Notes on the Collective Form at CalArts: Happenings on the Internet

In the early 1970s, Fluxus artists Nam June Paik, Allan Kaprow, Allison Knowles, etc., brought paradigms of the 1960s avant-garde to CalArts, which infused and informed the pedagogical and aesthetic philosophy of the school for years to come. In Open Source Studio, we look forward in time to the present age of the Internet (which incidentally was born in 1969), and explore how the ideas of the avant-garde can be reexamined and recontextualized for 21st century media arts studio practice. The aesthetics of intermedia and open structures, pioneered in large part by John Cage and later Fluxus, and through the Happenings, find new relevance to work created today. The notion of participatory forms, hybrid conceptual areas between media types and disciplines, authorial distribution, dispersed spatial organization, the dissolution of artist-viewer demarcation, the deconstruction of the 4th Wall, the intersection of art and life, are all timeless aspects of avant-garde forms regardless of the technological aspirations.

With Open Source Studio, our objective is to revisit this historical line of radical thinking and find ways to apply it to our own study, research, and execution of digital methodologies. With the Internet, the extension of spatial orientation is essentially global, as are opportunities for collective participation, distributed processes, live performance, information sharing, and interaction. Whereas process and documentation was essential to the shift away and dissolution of the object in Fluxus and later forms of conceptual art, the modern day database, content management system, and social media offer ways to fully integrate the artistic process into a dynamically-shared, distributed network.

Additionally, the 70s post studio approach pioneered at CalArts by conceptual artists including John Baldessari, Michael Asher, and Douglas Huebler, redefining the location of production, finds new meaning by situating the media artist in this context, in which the almost limitless spatial and conceptual territory introduced by the Net takes the idea of post studio to uncharted territory. By joining the notion of post studio with the blurring of physical and virtual spaces into hybrid spaces of interaction and telematics, you sense that there is virtually unlimited possibilities for artistic investigation yet to be envisioned.

In the Open Source Studio project, how do we reshape our understanding of changing social, hierarchical, spatial, aesthetic, and conceptual structures and apply them to our work in new ways? That is essentially the task at hand.