review Nettitudes – net art politics

By: By jussi.parikka at 27/04/2011 – 06:30

Jussi Parikka’s blog

Amsterdam based journalist and critic Josephine Bosma’s just published book Nettitudes. Let’s Talk Net Art (2011) tackles the themes of, aesthetics, politics and network culture practices in a great way. Bosma, herself very much an insider to the net art scene since its emergence in the early 1990s, is able to both give insights to the emergence of this specific way of addressing the internet cultures as a catalyzer for art, as well as critical commentary. In other words, it is not only a celebration of the phenomena but involves good analytical comments.

Bosma discusses both the wider art theory implications of the field of “net art” and the difficulties it has had with its critics (either from the too established ones in art institutions or art history, or the ones too easily taking the forms of technological art to techno-determinist and capitalist directions). From such discussions she is continues to address the wider “technology” question in terms of theoretical positions: how to think “materially”, which for her comes from such directions as Massumi , Deleuze, Simondon and the emphasis on material change, becoming and movement – hence, immanently already “political”. Sounds like “new materialism.”

A very good intro is also the categorization she offers: the five levels of code, flow, screen, matter and context, which illuminate her particular approach that has to do with the practices of net art intimately tied to the network culture. In other words, it’s not the technology which is the determining factor but the wider social field in which they are articulated. This is what she calls “net cultures” of a heterogeneous mix of significant contexts: “various academic communities, news sites, financial trading, gaming communities, hacker groups, online shops, web logs (blogs), software and hardware developers, social network sites, dating sites, porn producers and porn audiences, media activists, institutional and independent cultural platforms and anything else happening that could be disseminated via the Net.” (25). Needless to say, that is a lot.

In the projects and approaches introduced, Nettitudes is able to carve out the specific aesthetic-political attitudes that net art brings forth. It has been a testing ground for practice and theory involving the various new roles, or subject positions, emerging in network culture relating to creative (“fun”) work, active audiences, “trans-subjectivities” (Brian Holmes’ term), gender and more; it has tackled with politics of institutions and organizations in its need to also rethink the existing art and cultural ones; bodies that the various projects touch upon are hybrids and as such already border-crossings, as with Critical Art Ensemble’s bioartpolitics, or Michael Mandiberg selling his identity as part of his e-commerce project. Besides as a framework to think about cognitive capitalism, or global brand capitalism mocked by performances of Yes Men, such art projects working through the net as a context were ideal to think of cultural identities and boundaries – of access and lack of it in relation to South-America, Africa, Asia and so forth, and the intensive, imaginative ideas coming from such directions.

There is a lot of writing about these fields which overlap with for instance “software art”, but still Bosma’s book feels fresh. I was left thinking again of such notions as “speculative software”  (I/O/D) as something that feels inspiring and has a funny ring when thought in the context of later speculative realist philosophies. Such critique is involvement as execution – epistemology becoming effective, involved, as computers are: “Computers are embodied culture, hardwired epistemology” (Simon Pope and Matthew Fuller).

More info on Josephine Bosma’s book Nettitudes here.

Nettitudes is published by the Institute of Network Cultures and NAi Publishers.
Amsterdam/Rotterdam, 2011.


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