The global village, the network
society - these are the essentials of the current net culture
and its discourse. The Internet-based culture has a global impact
although its origin is blurred. Is it local? Are there any tendencies
of locality visible in the world of net art? The status of net
art itself is still unclear. Undoubtedly, this art generates its
own discourse and it’s own online community, based in the
mediated, virtual space. Its nature, as the nature of the World
Wide Web is fluent and unstable. However, the noticeable transformations
wrought by the Internet are mostly visible in the field of online
art projects that toy with questions of embodiment, identity,
and – last but not least - locality.
Therefore, the artists’ interest
in the cultural dimensions of globalization is inevitable. The
Internet offers a new visual language as well as the possibility
of feedback which is inextricably linked with the new ways of
Zygmunt Bauman argues that the opposite
and the inevitable consequence of globalization is the emergence
of locality, as the opposite factor. While global means being
capable of directing events, being local means being excluded
and isolated from the mainstream of global life.
According to Arjun Appandurai:
"The globalization of culture
is not the same as its homogenisation, but globalization
involves the use of a variety of instruments of homogenisation
(armaments, advertising techniques, language hegemonies,
clothing styles and the like), which are absorbed into
local political and cultural economies, only to be repatriated
as heterogeneous dialogues of national sovereignty, free
enterprise, fundamentalism, etc."
Defining the globalization, Appandurai
usefully sums up the issue of locality:
"Yet it’s hard to know
exactly what locality might mean in a world in which other places
are constantly part of our own worlds. For intellectuals, artists
and other cultural workers, especially in post-collonial contexts,
being local – in other words, imagining and representing
the here and now – always encounters a double challenge.
One it the burden) of repetition I.e. how to be modern or contemporary
for what always seems like the second time. The other is what
I am calling the anxiety of tradition, i.e. how to be local or
regional or national or otherwise culturally distinctive without
always having to work through or rewrite the cultural, civilizational
and historical genius of one’s own specific traditions or
localities. The best imaginative efforts to dispel this anxiety
and to re-figure this burden are necessarily both cultural and
The next consequence is the translocality,
which does not mean a location in a geographical sense, but rather
networked individuals and groups of similarly-thinking people,
the translocal agents existing within the cyberspace. Translocality
means a series individual, local nodes situated within the geographical
and cultural system.
Among the implications of the World
Wide Web there are changes in the way art is being created, collected
and distributed. The global network includes one of the significant
features: the dislocation and delocalisation of art. Paul Virilio,
argues that the virtual reality created a delocalized art. According
to Virilio, it is a kind of deconstruction but not only in a Derridian
meaning. This word comes from the latin term "dislocare"
and brings the question – to what extent art can be dislocated
and delocalized. The answer to this question leads to virtual
reality. "We have gone from spacial dislocation to the temporal
dislocation that is now underway." – says Virilio.
"Delocalization began, with the
easel painting that stepped free of the cave and the skin
to become a displaceable, nomadic object. The delocalization
we're dealing with today is nowhere. Art can be nowhere,
it only exists in the emission and reception of a signal,
only in feedback. The art of the virtual age is an art
This "nowhere art" refers
perfectly to net art, as a purely immaterial and virtual form
of art, based on interactivity, assuming feedback as one of it’s
most vital features. Virilio asks about the presence of contemporary
art, pointing out that there is no simple answer yet. Although
the presence of art and its localization are in jeopardy, the
immediacy of contemporary art might be a good answer. As Virilio
emphasizes, we have reached the end of acceleration, near-instantaneous
intercommunication, directness and ubiquity.
"Virtuality is the electromagnetic
speed that brings us to the limit of acceleration. It's
a barrier in the sense of 'no crossing.' That is the whole
question of live transmission, global time, near-instantaneous
Art has entered the phase of globalization.
Virilio suggests that the answer is in the questions that should
be asked by artists themselves. The amount of net art collaborative
projects seems to be referring to this subject. One of them is
The Universal Page by Natalie Bookchin and Alexei Shulgin which
is based on collaboration and assumes co-working with someone
who is distant – both geographically and ideologically.
Without physical limitations, artists can cooperate and remain
open for the endless possibilities that may result from this collaboration.
The Centre Is Somewhere Else
The good example of translocal artistic
community is Nettime. It consists of several forums, each one
attracting people, depending on the language and local culture.
There are seven mailing lists: 2 English (moderated and unmoderated
one) – which have international impact, as well as locally-oriented:
the Dutch, French, Romanian, Spanish/Portuguese and Chinese one.
The latest one is especially significant, regarding the limits
of free speech and Internet access in China.
Nonetheless, within the global network
a new culture has emerged, and it’s the cyber culture and
all its consequences. The emergent net art is one of them. Soon
it became clear that the centre of its art is somewhere else than
the acknowledged Western centres of art and culture. Steve Dietz,
writes in his call for net art proposals for the Emerging
Artists/Emergent Medium 3 event:
"If the topology of the network
is one of connected nodes, every node is global. Is any
node local? No node is the centre. Is every node is a
The newly developed diasporic groups of artists included Eastern
Europeans, Asians and South Americans, and many more. However,
there was still no visible centre. The network made the world
of new art decentralized. Apparently a new territory is being
shaped – where old borders are obsolete and the new ones
are created by the border of language which is the border of the
greatest significance so far. It refers to the limits drawn by
language and specific local intellectual markets.
There is a Tuesday Afternoon project
by Trebor Scholz and Carol Flax that analyses the issue of individually
experienced border crossing, while the border can be situated
anywhere. While border-crossing is easy for global capital, the
borders are tightened against unwanted migration. The project
is easy-accessible and interactive in the game-like way.
The issue of access is vital in this context. Some of the projects
assume that the web would be for the underdeveloped countries
a gate to the most important thing these days – the information.
In that sense border means exclusion, because those who are excluded
from the flow of information are also isolated and their voices
will not be heard.
Cheap and Out of Control"
Those Timothy Druckrey’s words
can be related to the numerous "Do-It-Yourself" initiatives
that are being launched all over the world, and are easily accessible.
As Zygmunt Bauman suggests, within the Internet -globalization
seems to be the fate of the world. But no one seems to be in control
of it. Therefore many decentralized, local communities are appearing.
They are essentially translocal in nature, concentrating on the
local interest groups who are sometimes dispersed over different
regions and countries. It seems quite easy and there are plenty
of manuals in the Internet, explaining the aspiring global-thinkers
how to make a D.I.Y. network:
1. Browsing for the other groups
of similar views
2. Establishing links
3. Providing the information needed
4. Asking questions. (When one is an artist, one should put these
questions in one’s artwork in order to generate feedback.)
5. Make contact with net.radio stations, as well as any other
forms of alternative communities online.
Certainly, those advices sound very
simple and are not always that easy to follow as they seem. However,
there are successful examples of the global networking. The information
circulates within the global network, without any control or censorship,
and makes a snowball effect sometimes.
The most famous one, though politically-oriented,
is the struggle of the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico.
Their online activity has sparked a worldwide discussion and made
the Zapatistas visible on the world arena of alternative movements
and initiatives. Another example of the importance of the Internet
is a Freenet project by Ian Clark, making the control of information
and communication impossible. This is one of the numerous attempts
to make the Internet the field of a struggle, the place of the
confrontation. Freenet is free software designed to ensure true
freedom of communication over the Internet. As its creators ensure:
"Freenet is an open, democratic
system which cannot be controlled by any one person, not even
its creators. It was originally designed by Ian Clarke and is
being implemented on the open-source model by a number of volunteers.
It is designed to let any user have
access to any kind of information that can be published and viewed.
It is, to make it simple, a large-scale, peer-to-peer network,
out of any control and uncensored. Although this project may seem
utopian, the Freenet is existing successfully and yet it’s
too early to establish its full impact on the World Wide Web.
"-What is your heritage? -It’s
a mongrel." - This was the answer given by Graham Harwood
of Mongrel and it could be referred to the issue of translocality.
The difference between globality
and translocality is very important. If the globalization means
a transnational flow of global capital, translocality means rather
putting the local issues in the global context and making it widely
The awareness of the translocality
within the Internet was present among the net artists from the
very beginning of the realm. The translocal thinking, as well
as decentralization, were among the most advantageous features
of the cyberculture, noticed in the early days. One of the net
art pioneers, Jodi said in 1998:
"It makes the work stronger that
people don’t know who’s behind it. Many people
try to dissect our site and look into the code. Because
of the anonymity of our site they can’t judge us
according to our national culture or anything like this.
In fact, Jodi is not part of a culture in a national,
geographical sense. I know it sounds romantic, but there
is a cyberspace citizenship. More and more URLs contain
a country code. If there is ".de" for Germany
in an address, you place the site in this national context.
We don’t like this. Our work comes from inside the
computer, not from a country. "
Indicating that the cyberspace citizenship really exists, Joan
Hemskeerk and Dirk Paesmans of Jodi, made an important suggestion.
After a few years from their statement we can undoubtedly admit
that this cyber citizenship really exists and we are all its citizens.
At least we can choose to be its citizens. One can choose a domain
with or without a country code, as well as e-mail address. Therefore
one can cover up one’s tracks completely and dissolve in
the cyber community. The Internet, with all its new channels of
communication is enforcing a new concept of citizenship linked
to subjective belongings rather that a state. This is a chance
for those artists who want to forget about their nationally-oriented
problems and free themselves from the unwanted burden of locality.
The citizenship is no longer relevant, also because the citizenship
as such used to be linked to national and local background. Nowadays,
as the problems are translocal, the issue of citizenship is slowly
The topic of citizenship and its
irrelevancy has been significant from the heroic era of net art.
Alexei Shulgin, another net art pioneer, asked in 1998 about his
status in the cyber society, said:
"I feel much more included that
before [the internet – TB] When I was just an artist
living in Moscow, whatever I did has always been labeled
as "Eastern", "Russian", whatever.
All my work was placed in this context. That was really
bad to me, because I never felt that I did something specifically
This is a remark of a definite significance.
The Internet might bring the long-awaited freedom from being labeled.
The unwanted context of locality might be eventually forgotten
and left behind. Disposed of the burden of locality, net art created
its own language, in its early phase, mostly based on technology
and its advantages, as well as the issues developed by the appearance
of the world wide network. All the well-known features of the
net art, like interactivity and the wide access, have changed
the reception of art and opened new possibilities.
Therefore, a juxtaposition of some
kind takes place. Those, who want it – step up, build the
open access networks and speak about their local matters. Another
– neglect their national heritage and choose to be mongrels
in the global network. One can choose between those attitudes,
depending on one’s vantage point. Everybody is present there
– from Zapatistas to the defenders of illegal refugees and
immigrants in Europe, from anti-corporate activists to guerilla
art collectives, and the projects vary from complete utopia to
the useful know-how recipes. However, there is an entrance fee
to this world. And it consists of: knowledge of English, Internet
access, having the hardware, software and plug-ins needed. Therefore,
mentioning the global access we must always remember that it refers
to some isolated parts of the world while the others won’t
have the chance to participate for a long time.
There are some net art projects
referring to the issue of locality, using the global medium, like
The DissemiNET by Sawad Brooks and Beth Stryker (1998) which made
a collaborative project involving the testimonies of children,
who have disappeared during the civil war in Salvador. Those reports
were provided by a local group Pro Busqueda de los Niños
from San Salvador. The project is regularly updated with remarks
of people who have experienced the problems emerging from the
Another artwork related to the global/local
issue is the new planned project by Prema Murty. It is about Asian
women working in hardware factories in Bombay, piecing micro-electronics
together. As the artists explains: "They are the ones creating
this technology for the west to use.(…) A lot of these women
do not even have running water in their homes, yet at night they
piece together chips. Do they know what they are used for?"
Today’s net art is not only
technology-oriented, as it was in its early stages. It has also
a critical attitude, and one of the examples is the Make-world
Festival by Olia Lialina, called BORDER="0" LOCATION="YES".
The terms, coming from coding, are used here within a new context,
referring to the issue of global politics. According to Lialina’s
"Make-world is a
first of it's kind project dealing with such different
subjects as migration and freedom of circulation, open
source and immaterial labor, tactical media and art in
networking environments. (…) the festival aims to
track new forms of subjectivity carried out by current
modifications of the world; which until recently were
characterized as "infotization", "digitization"
and "globalization". The more these buzzwords
loose their glamour, the more important it is to discuss
the role borders play, and question what restricted and
unrestricted locality, mobility and freedom of movement
may mean. Global processes are running out of time and
space. Facing the end of the end, everything - what might
happen or has to be done - starts from scratch. And this
new beginning embraces much more than ever before. It's
time to scroll: to look ahead and behind, to step to the
side, to think fast forward."
In the raise of a new global sovereignty,
and in the decline of national-based citizenship, net art attempts
to illuminate the problems, changes and challenges of the globalization.
The critical endeavours are generated by artists who understand
the possibilities offered by the global medium.
There are great expectations aroused
by the developed globalizing trends in the art world, however
that there are also some anxieties.
As Jess Loseby argues, speaking
of identity and locality:
"In the beginning
of net art there seemed to be this conscious determination
that art should not have any connection with our 'real'
lives. I feel this has produced what could be described
as a translocal schizophrenia, a duality between the artists
'real' lives and their 'virtual' locality and artworks."
This attitude may lead to such a
schizophrenic feeling indeed. However, this duality has made an
impact on the artistic awareness, as it opened the gate to many
new issues and gave a new perspective for the old ones. As the
Internet continues to be an environment where the distances are
shrinking and disappearing, the space is transformed and the art
can be delocalized. As Paul Virilio says:
we're dealing with today is nowhere. Art can be nowhere,
it only exists in the emission and reception of a signal,
only in feedback. The art of the virtual age is an art
This feedback can be differentiated – from emerging alternative
communities to net art’s presence in the mediated environment
of digital networks. Net art and its community are both global
and local. As a result, there are benefits from both sources.
It is global because of the medium. It’s local because of
the diversity of participants’ voices , decentralized and
highly individual. It is physically delocalized but its impact
Despite the presence of the utopian
visions which embodied the idealism of a new world order, its
identity is globally available but locally-oriented. Whether we
want it or not.