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Nasty Nets

An Incomplete History: Looking Back at Rhizome’s Professional Surfer

by Paddy Johnson on September 4, 2015
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In 2006, Rhizome’s “Professional Surfer” felt like an important show. Surfing informed the practice of most artists I knew, and seemingly countless artist run blogs existed for the sole purpose of collecting weird shit. This included material like an animated GIF of a flag made in ASCII, MS Paint software instructions, and the largest camera lens you’ve ever seen. It was fun to watch and those with a knack for finding the obscure and truly bizarre were followed religiously.

The online exhibition describes itself as a show that “considers web browsing, aka ‘surfing’ as an art form.” Practically speaking, that meant presenting six websites by artists including Olia Lialina’s Pages in the Middle of Nowhere, Travis Hallenbeck’s Cosmic Disciple, Joel Holmberg’s Chillshesh, John Michael Boling’s 53o’s, and the group blogs Supercentral and Nasty Nets. Each present, combine or recontextualize found material from the web.

Nearly ten years later, we’re still remixing, blogging and collaging material, only we’ve moved to different platforms. Which begs the question: Given the relevance of “Professional Surfer” to today’s online culture, does it hold up as an exhibition and a historical document?

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