[February 21st 2005]
Interview with Rachel Greene
Majken Kramer Overgaard interviews author,
curator and net art critic Rachel Greene about herself, her
book and her work with Rhizome.org.
As some of you might know, Internet Art by Rachel Greene, a part
of the Thames & Hudson World of Art series, was published last
year. It is a profound survey of various forms of internet art.
The book takes us back to the first years of internet art and describes
how the field emerged and what it has developed into in the past
years. The book is meant as an introduction to internet art, because
as Greene herself put it "I wanted to write the book because
the Internet is still such an unfamiliar space for looking at and
thinking about art".
Rachel Greene is Executive Director of Rhizome.org.
She is educated at the universities of Pennsylvania and Sussex.
Greene has been involved in promoting internet art since 1997, currently
she is a curatorial fellow at the New
Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. Rhizome.org is an online
platform for new media art. It was founded in 1996 and it is a non-profit
organization. They take their name from a botanical term for a horizontal,
root-like stem that extends underground and sends out shoots to
the surface. It represents the non-hierarchical form Rhizome.org
creates within the community. They cover a large field within new
media art, they support creation, preservation, presentation and
discussion of and about contemporary art. Among a lot of other things
they provide a very good newsletter that covers the new media scene
very well and their Artbase have many interesting works. Fall 2003
they formed an affiliation with the New Museum in New York, the
museum provides office space and some administrative and development
support for the organization.
I've asked Rachel Greene some questions about her (relatively) new
book and her work at Rhizome.org.
I know you've studied literature, how and why did you get from
that to internet art?
I have been interested in literature and art my whole life, but
when I met Mark Tribe in 1997, I thought he was doing such fascinating,
provocative work with Rhizome, that I wanted to be part of what
he was doing. Mark and Rhizome were my introduction to net art and
I have learned a lot from both!
What is your definition of net art?
I don't really work with strict definitions or find them particularly
useful, but net art is work that addresses the internet with its
content or formal arrangement, or is technically based on the internet
and includes software, web sites, documentation, performance, email
Why did you decide to write a book about net art at this moment?
Actually, most of the book was written in 2002. It was just published
in 2004! I wrote the book because I was asked to do so by an editor
and publishing house I really wanted to work with. I was honored
to be asked by Andrew Brown at Thames and Hudson.
I was aware that writing a book about an ever-evolving field would
be difficult, and that the Thames and Hudson World of Art format
was also a specific structure to work within. It was really challenging
to write about net art within those particular economies.
Could you describe net art's relationship to the physical art
world, how does/doesn't net art relate/differ from the 'real' art
Clearly, net artists don't have as developed economies as do painters
or sculptors, but I think in terms of institutional interest, net
artists are reasonably well-positioned. For example, this year a
virtual environment by Langlands and Bell was up for the Turner
Prize, and I saw computer-based work at all the major art fairs
I attended this past year. So I don't think the distances between
net art and the official art world are still so marked. However,
net art had and still has a real anti-commercial lobby, which should
be honored and remembered when appropriate. The way net-based artwork
can manifest anti-commercial and oppositional content is important
and distinctive (for example, hacking or software art can be more
confrontational and effective than analog work).
What is Rhizome today and could you describe how it has evolved
from a mailing list to what it is today?
Rhizome evolved from a mailing list to include an archive of new
media art, commissioning programs, exhibitions, and journalism.
How is Rhizome important for the net art scene?
Well, Rhizome has an archive, the largest of its kind, of new media
artworks. That adds a certain kind of value and history to the field.
More practically, artists can find exhibition and job opportunities
What do you think is the future for Rhizome?
Redefinition, growth and change!
Which pieces would you include in a retrospective net.art exhibition?
I would definitely include some work by artists such as jodi.org,
Vuk Cosic, Heath Bunting, Alexei Shulgin and Olia Lialina. Other
classics are rtmark and Candy Factory.
Do you have a contemporary piece of net art you can recommend?
I think there is interesting software being produced at runme.org.