Exhibiting net-based art IRL: On the presentational challenges net-based art presents, and the solutions to be found in past exhibitions of cybernetic, conceptual, and net-based artworks
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This thesis focusses on the presentational challenges net-based art presents, and seeks to find improvements to current museum presentations. This research was originally inspired by Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam’s display of net-based art as it was first encountered by the author in 2019. Across two chapters the factors that contribute to the shortcomings of the Stedelijk’s presentation are analysed, focussing on issues regarding interactivity of the display and the integration of net-based art into the collection presentation. Improvements are sought through application of aesthetic theories and examination of curatorial practices used for past presentations of cybernetic, conceptual, and net-based art. Approaches that could expand the interactivity of net-based art presentations are arrived at via Katja Kwastek’s aesthetics of interaction and its application to digital art, and through assessments of Jasia Reichardt’s 1968 Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition at ICA London and 1997’s documenta X in Kassel, curated by Catherine David. Jack Burnham’s systems aesthetics and its employment as an organising principle for his Software exhibition at the Jewish Museum in New York in 1970, coupled with Per Platou’s personal approach encountered at the Written in Stone exhibition at Oslo Museum of Contemporary Art in 2003, establish multiple approaches that could be used to improve net-based art’s integration into museum collection presentations. Museums could improve upon the Stedelijk’s net-based art display by making it more inclusive, intuitive, and tailored to each artwork. By expanding the methodologies of display and by grouping works based on common themes, rather than installation needs, a museum could improve the integration of net-based art into the collection presentation. The text concludes with three proposals for net-based art presentations.