Web Production in the 2000's - Online Works in the Miroslav Kraljević Gallery

Renata Šparada

Miroslav Kraljević Gallery [1] is among the few Zagreb non-commercial galleries that have opened their virtual space and set up a web gallery for online art. The gallery got its own website in late 1996 and early 1997, as the first website of a non-commercial exhibition gallery in Croatia. Miroslav Kraljević Gallery (MKG) started online projects under the artistic guidance of Branko Franceschi in the late 1990's, who ran the Gallery until 2004. The fact that, at the time, MKG's online archive offered the only information available on the current visual production in Croatia in conjunction with a growing awareness about the increasing number of art that used the Internet as a medium, encouraged Branko Franceschi to initiate a segment of the website dedicated to online projects which would also be used for global promotion of local artists. Most artists who have exhibited online also displayed their works in a physical space of a gallery or as part of a larger project, and included other new media and traditional media, that is, created events that included other experts. The online art project tried to overcome the misunderstanding between artists who used traditional media and those who relied on new media, which was present at the time. That was the starting point for Branko Franceschi who believed that artists who were not acquainted with digital technology because they dealt less with the Internet as a medium in general, could, nevertheless, create interactive works that truly included the visitor in the structure of the work. Due to the technical requirements of most of the works, most of them had the production support from the MKG, programmers and web designers.[2]

Durability which used to be ascribed to online materials is an illusion which is best dispelled by searching for older information, for instance, by researching older internet works. Even though on MKG's minimalist website, designed by Damir Gamulin, there are links and descriptions of online works, more than a decade has passed since they were put online, so it is no wonder there are problems with loading certain works. Therefore, some of the works were transferred to newer pages, while crucial parts of some others are missing. The issue of how to deal with technologies that are rapidly becoming obsolete also means that certain art works will only be available with regard to previous technological standards. Digitized and digital material depend on the programmes we use to watch them, and these are turning obsolete.[3] This is perfect for applying the lessons from Darko Fritz's work on Internet errors, that is, the messages that show the imperfections and incompatibilities in digital technology. For example, a work with an unusable link is, ironically enough, a work about ideas unrealized, called Homeless Ideas from 2002, created by Zdenko Bužek and Magnus Bärtås which gathers unrealized ideas for art works that did not get made for various reasons (insufficient funds, not enough time or courage).

Dreams in Cyberspace

Unfortunately, the website does not contain the first work produced by MKG, an irritatingly slow and visually stripped down piece by Tomislav Pavelić, a parody of the concept of speed and brilliance of Internet communication. Among the first artists to participate there was also Kata Mijatović with her online Dream Network. The work is based on thirty dreams the artist had in 1991 and later on. There is a description of the dreams, keywords as hyperlinks connecting one dream to another and photographs created in collaboration with Zoran Pavelić. It is a collaborative piece of art created by the photographer, the artist and web designer Ivan Kraljević. The review of dreams is enabled through a structure reminiscent of a molecular one. As an interactive piece which uses hypertextuality as a network tool, the artist realizes her ideas, and it results in loss of direction and coordination while searching through the material. The work uses the web structure and questions data storage and how it functions. Our virtual works are stored in a virtual world enabled by technology. The conscious reality is opposed to the unconscious dreams on the one hand, while on the hand, there is the tehnological non-material space – cyberspace.

Kata Mijatović started the project of collecting and textually documenting dreams with Dream Archive in 2005.[4] This type of visual approach and the issue of dreams will eventually bring her to the Venice Biennale in 2013. The first version of the Dream Archive, an interactive website that invited visitors to leave a text about their dreams, had simple design, a black background accentuated by an imitation of blue paint brushes on the edges. Several years later, she collected texts on dream via Facebook and put them up on a new website dominated by photographs of the Sleeping between Heaven and Earth performance from 2010.[5] Unfortunately, the old link for the original website from 2005 is no longer valid, but there is a screenshot of the old website.

Interactive Virtual Creation

Identifications from 2003 is the the first Internet art work by Marijan Molnar, in which he tries to illustrate the network of interpersonal relations among close family members and fellow villagers. It is an interactive work that offers different options to guide the user to different stories and relations between the selected characters. By clicking on 'I know this person', we get a statement about someone's personal life in relation to others. However, a photograph of the face to identify and classify this person is not available when we step into the work itself. While viewing the work, there is a frustration about the erased identity, that is, a melancholic loss of memory while we try to picture the crucial piece of the work – someone's face, the context and how they relate to others, as well as objects and places which now turn into the context of obsolete technology. Molnar contemplates classification in his work from 2006, Translating and quotes Aristotle to establish relations between things by categorizing them. For Molnar, translating is actually about transferring into different worlds, elaborated through the notions of freedom, fraternity and equality. Similar to Krzysztof Kieślowski's trilogy Three Colors, which also takes on the ideals of the French Revolution, the initial space of the work includes the three colors of the French flag. In it, three principles of the modern era are related to specific social issues and groups in reference to his previous works.

Social and political issues are also at the focus of Andreja Kulunčić's work about genetic engineering Closed Reality – Embryo. This is an interactive work/two-person game to create an embryo according to the supplied parameters, such as, appearance, intelligence, gender, health, etc. As of now, more than a thousand embryos have been created and visitors can browse statistical information about them. Apart from Andreja Kulunčić, the work was created by Trudy Lane, as web designer, Gabrijela Radek, sociologist, Matija Puzar, programmer and produced by Ivo Martinović. Given that visitors can select genetic predispositions in the game, but not the socio-political regime or phenotype, the project is actually an inversion of a more recent work called Distribution of Justice, which tackles the issues of how to create a fair society.

Virtual presence and locations

Flying Carpet by Lala Raščić, curated by Antonia Majača and Jasna Jakšić is an online execution of an installation where a flying carpet made of twisted wood was put in a gallery and surrounded by six speakers, each emitting sounds from six different locations streamed from the web. The online version allows us to click on the speaker icon to hear the sounds from a city, and while moving the mouse the sound is dampened and when we click again, we can add another sound, or all six and enjoy the cacophony of sounds from all six locations. The work explores the poetics of non-places, or in the words of the artist herself, “we do not have to belong, we can live in fiction, we can be lost – and never find ourselves again. Those are the bonds that I create in my art.“[6] An intimate and underrated work by Edita Schubert takes us on a virtual tour of locations in northwestern Croatia. The walks are experienced through animations of photographs from 2000.

Instead of bringing us to an actual space, Step Into the Picture by Duje Jurić wants to bring us closer to the the painting's presence. By selecting one of the colours – blue, yellow or green – we can access 3D constructions with repetitive geometrical shapes.

It was precisely the works that drew in the visitor in the structure of the work itself that were the backbone of MKG's online projects which ended abruptly in 2006, which meant that one of the avenues to present Internet art to a wider audience was lost to the local artists.

[1] MKG hosted the net.cube project in February, 2015, as part of the Open studio.

[2] Information based on correspondence with the project’s initiator Branko Franceschi.

[3] Google boss warns of 'forgotten century' with email and photos at risk, The Guardian, 2015-02-13.

[4] The first she documented dreams was in 2002, but not in an online project. It was a performance of selected dreams in Močvara.

[5] A performance with the artist sleeping inside Kožarić’s sculpture on the terrace of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

[6] Shvatila sam, živjeti se može i u fikciji, Jutarnji list, 2007-11-27