Please note: The Amateurist Network and this blog are not presently active

Steyerl, pithy as ever, on ‘Politics of Art: Contemporary Art and the Transition to Post-Democracy’ in e-flux Journal 21

I am certainly not arguing for a position of innocence.9 It is at best illusory, at worst just another selling point. Most of all it is very boring. But I do think that political artists could become more relevant if they were to confront these issues instead of safely parade as Stalinist realists, CNN situationists, or Jamie-Oliver-meets-probation-officer social engineers. It’s time to kick the hammer-and-sickle souvenir art into the dustbin. If politics is thought of as the Other, happening somewhere else, always belonging to disenfranchised communities in whose name no one can speak, we end up missing what makes art intrinsically political nowadays: its function as a place for labor, conflict, and…fun—a site of condensation of the contradictions of capital and of extremely entertaining and sometimes devastating misunderstandings between the global and the local.


Brilliant letter by Hollis Frampton sent in response to the MoMA’s invitation to exhibit his work without pay

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On the internet, we are all contractors – Triple Canopy Journal on Triple Canopy

Yes, we find ourselves in the same fix as Condé Nast, wondering how to encourage readers to pay for content we give away (only without resorting to the strong-arm tactics of subscription apps). It’s a tough sell. Short of emulating the Whole Earth Catalog by running a tally of expenses on our website, it’s hardly obvious how to convey a magazine’s hard costs to a readership so accustomed to regarding information accessed online as part of the commons.

It’s easy to get sidetracked—what with the analytics, the noise, the chatter from friends, the applications to funders, the freelance inquiries. This essay has made clear that Triple Canopy has definitely changed since we launched in 2008, in ways both subtle and substantial. You could say that’s typical of any start-up, but you could also diagnose it as a peculiar strain of technological determinism: Our organizational structure, you see, matches the internet’s. As Galloway explains, the internet is governed by two contradictory logics, one rigidly vertical (Domain Name System, or DNS), the other radically horizontal (Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol, or TCP/IP). Likewise, Triple Canopy has a standard-looking (i.e., hierarchical) masthead, yet in practice we work in a decentralized, networked fashion, with clusters of editors collaborating on the individual projects (or nodes) that together comprise the magazine; those higher up on the masthead have committed more hours per week to Triple Canopy and as a result tend to be involved in more nodes. We enjoy this manner of working, but certainly an organization with no fixed center is susceptible to drift. Without vigilance, Triple Canopy could fall victim to neoliberalism’s imperative of infinite flexibility. This week a magazine, next week a design firm, or a curatorial initiative, or a murkily defined “consultancy.” Maybe our appropriated name will finally cause sufficient brand confusion, and we’ll find ourselves seriously considering a misdirected request for “logistical support” and a junket flight to Kandahar. The internet is a market for new identities: some you purchase, others are foisted on you.

Plus lots of insights about the Internet and online publishing, check it out!

Grizedale Arts Use Value and the Little Society by John Byrne in Afterall 30

… Artists, critics, theorists, curators, gallerists and art historians alike are now faced with the task of pinpointing just what it is that makes art special in a world in which contemporary art has become indistinguishable from other forms of popular culture and mass media. The emancipatory discourses of self-help, self-determination, self-organisation and global networking have now become interchangeable with the smooth rhetoric of multinational capitalism. An example of this can be seen in the 2010 Big Society election pledge made by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, to give further autonomy to citizens in the governance of their own lives, by encouraging the breakdown of government offices and councils into independent small businesses and by allowing communities to establish self-help charities. Whilst it may be clear that such promises simply gloss over new forms of centralised capital deregulation, and contribute to the continued erosion of the power and rights of under- represented and vulnerable individuals, the proximity of such rhetoric to the utopian dream of the avant-garde is striking.

The activity of returning use value to the production of current art in an otherwise self- alienated neoliberal society is a means by which we can begin to rethink ourselves, our futures and each other. In this sense, the use value of Grizedale Arts’s projects is to be found in the realignment of provisional positions within the formation of a ‘Little Society’ — their production of flexible and recombinant communities that, of necessity, occupy the same space and modalities as neoliberalism, but which nevertheless seek to differentiate themselves from the ideological forms of a deregulated Big Society. The staging of projects such as Child’s Play or The São Paulo Mechanics Institute becomes a means to systematically cast doubt on the logics and impositions of neoliberal economics.

Isn’t there a danger in performing this way that people find it amateuristic? Yes. At best it’s called punk, at worst it’s just a mess. Or, abysmal.

Spartacus Chetwynd – Morality performance at Witter de With, 2009

Interesting section from about 5 mins 50 seconds into the interview Spartacus talks about the minimal amount of rehearsal time before her performances:  

SC – ‘When Mette came this morning not knowing what she was doing we did a run through and suddenly she was doing it. It’s quite fun and exciting because of that. So you’re not professionalised, you’re not learning something forever …

Interviewer – There is a danger in performing this way that people find it amateuristic?  

SC – Yes. At best it’s called punk, at worst it’s just a mess. Or, abysmal. 

– But you don’t care about this?

SC – No, I don’t mind at all. I’m interested in the level of excitement that comes with it. Because of the level of fear, not very much, because of the level of fear you become more bonded as a group … and the professionalisation is really boring at the moment, everyone’s pushed into professionalisation. …

Captives of the Cloud, Part II by Metahaven in e-flux Journal 38


Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here. … Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our governance will emerge. Our identities may be distributed across many of your jurisdictions.11

Quote by John Perry Barlow, “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, February 8, 1996.

The Scan and the Export by Sean Dockray in Fillip 12

But it is not simply the object asserting itself in the milieu of light, information, and electricity. Much more is encoded in the image: indexes of past readings and the act of scanning itself.

An incomplete inventory of modifications to the book through reading and other typical events in the life of the thing: folded pages, underlines, marginal notes, erasures, personal symbolic systems, coffee spills, signatures, stamps, tears, etc. Intimacy between reader and text marking the pages, suggesting some distant future palimpsest in which the original text has finally given way to a mass of negligible marks.

Whereas the effects of reading are cumulative, the scan is a singular event. Pages are spread and pressed flat against a sheet of glass. The binding stretches, occasionally to the point of breaking. A camera driven by a geared down motor slides slowly down the surface of the page. Slight movement by the person scanning (who is also a scanner; this is a man-machine performance) before the scan is complete produces a slight motion blur, the type goes askew, maybe a finger enters the frame of the image. The glass is rarely covered in its entirety by the book and these windows into the actual room where the scanning is done are ultimately rendered as solid, censored black. After the physical scanning process comes post-production. Software—automated or not—straightens the image, corrects the contrast, crops out the useless bits, sharpens the text, and occasionally even attempts to read it. All of this computation wants to repress any traces of reading and scanning, with the obvious goal of returning to the pure book, or an even more Platonic form.

And here’s a link to the open source platform, the Public School, one of Sean’s many excellent online projects with videos by Silvia Federici and Deleuze amongst others.

Institutions by Artists: coverage from recent conference in Vancouver

Institutions by Artists is a three day, international event that evaluates and activates the performance and promise of contemporary artist-run centres and initiatives.

Using experimental formats, performative frameworks, and participatory vehicles, the three day series of events is designed to challenge and generate new thinking about artist-run initiatives globally, examining many dimensions whether urban or rural, fixed or mobile, and local or regional, among others. Inspired by the many artists wrestling creatively with building, using, shaping, and deploying institutions by artists,we will explore economies of exchange and knowledge; institutional time and space; as well as intimate and professional networks, among other critical interrogations.

Nils Norman suggests self-organisation is a way of making critically informed decisions

Nils Norman speaking as part of the ‘Changing Places‘ roundtable in Frieze Issue 148:

Many artists are of course complicit with these processes. (It’s hard to generalize about how artists are contributing – or not – as a generic group.) But some who are critical of how they are inscribed within gentrification processes are becoming more militant and refusing to participate in such events. Groups of artists interested in these problems are developing real alternatives amongst themselves, in communities and larger networks, and in that sense are trying to eliminate the ‘rock and the hard place’ option through self-organizing and collective action.