Interview with co-curator Sarah Cook on WMMNA

Regine Débatty of we-make-money-not-art.com has interviewed Sarah Cook and asked about the exhibition – an extract follows:

Regine Débatty: Together with Sabine Himmelsbach, you curated the exhibition “My Own Private Reality” at the Edith Russ Haus for Media Art in Oldenburg (Germany.) The works selected reflect the phenomenon of social communities on the Internet and its democratisation. What is your view on these issues? Critical? Openly enthusiastic?

Sarah Cook: I have what could be called an irrational aversion to the myspace.com ‘phenomenon’ because (of Murdoch but also because) I have what could be called a nostalgic snobbish adherence to earlier, better made, smaller, smarter versions of just about everything (depending who you ask I’m either old before my time, criticising that ‘they don’t make them like they used to’ or I exhibit the all-consuming enthusiasm and desire of the early adopter). I think that some so-called web 2.0 technologies are the corporate world’s way of creating dependent consumers and thereby discouraging alternative peer-to-peer computing from flourishing. Which is why I love Cory Arcangel‘s work BlueTube which just serves to remind viewers of the infrastructure which they so mindlessly meld in to. But I equally believe that these softwares (and especially the open source ones, which allow you to learn a little, and share, and to move beyond the generic template) make possible meaningful activity, through the social communities they encourage, which deserves a look in. It is interesting to see how having an alter-ego online, being a part of a community on the web, has come full circle – from in the early 90s putting yourself online, to in the late 90s and early 00s being someone else online, or someone you can’t be in your offline life, and now in the late 00s to a mix of those modes. Being part of an online social network is now an enhancement of your offline life. People are still learning the nuances and social manners and etiquette of this new hybrid existence.

I think curating is about challenging yourself and your beliefs, assumptions, and contradictions, so that’s a reason I took the approach I did. I also wanted to curate this show because I knew of a lot of great art projects which are about the using the web to talk about the social impetus in all of us and I wanted the chance to think about that work all together in a space – works which embody both of my views on the technology itself. Working with Sabine and her team at the Edith Russ Haus was fantastic; it’s so vital to have spaces like that in the world where there aren’t the pressures of a museum collection to maintain or enormous spaces to fill and instead there are artists in residence making new work for consideration (in our case Hans Bernard/Ubermorgen and Annina Rust).

The entire interview is available online here.

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