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New Left Review 30, November-December 2004


Blake Stimson on Julian Stallabrass, Internet Art: The Online Clash of Culture and Commerce. Possibilities of a new avant-garde in a global fraternity of electronic upstarts, armed with web-based provocations and virtual détournements.

BLAKE STIMSON

THE CROWD IN THE MACHINE

Any social movement worth its salt has an origin myth: Rosa Parks for civil rights campaigners, Stonewall for gay liberation groups or, more recently, the Battle of Seattle for anti-globalization activists. In the long run, however, the historical status of these myths is unimportant. Their greater consequence—the part that endures in the practices of everyday life and sometimes flourishes in later political change—resides in the distinct pattern, rhythm or form they bring to collective purpose and belonging. Art has often sought to express such forms in order to justify its place in the modern world. The limits of this aspiration have been a primary concern for Julian Stallabrass over the course of a number of substantial books—from Gargantua (1996) to High Art Lite (1999) and, most recently, Art Incorporated (2004). Art, he writes in the earliest of these, ‘finds itself in a precarious and unhappy situation. It is no longer given a semblance of coherence by the avant-garde rebellion, and it is largely isolated from political and social movements.’

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