Wikipedia Art Logo. Via: Wikipedia Art
That was quick. Wikipedia Art, a conceptual project conceiving Wikipedia as a medium in the same way artists use land in Land Art, lasted all of a day before the wikisoldiers took it down. It would seem the paradox of an art project birthed in Wikipedia, and requiring referenced material to stay (some of which it achieved), failed to warrant enough merits in the eyes of Wikipedia’s administrators to save its fate. But the project, originally conceived by Nathaniel Stern and Scott Kildall, was challenged from the outset. After all, work that consists solely of an idea promising to develop into an undefined product tends to present more problems than that with which a typical Wikipedian will want to deal. Not that they didn’t give the piece due consideration; rather, seemingly endless debate on the subject took place on the entry before the article finally got the axe.
I’m not sure what is to be made of all this, except perhaps that academic art discourse has a life on the Internet despite what anyone might say otherwise. Even the original entry itself reads as though it came straight out of the professorial classroom:
Wikipedia Art is a conceptual art work composed on Wikipedia, and is thus art that anyone can edit. It manifests as a standard page on Wikipedia – entitled Wikipedia Art. Like all Wikipedia entries, anyone can alter this page as long as their alterations meet Wikipedia’s standards of quality and verifiability. As a consequence of such collaborative and consensus-driven edits to the page, Wikipedia Art, itself, changes over time.
Admittedly, the ensuing debate holds some interest, but I can’t help but feel sorry for the Wikipedia administrators who likely didn’t anticipate having to engage in the type of philosophical debate not in keeping with the practicalities of managing a database. A few relevant excerpts from the conversation below:
Delete: It is an article about itself. It is intrinsically unencyclopaedic. I don’t think it was necessarily created in bad faith but it is an abuse of Wikipedia to seek to use it as an art platform and it undermines Wikipedia as an encyclopaedia. – Daniel Rigal
Delete: Please note that, transgressive though they were, the Surrealists played “exquisite corpses” using their own notepaper. They did not try to scrawl it the margins of a library book. This is the problem. Nobody objects to a Wiki based artwork. The problem is that it can’t be inserted into Wikipedia because Wikipedia is not just a Wiki. It is an encyclopedia. It is no more appropriate to add non-encyclopaedic content here than it is to write stuff in library books. – Daniel Rigal
Delete: This could never be properly sourced, as it could only exist here first before it could ever be written about in order for it to be notable enough to be mentioned here. Yes, an interesting paradox, but that’s not our problem. We can only go by Wikipedia policies and guidelines, and it’s pretty clear that this needs to be deleted. But here’s an idea: the fact that this was attempted and subsequently deleted could possibly generate enough third-party coverage to make the initial project notable enough to be included (at least as part of the artists’ articles). But until then, it cannot stay. It’s not encyclopedic as an entirely self-referential article. – freshacconci
Keep: The Wikipedia Art page is something that explains art, explores art, and is art all at the same time. Deleting this page would be a statement that the exegesis of conceptual art and/or new media art has no place in Wikipedia, except on the tired, lifeless, and opaque conceptual art and new media art pages. Why shouldn’t a tiny corner of Wikipedia-brand collective epistemology be preserved for an instructive, self-referential, and ever-changing living example of what an art object can be in the 21st Century? Should this page be judged invalid only because it refers to itself? The Wikipedia Art page is a self-aware example of Wikipedia’s mission of collective epistemology. It enacts and exposes Wikipedia’s own strengths, weaknesses, potential, and limits as a system of understanding and as a contemplative object of beauty. The page is also a self-aware example of the strengths, weaknesses, potential, and limits of new media art as a an object of contemplation. New media art has demonstrated that the boundaries between art and every other discipline from epistemology to microbiology have disintegrated (see interdisciplinarity) in the 21st Century. This page shows how a Wikipedia page can go beyond simply existing as a Wikipedia page, while retaining its basic utilitarian Wikipedia function. Those who care most about Wikipedia’s mission would probably agree that Wikipedia already is a collaborative art form. If you feel that Wikipedia is a beautiful thing, then at some level (whether or not you admit it) you consider Wikipedia an art form, with its own codes and conventions. This artwork can only exist as a Wikipedia page that refers to itself. Therefore, deleting would not only send the message “this is not Wikipedia”; it would also be saying “this is not art.” – Shane Mecklenburger
Delete: I disagree. The only thing at stake is Wikipedia’s integrity as an encyclopaedia. The rest is stuff that we simply take no view on. If something is deleted it is because it is inappropriate to Wikipedia. It is not a comment on its wider worth. Nothing will be lost if the article is deleted. The authors can request a copy to be emailed to them and they can put it up again on another site. This is not censorship. This is not against art. It is just housekeeping. – Daniel Rigal
Keep: Let’s not make it wikipedia editors jobs to determine what is art. The 3 authors are established artists and they have said it is art – that’s really the end of the story. However, after that it is up to the rest of us to determine if it is good and/or worthwhile art. For that, let’s use the 5 pillars of wikipedia. Notability – has been established. It’s been written about in several places, there is a RL lecture discussing it, a curator has vouched for it. Compared with many other wikipedia articles which have no question of notability (for example, minor fictional characters from television shows, decade old chipsets, and manufacturers of Dungeons and Dragons miniature figurines) I’d say this met the established standard easily. Verifiability – the page exists and we’ve all seen it. No one has questioned whether or not it is being discussed on other sites or at academic lectures. Reliable sources – The authors created the page. The content of the page is the work of art itself, and it describes itself. Again, this doesn’t appear to be an issue because Verifiablity isn’t in question. No original research – none is necessary. We know all we need to know. Do not disrupt Wikipedia to illustrate a point – this may be the closest call. While I understand why this is an issue, I don’t think the artists are disrupting wikipedia to create a point. Their purpose is to create an artwork. The point it makes is secondary and the disruption is a side effect. Again, there’s plenty of room on wikipedia for this. It’s of interest. The more you make a stink about it, the stronger the case becomes. Let it go. DanielRigal – I think you feel too strongly about this and should cool off. With all due respect, Daniel, you may be projecting here. Please take your own advice. There is a very rational and relevant discussion happening here, and you appear to be trying to fast-track it into a deletion, perhaps out of unwillingness to consider differing points of view. Again, no offense, but you have been quite dismissive of the excellent points being raised here. – Shmeck
Comment: What exactly distinguishes a collaborative art project from a collaborative article?
Delete: I think it should be obvious that an article is an attempt to objectively capture the facts about a subject and that art is a subjective attempt to say something original about something. Given that Wikipedia is for objectivity and against original research it really is an incredibility inappropriate place to seek to make art. I see the attraction of the Wiki engine for collaborative art, but they can (and indeed already have) start their own Wiki for that. – Daniel Rigal
For the record, I’m not a fan of “the discussion is my art” genre of art making when it makes the lives of people trying to maintain a massive public online resource difficult. Some of the resulting conversation holds interest, but as a larger art making concern, it’s hard not to question the value of projects in which no outcome will result in failure. The project stays in Wikipedia; it’s art! The project gets deleted, the conversation is art! I don’t want to be a party pooper, but art making scenerios in which everybody wins are almost inherently boring. UPDATE: Twhid cites John Cage’s 4:33 as an art making scenario in which the win-win scenerio isn’t boring. He’s probably right.