n.e.w.s. is a collective online platform for the analysis and development of art-related activity, drawing upon contributions from around the globe, bringing together different voices, accents and outlooks from the North, East, West and South. | Read more..

After the launch, part 2: lessons from ISEA & what’s next

For many contributors, it’s been the summer holidays, and we’ve taken a break since the build up to the launch. But now it’s a good time to get working again on n.e.w.s.

We got good feedback about the website platform during ISEA — both in small discussions with the contributors in Singapore (Ingrid, Mustafa, Rich, Renée and myself), as well as during the launch itself, and in small groups again, after the event. It’s important to acknowledge the achievement of putting the website together — of all the contributions and discussions: for many of us, the issue of cultural diversity was recurring topic; Inti, Rich and Yuliya talked about their specific regions or specific projects; Mia and Stephen, the outside and inside of the artworld; Ade, Inti and Stephen, about traffic; Branka and Mia, about web 2.0 and immaterial labour; Ingrid, Thomas, Mustafa and Stephen, about “world art” ... and so on.

At the same time, it’s also important, I believe, to question what we’ve done and where we want to go from here — to see how all this has built something, from which to evolve. The plan was to put n.e.w.s. out there, to get the critical feedback from the launch at ISEA — we were deliberate about not launching it an art venue, which would have been a very different audience — and to look at the site and to decide how to go future.

The feedback in Singapore raised questions about the website’s design, structure and purpose. The experience of putting it out there gave us the impression that people appreciated the central ideas of what the project was about, but they also wanted to see where it would go next. For instance, at the launch, we didn’t answer the question, “who exactly is n.e.w.s. for?” — the panellists wouldn’t say definitively, because it hasn’t yet been about targeting specific audiences, but opening up to possibilities. On its part, the audience didn’t speculate or make demands of its own. Rather, the audience, like the contributing curators, were both very keen to see how things would unfold over time.

In smaller discussions after the launch we got into some detail about the look and structure of the website. There were varying opinions about its appearance, and how we might change it. Some functions of the website haven’t been fully utilised, like the forums, stories, books, tagging, bookmarking and the polls, and there were suggestions on how to implement those. So how we can best utilise Drupal in such a way to fit our needs? But all these questions can only be resolved if there’s a clear sense of direction, and in that regard, what’s essential is how decisions about directions will be made.

The predictable lesson of ISEA — and predictability doesn’t make it any less valuable — is that you get so much from meeting in person. For all the capacities that the internet offers us, having n.e.w.s. physically launch at ISEA has been critical for the project’s development.

We met many people at the launch and throughout the proceedings of ISEA and obtained their feedback, but one of the highlights in Singapore was meeting Prayas Abhinav, an artist from India who attended ISEA and the in-conjunction ASEF summit (Asia Europe Foundation). He came to the n.e.w.s. launch, and in our conversations with him following that, Renée and I decided to invite him to join the n.e.w.s. team as a contributing curator. He’s got good ideas, knows a lot about the technologies, and has great enthusiasm for the project. This is exactly what a launch should be all about — to meet new persons who want to get involved, to get them on board, and to further develop the project.

I also feel that it’s time, now that the website is up and running, that Renée, Sannetje and Tiong — members of the n.e.w.s. foundation who have hitherto been in the background, making everything happen — that they should join the list of contributors. 

Renée, Prayas and I have been discussing some the next steps for n.e.w.s., including: having a position statement that clarifies who n.e.w.s. is for — how to participate, its open access philosophy and so on. This position statement could perhaps be developed as one of the first collaborative writing exercises on the website. This will appear as a “book” for about a week or so in order to get feedback from everyone about changes, where applicable.

The three of us also discussed how to develop n.e.w.s. as a tool for its stakeholders — and what should be our priorities: should we seek out and support community-level networking and art journalism initiatives, for instance? It goes with the name, “news” — we want to be a platform for news about art from around the world — news that slightly shifts our understandings, news that reflects the founders’ initial mission statements. 

We also discussed revenue generating possibilities. In Singapore, after the launch, we talked with the various funders who were present (ASEF, Mondriaan, for example) and discussed how we see n.e.w.s. developing. Since part of our present business model diverges from most Web 2.0 sites by including paid contributions we are working on a larger business plan in order to facilitate n.e.w.s. during the next year. We are in the process of planning a roadmap for the development of n.e.w.s.

Again, please keep an eye on the “books” section to find the Roadmap of what we have so far — this should be happening very soon. What’s crucial for the Roadmap is solid financial support. And it seems our strategy for now is to look to foundations for grants, as well as venture capital but to explore the prospects of n.e.w.s. generating its own revenues. Of course, all this should be discussed amongst the “stakeholders” of the project.

Right now we are drafting the plan for the year that facilitates using n.e.w.s. for various events, gatherings and symposia. This will merge all of our meetings, discussions and incorporates the feedback so far, in order to facilitate a strong continuation of n.e.w.s. Although it is a bit raw and sketchy, the Roadmap will include potential partnerships for next year, for example: solicitation for n.e.w.s. at the Sharjah Biennale; “Unsustainable Conversations” in Southeast Asia; a residency and meeting at Khoj in India in March; and an eventual presentation in the Netherlands.

Also coming soon is something that Renée and I have been discussing: a forum about the many biennales that will have opened in East Asia this September. We are thinking of convening this in mid-October. The particular topic for discussion could be developed as a poll on n.e.w.s. or amongst ourselves within the forum if many topics appear.

What of course is critical is your feedback — as contributors so far. We are hoping that all of you will be willing to continue contributing in some way, either as an integral “stakeholder” or user. Especially the next couple of weeks, in which we discuss how we can best structure and continue the site.

So, let’s ask ourselves: what are the key issues? Should we suggest them as book topics, or forums? We’ve talked about issues such as “cultural diversity” — shall we pick up on that, and if so, then how best should we go about developing our discussion of it? Or what type of “exit strategies” could be implemented using n.e.w.s? These are just some questions for starters. I hope you can react to the recent uploaded content in the coming days and share your ideas.

My role as moderator for the launch has concluded but I am committed to n.e.w.s. and will continue to contribute during the coming months.

Next up is Renée and Prayas, who will be initiating the drafts of the roadmap, and the position statement.



Very pleased to hear Prayas

Very pleased to hear Prayas Abhinav is involved - we met a while ago at Gasworks and his projects are super interesting.

I agree that certain features of drupal are under-used - not to say that every format is automatically going to be equally useful, but we've remained very 'bloggy' and I would be really interested in understanding and using other features - especially the 'book' - better. I think tags can be better used, too.

Looking forward to continuing the discussion about the future of n.e.w.s...


some propositions...

First of all I have to say that the idea of NEWS, like a new platform for sharing the information and points of view on the contemporary art issues from diverse geographical and personal positions, is an important one. But I can see a bit more mess then it is necessary – maybe it will be more useful to stucturise the moderation a bit? Maybe we can do a kind of schedule – something like one week for every contributor and to discuss the issues, which he/she will focus on?

I also like the idea about the discussion around some exact events, like Asian Biennales. So, we need some more concrete cross-points on the blog, I think. It will be also nice to have a special “news” page, where all contributors can add important news from their part of the world, or maybe just some information (why not critical?) within interesting events all over the world, which contributors are thinking about.

On the moment the most part of the information here is very interesting, but a bit chaotic and mostly theoretical (let it be), but I would like to see some balance of practice part as well. It will be also nice to use more technical possibilities of the NEWS as well…


the roles of "blog entries" vis-a-vis the "books" section

I hope over the next few weeks the contributors can all have some discussion about the role of the space for blog entries vis-a-vis the books section. My own feeling is that blog entries should be shorter or newsy, and the books section should be the place for sustained and in-depth discussion. Of course, from time to time, the blog entries should also announce what's going on in the books section. The blog section can remain more chaotic, but what seems lacking is a more structured "books" section. We should all weigh in with our opinions on these sections, as well as the role of the forums, and perhaps also start suggesting time-frames for forum or book discussions. One such proposal, on Asian Biennales, has been floated, so let's see how that one goes -- the proposed date for that is sometime in mid-October.


critical mass

Very glad to be seeing indications of renewed interest in n.e.w.s. Here are a few thoughts to get the discursive ball rolling again.

I would personally be happy to see the "cultural diversity poll" disappear. I know it's tongue in cheek and makes light of both culture and pseudo diversity, but I think we can do better. The kind of diversity we should be working toward is not cultural but a constitutive diversity of our collective personality, our embryonic "we".

Which leads me to my main point: I don't think we have anything like attained the "critical mass" necessary to move things onto a new tack, or to seriously envisage collectively authoring texts. I'm willing to try, but in my opinion our entries to this point are themselves little more than expanded tags. We are tackling big issues with little text bites, which is uncomfortably typical of members of our informal curatorial guild. There are fascinating insights a-plenty, but frustratingly little detail or sustained argumentation. I have implicitly shown my disagreement with word-count guidelines by posting texts well exceeding the recommendations -- perhaps ensuring that no one reads them! -- but would explicitly argue in favor of more developed texts, including much more extensive use of visual and sound material. This is not a plea for long-winded blather, but of laying the groundwork for serious discussion and coauthorship.


discursive density

Yes, I agree, we are still far from achieving the critical mass that is necessary for our larger purposes. While I'm all for discursive density, the question is, whether the blog entries section is the right space for that, or should we shift to using the "books" section of the website. One suggestion is to schedule a time when several contributors agree to commit to reading and commenting on a longish text -- of course, what's required is the longish text to begin with.


defining developed and sustained for n.e.w.s.

While I've so far certainly been aiming at - and not entirely reaching - the ideal of developed texts and sustained argumentation, I've also been thinking that this is not the only way we can make exciting headway on here. The essay form (which is was I assume you are basically describing) is one thing, but you have to ask why an essay would go on here and not, for example, in a printed publication.

Here we have possibilities for ways of writing that printed matter doesn't offer, so we have no obligation to follow its traditional forms. 'Collaborative authorship' for me doesn't have to mean a single, long, structured, single-voiced text with three or four names after it (though I have nothing against that). If the comment-conversation that follows a text is lively, considered, and concise enough, this is also completely appropriate for the goal of 'collaborative authorship'.

So I'd agree we need more sustained arguments, but I would prefer to see greater involvement and conversation following something maybe a little unfinished or uncertain, than several 'perfect' texts sitting all alone amongst no conversation. Essentially I think this means we need to pay more attention to the status of comments and see them as part of the fabric of a collaborative text, rather than as the secondary noise around a finished essay.

in fact i began a post about this, and abandoned it. Maybe it's time to dust it off again.