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Forum Beyond the Limits of Networking

Ruth Catlows & Marc Garret(furtherfield)
Patrick Simons (glorious ninth)
Dominic Thomas

Kate Southworth

5 September, 2008,
13:30-15:00, Seminar Room5,
Peter Lanyon Building, Tremough Campus,
University College Falmouth, Penryn, Cornwall

Provisional Newlyn
(IN)visible networks

Beyond the Limits of Networking forum considers creative practices that utilise and critique orthodox networks and protocols in several ways. Forum members are: Ruth Catlow and Marc Garrett (Furtherfield.org), Patrick Simons (glorious ninth) and Dominic Thomas. The panel is chaired by Kate Southworth (iRes Research Cluster and glorious ninth).

Attuned to ongoing social changes emerging with the rise of the network-based society some artists have shifted their attention away from making objects towards the realm of human relations, devising myriad situations within which participative activities take place. The material impact of the network on our everyday lives develops in us a heightened sense of that which is invisible: rather than focussing on objects as markers of reality we begin to understand the world in terms of processes and relations, change and interaction. And whereas tangible borders mark the parameters between objects, network artists have found it necessary to use 'protocol' to call attention to and mark the borders between one set of relations and another.

Discourses around networks, however, point to inherent contradiction within the logic of networks: They facilitate relational activities such as cooperation, collaboration, participation, sharing and community whilst simultaneously controlling the parameters of those activities through the use of rigid protocol. At a social level the contradiction of the network is such that as well as promoting qualities of openness and connectivity it tends towards a logic that incorporates and assimilates the activities of participants or rejects them if they lie outside the protocols of participation.

Attempting to resist this protocological orthodoxy, and with it processes of colonisation and commodification, some artists have turned to political strategies of counter-protocol - typically used by hackers - where fissures, cleaves and splits in the network are exposed and exploited. Other forms of resistance to network protocol take the form of socially-engaged art in which artists work directly with communities developing creative practice within the everyday in which the 'rules of engagement' or 'situation of participation' are either devised by the artist or in collaboration with participants. Valuable as these strategies of resistance are in critically engaging the logic of the network, it could be argued that to an extent they exist within that self-same logic, and to an extent then become trapped in that logic, forever having to innovate to survive and unable to think an alternative. Perhaps it is possible to imagine a 'supplementary' network that uses 'fragile protocols' to loosely mark a place within which encounters without intentional organisation can take place?


Ruth Catlow is an artist and works as co director of Furtherfield, formed and run in partnership with artist, Marc Garrett since 1997. Ruth works with networked media in public physical spaces and on the Internet. exploring net art with new communities (of artists and audiences) with less reliance on existing, traditional art world hierarchies, developing independent grass-roots expression and representation. She is exploring the potential of network technology for promoting distributed creativity which raises a whole series of issues by giving rise to a more permeable boundary between established arbiters of culture, artists and audiences radically changing the life of the artwork in the world, and the ways in which people come across it.

Marc Garret is Net artist, (new) media artist, curator, writer, street artist, activist, educationalist. Emerging in the late 80's from the streets exploring creativity via agit-art tactics. Using unofficial, experimental platforms such as the streets, pirate radio and networked technologies. Content provider and co-producer of the 1980's alternative broadcasting, sound art collective 'Savage Yet Tender' based in Bristol, UK. Exploring with net broadcasts, BBS systems, performance, intervention, events, pamphlets, showing work in subways, warehouses and independent gallery spaces. In the early 90's was co-sysop (systems operator) with artist Heath Bunting on 'Cybercafe BBS', dedicated to arts, technology and various forms of hacking, social & technological.

Patric Simons is a composer and sound artist. He makes artistic enquiries into the material world and tries to communicate his findings using many different approaches to ‘knowing’. Producing work with new technologies since the early 1990s, he began working with Internet and new media artist, Kate Southworth on Internet art projects using a variety of aesthetic, political, theoretical and conceptual approaches. The space between their different approaches is Glorious Ninth.

Kate Southworth is an artist and researcher. With Patrick Simons she is a founding member of the art group glorious ninth - producers of distributed artworks, DIY installations and invisible networks. Current experiments into co-poietic relationships between code and ritual find form as aural-visual works, installations, performative presentations and texts, and expose their ongoing aesthetic and political attempts to evade systems of control. Recent works, such as November and love_potion, use magic, tactical gardening and social networks to recover knowledge of herbs and healing from commercial control and to share it as common knowledge. glorious ninth’s work has been exhibited in academic, gallery and online contexts.

Dominic Thomas is an artist and cultural coordinator living near Stroud. His cross-disciplinary practice involves performance, photography, video, installation, sound, critical writing, web design, publication, horticulture and cookery. Much of his work is collaborative and he has a particular interest in self-organisation and self-education within artist-led activity. He is a founding member of the critical cultural collective a.Group.