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

Joseph Nechvatal joseph_nechvatal at hotmail.com
Sat Jul 17 20:05:10 UTC 2010

When I met you at White Slab, your creative energy, enthusiasm and competence became quickly evident to me. Your idea below shows the same level of talented verve, but I very much doubt that it will manifest. Based on the first round of letters - and obvious divergent positions held - my impression is that The Thing's early members have run out of energy and would not rise to the occasion of retelling the past. Nice as an idea it may be. The proposed abandonment of the TT blog seems to indicate this to me, for example.
I see two possible strategies left at the moment:
1) Pass The Thing on to a younger generation - as we did with ABC No Rio - no matter how different the activities may be from the founders original ideals and practices.
2) Fold the tent and give all materials to The Archives of
American Art ( see: http://www.aaa.si.edu/about/donating_papers.cfm ). This allows professional archivists to preserve and communicate TT's legacy - if it has one.
I for one would like to see TT continue and improve, but I have become too much the realist to expect it.
Would like to hear other voices on these perceived two options, of course.
cheersJoseph Nechvatal   

Date: Sat, 17 Jul 2010 12:10:36 -0400
From: justinberryart at gmail.com
To: thingist at mailman.thing.net
Subject: [thingist] What about a subjective, evolving, archive?

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 interim.


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
www.waymakergallery.comJustinBerryArt at gmail.com
Waymaker at WaymakerGallery.com
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