■ Susan Hazen 's comment
"'what is the use of a book,' thought Alice, 'without pictures or conversations?'" Chapter 1, pg. 1 (Alice in Wonderland)
With an impressive list of over a hundred web projects to think about, the first step was to work out the indicators of what makes a web project exemplary. The scope of the projects was remarkable, and the ping-pong e-conversation with my colleagues illuminating – but, ultimately, our goal was not simply to be dazzled by the wealth of e-creativity, but to determine what made certain projects a cut above the others. My own indicators drew on the name ::netarts.org.2005:: which meant, that firstly, I sought out those works, that, not only thrived on the net, but like a fish out of water, I tried to identify those works that clearly couldn’t 'live' outside of the net. The second indicator was determined by the term 'arts', and, in fact, many of the projects we viewed could have been just as easily located outside of the parameters, of what could be described as 'art', as could have been located within. However, even after this mental sieving, there was still an extremely wide berth, but, never the less a defining framework that could then reject the non-art with impunity. My third parameter was defined by the realisation that we were already nearly six years into the new millennium. This has been an extraordinary period for artists who have drawn from the net, not only as a site of production, but also to gather the raw material to augment their palette. On reflection, a whole lot of netart has been around now for more than a decade – a lifetime of every icon, extra ears, and absolute [net] art. And… finally… after my own lifetime in the non profit sector, I felt most at home with the 'org' category … this, I thought to myself must be the easy part …… until I tried to apply my own convictions to the process at hand … a process of course, that turned out to be not quite as easy at it had seemed.
The prize-winning work, which we all ultimately agreed on, ::onewordmovie:: undoubtedly demonstrated all these qualities. It was fresh, highly creative in a self-determined sort of way, and definitely not for profit. With all these markers already notched up to its credit, it passed its net validity-test with flying colours, for clearly, and, perhaps, most critically, ::onewordmovie:: was not just at home online, but could not possibly exist outside of the net. Like many of its pre-cursors – I/O/D's 1994 Webstalker, Mark Napier's 1998 Shredder, and Mark Daggett's 2001 Browser Gestures, this was art that not only thrived on the net, but actively depended on the net for its sustenance! And this was not just a quiet snack between meals, but a virtual feeding frenzy – a total simulacrum that not only outsourced everyone else's images for nourishment, but didn't even exert itself in determining any particular thematic direction while doing so. The critical intervention, that determined the content was, in fact, left entirely up to me and to you! Luckily for us, it doesn’t take much effort on our part, and, like a child, too lazy to do her own homework even on Google, ::onewordmovie:: steps in and does the homework for you. Typing in the term 'Minerva' I let ::onewordmovie:: created my very own collage of Minerva imagery, slicing them into a fascinating series of limousines, goddesses, an inexplicable number of Maggie Smiths in different photo-ops, some gorgeous flowers that resembled dahlias and several photos taken at conferences. I don’t know if you have ever Googled yourselves - I have to admit that I have done so in the not so distant past - but try entering your own name in ::onewordmovie:: and, thanks to the artists Beat Brogle & Philippe Zimmermann, your self-image will never be quite the same!
We extended our feeding frenzy fascination to ::gwei:: (Google Will Eat Itself) – this time the work fed off the net's commercial underbelly of advertising, sponsorship and economic determination through page views. Urging us all to become users (clickers) ::gwei:: is a mechanism that generates a revenue source through self-promotion on hidden web-sites and their own site GWEI.org, which is then automatically recycled into shares in Google. It seems that, unlike other net-based advertising streams that we might, or might not visit as we surf along, we can all benefit from the returns of this click-driven economic model. According to the artists, Alessandro Ludovico and Paolo Cirio, ::gwei:: then distributes the takings back to the users/clickers/public, deftly recycling the revenue, via their Swiss e-banking account, into the common ownership of "our" Google Shares to the GTTP Ltd. [Google To The People Public Company]. Highlighting the discursive mechanisms that derives profit from online advertising, this project succinctly hones into those net articulations that currently not only pervade, but also direct the net through advertising, sponsorship and product placement. Google Will Eat Itself is somewhat reminiscent of Berlin-based artist Maria Eichhorn's work which was exhibited as a Public Limited Company at Documenta 11 in 2002. Eichhom's company was directed in more ways than one by Okwui Enwezor, the exhibition curator, with shares at one Euro each and a mandate to be a properly incorporated company that makes no profit. In the case of ::gwei:: however, the project is open to all, and in its online articulation ::gwei:: is a truly networthy enterprise.
My personal favourite of all the list, and now selected as a runner up, is the ::notsosimplefragilecircus::. Perhaps it is because of my Monty Python upbringing, or possibly because of a fascination with the surreal that I first encountered in Alice in Wonderland, that I sense that this work seems to resonate with an eerie and so very fragile recollection of childhood. One almost feels like applauding as the curtain falls between one scene and the next at this not so simple circus – each act appearing as chilling as it is fascinating. This circus's protagonists - the not so very nice creatures that are set on this particular stage - beguile us to move through the narrative in a series of intrepid clicks. We don’t know what the next scene will depict, but what we do know is, that we are not going to miss a single act of the circus.
I would like to honourably mention one more project - ::confluence.org:: - which for me represents a fascinating performance work, with a truly global reach. According to Alex Jarrett, the force behind ::confluence.org::, the goal of the project is to visit a specific confluence, and to document each location. Now, of course you are wondering what on earth a confluence is –anyway I did. Evidently, a confluence is each of the latitude and longitude integer degree intersections, and not unsurprisingly – they are located all over the world; granting everyone on this planet an equal opportunity to upload a photograph and a story relating to their very own confluence. More poetically, a confluence is defined by Jarrett as ' as a flowing together; a meeting place (often of rivers).' The images are consequently posted on the website, together with the personal stories of those modest witnesses of a specific confluence. Jarrett instigated the world-wide challenge in February 1996, because, accordingly, he 'liked the idea of visiting a location represented by a round number such as 43°00'00"N 72°00'00"W. What would be there?' He asks – 'Would other people have recognized this as a unique spot?' Evidently there are some 64,442 latitude and longitude degree intersections in the world, which means that are plenty to go round for everyone; anyone with a standard civilian GPS that is! I personally support their online reminder, and would like to repeat here, when you go out there hunting your own confluence - "Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints". In spite of a creative, and cumulative act that sets out an agenda to leave no physical trace, what I identify here as of aesthetic interest for this exhibition is the impressive footprint this project leaves on the net.
"'Begin at the beginning,' the King said, very gravely, 'and go on till you come to the end: then stop.'" Chapter 12, pg. 81 (Alice in Wonderland).