[thingist] What about a subjective, evolving, archive?

Justin Berry justinberryart at gmail.com
Sat Jul 17 16:10:36 UTC 2010

I am new to THE THING, having only become involved in the last year or so,
working with W and Christoph on The.Thing.Net and the White Slab screenings.
I became involved almost by accident--I was recently out of graduate school
and making non-salable and non-exhibitable work, mostly web stuff, and
feeling a bit chagrined about the art world and its various camps of
ideology.  I was randomly surfing the web and sending out feeler emails to
every organization I could find that was involved in New Media.   Wolfgang
was the one who answered back.  I had no idea what THE THING actually was. I
went to look it up online and struggled to find information, only coming up
with numerous references to someTHING but never an actual history or a
literal description.  The most glaring example of THE THING online was the
Post, and I think enough has been said about that.  It took a long time of
being involved, listening in conversation, and attending talks by Wolfgang,
etc. in order to really arrive at a sense of what THE THING was and what it
represented.   If it were not so tragic it would be humorously ironic that
an organization that did so much to galvanize thinking about the internet as
an artistic and political medium has no functioning legacy online.  I think
that a proper and academic archive could potentially happen, but it will
take a long time and a great deal of work.  The nature of academia is to
quest after a kind of perfection, to create a source of objective authority.
Great!  That would be awesome.  In a few years it will be something we can
all be proud of.  I think something different needs to be planned in the

What about creating a subjective archive?  What about creating a nexus for
the stories and narratives of THE THING.  It could be a relatively simple
interface, something like a data or tag cloud full of links to various
stories, where the only hierarchy might be determined by font size.  People
with a story to tell or an event to document could create their own HTML
page, with the only standard requirement being a ‘back to home’ button of
some kind.  The advantage is that this would allow each person’s ‘history’
to be acknowledged without necessarily privileging one or the other.  One
link might be called ‘eToy war’ and could be an account of those events
while another might be called ‘Justin Berry’ and include simply my own
experiences.  These pages don’t even have to share styling, though we could
certainly provide a CSS sheet for people to use if they chose.  One person’s
page might be a video, while another person could choose to simply write an
essay; an event might be documented with only a series of contextless
pictures.  Something like this embraces the history of THE THING as a forum
and a platform.  This does not have to exist in opposition to a formal
archive; it can be an accompaniment to that project.  It also requires less
energy to happen.  Once a stable and functioning interface is set up it can
be left to individuals to create pages as they wish.  Each contribution can
be considered on its own terms.  It does not have to be ‘finished’, it can
be an ever evolving project as new pages are added.

Perhaps this is only a selfish wish.  I would like to hear the stories and
see the history and I would like to have that kind of experience sooner than
later.  There should be an online presence of THE THING’s legacy.  In my
experience every time people attempt to create an authoritative history of
something there are a whole lot of histories on the table and it takes a
long time to negotiate which ones stick around.

Justin Berry

Justin Berry
(713) 302 9599
JustinBerryArt at gmail.com
Waymaker at WaymakerGallery.com
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