Broken Links: The Internet Show


Good read about the “internet” shows at many museums.

Broken Links: The Internet Show
by Brian Droitcour

The problem is that internet shows are always thematic rather than historical. The museum’s traditional role is to historicize art, to mount exhibitions that demonstrate contextual connections among works, artists, movements, and sociopolitical events. Retrospectives and midcareer surveys—historical exhibitions that present narrative accounts of the work of a single artist—remain staples of museum programming. But when it comes to group shows of contemporary art, thematic exhibitions have largely displaced historical ones.

Critics who seek ways to praise internet shows usually settle for saying that they re-create the internet’s effects. But to make sense of the internet you have to go against its logic. In part, this means approaching the museum as a place of learning, rather than a vessel for reproducing the spectacle of other media technologies and taking their mystification as an inevitable given. “Ephemerality is often pictured as a force of nature, like a building destroyed by wind and water,” Dragan Espenschied, Rhizome’s director of preservation, has said. “But nothing digital is a law of nature, it is all completely made up. So ephemerality is more or less an excuse for accepting that you don’t have control over anything.”14 Other curators can take up this attitude, too: that they have control over the context that they see and shape and present. When they do, the public can attain an understanding of art and the internet beyond the limitations of the internet show.