DIWO on CRUMB

Sarah Cook, one of the moderators of the CRUMB New Media Curating email list has invited DIWOists to share some reflections on the project.. here's our thread thus far...

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>>Sarah cook wrote:

In the meantime, perhaps someone from http can tell us how the
opening of Do It With Others (Open Curation) went last night? I am
curious about this model of exhibition making - where subscribers
have a say (a bit like fans being asked to program the next All
Tomorrow's Parties festival?) - does collaborative filtering create
interesting results?

>>Marc Garrett wrote:

Thank you for offering us the space to put across a context regarding
Furtherfield's/HTTP's latest project 'DIWO'. Some on here may already
know of the opening that was last night and, I know a few were actually
present as well.

It just so happens that I was writing a report about it for the
Netbehaviour list. So pending my own recovery rate after celebrations
last night. I will attempt to share some of the principles, concepts,
ideas and approaches of where we are coming from in respect of the
processes and experiences of the curation, collaboration, and the
exhibiting of such works etc...

In the meantime, if there any questions about it, feel free ask :-)

Here is link to the HTTP page/press release:
http://www.http.uk.net/docs/exhib12/exhibitions12.shtml

marc

>>Ruth Catlow wrote:

Hi Sarah,

Thanks for your interest in our Do It With Others (DIWO) E-Mail-Art
project at HTTP.

re: subscribers having their say
I will have a shot at addressing your question. Obviously we have
thought a lot about these things, but we are certainly also working
things out as we go; ) so...

I guess the thing to note in this context is that we initiated the
(DIWO) E-Mail-Art project so that "subscribers" to the NetBehaviour
email list and the technologies they deploy are ALL artistic
contributors to the project. Not sure I've identified ANY "fans" as
yet; ))) The idea deliberately draws on the tradition of earlier Mail
Art exhibitions in that the project started with an open-call and
every post to the list, between 1st February and 1st April, is
considered a work - or part of a larger, collaboratively created
artwork. I can even imagine arguing that lurkers are also
contributors. It's certainly true that the contributor:lurker ratio
on the list has gone up from approx 1:25 (through January) to 1:4
(through February).

Historically Mail Art has a difficult relation to the old question
about whether it belongs in a gallery (obvious eg Ray Johnson's "Dear
Whitney Museum I hate you" mail art). What we try to explore and give
room to in this approach to curating is a more dynamic and maleable
context for the work. At HTTP we are in the fortunate position to be
able to give space to this approach because of our relative
informality, autonomy and independence, a decent-enough technical
resource and our small but enthusiastic and broadly-skilled team of
artist/producers and (for the time-being) curious and engaged
visitors. Of course lots of people are not interested in all these
different parts of the process. Many contributors prefer to leave the
issues surrounding the display and dissemination of their artwork to
others. But one of the reasons we chose to focus on the Mail Art
theme was because of its reflexive nature. It considers all aspects
of the artwork's passage through existing communication channels
(through time and space) to the recipient(s) as contributing to the
raison d'etre of the work. This is interesting to us as artists.

One danger that I can see of this approach of focusing on the
curation and protocols of selection (especially with the current
hoopla surrounding the so called democratisation of culture laid at
the feet of networked tech) is that other aspects of the work can
begin to be overshadowed. I'm not sure that many of the visitors to
our (un)private view on Thursday evening were so interested in these
issues or even in the particular technologies used. What seemed to
grab people was the dynamic transformation and repositioning of
materials and ideas as they flowed between approx 90 contributors.

The exhibition consists of "Threads" (series that directly involved
mixing and dialogue, action and response) and "Streams" (of images,
texts, movies instructions etc by single contributors) in print,
sound, html, movie and text . Also a couple of installation works
devised especially for the space. This was all argued and bashed out
during our Sunday afternoon open-curating event. All submissions were
sorted and categorised and displayed within a mailbox that was
available for visitors to explore and redistribute (by clicking
'Forward Mail' ; )

Here are some pics (lots more to the website soon).

Installation shot from early in the evening- Showing some printed
"Threads" and "Streams" http://www.netbehaviour.org/pipermail/
netbehaviour/attachments/20070302/c6b0110f/DIWO2.jpg http://
www.netbehaviour.org/pipermail/netbehaviour/attachments/20070302/
c6e6284c/DIWO8.jpg

Sim Gishel's 'Will Work For Food' - Vehicle drawing over an image of
Marx's Grave in London http://www.netbehaviour.org/pipermail/
netbehaviour/attachments/20070302/c6b0110f/DIWO1.jpg

Projection of 'The Wreckers' a drawing produced within Dave Miller's
online collaborative drawing software- being viewed by a visitor via
the DIWO mailbox http://www.netbehaviour.org/pipermail/netbehaviour/
attachments/20070302/c6e6284c/DIWO9.jpg

From my perspective as a subscriber to NetBehaviour email list I
find the process fascinating, informative, amusing and constantly
surprising.

cheers!
Ruth

>>Lauren A Wright (that's me!) wrote:

Hello List!

I'm Lauren Wright, another member of the Furtherfield crew and a long-time lurker on this list. I'd just like to add a bit to some of the things Ruth mentioned in her mail about our DIWO project:

> I can even imagine arguing that lurkers are also
> contributors.

I think I'll go ahead and do that.. Thanks Ruth! I certainly think lurkers were contributors to this project if not quite as "much" as the active participants (if one can evaluate "much" in a context like this.. I don't really think so) than at least in an important way, the precise value of which is difficult to evaluate because, of course, they're not making it obvious to us! However, I think it's important in a context like this to be careful about evaluating the level of engagement on the part of audience members in terms of their "visible" contribution (though I appreciate how this point is arguable), simply because lurkers like participants stand to gain and indeed contribute quite a lot, though in different ways. For instance, at the (u)pv on Thursday, I spoke to several lurkers or semi-lurkers who may not have contributed at all, or contributed maybe one small thing, but were completely aware and "engaged" with what had taken place on the list so far. And indeed, they had shared it with others through other "media" (good ol' word-of-mouth), getting a conversation going that we may not be privy to, but which I personally (and I think other Furtherfielders are likely to agree) value quite a lot. Which leads me to another thing Ruth mentioned...

> Of course lots of people are not interested in all these
> different parts of the process. Many contributors prefer to leave the
> issues surrounding the display and dissemination of their artwork to
> others.

This for me was one of the most interesting aspects of the project, especially from a curatorial perspective. There were many participants (90ish in all) who sent work along, some in quite large quantities, but there were fewer who participated in the open curatorial event than we expected. This probably has a certain degree to do with the fact that it was a Sunday, etc., but also I think it does reflect a hesitation on the part of participants to contribute to the way the work was displayed. We were a bit surprised by this, but on reflection, it's actually not so surprising. A few weeks ago I went to a panel discussion about " and curation, and there was some discussion of the more open-ended or participative approaches to curation that such media enable. In a discussion afterward, someone commented that while these reorientations of the roles of artist, audience, and curator can have very interesting results, mightn't they risk putting curators out of a job? I didn't see the big problem with that (I don't think it's really that likely, for better or worse!), but actually this project has shown me that the roles aren't quite as interchangeable as some of us might think. We had some debate chez FF about whether people who hadn't participated in the project thus far should be encouraged to participate in the curation. I thought definitely yes, precisely for the reason that just as not all artists want to be curators, not all curators want to be artists. To my knowledge, there weren't tons of "curators" contributing stuff to the list, just as there weren't tons of "artists" participating in the curating (though the perspective of those who did certainly added an invaluable perspective). Perhaps it's not that surprising, and maybe it even shows us what makes organisations like Furtherfield and others run by artists unique and valuable.

But as Ruth raised, what difference does it make to the audience? Without getting off the plot with too much theory, I'd like to mention in closing something I read today while PhD'ing... Been reading Walter Benjamin on Brecht... And he writes in "What is Epic Theatre?" of how Brecht's art form encourages the "false and deceptive totality called 'audience'" to disintegrate and for audience members to realign themselves according to their interests in reality. I think that's what we're seeing here... Brecht's theatre encourages a kind of participation on the part of the audience where the relations between performers and audience are reconfigured.. Certainly that's what this project (like so many other genuinely participative practices) encourages, and the result is that the unmoored audience establishes multiple kinds of new relations between themselves and the "performance" or the collaborative project, in our case. So while we would have perhaps hoped for more active participation and "genuine" collaboration between audience/producers, we should also find the unexpected ways they did and didn't respond just as interesting, I think.

Ok that's enough verbosity from me.. Though I will say the project's still going, so if any of you want to get involved, please do! Just subscribe to the NetBehaviour list and go from there.. Will be interesting to see what happens over the next month after this bit of "reflection" around the installation and opening of the show. I look forward to hearing others' opinions/reflections/impressions (oops.. I've just seen Patrick's email.. Not sure I've got too much more intelligence left in me, but I'm sure others will :))

All best
law