Five Questions For: Rhizome Program Director Zoë Salditch

The internet is unparalleled for information-sharing,  but its importance as a medium and subject for artworks is increasingly clear.  Artsy turns to its partner Rhizome—the foremost expert in net art—to shed light on this evolving genre, which includes everything from webcam performances to pixelated portraits to absurdist Google searches-turned-photographic still-lifes. Zoë Salditch, Program Director for this revolutionary nonprofit, discusses the ways in which the internet has "bred a greater sense of openness and decentralization in art" and curates a selection of artworks on Artsy (click "Visit Website" to experience the digital works in full).

Artsy: Can you talk about how the Web has influenced the process of making and distributing art?

Zoë Salditch: The internet has certainly bred a greater sense of openness and decentralization in art, moving away from the idea that good art comes from the lone genius to instead the collective intelligence. Art, as with all information, is much more readily available than ever before, so now the challenge is how to make this information more accessible and easier to find. What will be revolutionary in terms of discovery will be new sites, tools and services, like Artsy, that make discovery intuitive and easy.

Artsy: What is the premise of Rhizome’s 2013-2014 commission cycle; and can you tell us about one or two  forthcoming commissions that you're excited about?

ZS: We have exciting plans currently in the works for the upcoming 2013-2014 cycle. As soon as everything is finalized we'll be making an official announcement, so keep your eyes peeled for that in the coming months. I'm very excited for Ann Hirsch's forthcoming Rhizome Commission performance Playground, based on her online relationship with an older man when she was twelve years old. Hirsch's experiences in AOL chat rooms in the late 90s, gives a personal glimpse to how the first generation of women who came of age online were able to discover sex and sexuality from the internet. I recently sat down with the artist to hear the latest version of the script. It's coming together nicely and I look forward to the performance at the New Museum in June.

Artsy: How do you feel new media art is excluded from, and conversely included in, the established world of mainstream art? And where does Rhizome fit into this conversation?

ZS: I realize that many in the field are still reeling from the Claire Bishop essay "Whatever happened to digital art?" that ran in Artforum last fall. After reading Lauren Cornell and Brian Driotcour's response (as well as Bishop's response) this month, I find myself now questioning the desire to be mainstream. Exciting and great things happen on the fringe—and this is why I love working at Rhizome. We support artists experimenting with technology, and only through experimentation we can truly explore and reveal the "social, political and perceptual ramifications of new technology" (Bishop’s criteria).

I have no fear that the mainstream art world will come around—as an affiliate of the New Museum, Rhizome's position within the Museum is a signal of things to come. Like any underground movement or culture, it will be absorbed by the mainstream, eventually, and I'm content to revel in the moments before that happens.

Artsy: Looking at the genes on Artsy that encompass digital art (namely Cyberculture, Glitch Aesthetic, Net ArtGenerative Art, Computer Art, Art and Technology,  and 3D Printed), what genes might you suggest to add to The Art Genome that would further explore digital art?

ZS: Open source. Artificial Intelligence. Computer Vision. Creative Communities (for works that derive from hotbeds like surf clubs, tumblr, 4chan, etc.)

Artsy: We’ve asked you to curate a selection of works from Artsy’s library (shown). In the spirit of revolutionary digital platforms, can you offer a description of this virtual exhibition in 140 characters or less?

ZS: "Follow these artists, they will lead you to weird, exciting & interesting places on the internet, late at night or bored at work. #netart"

More about Zoë: Zoë Salditch is the Program Director and resident internet culture maven at Rhizome. She oversees and organizes all of Rhizome's events and programs including Commissions and The Download, a digital art collecting program she conceived and initiated in 2011. Follow Zoë.

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