Discussion about NODE.London from the New Media Curating List
From 13/02/06 â€“ 15/02/06 The New Media Curating List was host to a discussion about NODE.London with contributions from Marc Garrett, Simon Biggs, Geoff Cox, Saul Albert, Luci Eyers, Patrick Simons, Jemima Rellie, Ruth Catlow, Marcia Tanner and Susan Collins. The relevant postings are displayed here so that MAzine followers might get an opportunity to read them and become involved in the discussion from here on in.
Please feel free to read and get more involved in the discussion!
Some personal thoughts on NODE.London.
From Marc Garrett
Last Wednesday NODE.London launched its catalogue and website at E:vent space. The party went on till early morning. It was an excellent evening and the abundance of visitors included those from the press and of course NODE.L's various organisers, interns, subscribers, artists, funders and the just plain interested. People just kept on arriving and filling, and refilling in their droves, fascinated and excited by this strange new project that many have heard about that involves so many who reside in London, also from elsewhere.
There are those who have made a clear and conscious decision not be involved with NODE.L which of course is fair enough. But there are some who keep a seemingly nervous, low profile whose previous work in media arts curation might (mistakenly) lead one to imagine they would love to be involved in some form or another, or at least be part of some dialogue around it. Let's face it- there has been nothing like it in London before.
So, what's going on? Shouldn't there be an influx of discussions by the main media art lists about it, especially this list? What is it about NODE.London that certain media curators are scared of? I would like to know, as well as many of the people who have worked extremely hard to get this project underway, they would also like to know why the main cultural instigators on here are ignoring and blanking out something as significant as this?
Let me inform you why I am part of NODE.London, and what it means to me.
The political climate in our world at present as many of you know is, not the most forward thinking and positive scenario that we can wish for. Our planet's resources are diminishing and we are heading for global warming with more catastrophes on the way. The war on our (once free) identities and imaginations, under the (double speak) guise of 'war on terror' just continues to promote that 'killing' is the way, for our children. The constant killings, bombings and beatings imposed by emotionally backward absolutists on civilians of the world, is now a daily occurrence. Our governments are failing us (once again), stoking up the 'patriarch' dominated fires with even more useless solutions, adding more pain to the various problems which they originally caused, and blindly advocated.
With this dark-dystopian, spiralling trap that we are all falling into 'together', I would of thought that there might of been some sense of urgency with an aim to explore new options, addressing such soul-destroying situations that (obviously) dominate our battered psyches.
If we dare to change our behaviours and re-evaluate the way that we work, bringing ourselves up to speed with an empowerment that engages in the process of critical openness, that appreciates the spirit of participation and linking outside of our usual micro-circles, then may be we can feel proud that at least we do not revert to type and hide away behind closed doors, hoping that it all would go away. It is up to us to find ways of engaging in culture that offers potential, (not just ourselves) more than just the same. We need to move more constructively, and further into incorporating (non cynical) alternatives that are flexible and not scared of change.
This is one of the reasons why I decided to join NODE.London as a volunteer, not because of profile or cultural capital, but because it challenged my own conceptions of what it meant to be a human being, in the type of world that we are living in today and then a curator and then a media artist. NODE.London is an extension of various ideas, and much of it has come from a grass roots perspective, yet it includes successfully some institutions as part of the season such as the Tate and the Science museum, and other equivalent groups and organisations.
I was also inspired by the fact that NODE.London, was a non curatorial project. To me, this was an evolutionary decision and actually quite brave. Many curators might (of course) criticize such a move, due to their own way of working. NODE.London has broken the away from using traditional curation so that there other processes are explored and more media art could to be seen and represented. The content had to rise up from the roots of what the nodes themselves had to offer from social/local perspectives, as well their own curatorial intentions- not from top down, as in anyone telling the nodes what to show. Offering an alternative and more up to date, contemporary version of media arts that is being acknowledged and distributed for all to see.
It is a misinformed (subjective and political) myth that a curated project is better than a non curated project. Let's face it, there are bad curators and good curators, just as with all things in life.
If the season of media arts in London was to have any authentic, critical effect and was to actually engage itself culturally to a wider audience, beyond its own usual/prescribed circles. The brave decision had to be made of stepping forward and beyond tried and tested formulas. This meant not only supporting those who were either well written about already within historical contexts and canons. It had to also not fall easy prey to the simplistic desire of 'star-making'. This meant making a conscious effort in supporting projects and artists who do not possess cultural currency or agency from within media art-circle defaults, facilitating a space for them to emerge.
The activities and social changes of NODE.London are changed by the people who become part of it. It is not a machine or an art product but an ever changing scale-free network, of networks consisting of human beings, who have got involved mainly because they want something special to happen. Call it Utopian, call it whatever you fancy- there is no denying which ever way you choose to slice it that, this season of media arts is going to have quite an impact on the scene on London and the rest of media arts culture internationally.
Instead of funding work to be created, we all implement a strategy that allowed the venues to set up technical resources so that they are able to show media art projects. Not only that, there are over 40 venues and over 90 projects exhibiting media arts during the season, which is positive for all concerned.
I remember someone wrote last year in Mute, that there were no venues for media art to be found in London. Well- that has changed now and we should celebrate that fact and explore what has led to this resurgence of media arts in London.
------------>much respect to all who frequent on this list.
It would be really interesting to know what others think about NODE.London.
The new NODE.London site:
If you wish to read a collaborative text about NODE.London by myself and Ruth Catlow from Furtherfield.org & HTTP, it can be found here: http://www.mazine.ws/NODE.L_Interdependence
If you want to delve into the finer workings of NODE.London, visit the wiki, http://smal.omweb.org/modules/newbb/ where the history of the project sits.
From Simon Biggs:
I think what Marc has written about Node is very thoughtful and clear and of course it causes one to question a lack of involvement with Node.
Although I do not currently live in London I still identify myself as, if anything, a Londoner. But I guess the four hour drive puts me off getting to meetings. I am also very busy. That is no excuse of course, as everybody is busy.
Perhaps there is the perception that Node is all about a new generation of artists? It is wrong to say there has never been anything like it in London before. Anybody who was involved, in whatever way, in earlier grass-roots initiatives in London around live art, video art or media art will know that the same sort of buzz was the case. These were all very exciting developments, with a real sense of momentum and the emergent sense that things might change. It is possible that some of those who were involved in previous events, who might be expected to be involved this time, are standing back letting a different group of people take the intitiative (although I am aware that some "old hands" are involved in Node).
It should also be observed that due to those earlier initiatives things did change, a little. Not enough to avoid a sense of disillusionment for some, but they did change. It will be interesting to see what happens this time.
The question of curated, or not curated, events is another issue. Of course there are good and bad curators. One therefore needs to ask what the function of the curator is in this context (a good subject for this list). It could be observed that the role of the curator here could have been to establish a vision of this terrain and to articulate that within a questioning critique such that it would be evident to an observing public just what it is that is happening in London with new media art and artists.
What is interesting here is that Node is a grass roots self organising network of individuals, groups and networks. In a sense Node, and its genesis, is the main "event" here, and the projects that will make it up are the material of that event. As a self organising non-curated phenomenon it is probable it will reveal more about the nature of certain practices, involving certain media and modes, in certain places than a curated show would have. Whether that suggests the Node model will have currency beyond this one event is another question.
I have no good excuse for not being involved. Just the usual lament of "too busy and too far away", which I recognise is not sufficient. The thought of getting to go to an exciting party in London is of course tempting and I am sure I will regret not having been involved in an event that might, just
might, make a difference. But you cannot be involved in everything and I have been and continue to be involved in plenty of other stuff, so I do not feel too guilty.
I hope it goes really well...and if possible I will try to get to see some of it too. I hope the parties also make it worthwhile ;)
Professor, Art and Design Research Centre
Sheffield Hallam University, UK
From Geoff Cox:
Perhaps part of the problem (and with reference to Simon Biggs's comments too) is that this is not really 'grass-roots activity' as such - but an attempt to engineer this, as far as I understand it. In relation to curating, this might simply be seen as an attempt at control through a distributed model and one in which power is expressed in more subtle forms as is the case with much of the labour invested in it. If the events generate discussion around these themes (and the politics of openness and 'free' labour), then it will get really interesting...
From Saul Albert:
hi Marc, Simon, All,
Having been involved in NODE.London at an early stage, and now having a little bit of distance after dropping of the map for a few months, I think I would like to use that perspective to address what I see as some misconceptions that could easily be propagated/mythologised â€“ to NODE.London's detriment. Needless to say, this is my opinion about NODE.London, there are many like it, but this one is mine...
I don't think NODE.London is exclusively 'grass roots', 'self-organised', or non-curated. It's very much a hybrid of those things and established mainstream cultural institutions and processes. It was Arts Council funded from the first, and can be seen as a strategic development after the funding of what ACE saw as five key media arts agencies in the late 90's early 00ies: (Mute, SPC, Digital Guild (formerly Artec), Audiorom and Media Arts Projects) - which (from ACE's point of view) culminated in the DMZ (http://web.archive.org/web/20040213210123/http://www.dmzlondon.net/index.html)
in late 2003. Many were dissatisfied with DMZ (though it was successful in ACE attendance terms and had some good critical discourse surrounding it), many thought it was stuck in far East London, where it attracted usual suspects, but didn't really spread out to embrace London in all
it's gory glory. NODE.London took on this fund and the remit was basically to get loads more new people involved - small agencies, individuals, funders and sponsors, institutions, curators... *everyone*.
Having said that, the first push of the project was to insist that the process would not be mono-curatorial, but would develop as an open ended discussion with a large group of 'voluntary organisers', who would have final say on as much as possible. However, given the basic
inflexibilities of fiscal responsibilities and the strings (safety lines?) attached by ACE, this bottom line of the project was never entirely devolved to the VO group in a contractual sense, although in
practice, it has worked towards that quite successfully.
Rather than using these kinds of old new-economy labels ('self-organising' sticks out as a Kevin Kellyism, particularly), I'd rather look deeper at NODE.London, and previous efforts, and see how the pressures of funding, accountability, and attempts to devolve fiscal decision making played themselves out as a discourse in the project, and might develop in following years. There has also been a lot of navel-gazing talk (which I'm fascinated by) about the needs to constitutionalise the process to avoid the dreaded 'Tyranny of Stucturelessness' that has limited 'grass roots' efforts in the past. Maybe this is a question for 2007, when the birth pangs have waned and results of the evaluation process are available. More on that some other time.
But I suppose what concerns this list most closely is the curation question. I really don't think NODE.London is un-curated. Look at the programme, Marc, it's full of the word 'curator', after your own name as much as anyone else's :) . I think the process and practices of NODE.London
have been extremely curatorial - a process of accumulating and contextualising immaterial culture in a very rigorous and discursive way. I think the difference you're pointing at was simply that there wasn't a figurehead curator with control over curatorial minions. Rather, there was a pseudo consensual process (pseudo because it certainly wasn't adhered to strictly in any meetings I attended, thank God) that allowed curator/practitioner factions to debate each other into submission.
I think NODE.London is breaking ground - but not as part of the reductive subculture/mainstream binary discourse, it's far more complex, messy and interesting than that. Observing this churning processes from a (small) distance, I can really understand why people are hesitant to get involved
at this stage. How to position oneself critically in relation to something that moves when you poke it or look at it? How to join a motley, rowdy argument half way through, when you've only heard half the story..
You're both right when you say that next year will test this model.
I think it will be very successful because putting aside qualitative discussions about programming and politics, the primary difference between NODE.London and other media arts festivals is that it has managed to mobilise a *huge* amount of voluntary labour and as such has been an incredibly efficient and lean festival, put on for a fraction of the cost of equivalently sized events.
Art needs curators like the web needs Google. I don't like using Google for various reasons, but I do, all day, every day.
From Luci Eyers:
I would like to pick up on a couple of points made so far about NODE.London. I think NODE.London is breaking ground - but not as part of the reductive subculture/mainstream binary discourse, it's far more complex, messy and interesting than that. [Saul]
At an organisational level the project is uncurated and non-selective and based on an open system where people can opt-in and get involved. Obviously this didn't start from a position of complete neutrality, it started with a group and spiraled outwards and then when there was enough momentum and focus there was a conscious decision to try to look beyond the obvious network and extend it in different directions and plug some gaps. NODE.London's system developed in a way which was intentionally flexible enough to try to incorporate this messy hybrid of activity which sought to include and mobilise existing, emergent, grass roots, DIY, HE, and institutional projects so that whilst it will never be comprehensive it would attempt to map the span of media arts activity across London in a meaningful way; and enable interconnections to emerge. Some of this activity is little known beyond its insider audiences and participants and it was important for the NODE.London framework to be able to include transient, and community based projects alongside the more readily visible venues and organisations who consistently work on media arts programming.
In relation to curating, this might simply be seen as an attempt at control through a distributed model and one in which power is expressed in more subtle forms as is the case with much of the labour invested in it. [Geoff]
I agree that curation plays an essential role in many of the projects, and not only institutional ones. NODE.London's Voluntary Organisers include as many curators as artists or activists but I would still argue that NODE.London as a framework is non-curatorial. There were no doubt differing motives for people to dedicate (enormous amounts of) time to developing the bigger picture. I think that an exploration and role in defining a context for media art practice now has been a shared and driving motivation. We are in a different position, as Marc and Simon acknowledge, to the smaller scene 10 years ago. I'm intrigued to see Saul describing this process as a curatorial activity, maybe artist-curatorial?
I think the process and practices of NODE.London have been extremely curatorial - a process of accumulating and contextualising immaterial culture in a very rigorous and discursive way. [Saul]
From Patrick Simons:
The posted replies seem to be suggesting that Node.L is not a curated event or season of events, and that being the case, would for me go part way to help me to understand why it has not been a focus of interest for lists like this.
It s interesting that the evolution of NMC has developed firmly within an academic framework, within an ideological optic through which the relationship between artwork/artist and art history trains its attention on curatorial narrative and cultural production. As a list lurker (I wont pretend to be apologetic, we all do it) I have always subconsciously percieved NMC as a list about "curating" new media rather than "new" media (arts) curating.. a list as an extension of a research dept/cluster.. rather than a list growing out of a mission to look at new ways of curating new media.
Being based outside london, in fact outside just about everywhere, its difficult to know how to get a grip on the details of nodal news. It is somewhat ironic that a distributed network based art form is defining itself along the physical definitions of funding criteria, ACE etc, but I would have expected the experimental nature of the Node process would have stirred enough of the thin and well trampled undergrowth that is curatoral practise to help those living at the end of the world like me to engage and respond to londons media arts big gig. With people like Furtherfield and all the other even smaller arts groups who are trusting their own ability and independent takes on this scene, to galvanise some sort of collective response to the pitiful state of public arts funding for this the unincorporated/uninstitutionalised, their just will be important stuff produced out of this.
It cant be the case that nodal is under the radar of NMC because it is invisible or insignificant anymore than it is for the Tate...etc etc so why is NMC going to be looking at Audio-visual (something im personally very interested/involved with) and not art historically looking nodal?
From Marc Garrett:
Hi Simon & all,
Thank you for finding the time to put forward your own thoughts on this.
>Although I do not currently live in London I still identify myself as, if anything, a Londoner.
>But I guess the four hour drive puts me off getting to meetings. I am also very busy.
>That is no excuse of course, as everybody is busy.
The 4 hour journey to London is of course a pain when one is so busy. Even whilst writing this I have an exhaustive list beside me of things that should be done and none of them are to do with NODE.London.
Before I carry on- I just want to re-emphasize that I am a lone (individual) speaker discussing about NODE.London here, and whatever I say is, in no way representative of any others own personal thoughts, who are also involved in the project. Everyone has their own perspective on it and along the way we will probably find others who will introduce more (or less) light on the subject. I am just a micro-voice expounding my own interpretations/meanings around it and what it means to me. In fact, I have just noticed that Saul has posted to the list and I know that he will have a different slant to share that will be different from my own, and we may and may not agree on some things.
It does not have to be just in London though. In fact, I know of people from across the seas who are coming over during the season in March to observe how it all works and how they themselves could incorporate something similar in their own countries, media art related communities. As well as tour London and enjoy all the media art being presented at all the different nodes/venues/places.
People like Sal Randolph did some great projects such as the Free Manifesta, a project for Manifesta 4, the European Biennial of Contemporary Art held in Frankfurt, Germany from May 25 to August 24, 2002. Before that there was the Free Biennial which took place in New York during the month of April 2002.
An interesting point that Sal mentions regarding curation "As the FREE BIENNIAL developed, I began to wonder how it would be to take this uncurated space inside of an institution. The more I worked with this live and complex array of artists and projects, the more controlled traditional art spaces seemed. From this point of view, commercial and institutional spaces are almost identical in their desire to control the viewing context. The fear of "bad art" felt by museums and galleries began to seem a bit hysterical (and in that way, of course, interesting). The idea of selecting or curating based on "excellence" seemed suddenly narrow. What was being left out? What weren't we seeing? The hush of museums and galleries began to seem like a silencing." http://www.freemanifesta.org/essay.html
Even though the situation was different I find the comments by Sal typical of what many (including myself) have experienced who have practised either net art or media arts generally. Yet things are changing, although there is a hell of a divide still between fine art institutions and the contemporary media art arena which needs addressing, and NODE.London could help to bridge that gap, if it is allowed to that is.
Not only that, media art has also needed an audience. Not just an audience that is peer related but, an audience that also comes form different social contexts' other than from a technology related/educational situation. We have only just begun to get our own local audience interested and it was not easy. NODE.London has already created a new and interested audience, which was obviously evident at the catalogue event the other night and by the very real response that we are getting from new people who wish to get involved on various levels.
NODE.London, is large and it does not have to be so big really. In fact, in respect of consensus decision making I feel that for such an approach to work well, smaller groups using such a method would be more successful.
>Perhaps there is the perception that Node is all about a new generation of
I think that you might have a point there- but I'm no spring chicken. Well- what is so interesting here is that it is not just about the artists, which is very different slant, it is also about exploring free structures as possible models of working. It is a work of art in its own right in one sense. I remember Mark Tribe mentioning once in an article/interview that Rhizome.org was a kind of social sculpture, or something close to that- and I can understand what he means to some extent. Although it is important to for people to realise that this is not a centralised social sculpture that directs from one place alone. I see this project from an alternative angle and that it is more influenced by the people who get involved, changing its direction according to their contextual needs which of course does include artists, writers, curators and other types in the mix, changing its shape.
>It is wrong to say there has never been anything like it in London
>before. Anybody who was involved, in whatever way, in earlier grass-roots
>initiatives in London around live art, video art or media art will know that
>the same sort of buzz was the case. These were all very exciting
>developments, with a real sense of momentum and the emergent sense that
>things might change.
I do understand and appreciate where you are coming from this. I think that what also makes this different is that, much of it is directly linked to the Internet at the same time as well. Also many are using technology and networks in mind, with the aim of crossing over physical intersections and the virtual, using a scale-free attitude. Such a diverse incorporation of these dynamics is a first when observed at such a scale.
>It is possible that some of those who were involved in
>previous events, who might be expected to be involved this time, are
>standing back letting a different group of people take the intitiative
>(although I am aware that some "old hands" are involved in Node).
This is true, there some old hands mingling among the many. Well, if they are standing back and letting the new generation make their way into the contemporary and cultural climate that is fair enough. Perhaps some of those "old hands" who are not directly involved can offer advice or information or dialogue with no strings attached.
>It should also be observed that due to those earlier initiatives things did
>change, a little. Not enough to avoid a sense of disillusionment for some,
>but they did change.
And much respect to these groups of people that have done so, for their spirits do actively live on within and through us now. Many involved in the project might not necessarily appreciate or value the spirit of what NODE.London actually offers, and they may only pin it down to minimal-concerns so to contain it emotionally. Each to their own reasoning's, for it is not about everyone thinking the same. Many people may understand and acknowledge the technical dynamics of what it is but are more interested in how it changes the every art-based environment around them, in a creative sense alone which is also cool.
Regarding forms of free labour and its distribution. Well, I have offered a tremendous amount of my own free time to the project at various levels. And this is because to me, it means something which of course many of you know about all ready. As far am personally concerned, if it meant nothing to me I would not of been involved. And yes, I have been used by the NODE.London 'thing', as cheap labour, but life is not just about how much one can get out of something via capital alone. Sometimes it's about other things that are deeper and more complex than a simple transaction of monetary requirements. Although at the same time I do understand issues that some may have regarding this.
>It will be interesting to see what happens this time.
Yes it will be interesting to see what happens this time- and perhaps you are right in that it is a voice of a generation, and this generation is demanding a more solid media art presence out there which also links to the rest of the world, and its various localities. Times are different now and situations in respect of what is happening in the world does influence why some of us do engage in such a thing and why some others do not.
>The question of curated, or not curated, events is another issue. Of course
>there are good and bad curators. One therefore needs to ask what the
>function of the curator is in this context (a good subject for this list).
>It could be observed that the role of the curator here could have been to
>establish a vision of this terrain and to articulate that within a
>questioning critique such that it would be evident to an observing public
>just what it is that is happening in London with new media art and artists.
I do think that at this point it also useful to remember that Brit-Art smothered an awful lot of 'up and coming' creativity during its most dominant phase. And even though it highlighted to a wider public that art existed out there to some extent the movement represented only a few selected artists and other individuals. Which to be honest is what I feel has been happening to media art the last few years, but thankfully things are being shaken up and all those other creative individuals/groups can get involved as well and get themselves hooked into the main-frame.
>It should also be observed that due to those earlier initiatives things did
change, a little. Not enough to avoid a sense of disillusionment.
>I have no good excuse for not being involved. Just the usual lament of "too
>busy and too far away", which I recognise is not sufficient. The thought of
>getting to go to an exciting party in London is of course tempting and I am
>sure I will regret not having been involved in an event that might, just
>might, make a difference. But you cannot be involved in everything and I
>have been and continue to be involved in plenty of other stuff, so I do not
>feel too guilty.
In no way should anyone, or yourself feel guilty. Offering thoughtful and interesting ideas around the subject is enough and it is indeed all part of the experience of what adds real 'contextual' value to it all, for all those directly or indirectly involved. I respect that, and am extremely thankful for yours and other's questions and interpretations about NODE.London, which will definitely inform me and change my own presumptions, which will lead me to re-evaluate certain things.
>I hope it goes really well...and if possible I will try to get to see some
>of it too. I hope the parties also make it worthwhile ;)
Thank you again.
From Marc Garrett::
>Perhaps part of the problem (and with reference to Simon Biggs's comments
>too) is that this is not really 'grass-roots activity' as such - but an
>attempt to engineer this, as far as I understand it. In relation to
>curating, this might simply be seen as an attempt at control through a
>distributed model and one in which power is expressed in more subtle forms
>as is the case with much of the labour invested in it. If the events
>generate discussion around these themes (and the politics of openness and
>'free' labour), then it will get really interesting...
Well - this is of course true to some extent but different in that everyone involved were not just curators. In fact, the NODE.London experience highlights various paradigms, reflecting what many people are - not all just curators, artists, writers, designers or techies, in the singular sense. I myself for instance make art, curate, write and make music. Contemporary, creative activities have opened this up, it is not necessarily a new revelation but it is very much a more recognised set of variants which many are more conscious of these days. This is bound to have some effect on culture and the way that art and related creative ideas around it are perceived and presented.
In using a consensus model, which was not easy or perfect at all by any stretch of the imagination- we all managed to get something happening. To some people it was not about art, to some it was, some it was about technology, structure and structureless-ness (huh), co-operation, negotiation, infiltration, collaboration, scale free systems of working, models of connecting out of local venues, learning who else was out there in LOndon, community building and much more which made it more interesting yet pretty intense for all involved at the same time.
>If the events
>generate discussion around these themes (and the politics of openness and
>'free' labour), then it will get really interesting...
I agree. There were also 2 conferences at the early stages of NODE.London which probably should be mentioned at this point, in October 05. The October season was a more activist part of the project. Actively engaging in a diaslogue around echnology, media, culture and politics as part of its focus. Which was a reaction toewards the UK government and its EU presidency, and its stance regarding consolidation, regulation and control of intellectual property, copyright and technology.
here's a link for more info for both conferences if anyone is interested:
So debate has already begun - and when the March season picks up, hopefully there will be more debate around the media art that is being shown across London as well.
From Jemima Rellie:
Hi all and node.london is a grassroots from my perspective, in so much as it has been co-ordinated by individuals rather than institutions.
I've attended several cross-disciplinary meetings of London based institutions, keen to see a media arts event in London, but incapable of agreeing on what it should look like, or how best to achieve it. So, NODE.London should be congratulated for managing, where others have failed, to fill a well recognised gap.
As a prelude to the events in March, I'd like to draw your attention to the first of three new net art works at Tate Online, co-commissioned with the Whitney's artport. The Dumpster, by Golan Levin with Kamal Nigam and Jonathan Feinberg, launched today at both sites: http://www.tate.org.uk/netart/ & http://artport.whitney.org/.
The Dumpster is an information visualisation using data from web logs to plot the romantic lives of teenagers in 2005. Accompanying the work you'll also find a text on 'Social Data Browsing' by Lev Manovich http://www.tate.org.uk/netart/bvs/manovich.htm, and an new overarching essay to the net art section at Tate Online by Charlie Gere on 'Network Art and the Networked Gallery': http://www.tate.org.uk/netart/networkgallery.htm.
All contribute topical points about the role of the gallery or institution 21st century, as well as the nature of curation and artistic practice today. Two more Tate / Whitney co-commissions will follow in March, to coincide directly with node.london, along with an online panel discussion to debate all these issues still further.
If data be the food of love, play on,
From Ruth Catlow:
so first... great to read this discussion.
Saul, I have to just take you up on the following point.
>I think it will be very successful because putting aside qualitative
discussions about programming and politics, the primary difference
between NODE.London and other media arts festivals is that it has managed
to mobilise a *huge* amount of voluntary labour and as such has been an
incredibly efficient and lean festival, put on for a fraction of the cost
of equivalently sized events.
What you say is is very relevant- and may be of interest to funders of potential future incarnations of the project. However I am far more inspired by other aspects of NODE.London than by its function as a proof of a newer, brighter economic model for media arts festivals.
Qualitative discussions about programming and politics are THE areas that define the primary differences between NODE.London and other media arts festivals. Armin Medosch recently wrote a report from Transmediale http://mazine.ws/ which usefully describes the model and the cultural context for their approach to such matters and the problems that arise when you sidestep these frameworks to serve other agendas. Discussions of programming and politics provide crucial contexts for the artworks and events that are about to take place and I would be really interested to carry on with these discussions once they kick off in March.
It may all have been done before, but not in the context of our current extreme global cultural climate as described by Marc. We never step into the same stream twice. Systems are not separate from their times and localities and we are not describing and defining our actions and what arises just so that we can say "well we've fixed this now- here's the new mechanism- what next? "
I would also argue strongly (also from a subjective insider perspective) that Node.London has been anything but efficient- unless you strip out the input of the volunteers from the equation. Perhaps if we just look at a balance sheet of ACE funding against numbers of art projects realised.... but why on earth would we do this and negate the investment of so much very valuable energy by so many very expert people into the project?
What I have seen people investing in with most enthusiasm is discourse - between artists, venues, organisations and audiences- often unstructured, meandering and surprising. We have struggled for years in London to get any kind of understanding of the diverse cultural grounds in which we stand, and NODE.London meetings and online facilities have provided a space in which many people have been able to start to explore these. These deep processes are never efficient and any kind of valuable social complexity only arises out of long-term, engaged interaction. This is invaluable to us in this capital city where the economic pressures are always to be quicker, better-oiled, less philosophical, less human (ie messy and complicated), more productive in the service of whichever machine appears to feed us.
The new, developing relationships and coordinations of activities can be followed, to a degree, via the nodel.org website where a click on a project may lead to a list of associated people who in turn lead to new projects and venues and organisations etc. This web of connections was not in existence a year ago. Wednesday night's launch party was somehow still full of new faces looking to dock with the project.
If I felt that the dominant interest and interpretation of Node.London was as an efficient way of coordinating slave labour for the art-machine I think I would become quickly disillusioned. Perhaps the disillusionment experienced by protagonists associated with the previous similar projects described by Simon (hey Simon- please can you give us some examples) can be put down to the dominance of narrow transactional interpretations of what took place. I'd be interested to hear from people who identify themselves as "old hands" in this area of work. It would be good to make connections with their experiences and to consider what we might usefully carry forward.
I become aware, as my finger hovers over the send button, that perhaps I am expressing a distinctly female perspective. I love a shiny machine as much as the next man; ) but organic life needs its manure, its fertiliser, its slow, unpredictable messy bits in order to survive. The construction of dream machines can pleasantly distract us from considering the broader evolving ecologies that support us and surround us. These ecologies need nurturing- and as far as I am aware there is no central definitive blue-print for nurture.
From Marc Garrett:
Hi Jemima and all,
Yes- I agree- NODE.London is 'grass roots'. And your definition clearly defines the difference in that the project was put in place 'not by an institution' but by a group of individuals - simple really. And not only that, it distributed power amongst various nodes around London as well the people willing to be part of the project at them, out these nodes many people offered their time as volunteers. Even though we have partners in crime such as the ICA, the Tate, the Science Museum on board - who also have a say at the meetings, it was as equal nodes/volunteers and it was run by using a consensus model of working together.
I think that Luci put well here actually...
"At an organisational level the project is uncurated and non-selective and based on an open system where people can opt-in and get involved. Obviously this didn't start from a position of complete neutrality, it started with a group and spiraled outwards and then when there was enough momentum and focus there was a conscious decision to try to look beyond the obvious network and extend it in different directions and plug some gaps. NODE.London's system developed in a way which was intentionally flexible enough to try to incorporate this messy hybrid of activity which sought to include and mobilise existing, emergent, grass roots, DIY, HE, and institutional projects so that whilst it will never be comprehensive it would attempt to map the span of media arts activity across London in a meaningful way; and enable interconnections to emerge. Some of this activity is little known beyond its insider audiences and participants and it was important for the NODE.London framework to be able to include transient, and community based projects alongside the more readily visible venues and organisations who consistently work on media arts programming."
I for one will not claim any singular knowledge of all the parts/segments of how NODE.London came about for that road leads to pretence, although I do remember a meeting a while back after DMZ, when and Ruth and myself were invited to the Arts Council along with some others (they can declare themselves if they wish to) to discuss how to create such a project for London. I am not sure whether there were any other meetings about it, but reading your text informs me that there probably were. At the end of that day, we left the Arts Council buolding thinking oh, what was all that about then we heard nothing at all about it for a while. Then suddenly, SMAL (Season of Media Arts in London) appeared, and then we got excited, then it turned into NODE.London after a while....
At first, it was centralized in the traditional sense and not for long- it soon changed with the setting up of sub-groups, volunteers (VO's), Node groups, and getting on board a very capable administrator called Tim Jones, who was and is paid and worth the cash. Also there were just so many meetings, we have all been constantly exhausted from it all - with subscriber meetings, VO meetings, sub-group meetings. Each sub-group had their own responsibilities such as 'web-tools', 'PR', there is so much more, and I know that I am missing out plenty - this is a web page of a lot of the meetings, if anyone wishes to browse -http://smal.omweb.org/modules/wakka/SmalMeetings - with minutes and everything on what was discussed, an interesting read if you are sad like myself, probably not.
This is the site that represents NODE.London as it is now http://nodel.org/ which equally shows much of the history and what is currently happening...
From Marcia Tanner:
Hi Jemima and all,
This is a fascinating discussion especially as I hadn't known of NODE.London before this. However I submit that all of it might become academic in light of the impending privatization of the Internet and email in the US. Presumably it won't stop here [see below].
What if anything can we (I mean ALL who'll be affected) do to stop this from happening?
US: The End of the Internet
by Jeffrey Chester, The Nation
February 6th, 2006
From Marc Garrett:
Hi Saul and all,
>Marc, it's full of the word 'curator', after your own name as
much as anyone else's :)"
I openly mentioned to Geoff that I was a curator amongst other things, disucssing about paradigms. Which are really paradigm shifts, 'The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn wrote that "Successive transition from one paradigm to another via revolution is the usual developmental pattern of mature science." (p.12) yip!
"everyone involved were not just curators. In fact, the NODE.London experience highlights various paradigms, reflecting what many people are - not all just curators, artists, writers, designers or techies, in the singular sense. I myself for instance make art, curate, write and make music." extract from text to Geoff.
>How to join a
motley, rowdy argument half way through, when you've only heard half the
I don't agree with this and I do not think that it is fair, but will move on...
>I think it will be very successful because putting aside qualitative
>discussions about programming and politics, the primary difference
>between NODE.London and other media arts festivals is that it has managed
>to mobilise a *huge* amount of voluntary labour and as such has been an
>incredibly efficient and lean festival, put on for a fraction of the cost
>of equivalently sized events.
I think that it is obvious to all that you and I see a completely different animal here...
There is a Sufi fable in which a group of foreigners sit at breakfast, excitedly discussing their previous nightâ€™s exploration. One starts saying â€œâ€¦and what about that great beast we came across in the darkest part of the Jungle? It was like a massive, rough wall.â€ The others look perplexed. â€œNo it wasnâ€™t!â€ says one, â€œIt was some kind of pythonâ€. â€œYeahâ€¦â€ another half-agrees, â€œâ€¦but it also had powerful wingsâ€. The shortest of the group looks bemused- â€œwell it felt like a tree trunk to me.â€
"As such, our descriptions of this collectively authored project are inevitably incomplete and contestable, with a complete picture emerging only in negotiation with others." http://www.mazine.ws/NODE.L_Interdependence
Yes, one of many differences explored is :-
>I think the difference you're pointing at was simply that there wasn't a
>figurehead curator with control over curatorial minions.
>was a pseudo consensual process (pseudo because it certainly wasn't
>adhered to strictly in any meetings I attended, thank God)
non pseudo = strict?
pseudo = non strict?
>curator/practitioner factions to debate each other into submission.
What you seem to be saying here to me is that 'curator/practitioner factions to debate each other out of the equation'.
I think that there was much more collaboration, especially during the last 3 months of the project - everything just pulled together very well.
From Susan Collins:
Dear Marc, Luci, Ruth, Saul, Simon et al,
Having observed todays flurry of emails I couldn't resist putting my own oar in!
I think its a shame that the subject of NODE.London was introduced in a slightly negative defensive way, as so far from my experience it seems to have been a very positive thing with a whole range of people jumping in from every direction.
Perhaps the lack of discussion so far on the new media curating list about it which led Marc to bring it up as a topic was more due to the fact that the main event - the March season - hasn't actually happened yet, so it seems a shame to have pre-empted that with what felt like a bit of a defensive stance and I'm really not sure why it was necessary. [These days there are SO many new media projects happening all over the world that it is impossible to give airplay to everything all the time, and am not sure why we should expect a focus on London anyway - just because it
is a european capital city?]
I was at the Arts council meeting which Marc and Ruth were at among others. Rachel Baker called it, and I think it was one of a number held to generate thoughts from London based new media artists. The idea of a season or umbrella came up then - but the (open source type) model for it was
something that emerged later.
I think it was Simon that said that if some people appeared reticent to get involved that it was perhaps more a recognition that it was time for some 'old hands' to stand back and let some newer faces in, and I agree with him - what has emerged is a genuine umbrella with the established and the new side by side (and as Marc pointed out in a more recent posting given equal weight). As a relatively old (though finding it hard to come to terms with that concept) hand, I know I have been aware of a desire not to be a 'usual suspect' (there used to be fewer of us on the ground so we were trotted out at very regular intervals) and so rather than use it as an opportunity for my own work (tho that may sneak in somewhere) it felt more appropriate to use it as a focal point to create an opportunity for the next
generation....(having said that the event I am facilitating, FRAMED, will have work from several generations - from 20 somethings to almost 60 somethings - and from students to very established -including mainstream- artists).
Without Node.London as a motivational date to work towards I would have been most unlikely with my pathetically overloaded work schedule to have had the mad idea to take on organising an event like this..... but it was too good an opportunity to resist.....
Having Node.London as a focal point has also helped in small but important ways to get support and sponsorships at a local/modest level which might have been less forthcoming without the umbrella of an official season as such.
I have not been able between Slade and my own work commitments to make a contribution to any of the VO groups (I could see how much work this must have been through the sheer volume of emails - many of which, like many on this nmc list I barely I had time to open let alone skim read - sorry!)
I did realise this early on enough to be upfront about it to tim and luci....so I am hugely grateful to them and for all the people who have managed to contribute so much time to working on this. Hence me making this small effort to pop my head above the parapet by sending this before heading for
I think Node.London has been a great opportunity! It has mobilised lots of people to find the energy and make the time to make something happen during March......
....but the true discussion and evaluation I think should take place once the event is up and running, and after, when the dust has settled, with some distance.
FRAMED 23/24/25 March 2006
Slade Research Centre, Woburn Square
Part of NODE.London
Celebrating 10 years of the Slade Centre for Electronic Media
Supported by Arts Council England
From Saul Albert:
Hi Luci, Ruth, Marc, All,
By highlighting NODE.London's funding genesis (exodus?) I was trying to counterbalance Marc's account of 'grass-roots' organising strategies. I find all of your descriptions of NODE.London to be accurate, compelling and insightful, Luci's description of the process is an especially clear summary, and the Sufi proverb hits the nail squarely on the head. I hope over the coming months, we can amass more descriptions of the beast, perform some gentle taxonomical studies on it and keep it live, happy and breeding in the wild, rather than mythologising it, or nailing it's head to a trophy-shaped board.
On Tue, Feb 14, 2006 at 01:18:44PM +0000, Luci Eyers wrote:
> >In relation to curating, this might simply be seen as an attempt at
> >control through a distributed model and one in which power is
> >expressed in more subtle forms as is the case with much of the labour
> >invested in it. [Geoff]
> I agree that curation plays an essential role in many of the
> projects, and not only institutional ones. NODE.London's Voluntary
> Organisers include as many curators as artists or activists but I
> would still argue that NODE.London as a framework is non-curatorial.
> There were no doubt differing motives for people to dedicate
> (enormous amounts of) time to developing the bigger picture. I think
> that an exploration and role in defining a context for media art
> practice now has been a shared and driving motivation. We are in a
> different position, as Marc and Simon acknowledge, to the smaller
> scene 10 years ago. I'm intrigued to see Saul describing this process
> as a curatorial activity, maybe artist-curatorial?
You make a good distinction between an overall curatorial framework, and the practice of curatorship in the project, The latter, motivated, as you say, by a desire to define context for practice, has been very present in NODE.London, giving it an unusual degree of coherence and clarity of
I think you are right that as a framework NODE.London aspires to be non-curatorial. However, a lack of an overall curatorial framework is difficult to detect. What does the lack look like? smell like? Can you definitely tell it isn't there? That's what Geoff seems to be suggesting: that hidden beneath the layers of discursive 'collaboration', a Bilderberg-like curatorial cadre lurks, subtly manipulating everything into position. Explanations of processes, minutes of meetings, constitutions and sworn testimonies can't assail this overriding suspicion that there must be some kind of controlling entity guiding all this concordant-looking activity. Perhaps he's right and I just haven't been invited to the secret meetings yet.
Is this is the doubt that causes some people to shy away from NODE.London,? If so, 'protesting too much' (which is how I read Marc's first mail to this list) won't help. Projecting the complexities and
contradictions of NODE.London might begin to break down these inevitable preconceptions - which I think we are all doing now.
Of course there is always the danger of framing and re-framing a discursive process as an artwork. If we are artist-curators, is NODE.London a season of media art, or a season as media art? Possibly
both, but again, this is treacherous territory where the possibility of collaboration can be dogged - not just by plays of 'power' as control, but worse, by those of value as reputation.
On Tue, Feb 14, 2006 at 04:01:10PM +0000, Ruth Catlow wrote:
> Saul, I have to just take you up on the following point.
>> I think it will be very successful because putting aside qualitative
>> discussions about programming and politics, the primary difference
>> between NODE.London and other media arts festivals is that it has
>> managed to mobilise a *huge* amount of voluntary labour and as such
>> has been an incredibly efficient and lean festival, put on for a
>> fraction of the cost of equivalently sized events.
> If I felt that the dominant interest and interpretation of Node.London
> was as an efficient way of coordinating slave labour for the
> art-machine I think I would become quickly disillusioned. Perhaps the
> disillusionment experienced by protagonists associated with the
> previous similar projects described by Simon (hey Simon- please can you
> give us some examples) can be put down to the dominance of narrow
> transactional interpretations of what took place. I'd be interested to
> hear from people who identify themselves as "old hands" in this area of
> work. It would be good to make connections with their experiences and
> to consider what we might usefully carry forward.
I was focusing, tunnel-visioned, on NODE.London as a strategic funding experiment, which, is how Rachel Baker has been tirelessly explaining it to the Arts Council of England.
I excluded qualitative discussions that would flesh out the actual values of the project because they fell outside the remit of my extremely limited observation. I cackled when I read you pointing out that I had described NODE.London as 'efficient' - you really got me there. That's absolutely the last word I would use to describe it, if I was thinking about it in anything other than a purely fiscal context. Perhaps I should have qualified the term 'successful'. I meant that it is likely to get funded again next year. Whether it is successful on it's own terms, or in the terms of people on this list, or people who come to it, remains to be seen - and I'm absolutely bursting with excitement about finding
out in 3 weeks time.
From Marc Garrett:
Hi Saul, Susan & all,
I'm going to bed...
I will get back into the frame tomorrow - great stuff everyone, much to think about :-)
From Luci Eyers:
I think that the subject line has been particularly appropriate to the recent posts on NODE.London but something which could have been stated more clearly, and is certainly shared is that we hope that NMC listers will find a way of engaging with NODE.London during March either remotely or by getting to some of the many events throughout the month in London. You will be warmly welcome to join in.
The collective energy has been enormously positive, with a healthy dose of dissent. It's worth mentioning that open, critical discussion has been an ongoing feature of NODE.London's development process and it would be a shame to mistake critical debate for negativity. I think the reason that the discussion was initiated here (on this list) at this point was to raise awareness and to flag up some topics which do have a relevance to this list. In March NMC will be focusing on The Audio Visual, with the AV06 fest around the corner. I think that (Marc) raising NODE.London in an interventionist way now could provoke a wider look at the curatorial role within new media art festivals even if this is off topic for March.
I agree with Susan that a deconstruction should wait until we have seen and experienced NODE.London in action. Maybe this discussion should take place as part of April's Activism and Net Art Activism theme and at that point it would be great to have some contributions from the wider NMC list voices.
From Marc Garrett:
Hi Luci & all,
Thank you to everyone and NMC for being open-minded and flexible enough, to allow such a mini-discussion to suddenly break out happen here - it has been pretty dynamic for involved and those watching I hope.
Signing off and will discuss other issues according to the lists own agendas...
thanks again :-)