More commentary on the 2007-2008 commissions Considered as XYZ Art post. People aren't offering any specific examples of where the analysis fails, they're mostly just telling me to shut up.
you could also apply the XYZ method to art criticism: take artwork X, apply categorization schema Y, produce art review Z.
- anonymous (guest) 6-21-2007 3:52 pm

You could, but some specifics would help.
I'm not sure there are any categorization schema any more except the old reliable, "mere description."
- tom moody 6-21-2007 4:46 pm

Right. Then why are you using the XYZ schema to critique art? As a critical process, it is more reductionist than the creative processes that you are criticizing.
- anonymous (guest) 6-21-2007 5:12 pm

Well, we disagree, there.

I'm flattered if you think XYZ is a critical methodology, or as you say "categorization schema."

I think the point of your comments is that it would be better not to question the Rhizome commissions.

Either that or there are so many other ways of critiquing them being articulated out there that mine should be disregarded as the weakest alternative.

- tom moody 6-21-2007 6:02 pm

- tom moody 6-24-2007 6:22 pm

it's that you've bounded it - single transformation of something into something that "helps others." - and the comments that you're joking about as shut ups are moving the bounds [painting, art criticism]. when that happens i think XYZ starts to touch on questions more related to the ontology of art...dunno about you but i dont really have time for that kind of stuff.

the single transformation new media work you've focusing on is, like all artworks using a computer, in some sense a materialization of is always moved around and XYZ is maybe always there at the level of the medium. does that mean that any piece can be described as XYZ [shit!]?? for me the question is whether it's work that seems trapped by that - it's own - are the XYZs in the artist's brain/process there because they can't escape the underlying mechanics of the computer or network or html or whatever they're using - this is when i think a lot of the work reaches to some sort of opensource-informed morality as a way out... because, to be honest, lots of XYZ [as you define it] pieces, once you look at them as XYZ, become little more than conceptual busywork.
- p.d. (guest) 6-24-2007 10:12 pm

Thanks for not changing the subject, which I think at least one other was doing ("How long has your criticism sucked? Huh? Huh?")

When I first got the Rhizome list my plan was to assign Xs, Ys, and Zs to all 11 projects, since that how it initially hit me.

Gradually I winnowed it down to groups where it applied, sort of applied and didn't apply.

A Flash blob of interactive Jello--not XYZ. A more thought-provoking example of something not XYZ: eteam plans to save everything from Second Life trashcan(s) for a year.

OK there's probably a Y--some program or routine to scoop and save what's normally jettisoned. There's an X--all the trash. But what's the Z? We don't know, the project is open ended. And it doesn't help others--there's probably lots of skanky pR0n in that trash, and confessional stuff meant to be deleted. This doesn't make it good or art, just non-XYZ. Inductive as opposed to deductive?

I was prepared with answers for 1-11, but no one asked. Which is OK, I really only wanted to do a handful to make the point.

- tom moody 6-24-2007 10:35 pm

The point of the comments above is that XYZ is a reductionist model, based on the comparison of a limited number of characteristics, leaving out everything else. It's Greenberg-esque: it disallows the possibility of personalized readings, and it strips the work of any hint of intertextuality.

The part of your post that bothered me was where you talked about ShiftSpace. This is a great project. The trend of Web 2.0 has been to wrest order from the chaos of the early web; ShiftSpace is a project that intends to re-inject this spirit of anarchy. For example, the comment criticizing your writing ("how long has your criticism sucked") was removed from this page; ShiftSpace would allow this comment to remain on the page for other users to see. It could be read as a critique of the increasingly moderated Wikipedia, and it's attempt at 'authoritativeness'; it's infused with nostalgia for the early web when people produced their own messy pages instead of buying into the myspace prefab system; it's a classic example of a 'not just art' project.

The reason your criticism prompted me to write was that it was being leveled at projects that aren't even finished yet. What is the role of art criticism before a project has been completed? It's an insidious intervention into the space between thought and action, where every artist encounters self-doubt.
- anonymous (guest) 6-25-2007 3:28 am

With much of this art the proposal is the work. Once you've come up with your sentence explaining the tech innovation and how it benefits others you're done.
You're telling me ShiftSpace is a great project and all the reasons and it only just got funded.
But if I diss it in the same incomplete state it's insidious.
By all means let's mention Greenberg so the smear is complete.
- tom moody 6-25-2007 4:03 am

Oh, the comment criticizing my writing ("how long has your criticism sucked") was fictional. An exaggerated caricature of an attack without substance. You assumed it was real and I deleted it--interesting.
- tom moody 6-25-2007 4:13 am

I would agree that 'the proposal is the work' if I wasn't aware of how many artists do a terrible job of writing about their work. Those sentences usually end up being a pale reflection of the work.

And yes, that's right: what's insidious is to diss, in a highly visible way, when something is in an incomplete state, and for that diss to be so lacking in intellectual rigor.
- anonymous (guest) 6-25-2007 4:32 am

i dont see XYZ as a critical model, reductionist or otherwise. there's no methodology here. it's a pretty cut and dry analysis of what these types of pieces simply are. t.m. is not reducing anything, XYZ is a description of artworks already reduced by the artists who are making the stuff.

the question of art criticism about incomplete projects is irrelevant regarding lots of this proposal-based work but i think it's partly assumptions about shiftspaces eventual construction that informed the XYZ tag. for example if shiftspaces "Open Source platform" for a metalayer was implemented as a sheet of transparent plastic overlay taped in front of a computer's monitor and scribbled on with marker pens (by the public) i'm not sure if it would fit XYZ??

of all of them tho i think #1 - AddArt Member Selection - takes de cake. it's pretty much beyond prototype XYZ.
- p.d. (guest) 6-25-2007 4:37 am

The goals of ShiftSpace do indeed sound worthwhile and noble but I have to confess I'm not very interested in art as sociopolitical activism, especially when the success of the project is presumed in the proposal.

I'm as concerned as the next person about the constrictions of these social networking sites but feel the way to approach them is to go elsewhere, and if there's no elsewhere then lobby for more elsewhere.

It feels like a contradiction to apply for a grant to an institution so you can be an anarchist, especially when the steps of your anarchy are carefully planned out and result in another ordered system.
- tom moody 6-25-2007 4:51 pm

(previous comment self-edited for tone, substance--ShiftSpace would reveal my first draft--great)
- tom moody 6-25-2007 4:53 pm

On XYZ projects, would you say its quite similar to a project design that an entrepreneur or a scientist would come up with? I'm curious as to why it seems a bad thing for an art project to be XYZ. The Shiftspace proj for instance seems to be rebelling against this categorization. Does XYZ imply a lack of plasticity or imagination? Too deductive?
- ssr (guest) 6-25-2007 8:56 pm

Similar to a project design that an entrepreneur or a scientist would come up with, but unlike an experiment, where the results might not prove one's hypothesis, here the result is a foregone conclusion. Z is always Z and it will always be socially worthwhile.

An analogy from painting: artist A kicks over a bucket of paint onto the canvas in mid-painting, sees something that wasn't visible before, and it opens up a new body of work, even though the painting might be ruined. Artist XYZ does the same thing, but wipes off the paint and continues working on the piece to its intended conclusion.

- tom moody 6-25-2007 9:45 pm

all of the proposals seem strongly directed toward their proposed conclusion. i have trouble seeing how a secondlife trash can as being altogether more open-ended than some meta-layer over webpages. nevertheless...

this is a great discussion to be having -- who wouldn't admit that the many of the projects seem bloodless and stiff, and why is that? are more artists than before approaching their work with an XYZ mindset? are we realizing that proposal-based competitions value the conclusion-determined process over the "experimental" (in the spirit of how tm has been referring to experiments)? why is that (does it have anything to do with the voting process) and how could we change it? or are institutions producing the need for XYZ work, a demand that artists are fulfilling? you've already broached this subject before with VVORK, and i wonder how other media curating blogs like wmmna or boingboing contribute to the demand?

i have to come clean, i had typed out my own "you're doing XYZ criticism where Y is to pin XYZ on a project (X) and Z are the laughs" response, but i didn't post it because i realized that there is something awry about the projects. or maybe it's not solely the projects, but the way their framed in this proposal/competition process. similarly, i think the way VVORK frames the work it blogs about makes me see that work as a one-liner (XYZ). so maybe it's coming from 2 directions -- the work and the institutions supporting the work, each attracting eachother and drifting to somewhere we can only call XYZ for now. i apologize if this is all obvious, it may be that i'm only catching up here
- spd (guest) 6-26-2007 12:05 am

Thanks for the thoughts, spd.
I hesitated over the Second Life trashcan--some additional level of transformation besides just saving trash might seem to be called for, and it's Second Life, which I've been avoiding, but I cited it for the simple proposition that we don't know what's going to come of that process (simply because the trash is otherwise unrevealed). It's not really XYZ, more like XYX. Like a trashmasher, the device that turns 20 pounds of trash into 20 pounds of trash.
- tom moody 6-26-2007 2:21 am

Model View Controller
Presentation Abstraction Control

etc ...

Frameworks and patterns are always helpful when you want to write a computer program. Maybe there should be a framework developed for artists -- not only an IDE like Processing that will ease access to complicated OpenGL stuff, but one that also honestly includes "ideas" and "proposals". If "code" is so hype, let's apply all the surrounding principles at everything, right?

For X i can suggest these all time classics:

RSS feeds, stock market quotes, Pseudo-Random-Number-Generator, output of some Google/Flickr API, Spam messages, user submitted files (UGC)

For Z i can suggest these all time classics:

Abstract 3D virtual environment, static picture or animation, musical score, random sounding noise collage

For Y i can suggest these all time classics:

... errr, whatever, probably Adobe Creative Suite 3 and Cold Fusion or something.

Most of these inputs and outputs look obvious of course. But if it is obvious and there is no good implementation of it that would "help somebody" as Tom suggests, it should by all means be made. Coz then maybe there is a small chance that this obvious betterment for the people will finally arrive.

This "Open Source morality" is indeed strange, and if Free Software or Free Data would really be an ultimate concern, skilled developers of Free Software should receive the funding instead ... The problem with free software ideals and art is that free software is very un-arty, most of the time even banal to the core, but its ideals are very inspiring. And Free Software is about to change quite some things. In conclusion, many people, rather bad at programming and from an artistic background, want to contribute to this ideal and the change. So sometimes it can become a bit embarrassing. The outcome may hardly come close to the inspiration level Free Software is radiating and will probably just not work as good as it should to make a change.

(All this concerning general "XYZ type" of projects as i understand it, not the rhizome list, through which i only skimmed.)

But practically i have nothing against all that and welcome these new possibilities that for example artists have. The more easy it is to make XYZ the more happy i am. Probably in five years, WXYZ will be as easy to do as XYZ is now. Not so much because of technological advancement but because the "intuitive" (crap word, but i don't know a better one in English) understanding of computers will have grown. At the moment it looks like many people understood that with a (networked) computer you can gather whatever (meaningful) data and transform it to whatever else (e.g. something meaningful). This transformation will not always be successful, but still -- imagine if really everybody on the street understood this principle. It would turn the world around.

Looking for inspiration, shallow transformation exercises are boring for myself. For people who have no or wrong ideas about the computer, a machine that runs our world, these XYZ might in the best case provide an insight. I would prefer if understanding of computers would have moved past this point already, but as it seems a lot of simple XYZ is still needed. So bring them on!
- drx (guest) 6-26-2007 2:28 am

but drax to follow what you're saying, i think it means that the recent technologies used for XYZ (processing, microcontrollers, etc) are the new macromedia i'm not sure how many insights into the computer will happen. cos if someone is using their arduino board or whatever to sample outside interactions and bring them into max/msp for processing, assuming that the use of arduino and max/msp will give a deeper insight into the medium than director, it makes the XYZ work that comes out in the end even more dissappointing!
- p.d. (guest) 6-26-2007 5:53 pm

Maybe the general XYZ tendency reflects life today. Constant inundation of new products and technology heavily marketed to make our lives better. Take apple over-marketed iphones and ipods and i___s, design innovations (Y) which promise to deliver satisfaction (Z) every time. I guess X is each niche.

Am I stating the obvious here? Maybe this is a loaded example (no, I don't look forward to the coming 6 months of dancey monochrome-motif in-your-face iphone hyperblitzing)
- ssr (guest) 6-26-2007 7:38 pm

I see XYZ as always being hungry for the latest and greatest possible XYZ! (in relation to materials at least)
- ssr (guest) 6-26-2007 7:50 pm

Actual discussion of an example from the Rhizome list is going on here.

as for the issue drx and p.d. are discussing, one small point:
A possible open source morality example for artists who aren't involved in coding or recoding programs is to use several different programs (Ys) in addition to a multitude of possible source material (Xs) to get an underdetermined result (Z). Then no one software designer's stamp dominates the final product (ideally--not so easy to achieve).

But how do you give a grant for that?

"I plan to use about 4 programs and pass content back and forth among them, creating something I couldn't reconstruct myself because I don't remember the exact sequence. Oh, and I can't promise it will be of any benefit to anyone."

- tom moody 6-26-2007 8:51 pm

does it have anything to do with collaborations? the 5 XYZ projects you called out are all collaborations and i just haven't seen it brought up anywhere. more than that, media art is rife with collaborative work (often it's a cover for one person getting someone else to do technical stuff). while i'm actually a fan of people working together, it seems underacknowledged so far and i wonder if the collaborative process of new media privileges talking a project through over actually doing stuff?

a related thing -- it'd be interesting to look at the educations of the grant recipients to see how many of them have completed graduate study in some media arts discipline. from my limited perspective, these grad schools encourages artists to propose projects before making them, to think them through to their conclusions, to research precedents and novelty, etc. etc. maybe a symptom is the overdetermined Z

- spd (guest) 6-26-2007 9:50 pm

As I've mentioned elsewhere I'm bullish on these collaborative pages where artists don't actually talk to each other much (Nasty Nets, etc).

Everyone does their own projects and posts them, someone could riff on it or not, but little discussion or verbally "working through a problem" occurs (Other than to maybe say "cool" meaning "I like what you did to my piece.")

I suppose it's just the alienation of the Lonely Crowd in blog form but it's true anarchy as opposed to institutionalized grant supported anarchy.

My sense is Nasty Nets "members" are scared to talk among themselves too much about what's happening on the site lest the magic bubble pop.
- tom moody 6-26-2007 10:04 pm

Umm... Speak for yourself, dood! ;)

We love commenting on each others' posts and often talk about them in emails, IMs, and in-person, when we're in the same city! I don't always agree that "problems" *have* to be "worked out," in general, or collaboratively, but I do think everyone's entitled to their own process.

- marisa (guest) 6-26-2007 10:26 pm

"My sense is Nasty Nets 'members' are scared to talk among themselves too much about what's happening on the site lest the magic bubble pop"--dark joke

re: "it'd be interesting to look at the educations of the grant recipients to see how many of them have completed graduate study in some media arts discipline"

I wonder if the hostility to criticism (besides mine being wrong) comes from an art school approach vs a media arts approach to teaching. The former is very tough, or it used to be. A painter/installation artist at one NY school made his students do a stand up comedy routine before the rest of the class as part of their training, to help get them over the fact that people are cruel and don't always like work. (This was denounced and the school may have put a stop to it.) Yale MFA students famously ripped each other new ones about their work (from the people I know that went there in the 80s-90s). I remember a teacher saying to me in crit "I think you were completely chickenshit not to use color in this piece." (He was right.)
- tom moody 6-26-2007 11:06 pm

But to get back to spd's question, I don't know if collaboration explains these cut and dried projects. I hadn't noticed that those 5 were team efforts.
I also hadn't thought about the issue of artist-tech person teams having any effect on content.
It kind of makes sense--they have to talk to each other and some simplified middle ground (and thus middle of the road) art emerges out of that dialogue.
- tom moody 6-27-2007 1:48 am

Oh, well, the spammers have told me it's time to close this thread, sorry.
- tom moody 7-01-2007 2:53 am