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Positive and negative aspects of that resource are touched on in "Social Capital: Forms of Interaction" at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, a show that also emphasizes, though less radically than Exit Art's does, ideas and actions over objects. As defined by the curators — Howie Chen, Leta Ming, Allison Moore and Nadia Perucic, 2003-04 fellows in the Whitney Museum's Independent Study Program — "social capital" is itself abstract, consisting of the virtual resources that all communities, whether highly specialized or loosely knit, provide for their members.
A video by Renée Green documents how involvement in new digital and laptop music works as a social binder for practitioners and audiences and as a spur to collaborative activism. An installation by the New York collective 16 Beaver Group, in collaboration with the Canadian magazine Fuse, replicates a setting for one of the group's lunches, where speculative discussions on social questions are shared, via the Internet, with a wide circle of off-site participants, a kind of global lunch-bunch.
Such electronic conferencing would, in its turn, make a natural study for the Sociable Media Group, which tracks patterns of conversational behavior on the Web: who talks to whom, with what frequency and so forth. Pinpointing digital communities-of-interest as they do could certainly be useful for mobilizing social power, though in the ethically volatile, intensively surveilled world of cyberspace, the nature of massed power is always hard to evaluate and impossible to control.
A film derived from Andy Deck's "Glyphiti" Web site, www.artcontext.org
/glyphiti/, directly alludes to the aggressive side of Internet collaboration. Mr. Deck created the site as a kind of crazy-quilt vehicle for multiple simultaneous graphic contributions but found that some users tried to grab the entire space for themselves. Other pieces in the show produced similarly disconcerting, and some might say unsuccessful, results. By including such work, the curators establish a refreshingly skeptical attitude toward friendly sounding concepts like community and data-sharing, and in the process demonstrate what the "post" in postmodernism means.
Process, the idea of art as action, is a fundamental dynamic of the Exit Art and Graduate Center shows, as it is, to a lesser degree, of "Playpen: Selections Summer 2004" at the Drawing Center. Much of the work here is site-specific and finished, as in the case of David Brody's mural-like wall drawings and a suite of sculptures by Gedi Sibony, whose recent show at Canada was one of the best solos of the season. Other pieces are interactive but stationary: visitors are invited to lie on the floor of a dark tent design by Alina Viola Grumiller and look up at constellationlike images picked out in perforations in the cloth.
By contrast, across the street in the center's Drawing Room annex, anyone can contribute anytime to a project titled "New York Public Archive" organized by the collective Red76, which hopes to compile a popular history of the city as told through drawings made by its citizens. Led by Sam Gould, the group has fanned out through various neighborhoods, distributing invitations and meeting people, motivated by the utopian conviction — one particularly threatening to an art world built on exclusions and restrictions — that everyone can be an artist and everything can be art.
Utopianism, time-faded and tinged with doubt, is the subject of the spare but trenchant New York debut show of the Swedish artist Felix Gmelin at Maccarone. Mr. Gmelin's subjects range from the spiritual illusions of the 1960's drug culture to the idealism-gone-bad of Maoist China. But the centerpiece is his re-creation of a video made by his father, a teacher, in 1968 in Berlin, at a moment of huge political and cultural upheaval.
In the original, shot from the back of a moving car or truck, his father and his students are seen carrying a large red flag in a kind of marathon relay jog through the city. One figure runs toward the camera; another appears from the side to grasp the banner, soon followed by another, each runner melting away when his or her stint is done. In 2002 Mr. Gmelin recreated the performance in Stockholm, where he teaches, using his own students as runners. The two videos play side by side in the gallery, and what do they say? That a torch has been symbolically passed between generations? Or that such torch-carrying never produced any real heat. It was just art then; it's just art now. Such questions feel pressing in the United States at the moment. And Mr. Gmelin's refusal, or inability, to give answers is moving in itself.