Marisa Olson
Since the beginning
Works in Brooklyn, New York United States of America

Marisa Olson is an artist, writer, and media theorist. Her interdisciplinary work has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, Centre Pompidou, Tate(s) Modern + Liverpool, the Nam June Paik Art Center, British Film Institute, Sundance Film Festival, PERFORMA Biennial; commissioned and collected by the Whitney Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Houston Center for Photography, Experimental Television Center, and PS122; and reviewed in Artforum, Art21, the NY Times, Liberation, Folha de Sao Paolo, the Village Voice, and elsewhere.

Olson has served as Editor & Curator at Rhizome, the inaugural curator at Zero1, and Associate Director at SF Camerawork. She's contributed to many major journals & books and this year Cocom Press published Arte Postinternet, a Spanish translation of her texts on Postinternet Art, a movement she framed in 2006. In 2015 LINK Editions will publish a retrospective anthology of over a decade of her writings on contemporary art which have helped establish a vocabulary for the criticism of new media. Meanwhile, she has also curated programs at the Guggenheim, New Museum, SFMOMA, White Columns, Artists Space, and Bitforms Gallery. She has served on Advisory Boards for Ars Electronica, Transmediale, ISEA, the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences, Creative Capital, the Getty Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Kennedy Center, and the Tribeca Film Festival.

Olson studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths, History of Consciousness at UC Santa Cruz, and Rhetoric & Film Studies at UC Berkeley. She has recently been a visiting artist at Yale, SAIC, Oberlin, and VCU; a Visiting Critic at Brown; and Visiting Faculty at Bard College's Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts and Ox-Bow. She previously taught at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts' new media graduate program (ITP) and was Assistant Professor of New Media at SUNY-Purchase's School of Film & Media Studies. She was recently an Artist-in-Residence at Eyebeam & is currently Visiting Critic at RISD.

Collectible After All: Christiane Paul on net art at the Whitney Museum

The Whitney Museum artport has been an important institutional presence in net art and new media since its launch in 2002. Created and curated by Christiane Paul, artport features online commissions as well as documentation of new media artworks from the museum's exhibitions and collections. This year, artport as a whole was made an official part of the Whitney Museum collection; to mark this occasion, participating artist Marisa Olson interviewed Paul about the program's history and evolution over thirteen years.

 Douglas Davis, image from The World's First Collaborative Sentence (1994).

Collections like artport are a rare and valuable window onto a field of practice that, in some senses, was borne out of not being taken seriously. From mid-80s Eastern European game crackers to late-90s net artists, the first people working online were often isolated, by default or design, and were certainly marginalized by the art world, where few curators knew of their existence and fewer took them seriously, advocated for them, or worked to theorize and articulate the art historical precedents and currents flowing through the work. Help me fast-forward to the beginning of this century at one of the most important international art museums. Many of the US museums that funded new media projects did so with dot-com infusions that dried-up after 2000. Artport officially launched in 2001; the same year, you curated a section devoted to net art in the Whitney Biennial. What was the behind-the-scenes sequence of events that led to artport's founding?

I think artport's inception was emblematic of a wave of interest in net art in the US around the turn of the century and in the early 2000s. This more committed involvement with the art form interestingly coincided with or came shortly after the dot com bubble, which inflated from 1997–2000, had its climax on March 10, 2000 when NASDAQ peaked, and burst pretty much the next day. Net art, however, remained a very active practice and started appearing on the radar of more US art institutions. To some extent, their interest may have been sparked by European exhibitions that had begun to respond to the effects of the web on artistic practice earlier on. In 1997, Documenta X had already included web projects (that year the Documenta website was also famously "stolen"—that is, copied and archived—by Vuk Cosic in the project Documenta: done) and Net Condition, which took place at ZKM in 1999/2000, further acknowledged the importance of art on the web.

US museums increasingly began to take notice. Steve Dietz, who had started the Walker Art Center's New Media Initiatives early on, in 1996, was curating the online art Gallery 9 and digital art study collection. Jon Ippolito, in his role as Associate Curator of Media Arts at the Guggenheim, was commissioning net art in the early 2000s and in 2002, Benjamin Weil, with Joseph Rosa, unveiled a new version of SFMOMA's E-space, which had been created in 2000. This was the institutional netscape in which I created artport in 2001, since I felt that the Whitney, which had for the first time included net art in its 2000 Biennial, also needed a portal to online art. The original artport was much more of a satellite site and less integrated into than it is now. Artist Yael Kanarek redesigned the site not too long after its initial launch and created version 1.1. Artport in its early days was sponsored by a backend storage company in New Jersey, which was then bought by HP, so HP appeared as the official sponsor. I think it is notable that sponsorship at that point did not come from a new tech company but a brand name that presumably wanted to appear more cutting edge.

booomerrranganggboobooomerranrang: Nancy Holt's networked video

Nancy Holt, Boomerang (1974), still from video.

In her time on this planet, Nancy Holt came to be known as a great American Land Artist, and certainly her brilliant installations, like Utah's Sun Tunnels and collaborations with her partner Robert Smithson and their peers, are profoundly significant, but it was her work in film & video that has had the greatest personal impact on me.

I somehow didn't see Boomerang, her 1974 video performance usually credited to her collaborator Richard Serra, until I was a Ph.D. student in Linda Williams's Phenomenology of Film seminar at UC Berkeley's Rhetoric program, but the time delay was more than made up for by the work's formative resonance. In the video, made during Serra's residency at a Texas television station, a young Holt is seen sitting in an anchor's chair before a staid blue background. Despite brief station ID graphic overlays and one minute of silence in the midst of the ten-minute piece (announced as audio trouble and reminding viewers of the work's live TV origin), the work is in many ways sound-centric.

Sound and Image in Electronic Harmony

Image: Semiconductor: Ruth Jarman and Joseph Gerhardt, 200 Nanowebbers, 2005

On Saturday, April 11th, New York's School of Visual Arts will co-present the 2009 Visual Music Marathon with the New York Digital Salon and Northeastern University. Promising genre-bending work from fifteen countries, the lineup crams 120 works by new media artists and digital composers into 12 hours. If it's true, as is often said, that MTV killed the attention spans of Generations X and Y, this six-minute-per-piece average ought to suit most festivalgoers' minds, and the resultant shuffling on and off stage will surely be a spectacle in its own rite. In all seriousness, this annual event is a highlight of New York's already thriving electronic music scene and promises many a treat for your eyes and ears. The illustrious organizers behind the marathon know their visual music history and want to remind readers that, "The roots of the genre date back more than two hundred years to the ocular harpsichords and color-music scales of the 18th century," and "the current art form came to fruition following the emergence of film and video in the 20th century." The remarkable ten dozen artists participating in this one-day event will bring us work incorporating such diverse materials as hand-processed film, algorithmically-generated video, visual interpretations of music, and some good old fashioned music-music. From luminaries like Oskar Fischinger, Hans Richter, and Steina Vasulka to emerging artists Joe Tekippe and Chiaki Watanabe, the program will be another star on the map that claims NYC as fertile territory for sonic exploration. - Marisa Olson




The National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) in Athens, Greece, has committed itself to curating a number of recent exhibitions of internet art. Their current show, "Tag Ties and Affective Spies," features contributions from both net vets and emerging surfers, including Christophe Bruno, Gregory Chatonsky, Paolo Cirio, JODI, Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar, Les Liens Invisibles, Personal Cinema and The Erasers, Ramsay Stirling, and Wayne Clements. The online exhibition takes an antagonistic approach to Web 2.0, citing a constant balance "between order and chaos, democracy and adhocracy." Curator Daphne Dragona raises the question of whether the social web is a preexisting platform on which people connect, or whether it is indeed constructed in the act of uploading, tagging, and disclosing previously private information about ourselves on sites like Flickr, YouTube, and Facebook. Dragona asks whether we are truly connecting and interacting, or merely broadcasting. While her curatorial statement doesn't address the issue directly, the show's title hints at the level of self-surveillance in play on these sites. Accordingly, many of the selected works take a critical, if not DIY, approach to the internet. The collective Les Liens Invisibles tends to create works that make an ironic mash-up of the often divergent mantras of tactical media, culture jamming, surrealism, and situationism. In their Subvertr, they encourage Flickr users to "subverTag" their posted images, creating an intentional disassociation between an image's content and its interpretion, with the aim of "breaking the strict rules of significance that characterize the mainstream collective imaginary..." JODI's work, winning information (2008) exploits the limited stylistic parameters of the social bookmarking site. Using ASCII and Unicode page titles to form visual marks, a cryptic tag vocabulary, and a recursive taxonomy, their fun-to-follow site critiques the broader content of the web ...


Reappearance of the Undead


In 1997, internet art hall-of-famer Olia Lialina made a "net drama" called Agatha Appears that was written for Netscape 3 and 4 in HTML 3.2. One of the main features of the interactive narrative was the travel of the eponymous avatar across the internet. Let's just say the girl got around. But the magical illusion of the piece was that she appeared to stay still, even when links in the narrative were clicked and the viewer's address bar indicated movement to another server. But in time, both the browser and code in which the story was written became defunct and the piece unraveled as the sites previously hosting the links and files upon which Agatha was dependent disappeared or cleaned house. Such a scenario is common to early internet art (and will no doubt continue to plague the field), as ours is an upgrade culture constantly driving towards new tools, platforms, and codes. Many have debated whether to let older works whither or how it might be possible to update these works, making them compatible with new systems. For those who are interested, some of the best research on the subject has been performed by the folks affiliated with the Variable Media Initiative. Meanwhile, luddites and neophiles alike are now in luck because Agatha Appears has just undergone rejuvenation. Ela Wysocka, a restorer working at Budapest's Center for Culture & Communication Foundation has worked to overcome the sound problems, code incompatibilities, and file corruption and disappearance issues, and she's written a fascinating report about the process, here. And new collaborating hosts have jumped in line to bring the piece back to life, so that like a black and white boyfriend coming home from war, Agatha now offers us a shiny new webring as a token of ...


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webcam theory?

hello, smart list members... have any of you seen any interesting
essays extending porn theory to webcam play? just curious... let me
know and i'll compile a bibliography to send to the list at large.



Re: Surveillance Art

see also the surveillance camera players. i guess so much also
depends on how you define surveillance. would you include
packet-sniffing (a la RSG)? would you include "watchdog" parody (a la
RT Mark)? would you include google spiders? of course issues of
tactical media & open source could sneak in here, too...

there are many surveillance-related projects referenced here, around
steve dietz & jenny marketou's Open Source Art Hack exhibition:

i also frequently find it helpful to search rhizome fresh texts by
keyword, parsing them for references to work. in this case:


At 12:48 PM -0500 2/28/04, Rachel Greene wrote:
>Here are two names: Julia Scher and Heath Bunting
>On Feb 28, 2004, at 11:16 AM, Miguel wrote:
>>Hello, I am very interested in finding media art works that deal
>>specifically with the theme of surveillance.
>>Can anybody help me on this subject?
>>Thank you.
>>-> post:
>>-> questions:
>>-> subscribe/unsubscribe:
>>-> give:
>>-> visit: on Fridays the web site is open to non-members
>>Subscribers to Rhizome are subject to the terms set out in the
>>Membership Agreement available online at
>-> post:
>-> questions:
>-> subscribe/unsubscribe:
>-> give:
>-> visit: on Fridays the web site is open to non-members
>Subscribers to Rhizome are subject to the terms set out in the
>Membership Agreement available online at

Marisa S. Olson
Associate Director
SF Camerawork
1246 Folsom Street
SF, CA 94103


Schoolin @ AOV

Dear friends,

I'm excited to tell you about a show I've curated at AOV Gallery. It
features new work by some of my favorite artists and it opens Friday.
Hope you can make it...


AOV Gallery
March 5 - April 11

School-related video, photography, and painting by
Jona Frank, Anthony Goicolea, Alison Pebworth, Naglaa Walker

Curated by Marisa S. Olson

Opening Reception Friday, March 5, 7-9pm
Hours: Thur-Fri, 5-8; Sat 12-5 & by appointment

AOV: 3328 22nd Street, SF 94110 - 415.431.8341

** I didn't want to clog your inbox with attachments, but click here
to see video stills from Anthony Goicolea's Classroom:


Killer Shots/Moving Targets at Camerawork

With apologies for cross-postings... I'm writing to let you know
about the two exhibitions opening Tuesday, at SF Camerawork. Key
details are below and you can find more online, including info on
lectures by Rebecca Solnit, Ed Kashi, and Glenda & Jesse Drew, at

One year after going to war with Iraq,
Two exhibitions exploring the face of war
and the character of resistanceS

KILLER SHOTS: A Photographic Response to War
Curated by Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago
February 17-March 20, 2004
Opening Reception: Tuesday, February 17, 2004, 5-8 pm

Killer Shots: A Photographic Response to War begins with images from
the Vietnam War, often referred to as the first picture war, setting
the photographic yardstick for photographers who risk their lives
showing the atrocity of human violence. These photographs are
imbedded in our visual memory and, brought together, force us to
examine what we've learned about war and humankind over the past
thirty years.

Artists: Abbas, Eddie Adams, David Burnett, Larry Burrows, Horst
Faas, Lori Grinker, Jean Gaumy, Matt Harnett, David Leeson, Marta
Lopez, Alex Majoli, Steve McCurry, Don McCullin, Susan Meiselas, Joel
Meyerowitz, Jon Mills, James Nachtwey, Sebastiao Salgado, Larry
Towell, Nick Ut, Sal Veder, and Alex Webb.

MOVING TARGETS: The Art of Resistance
Curated by Marnie Gillett and Chuck Mobley
February 17-March 20, 2004
Opening Reception: Tuesday, February 17, 2004, 5-8 pm

Starting with the foundation laid in Killer Shots, this companion
exhibition draws its inspiration from the strong protest movement
surrounding the US war in Iraq. The five Bay Area artists in this
exhibition take a measured look at the weighty causes and varied
consequences of war and offer an alternative view to traditional
photojournalistic interpretation.

Artists: Shingo Annen, Glenda Drew, Jesse Drew, Kenneth Hung, Ed
Kashi, and Claudia Leger.

coming next:

Curated by Marisa S. Olson
May 11 - June 12, 2004
Opening Reception: Tuesday, May 11, 5-8pm

A contemporary, photo-based redux of Pop Art arguments about the
context of image-production, the work in this exhibition takes as its
marrow the material of moving image culture. Segments of popular
films, television programs, and screen-based video games are
deconstructed and repurposed as meditations on mainstream
image-making and its cultural import. Each project is at once
accessible-even fun!-by virtue of its relationship to pop culture,
while simultaneously revealing the deeper cumulative effects of our
relationship to its content. Ultimately, we are invited to consider
the impacts these popular lens-based genres have had upon the ways in
which we choose to look at the world.

Artists: Cory Arcangel, Anthony Discenza, Alex Galloway, Jennifer &
Kevin McCoy, Paul Pfeiffer

* This exhibition will be accompanied by an issue of Camerawork: A
Journal of Photographic Arts, featuring major essays by Philip
Sherburne, Mark Tribe, and Jose Luis de Vicente, among others.

Marisa S. Olson
Associate Director
SF Camerawork
1246 Folsom Street
SF, CA 94103


xhtml, xml, and html..?

hi, all. sorry if this is a conversation long pummeled here, and i've
just missed it (a disclaimer i feel the need to posit since, in some
ways, we all seem tired of html discussions), but i'd be interested
in some of the practitioners' takes on the state of html and the
creative, "artistic" significance of xhtml or xml. in particular
(though not exclusively), does this shift allow for the addition of
finer meta-level analysis/reading of info-organizational/navigational

just curious what people think...


Marisa S. Olson
Associate Director
SF Camerawork
415. 863. 1001