[iDC] "Wikipedia Art"

Scott Kildall scott at kildall.com
Tue Feb 17 05:52:13 UTC 2009

Hi everyone,

There has been much talk about the "Wikipedia Art" project in various  
online circles, blogs and lists. Trebor has asked me to write about  
the project and the response for IDC.

Here is an abbreviated history of the intervention/project/ 
collaboration. Note: this history is still being written.

At 12pm (PST) on Feb 14th 2009, Scott Kildall and Nathaniel Stern  
launched the "Wikipedia Art" project, along with several  
collaborators, including Brian Sherwin, Patrick Lichty and Jon Coffelt.

An article appeared on Wikipedia -- called "Wikipedia Art" -- with the  
following description:

Wikipedia Art is a  conceptual art work composed on  Wikipedia, and is  
thus art that anyone can edit. It manifests as a standard page on   
Wikipedia - entitled "Wikipedia Art". Like all  Wikipedia entries,  
anyone can alter this page as long as their alterations meet  
Wikipedia's standards of quality and verifiability[1]. As a  
consequence of such  collaborative and  consensus-driven edits to the  
page, Wikipedia Art, itself, changes over time.

Wikipedia Art is an art intervention which explicitly invites  
performative utterances in order to change the work itself. The  
ongoing composition and performance of Wikipedia Art is intended to  
point to the "invisible authors and authorities" of Wikipedia, and by  
extension the Internet,[2] as well as the site's extant criticisms:  
bias, consensus over credentials, reliability and accuracy, vandalism,  

Scott Kildall and Nathaniel Stern, Wikipedia Art's initiators, refer  
to the work's publish-cite-transform feedback loop as "performative  
citations." They maintain that the project "intervenes in Wikipedia as  
a venue in the contemporary construction of knowledge and information,  
and simultaneously intervenes in our understandings of art and the art  
object".[2] The artists request writers and editors to join in the  
collaboration and construction / transformation / destruction /  
resurrection of the work, want their " intervention to be intervened  
in."[2] Stern and Kildall say that "like knowledge and like art,  
Wikipedia Art is always already variable."[2]

Wikipedia Art was initially created by artists Scott Kildall and  
Nathaniel Stern on February 14 2009. It was performatively birthed  
through a dual launch on Wikipedia and MyArtSpace, where art critic,  
writer, and blogger, Brian Sherwin, introduced and published their  
staged two-way interview, "Wikipedia Art - A Fireside Chat."[2] The  
interview ended with Stern declaring, "I now pronounce Wikipedia Art."  
Kildall's response: "It’s alive! Alive!"

Minutes later, several online essays, interviews and blog postings  
were released and then re-cited on the Wikipedia page, giving it  
external "legitimacy"  and thereby initiating the feedback loop  
described in the original article.

Interview with Nathaniel Stern and Scott Kildall

Essay by Patrick Lichty "WikiPedia art?" (posted on Furtherfield)

A New Take on Art by Haydn Shaughnessy

What is Wikipedia Art? by Jon Coffelt

Within an hour, the article was marked "AfD" (article for deletion)  
for not adhering to Wikipedia standards. The Wikipedia process for  
AfDs is to engage a debate about the Wikipedia-worthiness of the page  
for a period of least 5 days until the Wikipedia community weighs in.

15 minutes later, the pre-existing Wikipedia pages for Scott Kildall,  
Nathaniel Stern and Brian Sherwin were also similarly tagged with  
"COI" tags and "Citation" tags (a precursor to article deletion) by  
the same Wikipedia editor that marked the Wikipedia Art article for  
deletion. This action could be described as retaliatory.

In the next several hours, a heated debate ensued on the deletion page  
with sides weighing in on KEEP or DELETE. The core problem is that  
many found the concept itself to be confusing. Did this point out a  
hole in the authority-structure of Wikipedia? Is it a valid work of  
art? Is it vandalism? Does it adhere to Wikipedia standards of  
notability? Is it improperly self-referential?

In the meantime, several other online writers, responding to our press  
releases calling for collaboration wrote articles of their own. Here  
is a sampling:

Hello Wikipedia, its the Blogosphere Calling

Digg's Way of Seeing

Look, See (2008) by Chris Ashley

Also, many people added to the Wikipedia Art page, providing context  
and additional citations.

15 hours later, "Wedna", an 18-year old Wikipedia admin promptly  
deleted the page, violating Wikipedia's own requirement of a 5 day  
period for AfDs. In his profile, he describes himself as: "An old  
hand. I've been around since mid-2005"

in the wee hours of the morning, two different people added "Wikipedia  
Art" to the "Conceptual Art" page on Wikipedia. Both entries are  
quickly removed.

Sunday, Feb 15th, is a bit of aftermath, some more threads appeared

"Help! I have created a monster" by the original Wikipedia editor  
(this is not the 18-year old) who marked it Afd, where he expresses  
feelings of despair over the mess. In various comments, we are likened  
to three Ts: terrorists, trolls and Tristan Tzara

Net-time Thread by Edward Shanken. Many responses follow.

Monday, February 16th (*), more blog coverage gets propagated about  
the intervention, noting its immediate failure or success.(**)

Media Arts Education by Daniela Reimann

Ethan Ham (Technology-based contemporary art)

Wikipedia Art Lasts All Day! by Paddy Johnson

(*) this is the date of this posting on IDC
(**) in phone conversations between Nathaniel Stern and Scott Kildall,  
it was decided that "failure was an option"

Here is a link to the project

I am most curious about YOUR thoughts on the "Wikipedia Art" project.  
Do you see this project as one that points out an inherent problem  
with the way that histories and knowledge is propagated? Or, does it  
appear as a vandalistic act done by a "gang of artists"?

I specifically invite discussion the larger issues that the project  
raises: Wikipedia-as-entity, performative utterances in net-space and  
the boundaries between intervention/vandalism/conceptual art.


Scott Kildall

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