When thinking about art and the Internet, I can’t help but hear the words of Oscar Wilde in his essay The Decay of Lying, “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life” (virgil.org). If we explore the current situations of Internet art and retrospectively analyse its struggles, this discipline has grappled with exclusion from the art market, acquisitions into institutional collections, and general acceptance of whether it is art or not. As a by-product, this created an interesting discourse surrounding curatorial practice in new media, creating different approaches all with the intention of integrating this form of art into the art world. But there is a question to be asked, could some of these developments been curatorial folly that de-contextualise artworks for the sake of acceptance from institutions and the art market? Take the example of the Post-Internet movement. It was cited by Maria Welsh at the Frieze London Talk: The End(s) of Post-Internet that this latest development with new media had very close links to the right-wing thought process of Object Oriented Ontology.
What can we make of all this, then? Well, for one, there is an enormous amount of uncontrolled content flying through the Internet, and this is grouped together with the lack of a critical voice. Peter Weibel, the director of the ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art in Germany, once said in an interview to Dr. Sarah Cook of crumbweb.org that, “the job of a curator is to select artists and to bring this work together so that the public can see it. And this is the same for the net. People do not have time to go through the hundreds of thousands of works on the net, so we have to create sites that are curated. People then know that if they want to save time, curators will always provide orientation and navigation to the works. So you have to trust, when you visit a curated site, that you will see a hundred excellent works dealing with the conditions of the net.” (Cook, 2010: 28).
Yet, In the Frieze London Talk: The End(s) of Post-Internet it was stated how platforms like Rhizome.org adopted a position of support and provided a direct portal into the Net Art world, rather than being a critical outlet for the medium. What this provides, then, is only a survey – limited to the taste of a designated team from an online platform – of what is out there. This is a fundamental problem that seems to clash with the basic roots of curatorial practice. The curatorial position, even on the Internet, is about selection, thereby it is about being critical and curating a selection of works that meet a specific set of criteria, namely functionality (within its medium), relevance, criticality and how all these affect the present standardisation of established aesthetics.
I feel that this leads to a lot of questions about how we curate new media, however, I would like to first draw your attention to just a few. Firstly, the definition of the word “exhibition” and its specific use within the Internet: is this an appropriate word for a project such as this? Recently, Martha Schwendener, of the New York Times, wrote possibly one of the first reviews for the online exhibition Design and Violence for a major publication (Rhizome.org, 2015). In the article, Schwendener cited that, for her, online exhibitions worked in an opposite way to physical exhibitions, comparing Design and Violence to online educational sites (nytimes.com, 2015). The second question that arises is around the functionality of projects of this type, should they ever be translated into the physical, or do we have to distinguish from the conception of a project whether it will have a locality/non-locality, or potentially both? My final question is on accessibility. Should works of this type be acquisitioned into institutional collections? I was recently speaking with a colleague who had worked with the Internet duo JODI, and she explained that JODI had refused to sell their Internet art piece, jodi.org, to MoMA for the reason that MoMA planned to take the project offline, destroying the work’s fundamental cores of functionality: accessibility.
It is with those thoughts in mind that I devised an experiment exploring the functionality of Internet art by creating an exhibition entirely on the web, producing a mock-up of an entirely online exhibition that consisted of; original works, a narrative, a 3D model of an exhibition space, and pdf copies of the texts that accompanied the exhibition.
And with that, I leave you to view, ponder and discuss.
Maybe it’s been years, or maybe days, or could have only several minutes have gone by? The answer eludes me… all I know is that I’ve been transfixed in this study of mine – lost in exploration. Exploration of what, you ask? Well, that isn’t a straightforward answer…
I discovered a world, which looked like the earth I know with its green lands and blue seas, but there was something amiss… Where were the continents? Where was the physical vibrancy of the human population? No, this world was untouched by the harsh rigours of mankind. It was serene and mysterious, yet dangerous all at the same time. I quickly became obsessed with it, analysing multiple areas, curious to see if any terrestrial activity could be noted…
…but there was none to be found… Why? Had I come across a blank canvas where my imagination could unfold, and I could become the Creator? Did a similar thing happen to God, through an accidental discovery akin to mine? Well, I wouldn’t make the same mistakes as that being, no, in my world there would be no people, just emptiness. Any activities would only be in my mind so that this land of mine would be left unscathed. This way, I would not be at the mercy of Chaos theory and see my precious world going amuck. All activities would be wiped out within the blink of an eye, no loss of life, or horrible human catastrophes. No, it would be just a reset where everything would begin all over again – no one would die. This would be my perfect world.
With those thoughts in mind, I named this world La Isla Network for its wealth of islands and blue seas, which I could only view through my screen. And then, I just simply sat back and began to watch.
Cook, S., Graham, B., Gfader, V., and Lapp, A. (eds.)(2010) A Brief History of Curating New Media: Conversations with Curators. German: The Green Box
Kaplan, Z. (2015) #Review: The New York Times Reviews “Design and Violence” at MOMA.org. Rhizome.org. [Online] Available from: http://rhizome.org/editorial/2015/jul/20/new-york-times-reviews/?ref=fp_post_title#top [accessed 08/11/15]
Schwendener, M. (2015) Review: ‘Design and Violence,’ Online at MoMA. The New York Times. [Online] 16th July. Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/17/arts/design/review-design-and-violence-online-at-moma.html?_r=0 [accessed 08/11/15]
Wilde, O. (1889) The Decay of Life. Available from: http://virgil.org/dswo/courses/novel/wilde-lying.pdf [accessed 03/11/15]
Frieze London Talk: The End(s) of Post-Internet. Available from: http://www.artmonthly.co.uk/magazine/site/events/the-ends-of-post-internet-art-roadshow-2015 [accessed 28/10/15]