"How does one connect a country to the internet?"

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Mirjana Tasić (centre) at the 30th International Public ICANN Meeting, where the RNIDS Assembly ratified the Letter of Intent with ICANN, signed by a Serbian delegation, in Los Angeles from 29 October to 2 November. Image: Firstsite and Aleksandra Domanović in From yu to me, 2014. 

The following interview was conducted for From yu to me, a documentary film by artist Aleksandra Domanović that narrates the emergence of the internet in the former Yugoslavia, with a particular focus on the .yu domain name. The interview was previously published in a new catalogue produced by Domanović and firstsite, ColchesterBorka Jerman-Blažič played a key role in establishing the internet in Yugoslavia just as the country fell apart; she also registered and initially administered the .yu domain name.

Aleksandra Domanović: As Yugoslavia was starting to disintegrate in the early 1990s, it also became connected to the internet. You played a key role in establishing this connection. How did it all happen?

Borka Jerman-Blažič: It was on 6 August 1991 that CERN debuted the World Wide Web, which was to become the basic service of the modern internet. Just two months after, I attended an Internet Engineering Task Force meeting in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I saw my colleagues working on their home computers just by simple login via the TCP/IP protocol and a Telnet user service. I decided to set up a connection to the internet the moment I got home! (All we had was an email service using old transport protocols known as X.400 and X.25.) At that time I was engaged as secretary general of the Yugoslav Network for the Academic Community, YUNAC, on behalf of which I applied for an internet connection. We managed to connect in November 1991; at that time, only sixteen countries had access to the internet, including Yugoslavia.

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The Unfinished Business of a Yugoslav Internet

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Aleksandra Domanović, From yu to me (2014). Commissioned by Rhizome, Abandon Normal Devices, and Fridericianum.

Aleksandra Domanović used to own an international sampler of domain names: aleksandradomanovic.sk, aleksandradomanovic.rs, aleksandradomanovic.si, aleksandradomanovic.eu. It's usually enough for an artist or other public figure to claim their name on .com, and Domanović did, but by staking out real estate in the top-level domains governed by Slovakia, Serbia, Slovenia, and the European Union she reminded herself, and anyone else paying attention, about the friction of states and networks, names, and domains. Domanović was born in Yugoslavia, and when it was gone her citizenship drifted. If for some of its users the World Wide Web appears boundlessly ephemeral in comparison to the permanence of statehood, in Domanović's experience of recent history, states and domains alike are tools of control that can be surprisingly fragile and flexible.

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Aleksandra Domanović's Internet Realism

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From yu to me (2014). Still frame from single-channel video with sound.

Aleksandra Domanović's From yu to me was commissioned by Rhizome, Abandon Normal Devices, and Fridericianum. View the work and read an accompanying text by Brian Droitcour here.

"Every map of the internet looks the same."

Multi-directional trees, hubs and spokes and branches, clouds of varying density: to Alex Galloway, writing in his book The Interface Effect, the many attempts to visualize information society all begin to look the same. Maps of the internet, he argues, tend to conceal more than they reveal; the main purpose they serve is to dazzle the beholder with the complexity of it all.

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