Agricola de Cologne - 2000-2023 - 23 years encoded excellence
The Network – a challenge in new media
Ambassadors panel @ International Conference of Holocaust Museums – Academy of Sciences Riga 4-6 June 2012
Curating as Networking as Artworking
The [NewMediaArtProjectNetwork]|:||cologne, abbreviated as“The Network”, and starting point of The New Museum of Networked Art – is an experimental project environment for art and new media developed, created, curated and directed by Wilfred Agricola de Cologne (AdC), a multidisciplinary media artist, New Media curator and media art activist from Cologne/Germany.
In 2010, The Network is celebrating its 10th anniversary, itself a manifestation of independent digital culture at its best documenting at the same time a decade of new media developments in contemporary art.
Starting on 1 January 2000 as a small cell , “The Network” represents a hybrid, simultaneously a media art project, a manifestation of philosophical ideas around the themes” memory” and “identity”, a research and curatorial project, a composition of dynamic social contexts in progress, a virtual and physical network on different levels, but also a multi-dimensional event environment organised completely online as a non-profit initiative, however, not institutionally structured or associated, but realised in form of an independent art project. AdC himself is acting as a hybrid of different identities, not just as an artist, but also as the programmer, multimedia developer, curator, director in different functions and other virtual and physical instances of different kind, one might even say, he is representing “the Network” himself, re-creating himself continuously, he exists through others.
What is now manifesting itself as “the Network”, was not planned like that from the beginning. The networking structures developed during several years independently, before AdC recognized them as the fundament of all his creative activities.
Central relevance not only in the network as such, but also in concept development has the 1st of all ever realised project platforms, entitled: A Virtual Memorial – Memorial Project Environments against the Forgetting and for Humanity (AVM), which is based on the artist’s very personal views, perceptions and philosophical ideas about human memory, humanity and a positive globalization, focussing on how people coming from most different cultural, religious, social, political or ethnic backgrounds deal with memory and the essential questions of life. Here are some sub-ordinated projects in which AdC explored Internet specific participatory, collaborative and networking aspects, like: “Memorial for the Victims of Terror” (2001), “Violence Online Festival” (2002), “ Rainforest Memorial (2003) “Women: Memory of Repression in Argentina” (2004) “://selfportrait – a show for Peace” (2006). The ancient idea of the finished and completed art project, was replaced by the new type that was ongoing, to be updated and extended this way and changing continuously, offering the visitors or users permanently new reasons to revisit the online environment again and again, resulting a kind of community on a voluntary basis. In these terms, the ideas behind AVM became the fundament of all activities within “The Network”, how different they may be.
JavaMuseum – Forum for Internet Technology in Contemporary Art – stands for a wide range of new projects dealing with memory in a different way, a museum online context dedicated to the needs of a new art genre (Internet based art). The social aspects got a new dimension in form of curating, ie. taking another type of responsibility, not reduced to just selecting art works, contents and artists, collecting links and posting them online, but curating virtual space, that space, that is visible on a user’s computer monitor i.e, AdC designs/ programs specific visual contexts or interfaces for each new project realisation. Curating becomes this way an expression of a new type of artworking. JavaMuseum realised since 2001 besides some global competitions, more than 20 showcases of “netart in a global context” and hosts this way a comprehensive collection of works (1000) from the high time of netart (2000-2004).
A new creative framework started in 2002/2003, based on the perception that the Internet get its actual meaning only in an exchange between virtual and physical space, entitled: NewMediaFest – developed for a new type of experimenting, starting with –> Violence Online Festival (2002-2004), followed by [R][R][F]200X–> XP – global networking project (2004 -2007). Two of its “Memory Channels” dedicated to specific media, video and sonic art, i.e VideoChannel – and SoundLAB, became soon acting independently combining all perceptions AdC made during the years, resulting in 2006 also the foundation of CologneOFF – Cologne International Videoart Festival, a new type of mobile film and video festival taking place simultaneously online and in physical space in cooperation with partner festivals.
From the beginning, AdC’s activities were addressed to an active audience, all project environments became social contexts. Consequently, service platforms for participating artists and curators and users in general , were created: see -> JIP – JavaMuseum Interview Project (2006), VIP – VideoChannel Interview Project (2007), AND – Artists Network Database (2006) – central location for organising the biographies of the more than 1600 participating artists and curators -, and netEX – networked experience – a publishing platform for announcements and calls (2005).
Long before experts were considering a WEB 2.0, AdC was already working on his personal Web 2.0 as a kind of open system. He sees his multi-facetted work on The Network as his specific type of artworking, where he can develop his abilities to the full.
Now after nearly 10 years since its launch in 2000, The Network shows itself more successful than ever based on that strong, stabile and expanding online community on a voluntary basis. While the site statistic counted in 2000 only 500 000 hits, in 2010 the annual statistics records more than 10 million hits and 1,5 million unique visitors.
This is particularly remarkable for an experimental context of contemporary art, which is acting from its structures completely non commercial as a non-profit initiative/organisation .
When the Network started in 2000, The New Museum of Networked Art was empty, yet and became a museum only through Agricola de Cologne’s activities developing networks on different levels and connecting them simultaneously with eathother.
The New Museum of Networked Art , also named “Le Musee di-visioniste
is the manifestation or visualization of an Utopia, the Utopia of Agricola de Cologne. Thus the basis is representing an artistic, respectively philosophical concept, which cannot compared with anything else.
What or Who is Agricola de Cologne and what is his Utopia?
Agricola de Cologne is representing the brand for the virtual artist, curator and designer of culture of the same name. Initiated, founded and established on 1 January 2000, Agricola de Cologne stands for a new millenium. This is also good for a new millenium in art. Rooted on the new technologies developing rapidly after the foundation of this “brand” in art, Agricola de Cologne is practicing a new field of artistic creations which have not been possible before: eg. global and local networking.
This “networking” is not only related to a wide range of artistic projects depending on each other using the Internet and releated communicating technologies, but also the result of its creating and establishing networks on different levels via curating, a new and very personal kind of artistic expression practiced by Agricola de Cologne during the past 20 years. networking as artworking.
Including a wide range of networking instances like artists, curators, partners in shape of festival and cultural institutions, The New Museum of Networked Art is representing a dynamic, active context, while “Le Musée di-visioniste” is representing its divisionistic static image.
In establishing “le Musee di-visioniste” as such a networked art project, the “Utopia” was, that when the artist initiated the idea of such a museum, the contents for building a museum collection did not exist, yet. It was even like that, that nobody, and least the artist himself, knew, what would become out of “Agricola de Cologne”, at all, and how the work of the virtual instance would actually look like. Any definition used these days is based on a retrospective view, this is good for the virtual artist, curator, designer of culture, programmer, festival director and all those other functions normally whole institutional teams are working on. But Agricola de Cologne was and is combining all in one person. Agricola de Cologne is representing a network of itsown – he is the network.
It was also not like that, that the “museum” was constructed intentionally in a usual process of building the home for existing and yet to establish collections, but the idea of the “museum” was accompanying the artist while he was establishing himself as such, and only by doing, the Utopean idea of the unknown museum took slowly shape.
Born on 1 January 2000 and starting from point zero, materially and immaterially, it was his chance, after the artist had lost his memory completely temporarily caused by a coma, which is described in detail at another place, to write his own history and memory completely free from any ancient conventions, and re-collect memory of a lost (firstly unknown and later re-known) Past simultaneously, and establish and re-establish identity. Thus, there are good reasons, why “memory & identity” became the artist’s “credo” in anything he was doing since 2000, and a basic condition for the museum project.
Thus, the “Utopean” idea was not based on an intellectual concept prepared in advance, but the Unknown to come, and this is good even nowadays after many aspects of the Unknown, which was only unknown at the time when it was unknown, got a concret shape during the past 20 years, so that only today actually, it is allowed to speak of a real museum, The New Museum of Networked Art or “le Musee di-visioniste” is representing according to its progressing concept.
The idea of the divisionsm was not unkown to the artist, this became evident via the shadows of the Past. In his former artistic life before 2000, he had become aware of the analytical character of his personality. In an artistic sense, this manifested itself in a kind of creating conventional paintings by using traditional art media in most unconventional ways. In project phases when he was using “watercolour” 1980-1984 and “pastel” 1984-1988, he executed paintings according to the divisionsitic principle of the Pointillist artists of the 19th century, whereby the actual painting was not the individual art work which was consisting, as such, of countless colour dots which only formed the unity of the image in the eye of the spectator, but it was already at that time a virtual networked “painting” or “image” consisting of all art works executed during a certain working phase. These individual works executed during the project phase were actually the colour dots the virtual picture was consisting of.
The same analytical character was manifesting itself in his memorial project “A Living Memorial”, realised between 1993 and 1999 and its physical manifestations 1995-1998, when he designed a mobile networked memorial to be presented at the same time at different places for a temporarily limited period of time. But the networked character of this project was already rooted in the kind of exhibition compositions, when the memorial only took shape by perceiving all individual works via movements like walking.
So, the idea of “le Musee di-visioniste” to form a virtual sculpture consisting of a wide range of layers of perception does actually not represent anything new because it was always present at a time when the ideas of networked artworks were not in the discussion, yet, and the condition for being creative as an artist, but rather a kind visuaization of the genetic condition to deal with art in a completely new way. The artist became only aware of these characteristics after he had lost his entire memory and he started to establish a new person and re-establish its shadows of the Past after 2000, a process which is lasting until these days.
The project of The New Museum of Networked Art or “le Musee di-visioniste” can be considered as a kind of “lifetime” project, a manifestation of the genetic tendency to face always the encompassing whole, instead of parts of it. It is the nature of that kind of perception, that the dimension of the all encompassing whole is never known, but only parts of it. The individual art works included in this encompassing whole, get their real meaning in the context of the whole, one might also speak of a “Gesamtkunstwerk”, whereby the artist himself is not representing the “Gesamtkunstwerk” as such, but he is just a part of the whole, even he is the main condition for the existing of the whole which he is a part of it. So, The “Gesamtkunstwerk” will become only visible after the artist finished his life conceptually or physically.
The project of The New Museum of Networked Art or “le Musee di-visioniste” is not based only on an Utopean idea, but it is an Utopia itself, as well as “Agricola de Cologne” is representing “an”, respectively “the” “UTOPIA”.