[NetBehaviour] NMF INTERVIEW: Jose Luis Brea.

Eduardo Navas eduardo at navasse.net
Mon Feb 13 06:51:16 CET 2006

NMF INTERVIEW: ³Jose Luis Brea. The Critic Operator of the Web 2.0?" by
Ignacio Nieto

February 12, 2006

NMF¹s contributor, Ignacio Nieto interviews José Luis Brea who was formerly
Dean of the Fine Arts Academy of Cuenca and Director of Exhibitions for the
Ministry of Culture between 1985 ­ 1988. As a free lance art critic, he is a
regular contributor to Spanish and international art magazines including
Frieze, Flash Art and Parkett. He is Spanish correspondent for Arforum and
regional editor for Rhizome. He has organized multiples exhibitions as
independent curator and has published several books including Auras Frias
and El Tercer Umbral. Currently, he is prefessor of Esthetics and Theory of
Contemporany Art at Carlos III University in Madrid, editor of the magazine
Estudios Visuales and he is director of two new online projects: salonKritik
and ::agencia crítica::
 Ignacio Nieto [IN]: With the popularization of blogs, a number of spaces
have developed which had no place within the logic of political economy;
contained and produced by media, creating a new front for ideas and critical
thinking. For you, what would be the advantages and disadvantages that blog
technology has over traditional media (newspapers, radio and television)?

José Luis Brea [JLB]: I believe that there are two fundamental advantages:
an extended possibility of access, and participation. The first is very
important, of course, because it proposes access to critical thinking that
is made available to a larger part of the population, something that was not
possible in the past (this is without exaggeration, of course, one must
never forget that the supposition of total access is an illusory fantasy‹an
interest of Capitalist ideology). Considering television and the culture of
diffusion, Bourdieu called this the ³lowering of the level² (of access).
Let¹s say that more people heard and saw‹maybe even read‹for example
philosophers; Derrida, and now Zizek, whom they would never have had heard,
seen or read before. This is much more evident with new media (especially
since the development of the web 2.0)

But for the same reason this amplification (possibility to access) would not
have an excessive importance; it would be purely quantitative, it would not
contribute without making ³more of the masses² the culture of masses, and
maybe to incorporate in it cultural objects, of the critical tradition which
before belonged to areas in culture less popular, more ³elitist² or more
reserved for specialized communities, let¹s say (for example
³deconstruction,² ³Theory of acts of speech,² or ³antagonist thinking²).
This is why I think that the quality that is important is the latter, that
which I have called ³participation.² This is something that the web 2.0 has
re-enforced a lot. Before, of course, it had already occurred that all new
media, obviously from radio to video, from ³vietnamita²[1] to photocopy or
the fanzine, and of course, the website programmed in HTML, makes possible a
certain extension of interactivity (in the construct of collective critical
thinking), related to the conversion of the spectator/reader/ receiver into
emitter. But with the emergence of the blog, forums postnuke, and phpBB,
wikis, and podcasting in general all DIY media publication has grown
exponentially, and it is there where a great leap has been produced; its
impact on the discursive field we currently entertain, (critical thinking),
necessarily is huge; and it will ultimately culminate in those diverse forms
authors call ³collective intellectualization.²

Let¹s say that all the manifestations of technologies of treatment, gesture,
diffusion, archiving, and organization of access to knowledge (not only the
tools of e-science, but also those dialogical and interactive prototypes of
the web 2.0), necessarily open and submit critical thinking to processes
much more intense and, to put it this way, frantic public contrast. The
challenge for critical thinking resides in confronting the consequences of
its new logic and its social construct.

And it is there where it should be pointed out, also, the disadvantage, the
danger, which respectively corresponds to new media: that the elusive
³lowering of the level² is not only produced in the terms mentioned above
(of more open access), but also produced as a lowering of the level for
content. Let¹s say that the public dialogue ends up converting critical
thinking into chatter, vulgarity, in an ineventual series of commonalities
badly developed and repeated from blog to blog, like echoes each time more
hollow of ideas, which in those repostings lose more and more panache and
sharpness. In my reflection on the transformation of the tools of cultural
criticism with the apparition of these new media, I dedicate an ironic post
to this question specifically titled ³Chatter² (of unquestionable
Benjamanian references, which surely some readers will recognize).


IN: Do you believe that blogs could displace ranking terms in search engines
like Google?

JLB: If I tell you the truth, I don¹t think so. I don¹t doubt that tools of
semantic articulation of content (and in some ways efficient for the
organization of searches) like Technorati or del.icio.us, or metablogs,
could serve a similar function. But, in any case, its utility would be
principally limited to the extended blogosphere, let¹s say projects specific
to the web 2.0, linked to the ³personal publication.² Regardless, there are
fundamental spaces‹all those related to science, with the tools of the web
of knowledge, with the new structure of access to the web of academic
research (with all the transformations that it is experiencing)‹that keep
needing tools of organization for navigation, to classify and search, let¹s
say. On one side, it is evident that this have not been developed
autonomously (for instance, there is no search engine for the ³web of
knowledge,² at the periphery of the search engines proper of databases for
specific data, for example ISI Thompson), and on another side, search
engines like Google do not stop attending also to those necessary searches.
I want to say that at the same time that projects are developed, like
Blogger, also they place in effect the digitalization of great libraries.
Or, let¹s say, that they attend the development of the web of ³publication
of personal e-culture² as well as the re-conversion and turnaround of the
web of ³high cultural research² and ³academic culture² linked to the
development of e-science (I choose general terminology and I use it in an
imprecise way, because after all, this is all about trying to understand my
response in relation to your question and up to what point I think that the
development of those proper mechanisms of the ³web of collective intellect²
does not cover aspects of change for which old search engines are still

IN: The blogs that work like editors/directors (Salonkritik and Agencia
Critica) posses different directions, but they have various areas in common;
from the design to the technology that supports them, onto the concept that
validates them: criticism. Could you explain the genesis of each of these

JLB: Of course you are right about both things. It is obvious that they have
a lot in common: mainly on a formal level and on their development, which
come from the same hand; our team is very small  ­and I also confess to you
that all the programming and maintenance is done by myself; I do not want,
nor can I lose too much time in researching technical questions (nor
obviously in design), beyond of what is strictly necessary for the final
development of specific projects, logically; even though, in any case, we
dispose effectively of all kinds of tools‹from wikis to systems of
podcasting, forums with postnuke or our own blogs running on MT or
Wordpress, and all on our own server, which allows us to launch a new
project that we find interesting in a matter of hours.

Regarding content and objectives, the two blogs are truly different.
SalonKritik basically is a resource of art criticism which is published in
Spain, without much pretension other than to align (therefore open to other
publics, at the same time and potentially to other debates) something that
at a moment occurs only in one medium that simultaneously is elitist and
functions very corruptly in Spain like a tool of power, which is the
³cultural supplement.² Let¹s say that salonKritik tries to destabilize a bit
the supplemental economy of authority. Open it to other dynamics (even
though I have to admit that the success that we have achieved with this
project is not reason to launch fireworks), to enable the publication of
visions and perspectives that are not published in that media, to which
people can answerŠ ultimately, to validate justly those other qualities that
we know new media have in relation to old media specifically in diffusion,
contrast, and participation in the construction of critical thought.

Regarding La Agencia, it is a more modest and ambitious project. More modest
in the sense, I suppose, that it would interest a smaller audience, but
which is more ambitious when aiming to make public something that did not
exist, and which, in my opinion, tainted the cultural landscape in Spain,
which is the critique of artistic and cultural politics. There is Art
criticism (quite a bit, which is not very good, of course, but very common)
but in contrast there is not a lot of criticism about politics of art. And,
well, more specifically that is the objective of the Agencia Crítica.

The main problem that I encountered with La Agencia, is solitude (I don¹t
know if this is as a forward or a goalie before a penalty, to tell you the
truth), although it is true that with time la Agencia receives more
collaborations by diverse people, which is what I believe would make it more
interesting: that it could cover the most expansive set of multiple points
of view; as different as possible. In any case, la Agencia has little time
online still, and I am confident that little by little, the number of
collaborators that want to participate will grow.

IN: A last question: Tell me about your new book?

JLB: Well, I have a couple of years working on it. The dense nucleus is a
chapter titled ³e-ck: Electronic Cultural Capitalism² which in reality I
considered finished two years ago. It basically deals with the process of
transformation of Capitalism in which the accumulation of capital is
centered mainly on the processes of symbolic and cultural production, and
all of the multiplicity of consequences that it has, including in the new
political economy of societies of knowledge, as well as the critical
position found within these cultural practices.

In any case, the title that the book will have is not that one (of
Electronic Cultural Capitalism) but of ³Cultura_RAM,² since other previous
chapters have focused each time on such conundrum, specifically, of
characteristic transformation of cultural practices (and its rules of
production, distribution and archiving: there you have the concept of RAM
like a new form of characteristic memorization) and the models of production
and forms of knowledge, from the university, the museum, to criticismŠ Some
of the texts included, as it always happens with books, have been previously
published and distributed online‹for example that one on criticism of art,
which is the one I referred to above‹but many others for now have not been
edited. I am definitely finishing the book during the next few weeks, and I
hope to send it for publication very soon.

(1) Vietnamita: Spanish colloquial term given to ³do it your self² offset
machines that were used by the anti-Franco resistance to print pamphlets.

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