Art and the Internet in LA 1969+

The Conditional Studio and UCLA Department of Design Media Arts is researching Art and the Internet in LA 1969+ (working title), an exhibition and publication project whose goal is to uncover and interpret the history of how artists have worked with the internet in Los Angeles since the Internet was born fifty years ago with a transmission from UCLA to Stanford.

This project seeks to capture and share information about Los Angeles artists during a specific cultural moment. Led by Professors Casey Reas, Lauren Lee McCarthy, and Chandler McWilliams within the UCLA Arts Conditional Studio our team of artists and curators will research the fifty year history of artists creating work on and with the internet, and shaping it through their interventions. This initiative will be successful in relation to the quantity, quality, and diversity of the entries and the reach of the curated exhibition and media. We aim to increase access to information about artists and artworks that have been overlooked by institutions and/or ignored through systemic racism and other forms of social marginalization. Altogether, the exhibition will contribute a bold new understanding of how artists in LA have responded to and have transformed the internet itself.

Through research and a comprehensive community and outreach, we will collect text, images, and other media materials that artists contribute about their work at the intersections of art and the internet. To best represent our subject, every part of our process will be informed by the nature of the internet itself—distributed, public, and consisting of many links. First, we will build a website to collect materials which will be assembled through an open call for participation. We will see each artist and artwork as a node in a larger network, each linking outward to a collection of other nodes that we follow.

Rather than relying on narratives reinforced by traditional curatorial gatekeepers, we position our project as a public resource, and will actively work to center queer, trans, chronically ill and disabled, Black, Indigenous, and POC perspectives as key nodes in our research mapping. We will collaborate with existing and past Los Angeles artist-run spaces to identify and encourage artists to participate. These community collaborators will review their own archives and develop lists of artists relevant to this initiative, forming gateways into different communities that have been essential to growing and supporting the synthesis of art and the internet within Los Angeles.

We are committed to using accessible text, doing due diligence to do outreach to those outside of institutional spaces, and to maintain an open space for communication with and feedback collaborators and community members. We will encompass all kinds of art practices related to the internet and created by people from the widest range of communities and identities.

This will take work on the part of project leaders, community collaborators, and student assistants to reach out to a broad range of possible participants. Additionally, we will invite all participants to include alternative accessible formats for the media they’re submitting, including alt text for images and videos with closed captions. The goal is to make the content as accessible as possible to people with disabilities, and to raise awareness and conversation around this issue.

The collection of works surfaced by our research will be presented in a public exhibition representing the fifty year history of artists working with the Internet in Los Angeles. The curatorial process will distill the broad findings of this survey into key throughlines and conversations, while maintaining multiple narratives and perspectives. We will collaborate with local curators, organizations,and communities to present thematic, curated selections from this collection. Considering the context of the internet from which the work emerges, the final exhibition will consist of a centralized exhibition, augmented by distributed nodes of presentation, including physical popup exhibitions, web-based exhibitions, and a print publication.