\ Joshua Decter \ Lari Pittman \ David A. Ross \ Peter Schjeldahl \ Benjamin Weil \ Q&A \

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    David A. Ross is the Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Introduction...to the Web

You can turn the lights up, or you can turn them out completely, whatever you like. I am not showing any pictures. I am here to talk. And I am here to talk about something that I think is kind of interesting. It is always hard to talk after Lari. This is the second time I have heard him speak in public and it's quite poetic and wonderful and I am always a little taken back afterwards, because I can't be remotely as entertaining, or precise, or poetic. But I do want to talk about what these new technologies and what these new sensibilities mean to artists, and to institutions that work with artists.

I think once again a paradigmatic moment is here--- one which we should consider carefully, before the moment of consideration passes us by. The moment I am speaking about is the rapid invention of this series of intersecting new technologies that are referred to generally as the Web. Actually, it is an interesting word. Because it is so unloaded: it is not a word that we've used too much in the culture.

The Web, as some of you perhaps know, was the invention of the US Defense Department. And what we have been engaging in over the last several years is an attempt to reinvent this invention, and reformulate it in the service of art and in the service of the evolution of independent voices in what may be the last truly free network connecting individuals around the world that will occur in our lifetime. The web was invented in order to link-up super computers located at several of the greater universities of this country, so that in the event of a nuclear strike, the computers that control the defense department (and control our ability to have a second strike attack), would not be out of line so that they decentralized the center of control and command by producing a link that couldn't be shut down between computer centers around the country. Over the years, this has evolved through the evolution of several new digital technologies to the point where it is no longer under anyone's control. What we now have in front of us is the potential for a change in the way we all can communicate with one and another that threatens the authority of a number of cherished institutions, and opens up for us the potential for some interesting new opportunities.

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