The Art of the Internet, Restored and Out in the World | Modern Society of USA

The Art of the Internet, Restored and Out in the World

The Art of the Internet, Restored and Out in the World

For many people, the term “net art” might conjure specific associations from a certain era — the ’90s, hackers, Berlin, Web 1.0.

These things are part of the story of digital-born art, but only part of it. Net art was never a specific scene: It was born before the internet existed and continues to be created today, worldwide, in disparate media.

A project called Net Art Anthology, curated by Rhizome, an affiliate of the New Museum, was an attempt to tentatively create a historical understanding of net art. Unveiled online over the course of two years, the effort involved the archiving and restoration of 100 digital artworks — often a laborious process because browsers that could display the pieces no longer existed, or other aspects of the technology had to be preserved or emulated.

“It was intended really as a way of filling in major gaps in public understanding of and access to net art’s past, to make it more of a resource for the present for artists and people interested in internet culture and how we got here,” said Michael Connor, artistic director of Rhizome.

On Tuesday, a show called “The Art Happens Here: Net Art’s Archival Poetics,” curated by Mr. Connor and Aria Dean, opened at the New Museum to commemorate the completion of the anthology. Sixteen works will be on display, and many of them deal with ephemerality, loss and change — but also with the joy and weirdness of the web. We spoke to five of the artists about their creations.

It’s easy to forget that before the internet, there were other networks. One of the more advanced was videotex, an information system invented in the 1970s that relied on a television or terminal — you could communicate, read the news, publish content or look up telephone numbers. In France, the government distributed more than a million such terminals, called Minitel, to citizens.

After a version called Videotexto was implemented in Brazil in 1982, mostly in public spaces like libraries and airports, the performance and multimedia artist Eduardo Kac became interested in the technology. Mr. Kac said he had an epiphany of sorts: Physical artworks could exist in a whole new sphere. “We were no longer preoccupied with dematerialization,” he said. “We could now produce immaterial work directly.”

In 1985, Mr. Kac made the work “Reabracadabra,” a digital poem created for Videotexto that he described as a “personal, formal attempt at holographic work.” This piece will be on display in the New Museum show on a terminal, after Mr. Kac painstakingly restored and recreated his videotex pieces over the course of 15 years.

This network no longer exists, just like the internet we have now will one day no longer exist,” Mr. Kac said. “There’s a general misperception when we talk about online culture. Everyone is so obsessed with the internet, but to me it’s a historical phenomenon. It will be superseded by other networks in the future.”

Many of the links are now dead, though Mr. Mackern said he sees this as a piece of the project.

“It has a romantic thing, no?” Mr. Mackern said. “These are like footprints of something that happened, like a kind of fossil. You have this thing that proved that something happened, but you cannot grab it or experience it again.”

In “The Art Happens Here,” the database will become a physical object, with the links printed slowly and repeatedly for New Museum visitors to take home.

Source link