Museology &
ZKPVI - Nettime reader

Sarah Cook, On Vuk at Venice:
an Introduction to an Ongoing Discourse, May 2001

Vuk Cosic and I crossed paths (at Banff, in Liverpool) before meeting properly at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, my having recently completed an internship there in the visual arts department. I think it's important to note my time at the Walker was spent in the visual arts department and not in the "new media initiatives" department -- the one hosting the conference at which Vuk was speaking -- for it hints at my formative training, namely in allegiance to actual (rather than virtual) gallery space. A few short years have passed since that time and I am increasingly concerned with what Vuk and I casually refer to as the "museumification" of Internet and digitally-based art practices. Vuk is concerned with it as an artist and I as a curator. We both watch the trends rise and fall and the criticism and acclaim for this type of work and these sorts of shows ebb past. When the news came of Vuk's presentation at the Venice Biennial it coincided with the launch of the "Curatorial Resource for Upstart Media Bliss" -- a website and listserv I co-edit for new media curators to discuss their practice. He subsequently asked if I would compile some texts for publication in this volume that you now hold in your hands.

In keeping with the swift and ever-changing nature of the level of discourse around, we wanted texts that were current, off-the-cuff and that spoke to the problems of the institutionalization of the avant-garde without being institutional texts themselves. We decided that I would post to the CRUMB list two texts -- Lev Manovich's "The Death of Computer Art" from 1996 and Steve Dietz's "Why have there been no great net.artists?" from 1999 -- and gather the reactions, as a way of testing if those once fresh and risky bits of writing had, like itself, become part of the staid institution. In my view, the former text is about context and the latter about form. While Manovich's text contrasts the new media festival circuit with the museum world (an interesting thing to contemplate at the venerable circus that is the Venice Biennial), Dietz's text asks the questions we often ask of all new art movements. Luckily (the timing was perfect) I was also able to post the texts to a brand-new new media art criticism list, CREAM (Collaborative Research into Electronic Art Memes) edited by Josephine Bosma.

Those two texts and the results of our hasty homework assignment (with sincere gratitude for the idea to Natalie Bookchin) follow. Additionally included are other bits of writing I've generated or collected -- again from the Walker Art Center or from my current post as doctoral researcher into new media curating at the University of Sunderland in the Northeast of England. Most of these texts -- especially Steve Dietz's hypertext "Cybermuseology", a touchstone for first-time new media curators if ever there should be one -- were written for the web and meant to be read on email lists or online where links could further the directness of the content. They suffer here, certainly not from design, but from being divorced from the live space in which they usually reside. Yet I hope that in print on paper they will gain a mass and velocity that will sustain them.

Lastly, apologies in good faith to those contributors I've been unable