[iDC] Net & Network :: Off Topic? Not really...

Sean Justice sean at seanjustice.com
Thu Dec 30 20:33:26 UTC 2010

Hi Heidi and all who¹ve joined this thread.

I¹m afraid that the year-end insanity kept me away from this conversation
almost entirely, but I was listening as much as I could. Even though I¹m so
very late, perhaps there¹s time for one further thought before the clock
ticks over and wipes the slate clean.

The question about network art resonates strongly for me. But from the
perspective of art education, the issue of definitions and art products can
sometimes tangent away from the day to day work we do, and the conversations
we have, with students. In my work with undergraduate and graduate students,
both in art schools and in education schools, the focus on Œwhat something
is¹ gets in the way (sometimes) of Œwhy we care¹ or Œwhy we think we
care¹....admittedly this is a thin slice on something much larger, and the
subtleties are going to get lost, so this note is just a brief tweak on the
already thick exchange of the last few weeks.

For instance, as an introduction for how we get into the work of connecting
with our own social (exterior) and individual (interior) processes, I¹m
lately proposing that students position their thinking along several
interrelated vectors of intentionality ‹ one of which is Œnet¹ (i.e., not
Œnetwork¹). Yes it appears as a simple semantic shift, but it opens the
conversation to relationality that the word Œnetwork¹ might miss (because
it¹s so tightly linked with Œinternet¹, as has been discussed). So, for
example, whether or not a mail art project or an internet project (or etc.)
is the formal outcome, if the artist¹s impulse is connection and
relationships, and if the form of the work evolves through a nodular
structure of shared experience, then the motivation of the work can be
positioned as Œnet¹ -- and in class and in the lab we can map our individual
work into a larger context that can be productive and enlightening.

Two examples I point to are Hiroshi Sunairi¹s Tree Project (
http://treeproject.blogspot.com/) and Jordan Seiler¹s Public Ad Campaign (
http://www.publicadcampaign.com/index.php). Yes, they both include the web
in their formal arrangements, but that¹s a narrow and potentially misleading
way to define what these projects are about. That is, to focus on the
Œnetwork¹ aspect of the formal structure of either of these projects would
be to potentially miss the issues of community, history, public space, etc.,
that the artists are engaging. And to focus on defining Œnetwork art¹ as a
category would potentially overlook both of these projects altogether.

In seminars these days I find that young BFA and older MFA folks respond
well to the notion that we don¹t have to begin our conversation by talking
about what something Œis¹ -- and I¹m surprised, actually, that this is new
to them, because Œprocess¹ as a way of working is already so firmly
established in our academies.

But I guess I¹m trying to interweave the Œconcept¹ that informs the output,
with the Œoutput¹ itself, and to bring that relation to the forefront. The
dynamic starts to become visible (sometimes) when we  position ourselves
within a relational history of objects, materials, forms, and the new
arrangements of them that continue to emerge. The conversation works well
when students can acknowledge that the stuff they¹re making might not yet
have crystallized as a Œthing¹ in the language we use to describe it. It¹s a
conundrum, for sure. But the conversation about Œnet¹ is way to start.

(The other vectors on this matrix of intentionality-mapping, by the way, are
surface, lens, and code....and I wish I had an essay to link on it, but I
don¹t. Rather it¹s still an evolving conversation in the seminar and lab,
etc., though most likely the sources and informants are probably already
visible to folks on this list... )

Anyway, speaking as an artist and art educator, the conversation around
these new forms helps us all (students, instructors, artists, audiences) map
the boundaries that hold us apart from each other; and, by illuminating
those boundaries, points us toward new ways to transgress them. That might
be naively optimistic. But these ideas and expansions help revive me for the
new term to come.

Thanks again for all the links and ideas posted on this topic the last
several weeks; and thanks again to Heidi for opening the thread with the
question about network art in the first place.

Happy new year to all~~~

Sean Justice

Sean Justice
Photographer | Artist | Educator

Columbia University Teachers College
Arts & Art Education
Doctoral Student & Instructor
New Media Art Education

NYU Steinhardt
Arts & Arts Professions
Studio Art | Photography | Digital

International Center of Photography
General Studies, Bard MFA, and Continuing Education

Parsons The New School for Design
MFA/BFA Photography & Critical Reading & Writing

College of Staten Island
Photography Program

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