Date: Sat, 5 Apr 1997
From: Mark Amerika

The Work of Art In The Age of Virtual Repub-lishing and Net-work Installation

Mark Amerika

Back in 1993, when I was composing my Avant-Pop manifesto in which I acknowledged the contemporary digital artistís dual lineage to both the avant-garde art and writing movements of the early parts of this century and the wild explosion of electronic pop culture in the latter part of the century, I asked this important question: "What would the Futurists do with an information superhighway?"

I asked the question in a rhetorical way, that is, I assumed that the Futurists and other artists such as the Dadaists and certainly the Situationists, would have immediately begun experimenting with whatever forms of expression the new media offered. They would have, as software engineers like to say, "pushed the envelope," both technologically and conceptually. Today though Iím asking a different question: "How are the artists of our time going to respond to the rapidly changing aesthetic, political and economic realities presented to our contemporary society with the advent of global computer networking systems and the growing multi-national, mass-media, Dreamworks complex?"

Perhaps the best way to respond to the previous question is to build alternative sites that actively resist the temptation to become absorbed into the cultural mainstream. But then other questions are bound to issue forth, such as "will all hypermedia narrative projects, no matter how politically-correct their content may think itself to be, endorse the development of commercial products emerging out of the new media industry?" This is a significant query to ask oneself when composing in this environment, for if the political strategy behind the narrative composition of hypermedia projects like HTC (, is at all serious about employing the Avant-Pop anti-aesthetic practice to produce new, unpackagable culture integrations that go against the grain of the efficiency oriented profit system by reintroducing disruptive forces that the system needs to exclude, then how can one proceed to compose these "subversive narratives" without simultaneously supporting the system of investments and expenditures that drive the technological apparatus through its various stages of development in late-capitalism?

As art becomes less art, it takes on rhetoricís early role as persuasive critique of everyday life. As a result of this movement out of art and back into everyday life, art itself becomes integrated into the workings of everyday life by situating itself in corporations, universities, governments and, more importantly, the fluid vistas of the vast electrosphere where all of these "cultures" collide and mix.

But what is a work of art in the age of virtual republishing and network installation? In the rhizomatic flow of network cultures, the eye touches rather than sees. It immerses itself in the tactile sense it feels when caught in the heat of the meaning-making process. This meaning-making process, which is now manifesting itself as kind of electronic media event one is responsible for having created themselves as a result of having become a cyborg-narrator or avatar-presence in the simulated worlds of cyberspace, is actually part of a greater desire to become part of a socio-cultural mosaic.

And yet what is the source code that inscribes this desire toward an engagement with the cultural production of our time?