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Net Art In the Museum

Away with all the high-end animations, into the archives with the world of silicon graphics! Onyx machines are the dinosaurs of a long lost cyber world.

This might be the guiding star for a new radical grouping of media artists on their way towards putting an end to the fascination with high technology of the 90s, when access to reality engines was an indispensable precondition for being a successful media artists.

Under the label this movement constitutes itself as the first (?) avant-garde of the 21st century. As a discussion forum between the various groupings of media art, it attempts to find its own place within art history, in order to legitimize its attitude as a necessary basic approach of media art per se. refers, quite rightly so, to early video art, which although not successful in its aggressive attacks on the medium television, at least failed in a spectacular way.

There are parallels. However, even the more radical representatives of net art, e.g. Dadaistic hackers or groups like JODI, are more interested in a somewhat playful dysfunctionalization of software with the nevertheless political implication that by doing so the social determination of network programs, plug-ins and browsers, the socially controlled access to the cyber-world might thus be put into question. In any case, there is a joint interest in content, e.g. in communication structures and the potential of the medium, and that in my view is the most important joint feature of early video art and present net art.

There is another important point regarding the contribution of the media museum to net_condition. Despite all necessary attempts, which might well be interpreted as being legitimate, to break away from the operating system art, it is the museum, the exhibition where people who think differently and in new dimensions can realize their experiments in our society. Nevertheless, the location in the operating system art also has to be developed and mastered again and again. Therefore, I have works to present the contribution of the Media Museum to net_condition, which in their very own way do not leave the space of the museum, as at least intended by, but extend it.

First of all there is The Tables Turned by Paul Sermon, in a way a dramatization of virtual space. It enables to test truly new ways of communication and behavior within the museum, thus continuing in a very special way the tradition of Communication Art initiated among others by Roy Ascott.

Difference Engine #3 by Lynn Hershman together with the Global Interior Project by Masaki Fujihata and the early experiments by the Knowbotics Research Group, esoteric as they may have been, present the very first artistic mixed-reality installation. The Humbot Project by Pocock, Noll, Burckhardt, Cabot and Staehle is based on an updated interest in the research work undertaken by the universal genius Alexander von Humboldt. It uses his works for a very special instrumentalization of the network structures in the area of linguistic communication via the Internet.

All three projects therefore test the limits of net_condition in their own way, not only in the virtual space of the Internet, but where it affects all of us particularly: in the border area between real and virtual worlds.

Hans Peter Schwarz


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