PRINT May 2000


IN THE INTERNET UNIVERSE, time moves faster—sites debut and die, companies launch and go public quicker than a download on a DSL line. And the same rapid pace seems to apply to the rate of increase in institutional recognition and endorsement of Net art in the United States, which is finally catching up to Europe and Japan. The growing roster of Web-savvy media-art curators at major US institutions—which includes Steve Dietz, founding director of new-media initiatives at Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center, and Web artist and theorist Jon Ippolito, assistant curator of media arts at the Guggenheim—was significantly augmented by recent back-to-back appointments at two major American museums of curators with Web-art-weighty resumes: In the first two weeks of January, the Whitney Museum of American Art named Christiane Paul as adjunct curator of new-media arts, while the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art named Benjamin Weil as curator of media arts.

Both Paul and Weil have played integral roles in the shaping of major websites dedicated to the showcasing of online art and the theoretical discourse that surrounds it. Paul currently publishes and serves as editor in chief for Intelligent Agent (, an online (and print) journal addressing the use of interactive media in art and education. She has also written for MIT Press’s Leonardo magazine and edited the proceedings of the 1998 conference “Virtual Museums on the Internet” in Salzburg, Austria. From 1998 until his appointment at SF MOMA, Weil had served as the director of new media at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London and was a cofounder and curator of äda'web (, the acclaimed forum for original Web art. Weil also cofounded The Thing, an interactive computer network that provides an online forum for critical theory. His curatorial CV includes the international Net-art exhibition “Plain.html,” a selection of websites presented in conjunction with “Net_Condition,” the first major museum presentation of online artworks, which took place last fall at the Zentrum für Kunst and Medientechnologie in Karlsruhe, Germany.

Paul will bring her knowledge and experience to bear on the collection, preservation, and presentation of works that fall under the rubric of new-media art, which includes digital forms beyond the Web. Her first curatorial project at the Whitney, an exhibition of work by Net artists presented as a component of the museum’s ongoing “Contemporary Series,” is scheduled to open in the fall.

On the other coast, Weil will be “redefining” the post vacated by Robert R. Riley in December. SF MOMA’s Department of Media Arts, founded by Riley in 1987, focuses on time-based art forms utilizing advanced technologies—from video to electronic art in any guise. An online music event, perhaps in collaboration with another institution, is said to be in its planning stages under Weil and is tentatively scheduled to debut in 2001.

“Both Christiane and I are trying to find solutions for showing media art in an ‘institutional,’ US museum context,” Weil observed. “In Europe, the festival paradigm has worked. But what about here? Should we be more institutional? Less institutional? Or should we try to formulate a different model or metaphor for presenting and collecting media art in general?”

Time will tell how Paul’s and Weil’s online training might affect their museums’ respective programming and permanent media-art collections. As Weil notes, “We have an amazing opportunity to carve Net art’s place in the historical continuum of video, experimental cinema, past media—and, of course, other forms beyond the Web that have yet to be invented.”

Reena Jana