Tuomo Rainio: Untitled (Gravitation Waves), 2017 Nimetön (Gravitaatioaallot), 2017 Kiasman komissioteos / Kiasma Commission

The Second Coming of Online Art

Arja Miller, MA, Chief Curator, Finnish National Gallery, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

Also published in Leevi Haapala, Eija Aarnio, Jari-Pekka Vanhala (eds.), ARS17 Hello World! Taide internetin jälkeen / Art After the Internet. A Museum of Contemporary Art Publication 156/2017. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, 2017, 174–175

‘The internet is a monument to an ever-changing present.’
 Angelo Plessas

‘Program or be programmed.’
 Douglas Rushkoff

Kiasma’s ARS17 exhibition (31 March, 2017 – 14 Jan, 2018) is a response to the global digital revolution and its ubiquitous impact on our culture and daily behaviour. Over the past few years, new technology has radically changed our social relations, our everyday routines and our modes of interacting, communicating, feeling and bringing together communities. The impact of the digital revolution is also inescapably felt in the practice of art, and in the ways that art is presented and collected. A growing spectrum of noteworthy art is native to the internet, where it is also intended to be consumed and enjoyed, either via social media or mobile app. Given that Kiasma’s core mandate is to keep up with the latest trends and most interesting new practices in the field of contemporary art, we felt it was high time we reactivated ourselves as exhibitors and collectors of online works.

The ARS17 exhibition provided a timely impetus for this initiative. Parallel to the physical exhibition, we decided to curate an online exhibition spotlighting digital art and giving this growing genre the attention it deserves. ARS17+ spills outside the gallery walls into the virtual realm, where it can be enjoyed by anyone, any time, virtually anywhere in the world, via mobile device or any web browser/internet connection. Meanwhile, an interesting challenge is posed by the works that will remain permanently in Kiasma’s collection after the exhibition is over: How can our museum maintain and, above all, preserve a wide variety of digital artworks that rely on specific software and devices? How and in what environment will they be accessible after the ARS17 project is over?

Kiasma had already recognised the relevance of the internet as a forum for contemporary art back in the 1990s, when the web was still young and society embraced a wave of cyber-utopianism. Back then, there was a band of interesting Finnish artists busily experimenting with new media. Juha van Ingen and Mikko Maasalo co-organised Finland’s first-ever internet art project in 1995, when the Museum of Contemporary Art was still housed in the Ateneum building.[i] Visitors were invited to participate in the show by deconstructing, manipulating and reorganizing the exhibits as they desired. As related by Van Ingen, the project’s goal was to use art as a vehicle for exploring interactivity – an enduring topic of interest for online artists ever since the inception of the genre.[ii]

[i] The exhibition, ‘Re-evolution’, was listed in the Finnish National Gallery’s programme for 1995 as ‘an art exhibition staged in the Internet’. http://www.hel.fi/hel2/kanslia/historia/Hgin_wwwsivut_1995/matkailu/taidmu/valtaid.html

[ii] Juha van Ingen’s email correspondence with the author, 5.9.2016.

Featured image: Tuomo Rainio: Untitled (Gravitation Waves), 2017
online art work, Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma Commission

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