00. Curediting: Translational Online Work

Sabine Hochrieser, Michael Kargl & Franz Thalmair

Vague Terrain 11: Curediting

'What is a curator?' It is a question that doesn't make sense, because the curator is not something; the curator does something.1

Cultural production and meta-discoursive activities on the Internet have been expanded to use the online medium as exhibition space, distribution platform and social aggregator. Accordingly its practitioners have been characterised as context producers, community enablers and whatever further term may specify the various tasks of an online curator. Since the first wave of net.art2 the Internet has come a long way and so have the curatorial activities concerned with it. Many of the early enthusiastic ideas developed to draw multifaceted images of possible digital worlds are still utopian, many of them are outdated, but, some have successfully flourished and a driving force of present web-culture is the idea of social networking.

This final direction has been central to the debate around cultural activities in general and has re-enforced the idea of curating on the Internet within the context of "a community-based narrative of everyday life".3 Web 2.0, or what nowadays is commonly described as an accumulation of technologies which "enhance creativity, information sharing, and, most notably, collaboration among users"4, has shifted the focus of attention from a more traditional, consumption-oriented content to a rather autonomous and socially driven system of production. Nevertheless, these platforms "are not just products but also services, watched and updated according to the constant dictates of their makers and those who can pressure them."5 Despite the criticism against the ongoing commercialisation of those technological systems and bearing in mind that its users may be reduced to the role of consumers constrained by pre-designed templates, the discourse—which itself is mainly based upon language, text and talk—can be viewed as a form of broader social practice which has made possible that "acts, ideas and products are authorised and made credible through processes of mediation and communicative exchange".6 As a consequence, within this system of legitimisation, the person of the curator is more than an expert of display, modelling the reception and interpretation of art; the curator may be a "global collaborator in art's social relations"7 who is not only responsible for the linkage of the protagonists of the art field but—especially within the context of (New) Media and Internet-based Art—for the conjunction of different cultural and artistic disciplines.

Within the framework of discursive strategies the curation of Internet-based Art, online as well as offline, can be specified as translational work. The transfer of structures, meaning and (personal) experiences into documentary, mediative and distributive formats is one of the core activities of the curator and often bound to the production of written documents: the mobilisation of participants through invitation mails, calls for papers, and the creation of temporary discursive and/or dialogical situations are only some parts of the work of a curator, as are the visualisation of processes and workflows by means of online publishing systems, the collecting of contextual information about artworks, the inventing or re-using of taxonomies or even—on a more basic level—the writing of code for the display and visual representation of an online exhibition. Unlike the working conditions of a traditional curator, the curator of Internet-based Art is working in and within the same medium as the artist which brings us inevitably to the consequence that curating can be "an adaptive discipline, using and adopting inherited codes and rules of behaviour."8

Those explanative, meditative and finally translational strategies of re-shaping are also meant to be forms of visualising power structures and the role of Internet-based Art within the global processes of political and economical relevance. "The fact that the world around us is increasingly programmed means that rules, conventions and relationships, which are usually subject to change and negotiation, are translated into software, where they become fixed. (...) This withdrawal beyond the reach of vision and perception, the world is secretly and eerily made to vanish by means of software also entails a dematerialisation of structures."9

Translation, brought up on a global level by the proclamation of a "translational turn"10 within Cultural Studies and other disciplines, is a helpful metaphor to describe the task of the curator. But, even if the concept of cultural translation, as understood and widely used today, has arisen out of the criticism of linguistic/literary theory, Walter Benjamin's articulations in his seminal essay The task of the translator11 can be applied to the field of (New) Media and Internet-based Art and brought back to the curator's daily work with texts. This inter-dependency illustrates

the relation between the so-called original and translation by using the metaphor of a tangent: translation is like a tangent, which touches the circle (i.e. the original) in one single point only to follow thereafter its own way. Neither the original nor the translation, neither the language of the original nor the language of the translation are fixed and persisting categories. They don't have essential quality and are constantly transformed in space and time.12

Starting from this point of view, the goal of the present project by CONT3XT.NET—kindly hosted by the online journal Vague Terrain—is to access what can be understood as translational work within the context of Internet-based Art. There is also a desire to create a "screenshot" of actual tendencies within curatorial and editorial models: artistic creation and the processes of its re-formulation within different presentational contexts are brought together under the label CUREDITING, a hybrid between the two concepts of "curating" and "editing". To do justice to this topic the broad range of material is organised such that it can be seen as loosely divided into three parts, each of those subtopics illustrated by several positions and bound back to the initial starting point of translation.

The collection of essays starts with a focus on different curatorial models: In her essay Experiments in (Social) Software Curating: Reprogramming Curatorial Practice for Networks the developer of Kurator.org, Joasia Krysa, explores the various forms of creating or using software for the presentation of Software-based Art and thereby draws a historical line from the early beginnings to newer curatorial developments in the context of Information Technologies. The interview entitled Radio Killed the Video Star: Curating by Performing outlines the curatorial approach to audio-work and performance within the framework of a project realised by the Mexico-based curatorial collective Laboratorio 060. In the same way its members Lourdes Morales, Javier Toscano, and Daniela Wolf, visualise their role as mediators for mass distribution, Annette Finnsdottir writes about her role of being a curator of moving images in a networked environment in the essay Curating Moving Images—Netfilmmakers.dk. Thereby the initiative Netfilmmakers understands itself as an open questioning and response feedback loop through the Internet. The essay Web 2.0 and "looping-passing" Curatorship by Eva Moraga reflects the architecture and the infrastructure of the buzzword Web 2.0 and concludes the series of special focuses on online curating.

In the middle section of the online publication, Beryl Graham and Verina Gfader present edited excerpts from Writing about the ephemeral ..., a topic discussed at the CRUMB-mailinglist in February 2008. Their collection of statements, re-organised under the title Curator as editor, translator or god?, concerns the ephemerality of writing itself and faces the editor with his dominant role as an analyst and organiser. Furthermore Greg J. Smith and Neil Wiernik talk about their ways of posing problems as online publishers at the intersection of editing and curating. Similar the strategies brought in by the two operators and providers of the platform Vague Terrain with their conversation entitled In Retrospect: Curediting Reflections & Dissections, Ela Kagel and Ursula Endlicher apply the format of their collaboratively and dialogically run blog Curating NetArt to the idea of curating as a performative event, adding sequentially new statements about Dialogues—Translations—Performances. The Berlin and New York-based collaborators reflect their own work as artists, networkers and digital media producers. In the essay For What and For Whom? Michelle Kasprzak, author of curating.info, takes the rise of online group curating as the point of departure for reflections about intentions behind curatorial and editorial tasks and leads into the third and final part of the online journal.

Finally, Marc Garrett and Ruth Catlow from the platform Furtherfield.org, are concerned with Do It With Others (DIWO)—E-Mail Art in Context, a collaborative curatorial model developed on the discussion list NetBehaviour in 2007 and brought into real space by appropriating the playful DIY-ethos of early Internet Art practices at the HTTP-Gallery in London. Complementarily, Geoff Cox's essay Antisocial Applications: Notes in Support of Antisocial Notworking—originally accompanying a database and repository of New Media Art curated by the artist and New Media scholar for the Arnolfini Center in Bristol—draws attention to how the production of non-antagonistic social relations has become central to economic production and social control. In Webcra.sh Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans, better known as Jodi.org, exemplify their working strategies and methods in the 2008 exhibition Webcra.sh/2800 shown in Dordrecht (Netherlands) where the artists "installed a programm" in real space by reducing the exhibition display to one single format: the link, thought as the central means of Internet-based Art. Finally, Domenico Quaranta's essay Lost in Translation. Or, bringing Net Art to another Place – pardon, Context is arranged in counterpoint to the different approaches of online curating and the transfer of Internet-based Art into real space. He reflects upon the topic of translation by bringing Internet-base Art works into the physical arena and by characterising the concept of translation as a key role on both sides: "The first looks at translating curatorial practice into forms suitable for the Web, while the second regards translating works that exist on the Net into forms that are practicable in the real world." The publication is completed by a Bibliography: Curating (New) Media and Internet-based Art, a list of online available texts, essays and books which all served as information spaces for editing the present online journal.

Vague Terrain 11: Curediting Table of Contents

CONT3XT.NET (Sabine Hochrieser, Michael Kargl, Franz Thalmair), Vienna
September 2008


1 Andreasen, Soren / Larsen, Lars Bang: The Middleman: Beginning to Think About Mediation. in: O'Neill, Paul (Ed.): Curating Subjects. Amsterdam: De Appel, Centre for Contemporary Art. 2007. 20-30
2 This first wave of people working during the 1990s is centered around the names Cosic, Shulgin, Jodi.org, Bunting and Lialina. (Green, Rachel: Internet Art. London: Thames & Hudson. 2004. p.55)
3 Ault, Julie: Three Snapshots from the Eighties: On Group Material. in: O'Neill, Paul (Ed.): Curating Subjects. Amsterdam: De Appel, Centre for Contemporary Art. 2007. 31-38.
4 Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0
5 Zittrain, Jonathan L.: The Future of the Internet—And How to Stop It. Yale: Yale University Press. 2008. [This book is available online: http://yupnet.org/zittrain/archives/6]
6 Andreasen, Soren / Larsen, Lars Bang: The Middleman: Beginning to Think About Mediation. in: O'Neill, Paul (Ed.): Curating Subjects. Amsterdam: De Appel, Centre for Contemporary Art. 2007. 20-30
7 O'Neill, Paul / Fletcher, Annie: Introduction: Paul O'Neill interviewed by Annie Fletcher. in: O'Neill, Paul (Ed.): Curating Subjects. Amsterdam: De Appel, Centre for Contemporary Art. 2007. 109-122.
8 ibid.
9 Arns, Inke: The Serpent's Coil. Minoritarian Tactics in the Age of Transparency. in: Kastner, Jens / Spörr, Bettina (Eds.): cannot do everything. Civil and social disobedience at the interfaces between art, radical politics, and technology. M?nster: Unrast-Verlag. 2008. 131-143 (133)
10 cf. Bachmann-Medick, Doris: Translational Turn. in: Bachmann-Medick, Doris: Cultural Turns. Neuorientierungen in den Kulturwissenschaften. Reinbeck bei Hamburg: Rowohlt. 2006. 238-284
11 Benjamin, Walter: Charles Baudelaire, Tableaux parisiens. Die Aufgabe des Übersetzers. In: ibid. Gesammelte Schriften. Bd. IV/1, Suhrkamp. Frankfurt/Main 1972
12 Buden, Boris: Cultural Translation: Why it is important and where to start with it. Vienna: eipcp - european institute for progressive cultural policies. 2006, http://translate.eipcp.net/transversal/0606/buden/en