Per Platou



Per Platou (b. 1964) has a Masters degree (Mass Communication, Criminology, the History of Ideas and Mathematics) from the University of Oslo. He has extensive knowledge of and experience with production within the film, music and art world, with special focus upon electronic media. Since 1995 he has co-directed the art group Motherboard. This group has produced a number of performances, installations and other activities closley connected to live-art and art/new technology, both in Norway and internationally. Homepage:

not net dot art
by Per Platou, curator (
translated by Jennifer Lloyd

During the autumn of 1994 I logged on to the internet with my little mac powerbook for the first time in my life. Well, it wasn’t actually the internet, but a so-called BBS – a local server with a bulletin board run by some bloke in Bergen. There were a few texts, image files and a couple of sound tracks. It took me about a week to learn how to download a small picture (in black and white lousy image quality - a space shuttle!). A few weeks later I managed to download the sound of a little bird and some bagpipes – about 3 seconds each. I downloaded these sounds, but it took me several more days of messing around on the computer before I was able to play them back on the same machine. However, for me this was a total revolution, and it took me only another few months to hook up with the ”real” Internet. That was the beginning of it all for me. As early as the spring of 1995 I was playing music with a good friend – we sat with a guitar, keyboard and microphone, jamming live with other musicians in London, San Francisco, Chicago and Dublin. It all took place in a little online community called Res Rocket Surfer, where we huddled around a software progaramme called DRGN (pronounced "Dragon", an acronym for Distributed Realtime Groove Network). It was only later that I realised how radically different the music sounded in my speakers versus the speakers of my online friends, but it didn’t make much differerence anyway. The most important thing was the collaborative aspect and the potential it offered – and the feeling of total anarchy and freedom. It sounded like nothing I had ever heard before. Not long afterwards – around 1996 – internet in colour was established and everyone was talking about internet as the great new technical breakthrough – the best thing since sliced bread. During the years that followed ”everyone” had internet access. The newspapers, magazines, television and the entertainment industry had all succumbed to the powerful pull of the net.

It was wonderful to receive a short Internet address: in an anonymous e-mail. I clicked on the address and experienced the Internet completely taking control of my computer. There were lots of flashing lights, changing at high speed, incomprehensible, bouncing letters, numbers and signs (pre-Matrix ascii for those in the know). These little letters, signs and numbers were even literally jumping out at me from the browser, taking control of the whole machine. ”An art virus!” I thought to myself, and pulled out the electric plug from the socket. However, I was fascinated and had to try it again and again. My net browser suddenly became a very interesting thing. This was radically different from anything else I had ever seen, and was all the more fascinating because those reponsible never divulged their identity.

OK – perhaps this all sounds rather nostalgic, maybe even pathetic, but here I am, sitting at my desk just before the opening of the exhibition Written in stone, and I have to write something intelligent and sensible about it. However, I can’t seem to escape from these reflections on the past. Most of us use the net today with a certain amount of nonchalance – we take it for granted, and it’s sometimes difficult to imagine where the body ends and where the machine begins (or vice-versa). On the other hand, Internet is still a ”new” communication channel, compared to radio, television and telephone, not to mention the printed media. And if I seem to be taking a step back in time, this exhibition is definitively not intended to do so.

Just to make things absolutely clear: You will _not_ be looking at actual at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Oslo. Just as the Museum of Natural History doesn’t really show us ”nature” as it is, or the Viking Museum doesn’t show us a living Viking village, Written in stone is not as such, but a hommage to this movement – a curated, subjective archaeological view, an artistic game and an attempt to mediate the history behind the myths that sprang up around this group during the last half of the 1990’s. In an art historical perspectve, lies far ahead of what is called ”contemporary art” (i.e. all art created since the second world war). Nevertheless, this epoch is in danger of being eroded by history – before it has even been written about – because of such fast moving changes within the technological world and society in general, and also due to changing trends within the global art machinery.

"Written in stone – a archaeology" is an exhibition born of a genuine wish to understand as a "historical" art movement, bringing it into the established art debate by employing a number of clear and dramatic devices. The title of the exhibition is a play upon one of the major pieces in the exhibition – Blank & Jeron’s marble tablets, inscribed with texts from ”an introduction to” by Alexei Shulgin and Natalie Bookchin (1999) – and it also plays upon the idea of creating a critical discourse and framework of terms around this many-sided, unplaceable and partly political art form. After less than 10 year’s existence, the term has managed to attain an almost mythical cachet in some circles, even though – or perhaps because – nobody has managed to write about the movement from an art historical perspective. Within this art form, one finds many different working methods: social recycling of transient codes, situationism and the creation of symbolical political actions and existential reflections and meditations upon the life patterns of human beings in the western world, sitting in front of their 75Hz computer screens – permanently connected to the Matrix.

The dot. That little pixel placed between ”net” and ”art” turned out to have an enormous impact with regard to establishing this art movement as part of a larger discourse. It has been given it’s own glass case, centrally placed in the exhibition. In several great action films, the ”baddies” (our heroes of course) are attempting to steal the world’s largest diamond. In the process, they have to abseil down through the roof, outwit the museum guards and bypass complicated laser-powered alarm systems. Following this idea, I have chosen to imbue that small, shiny, round ball with maximal pathos and conceptual weight. Josephine Bosma - a prominent net art researcher, writer and activist - writes in her catalogue text that this little dot is the key to understanding everything you see around you in the venerable, lavish, bombastic, former banking chambers at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Oslo.

The myths about net art’s extreme, anti-institutional nature were started in the middle of the 1990’s. This led to a flurry of activity and interest in it from museums, biennials and curators all over the world. was finally placed on the ”official” art map after Vuk Cosic's "theft" of the Documenta X website in 1997, but the process of integrating net artists and their work into the world of museums and curators was indeed a painful one - from the institutional point of view. Net.artists were seen as rebellious creatures, often operating under pseudonyms. They were regarded as hardcore hackers or crackers that had to be handled with care. They were well known for ridiculing the art institutions, the public and the art critics.

The only common terminology to have become established about Internet art in general and in particular, is related the the period between 1994 and 1999 – the so-called "Heroic Period”. During this period, one of the most influential books around was Hakim Bey’s ”Temporary Autonomous Zones”. This piece was highly regarded by net activists and free-thinkers in the entire western world. Artists and artist groups, such as e.g. jodi, Alexei Shulgin, Vuk Cosic, Olia Lialina, irational, RTmark, and Mark Amerika, became known internationally through mailing lists such as nettime, 7-11, the German Telepolis and American Rhizome, as well as magazines such as Mute, Mondo2000 and Wired. Conferences such as The Next Five Minutes and Cyberconf represented an early theoretical platform. Since then other art-orientated festivals have integrated Internet art into their infrastructure -–Documenta, Ars Electronica, DEAF (Dutch Electronic Arts Festival) and several large museums and galleries – MoMa, Guggenheim, Whitney, Walker Art Center, ZKM Karlsruhe – have embraced

This exhibition is meant as a pointer to actual that consists of works, texts, situationist actions and codes (in both literal and metaphorical terms) that are to be found on the internet – a contextual viewing framework which is radically different from the traditional museum room and viewing experience. Internet art has never really worked in the museum space (despite numerous efforts) because it is made to be experienced on your own computer. You discover it whilst surfing more or less innocently, between e-mails, chat rooms, peer-to-peer downloading, travel descriptions, shopping arcades, porno and news from all over the world. is not primarily about technology, but about breaking into a specific social context. One of my main aims has been to present the work in a surprising and innovative way – I wanted to give an overview of’s short, hectic and conflictual history by presenting stories and myths about in the form of videos, images, texts, postcards, drawings, stickers, post-it notes, posters, photographs, reminder-notes and both iconic and ironic objects. In fact, everything or anything that consists of atomic rather than binary codes.

In addition to the exhibition itself (of in the Museum’s main exhibition hall and ajoining rooms, the catalogue editor, Grethe Melby, has gathered together and edited a large collection of articles and links to Internet art (where this has been possible). One important gateway to the whole exhibition is her text about the Rosetta Stone, which was discovered in Egypt in 1799. The Rosetta Stone became the key that unlocked the code system used in Egyptian hieroglyphics, allowing researchers to read and understand the system.

The library/reference section is another important part of the exhibition. It provides the public with the possibility of copying, pasting, printing out and binding together a unique paper catalogue about and other related areas (in principle, everything one finds relevant). This opportunity brings to light the contemporary debate about copyright laws, the rights of the author or originator, patenting laws and the official administration of historical material. As a little puzzle for future generations of art historians and librarians we have chosen to set up a carte-blanche ISBN number with the front page of the catalogue which you can have bound for free at the museum.

Topical themes such as hacktivism, authorship, sampling and recycling, codes as poetry, open source, virus and network theory are examined indirectly by the way the exhibition is set up. The aim is first and foremost to show that was an extremely social art form which can be understood and interpreted from a variety of different angles and within a number of frameworks. It can also be related to several former art movements: Dada, Surrealism, Pop art and the Fluxus movement. It is also part of the political discourse regarding the rapid explosion of information available in our postmodern society. On an aesthetic level (for some reason or another) Jeff Koons is the first artist’s name that comes to mind as an important reference point for the Internet art movement. Others are Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Beuys and Ray Johnson.

This exhibition is also a game – playing with art historical conventions, and the personal experience I had when visiting the now New York-based Serbian artist Goran Djordjevic and his ”Kunsthistorisches Mausoleum” in Belgrade in February 2003. His work truly inspired me during the final spurt towards the exhibition opening. By taking an art institution seriously, yet showing within it’s walls something that has never been entirely comfortable with the title ”art”, we hope that Written in stone will make a small contribution to the on-going, existential discourse about net(.)art. represents only a tiny piece of the larger picture – everything that might be termed internet art - but this extraordinary, little group is still the only ones to have put itself on the map through a strategic meta-discourse in the most representative forums. I will stick out my neck and claim that art on the internet without the so-called Heroic Period would have been little more than technological fascination and sporadic research around contemporary forms of artistic expression. As the situation stands today, we have a richly contextualised, many-sided situation that has consequences that reach far beyond the art world.

"Written in stone – a archaeology" is an attempt to tighten the lid on a particular sector of recent contemporary history. Perhaps this exhibition will make it easier to lift one’s gaze from the screen in order to see to what degree contemporary and future constellations of human beings and technology are able to tell a few decent stories, or at least pose some important questions. Hopefully something important will remain - more than a few digital bytes that otherwise disappear when the electricity is cut.