+Commissioned by Rhizome.org+
Where Art Thou Net.Art? On Zero One/ ISEA 2006
by Randall Packer
The long awaited Zero One/ ISEA 2006 took over San Jose, California, two weeks ago in a sprawling, city-wide, mega-festival celebrating art and technology in the heart of Silicon Valley. Much has already been written about it, from daily observations in the local papers to a feature in the New York Times, from the Blogosphere to the listservs. As one who has been immersed in the new media scene since the late 1980s, I would like to contribute a bit of historical context to the discussion: I offer my commentary from a pre-millennial perspective, when the dream emerged in the 1990s, during an era of optimism and promise, the dream of a new art form that would side-step a mainstream art world mired in curators, museums, galleries, objects, and old aesthetic issues. This was the dream of Net.Art, a revolutionary new international movement of artists, techies, and hackers [....]
And so, with all the buzz, and the sheer largesse of this ambitious festival of new media, I couldn't help ponder how it was connected to the original Net.Art dream, when a new art form arose from networking every computer on every desktop and engaging a global audience in new, pervasive ways that became possible as technology was increasingly ubiquitous and transparent. The Net.Art dream would call into question our relationship to the new media, as art has always aspired, to critique its impact on our lives, our culture, our communications systems, our relationships, our view of the world, our own changing humanity in a technological world. I couldn't help but to wonder, what exactly happened to that dream, once driven by a small fringe core of artists, writers, thinkers, and curators, and now practiced by literally thousands of techno-artists emerging from every university and art school across the planet, many of whom converged in San Jose for Zero One / ISEA.