"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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She Was A Camera

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echocam, artvamp.com, 2000 

Maybe half of being a camgirl was talking about being a camgirl – not just turning a webcam on yourself and by extension your life, but documenting how your life changed from having turned a webcam on it. We were only doing this for a little while, from sometime in the late 1990's until about whenever mobile phone cameras became commonplace (let's say until the early 2000's.) Apple may also have had a hand in killing the camgirl, packaging webcams into the shells of our laptops. By extension our webcams were made less unusual, less intimate, and much less urgent. Though the golden years of camgirls were brief, they coincided with the rise of the web itself.

Screenshot, anacam.com, 2000

In 1997, a Minneapolis-based electronic pop musician named Ana Voog launched what she called “the internet's first 24/7 art/life cam,” which proved to also be its longest running...

 

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404 Page Found

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404 pages have been a staple since the web’s early beginnings. Custom designed 404 pages range from meme remixes to a parody of the classic “blue screen of death”. The history of the 404 page even has it’s own fictional myth linking it to a story of young scientists at CERN unsuccessfully routing data in a room numbered 404. The real meaning of the numbers, however, is simply an indication of a client to server file location communication error.

psyklone.com 404 page

huml.org 404 page

Earlier this month, the artist Steve Lambert created his own 404 error page titled, The Most Awkward 404 Not Found Page on The Internet. Wrapping up at approximately 6 minutes and 20 seconds, Lambert passes through multiple phases of dead-end questions, small talk, and suggestions that point to the basics of web browsing and encourage you to move on and navigate to more “cool stuff”. Taken as a performance nested into a default error page, Lambert's limited set up reveals what might be a minimalist artist's studio. With cheeky self-aware lines Lambert reminds us that he is "an artist" and that he's not "pretentious". This kind of minimal set up and ironic self-reference combined with instructions to the viewer is reminiscent of Vito Acconci's 1973 video, Theme Song. Although unlike Acconci, Lambert takes a neutral position inviting visitors to hang out or head to another page. Just as a 404 error page, in its most basic form, serves as a home for the absence of content and misguided navigations, Lambert's video is reminiscent of time both before and after a performance where everyone involved is waiting for something else to happen.

 

Still from Steve Lambert's video The Most Awkward 404 Not Found Page on The ...

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