For Rhizome (

1996 Art Review:
BLAST: The X-ART Foundation
@ Galerie des Archives
4, Impasse Beaubourg, 75003 Paris
by Joseph Nechvatal

Substitute fetishism, by means of which art documentation stands in for the
ontological art thing, has been the basis of the dynamic hallmark in which
The X-ART Foundation's BLAST project has traveled thus far. Generally, The
X-ART Foundation has attempted to deprivilege the power of the art object by
not reiterating the boundaries which assure the functioning of art's
characteristic immediacy. With the BLAST exhibit at the Galerie des Archives
in Paris and on the web at this discourse between
art documentation and art seems to have reached critical mass.

With this exhibition The X-ART Foundation presented the first five years of
BLAST (apparently as cultural trophy if not art) in the form of a boundless
deprivileging "conversional archive". Within the confines of the codified
rationale of cyber novelty, The X-ART Foundation's apparent interest in
merging the differentiation between the art object and art documentation
seemed justified and almost immune from cultural criticism. However, with
the placement of an archive within a gallery setting, the distinction
between the art object and its surrogate reflection as art documentation
failed to fully break down. A genuine discourse between the two approaches,
however, did not occur either. Rather, The X-ART Foundation cultivated here
a free-flowing tension between the delimitation of the ontological art thing
and the art archive through the incorporation of demanding excess.

This exacting excess (an excess of transition rather than resolution because
it did not confront the issue of unified style as a valid epistemic force)
was achieved through donning and activating a wearable cape-like fabrication
called a "parangole" which was found hung on the gallery wall and by passing
sensorily through the space. Positioned within the exhibition space were a
dozen "vehicles" representing the first five full years of Blast. These
vehicles include "Blast: The Blue Box" (1991), "Blast: The Spatial Drive"
(1992), "Blast 3: Remaking Civilization" (1993), and "Blast 4:
Bioinformatica" (1994-95). The vehicles were open in order to allow their
contents to be viewed.

Then, if one so wished, one virtually entered the BLAST MOO by means of a
computer terminal installed within the gallery, and if occupied, interacted
with fellow travelers there. Also projected onto the gallery wall in the
form of a large wall projection was the BLAST Internet site. Like an ideal
hypertextual prostitute, BLAST's cyber-spaced conversional site made itself
completely available and responsive to the other's desires (visitors were
able to access and interact with this space via a computer terminal
installed within the gallery or from their own Internet terminals throughout
the world). As such, it potentially absorbed all the whacked and scattered
ontological and epistemological shifts of the net into the vast jouissance
of the BLAST orb.

BLAST's probable goal here was to examine the ideology of Internet
interactivity by both overloading interactivity and locking it down through
a merging of art and the archival process - thus generating an initiatory
model for web-centered Internet art. The dominant metaphor for the BLAST
proposition thus is the mirrored room where art seems to be re-duplicated to
infinity (albeit in reverse): a room where the child (Internet art) first
comprehends itself as a whole entity separate from the body of the (m)other
(the gallery).

The general effect then was of an exuberant splitting and multifarious
doubling. Consequently, a dynamic conceptual matrix appeared within which
BLAST blasted the traditional tendency to hegemonize art and generate it in
a normative field. However, a less beneficent historical interpretation of
the BLAST exhibit/site might merely place it within the tradition of
non-linearity. So what finally emerged for me out of the BLAST exhibit/site,
then, was its conversional art archive performing as a reconfigured
constitution of experimental art.