Art F City reports that e-flux and deviantart.com lost their joint bid for .art, the so-called generic top level domain created by ICANN, the internet naming cartel.
ICANN's plan to offer specialized "not-coms" has been criticized as unnecessary at best and a protection racket at worst.
It cost $185,000 just to apply for a domain. E-flux, an art-listing-with-theory service run by artist Anton Vidokle, promised to make administation of .art broad-minded and fair if it won, but Rhizome writer Orit Gat noted that “wield[ing] a kind of centralized power ... seems incongruous not only with the egalitarian politics advanced through e-flux’s editorial, but also with the concept of the Internet as a shared resource.” [link added -tm]
The winner of the domain, UK Creative Arts Limited, plans to use it for:
the creation of an online community for artists, owners and keepers of works of art, commercial art organisations (such as galleries and auction and trading houses), not-for-profit organisations (such as museums, foundations, professional associations), supporting businesses (such as insurance, appraisal, transport) and customers and members of the general public interested in art.
That sounds kind of familiar. Going back in time, here is how e-Flux described itself when it launched in the 1990s:
The e-flux mailing list is made free for readers by a set fee paid by museums and other institutions of art to publish their press releases and other communiqués via e-flux. All information disseminated is permanently archived for reference and research. While its network is limited to public art centers and museums, e-flux offers similar platforms to commercial galleries through its art-agenda subsidiary, and to art schools and art academies through art&education, which e-flux jointly administers together with Artforum International.
This is a business model, and 17 years later it's still a business (apparently doing well enough to scrape together $185,000). Despite having "flux" in the name, the premise is the stability of a permanent archive. Information, and permanence, is a kind of power. To support e-Flux in its bid for .art, you would have to assume that (i) it would have no editorial, curatorial, or gatekeeping stance in running the domain, which is impossible unless every registration is granted, or (ii) that its editorial or curatorial stance agreed with your notion of good or acceptable art. e-Flux supports many worthwhile projects (including an OptiDisc) and they'll continue to be able to do so without the added authority of deciding who gets "art" stuck at the end of their names. People might actually care to have this designation, since e-Flux has spent years building a rep as a place for theory, whereas ".art" as administered by something called UK Creative Arts Limited will be seen, at least initially, as another private commercial fiefdom. Art F City attempts to demonize the winner as the puppet of a "Russian Venture Capitalist" -- possibly a venture communist would be more acceptable?
It will be interesting to see if any editorial or curatorial stance emerges out of UK Creative Arts Limited's newfound "centralized power." None of this should be of any great concern since we're being told that serious art discourse has moved to Facebook.