Flash Points

Making It Happen

Blogalogue Mania Sweeps the Nation!

I have “email balls.” I sit behind my computer screen, protected by a Gmail-cloak of anonymity and I email whomever, whenever, whatever. I landed my first job out of college by emailing a woman I saw on a NY street style blog to compliment her on her killer heels; three months later I was interviewing to be her personal assistant. After finishing a book I recently enjoyed, I did a quick Google search for the author’s contact info and sent a light-hearted message asking for career advice; shortly thereafter I found myself at Stumptown coffee with two espressos and the author/artist Luis Camnitzer. In short, I will email anyone, anywhere—from my cousin in communist Cuba to scholars at the tops of their fields—without fear or trepidation.

And it’s all very ironic, because in real life I’m a bundle of nerves. Most days I barely have the courage to let my Starbucks barista know that I keep asking for my tea with sweetener and she keeps making it for me without. Friends seriously jokingly call me a hamster because, like said animal, I’m small and anxious and if you picked me up you’d feel my whole body shake with worry. Thankfully, unlike said animal, I do not urinate in the same vicinity of where I sleep…but I digress. Email enables me to inhabit a bolder version of myself, opening up a number of opportunities that I might have never pursued in the flesh…and it is this facet of my personality that has factored heavily in the direction I want to take in my time here with Art21.

It all started one day, not so many moons ago, when I was riding the train into NYC and my gaze settled upon a particular advertisement poster. It might have been a poster for Reuters or Bloomberg or some other financially-minded whatever; that part doesn’t matter, because what I got from the poster was that I don’t know the difference between “systems” and “networks.” This bothered me, because I generally consider myself quite good with words, yet I could not arrive at one simple, distinguishable difference between “systems” and “networks.” Before getting off the train I made a note about my quandary (toot toot! SAT word!) and carried on with my business.

A few months later, when it came time for me to be Art21’s blogger-in-residence, I had a sudden epiphany. I had watched the Art21 Systems episode and was reminded of my still-open-ended question regarding “systems versus networks.” I began to ask a few friends what their take was on the dispute, and the reaction across the board was one of shrugged shoulders and convenient subject changes. Dismayed (but not disheartened!) by my lack of results, I carried on with more resolve, asking most everyone I knew and utilizing almost every resource available to me. Still, I had nothing.

In hindsight, I was skirting around the heart of the matter by only working with the people and resources that were directly related to my life. In not going further, expanding my search to people and resources beyond my immediate means, I wasn’t really taking the matter head-on. To get some insight into my query, I had to work through my networks and move through my systems to move on to other networks and systems. I had to let the machine lead me by the nose and simply hope that I came out wiser on the other end.

After figuring that much out, I did what I did best: I grabbed a hold of my big ‘ol email balls and started sending out emails to lots of artists—some that I knew and others that I didn’t know (Cory Arcangel, if you’re reading this, call me). I devised a plan to start with one artist, speak with them about what their take was on the great “systems vs. networks” debate, and then have that artist pass me on to another artist from their Rolodex (is that reference too dated to use in a blog post?), at which point the process would repeat itself.

My goal is to have a conversation with each of these artists about the topic of systems and networks, and simply observe how the conversation, and maybe even my opinion on the matter, progresses from start to finish. I imagine that the end result will be a fabulous dialogue about systems and networks that was ironically achieved by working through systems/networks, and there will be lots of clapping and fist-pumping and cheering, “NICOLE IS THE BEST! NICOLE IS THE BEST” and maybe at the end of two weeks, someone might bake me a cake and offer me a key to the city—I don’t know. These are just my thoughts. Either way, what follows is probably the most exciting blogalogue (yes, that’s “blog” and “dialogue” combined) that you ever did read about systems and networks, and it’s all thanks to one tiny little email and one giant set of email balls.

Until next time, Art21-ers, keep your spam filters “on.”

First up is Cary Peppermint and Christine Nadir of the duo Eco Art Tech. You can learn more about Eco Art Tech by visiting their website, located here.

  1. Marc Mayer says:

    Hey Nicole,

    Nice post. I have a question for you. Can you give us readers a way to start to consider what is a system and what is a network? I want to know which meanings of each word you are starting from in terms of your longer term investigation. I look forward to your answers!

  2. p says:

    what an interesting post…thank you for sharing! i’ve learned so much!!

  3. Nicole Sansone says:

    Hi Marc!

    I don’t think I have an answer for you, to be totally frank (and entirely useless.) Once I figured out that I didn’t really know what the difference was between systems and networks, I just left it at that. I wanted to approach this experiment with as much tabula rosa as I could muster.

    That said, I suppose I was approaching the whole thing from a very linguistic standpoint. When does is it appropriate to use the word system and/or network, and in what context? At what point does something/someone constitute a system and/or a network, and at what point do they not? I’m really looking for limits in the definition of both words, so that once I have a solid understanding of what these words mean literally I can then expand the conversation to something more abstract.

    Does that help at all, or did I just ramble? I’m watching “Goodfellas” as I type this post-turkey-coma, so I’m not in my most “enlightened” state…(despite looking very much like a Buddha on my lotus flower, read: couch)

  4. jacob says:

    a system is a way of doing something, a protocol. it is reliable in its actions.

    a network is the way something is organized. it is reliable in its structure.

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