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Art selfies, right-swiping to find romance and feeling anxious if you don’t Instagram that avocado toast you ate may have been regarded as strange five years ago, but are now typical occurrences in contemporary life.The internet has changed the structure of our brains and the way physical environments are being built.But how are artists tackling some of the issues it presents and what does it mean for art?The “Electronic Superhighways” exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery attempts to create a timeline of digital art history.Over 100 works have been brought together from Manfred Mohr’s computer generated drawings created in the 60s and 70s to the “post-internet” oeuvre of art in more recent years.In the 1990s the browser became a form of experimentation for artists and Net Art was born.
Olia Lialina was one of the pioneering artists to embrace the internet as an aesthetic medium.
Her interactive piece “My Boyfriend Came Back From the War” invites the viewer to click on various links unfolding a love story on the black and white web browser.
Since this work was made, mass use of smart phone technology has blurred the lines between the states of being online and offline.
Nam June Paik, Internet Dream, 1994, Video sculpture, 287 x 380 x 80 cm, ZKM Collection, copyright (2008) ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, photo: ONUK (Berhard Schmitt), copyright Nam June Paik Estate Hito Steyerl has written on how the internet has moved offline “persisting a mode of life.” Her “Red Alert” piece on show consists of a video file of the colour red played back onto three portrait screens.
The work acts as a response to the triptych paintings by soviet artist Alexander Rodchenko in 1921 in where each painting contains a primary colour to explore the reduction of painting to its logical conclusion.
Steyerl’s new media transference from physical to digital tests the outer limits of video art and provides a comment on how the internet has destabilised traditional notions of medium specificity in art.