[iDC] "Wikipedia Art"

Scott Kildall scott at kildall.com
Tue Feb 17 18:07:01 UTC 2009

Hi Andreas,

The results of this project/intervention (or what I would now prefer  
to call an "experiment") is that we have discovered certain facets  
about the Wikipedia community. The aims of the endeavor were not to  
posit anti-Wikipedia stance, but rather to elicit a response in the  
form of a conceptual intervention. The fundamental tension between  
democracy and authority is a kernel of contradiction that was one key  
idea behind the project.

Performative art on Wikipedia itself was quickly deemed inappropriate  
by the gatekeepers. Nathaniel and myself were hoping, but not  
expecting, that we would be able to succeed through its very nature of  
self-referentiality: that it was an artistic project that could be  
sanctioned by Wikipedia in that it pointed out a discrepancy in the  
production of knowledge.

Apparently not so. We're still left with the issues that something on  
Wikipedia which is stated becomes "true," essentially (re)writing  
histories. This also manifests itself in the negative space of  
Wikipedia: what is not included is also not worthy. The fabric has  
many holes: Joseph Grigely, for example, doesn't have a Wikipedia  
entry but Marlith, a type V demon race in Dungeons and Dragons does (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marilith 

The primary revelation that sticks with me is the culture of the  
gatekeepers. What I saw was a distinctly non-academic culture with a  
tilt towards a very young (16-25) demographic. Since Wikipedia is  
*the* source of encyclopedic knowledge, this could very well explain  
an over-emphasis on Wikipedia covering popular culture. Even with the  
success of the Wikipedia project, which I applaud in many ways, the  
mechanisms for inclusion and exclusion seem like they could use some  

To address the comments by both John Hopkins and Saul, I apologize if  
my initial post read as a press release. I've been doing a lot of this  
lately, in more appropriate venues, and could have gotten carried away.

My hope with IDC was to engage this specific community with some of  
the issues this project brought up.

Scott Kildall

p.s. in response to Claudia's question about the link. Wikipedia  
deleted the "Wikipedia Art" page. A reconstruction (on our own wiki)  
is at:

On Feb 17, 2009, at 7:53 AM, Andreas Schiffler wrote:

> Hi Scott,
> I think the actions against the project follow the traditional "art ! 
> = information" view. Such a view would render the new page  
> incompatible with Wikipedia as soon as Wikipedia is categorized as a  
> database of information by the gatekeepers, a strict interpretation  
> of an encyclopedia. This is I think the view which the Wikipedia  
> gatekeepers have adopted and is likely a response to earlier fallout  
> from media hype around poor quality of articles and other  
> comparisons to more traditional forms of information collection. At  
> that level, its collaborative functionality is probably treated as a  
> means, and not an end. Similarly the internet is probably envisioned  
> as a mechanical tool, rather than a legitimizing "natural  
> environment" in which the performative art is embedded. Is there  
> reconcilable "ideology" on either side of the fence?
> --Andreas
> Scott Kildall wrote:
>> 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.
>> Concept
>> 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]
>> History
>> 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
>> http://www.myartspace.com/blog/2009/02/wikipedia-art-virtual-fireside-chat.html
>> Essay by Patrick Lichty "WikiPedia art?" (posted on Furtherfield)
>> http://blog.furtherfield.org/?q=node/267
>> A New Take on Art by Haydn Shaughnessy
>> http://www.mediangler.com/2009/02/13/a-new-take-on-art/
>> What is Wikipedia Art? by Jon Coffelt
>> http://thewhole9.com/blogs/applestooranges/2009/02/14/what-is-wikipedia-art/
>> 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?
>> http://wikipediaart.org/wiki/index.php?title=Articles_for_deletion/Wikipedia_Art
>> 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
>> http://twocoatsofpaint.blogspot.com/2009/02/hello-wikipedia-its-blogosphere-calling.html
>> Digg's Way of Seeing
>> http://diggydivision.tumblr.com/post/78355063/http-wikipediaart-org
>> Look, See (2008) by Chris Ashley
>> http://looksee.chrisashley.net/?p=1563
>> 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
>> http://wikipediaart.org/wiki/index.php?title=Village_pump
>> Net-time Thread by Edward Shanken. Many responses follow.
>> http://mail.kein.org/pipermail/nettime-l/2009-February/001221.html
>> Monday, February 16th (*), more blog coverage gets propagated about  
>> the intervention, noting its immediate failure or success.(**)
>> Media Arts Education by Daniela Reimann
>> http://daniela-reimann.de/wordpress/?p=173
>> Ethan Ham (Technology-based contemporary art)
>> http://www.ethanham.com/blog/2009/02/wikipedia-art.html
>> Wikipedia Art Lasts All Day! by Paddy Johnson
>> http://www.artfagcity.com/2009/02/16/wikipedia-art-lasts-all-day/
>> (*) 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
>> http://www.wikipediaart.org
>> 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.
>> Best,
>> Scott Kildall
>> www.kildall.com
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