At A Distance

Precursors to Art and Activism on the Internet

by Annmarie Chandler and Norie Neumark

March 2005
The MIT Press
A Leonardo Book
ISBN:0-262-03328-3
496 pp., 50 illus.

"...this book is a valuable record of some pioneering creative activities held in the vicinity of the visual arts before the age of the Internet."

-- John A. Walker, The Art Book, Vol. 13, issue 1

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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Updated 21 March 2012