IASLonline Lessons in NetArt


Thomas Dreher

Net Polls and Political Dialogues: Andreja Kuluncic


auf deutsch


First Net Project

The Croatian Andreja Kuluncic (*1968 in Subotica) studied sculpture in Belgrade (until 1992) and in Budapest (1992-94). She traveled from 1993 to 1995 and developed projects in Jordan (AZRAQ, 1994) and Latin America. There Kuluncic tried in vain to find sponsors. The net offered an alternative to Kuluncic when she had to recognize the impossibility to find rooms for a sculptor´s practice in Zagreb. In 1996 the ArtsLink international exchange programme financed a visit in U.S.A. which lasted six weeks. Kuluncic bought her first computer in Minneapolis and returned with it to Zagreb. There she earns her living part time (four days of the week) in a bureau for web design. 1

Kuluncic realized her first net project Thinking through moving/moving through thinking in 1997. The first part Thinking through moving led through a sequence of five photos and users could write their associations, interpretations and other contents in four fields for text inscriptions. The last page of this part presented all photos with texts generated with users´ inscriptions (The actual documentation of the project shows only a demotext). The second non-participatory (but reactive) part Moving through thinking was multi-branched. The user came after intermediate stages with travel photos to picture-text-combinations with either quotes of Albert Camus´ diary of journeys ("Notes") and Jean-Paul Sartre´s "Nausea". Kuluncic shot the photos and read these books on the same travels. Parts of the quotes were linked with picture-text-combinations which led to three pages with pictures and numbers in percent. These numbers informed about the amount of users who "choose the same link...to reach to the end." (Kuluncic, e-mail, 25.8.2003) The actual documentation contains a static number in percent as a substitute of the former statistic. The three ends offer links to the beginning and provoke further selections of paths.

 

Postcommunism

Kuluncic´s change of strategies in her ensuing net projects can be described as a change from associative picture-text-plaits to the investigation of social and political states. The picture sequences of the first net project was turned into a meagre textual web design. In her first web polls Kuluncic investigates problems of east european countries in the transition from a state-ruled to a private economy and from a one-party-government to democracy. Kuluncic´s participatory projects are often websites which constitute the core of an exhibition presentation.

Visitors have been asked in State – Citizen Communication (Hungarian and English) at the Museum for Applied Art in Budapest (Internet. galaxis 98, support: C3/Center for Culture & Communication, Budapest, 2/26–3/4/1998) if there exists "a genuine dialogue between the state and its citizens". The visitors entered voting cabins and selected on web pages a red field for yes and a green field for no. The summary of the votes consisted of yes/no-proportions which were presented on a screen in the Museum for Applied Art as word projections in red and green. Article 61 of the Hungarian Constitution expresses the right of free speech and free distribution of opinions. The words of article 61 were projected in a permanently actualized visualization on a screen in the museum. More and more parts of the text appeared as a series of additions until the text was to read in a complete projection. The changing red/green respectively no/yes-relations of the six days lasting web action are documented on webpages.

Kuluncic planned to install "State – Citizen Communciation" in the parliament but the video was not accepted. Citizens could understand the presentation in the parliament as a call to deputies to investigate the webpoll´s result which could have been more favorable.

Letter for the exhibition Media-Scape 6 (Museum for Conemtporary Art, Zagreb, November 1998) presented a webpoll (Croation and English) which offered Croatian citizens the opportunity to judge with clicks on fields for multiple choice and to decide about the future of the president. The rating could be sent to Franjo Tudjman (1922-1999). The botton "send" didn´t send the replies as e-mails but contained a link to a further page with a pretended affirmation of an e-mail sent to Tudjman. That standardized response page presented only one reply in favour of Tudjman´s political intentions, disguised as a free speach situation.

Today the questionnaire and the standardized response page still exist with all their faked functions. The response page expresses only applause for Tudjman and a vote for the prolongation of his precidency for life time because of "wise statemanship". The questionnaire without login procedure, without valuation of statistics and the impossibility to acclaim non-affirmative opinions demonstrates the consequencies of the politics of that time with means of irony to users. Art has to use irony if direct expressions of opinions are not useful or prohibited.

The Hungarian action allows an understanding as an exercise in new democratic circumstances meanwhile the Croatian action thematized a deficiency in democracy. Kuluncic thematizes in 1998 the difference between the Hungarian and the Croatian politics in different ways of enquiry and in different uses of votes: The question in "State – Citizen Communication", if communications between Hungarian citizens and their state happen, the presentation of the results with its use of the Hungarian constitution and the deputies as (wanted) receivers are counteracted in "Letters" with a concentration on the needs of the Croatian president with the consequence of a vote which demonstrates itself as a fake. Only users see the simulated sending and they recognize the fake after a non-affirmative vote (or with a look on the source code). The president doesn´t see the faked sending and serves as a faked receiver in a demonstration of a pseudo-democracy.

 

Closed Reality – Embryo

The public net access and the anticipation of the possibilities of an e-democracy were the dominant characteristics of "State – Citizen Communication" in 1998. In 1999 follows Closed Reality – Embryo (Gallery Miroslav Kraljevic, Zagreb, October 1999) with the interaction between users as the key feature.

Users log in with their dates for name, profession, age, sex and country. Then they have to wait until another user logs in. As soon as users have found their partners both start to choose one after another predicates of a virtual embryo. Partners with equal sex are possible as parents, too: The data world of the embryo project doesn´t repeat the biological conditions of the origin. The virtual embryo is treated as a digital unit with characteristics of an artificial life which will be concretized as a living unit in hundred years.

The constituency of the choice of features for archived embryos can be proofed. That proof allows to recognize if the users wanted to cooperate. The combination of debility features with intelligence allows the conclusion that partners didn´t cooperate. The partners can vote for an abortion after the sequence with choices of features.

A Statistical analysis for the first half year of the embryo´s archive (from October 1999 to March 2000) is available. The statistic allows data comparisons betwenn "visitors´ society" and "normal society". Yellow skin is the most frequent real human appearance and the most disliked in the virtual project. The high portion of living Asiatics is opposed to a high white portion of virtual embryos. That portion is surpassed by a higher portion of virtual mongrels which range in reality on the second place behind the yellow part of population.

The statistic offers more remarkable relations between virtual and real features within the thematics intelligence, immunity and external appearance. The majority of users don´t vote the highest but the second highest level of intelligence (IQ 125-145). It seems that users fear the highest level of intelligence in their wishful thinking, but they prefer a higher level than the level of average intelligence which constitutes the third highest (IQ 85-125) of five levels. When the "visitors´ society" choses degrees of aggression then the result shows minor differences between all three degrees than the dates of the real graduation. But both statistics present the portion of the middle degree as much wider than the two other portions. This could be a return of the socialized function of aggression as a mechanism of defense in the virtual project.

The introduction emphasizes: "The project is not a fictive game with still unexamined possibilities of genetics and it does not aim to popularize scientific discoveries." That remark doesn´t excludediscussion frameworks of genetics as the incorporation of two texts (since march 2000) into the site and the link list verify. Furthermore Kuluncic integrated lectures of experts and discussions on genetics as parts of events and exhibition presentations (esp. the gallery Miroslav Kraljevic, Zagreb, april 2000) in the project.

A mailing list (archive, from October 1999 to July 2001, Hungarian, Croatian and English) offered users the chance to present contributions in an ongoing discussion. In november 1999 the users discussed real processes which are comparable to the fabrication of virtual embryos: Sperma bank and one night stand have been mentioned as means to realize the desire of pregnancy without fatherhood. These analogies allow the return of a biological problem which is avoidable in the virtual realm: The users don´t use with ease the chance of virtuality to renounce not only to natural sex differences but to get rid of socialized gender roles, too. The problem of "en-gendering" in digital worlds can be found in players´ attitudes, too, as Edward Castranova´s last investigation of the EverQuest players proofs (CESifo Working Papers No.957).

Kuluncic reflects the prohibition of gen manipulation as impossible: "Genetic engineering is inevitable now that it became reality, but we still can ask questions and demand responsibility for genetic manipulation." 2 It is inevitable to ask about reactions to the consequences of realized gen manipulations and how genetics should proceed. Social questions are reflected in the contributions to the mailing list. The contributions contradict the strategy to accelerate the proceedings of genetics so far that discussions on moral and social questions happen too late because they are confronted with irreversible modifications.

Fewer contributions were sent to the list after interesting discussions in november 1999. Kuluncic and members of her team reacted with messages on the course of the project. They linked to found texts or offered downloads.

 

Passport

Passport (April 2001) was realized for The Jezewo Motel Project, curated by Nada Beros for the net journal Art-e-Fact: Strategies of Resistance. The project criticizes the situation of immigrants to the European Community (EC) and uses the frontier of Croatia as an example: The former Jezewo Motel near Zagreb became the Reception Center for Foreigners. Immigrants have to wait here until their application for the status of refugees will be decided or they are arrested and expect deportations.

Kuluncic´s contribution thematizes the travel limitations. Users indicate on the first page of "Passport" their age, the region of depart, the prefered country and the prefered kind of activity ("art, business, technology, sport, natural sciences, social sciences, other"). The next page offers a world map with regions in different colors representing the colors of passport covers. The controlers of passports use the six colors of passport covers for bigger regions (blue = Europe, Scandinavia, Island, Greenland; green = North America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan; brown = South America, Africa, Asia; pink = Europe; red = Russia; beige = Israel, Libanon, Suadi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Jemen, Oman) to recognize easy and fast the region of depart of the travellers and which travel rights they possess. Users are instructed: "Choose a passport color for your future child." A horizontal line with rectangles constitutes an index of passport colors: Click on one of the rectangles and the choice is done.

The next page informs about the former users´ desire to change their passport colors. No further mention of the "future child" can be found. The term "future child" offers a fiction which provokes users to choose their prefered countries and activities without regard of the real travel conditions. Kuluncic indicates (e-mail, 7/14/2003) that "future child" in "Passport" should demonstrate the conditions of the virtual embryos of "Closed Reality – Embryo" (its site includes "Passprt") whose real existence will be regulated as much or more by travel conditions than by capabilities in hundred years. The amount of users and the voter of alternative passport colors relate to each other in a constant proportion of approximately 5:3 from 9/4/2002 to 5/5/2002.

Users can investigate how much participants with a certain prefered activity chose which kind of passport color. The connection between all statistics is not given in the form of an overview of all user dates. Informations are restricted to dates about the amount of users who wanted to change the colors of their passport (resp. the passport color of their alter ego with the name "future child").

Artists designed Ten Postcards for "The Jezewo Motel Project". The printed cards have been distributed free, the Reception Center for Foreigners included. Kuluncic chose the world map of "Passport" withits possibilities to select a passport cover color as a motif for the print of her contribution to "Greetings from Jezewo". The cursor is directed to the blue rectangle: the wish-dream in contrast to the EC´s reality conditioned by the Schengen agreement.

Kuluncic documents in the nine photo-text-documentations of Another View for the group exhibition Sight.Seeing (4th Austrian Triennial on Photography, Graz 2002) experiences of immigrants with restricted professional activities, too. The restrictions are caused by "problems with the papers" and its consequences, the travel limitations. The poster "Another View" with photos and texts of asylum seekers, who waited from six to twenty-six months with unfinished acceptance procedures as political refugees, was presented in the municipal asylum office (Grabenstrasse 88). The asylum seekers of Graz thematized in short exts the professional, social and private consequences of the prohibition on employment which restricts their activities meanwhile the acceptance procedure. They point with photos to places in Graz which provoked their attention and which they liked or disliked. A remark of the Immigrants´ Council in Graz on the prohibition of employment appears underneath the nine photo-text combinations together with the title of the exhibition: "Sight" ("Sicht") means both "view" ("Aussicht") on the granting of asylum and "views" ("Aussichten") how to be able to live in Graz without employment. How did the citizens of Graz and the visitors of the "4th Austrian Triennial on Photography" react to the "sight" ("Sicht") on and of immigrants mediated by "Another View" (Tours to the sites with projects of "Sight.Seeing" have been offered)?

The "sightseeing" of asylum seekers confronts asylum officers and visitors of "Sight.Seeing" with an unfavorable perspective. European states open their frontiers to immigrants only in exemption cases and then with time limits. Economic necessities open back doors: The frontiers are opened in limited time frames via exemption rights which the states install for their needs (in Austria with a treatment which imposes equal rights with inlanders after a complicated proof of the Austrian "people´s economic interest", GeWO §14). Asylum seekers without exemption rights express themselves in Kuluncic´s contribution to "Sight.Seeing".

The asylum seekers offer spotlights in "Another View" to individual fortunes which are left out of consideration in the net project "Passport". The photo-text for "Sight.Seeing" offers perspectives of persons who are excluded by restrictions from employment, consumption and travel possibilities meanwhile "Passport" is open for all users but refers to the problem of inequal travel rights: As minor the passport´s status of travel rights is as more existential is the question "How to win better travel and residence rights?" The existential problems of immigration thematizes "Another View" at the site of decision on the future in- and exclusion: as >inclusion of the temporary excluded<, as waiting people which just inhabit with restrictions the place of the planned arrival. 3

The exclusion of residence and employment rights is problematized in a recourse to a possible but seldom granted inclusion. This should provoke the following question as return: How much and which exclusions are really necessary for the inclusion as citizen into a federal rights system? But this question contradicts the voters´ usual protection of private interests: Rights of all members of a social system are treated as if they are private possessions. The vote for or against inequal ways to win these civil rights is an exclusive matter of the citizens who possess these rights. These voting conditions and the voters prevent chances to discuss the possibilities of an international correction of inequal treatments via easier ways to receive asylum grants.

 

Distributive Justice

Distributive Justice (August 2001-2003) is the most detailled project of Kuluncic and her team that already realized "Closed Reality – Embryo": the sociologists Gabrijela Sabol and Momo Kuzmanovic, the philosopher Tomislav Janovic, the programmer Matija Puzar, the photographer and film maker Ivo Martinovic and the designer Trudy Lane; new members for the presentation of "Distributive Justice" are the philosopher Neven Petrovic and the designer Dejan Jankovic.

The installation with colored quarters of circles and rings – four tables for computers and four benches – is designed by Sinisa Ilica, Ivo Martinovic and Andrea Kuluncic. It created circumstances for visitors to study the website (in four languages: Croatian, Italian, German, English) first at the Biennale Internazionale Arte Giovane (Cavallerizza Reale, Turino, April-Mai 2002) and afterwards at documenta 11 (documenta Halle, Kassel, June - September 2002). Visitors of documenta 11 had the chance to find their pathways through the website. The site allowed to become confident with the theme of the project relative easy and fast in comparison to other projects.

The introduction into "Distributive Justice" relates condensated statements of John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin with further summaries of strict egalitarianism, right and left libertarianism, utilitarianism and pluralism. The short instructions show the dominance of criteria either of equal rights (with regards to different basic needs) on the left wing or of differenciations of earnings and capacities on the right wing. Proposals provoke attention if they present methods to find a balance between nature, capacities and postulates of equality. The lists with nominations of the most important thinkers of each kind to conceptualize distributive justice help to proof the proposed reduction to basic statements but it demonstrates, too, how much elaborated studies are necessary for reconceptualizations:

...the obstacle is not in how to, clearly and consistently, carry the exact knowledge over to the uninformed but in the fact that such exact knowledge doesn´t exist! What we have is a bunch of mixed and mutually opposed standpoints that are not easy to classify properly. 4

A questionnaire offers users the chance to evaluate the real distribution, to locate themselves in social contexts and to nominate an example of good social policy. The automatically generated actualization of statistics allows net participants to locate themselves within a profile of visitors summarizing the dates of all preceding participants. The statistics of the questionnaire tell that the present distribution of social chances and economic goods is unfair for circa 70 % of all participants (The statistic differs between 71 % and 73 % from 9/3/2002 to 7/11/2003). A third part of the users imagines most citizens as members of the lower middle class. But most users conceptualize a strong upper middle class as a criterion of fair distribution.

In exhibitions printed questionnaires are added to the net questionnaires. The answers of the print versions are counted out after the exhibition. Students in Zagreb evaluate their own living standard as average and as part of the lower middle class meanwhile visitors in Torino and Kassel slender in their self evaluation between average and higher income. These visitors ascribe themselves in general to the upper middle class. The fair and the estimated real distribution don´t differ very much in evaluations of italian and german visitors. Most of the users want a stronger upper class. But this doesn´t explain why so much people estimate the real distribution as unfair. In contrast to these results of italian and german visitors are the votes of Croatian visitors: Here we find a big difference between the fair (strong upper middle class) and the estimated real distribution (strong lower class). Students in Zagreb indicate their own living standard as average meanwhile they present themselves as members of a higher class than the lower class which constitutes in their perspective most of the citizens (38,3 %). Is it knowledge that constitutes the difference? The statistics present the following countries as examples with good social politics: Students in Zagreb prefer Sweden with 23 % as model of fair distribution before Switzerland with 8 %. Visitors of the documenta 11 voted for the Scandinavian countries (Sweden included) with 20,1 % as favorites.

Three games offer users chances to compare their choices and the preferences of other users. The first game Create the Society of Your Desire offers "Common Goods": "money, freedom, social position, opportunities, public services, pleasure". Users are enabled for each of these six "common goods" to compare the relations between their own choice and the vote of preceding players. A general statistic summarizes the results of the questionnaire and the games. This page presents a cross-cut with a result which is a mediation of the different "common goods" statistics: Approximately the same amount of users selected meritocracy, welfare state and communism as prefered kinds of distribution (23-25 %), meanwhile strict egalitarianism and minimal state are the less wanted sorts.

The second game Discover your Distributive Profile permits evaluations with scales from 1 to 10. The players evaluate the weights of possible answers to questions in the three regions talents, appropriation and state intervention (No entry to this page without login procedure). The statistical result (which appears only after the votes) shows each user in percents which amounts of the seven kinds of distributive justice are parts of his own opinion. A further statistic summarizes the three regions and compares the sum of one user with the sum of all foregoing users. That general statistic presents Dworkin´s conception as the most prefered and the right libertarianism as the most disliked method of distributive justice.

The digital generating of statistics can´t proof the stringency and the social consequences of the users´ input. Statistical dates implicitly refer to social conflicts hidden in different preferences. If users are able to recognize these implications then they may change their attitudes f. e. their preferences and their treatment of conflicts hidden in and between political opinions.

The third game Distributive Justice: America offers users a black figure. The figure is to move via the keyboard´s arrow keys within a schematized landscape with walls, streets, grass and water zones. If the player´s figure meets one of the red and blue game figures then a hit on the space bar opens one of the questions on American social politics. A diagram on the bottom left facilitates arrangements of meetings figures because it offers a survey on the game´s field and the movements of the figures. The first question provokes users to explicate their points of view as American or Non-American. The black figure won´t be able to leave the rectangle closed by walls before the first question will be answered. Some of the following questions about the american way to distribute goods present scales with gradual distinctions. Americans can respond to the questions in a twofold way: They vote their own opinion and estimate the opinion of the majority of American players.

In the beginning of July 2003 "Distributive Justice: America" was integrated in "Distributive Justice" for the exhibition The American Effect in the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, 7/3/2003-10/12/2003). Statistics aren´t yet installed. If the statistics will divide American and non-American points of view – as it is planned (Kuluncic, e-Mail, 7/19/2003) – then "Distributive Justice: America" will offer Americans a chance to externalize their opinions, but only if they don´t ignore the votes of non-Americans as a possibility for comparisons, and non-Americans receive a reflective breaking of their criticism with the help of internal American ways of social reflection. American internal breakings point to potentials for controversy in the case of questions which didn´t find a remarkable majority of voters for one answer and which provoked a high difference between users with the same opinion and the estimated vote of the majority of Americans.

A socio-economic world map offers chronological data comparisons (1965/1975/1985/1997) between countries on four levels: incomes per capita, infant mortality, life expectancy and illiteracy. Data comparisons allow to recognize an increase of the differences between poor and rich countries (f. e. Zimbabwe/Japan). Some Asian and East European nations have been integrated as production countries in the globalization. This happened after the international corporations reduced their activities in a lot of countries with an export economy based on natural resources. If the new partners want to remain integrated in global economy than they have to stabilize their status as regions of low cost production and have to be content with second or third rates (compare Corea/Japan, Germany/Poland). Distributive justice is an actual possibility on the level of the polls (the games included) but statistics of the real distribution show inequality in historical processes of transfers and intensified instead of mediated differences. These processes have complex and nearly unchangeable economic causes.

The informations on the fair distribution of rights and goods are expanded by utterances of direct afflicted people and scientists. The exhibition installations present a DVD with interviews. The interviewed persons are featured anonymous. The DVD allows the visitor to select persons and questions. All interviews are based on the same set of questions. Visitors are able to video- and audiotape themselves or other persons and to play back the presented tapes of other participants.

The webpage with links to film documents shows excerpts of the interviews on the DVD. The interviews are classified in sets with names of countries. The persons are presented anonymous and signed by their professions. The transcripts with excerpts of the interrogation of four swedish authors uncovers their identities. The authors criticize the contemporary development of the swedish social policy. These interviews (titled "The golden age is over") and further contributions to newspapers (Number 0/April 2002, Number 1/June 2002, Number 2/July 2003) simplify the users´ self orientations in the problem field "distributive justice". The first newspaper anticipates the examples of fair social policy favored by users in later realized polls and thematizes the scandinavian distribution practice of rights and goods. Here Bent Rold Andersen´s explains the Danish pensions system. Andersen´s explanations are excerpts of the DVD, too. The clips of the page with film documents and the transcriptions of the newspapers are net derivatives of the DVD.

The World Bank study "The Transition, The First Ten Years of Lessons for Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union" characterizes the first phase of privatization as dominated by oligarchs and insiders of the socialist power relations. Furthermore the study describes the dramatic aggrandizement of the differences between the poor and the rich in former socialist states which have been mentioned as the countries with the smallest inequality in former times. The first newspaper introduces the theme of the second newspaper with the report on the results of the World Bank study (Winner & Losers).

The second newspaper discusses the problems of postcommunist states in the transition to private economy and democracy. Zarko Puhovsky and Ivan Silber describe the private economy in states in transition and point to the problems arising in cases when governments want to reduce inequality and try to take adequate measures. Kuluncic expands her thematization of postcommunist problems with these contributions. These themes have been problematized in her net projects of 1998 in a contextual specific way for visitors of some states in transitions meanwhile "Distributive Justice" integrates these context specific problems in a set of global questions for an international public: States in the transition from state to private economy and states with social democratic transitions have to react to consequences of globalization. They prepare themselves on different economic levels and with more or less differenciated mechanisms of the governments. The states in transition have no time for a differentiation of governmental regulations of the private economy and they have no chances to bring themselves up in the present state of globalization.

The third newspaper is titled "Underprivileged". It presents Hetti Perkins, the Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art at The Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney. Perkins exposes in an interview (a transcription of DVD-interviews) the art of the Aborigines (including dance and performence) as "The Voice of Australia" and as a tourists´ attraction which became an important source of income. The Aborigines constitute less than two percent of the Australian population. Most of the Aborigines are part of Australia´s lowest income group. Perkins points to the political marginalization of the Aborigines in the last federal election although they still have restricted access to healthcare, running water, housing and education. Perkins describes the political situation of the Aborigines as a regress after the progress of the seventies and eighties.

The principles for the rich and for the poor is a transfer of a discussion led by Ana Matan and Klaus Bittner from the end of october to november 2002 in the mailing list. Central themes have been John Rawls´ "A Theory of Justice", its wide reception in Scandinavian countries simultaneous to a weak reception in America and mediations between "Leistungsgerechtigkeit" and "Bedürfnisgerechtigkeit" (german terms in the english text, approx. translatable as "justice of labor" and "justice of needs"). The discussion includes a criticism of Rawls´ explanation of a procedure to find a consensus in the case of competitive concepts to mediate "Leistungs-" with "Bedürfnisgerechtigkeit".

Further contributions in the second and third newsletter and the chapter discussions present lectures and discussion events realized by Kuluncic as part of their project. These parts and the transcriptions of interviews set out the newspapers as a node which connects the net external parts with the net parts. The characteristics interrogation and dialogue combine all parts of the project.

The discussion forum offers users chances to expand the presented problem fields and to discuss them. Only a small amount of users sent mails and read the contributions although Kuluncic and members of the team provoked and expanded the discussion. At least some questions have been discussed: for example the implicit left engagement in "Distributive Justice", the social use of inheritances and advantages resulting from gen manipulations.

The situation of the lonely participant engaged with polls and able to project imaginary dialogues with statistical dates of the opinions of other users is expanded to a real dialogue in discussion events (near reaching communication), discussion forums and mailing lists (far reaching communication).

 

Desengaged Dramatics and Participation

Kuluncic uncovers in her net projects scales of opinions which point to economic and political problems. But she renounces to use activistic kinds to highlight a certain point of view in conflict situations. Kuluncic´s net projects present dramatics which provoke distance via objectification and interest via transparence. Not desengaged dramatics would foreclose mental rooms of users to move between opinions and articulations of their own engagement which they can present as participants of polls, discussion forums and mailing lists.

It doesn´t make sense to evaluate a net poll as a weighting of certain social accents in a problem field before users start with participations because Kuluncic´s net polls don´t function as >void masks<: The poll is not a void inquiry form and it can´t be understood as an autonomous concept with a "dialogic aura". 5 Interaction is not drafted as an imaginary field of possibilities apart from any social practice but Kuluncic´s net projects offer situations for self orientation within actual social problem fields in cases with virtual exemplary fictions (a "future child" with a virtual embryo, with a free vote of the passport colour), too: Kuluncic uses projections of wishes as a way to interrogate social attitudes (world pictures and action plans) which direct interactions (actions and speach acts) in contexts of the lifeworld.

Kuluncic´s web polls are able to provoke changes of attitudes with the help of the theme, its explanation and statistics of users´ opinions: A user can be irritated by tensions in scales of opinions that a change can happen from a non-reflective orientation to reflections and to an openness for the discussion of other attitudes. User demonstrate with their inscriptions in the mailing lists of "Closed Reality – Embryo", "Distributive Justice" and in the discussion forum of the last project how far they have recognized the discourse potential of the projects´ frameworks. The users´ inscriptions in the net projects allow sometimes to recognize if and how changes of attitudes to reflective orientation happened. The usual time gap from a provocative artwork (phase 1) to their mental realization via changed attitudes (phase 2) is substituted in Kuluncic´s works by possibilities for users to express the provocations in the net project itself. The projects don´t offer models for world observation apart from the world but frames for reflection posed into everyday´s social and communicative practice (reflections as a breaking of the theme into different opinions and possible mediations).

 

Artworld and Net Projects

Kuluncic integrates her net projects as temporary installations in group exhibitions. She looks for participants in the art context because museums reach a relative wide public. Kuluncic uses an openness of curators for ephemeral works. This openness became usual in the nineties and helped to include projects which transform the museum into a site of participation.

The established artworld obligates visitors of exhibitions to contemplative modes of thinking. Since the end of the sixities galleries and museums have been provoked by artists to present themselves more open for ephemeral projects which integrate visitors as dialogue partners (f. e. Ian Wilson´s Oral Communication). Joseph Beuys realized his concept of the museum as a "site of a permanent conference" in dialogues with the public of the documenta 5 (Kassel 1972). This concept anticipated the conference- and workshop-situations in the artworld which have been realized in the nineties sometimes as substitutes of exhibitions.

Beuys replaces the established meaning of "work" as a transportable, but unchangeable object with a dialogue process. The artist acts as a curator of conversations about imaginations of a "direct democracy". Beuys reuses terms of the discourse on art like "sculpture" and "creativity" and enlarges their semantic fields in social regions:

...now one has to develop a notion of art...which evokes now the creativity of each human fundamentally, and which is not only at home within the framework of art. But it is everywhere at home. 6

Beuys opens the practice of museums from inside with a quasi-curatorial discourse activity and speaks about problems outside the art context. His procedure became superfluous today, to transform the art context from its inside `first´ with references from social problems to key terms of the art discourse and `second´ with an expansion of this art discourse into social themes.

The art museum is a part of an "art system", which connects "subsystems" of the market (art market), the museums (art museums), the journalism (art criticism) and the academic discourse (art theory, art history). That combination of subsystems permitted openness only in a recursion to its evolutionary achieved, relative closure. The artworld delivered "consecrating instances" (organizations and their excluding procedures with established sequences of processes) and "conversational implicatures" (recursions to modes of argumentation) 7 which established and secured the art status. The museums´ organization of publicity offered artists a central platform for an integration of their forms of presentation into an art context, whose instances and implicatures constituted the readability of their forms `as art´. Beuys paid his tribute to that function of the art context with his statement "each human [is] an artist"/"Jeder Mensch ein Künstler", and he transgressed with that slogan the frame which secures the art status: The artworld looses its modes of exclusion if the art frame contents everything and if non-artists are impossible.

The actual art exhibitions offer only one under a lot of possibilities for the presentation of projects which problematize more general social and economic aspects. Not seldom they include aspects which contain constituents of subsystems of the artworld. These constituents have been marginalized in the constitution of an autonomous context of art. Concept Art´s contextual criticism (Hans Haacke and Art & Language 8) explicated in the seventies these marginalized economic and institutional aspects as factors which constitute the artworld, too. Contemporary projects with criticism of society need not always refer to its context of presentation. This modified situation offers projects the chance to thematize actual problems (f. e. the social consequences of genomics) without semantic and formal recursion to the art context.

Contemporary forms of presentation which try to provoke dialogues and participatory projects usually aren´t (yet) precoded by art history or they are precoded by art history (f. e. by Ian Wilson and Joseph Beuys) as peripheral as artistic uses of new media (objects, photographs, film, computer, telecommunication) are peripheral as long as they are not established as art specific kinds to use media ("Kunstgattungen") and as collectibles (objects of art collectors´ desire). It remains open at least which instances and implicatures are relevant for these projects: Artworks change their state into >laboratories< and the artworld looses its dominant mediating function: The art exhibition is one of a multiplicity of possible contexts of presentation.

Kuluncic creates ephemeral communication circumstances in the context of art exhibitions: She installs "Distributive Justice" as a social laboratory respectively as a working space which expands the interactive field of the net project. The movable elements of the "working space" are rearrangeable for lectures of experts and discussions with visitors. The time frame for an active "Distributive Justice" ends 2003. The openness for participation, exhibitions and meetings are part of this active phase. Afterwards the net project will be relevant as a net documentation but not as an object for collections. Kuluncic transforms the exhibition circumstances into a communication practice but not into a spectacular event: This practice disconnects the artworld from the established relation between the exchange value and the value of exhibition (Ausstellungswert). This casts shadows on the value of exhibition: Don´t the aura of the static object on one side and the processes in the internet on the other side constitute an opposition without possible mediations?

The social oriented projects put their interactivity to the proof outside the museum and in a net context which doesn´t guarantee an art status. The net projects can be installed outside the artworld in circumstances which are relevant for the contents as contexts of presentation.

Jasper Johns´s Flag (1954-55) can be identified both as painting (with a form which is precoded in a context external to art) and as a nation´s flag (in a realization with materials and techniques which are often used in contexts internal to art). Both identifications presuppose the other one, because these mutual references problematize correlations between consecrating instances and conversational implicatures which give identifications its constancy. The conversational implicatures (which combine sources with different, sometimes art external origins to constitute a relative homogeneous discourse field called `art´) of the artworld don´t achieve any contribution to a reconceptualization of the correlations in Kuluncic´s projects: The implicatures don´t "transfigure" the social relations onto an artistic level (which allows the transfigured relations to be connected with social fields of meaning, too). 9 The sort of plural context relations has been changed: There are instances and implicatures at least as relevant for users in the net and in the "working space" than the art internal ones.

Of course, Kuluncic uses the capabilities of art exhibiting institutions, to direct the public to a place with notes on events, press releases, means of publicity and other things, to direct the attention to a participatory net project. However her projects change the public which expects an established art status and the assembly to observe art into an assembly in the sense of an agora, a forum.

The installed net projects expand the forum in the museum into a telecommunicative public: The net projects with its participatory modifications gain the status of a model for dynamic, multiplicity including "forms" in "media" 10 with access possibilities from different places. The museumization and its conservatory techniques resisted (until now) to solve problems of storing digital projects in databases. There are database projects for net.art like runme.org and netart-datenbank.org without museum background. The artworld can´t proceed longer to conceptualize itself as a relatively closed art system with the presentation circumstances of museums at its center. This is a consequence of both the net projects and the modifications of the artworld via its own use of the internet: Curators can create websites as portals or platforms for net projects. Other possibilities of a delimited artworld are the addition of databases as platforms for virtual projects to exhibition and archive spaces, or the databases substitute established forms of museumization.

Projects which are installed without art specific forms of presentation in public spaces can be connected with instances and implicatures which impart the art status. The public projects can resist this connection to the artworld. 11 If such connections are abandoned in the art context then arises the problematic which was exemplified here by Kuluncic´s "working spaces" with net projects: The art context is transformed into a public site, a forum as a meeting point and a circumstance for dialogues. So the context becomes a public web access opportunity (for the relevant URL addresses) and a laboratory for links between different kinds of communication for near and far distances.

The web projects cast doubts on the excluding procedures and status affirming functions of the artworld: This happens on three levels

  • of possibilities for observations which are not limited by local exhibition conditions,
  • of the recipients´ inclusion as participants,
  • of the substitution of collecting strategies for the purchase and the conservation of isolated objects by accesses and exchanges of dates and knowledge which are free of charges,
  • of the openness for (modes of) communications which can´t be connected to the discourse on art and which can be mediated otherwise, too.

These levels have precursors in the history of art but only the net allows configurations which combine these levels. The changed uses of media should provoke reflections as well on possibilities and conditions of net configurations as on consequences in the artworld. Net configurations direct the attention of the reader not seldom out of the artworld. Meanwhile context reflecting art works thematized their own circumstances and conditions for presentations, projects have been added which offer alternatives not only in actions, investigations and documentations, which thematize local conflicts, but also in translocal, art external >interfaces< for cooperation and discussion which problematize aspects of globalization, its procedures and its consequences.

 



Dr. Thomas Dreher
Schwanthalerstr. 158
D-80339 München.
Homepage with numerous articles on art history since the sixties, a. o. on Concept Art and Intermedia Art.

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Annotations

1 w. a. [without author]: Crow introduces: Andreja Kuluncic. The first and the only Croatian cyber-artist. In: Crow. First CROatian e-zine for Women. Summer 1999. URL: http://www.crowmagazine.com/andreja.htm. return

2 w. a.: Crow introduces: Andreja Kuluncic, s. ann.1. return

3 On in- and exclusion: Luhmann, Niklas: Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft. Frankfurt am Main 1997, chap. IV, p.618-634.
On the discrimination of immigrants in Graz: w. a.: Schikanen der Polizei. Migranten und Migrantinnen wehren sich! (Aufzeichnungen von der Pressekonferenz des Ausländerbeirats der Stadt Graz am 23.12.2002). In: URL: http://www.illegalisiert.at/ deportatiNO/ pk_auslaenderbeirat_graz251202.htm.
The group of artists/activists WochenKlausur realized in Graz (Steirischer Herbst, August-September 1995) an Intervention to Integrate Refugees. Seven immigrants produced "social sculptures" - useful goods - which financed patrons and sponsors. The immigrants worked with a contract for artists because an artistic activity doesn´t need any work permit after the Austrian immigration law. The annual employment quota for foreigners didn´t allow further employments when the project´s realization was planned (Zinggl, Wolfgang (ed.): WochenKlausur. Gesellschaftspolitischer Aktivismus in der Kunst. Vienna 2001, p.44-52).
WochenKlausur and Kuluncic present examples for the strategies intervention and documentation in the same town and about the same theme. The documentation elucidates a conflict, meanwhile the intervention creates a temporary or lasting exit. return

4 Petrovic, Neven, in: Tudor, Neven: about the project/interview. In: Kuluncic, Andreja: distributive justice/distributive gerechtigkeit. Zagreb 2002, p.26.
The discussion of balance relations between differences caused by nature, principles of equality and work activity: Lamont, Julian: Distributive Justice. In: Zalta (Hg.), Edward N.: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2002 Edition). URL: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2002/entries/justice-distributive/. (17.6.2003). return

5 Baldwin, Michael/Harrison, Charles/Ramsden, Mel: On Conceptual Art and Painting and Speaking and Seeing. Three Corrected Transcripts. In: Art-Language. New Series Number 1/June 1994, p.55,59,63. return

6 Beuys, Joseph: Das Museum – ein Ort der permanenten Konferenz (Gespräch mit Horst Kurnitzky und Jeannot Simmen, Atelier Beuys, 1.2.1980). In: Kurnitzky, Horst (Hg.): Notizbuch 3. Kunst – Gesellschaft – Museum. Berlin 1980, p.46-74; Beuys, Joseph: Jeder Mensch ist ein Künstler. Gespräche auf der documenta 5 1972, aufgezeichnet von Clara Bodenmann-Ritter. Frankfurt am Main/Berlin/Vienna 1975 (quotation p.100). return

7 On subsystems of the artworld and their connections: Dreher, Thomas: Performance Art nach 1945. Aktionstheater und Intermedia. Munich 2001, p.413, ann.654; Luhmann, Niklas: Die Kunst der Gesellschaft. Frankfurt am Main 1995, p.87-91,289-294,395-401,496.
"Consecrating instances"/«des instances de consécration»: Bourdieu, Pierre: Les règles de l´art. Genèse et structure du champ littéraire. Paris 1992, p.318.
"Conversational implicatures": Danto, Arthur Coleman: The Transfiguration of the Commonplace. A Philosophy of Art. Cambridge/Massachusetts 1981, p.157; Meggle, Georg (Hg.): Handlung, Kommunikation, Bedeutung. Frankfurt am Main 1979/2nd edition 1993, p.XIIf.,243-479,505f. zurück

8 Corris, Michael: Another Look at the Social Dimension of Indexing. In: Art & Language: Blurting in A & L online. In: URL: http://blurting-in.zkm.de/e/another_look; Dreher, Thomas: Konzeptuelle Kunst in Amerika und England zwischen 1963 und 1976. Thesis Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich/Frankfurt am Main 1992, p.191-225; Wallis, Brian (Hg.): Hans Haacke. Unfinished Business. Cat. The New Museum of Contemporary Art. New York 1986. return

9 Transfiguration: Danto, Arthur Coleman: The Transfiguration of the Commonplace, s. ann.7, p.12f.,83-86,91-94,208 a. o.; Danto, Arthur Coleman: The Philosophical Disenfranchisement of Art. New York 1986, esp. p.41f. An interesting critique of Danto´s "theory of artistic identification": Buyndali, Fayza: Trouble in Danto´s Artworld. In: Prolegomena. Summer 2002. URL: http://www.philosophy.ubc.ca/prolegom/papers/Buyndali.htm. return

10 On the relation "medium" and "form" in the internet: Dreher, Thomas: NetArt: Einführung, chap. Medienformen, with ann.15. In: IASLonline Lektionen in NetArt: Theorie. URL: http://iasl.uni-muenchen.de/links/NAEinf.html#Medien. return

11 The problematics of recursions of public projects to the artworld: Dreher, Thomas: Konzeptuelle Kunst, s. ann.8, p.168-174; Dreher, Thomas: Kontextreflexive Kunst. Selbst- und Fremdbezüge in intermedialen Präsentationsformen. In: Weibel, Peter (Ed.): Kontext Kunst. Cologne 1994, p.83-91; Lyotard, Jean-François: Preliminary Notes on the Pragmatics of Works: Daniel Buren. In: October. Fall 1979, p.59-67. return

 

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