The Collective Artwork


Week 3: August 27 – September 2

We will look at concepts and formal investigations that brought about collective forms of narrative. It had been suggested by the media theorist Roy Ascott in the early 1990s that a new type of social engagement in the arts emerged with telecommunications, with its roots in conceptual and information art, Happenings, and relational forms of the past century. How might we think of recent trends in networked art, peer-to-peer systems, and online cultural production as constituting a new model for collective narrative? How has the DIY culture taken shape as a result of collaborative forms and social participation in the experience of the collective artwork?


Due: September 3


Manovich, L. (2002) “Data Visualization as New Abstraction and Anti-Sublime

Micro-Project III: Micro-blogging

Twitter is often referred to as “micro-blogging,” in which short texts are written in 140 characters or less. This has resulted in a form of writing that is quick, immediate, and spontaneous. In this assignment, we will capture the immediacy of everyday life, in which we will interact with one another through improvised exchanges. Our conversation will be distributed across the network in the third space, our interactions will be nearly real-time within a specific duration of time in conjunction with the Singapore Night Festival. See Micro-project III in Project Assignments for more information.

Research Post II: Data Visualization

You will be assigned an artwork to research for a short written hyperessay about the work, the artist, and how it relates specifically to the topic of next week. Incorporate the reading (see above) for next week into your research, discussing how it relates contextually to the work. Post your hyperessay of approximately 400 words on your blog using relevant hyperlinks, images, video, etc, and remember to add a featured image and to use the “Research” category. You will be expected to share your research post in next week’s class discussion.


Hyperlecture Week 3: The Collective Artwork

“Peer to peer is much more than file sharing. What it’s really about is how the computers are organized, but crucially how the people are organized. So Peer-to-Peer is a relation dynamic in a distributed network – its a network whereby every individual has the freedom to act and the freedom to engage in relationship without asking permission […] it permits individuals to produce, to distribute, to share, to work together with other individuals without asking permission.” (Michel Bauwens)

Douglas Davis, The World’s Longest Collaborative Sentence, (1994)

Screenshot 2014-08-25 13.51.38

The World’s Longest Collaborative Sentence, created by Douglas Davis for a survey exhibition of his work in 1994 and donated to the Whitney in 1995, is a “classic” of Internet art. The work allowed users to contribute to a never-ending sentence, anticipating today’s blog environments and collective narratives created collaboratively via the Internet.

Douglas Davis, «The Last Nine Minutes» Live performance for international satellite telecast, documenta VI, 1977

Douglas Davis (1933 – 2011) Following his studies, from 1960 onward Davis was active as an art critic and editor for publications such as Art in America and Newsweek. From 1969, he worked as a painter, and beginning in 1967, created artistic events and performances. From 1970 onward, his works included video tapes and video action pieces. Davis’ works are rooted in Fluxus and Concept Art. He pioneered the artistic use of television and radio broadcasts. With live performances in galleries and museums, and video tapes of action pieces, he instigated dialogues with the viewer before the monitor. The goal of his action pieces is to overcome traditional, one-sided communication practices through personified interactions. Since 1994, Davis uses the Internet for his artistic action pieces.

Ken Goldberg, Telegarden, 1995


The Telegarden by Ken Goldberg is a robotic art installation that allows web users to view and interact with a remote garden filled with living plants. Members can plant, water, and monitor the progress of seedlings via the tender movements of an industrial robot arm.

Telegarden Powerpoint presentation

Ken Goldberg

Ken Goldberg is craigslist Distinguished Professor of New Media at UC Berkeley, where he and his students investigate robotics, art, and social media. Goldberg directs the Automation Sciences Research lab and is Faculty Director of the CITRIS Data and Democracy Initiative. Goldberg earned dual degrees in Electrical Engineering and Economics from the University of Pennsylvania (1984) and MS and PhD degrees from Carnegie Mellon University (1990). He joined the UC Berkeley faculty in 1995 where he is Professor of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (IEOR), with secondary appointments in Electrical Engineering/Computer Science (EECS), Art Practice, the School of Information, and in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the UCSF Medical School.

Mori: An Internet Artwork, collaboration between Randall Packer, Ken Goldberg, Gregory Kuhn

Nicholas Maigret, Pirate Cinema, (2012)


In the context of omnipresent telecommunications surveillance, the Pirate Cinema by Nicholas Maigret makes the hidden activity and geography of Peer-to-Peer file sharing visible. The project is presented as a monitoring room, which shows Peer-to-Peer transfers happening in real time on networks using the BitTorrent protocol. The installation produces an arbitrary cut-up of the files currently being exchanged. This immediate and fragmentary rendering of digital activity, with information concerning its source and destination, thus depicts the topology of digital media consumption and uncontrolled content dissemination in a connected world.

Nicholas Maigret, Hypersonica

Nicolas Maigret is an artist working in digital art and sound since 2001. His work exposes the internal workings of media, through a reflection on their errors, their dysfunctions, their limitations or thresholds, through immersive, sensory audio-visual experiences. After completing studies in inter-media art, Maigret joined the Locus Sonus lab at the École Supérieure d’Art d’Aix en Provence, where he explored networks as a creative tool. He teaches at École des beaux-arts de Bordeaux and cofounded the collective Art of Failure in 2006. He is also involved with the project Platforme, an artist-run centre in Paris.

The Basics of BitTorrent: BitTorrent (often abbreviated as BT) is a peer-to-peer (P2P) protocol (a description and set of rules on how to do things) created by Bram Cohen, designed to distribute data in such a way that the original distributor would be able to decrease bandwidth usage while still being able to reach at least the same amount of people. Cohen’s idea was to “break” the file being transferred into smaller segments called pieces. To save bandwidth, each person downloading (more commonly referred to as peers in the BitTorrent community) would have the pieces that they acquired available for upload to other peers in the swarm (the entire network of people connected to a single torrent). In this way, much of the load of sharing the file to every peer interested in it is offloaded to the peers. Note that a seed is basically a peer with every piece, so when a peer successfully attains all data in the torrent contents, that peer becomes a seed as well.

Douglas Davis, The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction

NOTE: this essay was written around 1994 just one year after the first Web browsers were released to the public. It is extraordinary how prescient Douglas Davis’ commentary was given the embryonic state of the WWW.

This essay by Douglas Davis is a response and perhaps an embellishment of Walter Benjamin’s famous “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” written in 1936 as critique of the loss of the “aura” of the original in the emerging electronic arts, when he predicted that art would soon be mass reproduced.

“Now the ‘life sentence’ will go on as long as the world continues to write and think.”

What are the implications of the above statement referring to the World’s Longest Collaborative Sentence and its breakdown of the distinction between art and life, art and viewer. How does this “life sentence” constitute a radical paradigm shift from the primacy of both the author and the object as a work of art?

“A computer is a series of congealed social relations.”

If the computer has within its potential social interaction on a global scale, how does this impact the work of art that is created with communications media?

How does the Web promote personal choice over media systems of control?

“Potentially the reader is now the author.”

What are the implications of this shift of power and control in terms of authorship?

“There is Here.”

How does this cryptic remark related to our concept of the third space?

“Here is where the aura resides – not in the thing itself but in the originality of the moment when we see, hear, read, repeat and revise.”

So has the notion of the original shifted from a fixed object to the moment of live communication?

Micro-Project II – The Collective Body

Screenshot 2014-08-27 18.09.37 Screenshot 2014-08-27 15.13.19

OSS Flickr Group

The idea of the collective narrative is that the work is comprised not just of one person, but multiple authors. Additionally, the demarcation between viewer and artist breaks down in the participatory act of contributing to the collective work. The Collective Body is not unlike our use of social media, in which we are trading and sharing aspects of ourselves, slices of ourselves, fragments of our being combined into a collective whole via the Internet.

How does the collective narrative challenge the role of the artist? The viewer? Does art become a more collaborative act? What happens to the notion of the solitary artist alone in his/her studio? How does the collective narrative challenge or provide an alternative to that paradigm? Do we still need to consolidate our individuals modes of expression as separate from collective participation?

Fortunately there is room for both individual and collective channels of narrative. But in the age of social media and global connectivity the opportunities for art of the social practice is profoundly available to us.

OSS Workshop

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Data Visualization Project

Juan will introduce the data visualization project, which he will develop over the course of the semester, with a focused workshop session next week.

Review Assignments for Next Week

Bi-Weekly Assessment Reports

I will be emailing the first of the bi-weekly assessment reports, providing feedback / points for each assignment. Remember any late assignment will cost a point. Be sure and refer to the grading section in the About page of the course for additional information.