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At a Distance: Precursors to Art and Activism on the Internet


Networked collaborations of artists did not begin on the Internet. In this multidisciplinary look at the practice of art that takes place across a distance—geographical, temporal, or emotional—theorists and practitioners examine the ways that art, activism, and media fundamentally reconfigured each other in experimental networked projects of the 1970s and 1980s. By providing a context for this work—showing that it was shaped by varying mixes of social relations, cultural strategies, and political and aesthetic concerns—At a Distance effectively refutes the widely accepted idea that networked art is technologically determined. Doing so, it provides the historical grounding needed for a more complete understanding of today's practices of Internet art and activism and suggests the possibilities inherent in networked practice.

At a Distance traces the history and theory of such experimental art projects as Mail Art, sound and radio art, telematic art, assemblings, and Fluxus. Although the projects differed, a conceptual questioning of the "art object," combined with a political undermining of dominant art institutional practices, animated most distance art. After a section that sets this work in historical and critical perspective, the book presents artists and others involved in this art "re-viewing" their work—including experiments in "mini-FM," telerobotics, networked psychoanalysis, and interactive book construction. Finally, the book recasts the history of networks from the perspectives of politics, aesthetics, economics, and cross-cultural analysis.

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