by Chad Rossouw
Wikipedia Art: where art and editors lock horns
Wikipedia is one of the most interesting, controversial and useful sites on the web today. If you've been living in a hole, emerging only once a month to read ArtThrob, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia that is editable by the reader. It has become a vast entity, with internal rules and regulations dictating the acceptance and deletion of pages. As the encyclopedia has become one of our main stores of expert knowledge, these rules essentially regulate our access and understanding of what is valuable knowledge.
Wikipedia Art, a project by Scott Kildall and Nathaniel Stern, was a page set up to be art on Wikipedia. The idea was to declare a Wikipedia page art. Wikipedia has a system in place verifying articles from credible external sources, and so, following the rules of the medium, Stern and Kildall set out to prove the page was art. Of course, a huge debate ensued between interested artists and committed Wikipedia editors. Some argued for its status as art, at cross-purposes with those arguing that it had no place on the site and undermined the integrity of Wikipedia's rules. The page was deleted within 24 hours.
Nevertheless, the art blogs jumped at the chance for fresh material, and soon lively debates were happening at Art Fag City and Rhizome and elsewhere. The irony is that all the press attention would now make an entry about Wikipedia Art rather than making the artwork itself now acceptable in Wikipedia.
Aside from all the interesting (but exhausted from the above dialogues) points this work makes about the epistemology of Wikipedia and the use, meanings and function of art, the real idea of the work is that art only exists fully through discourse. The problem is that sometimes, to make such a point we have to get involved in knots of reflexivity, self-reflexivity and tautology, and it becomes hard to see the discourse for the debates.