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 or DIWO (do it with others) culture taken shape as a result of collaborative forms and social participation in the experience of the collective artwork?  Location: Art B1-14


Due Next Week: September 3

1 – Reading

Catlow, R., Garrett M., Packer R., “The NetArtizens Project,” (2015)

2 – Research Critique: Live Streaming Networked Art

You will be assigned an artwork to research for a short 250 word hyperessay about the work, the artist, and how it relates specifically to the topic of next week. Incorporate the reading (see above), as relevant, into your research post, discussing how it relates contextually to the work you are critiquing. Use next week’s Lecture Notes in Live Streaming Networked Art page of the Syllabus to prepare your research, where you will find documentation and links about each of the works.

Here are additional instructions for the research critique:

  • Create a new post on your blog incorporating relevant hyperlinks, images, video, etc
  • Add a featured image
  • Apply the “Research” category
  • Apply appropriate tags
  • Post a comment on at least one other research post prior to the following class

Works for review:

  • Videofreex, Lanesville TV
  • Nam June Paik, Good Morning Mr. Orwell
  • Jon Cates, BoldRRR
  • Nicolas Maigret, The Pirate Cinema
  • Randall Packer,

3 – Micro-Project:  The Collective Body

This micro-project involves the construction of a “collective body” made up of our body parts randomly reassembled and reconfigured into a single composite body.


Hyperlecture: The Collective Artwork

Works for Review


Yoko Ono’s early performance art is radical for its embrace of simplicity and a more personal subjectivity. Ono was among the first solo performance artists to place herself at the center of the work. This approach would become a significant influence on later performance art, such as in the work of Marina Abramović. Ono, who was associated with Fluxus during the 1960s, and was married to the Beatle John Lennon, created Cut Piece in 1964, in which the artist invites the audience to cut her clothing, piece by piece, until she is stripped. A critique of women as sexual objects, Cut Piece builds on the participatory dynamic between audience and performer. Given when this work was created, years before feminism became part of the broader culture, it was a daring work, voicing fears and concerns of women as objects of public display.

The following is video documentation from Cut Piece:

Some questions we might ask about this work are the following. Who is the performer, Yoko Ono or the audience members who cut her clothes? How does this work speak to issues of feminism, how women are perceived, and how are they treated as objects for the male (and female) gaze? Is there a violent aspect to this work? Does it critique how women might fear being observed in public? And finally, how does Cut Piece speak to the idea of collective narrative?

Yoko Ono, born 18 February 1933, is a Japanese multimedia artist, singer and peace activist who is also known for her work in avant-garde art, music, and filmmaking. She is the widow and second wife of John Lennon.


Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz, founders of the Electronic Café in Santa Monica, California, were among the first artists to begin exploring communications art through satellite technologies. Their seminal work, Hole-in-Space from 1980, represented one of the earliest examples of live, networked media art. They setup two large projection screens: one at Lincoln Center in New York City, the other at Century City in Los Angeles, to connect two live audiences. Conceived as a participatory event (much like the early Happenings), this unannounced project, setup for three consecutive days, enabled two groups of viewers to see the other live and in real-time across the space of the US, which literally collapsed the distance and experience of the real and the virtual, the local and the remote.

How does this telecommunications piece involve the audience? What is the material of the work? What does it mean to create a site-specific work of art? And in this work, the idea of the performer is completely removed, leaving only the audience as participants in the work: how does this change the relationship between the artist and viewer?

Kit Galloway (b. 1948) and Sherrie Rabinowitz (1950-2013) co-founded the Electronic Café International (ECI), a cafe, networking centre, performance and workshop space and art hub in Santa Monica, California. Until Rabinowitz’s death, they created numerous art works which could be categorized as communication aesthetics, telematic art and digital theatre.

Screenshot 2014-08-25 13.51.38(This is the actual first page of The World’s Longest Collaborative Sentence.)

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. Although the work is no longer active, it originally allowed anyone from any computer in the world, to add to the ongoing sentence, creating a long collective sentence, not by any one person (including the artist), but by many viewer-participants.

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 was to overcome traditional, one-sided communication practices through personified interactions. Since 1994, Davis used the Internet for his artistic action pieces.

telegarden-8x6-72dpiThe 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 could plant, water, and monitor the progress of seedlings via the tender movements of an industrial robot arm. Although this work is no longer active, it was a ground-breaking artwork that allowed viewers to tend a community garden from their Web interface. It encouraged the idea of the collective artwork by enabling a conversation among viewers via a discussion forum, thus like a traditional community garden, encouraging participants to reflect on the idea of gardening at a distance. We might ask what the implications are by remote gardening: are we disconnected from nature? Or are we finding new ways of engaging with it via the Internet.

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.

Screenshot 2015-08-12 14.19.19

(This is the actual first page of Please Change Beliefs.)

Please Change Beliefs invites viewers to remix the artist’s well-known “truisms,” aphoristic commentary on society and politics. By asking a worldwide audience to edit truisms stored in an online database, the work suggests that there is no longer any such thing as a singular interpretation of truth in the age of the global network.

With Please Change Beliefs, the artist turns to the Web as a public space for her truisms (iconic truths), but in the postmodern age, do we hold any one definition of the “truth?” In this work, she asks the viewer to collaborate in this dilemma by editing the truth, according to personal taste, whim, perception. Often ironic, sometimes absurd, the truth here becomes a collective narrative in a globally distributed database.

Jenny Holzer is mostly known for her large-scale public displays that include billboard advertisements, projections on buildings and other architectural structures, as well as illuminated electronic displays. The main focus of her work is the use of words and ideas in public space. Originally utilizing street posters, LED signs became her most visible medium, though her diverse practice incorporates a wide array of media including bronze plaques, painted signs, stone benches and footstools, stickers, T-shirts, paintings, photographs, sound, video, light projection, the Internet, and a Le Mans race car.

SONY DSCAt the turn of the 21st century, a collaboration between a Bell Labs statistician and an experimental sound artist resulted in a mesmerizing visualization of real-time data that resonates still, in equal parts for its conceptual strength, cohesive aesthetics, and technical brilliance. Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin debuted Listening Post at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2001. The work is a dynamic collage of live conversation drawn from online chat sources in a room-sized installation featuring 231 small text displays mounted in a grid overlaid with dynamically-generated sound, music, and voice. Much has been written about the beauty of the piece, the rhythms, visuals, and sound, about the conceptual intersections of wired online existence, privacy concerns, and surveillance, and about adding big data to the mix of art and technology that is new media. However, with the exception of some early writings by the artists, little has been written about the still-impressive technical achievement. That the piece is still fresh is proved by a permanent installation of a similar work by Rubin and Hansen in The New York Times Building in New York City just two years ago. Additionally, Listening Post is a living piece that Hansen and Rubin have maintained to keep up with the times.

Here the audience is unaware of its participation in the Listening Post, since the texts are extracted from anonymous chat sources. Does this change our idea of the collective artwork, if the collective does not even realize its involvement? And what does this work say about the chatter of voices on the Net via social media, chat rooms, blogs, etc. Does the collective voice become noise at some point?

Mark Hansen joined Columbia Journalism School in July of 2012, after a decade of shuttling between the west and east coasts. In Los Angeles, he held appointments in the Department of Statistics, the Department of Design Media Arts and the Department of Electrical Engineering at UCLA — literally forming a triangulation of data, art and technology — and was a Co-PI for the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing, an NSF Science and Technology Center devoted to the study of sensor networks.

Ben Rubin is an internationally renowned media artist based in New York City. Ben has worked closely with major figures in contemporary culture, including composer Steve Reich, architects Pelli Clarke Pelli, Diller+Scofidio/Renfro, and Renzo Piano, performer Laurie Anderson, and others.


Hello World! is a large-scale audio visual installation comprised of thousands of unique video diaries gathered from the internet. The project is a meditation on the contemporary plight of democratic, participative media and the fundamental human desire to be heard.

On one hand, new media technologies like YouTube have enabled voices to express themselves at an alarming rate. On the other hand, no new technologies have emerged that allow us to listen to all of these new public speakers. Each video consists of a single lone individual speaking candidly to a (potentially massive) imagined audience from a private space such as a bedroom, kitchen, or dorm room. The multi-channel sound composition glides between individuals and the group, allowing viewers to listen in on unique speakers or become immersed in the cacophony. Viewers are encouraged to dwell in the space.

This work suggests that perhaps we are “alone together” in the vast space of the Internet. While YouTube and other social media allow individual expression, are we actually heard, except those few viral videos that reach millions. This work immerses the viewer in the space of this chatter, much like Listening Post, to ponder the question of whether or not social media is truly a social medium.

Christopher Baker is an artist whose work engages the rich collection of social, technological and ideological networks present in the urban landscape. He creates artifacts and situations that reveal and generate relationships within and between these networks. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Art and Technology Studies department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


  • Beginning week 4, we will change our class time to 8pm to 11pm, so long as this later time allows everyone to catch the bus, etc. We have been asked by a class just before us that we change the time.
  • The rhythm of the class, assignments, micro-projects.
  • Assessment Reports: every two weeks throughout the semester.
  • Review Flickr as a media repository and make sure everyone is signed up with our group.
  • Kamarule report from ISEA.

OSS WordPress Techniques

  • Review all student Websites, look at and discuss themes, sidebar elements, and access to posts. Be sure everyone knows how to change theme.
  • Review the use of categories, tags and taxonomies in general. Crucial to differentiate between “Micro-Project,” “Research,” and other categories we will use later in the semester.
  • Check the Categories widget and check “hierarchical listing” enabling students with multiple OSS classes to differentiate between classes. Also be sure that the Recent Posts widget is being used.
  • Changing the theme: experiment with a different theme if you haven’t already, check to see how the sidebar elements are displayed to be sure that the site archives, categories, tag cloud, etc., are easy to find.
  • Theme Customization: WordPress comes with built-in theme customization, which changes from theme to theme, allowing you to install a header image, change color scheme, link colors, etc. There is more than can be done with custom css, but that is beyond the scope of this session.
  • Creating a page and main menu: I want everyone to begin an extended bio and then place on the home page of your site as a new menu item. Note that you need to make sure that your main menu is selected in the Menu customization. This is unique from the “OSS Menu” because it displays on your home page header rather than the WordPress admin bar.
  • General comments on the research critique regarding the use of WordPress, suggestions for improvement, images, video, embedded hyperlinks, etc.

Artworks for Review

See above.

Thoughts on 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)

What do we mean by peer-to-peer, how does this form of interaction alter the way a work of art is created and/or experience? How does the collective artwork differ from works that essentially involve a one-way exchange between the artist and the viewer. How is the collective artwork share attributes with the performance arts?

DIWO (Do it With Others):  “The process is as important as the outcome, forming relationally aware peer enactments. It is a living art, exploiting contemporary forms of digital and physical networks as a mode of open praxis, as in the Greek word for doing, and as in, doing it with others.” – Marc Garrett

How does the concept of DIWO differ from DIY (Do it Yourself)? How might the idea challenge traditional ideas of art making and art viewing? With Open Source Studio we are interested in laying the groundwork for a more DIWO approach to artistic production. We are concerned with process as much as the goal of a project.

Essay by Kit Galloway & Sherrie Rabinowitz: discuss the concept of the Electronic Café, how they used peer-to-peer and other social techniques for artistic and cultural production. How does their work predate the social media systems of today? Are we fully realizing the potential of cross-cultural relations, dialogue, sharing, collaboration, with our contemporary systems of media in the way that they did?


What they call the composite image space, where multiple participants share networked space, is what I refer to as the third space, a concept we will discuss further later in the course. The photo below is a work by Peiyi Wong called Tel-e-tea, in which a cafe table is split in half and joined via the third space.


“A virtual space creates social situations without traditional rules of etiquette.” – Kit Galloway & Sherrie Rabinowitz

“If you define the aesthetic of the medium by defining the essence and integrity of the medium, then the creation of “good” art, in the case of telecommunications, means you create a situation that provides some form of communication between people and maximizes the technology’s capabilities.” – Kit Galloway & Sherrie Rabinowitz

“if there is one word that defines Electronic Cafe, it is integration: integration of technology into our social fabric; integration of ditinct cultures and communities, the arts, and the general public; and integration of art forms… We create a culture that defines how the technology can be used and encourages cross-cultural collaborations, problem-solving, and decision-making.” – Kit Galloway & Sherrie Rabinowitz

How does a collective artwork differ from an individual work, in terms of conceptualization, production, and its realization. How might a collective artwork alter the relationship between the viewer and the artist, and even between the viewers. In fact, how might the collective artwork break down the distinction between artist and viewer. How is the collective artwork less like traditional art, in which a single artist produces a work, and more like social media, in which many-to-many communications and interactions produces a narrative.

Open Source Studio essay on the Collective Narrative: the surrealist played the game of the exquisite corpse, how does this experimental game function as a kind of DIWO (do it with others)?

Exquisite corpse, also known as exquisite cadaver (from the original French term cadavre exquis) or rotating corpse, is a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled. Each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence, either by following a rule (e.g. “The adjective noun adverb verb the adjective noun“, as in “The green duck sweetly sang the dreadful dirge”) or by being allowed to see only the end of what the previous person contributed. For this game-playing exercise, we will take a sheet paper,  each of us will write one word of the sentence, fold the sheet, and pass it around until the sentence is complete. The surrealists used this technique to produce dream images and ideas: how does the collective form of creation contribute to a work of art that is situated outside the individual’s rational mind?


Exquisite corpse drawing by Man Ray, Yves Tanguy, Joan Miro, Max Morise; 1928


“In connection with open source thinking, the collective narrative is a sharing and open exchange of conversation, ideas, information, and media that leads to a synthesis of voices: forming a common thread among peers.” – Randall Packer

Review of Micro-Project: The Blog Narrative

We will review the micro-projects to better understand the blog as a form of creative writing.

First, I will read my blog narrative: Glitter & Angst in Contemporary Music

  • How is a written narrative developed, setting context, working towards the central idea, and then reaching some form of conclusion?
  • How is the blog narrative a form of self-expression, how does it allow us to creatively incorporate auto-biographical elements into our work?
  • What are the elements of a blog that create an engaging multimedia experience?
  • How do we integrate text, images, sound and video to create a compelling story?
  • How might an artist develop an ongoing serial narrative using the chronology of the blog and its archival database.
  • What are the ramifications and benefits of publishing creative writing and media work on the Web?

Of course this is a large topic but in this discussion and through the review of assignments we will explore the blog as a writing space that suggests new directions in storytelling and even a new form of the book.

How do you envision the blog, not just as a repository for storing information, but as a medium for artistic creation, for telling stories, for creating multimedia experiences?

Review Assignments for Next Week