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On Top of the Fold: Art

Steve Lambert's Add Art project (a 2008 Rhizome Commission co-developed with the artist's colleagues in the Eyebeam R&D lab) offers home-delivery art exhibitions in the form of your Firefox browser window. Internet users who download Lambert's free open source plug-in will see an aesthetic overhaul in the sites they visit, as advertisements are replaced by visual art created or curated by a different guest, every two weeks. The project is a perfect outgrowth of Lambert's involvement with the Anti-Advertising Agency, who work to co-opt "the tools and structures used by the advertising and public relations industries" to call into question "the purpose and effects of advertising in public space." These efforts have manifested in forms ranging from bus shelter ads and stickers to ideologically-bent think tanks and objects of propaganda. With a keen awareness of the impact of advertising on public space, the move to the internet--where so many of us dwell and encounter a daily barrage of ads--is a thoughtful one. Rather than offering yet another software tool for blocking-out advertisements, Add Art fills this space with something more intriguing, and the biweekly exhibits that have thus far been presented successfully generate discourse about value, aesthetics, and the contextual frameworks within which we receive information about the world. The current show (imagine each ad box in your browser window as a gallery) is a rather humorous and almost absurdly literal take on the context of adding art to your field of vision by replacing ads with it. Charles Broskoski essentially blacks-out the ad boxes on sites with his contribution, which is a collection of digital reproductions of famous black monochromatic paintings, cropped, resized to the proper specs, and optimized for the net--meaning that these paintings by the likes of Rauchenberg, Kelly, Malevich, Marden, Reinhardt, and Rothko are whittled-down to a net-friendly two colors...Black and black. Previous shows have been a bit more pictorial. Sarah Cook curated one in which Monica Studer and Christoph van den Berg presented scenic vistas from their beautifully-rendered online "virtual hotel," Vue Des Alpes, exploiting the ad space as one of spectral fantasy. Brooklyn Museum curator Joan Cummins also took viewers to another space (and time) by using Add Art as an opportunity to frame images from Hiroshige's One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, a well-known series of masterwork images of Tokyo in the mid-1800s which are too fragile to show often in real space but which can now illuminate your screen. Artist Bennett Williamson's show took a more contemporary stab at site-specificity by exploring the cultural context of the internet. In Screenshots from The Computer Chronicles (resized and cropped), the artist pulled frames from this public TV show, which thrived in the 80s and 90s, and recontextualizes them in hopes of critiquing "the cultural logic of technological manifest destiny." He describes the images as simultaneously capturing our unfulfilled fantasies about the future and the imperfect reality of the present, referring to each still as "a window into the low-res past, full of the supposedly outmoded technologies that still form the kernel of our day-to-day computing experience." - Marisa Olson

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