Le Musee di-visioniste – the New Museum of Networked Art
The museum has a specific relevance as a museum – a museum about the artistic imagination as the result of the artistic imagination of the virtual artist “Agricola de Cologne”, who is the result of his own artistic imagination.
Founded in 2000 shortly after the “big bang”, there was no clear concpetion, but only a vague idea behind.
One has to consider, in 1998 the artist “W.O.F.Agricola” became a victim of a terror attack causing a many months lasting coma and the death of the artist on 31 December 1998. Returned to life in May 1999, all physical vital structures had to be re-esablished, a part of his memory seemed to be lost for sure, which, however, slowly returned in parts when his mother was outlining the history of his previous life. It was dominating him further on in so far, as there was an insaturable need for becomming (again) active as an artist, for using his creative powers for something, he did not know how it might look like. Caused by the terror attack and the coma, the artist had lost the sense for the “material” and in this way the basic condition for creating and perceiving “physical” art.
Starting on 1 January 2000 a new life as a virtual artist, was not only starting from point zero in any concern, physically, mentally, psychologically and artistically, because he was like a newly born child. Each step he was doing, was such a “colour dot” of a divisionistic painting to be collected in the “networked museum”. Each step was not only re-calling memory from the PAST und in this way perceiving singular incidents or entire contexts of his former life, but also new memory at the same time, which was not influenced by the Past. These experiences were multi-dimensional, exploring the FUTURE was at the same time exploring the PAST, and one’s identity. There are good reasons, why a general topic of all his future activites became “memory” & “identity”.
The artist reduced himself to a virtual existence for many years as a kind of survival strategy, because the psychological, and depending on that, the physical level, as well, were endangered by an enormous structural instability. Over many years, the physical person behind the virtual artist was living in a complete isolation, while the virtual artist established, hardly initiated, already contacts via the Internet to artists all over the world via his artistic creations. At times when the term “social media” was not invented, yet, Agricola de Cologne established in 2000 already his personal “social medium” by communicating all over the world, installing networking structuires which still form the basis of all his activities. Already just a few months after he had started in 2000, he submitted one of his “new” works to the first festival- “Werkleitz Biennale” – an event which is still active – and being accepted was proving he was on the right way, his ideas were hitting an audience, there were good perspectives to continue.
One might speak, “Agricola de Cologne” was born from the “chaos”, and like the “universe” it took some time to recognize how a system behind might look like. The situation, not being bound to any convention of the PAST, allowed Agricola de Cologne to experiment with media, technologies, perceptions and conceptions, also far beyond structures of a kind of “system” became visible.
Of course, a kind of “urgency system” remained from the PAST, creative structures which – neglecting all traumatic experiences – had now the chance to act without any convention, and start something new. Dealing with the logical structures of programming languages und new technologies opened the doors to becmoe a pioneer, exploring a noman’s land, because when “Agricola de Cologne” started, the Internet became only popular and the new technologies started only to develop rapidly. Agricola de Cologne participated actively in the digitalization, particilarly in the arts, at times when only a few academic institutions in USA, Canada, Australia and Europe had that on their agenda, while the art world took many further years to accept the new developments.
The Internet, as a gigantic memory and global network, and in a certain way, also a kind of virtual museum of collective memory, was influencing the course of the virtual artsitic life from the first second.
As an art historical term, “divisionistic” gives already the imagination, that the “museum” as an entity is understood as a kind of “art work”, while the actual idea was simply collecting the artistic images created or generated by the virtual artist, born on 1.1.2000, and this was in first place the image of the artist himself and the images his manifestations would generate, how ever they might look like. Thus this “museum” was directed to the FUTURE, because its contents did not exist, yet, and in the moment, when an activity was done, it became PAST.
Since nobody knew, what actually would come from an artist who did not exist before, the foundation of the museum shortly after the artist’s birth was not only an experiment, and as such a provocation and a high risk, because it was very likely, that the “new” artist would never recognized as such, and there was no condition for collecting “images” for a museum.
Now, 15 years after the launch of the virtual artist and the museum project of “Le Musee di-visioniste” it is allowed to state, that the artist had a most unusual career as a “virtual artist and curator”, as the generator of contents for the museum, and the museum got rich collections encompassing nearly countless images of artistic manifestations as the result of “networking” – therefore the museum got the proper subtitle – the new museum of networked art.
The term “divisionistic” indicates already, that the museum was about to function like a divisionistic painting, when the “Pointillist” artists of the 19th century placed colour dots on a canvas and the totality of all colour dots generated the unity of an image in the eyes of the spectator. In a literal sense, one can speak of the composition of colour dot forming the unitiy of an image only in the eye of the spectator, as a network of colour dots depending on each other. The single dot gets its relevance only in the context of the totality.
Related to the idea of a museum, the foundation of the artist on 1 January 2000 was placing the first colour dot on the canvas of an experimental image, not knowing, whether this image would be ever completed, nor how it might look like, because it was also not known yet, how a single “dot” to be added to this image would look like, but the term “network” was in first place used to describe the idea of such “networking” dots, forming in the context with other “dots” a totality in the eye of the spectator, no matter what kind of consistence the single dot would have.
At the foundation of the museum , its founder had no idea, however, in how many ways, the “networking” idea would succeed and manifest itself multi-facettedly, because choosing the new media and the Internet as media in generating the ” colour dots” incorporated “networking” on really many, unexpected levels, like it happened during the past 15 years.
The “colour dots” have a most different consistence generating a multi-dimensional structure, one might also rather better speak of a multi-dimensional “virtual sculpture”, which goes far beyond the already known two or three dimensions. It will be representing a challenge to visualize this idea of an art work outside of the Internet.
Working with the Internet as an artistic medium, the social aspect, the idea of networking, sharing and disseminating information became also the basis of Agricola de Cologne’s use, by inviting the first artist to participate in an project and contribute, a certain type of activity started, which one may call “curating”. Representing such a colour dot as such, curating was generating again countless different types of “colour dot” to be added to the “divisionistic” sculpture.
For Agricola de Cologne, curating, as well as networking forming the basis for curating, is consequently representing his specific kind of art expression, it is virtual and physical art alike. Curating is no “job” and does not represent an institutional task based on scientific research, but an artistic action based on the need to approach art from a different point of view, but like doing any other kind of art, exclusively from his very personal point of view.
In fact, he started curating in 1990. Although he was following courses of art history during his university studies in Munich (1971-1974), he had, however, no education in curating, which did not exist, yet. He did it, like anything else, by doing, because the given situation required from him to curate. In this sense, he did it rather like a museum curator without the ambition to do an artistic action via curating.
Agricola de Cologne’s curatorial activities can be divided in two parts 1990-1994 and 2000-
In 1989, he started the Project “German Re-unification” on 9 November 1989 by founding ARCHA Society Foundation (ARCHA e.V. – Archives and Research for Contemporary Humanism and Art), which he was running as its President and curator until 1994.
He organised and curated three major projects for ARCHA Society
Starting in 2000 his third life from point zero, dedicated to the new artistic (electronic) media, using the Internet as an artistic medium was automatically enforcing curating as a primary activity. Agricola de Cologne was combining all kind of responsibility in one person, the programmer, the designer, the director, the artist, the curator, the public relations manager, thus the entire staff of a production company or museum etc. This aspect that everything Agricola de Cologne was doing since 2000, was exclusively the work of one single person, whereby his project, as typically Internet specific works, were, differently from usual art works, ongoing after their initialization, so the creator was always running different projects and platforms, at the same time, influencing each other progressively.
When Agricola de Cologne initiated himself as a brand and virtual artist, he had no idea about the consequences. In one way, he actually wanted to continue his ideas of an artistic commemoration on a virtual level in Internet, which had started in physical space years ago. On 1 January 2000, he released as his first artistic manifestation on the net ” A Virtual Memorial”, the counter part to his physical project “A Living Memorial” (1995), but expanded to a global level adressed to the online audience on all parts of globe. He started a kind of diary posting at first dayly, later weekly and monthly his reflections about incidents glöobal-wide which he was thinking to be worth to be commemorated by creating smaller Internet based interactive works. He initiated his first calls for artists participations, not being aware that he was starting curating by inviting the first artist to participate and contribute.
Projects like “JavaMuseum – Forum for Internet Technology in Contemporary Art, A Virtual Memorial or Le Musee- divisioniste – the new museum of networked art give evidence of the ambition to simulate in Internet such established cultural structures by doing it in an Internet specific way via partcipatory and networking aspects, by including curators, artists and cultural institutions. Curating was not restricted to take responsibility for a physical art collection or an exhibition, but the contents, the artists, the curators, artworks, networking partners – institution or organisations and not to forget, the virtual and physical space.
By realising his projects by inviting artists, curators and institutions he was continuously creating and generating virtual and physical artworks visually and sensually perceivable by the users. Via the interactivity of these projects, the users became curators, as well. In this sense, curating means for Agricola de Cologne also basically activiting the user or viewer and eliminate the passive consumer position.
Although the curatorial activities during the first phase (1990-1994) had retrospectively seen, also highly interactive components by encouraging the audience and enforcing dialogue on different levels, they were nevertheless quite conventional compared with that kind of curating which the Interet was generating, enabling and enforcing, and Agricola de Cologne did that kind of curating not define, yet, as an art creating of itown, which he became aware only later. So, curating became part of his artistic concepts born from the necessity the Internet was generating.
One has to consider, when Agricola de Cologne started in 2000, only short time before, the Internet had become popular, the computer was not recognized, yet, as a serious art tool, and the established cultural structures like art museums, were generally refusing the computer, the Internet and new technologies. The Internet connection was at the lowest speed of 28 Kb-56 Kb, streaming video was still an utopia, nevertheless, Agricola de Cologne recognized immediately the relevance of streaming video, and generated from his own digital video sources a kind of low-tech streaming video by programming, which became obsolete where the technology became more advanced some years later.
Of course, Agricola de Cologne was not the only artist or cultural activist, who was dealing the virtual art works in virtual space, nevertheless projects like “JavaMuseum – Forum for Internet Technology in Contemporary Art” were pioneers in many concerns, as a new cultural structure such a project was curated in any concern, by designing a museum acting in virtual space for virtual art, designing interface and curating virtual space, developing the projetcs (departments) incorporating Internet based art works by active artists, keeping close contacts to the artists and encouraging them to continue, creating and maintaining networks. Until 2005, he curated in total 18 projects for JavaMuseum to be followed by two big shows in 2007 and 2010 . All of them are still running online, but were many times installed on monitors as a part of physical exhibitions. As a designer of culture, Agricola de Cologne got many privileges because he was dealing with the artists directly and it was obvious that the project of the museum or platform was representing an art project itself.
In 2003, Agricola launched on the day when the Iraq War began, his project “Violence Online Festival”, a curatorial challenge running until 2005. The global-wide effects of the manifestations of violence were representing an occasion to deal with violence and war, but the real cause was, of course, to reflect the own affection of violence via the art works by other artists and curating.
A particular mark is representing the year 2004 for Internet based art, it was a high time and cumulation point before its decline, and 2004 was for Agricola de Cologne a changing point, as well, because invited by Biennale of Electronic Art in Perth (Australia) he created the global networking project [R][R][F]200x—>XP – featuring different plafforms for different digital art media like VideoChannel – video project environments and SoundLAB – sonic art project environments.
While he realizsed in the context of SoundLAB until 2010 annually in total 7 huge sonic art projects, featuring the best sonic art works by the most prestigeous sound artists – giving evidence of his privileges compared with institutional instances, in VideoChannel he was realising dozens of curatorial projects, whereby Agricola de Cologne started curating curators from the beginning in 2004. which was at that time an enormous provocation, while it is usual nowadays. VideoChannel was also the starting point for a new type of curatorial activities in a new field “art and moving images, resulting in 2005 CologneOFF – Cologne Online Film Festival , to be renamed in 2007 to CologneOFF _ Cologne International Videoart Festival, a kind of mobile festival without a static festival location.
Focussing his activities in sequence on CologneOFF was representing also that big change and new challenge in the curatorial activities, realising projects in an exchange between virtual and physical space, generating that kind of dualism, which made Agricola de Cologne’s projects so successful on long term. It became also evident, that not all artists were following the open structures of the Internet, also because institutional instances and major festival structures were demanding a kind of exclusivity.
While during the first years (2000-2004) the virtual space of the Internet was the basic medium for Agricola de Cologne’s curatorial activities, the exchange between virtual and physical space required new curatorial strategies by including physical networking partners, so the new curatorial aspect became – curating networks, curating curators, festivals, organistions and create and generate new type of virtual & physical “images”.
Consequently, Agricola de Cologne established in 2005 his own publishing platform, named: “netEX – networked experience”, curating & promoting selected activities of “Third Parties”
One of the major projects, created for an exchange between virtual and physical space was entitled: ://Selfportrait – a show for Bethlehem – a show for Peace,
a media art exhibition incorporating different digital media like video, photography, soundart, multi-media etc.
In 2009, he also launched, the project “Draft title: Shoah” and in this context “Shoah Film Collection” and as a result of it “Collective Trauma Film Collections” – http://dts.engad.org
In 2009, artvideoKOELN international” was launched as an idea for the curatorial platform running all projects “dealing with art& moving images”, releasing in 2009, as well, CologneOFF as a nomadic project in collaboration with networking partners around the globe, in this way and due its experimental character, CologneOFF became not only an artistic and curatorial, but also a networking challenge.
By starting his projects in 2000, Agricola de Cologne established long before Facebook came on the market a social network, which, initiatied an run as an artistic structure for artistic purposes, was never used for commcercial purposes. Although the Internet as such was generating social networks through itself, Agricola de Cologne has to be copnsidered as a pioneer in creating at the early stage of 2000, already his network, which ist still ongoing and growing, despite of countless followers on the artistic and commercial field.
A special relevance got the nomadic festival project “CologneOFF 20XX – videoart in a global context”, an experimental tour around the globe on the search for the ideal form of presenting videoart to an audience. It was an extraordinary curatorial challenge preparing and creating for each of the numerous annual venues an individual screening program, showing the artist’s/curator’s ambition to create virtual images inside of the audience via curating and activating the audience, this way.. In these terms, curating had not the intention to present the best films or videos or promote the most famous artists, but those videos and artists which fit at best into the artistic concept behind the respective screening program. It was intentional to disturb the audience this way, as well as giving unknown talents a chance to enter a most complicated art system. In 2012, he extended CologneOFF about some new formats like One minute films, animations and experimental documentary.
In 2012, Agricola de Cologne restructured and resdesigned his project environment “A Virtual Memorial” as a foundation and a center for commemorative interventions – http://avmci.a-virtual-memorial.org, an experimental event framework for “Draft title: Shoah”, with manifestations in Riga, Warsaw, Vilnius, Phnom Penh, Milan, Timisoara, Tel-Aviv.
After 10 years rapid and exciting media development, after 10 year being an active part and witness of new technologies in art, Agricola de Cologne finalized CologneOFF as a festival project at the end of 2014, whereby the name of CologneOFF will be maintained as an exhibition format in the context of artvideoKOELN international, the curatorial platform which will be concentrating all curatorial activities by Agricola de Cologne.
Agricola de Cologne’s artistic/curatorial activities, and in this ways a carreer in this field, was not planned, but came up by actively doing. Even if all his projects and platforms were connected to each other due its creator, there was never a systematical organisation behind all, causing primarily for the creator himself an increasing ineffectivity in maintaining the indivioduel projects. It is now the taks of “artvideoKOELN international” to work in future as an “operating system”, and as such a new challengin art work.
Many of his curated projects incorporate artists and other instances from many countries on the globe, and one might call Agricola de Cologne the first virtual and global curator, since he uses the communicating media for creating a world wide web of art activities and projects of different kind.
His projects are presented and realised in cooperation with numerous art institutions and organisations and he is also invited to co-organize and co-curate festivals and media art exhibitions in different parts on the globe.
As his specific type of art working, curating takes a particular influence on the perception of the artworks through the audience, since they follow the classical idea of the “collage” resulting most complex and dynamic constructions of different identity and authenticity in the framework of an interactive context. But the way, he was curating during the past 15 years, eg. taking responsibility for art from a continuously changing point of view, means also consequently to return to his own physical art works one day under a completely different point of view., this is good for the art creations before 2000, as well as for those after 2000.
And a final note. Agricola de Cologne started operating from point zero in 2000, this mean also materially from point zero. Behind all activities is an was standing one single person, which was not paid to do a job, but was organising its own survival as an artist. While other artists were continuing painting, sculpturing or creating installations, Agricola de Cologne was exploring his abilities, possibilities and opportunities in new kind of artistic fields. He used technology and exploring unknown territory in the same way as a tool, as a painter is using brush and colour for making a painting.
While after the initiatization of Agricola de Cologne as a brand on 1. January 2000, nobody knew what would come, and at least the artist hinself, now after 15 years, it can be stated, that “Agricola de Cologne” made an unusual carreer as a virtual artist and curator, and only now, actually one can speak of “Agricola de Cologne” as a project itself.
“le Musee di-visioniste” – the new museum of networked art – get ist real relevance only now