Wikipedia Art: a case of study

On: September 20, 2009
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About Susana Zaragoza
I am a Spanish professional within the cultural field. since 2003, I have been involved in several cultural cooperation projects related to new media in Brazil, Spain and Uruguay. All them are presented in my personal blog. I am a current student at UvA University. My aim is to gain new inputs and academic knowledge in the New Media academic field.


Scott Kildall and Nathaniel Stern are two American artists who launched a new entry in Wikipedia, called Wikipedia Art, the last 14th of February, 2009. Their proposal was a conceptual work that allowed people to alter the page as much as they wanted meeting Wikipedia’s standards of quality and verifiability. As they informed in the entry, their intention was to create ” an art intervention which explicitly invites performative utterances in order to change the work itself “. The ongoing composition and performance of the project is intended to point to the “invisible authors and authorities” of Wikipedia and by extension, the Internet as well as the site extant criticisms; bias, consensus over credentials, reliability and accuracy, vandalism, etc.

The result of this collaborative performance and public intervention using the most famous and participative website ever known, resulted in one more case of deletionism, by the Wikipedia editors, 15 hours after its birth.

But before deleting their entry, a heated debate with sides weighing whether to “keep” or “delete” the article took place in the discussion forum. It can be visited here, where you could read statements like: also a totally confused concept – a collaborative art project- fine. But trying to do it on one Wikipedia page, you must be joking mate! or Find some other wiki to do it on.

As the debate progresses, one of the editors discover the real site of the project and more confusion and anger is reflected; It is clear that it is here that they intend the “art” to happen. The debate ends with the delete of the entry by “Werdna”, an 18-years-old administrator who describes himself in his profile as “An old hand. I have been here since mid-2005″

The Wikipedia art entry has an artistic intention but in my opinion it is the bigger hidden interest in revealing how this powerfull structure of collaborative knowledge censorship works. The case offer us a further investigation about the dynamism of Wikipedia to receive ideas that go one step beyond the popular culture building knowledge through more complex and sophisticated processes.

The last public intervention related to Wikipedia project will be in the next Venice Biennale, and the original progenitors of the project are inviting artists to make a remix under a creative common license. One of the most interesting ones is this video featured by Sean Fletcher and Isabel Reichert.

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