
medium be used to create culturally based forms of political action or
resistance?  Tim Jordan adds the question of how we understand the
politics in which this medium involves us. "What changes does email, the
Web and its underlying technologies bring? Embedded in the technologies
that create cyberspace are many people's creations and work, done in
their particular way for their own reasons; what politics results from
all these creations?" Tim writes that Brian's question is the most
important one that can be asked, but that it needs to be asked in a way
that does not presume politics travels unchanged across the divide
between online and offline. Tim writes that a distinction between online
and offline must be drawn, for no other reason than to allow the
possibility that there are fundamental differences between the two. 
"Only once the two are separated and explored, which also means
exploring their connections, can we confidently discuss the politics of
resistance in or about the net."

Saskia Sassen writes that "One political challenge is to see how the
creation of these cross-border spaces - or new strategic geography of
economic power - offers operational openings for cross-border politics"
in defense of many of the issues we have discussed, for labor activists,
environmental activists, various feminist struggles, and so on. 

Tim Jordan presented eight "Theses on Power in Cyberspace." Brian Holmes
replied to Tim's statements as follows. "There is something quite
generous about the way you follow an individual's journey into
cyberspace - the initial skepticism and enthusiasm; the discovery of a
new fluidity of identity; the gradual awareness of a social dimension to
the cyber-experience." When Tim cites Marx and shifts to another level
of analysis, he intends "merely the deepening and broadening of a common
experience, whereby the individual, reflecting on his or her inscription
in a historical process, comes to question what before seemed a
progressively greater conquest of freedom, and now appears a more
powerfully charged implication in the larger patterns of a
civilization's development." Tim points to "the ways that a fantasy of
individual omniscience fuels an increasing dependence on technological
tools for the management of information." At the end of his fifth
thesis, when he speaks of the irony of this situation, he has "gone far
beyond the specifics of the Internet, to deal with matters fundamental
to the modern experience over centuries of development."

Brian writes that he is very much in agreement with this path, because
for him, the Internet in all its manifestations is simply characteristic
of "the current phase of our social or civilizational pattern, whose
cellular building-block is possessive individualism." 

Brian writes that Tim is outlining the specific of forms that social
power takes in the individual and collective psychology of the online
experience, and at the same time, through his references to Marx and
Foucault, he is (implicitly) drawing critical connections to the larger
world. Brian suggests that it is equally urgent to make
psychological/ideological observations, and to go beyond them. 

Brian remarks that after the research he has done for the Documenta
book, it became apparent to his group in Paris that two directions are
particularly promising for cultural-political engagement today. "One,
appealing to Habermas, involves a scandalously idealistic assertion of
the social power that remains in the notion of the public sphere. I
suggest that this public sphere acquires a specific form through the
Internet, and through the interplay of national and international
institutions that the Internet helps make possible. This approach can be
developed as a necessary extension of enlightenment universalism in the
age of capitalist globalization. It cannot even be fully imagined
without the net, and it cannot hope to attain its potential without the
organizational capacities that the net really does provide."  The other
approach must largely take place off the net, "diving into the mesh of
collective pasts" in order to discover and reactivate scattered threads
and latent historical energies, "which can allow individuals to
recognize themselves in the mirror of potentially sharable and
potentially alternative projects."

Pedro Meyer mentions that the significance of "public opinion" is
starting to play in significant ways.  "When such 'public opinion' has
the potential to alter public policy, both within and outside the sphere
of action of the event in process, we have to acknowledge that a new
form of 'art' is being created."  Pedro again gives the example of the
Zapatistas.  "Through the Internet, there finally was a potential for
creating an end run around the government campaign against the
Zapatistas, and in doing so, recast the public perception of what was
going on in Chiapas."  

Eric Liftin writes that the threat to public space on the net will only
grow as corporations develop next-generation high-speed networks to
supplant today's Internet. He suggests that new systems of access and
distribution will link directly to shopping mall experiences. "The key
element that will set the tone for political involvement is a
displacement of consciousness onto the net. How will people become
emotionally invested in the new space?"  When will they feel that
actions on the net have real consequences?  Eric reminds us that people
still think of the net as an underground space of unaccountability.

A fire burned quickly across the forum, engaging the issue of agency,
accountability, and the intersection of online and offline space.
Reporting on the fire in the north of Brazil, Carlos Basualdo asked:
What could the net do, what could we do through the net, to help?  Could
our actions here have such tangible effects?  Bracha
Lichtenberg-Ettinger replied that the borderlines between aesthetics and
ethics have to be renegotiated and reattuned again and again. "Would
this gaze go out and reach you in reality where and when you need it?
Would this gaze go out and reach someone where and when it could be
healing?" Will it extinguish the fire, or would it operate, like poetry
for Celan, in the too-early and the too-late? "Everyday art fails a

Greg Ulmer replied that the "EmerAgency" is experimenting with a web
practice - the testimonial - for witnessing such emergencies. "This
witnessing is how ATTENTION is to be focused / recalling as a relay for
art in the net / the invention of theater as a new way to focus
ATTENTION on the link between individual foolishness and collective
calamity / = tragedy / ATH (disaster)." He writes that whenever the
disciplinary knowledge is applied to fires by positivist consultants,
the premise is: the consultant explains the fire.  In the testimonial,
Greg writes, the fire explains the consultant.  The goal is to close the
gap between positivistic consultants and the cultural-political
dimension of problems.

Alan Sondheim asks "who among us fights fire." 

Clifford Duffy wrote that Genet "way back in the 1970s was approached by
the Black Panther party for help. HE did not hesitate, he went to
America the next day…He added his voice to theirs, became a witness of
their 'fire.'" Olu Oguibe found Clifford's post striking, and added that
several years ago, the scholar Ali Mazrui wrote a novel in which he
dealt with the artist caught between the aesthetic calling and the
demands of commitment. "Mazrui lamented the premature death of his
friend, the poet Christopher Okigbo, who at the very verge of his glory
laid down his pen and took the gun alongside the persecuted of Biafra,
only to die at the front at the age of 36." Olu writes that "Mazrui
concluded that Okigbo's sacrifice was a waste of beauty - yet, as the
igbo of Biafra say, all beauty end in dirt." Olu asks what shall we do
at the cry of "fire." Should we do a net-based installation? Write a
lyric? Apply to the NEA for grant? 

Joy Garnett replies that surely Olu is not confusing activism with
"certain somewhat more intimate practices that we gather (loosely) under
the term 'art', and which you seem to be trying to justify in terms of
activism and not in terms of art."  

Carlos wrote that his intervention on this subject "was an attempt to
point out the need for effective development of non-governmental
international - or transnational - systems of ecological surveillance."
Carlos believes that the net could provide the means of developing these
kinds of systems, and that this is one of its most interesting political
aspects.  Saul Anton points out the one would have to think more
carefully about the implications of the word "surveillance" as Carlos
has used it. Saul writes that the trick to thinking about international
modes of action is "how not to take the sovereign nation model - either
the modern one of the state or ancient one of religion or peoples - and
simply make it larger." He believes that there needs to be a more
serious consideration of the nature of internationalism, because if it
is just a generalized nationalism, then it has the possibility of
possessing all the qualities, both positive and negative, of such

Adding his "water-bucket on the matter of intellectual practice" and the
fire, Brian Holmes writes that intellectual practice has diffuse but
real effects: the formulation, expression, and reception of ideas can
change what is tolerable in a society. 

Ricardo Basbaum reports that two Txucarramae (a faction of Caiapo)
indians performed a rain dance ritual in the forest and produced rain
the next day. The "pajes" (magicians) had never left their villages
before and spoke only "je" language. They spent 40 minutes in a river,
where they sprayed water towards the sky with pieces of "cipo." The fire

Carlos sums up the debate that he is glad that the Roraima fire got
responses both poetical and political, and that we seem to be trying to
discuss both as part of the same process of reaction toward a situation
of emergency. "I wonder if it would not be possible to develop a sort of
floating mechanism, a loose community ready to respond to these kinds of
issues," Carlos writes. "But maybe that's exactly what we are doing
right now." 

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