[thingist] the thing with the thing

w w at thing.net
Tue Jul 13 07:18:11 UTC 2010

On Sun, 2010-07-11 at 17:47 +0200, Caspar Stracke wrote:
> Hi.
> A few days ago I got together with Jan and we started to brainstorm
> about possible future scenarios for the online presence of THE THING 
> (we are in Berlin, therefore no W involved)
> The reason is the overall appearance of THE THING ...without organs,
> if you want  [update: although I should/could re-phrase that as White
> Slap Palace event may get very active soon...]
> However, after lots occasional talks with Wolfgang and huge chunks of
> time passing I finally want to take this initiative and propose a
> "clean up" -  something we start talking about as the first subject
> after the return of thingist.
> I would assume that most of you agree with me to say that the legacy
> of THE THING it too important to leave it with a mainly abandoned
> two-person art blog  - especially unmoderated , and  in a sad default
> drupal design that has as much charm as a blog of a New Jersey dentist
> association.  Other than that there are too many loose ends flying
> around: thingist, events. thing.net , etc.
> Jan and me discussed possible options:
> 1)  Make a distinctive separation between archive and active areas,
> re-design the blog into a more complex forum and  divide event post,
> documentation of thing events, art reviews and hopefully a few more
> fresh initiatives.  ( I had a loose idea for a  THING MONTHLY
> section, which I call a curator's ping pong project)
> Oh and touch up the ugly drupal of course 
> 2) Get rid of the blog entirely and make it all archive, but with a
> decent documentation, gathering material that  maybe could also be the
> touchstone for the long planned  print documentation of the history of
> I have no info on the stats of post.thing,  [W?] how many people
> actually read these art reviews of post.thing.net. I have to admit
> that for myself I had stopped even checking out this blog for a long
> time. But I guess that's the normal progression of everybody cutting
> back on online time (hence the radical disappearance of discussion
> lists) 
> If we look back, so much of THE THING's activity of the recent years
> has moved into parallel universes,  as for art review, there's the old
> art net, then Rhizome of course and recently Marc Lafia's  arts+
> culture, then 16 beaver group for events/talks and we-make-money for
> silly media art pranks. (don't get me wrong: I love Regine's work)
> among many others.
> If we admit there are so many others that do the same activity,
> probably even better, why not shutting down the blog and rather making
> THE THING a very decent and well-designed archive. 
> I really admire the hard working Hamburg people among Connie Sollfrank
> that picked up the old THING satellite initiative, founded THING
> Hamburg, which was highly active for 3 years, then turned it right
> away into an archive.
> [W, I certainly and consciously left out all ISP and editions
> activities here, so ultimately an index page would always need to make
> the distinction between archive and active areas..]
> Would be nice to hear some feedback on that form all of you.
> ahoy,
> ©
> -- 
> caspar stracke
> www.videokasbah.net

dear caspar et al,

i agree with you on almost all counts.  post.thing.net has been taken
over by two egomaniacs who have nothing in common with anything the
thing ever stood for, but are using it as a springboard for better and
bigger publishing opportunities.  i did let it pass, because nothing
else was going on and the thing has a tradition of being an orphanage
anyway (blackhawk's words).  but you are right, it's not a good idea to
become associated with people who only abuse the platform for their own
ends and think they are doing you a favor.  page views on post usually
range from 150 to 2500 (average i estimate at 1000 reads), not bad, not
great either, but who cares about the eyeballs if we don't care about
these sycophantic reviews in the first place?  so i have no problem
shutting it down.  there are exceptions though, when alan moore or
joseph nechvatal post something it's usually well worth the read. 

archiving bbs.thing.net (1997 - 2004) has stalled since the media branch
of the lbi has been shut down in january.  max and walter started
restoring the bbs, but as far as i can tell nothing has happened since
last year.  gunther reisinger tried to get the unversity of graz to take
over the project and finish the job, but i really don't know what has
been going on lately and nobody bothers to update me on that account.  
i have no idea how to finish this job at the moment.  it's a drag, since
it would be a great historical resource.

in the meantime i've been thinking how to keep on going and started to
develop http://auctionthing.net with 4 partners (daniel burckhardt,
daniel newburg, phillip brandt, rainald schumacher).  the idea is to
bring some more liquidity into the secondary art market and at the same
time support independent art projects.  the agreement between the
partners is that at least 10% of the proceeds will support thing
activities.  we expect to have auctionthing ready for action by

so ok, the priority seems to be to get the archive finished and save as
much as possible for posterity.  maybe max or walter can offer an answer
as to where we stand on that front.

second, what to do right now and in the future.  in regards to online
stuff... frankly i am suffering from internet fatique, so i am not the
right person to address this issue now.  i don't give a damn about
facebook and twitter and i think anybody who's participating in this
social networking data mining crap should not even be allowed a thing
membership.   i reluctantly agreed to have a thing facebook fan (spam)
page set up to reach some of these morons, but i already regret this
decision, since it implies tacit approval of facebook policies (and they
are the exact opposite of what the thing ever stood for).

one has to ask the question what kind of socio-cultural intervention
makes any sense at this historical moment.  for the last ten years i
have retreated to the ivory tower of making art and was happy just to
concern myself with aesthetic issues.  maybe the best thing is to start
small.  we can do a film and video program at white slab in the fall. no
pain, no pressure.  then we have time to think about what kind of
program, publication or on-line presence we really need.  as to the
latter, i agree that what we have now is a mess, but all this crap was
done haphazardly without any competent coders.  in the past the recipe
for our success was the inclusion of competent programmers as equal
partners in the whole decision making process.  

the big question still looms:  why the effort and what for?  there are
many issues out there that that still tick me off.  generally, i'm not
happy with the state of the arts.  on the one hand you have the academic
part of the art world that overwhelmingly privileges purely
socio-historical aspects of art. then, on the other, you have the market
place, drunk with spectacle, speculation and narcissism.  so "real" art
is caught in this horrible pincer movement and i would like to have a
tool or a medium to fight back.  nothing wrong with well executed social
activism (like the yes men, who i greatly admire, for example) or
selling art for a decent price to make a living, but there is more to
art than just the socio-political dimension or speculative market value
respectively.  so in order to step in and do something about this, i
suppose you need a serious group effort of like-minded people and my
problem is that i don't know if there are enough like-minded people.
it's quite an effort to work towards cultural change, a herculean, if
not sisyphean task.  sometimes it just looks easier or more realistic to
make your statement with your art work and that's it.  there is only so
much you can do in this short life.

as you say, there are things out there that picked up where we left off.
here are my examples:  
* cabinet magazine, which is doing an outstanding job combining art,
literature, essays... it's the kind of mix i always liked.  
* e-flux, after shrewdly and relentlessly making inroads into the upper
echelons of the art world's shakers and makers association, is now
positioning itself as the critical stand-in for the status quo, kind of
an updated artforum (now that's the place i didn't want to got to).  
* our old "rival" rhizome at the new museum; don't know much what they
are doing these days, but a couple of months ago they hosted an
interesting performance orchestrated by goldin and senneby.  

ok, to come to an end, where does all this leave us?  the thing had its
glory days.  it stood for something.  it was more an attitude than
anything else, some kind of anti-authoritarian cyber-punk thing and we
played it well.  it was fun with all the clumsy antagonists we enjoyed
fighting, from Mattel to DOW to eToys.  and it was also fun to explore
this new medium with all the artists who made their first tentative
moves there.  it's history now and it will be a tough act to follow.
but i am open for suggestions.



ps:  if nobody objects i would like to carry this over to thingist and
open it up to a larger crowd.  if you haven't subscribed yet here's
where you do it: https://mailman.thing.net/mailman/listinfo/thingist
thingist -  the facebook antidote.

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