Museums and the Web 1999

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Published: March 1999.


'DissemiNET' - a Prototype of a Net Based Curatorial System

Sawad Brooks , UTENSIL, USA
Beth Stryker , UTENSIL, USA

Session: Curating Online: Beyond Exhibition

Artists like Fred Wilson challenged the logic separating the framing institution from the figure in the frame [the art], importing practices from the museum into the artwork and reversing this flow. New technologies, and specifically networked technologies, raise the need to investigate further the boundaries between the museum and the art "within" it, and the ways in which practices of displaying and the materials for doing so converge for museums on the web and web-based art. We see the Museum and the Web Conference as offering a unique opportunity to explore artistic practices of "avant garde" net-based art in terms of the institutional practices of curation; and the ways in which the two "traditions" share tools.

Our web-based artwork "DissemiNET" is a Java-based system which hosts a cumulative, database of texts and images. DissemiNET re-elaborates terms such as "origin," "home(site)," "Diaspora," and "search," in terms of and through the mechanisms of the web.Drawing parallels between diasporas and the dispersal of meaning over the web, DissemiNET in response provide spaces (lacunae) for people to recall and recollect, gathering there to re-tell stories about their own experiences with displacement and dispersal. Over time, DissemiNET becomes a collection of such stories of errancy.

With "DissemiNET" we explore various notions of "curation," among these the concept of "automatic curation." Within the system we have developed an automatic indexing system ordered by a scheme of "key words" or "themes" (i.e.; "kinship," "home," etc.). The documents and images displayed in the DissemiNET browser self-select associations in relation to the curated set of themes. The themes also work within the system to allow a certain amount of control or curation to be turned over to the user. A visitor may trace visually the displacement and distribution of their chosen keywords or themes over the stories culled by the search engine. The "automatic" interventions of the system allow users of DisseminNET to touch an "unconscious" element of the archive which would otherwise only be constituted through conscious retelling.

As artists/curators of the system, we have created a non-public, client-side authoring/editing/curatorial system with which the sets of texts, images, and the conceptual base of themes can be changed. The visualization of the site and the relationships/passages between images and texts may be reconfigured/reconceived through the use of this curatorial tool.

**We propose to show "DissemiNET" as a prototype of a net-based curatorial system, and present it's possible applications to museums for web-based presentation.

**URLs:[DissemiNEt webspace] [documentation of installation @ Wexner Center for the Arts]

"DissemiNETion" is currently on view at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Ohio as part of the exhibition "Body MÈcanique: Artistic Explorations of Digital Realms," curated by Sarah Rogers. It will be on view in January, 1999 at the Boymans Museum in Rotterdam as part of the Rotterdam Film Festival exhibition "Exploding Cinema," curated by Femke Wolting. The "DissemiNET" webspace is included in the online exhibition "The Shock of the View," curated by Steve Dietz at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and will be featured on their website in January 1999.