From the Wonderful World to the Raft of Medusa
By Jacob Lillemose and Inke Arns

In 2006 we curated the exhibition “The Wonderful World of Tools, Techniques, and Events 1996-2006” at the Hartware MedienKunstVerein in Dortmund, which later travelled to CCA in Glasgow (2007) and to new media in Novi Sad  (2008) and now here to STUK in Leuven as part of the 2012 Artefact festival.

Our motivation was to present the seminal work of the web server collective, originally consisting of Daniel García Andújar (ES), Rachel Baker (UK), Kayle Brandon (UK), Heath Bunting (UK), Minerva Cuevas (MX) and Marcus Valentine (UK), which had pioneered the net art scene and networked culture in general since the mid 1990s. With subversive wit and inventive sensibility the large number of works had “hacked” the perceptions and structures of the World Wide Web that was becoming an increasingly important part of people’s lives, manifesting itself in processes of liberation as well as control mechanisms. Taking its point of departure in a critical engagement the works explored the ambiguities, difficulties, and possibilities that this new situation presented for do-it-yourself or do-it-together activity.

At the time we were interested in what we called, “curating computer based art out of the ghetto”. By that we meant that we wanted to use the exhibition format to bridge the existing gap between art working with the Internet and new media and the general context and concerns of contemporary art. Our initial approach was to take the works off the virtual space of the server and present them in physical space by turning the works into slide shows, print material and wall installations. It was a 3-D rendering of the website that emphasized the conceptual rather than the technical dimension since we believed that was in essence what made the works significant and contemporary.

We still believe that the relevance of the works of reaches beyond the digital realm. However, in 2006 the world looked different. Maybe it was not as wonderful as we ironically indicated with the title but definitely less dark than the perspectives of the current crisis. So for this occasion, the fourth version of the exhibition, we decided to make a revised selection of works and with an indirect reference to Theodore Géricault’s famous “disaster painting” The Raft of the Medusa (1818-1819) present the works on a raft. The raft functions both as an image and an object and contextualises the works within a narrative of intellectual and practical survival strategies in times of turmoil.

Irational also looks different today. New members, Kate Rich (UK), Vahida Ramujkic (SR) and Aviv Kruglanski (IL) have joined the collective and have contributed with important ideas and works for the exhibition which we chose to unofficially entitle “The Raft of”.

You are invited to inspect the items on the raft, browse through the folders, t-shirts, framed print material and books. Just handle with care so that the items are still ready for travel.

Written in Leuven, February 2012