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Thoughts about my attitude towards the serverfestival

18 February, 2002

I am sorry I have to write this in English even if those for whom this text may be primarily intended would have an easier job reading it in German. Maybe I prefer the foreign language as a means of looking more freely at a rather complex muddle of feelings, intentions and numbed strategies.

This is is an attempt to clarify my interest and simultaneous fatigue regarding the planned Servervestival (explained further down)

The adressees are mainly (in alphabetical order):

(List of Serverfestival participants)

The concept of art as dialogue, conversation, approaching the Other, interactive, open-ended process without marketable end product was where I once tried to situate my artistic practice. It was a discovery for me at the end of the eighties - not so much through catching up with art history (I was very lazy in that respect then) but by way of reinterpreting, modifying, perhaps nobilitating an intermittent practice (of drawing, writing, film-making etc) which had so far been contenty ploughing on regardless of Other or community.

This earlier practice had been blindly supposing an interested audience without much effort at ascertaining through acts of exposure or performance the actual degree of interest in its results. I didn't want to know who liked or disliked or got bored by what I did. Or I did of course, but preferred not to find out. It was simply a form of self-protection against the risk of getting insulted by a supposedly hostile and ignorant public.

Such self-protection can never be really justified. The new 'dialogical' practice produced something called 'Schwamm', involved contributors more or less coerced to contribute, and took place in HyperCard. The WWW was just about to emerge at that time as a tool and platform beyond science and the military. Now of course it is the core technology, but many of the issues were same with earlier interactive tools, especially the social aspect of the art practice: how does it create its definitions, settings, and time (time taken away from being with others)? In this period, the timid and at the same time self-focused and somewhat ignorant attitude gave way to an insistence on exchange, input by others, attempts at recording and analysing the context of production.

Then this ended, as I was confronted with the cutting accusation that the constant recursive mapping and reflection of the process in a seemingly radical and self-questioning fashion was a way of avoiding first level practice, the straight interaction outside the setting of artistic practice. Relentlessly feeding expressions of growing irritation into the stream of writing-up, of carry-on, was simply termed denial. The stream of this practice promised to include and digest anything, everything. The idea had been that through recursion, by turning the conflict onto itself, it would be sublated and transcended. It was the phantom of a production which would be better than life because it promised to include life plus what might now be called the 'added value' of rendering it (and rendering the rendering process) in some retrievable, intelligible, pointed way. Inversely, the high value attributed to such practice seemed to mark the first level practice as bland, as mere source material. Of course this is an old conflict, well known from writers' typical conflicts with spouses in broadway plays. Why did this arrangement appeal to me so much? Would such constellation be likely to recur in the context of the Serverfestival?

A confrontation with two of the victims of the 'dialogical practice' finally brought it down. Nothing took its place for years. Then came painful and pained, impossible, twarted and embarrassing attempts at writing. Weblogging brought back some fluidity and reflection, "Secret ballet" a feeling of purpose and a ridiculously monumental task.

Now I have been at a preparatory meeting for the Serverfestival ( I readily admit I keep disliking the term). The Serverfestival intends to bring together, and find ways of meaningfully linking, diverse events in different cities (formats may include streaming, interactive mixing of streams, chats of which some may include images, weblogs, pages, or collaborative editing environments, live meetings, happenings, interviews or other events, webcam streams of such events, remixed or used as source material by other activities, etc). Is it telling that I list media / formats before mentioning any topics for discussion or areas of content? May be not. Some content has been moted, and much of it will again be self-reflexive, trying to evaluate one's own practice as we did ten or twelve years ago. I suggested covering the link between work for money and artistic practice, linked to the art market and one's own bearings within or outside of it, the set of often conflicting aspirations and strategies (the open strategies and the hidden strategies), the benchmarks of shame and dissolution. It is the area I find most rewarding but of course also very difficult to handle, if you dont want to fall into the trap of writing your own dire sociology or lose the agility of one's practice in the process of describing or dissecting it.

So the result of this meeting is that I still have no idea whether I want to be part of such activities. I sympathise somehow, because the issues of collaboration and relating of diverse practices seem so familiar and at the same time so difficult to solve. On the other hand, I am tired, I feel an almost physical exhaustion even when starting to think about all this. Surprsing perhaps then that this text has gotten so long.

Note February 2005: I decided not to take part in the Serverfestival

For a related text, see Sketch of a critique of conversational art

Last update: 19 April 2005 | Impressum—Imprint