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VUK ĆOSIĆ: A perspective on the myth of the origins of the

Interviewer/Interviewee: Emily Hsiang-Yun Huang and Daniela Ruiz Moreno/ Vuk Ćosić|Translator: Emily Hsiang-Yun Huang|Editor: EJ Chiu, Rok Kranjc

The article is published in collaboration with Taipei Digital Art Center.  The article is part of the Visual Art Critic Project sponsored by National Culture and Arts Foundation, Taiwan, Winsing Arts Foundation


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Q: We know you mainly through the origins of the term, and we are curious about your view on the originis of the

Vuk: There are two stories about the origins. The story that is most seen published around is actually false. The false story goes like this: Artist Alexei Shulgin wrote this little email to our mailing list called nettime, completely inventing this story about how I received some emails, and I saw some garbled text in which the term is embedded and I liked what I saw because the medium itself gave us the name, which is so romantic. I think his email itself is one of the best works of net art.

Editor’s notes: Here is the text of the original email sent by Alexei Shulgin the nettime mailing list in 1997:


In this email, Alexei Shulgin wrote that the term is actually a readymade. The text of the original email went on like this, “In December 1995 Vuk Cosic got a message, sent via anonymous mailer. Because of incompatibility of software, the opened text appeared to be practically unreadable ascii abracadabra. The only fragment of it that made any sense looked something like: […] J8~g#|\;Net. Art{-^s1 […].Vuk was very much amazed and excited: the net itself gave him a name for an activity he was involved in! He immediately started to use this term.”[1]

Vuk: However, the true story is completely different of course. It is out there but simply it’s so less romantic and intriguing that writers still publish the first one, because it’s funky. The true story is that in our little circle of people back in I believe around 1995 or 1996, we were discussing art in particular, in this broader mailing list dedicated to internet culture, activism and politics. Pit Schultz from Berlin, one of the founders of the nettime mailing list, suggested that word, and said wouldn’t it be funky to use “.art”, like a file extension. We liked that and we accepted it, and not only us but others.

Pit Schultz also curated the first exhibition of in 1996. He did the selection of artists including Vuk, JODI, Alexei Shulgin, Heath Bunting.The exhibition was in Berlin in a nightclub called Bunker. The city of Berlin and the Berlin club culture were at the time the toughest and the most progressive component of European live culture. There was absolutely nothing comparable to the Berlin club scene. Even today the city of Berlin has a reputation based on those golden days. That was the best venue we could possibly imagine to have a first group appearance. Pit Schultz‘s brother ran the place so it was also this private connection.

And a funny, not just funny but seriously important thing about that first ever show was how Pit Schultz decided to deal with the topic we have been discussing all the time, which was about taking art from its natural context, i.e. the internet, and putting it in this fake context of an art gallery. Our consideration at the time was, an art gallery is not where art should be, it’s the wrong place. Pit Schultz was and even is today in his anarchist heart completely on our side in this ambition to ask heavy questions, to propose radical answers and so on. He was not looking for compromise, he was looking at a way to stress the problem or the paradox of being shown.

So it was totally his idea, we all simply complied because it was intellectually at the right spot for us. So as you can see I really want to give this guy credit. He asked us to send screenshots of our works. We all prepared something for that show really, it wasn’t just simple screenshots of existing websites you know, and he printed those screenshots on little carousel slides. It is the magic of low tech. He then put this simple carousel projector in the night club and played the slides at full speed, so you couldn’t quite follow, and they were ordered randomly. So it was a multiple play on the impossibility of going offline with your And recently Pit Schultz did a re-enactment of that show in Berlin in a gallery called Panke, which is a hot spot in Berlin again.



Q:  It is very important for us to understand the artwork production and experience in relation to the territory and region of each artist. As you know, we are connecting artists from South America, Taiwan and Slovenia in our research on Would you consider as originating in Slovenia? This statement can also often be found floating around in different places.

Vuk: I’d like to think about the answer through another optics. It’s the problem of the concept of provincial jet lag, a thing you implied in your introduction about Argentina and Taiwan. 

It’s a question of artistic epicenters and that other space that is non-existent. With, and especially if you look at the list of people I mentioned before, you have Alexei Shulgin from Russia, you have me in Slovenia, the art collective ‘JODI’ (Joan Heemskerk from the Netherlands and Dirk Paesmans from Belgium) who lived in Barcelona at that time and Heath Bunting in London.

Geography didn’t play a part, and none of us created work that literally had anything to do with where we are, either geographically or geomorphologically, as in as in mountains, seasides, water, or in terms of cultural history or background.

The cultural background and the intellectual luggage that we brought in that experience and the adventure of early, especially the part that we all shared, was a fascination with different avant-gardes. At the time we knew about and were fans of different things. Heath Bunting was into the Situationist International more than anybody else in the group. I was more into Dada and surrealism on the one hand, and Oulipo from France from the 60s and 70s. It is a group of writers that experimented with language in ways that for me were very meaningful and are still very important. Dirk from JODI studied under Nam June Paik, he was into video art and that was their anchor. And Alexi Shulgin was into the earlier photo avant-garde.

So that was our homeland. We were by definition already detached from the very concept of place in that sense that would allow me to confirm your question or the implication in your question, that has a place of origin. So maybe a mondialistic little artistic movement if I may use that word or let’s say period.[1] Similar to most historical avant-gardes which managed to avoid this denomination, for example, Cabaret Voltaire, Dada. It was just a group of people who shared very few things, but the things they did share were very central for their existence, and one of them was the refusal of the art world, the disgust with local artist communities, and also the fascination with the possibilities of creation in some new ways, which were given to us. We are not creators of the internet as such. We were simply the generation that was at the right age, carrying the thoughts, the right thoughts at the right time. So it was a coincidence, nothing strategic.

[1] In Josphine Bosma’s book Nettitudes: Let’s Talk net art. Nai Publishers (2011), she provides a more detailed argument about the aspect of anti-movement in the history of 


Vuk Ćosić (Slovenian/Serbian) 

Vuk Ćosić is a contemporary artist associated with the movement in the nineties. He is active in areas of literature, politics, media archaeology and network arts. His artworks often play with the aesthetics of low-tech such as converting moving images to form dynamic Ascii codes.

Artist website:

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