- Mobile Performance
- Electric Speed
- Schematic as Score
- (Re)purposed Clothes
- Collaborative Spaces
- Device Art
- Digital Dub
- Rise of the VJ
- Sample Culture
By Marc Garrett & Ruth Catlow
In February 2007 Furtherfield.org1 initiated the Do It With Others (DIWO) E-mail Art Exhibition that opened at HTTP Gallery2, London in March 2007. This short essay accompanies the Networks and Narratives exhibition for the Networks of Design conference at University College Falmouth and the production of the DIWO mailbox; a complete archive of the project for exhibiting, viewing and redistribution within an email inbox.3 To introduce the project we have gathered together and re-edited various statements and discussions from a number of mailing lists. We also give an account of the experimental networked co-curatorial process and an introductory guide to some of the threads, streams, experiences and debates generated as part of this project. We think about how the relational mess, partiality and complexity of networked behaviour generated by this media art project are distinct from the behaviours promoted by web 2.0 social networking utilities.
We accept that the scale-free networks of the Internet do not in fact operate as an automatic teleport for the masses, to a utopian world of individual empowerment, communitarian values and higher human civilisation - Step 3 from the MAA (Media Artists Anonymous) 12 step programme, DIWO &helip;there is an urgent need for new institutional forms that reflect 'relational' processes to challenge existing hierarchical and centralising systems. In contrast to what he calls 'networked organisations', emergent 'organized networks' are horizontal, collaborative and distributed in character offering a distinct social dynamic and new forms of agency appropriate to networks (based on the movement and flow between multiple agencies). [referring to Ned Rossiter's ideas in notes on Antisocial Notworking by Geoff Cox4]
Do It With Others (DIWO) E-Mail-Art playfully developed the Do-It-Yourself ethos of early net art and tactical media, which used the early Internet as an experimental artistic medium and distribution system, said to be motivated by curiosity, activism and precision. DIWO set out to explore what would happen when these characteristics were applied to a collaborative approach to making and appreciating art in the context of contemporary digital communications in online social spaces.5
In accordance with Mail Art tradition, DIWO began with an open-call to the Netbehaviour email list on 1st February 2007. The exhibition at HTTP Gallery opened at the beginning of March and every post to the list until 1st April, was considered an artwork - or part of a larger, collective artwork - for the DIWO project. Participants worked across time zones, geographical and cultural distances with digital images, audio, text, code and software; they worked to create streams of art-data, art-surveillance, instructions and proposals, and in relay to produce threads and mash-ups.
[ARN / DIWO-Betatest / 14/3/07]
Some also participated in the experimental networked curation of the exhibition, facilitated by web cams, public IRC and VOIP technology. This co-curation event, or Curate With Others (CWO), as it was retroactively named, took place a week before the gallery opening. All subscribers to the NetBehaviour list were invited to contribute to the curation of the exhibition either by viewing the gallery floor plan and posting suggestions to the list or by taking part in the event; attending the gallery or joining the online meeting. Information about how to join the online event was posted to the list. During this event the spirit and philosophy of DIWO E-mail-Art were discussed, the deluge of diverse contributions by over 90 people were reviewed, plinths, monitors and a drawing machine that worked for food6 were moved around the gallery space; all accompanied by a steady stream of face-to-face argument and online text discussion.
[Sim Gishel / Will Work For Food - Vehicle Drawing over an image of Marx's Grave in London]
We used a combination of technologies and services to facilitate the event:
1. The DIWO mailbox projected from a computer against a wall of the gallery so that we could review the work together.
Present in the flesh were the Furtherfield.org crew and James (regular, esteemed DIWO contributor). Frederik Lesage manned the Public IRC and, as 'DIWOchatbod', documented the conversation in the gallery for the benefit of those online curators who had trouble logging into Skype.7 Through the afternoon the online event was visited by eight people. Sim, Dion and Tone named themselves and joined the conversation. The other numbers remained silent, observing lurkers. The CWO event determined the format of the DIWO exhibition and the Furtherfield.org crew was charged with installing it.
[Floorplan of Do It With Others (DIWO) at HTTP-Gallery, London.]
The centerpiece of the exhibition was an e-mailbox containing all submissions; sorted and categorised for visitors to explore and redistribute by clicking 'Forward Mail'. Streams and Themes displayed images, texts, sounds, code, and movies, primarily by single contributors (human and machine) as well as collections of themed posts or particular kinds of activity). Threads contained series of dialogic emails whose senders were remixing images, movies and code, most often in action and response). Other categories included Proposals and Instructions and Approaches to E-Mail Art.