There was a new step made recently in net art exhibiting practice.
By NY Digital Salon. Actually two steps.
Step One: Screenshots instead of Links.
On 14.04.03 I got a message from Bruce Wands, Director of New
York Digital Salon, informing me that my work
"Will-N-Testament was selected by Gregor Muir of the Tate for
inclusion in the New York Digital Salon's special issue of
Leonardo, as part of an international survey on new media art.
Our upcoming exhibition, Vectors: Digital Art of Our Time at the
World Financial Center Courtyard Gallery, is a selection of
works from that survey
Further information can be obtained at www.nydigitalsalon.org"
i went to
and then to
a page where will-n-testament was featured. I click on the
picture of will-n-testament. A new window opens with only a
fraction of the will-n-testament page visible. I was about to
write my standard message to the director and the curators that
it looks really bad to open a link in a small window without
location bar visible: it is bad taste, dilettantism, it is a
mistake of last century curators, it is against logic of the
web, against nature of the work ... But then I resized the
window: there was still only part of my page visible. i reloaded
-- still same effect. It could only mean that it is not a site,
but an image, a .gif. will_n_testament.gif as the source code
Most Other works looked the same:
CarnivoreLogo.jpg instead of Carnivore
IOD-picture-1.jpg for IOD
leonardo_numbers.jpg for The Godlove Museum_Numbers
I wrote a message to salon and curators asking how it could
happen that online works are represented without any link to
them. The answer came from Benjamin Weil. He wrote that what i
see is not an exhibition, but just a documentation of the
But what's the logic? Wouldn't it document an exhibition better
if you can see the works of the artists? How can a screenshot be
more informative than a work itself? What for to make a
screenshot (which is also more effort) if you can make a link?
Additionally i can't get why this 'documentation' is decorated
with my email address? (Actually it's nobody's email address,
this mailbox never existed.)
That it is just a documentation, not an exhibition itself, is of
course a good argument in conversation with me. I could
criticize the way my work is exhibited and demand that it is
changed, but I can't protest about the way ny digital salon is
documenting its own activity.
To sum it up: Ideal form found. Not an exhibition, but a
documentation. Not a link, but a screenshot.
Screenshots are easy and unpretentious. They can't destroy a
curatorial concept. They won't bring technical complications.
And, anyway, no one would complain, because the audiences (real
and virtual) of digital salons do not care about net art. Nobody
would follow more than two links deeper. People coming from
weblogs, private home pages or links their friends sent in an
email would do.
Plus, lots of more recent net art project are so complicated to
navigate, plug-in demanding and content-wise heavy that it is
not possible to get through them and they are adequately
represented by screenshots, "about" and "artist bio".
Step Two: "When Exhibition is over links will be reactivated"
But links to the project were found on these pages:
Real links. You click on them and they open a work of the artist
in the same window and with location bar.
On 5th May I got a new message from Bruce Wands explaining that:
"The NYDS Web site is currently set up to support our exhibition
at the World Financial Center Courtyard Gallery through May 25.
As such, the Web site and kiosks contain information about art
work and the essays in Leonardo. Four net art pieces were chosen
for the NY exhibition: Vuk Cosic's ASCI History of Art for the
Blind, Mark Napier's Riot, Maciej Wisniewski's netomat and
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's Vectorial Elevation. These links are
live. We were hoping to have a wider selection of net art in the
exhibition and are sorry that your work was not included. After
May 25, the Web site will revert back to its pre-exhibition
status and the links to all the net art pieces will be
The way this online exhibition is constructed may appear very
simple, but in fact it's the next step in e-curating: Online
archives of any art institution contain links as real museum
archives are filled with paintings, video tapes, etc. To make a
real exhibition you take things out of the archive. To make an
online exhibition you activate some links from your online
archive. To make a new online exhibition, you deactivate these
links and activate others.
After years of perverse experiments the idea to make and remove
links sounds like a relief. Environmentally friendly approach.
However, this practice cannot be really recommended due to the
fact the role of curators and museums is different when it comes
to online exhibitions: they are not that important. No matter
how loud the museum's name or how great the curatorial concept
is, they are just nodes. Because online works are public anyway,
linked or not.
That is why the meaning of deactivating links is not identical
to bringing an art object to a storage room. The result is that,
for example, Digital Salon is not excluding works by not linking
to them. By not linking to them, Digital Salon is not
participating in the constantly ongoing exhibition of all these
works. I don't think this is a meaning they wanted to achieve by
selecting only 4 works from 20. But this is how it looks for the
people who see the pages i mentioned above.
And even worse in particular Digital Salon case. If my project
is listed, but not linked it can mean that curators could not
find it. Or that it was found but is not working. Or that i did
not allow to link to it, which is damaging for my reputation: in
no way i am against that there are links to my works from any
site. Even when it is in 'exhibition status'.
So the conclusion here can be that in case of online art, it
does not make sense to divide your collection into archive and
current exposition, into linked and not linked works.
May 9th, 2003