During this health emergency, information, exhibits and activities, everything is raging online. It is also important to understand the nature of this space where we are all evaporating. Many artists have focused on the IT world to reveal its very same structure and dynamics. Some galleries and institutions have followed them with particular interest. Arebyte Gallery is one of these. This is a London-based non-profit organisation that has been interested in presenting and promoting artists who have been following this technological world since its beginnings and the gallery has always done this with great attention to the area. Olia Lialina is one of the pioneers of the first era of Net Art, when expressing oneself through a mailing list was considered an art form and when she tested – with great technical simplicity and using html language – the potential of the Internet to extend her cinematographic research in hypertextual interactive narratives. Her work has continued over the years, actively and incisively in the debates shaping media art theory.
Her first London-based Best Effort Network retrospective, scheduled before the world changed course with the spread of a virus, is now online and includes a series of works created from 2013 to 2020. Her work – as the press release also states – addresses the systematic nature of the Internet through manifestations of intimacy between the hardware, software and human mediation.
The Internet becomes an ideal narrative space employing its own tools: gifs, browsers and hyperlinks. Everything can become an exceptional narrative tool to be used outside conventional navigation habits. Network Portraits Series, for example, is a series of triptych portraits displaying each section with a different browser including Tor, the browser used to access the dark web.
Summer (2013) is an animation where the artist swims back and forth in an endless loop. 18 images are located on 26 different sites. Each site redirects the browser from one server to another, thus creating a cross-domain animation. The narrative that builds the animation depends on the structure of the web. If one chain of this communication weave is lost, the work is interrupted.
Best Effort Network (2015/ 2020) refers to the journey that data packages make to their destination. The sending system does not guarantee anything with respect to the date of arrival or the quality of the material. It makes visible everything that happens in the interregnum and responsibilities in the worlds of politics, social networks and consumerism. Several locations are complicit in this experimental project: HeK (Basel), The Photographers’ Gallery (London), the Open Data Institute (London) and BOM (Birmingham Open Media, Birmingham).
Hosted (2020), the most recent work, is an animation in 70 frames, each loaded using a different host service. In the formalisation of a flip book, Hosted is about the loss of control but also about regaining it. You acquire awareness of the browser space, a necessary mediator for our operations, even with materials we own and make.
In this moment of crisis, when the Internet has become our space, even before we are hit by huge amounts of information, activities and whatever else, it is important to understand and become aware of the structure of the Internet, especially in light of the fact that interests in this space are multiplying exponentially. Let us attune to the work of artists who have followed this world since its creation and who are able to reveal its functions and manipulations. You can also browse the booklet with signature of great theorists and thinkers, and sign up to attend online to Olia Lialina’s conference on April 30th, 2020.
images: (cover 1) Olia Lialina. «Summer», 2013, courtesy of the artist (2-3) Olia Lialina, «Hosted», still 2020 courtesy of the Artist (4) Olia Lialina, «best effort network», 2015 – 2020, courtesy of the Artist