In 1995, nearly a tenth of the internet was net art. Artists were early to join engineers on the web, entering via the first public browser in 1993. Most net art from this period is irretrievable, never modified to be compatible with newer software. In theory, the internet should age as a perfect archive; in practice, its record of the past is patchy, tearing wherever ambitious futures have stretched the network too thin.
The Art Happens Here: Net Art’s Archival Poeticsat the New Museum restores selectively from the internet’s history. The exhibition takes place mostly offline; with only five of its 16 objects displayed on computers, The Art Happens Here favors the less-technical definition of net art, as material based in or on internet cultures. The internet culture of Olia Lialina’s slideshow Give Me Time/This Page is No More (2015-ongoing), for example, is GeoCities, a popular hosting service acquired by Yahoo! in 1999 and dismantled a decade later. Lialina projects a diptych of screenshots of GeoCities pages, with bloggers on the left promising to revive their pages’ activity and those on the right renouncing their efforts altogether. Both sides profusely thank (“THNX!”) and apologize (“SORRY!”) — an example of internet etiquette extended to an unknown, where a stranger’s attention should be acknowledged but never presumed.
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