Nettitudes. Let’s talk Net Art byJosephine Bosma is the latest book published by Studies in Network Cultures series, directed by Geert Lovink for Nai Publishers in Rotterdam.
Taking into consideration the high amount of works published about Net Art since the first half of the nineties, there would not be the need of another book on the matter, as stated by Florian Cramer in his introduction to Net Art Back to Square One. Yet this book by Josephine Bosma is an intense, passionate and deep work. It comes from two decades of militancy and active participation, along with an accurate study of sources, critical texts and online and offline material about the matter.
The fact that Nettitudes is the latest book on net art after a long series is not accidental. As if it comes to the peak of an analysis trail already begun years ago. Nettitudes reflects the active observation of his authoress, the participation to debates and events, the critical comments through the same channel that fed net art in all these years: mailinglists that started from Nettime and Rhizome most of all. But also texts for online magazines, exhibition catalogues and so on.
A participative observation of the context, a sort of thompsonian Gonzo Journalism, where Bosma plunged in for two decades, maybe did not make her a Hell’s Angel or a famous novelist, but anyway she managed to publish a true master-piece, the icon of a passionate reflection..
The most important thing of this book is maybe the deeply documented and clear vision, capable of describing from the inside and from the outside a cultural movement characterizing the artistic production of the past twenty years.
During an e-mail conversation, the authoress told me how positively they thought of her work. Josephine has presented it last 14th of April 2011 at De Balie in Amsterdam, gaining a large audience among the spectators but at the same time receiving some critics for its high difficulty of lecture, due to the strictly insider and critical vision of her.
The objection is appropriate though: Bosma does not focus on the cultural references Net Art has been part of and took inspiration from for its development, or, in other words, the context of digital cultures in which Net Art developed in the Nineties. The authoress works on more levels, considering all the critic and artistic literature appreciating and criticizing contemporary art in the last decades. Her goal is to offer exhaustive yet sometimes difficult to understand definitions of the arts developed by a creative use of digital media.
Josephine makes references to authors and curators such as the British Julian Stallabrass and most of all Rosalind Krauss and Nicole Bourriaud, that invented respectively terms like Postmedia and Relational Aesthetics. The debate, often superficial and hostile to art critics has in fact created half truths and controversy, discussed in Bosma’s work. “I have become convinced of the necessity of art criticism that specifically focuses on art and technology as a direct reaction to Bourriaud’s work and his open hostility towards media art at public appearances. This is essentially why, despite a strong desire just to use the term ‘art’, I keep using the term ‘net art” (p.27).
The book begins with a theoretical and complex chapter listing all the critical position on the matter: Let’s talk Net Art. A declaration of intents, as said in the aforementioned quotation, speaking to a public of insiders and non-insiders most of all, as the authoress herself affirms, delineating the borders of a slippery path, difficult to explore, whose definition has always been open wide to declaration of intents and controversy.
The Net Art Bosma refers to, is anything but medium specific, or based on the discussion of aesthetics of works created on the web. It is rather a practice developed in the Internet cultures area, which has not necessarily something to do with the creation of a web page or an online archive, but on the contrary it deals with production procedures, fundamental for Internet to exist.
The word Net composing the whole term is sociological and technological at the same time: the network is no doubt internet’s, but it is referred to social networks as well. That is why, according to Bosma, one must escape the aesthetic determinism deep-rooted into media, technical or technological emphasis. Indeed the technological aspect draws up Net Art to Media Art, or the artistic productions that exploit the experimentation of digital media, but extracting it from a determined sociological context in which it developed. Internet is simultaneously a technological and cultural factor, a productive and connective tool. Therefore, the Net Art here defined seems to be a form of artistic production, based on the connective, collective and sharable possibilities Internet offers.
Being Internet just a tool, which could be replaced by other forms of Networking with the future developments of telecommunication systems, Bosma puts the stress on another point: Net Art cannot be defined as Internet Art.
Should Internet be overcome or replaced in the future, the attitude of Net Art would remain the same.
In my opinion, the choice of the term “attitude” is not accidental at all: hacking as attitude has been the key word for even 12 editions of Hackmeeting in Italy. This is not about playing with technology. This is not about technique fetishism. This is about having a critical attitude towards each social model and context.
I think it is useful to remember this meaning is somehow familiar with the Italian cultural context, while it is almost unknown to the Anglo-Saxon culture where a great part of Net Art critical literature has developed.
The Italian net culture, whose exportation is little due to the almost exclusive usage of a non-global language like Italian, is deep-rooted in the politic, community and critical DNA of post WWII cultural vanguards. I am talking about every social and countercultural movement from the Sixties on, the ones described by Primo Moroni and Nanni Balestrini in the famous L’Orda d’oro. In the different contexts in which Net Art developed, this militant and political meaning is an aspect not to be underestimated.
From Bbs to projects like ECN-Isole nella rete, Kyuzz, Inventati/Autistici, Radio Gap, Indymedia Italia, NGV-New Global Vision, just to list only some of the communities that between the half of the 90s and the half of 2000s characterized the country’s counterculture, the Italian cultural vanguard which developed hand in hand with Net Culture can somehow be assimilated to what Bosma defines as Net Art.
Cultural production ways that use Internet as a tool for gathering, filing and distributing sense. Operative ways implying collaboration, cooperation, sharing of contents and procedures due to their very nature . In other words this is the same matter Deseriis-Marano discuss about in their book Net Art – L’arte della connessione, 2003.