To contribute more force to the current digital-art tsunami, we checked in with Stefan Simchowitz to explore the web works in his private collection. Assessing how art now functions in our new environment, we wanted to take a look at net.art which has existed prior to a Covid-necessity, as if from a pure context, exclusive in its own form. In Jon Rafman’s 2009 “Woods of Arcady”, perfectly ear-appeasing male and female voiceovers (we are now well accustomed to Siri…) speak W.B. Yeates’ “The Song Of The Happy Shepherd”, which opens:
The woods of Arcady are dead,
And over is their antique joy;
Of old the world on dreaming fed;
Grey Truth is now her painted toy;
Yet still she turns her restless head:
But O, sick children of the world,
Of all the many changing things
In dreary dancing past us whirled,
To the cracked tune that Chronos sings,
Words alone are certain good.
Where are now the warring kings,
Word be-mockers? – By the Rood
Where are now the warring kings?
An idle word is now their glory,
By the stammering schoolboy said,
Reading some entangled story:
The kings of the old time are dead;
The wandering earth herself may be
Only a sudden flaming word,
In clanging space a moment heard,
Troubling the endless reverie.
For quite some time, Stefan Simchowitz, aka Simco, has valued net art and collected digital assets, looking back to Pink Dot, 2007 by Takeshi Murata (here on YouTube). His values extend more broadly, to net culture, as someone who spends 1-2 hours per day on Instagram. Stefan fully maintains his own account of 83 k followers, which sheds a highly personal voice into his life. Stefan explained Instagram accounts themselves (selectively speaking) as bodies of work, which can now occupy a space and therefore equate to cultural significance. Rejecting the toxic psychologies of our times, social media functions as a cultural asset tool in order to distribute content and ideas – just turn to the IG live chats of figures like Johann König (today with IC at 4pm Berlin time) and Klaus Biesenbach, and IC Collectors Anita Zabludowicz, Sveva Taurisano and Oliver Elst, who have religiously implemented engaging discussions in a lockdown responsibility.
In terms of owning URLs, this is interesting to Stefan, as a uniquely existing website (although distributed online), remains as a unique artwork. Further, they more or less maintain themselves and are simple to archive. When Stefan acquired rgbforever.biz no one paid any attention, however he felt conceptually that it was one of the more interesting things he had done, because that artwork came with equal access, which anyone else could enjoy in the same way as he could. Ownership devaluation also became irrelevant, except for someone being the custodian of the server who pays the domain fees.
Given this now refreshed relevance of web works and net.art, scroll through this presentation to view screenshots of the URL artworks in Simco’s collection, with corresponding links to access the works for yourself. In the mix, are also some stills from digital video works by Petra Cortright, known for her contribution to the net.art movement. Some of the works use Flash, so be sure to have your browser’s Flash player on. Also expect sound bites and audio, or user input by seemingly random clicking. Other works are completely hypnotic and require no interaction, offering a soothing possibility for sitting back and zoning out. All in all, we hope that you enjoy the authenticity of these web works, amongst today’s flooded online scenario.
Already proved in the early 90s, specific art can exist without a physical space and on the internet, it just took a pandemic and global isolation to bring that to light.