New Steps

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"


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 revealed.

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 exhibition.

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 reactivated."

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
olia lialina