McKenzie Wark on Tue, 17 Jun 1997 18:33:55 +0200 (MET DST)

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Re: <nettime> bossy cunts online

I just had a quick look through my back numbers of 
Art+Text for the VNS manifesto. I couldn't find it.
But i remember it going up as a poster around
Sydney in about 1991. Seems so long ago now. I saw
it on my way into Artspace, which i think was still
in Randall st at the time. It was, as doll yoko,
aka gashgirl, says, an irony thing. But it wasn't
just that. It was an appropriation, in at least
two senses at once. One had to do with grabbing
certain languages, blending them, and turning them
against themselves, so as to reveal exactly how such
a language works. Irony, in short. But there was
an added irony, in that this mock manifesto was
also at least slightly serious. It was about grabbing
a little part of the rhetoric of new media -- and
of art -- for women. Or perhaps more precisely, for
women acting as artists in the new media. So one
side of it was turned towards the 80s, which was the
decade or irony, but another side was i think
turned towards the 90s, which is beyond or outside
irony. As in: the joke is that this is not a joke.
Not that VNS wanted to rule the world or anything --
that was clearly a joke, aimed at the fantasies of
the Bill Gates variety (and long before even sloe
poke Bill thought of using them...). The part that
wasn't a joke was about creating a way for women to
be artists in new media. As simple as that. This is
no joke, as anyone who's been in the discussions about
VNS that happen when they do there thing, like at
V2 last year, for example. Somebody just has to say:
girls can't do video games. Games are a boy thing.
Artists can't do video games. Games are a pop thing.
Says who? Artists who think there are rules about
these things in advance are kidding themselves about
being artists (or writers, whatever...). VNS pulled
off an act of escape from those kinds of well patrolled
territories. And what i think they were saying is:
that's what women/artists do: they are escape artists.
They don't get to piss in the tall grass with the
big dogs. So they figure out some other way of being.
For example, building a not-irony thing on top of
irony. That's an art thing. Playing with the appearances
of being (in a medium where that is at a premium).
That's a girl thing. (But it could also be a gay thing,
or a black thing....). If you're one of the people who
gets put in the *big* box, you don't realise its a box.
You don't realise that being a white guy is a nice big
comfy roomy box. If you get put in a small, cramped
box, an artist, woman, black or gay box -- you know
you're in a box, honey, and you find a way to escape. 

I don't know why, but a lot of work like this happened
in Australia in the early 90s: VNS, Cyberdada, Linda
Dement. Something about the box Australians think they are
in, maybe. Not to mention what was happening in the
art schools, and a few enlightened souls who turned on
the funding tap at the right moment. I used to write
about it in World Art and 21C magazines -- there's stuff
up on my web site. I got bored with writing about it, 
and all of the artists moved on and did different things.
And it became a more institutionalised discourse. 
Cyberfeminism now seems to be a box you can get stuck in.
(Is this box thing a pun he's using or not a pun, or
both....). It was tactical theory for tactical art. 
Now its an industry. That's fine, but its no longer
a way to escape...

McKenzie Wark
Netletter 2.28AM 18-06-97
Eastern Standard Time

"We no longer have roots, we have aerials."
 -- McKenzie Wark 

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