Tatiana Bazzichelli, Networking Art – The Net as Artwork
Tatiana Bazzichelli wrote the book Networking, The Net as Artwork in Italian in 2006. The book has also been translated in English, and that’s how I got in touch with it. During classes at the University of Amsterdam our New Media Practices teacher distributed a big pile of books which had in different ways something to do with new media. There was a lot about art, and also about politics but I immediately decided to take this book with me. Maybe because it has been written by a compatriot, maybe because it focuses on the Italian political and informational context, or just because it has a pink cover. Anyway, the author not only published the book on paper but created a website for it, http://www.networkingart.eu/ where a .pdf version of the Italian book is available for free. And this is for me an extra motivation to read the book, because I get the idea that the author really cares about spreading her ideas around on the Internet without forcing people to pay for it.
Tiziana Bazzichelli goes through a number of social, political and artistic phenomena that influenced, according to her, network art in Italy as it is now. She also gives a lot of examples, which are worth being explored (many links and a lot of bibliographical references). The red thread of the book is the evolution of new media art shifting from being a finished artistic product made by a single author to a much more open process where the network-element often plays the biggest role. Even better: the creation of a network itself represent the artwork in many cases. Bazzichelli zooms on the Italian scene, where net art has major importance in the struggle for information freedom and for the creation of what is called a “counter-cultural environment”. She describes the evolution of cyberpunk and the so called “hacktivism”, by contextualizing these movements and connecting and comparing them to similar phenomena in the USA and other Europeans countries. This is probably a good lesson for the Italians, who are used to definitions of hackers merely as computer pirates and often unaware about their background and their purpose. In the first chapters this is done by describing previous example of networks created by artists to spread pieces of art and ideas. Particularly fascinating to me is the description of the “mail art network” , but also experiences as the Blissetti’s stunts, which are in a way also very funny.
I think that the strength of the book is representing both faces of the same coin, the artistic and the political aspects, very well. So for instance she jumps from the Mail Art Network to Cyberpunk, putting both in the often highly politicized Italian context. Or she talks about the birth of the technology behind new hacking networks and she ends up to a description of the first attempts to create independent artistic digital networks. However, Bazzichelli’s book is not a review of artworks, but first of all an history of “hacktivism” in Italy, written on very strong political and social bases. To show the political relevance of network art even before the Internet, she names the movie Lavorare con Lentezza – that illustrates an example of collective hacking against politically controlled information, where radio is the medium to create independent counter-information.
I perceive the relevance of Bazzichelli’s work today, while information freedom in Italy suffers under a quasi-dictatorial government control on all media. Especially the last months Berlusconi’s government has been trying to censure even the Internet with the new D’Alia law. Many initiatives have been undertaken, not only by hackers but also by intellectuals in Italy to prevent information from being totally manipulated by the government. Some of the early projects have been named by Bazzichelli in her book, for instance the now dead Sotto Accusa. Bazzichelli’s books shows how subcultures in Italy try to go beyond censure to promote a collective and free approach to culture and information. Also she highlights the social and political role of the artist, who no longer embraces an elective and aristocratic culture but dedicates his work to the pursuit of freedom of information and extension of the public domain.