[iDC] "Wikipedia Art"

davin heckman davinheckman at gmail.com
Wed Feb 18 01:14:40 UTC 2009

Well, I suppose if one were to write a sort of meta level on "Wikipedia
Art," you could justify an entry, in the same way that you can justify an
entry on Mariliths and Dungeons and Dragons.  The D&D entry does not present
the Marilith as a "real" creature, but rather it defines it as an object
that exists within a fictional or imaginary world.  In the case of Wikipedia
Art, "Wikipedia Art" is an invented concept that is being hashed out by a
bunch of people, and as such, it would seem to merit an entry on the topic.
But, off the cuff, I would say, the entry is not the art itself, any more
than conceptual art is ever contained strictly within a discrete artifact.

But more important than the concept of Wikipedia Art is the concept of
Wikipedia itself.  As always, the question is the difference between the
thing and its representation, or about Borges' and the uselessness of a 1:1
scale map.  To be useful, the map must represent the totality of a territory
within a fraction of its total space.  To be useful, the map must also
provide a sufficient amount of detail in order to achieve the desired

An encyclopedic entry maps an area of knowledge.  A "good" encyclopedic
entry should provide the reader with a lay of the land which is more
efficient than the text to which it refers, it is a way of putting a big
idea or concept into a manageable nutshell.  Otherwise, what's the point of
the encyclopedic entry in the first place?  But, if the concept in the
nutshell, is larger than the concept out of the nutshell, then I would say
that it fails as an encyclopedia entry.  Wikipedia, as a community, has a
right to correct failed entries.

In the case of "Wikipedia Art," either the term refers to a larger set of
conceptual problems, in which case, it is not "performed" on Wikipedia...
but rather, it is being performed outside of the encyclopedia, and, like a
good encyclopedia should, Wikipedia only provides a limited map to the
actual "art."  But, if "Wikipedia Art" is strictly performed on Wikipedia,
then it falls out of consideration as a proper Wikipedia entry and becomes
an appropriation of Wikipedia by artists (which may or may not be a good
thing, depending on your opinion of Wikipedia and the ideology that it
expresses).  And, Wikipedia has a right, as an experimental community of
intention, to protect the integrity of its community's intention through its
own internal logics...  Otherwise it becomes something other than
wikipedia.  One way or another, it will come down in favor of a particular
definition of wikipedia, and this will inevitably challenge one set of
priorities and affirm another.

So, I think that Wikipedia Art needs to figure out what it is.  Is it an
encyclopedia entry documenting a conceptual project which has played out
over a larger landscape?  Or, is it a conceptual project attempting to
describe itself, and struggling with each iteration of its representation?
Does the Wikipedia entry provide a metacomment on an imaginary idea?  Or is
the metacommentary what we are engaging in just confused rumination over
what amounts to a "trap street," the desire to personally mark, what is
otherwise a pretty good map?

To state it differently:  This is not a pipe, but we are all smoking it,
anyway.  And, though I don't know the first thing about the artists, I
guess it's more interesting than what I was planning to do right now (grade
papers).  So, aside from my scrupulous quibbles about the essence of an
encyclopedia entry, I do have to say, "thank you," whoever you are, in spite
of myself.

Davin Heckman

P.S.  Check out this essay on Encyclopedias:
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