This weekend Soho Galleries staged the "Soho Arts Festival." The festival was supposed to attract thousands of people. They didn't come. Or they ignored the galleries and went shopping.
Within this Soho festival, "CyberSoho" was a gathering of different groups offering their services in so-called Cyperspace. Web sites, web pages and virtual domains could be looked at and clicked into. The most astonishing thing was to see how these virutal real estate agents try to copy "real" Soho and its investment in art hierarchies. Nicely designed web pages simulate facades of marble lobbies, as we know them from the Baker building, still hosting Andrea Rosen Gallery, Luhring Augustine and a few others.
"Real estate" translates in French as "immobiles". This is reflected in the selections and services that often don't provide much more than straight forward promotional material like CV's, press releases, small exhibition photographs. Worn out artworld cliches cloned into cyberspace. Go click. The New York Telephone advertisement comes to mind: "We are all connected," but as everyone knows, some are connected slightly more than others.
The Thing was a bit of an exception. Next to the other "Virtual Real Estate" agencies it looked deliberately low tech and anti glitz. It offered (besides its website and an internet access service) its old ASCII style BBS - a scary "thing," since the look alone demands participatory engagement.
The virtual world is now moving rapidly into passive clicking in fancy properties: links to museums and commercial sponsors are de rigeur. Adaweb topped it off with a catered presentation at Agnes B., while Komar and Melamid's "most popular painting" survey at www.diacenter.org is garnished with a "Chase" logo.
The utopian and democratic ideals of the new medium are falling below the
table. The surfing user is now a consumer, good enough to touch the glacial
and inpenetrable marble of these virutal real estate properties. Critical
culture once more is subordinated and handed over to corporate management, who
tries to sell us the same old stuff. It is up to us to defend and develop
social practices for active and responsible communities.
We're all concerned about how art will be formed in light of new technologies. We make mistakes, we forge ahead, we try to pay Con Edison. What we need are artists engaging these technologies in a meaningful way and that was the point of CyberSoho. At artnetweb we are attempting to divert what we see as the microsofting of the internet and will try to create a place (as both the Thing and adaweb are doing) to carve a niche for artists in the digital world. We don't want to recreate the established art world electronically. We would, however, like to figure out how artists can profit, both economically and influencially, in this world. Believe me, there is little support for what we are doing. Those in control want DOOM. Robbin Murphy Creative Director artnetweb Virtual Real Estate, Inc.
right on dude
I like this review. Rainer, I also liked your recent show in Paris