With a special event yesterday October 27, Rhizome has premiered Net Art Anthology, a two-year online exhibition retelling the history of net art from the 1980s through the present day.
Through one hundred works, restaged and contextualized on a weekly basis at a dedicated microsite, the series will take on the complex task of identifying, preserving, and presenting exemplary works in a field characterized by broad participation, diverse practices, promiscuous collaboration, and rapidly shifting formal and aesthetic standards, sketching a possible net art canon.
Devised in-concert with Rhizome’s renowned digital preservation department, Net Art Anthology addresses a field in which even the most prominent artworks are often inaccessible. The Anthology is organized by Rhizome’s artistic director, Michael Connor, with Aria Dean, assistant curator of net art, in consultation with external advisors. Dragan Espenschied, preservation director, will oversee all restorations.
The first phase of the Anthology will focus on works created through 1998, beginning with A Cyberfeminist Manifesto for the 21st Century (1991) by VNS Matrix. Each work will be given a bespoke restaging, which is linked from the microsite, designed by Lukas Eigler-Harding. One work will be presented each week, along with an essay published on Rhizome.org. The research and selection process is ongoing, and the full list will be revealed gradually throughout the project.
The launch event yesterday October 27 brought together a group of artists who championed distinct and even conflicting approaches to net art in the mid- to late 1990s: Olia Lialina (net artist and Geocities researcher/archivist), Martha Wilson (artist and founder of Franklin Furnace), Ricardo Dominguez (artist and founder of Electronic Disturbance Theater), and Mark Tribe (artist and founder of Rhizome). Each panelist will discuss their early online work as artists, curators, and organizers, reflecting on commonalities and contradictions in the field.
Additionally, the event featured presentations by Connor, Dean, and Espenschied, who will give an overview of the Anthology program, discussing its aims, criteria, and curatorial and restoration processes.
Net Art Anthology is funded by the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation. It arrives on the occasion of Rhizome‘s 20th anniversary year as a capstone project for the organization’s first two decades, and a look ahead to what’s next for net art and digital preservation.