[NetBehaviour] Discussion on Netbehaviour about NODE.London

furtherfield info at furtherfield.org
Sun Feb 19 17:23:19 CET 2006


Discussion about NODE.London from the New Media Curating List.

 From 13/02/06 – 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.

Thanks

marc & ruth...

Please feel free to read and get more involved in the discussion!
------------

FirstThread:

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.

marc garrett

The new NODE.London site:
http://nodel.org/

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.

_______________next>

 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 ;)

Best

Simon

Simon Biggs
simon at littlepig.org.uk
http://www.littlepig.org.uk/

Professor, Art and Design Research Centre
Sheffield Hallam University, UK
http://www.shu.ac.uk/schools/cs/cri/adrc/research2/

_______________next>

 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...

Geoff Cox

_______________next>

 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 – 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.

Cheers,

Saul.
_______________next>

 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]

best wishes,
Luci

_______________next>

 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?

best wishes

Patrick Simons.

_______________next>

 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
 >artists?

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.

marc
_______________next>

 From Marc Garrett::

Hi Geoff,

 >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:
http://nodel.org/october.php

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.

marc
_______________next>

 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,

Jemima
_______________next>

 From Ruth Catlow:

Hi All,

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.

cheers
Ruth

_______________next>

 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...

marc

_______________next>

 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?

Yours,
Marcia Tanner
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
US: The End of the Internet
by Jeffrey Chester, The Nation
February 6th, 2006
http://corpwatch.org/article.php?id=13245

_______________next>

 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
story.."

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 night’s exploration. One starts 
saying “…and what about that great beast we came across in the darkest 
part of the Jungle? It was like a massive, rough wall.” The others look 
perplexed. “No it wasn’t!” says one, “It was some kind of python”. 
“Yeah…” another half-agrees, “…but it also had powerful wings”. The 
shortest of the group looks bemused- “well it felt like a tree trunk to me.”

"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?

....that allowed
 >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.

Very interesting...

marc

_______________next>

 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
bed!

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.

Susan

--
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

http://www.scemfa.org
http://www.nodel.org

Supported by Arts Council England

_______________next>

 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
programming.

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.

X

Saul.

_______________next>

 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 :-)

marc
_______________next>

 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.

best wishes,
Luci

http://www.nodel.org
_______________next>

 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 :-)

marc

_______________next>

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