[iDC] "Wikipedia Art"

Saul Ostrow sostrow at cia.edu
Tue Feb 17 13:10:40 UTC 2009

I'm not sure what is of issue here - as with most interventions - it seeming;y in its own small way played out its own scenario without opening onto anything else - as such it appears to have been an academic (in the old sense of the word) exercise - or am I missing something

Saul Ostrow | Visual Arts & Technologies Environment Chair, Sculpture
Voice: 216-421-7927  | sostrow at cia.edu | http://www.cia.edu/
The Cleveland Institute of Art | 11141 East Boulevard, Cleveland, OH 44106

From: idc-bounces at mailman.thing.net [idc-bounces at mailman.thing.net] On Behalf Of Scott Kildall [scott at kildall.com]
Sent: Tuesday, February 17, 2009 12:52 AM
To: idc at mailman.thing.net
Subject: [iDC] "Wikipedia Art"

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, etc.[3]

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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