LI-MA and Nieuwe Instituut present REBOOT. Pioneering Digital Art.

Blog post

Nieuwe Instituut and LI-MA present REBOOT. Pioneering Digital Art.
A dialogue between the past and present of Dutch digital art and culture
7 October 2023 – 1 April 2024

LI-MA and Rotterdam’s Nieuwe Instituut present the exhibition REBOOT. Pioneering Digital Art from 7 October 2023. Twenty ground-breaking digital artworks from the Netherlands, which helped define our societal relationships with technology, are on display, alongside new works by ten makers who take inspiration from them in looking towards the future.

Inventors, designers and artists from the Netherlands played an important role in the early days of computers. From the 1960s on, they investigated the artistic possibilities of the new technology. Their experiments underlie today’s digital culture. Meanwhile, it is now impossible to imagine life without this once out-of-the-ordinary technology: computers and networks have permanently influenced every facet of our lives.

To highlight this changing dynamic between digital technologies and society, initiators and curators Sanneke Huisman of LI-MA and the Nieuwe Instituut’s Klaas Kuitenbrouwer have organised REBOOT. Pioneering Digital Art as a way of ‘restarting’ a dialogue between then and now.

Pioneering key works and surprising new pieces
For the exhibition, Huisman and Kuitenbrouwer selected 20 ground-breaking digital works of art from previous decades. These pieces are from the Digital Canon (1960-2000), a non-exhaustive, unfixed overview of influential digital art, which was commissioned by LI-MA in 2019. The works are considered ground-breaking because, thanks to their makers’ exploration of the artistic possibilities and potential social consequences of new technologies, they still serve as an inspiration for thinking about contemporary and future society.

Included in the exhibition are the video and sound painting Moiré, by video art pioneers Livinus and Jeep van de Bundt (1975); Dick Raaijmakers’ large-scale loudspeaker installation Ideofoon (1968-1970); algorithmic sculpture by Breed van Driessens & Verstappen; the internet artwork the_living by Debra Solomon (1998); and the Scrollbar Composition by Jan Robert Leegte (2000).

In addition, alongside are ten new works by contemporary makers who were inspired by these pieces in the Digital Canon in looking towards the future. The artists come from unexpected disciplines, emphasizing the fact that the impact of digital culture now extends far beyond digital art alone.

Still from Annie Abrahams, Being Human, 2007.
Annie Abrahams, Being Human, 2007.

“When you ‘reboot’ a computer system or program, you shut it down and then restart it shortly afterwards, starting over. With REBOOT, the Nieuwe Instituut and LI-MA essentially aim to reveal an ongoing, living history of digital art and culture,” state Huisman and Kuitenbrouwer.

“The artistic questions of the past are the social questions of today. The early expectations of what a computer can do, what networks might mean for society, and how we can be creative in our collaboration with machines or programs – all these are questions that we still recognise decades later, but on a different scale. We can learn a lot from the independence with which artists once dealt with the rise of the digital, for example when it comes to freeing ourselves from the power of Big Tech today.”

Digital Care
In the run-up to the opening of REBOOT, co-organiser LI-MA is already highlighting a few key works that will be on display in the exhibition. Through the public research and activity programme Digital Care, LI-MA also explores what it means to collect, preserve and exhibit digital art – both in the current context and with a view to the future.

More information
REBOOT. Pioneering Digital Art can be seen from 7 October 2023 to 1 April 2024 at the Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam. For more information, click here.

For more information about Digital Care, click here.

REBOOT was created with the support of Creative Industries Fund NL, Mondriaan Fund, Fonds 21 and Network Archives Design and Digital Culture.