“In Text We Trust”

online exhibition

Text can be a powerful thing. Not only when it’s written on paper, but when it’s posted on someone’s wall, or read from an iPhone. The interesting thing about text, is that when it’s not directly read to us, WE chose how to read it and interpret it. When text is available online, we are able to read how we chose to and when someone texts us, we are able to misread it and misinterpret and quickly get in an argument with someone over nothing. Text is certainly a powerful thing. When we read narratives intentionally made for the internet though, they open up a new nonlinear dimension for interpretation. Text that is made solely for being read online can do both; it can tell you how it wants to be read, or it can let you chose how it should be read. These four net-artists seen in this online exhibition are writers, experimentalists, digital artists, and take you through a world of their own through text.

To have internet art exhibited online can  mean many things; it was made online, it was made to only be viewed online, it was made online for the purpose of others to work off of, or it’s being archived.   That leads us to the difference between net art and art made on the net. Net art, though an ambiguous term and incredibly hard to define, is made specifically for the internet. “We are looking at something that is becoming more hybrid. Pieces often have different manifestations: an application, a net-based piece, an installation,” said adjunct curator Christiane Paul.  There is no privacy or exclusivity like there is with physical art put in physical galleries. While people can still collaborate and be inspired by tangible art, it might not be the purpose of it. It has taken one platform and infinitely subdivides it.

Net art is Futurism, it is new technology, it is universally accessible, it is right now. It can be exhibited through hand-coded web pages, hyperlinks, and archived in a way that people might even curate an online exhibition on that original exhibition.  This archival purpose is the most interesting since the Internet itself isn’t even that old, but that’s the great thing about net art, if it starts to get just a little old or outdated, it can be updated in an instant because it is always looking for improvements and other ways to get work out there. Much like the Futurist movement, net art has no defined style, but is “embracing popular media and new technologies to communicate their ideas,” (The Art Story). In fact, a familiar reading by Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think It” written in 1945, mind you, discusses developmental changes in science as well the arts. “His[man’s] excursion may be more enjoyable if he can reacquire the privilege of forgetting the manifold things he does not need to have immediately at hand, with some assurance that he can find them again if they prove important. ” We are always looking for new ways to present our successes and change how we do it for the better. We use our limitations to our advantage. Much like how we used to read on paper, we are now reading on a screen and given multiple options how to read it. We are moving on to bigger and better things to display art to a growing demographic.

Digital Narratives might be compared to experimental writing. They both are innovative in technique and they are more conceptual than normal writing. They both push the limits to how a story can be told. Stories that used to be told from beginning to end now have a nonlinear timeline and jump around from middle to beginning to end. There is no longer a set way to tell a story. Hell, sometimes the reader decides how the story is told. One popular example of experimental writing is Could Atlas by David Mitchell. That storyline breaks narrative laws by combining story lines and transitioning from timeline to timeline to tell one overall story. We see this in more in recent stories actually, writing is breaking loose and experimenting more with how a story can be told to alter an experience. In featured artist Adrienne Eisen’s Six Sex Scenes she takes us through different timelines, all around the same topic, but it is up to us, the reader, to decide how we experience it. Digital narratives have a possible interactive quality that experimental writing can’t give us. Sure, we can read a book in any order we want, but it won’t make sense because that’s not how the author intended it. Digital narrative artists write and create in the hopes that we will read and click in random orders. They aren’t meant to be read and understood just one way like old-fashioned writing might have been. We have the power to chose our story now.

The problem with net art however, is there is a fine line between remixing & collaborating and copyright laws. Yes, it’s much easier now to post art online and that makes it even easier for people to see it and possibly rip it off. Copyright infringement seems to be a heavy topic in the recent years because technology is developing at such a fast pace that it is exceeding our lawmaking process.We have managed to categorize content into “open source” that allows us to use at will, and private content that requires a purchase or some form of donation usually. One person may see it as remixing while another will see it as stealing. There are, however, benefits to creating art work specifically for the Internet. Some artists find it less stressful or a creative outlet to be inspired and collaborate with other artists. They don’t all see it as someone else’s property, it’s more of an online community of collective work to them.  “We’re in a brave new world here, artists have always been inventors, and today’s digital lifestyle invites us to be just as inventive in determining not only what constitutes an artwork, but what constitutes its delivery system,” is one way featured artist Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries put it. Where most people see limits, net artists see a new way to create something. Much lie the limits on storytelling, digital narratives were creating as well as hyperlinks for a new storytelling experience.

Shelley Jackson – My Body (1997)

My Body” is an interactive hypertext autobiography connecting different parts of Jackson’s body with different stories, both fiction and non-fiction, from her life. This is a nonlinear narrative with no clear ending meant for you to explore at your own pace and understand Jackson’s background and some-what dark personality.  We are lucky to experience this on the net because we are able to interact with it and participate in her story, in any other case this would just be a regular book with a chronological story that only changes when you turn the pages she intended you to turn. My Body is an excellent addition to this exhibition because it demonstrates the new technology used to push the limits of linear storytelling.


Adrienne Eisen – Six Sex Scenes (1996)

Six Sex Scenes is a documentation that uses hypertext. Eisen’s oddly humorous personality shines through in each story you click through. It’s important that this particular work of hers be put on the internet because she writes nonlinear stories. The fact that this is distributed on the internet will allow her to reach new audiences that haven’t yet experienced anything other than linear.


Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries – Dakota (2002)

Dakota is one of many alike digital narratives created by Young-Hae Change Heavy Industries out of Korea. This may be a non-interactive piece lacking hyperlinks, but the sound, varying size and speed of text flashed before your eyes leads you through a story unlike any other. This narrative pushes the limits of storytelling and modernizes not only what you read, but how you feel when you read it. It fits our short attention spans what we web browsers are accustomed to.



Olia Lialina – My Boyfriend Came Back From War (1996)

A classic use of hypertext, My Boyfriend Came Back from War is a digital narrative that unveils itself click after click. Originally created around the context of “slower technologies” this narrative is almost an archival of itself. When it was first created, the longer loading time between hyperlinks created a more tense feeling for the storyline and as we watch it today with a quicker loading time, it is a different experience. This online presence allows us to experience a new feeling each time we watch it. The fact that it was made for the net and still remains there will allow us to gain a new experience for years to come.




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