hans_ulrich_obrist's picture
Curator, Serpentine Gallery, London; Editor: A Brief History of Curating; Formulas for Now; Co-author (with Rem Koolhas), Project Japan: Metabolism Talks

A is for And And
The Internet made me think more BOTH AND instead of EITHER OR instead of NOR NOR.

B is for Beginnings 
In terms of my curatorial thinking, my 'Eureka moments' occurred pre-Internet, when I met visionary Swiss artists Fischli/Weiss in 1985. These conversations freed me up — freed my thoughts as to what curating could be and how curating can produce reality. The arrival of the Internet was a trigger for me to think more in the form of Oulipian lists —practical-poetical, evolutive and often nonlinear, lists. This A to Z is an incomplete list ….Umberto Eco calls the World Wide Web the 'mother of all lists': infinite by definition and in constant evolution.

C is for Curating the World 
The Internet made me think towards a more expanded notion of curating. Stemming from the Latin word 'curare', the word 'curating' originally meant 'to take care of objects in museums'. Curation has long since evolved. Just as art is no longer limited to traditional genres, curating is no longer confined to the gallery or museum but has expanded across all boundaries. The rather obscure and very specialized notion of curating has become much more publicly used since one talks about curating of Websites and and this marks a very good moment to rediscover the pioneering history of art curating as a toolbox for 21st century society at large.

D is for Delinking 
In the years before being online, I remember that there were many interruptions by phone and fax day and night. The reality of being permanently linked to the triggered my increasing awareness of the importance of moments of concentration —moments without interruption that require me to be completely unreachable. I no longer answer the phone at home and I only answer my mobile phone in the case of fixed telephone appointments. To link is beautiful. To delink is sublime. (Paul Chan)

D is for Disrupted narrative continuity
Forms of film montage , as the disruption of narrative and the disruption of spatial and temporal continuity, have been a staple tactic of the avant-garde from Cubism and Eisenstein, through Brecht to Kluge or Godard. For avant-gardism as a whole, it was essential that these tactics were recognized (experienced) as a disruption. The Internet has made disruption and montage the operative bases of everyday experience. Today, these forms of disruption can be harnessed and poeticized. They can foster new connections, new relationships, new productions of reality: reality as life-montage / life as reality-disruption? Not one story but many stories....

D is for Doubt
A certain unreliability of technical and material information on the Internet brings us to the notion of doubt. I feel that doubt has become more pervasive. The artist Carsten Höller has invented the Laboratory of Doubt, which is opposed to mere representation. As he has told me, 'Doubt and perplexity ... are unsightly states of mind we'd rather keep under lock and key because we associate them with uneasiness, with a failure of values'. Höller's credo is not to do; not to intervene. To exist is to do and not to do is a way of doing. 'Doubt is alive; it paralyzes certainty.' (Carsten Höller)

E is for Evolutive exhibitions 
The Internet makes me think more about non-final exhibitions and exhibitions in a state of becoming. When conceiving exhibitions, I sometimes like to think of randomized algorithms, access, transmission, mutation, infiltration and circulation (the list goes on). The Internet makes me think less of exhibitions as top down masterplans but bottom up processes of self organisation like do it or Cities on the Move

F is for Forgetting 
The ever growing ever pervasive records that the Internet produces make me think sometimes about the virtues of forgetting. Is a limited life space of certain information and data becoming more urgent?

H is for Handwriting (and Drawing ever Drawing)
The Internet has made me aware of the importance of handwriting and drawing. Personally, I typed all my early texts, but the more the Internet has become all-encompassing , the more I have felt that something went missing. Hence the idea to reintroduce handwriting.I do more and more of my correspondence as handwritten letters scanned and sent by email. On a professional note, I observe, as a curator, the importance of drawing in current art production. One can also see it in art schools: a moment when drawing is an incredibly fertile zone.

I is for Identity 
"Identity is shifty, identity is a choice". (Etel Adnan)

I is for Inactual considerations 
The future is always built out of fragments of the past. The Internet has brought thinking more into the present tense, raising questions of what it means to be contemporary.

Recently, Giorgio Agamben revisited Nietzsche's 'Inactual Considerations', arguing that the one who belongs to his or her own time is the one who does not coincide perfectly with it. It is because of this shift, this anachronism, that he or she is more apt than others to perceive and to catch his or her time. Agamben follows this observation with his second definition of contemporaneity: the contemporary is the one who is able to perceive obscurity, who is not blinded by the lights of his or her time or century.

This leads us, interestingly enough, to the importance of astrophysics in explaining the relevance of obscurity for contemporaneity. The seeming obscurity in the sky is the light that travels to us at full speed but which can't reach us because the galaxies from which it originates are ceaselessly moving away from us at a speed superior to that of light. The Internet and a certain resistance to its present tense have made me increasingly aware that there is an urgent call to be contemporary. To be contemporary means to perpetually come back to a present where we have never yet been. To be contemporary means to resist the homogenization of time, through ruptures and discontinuities.

M is for Maps
The Internet increased the presence of maps in my thinking. It's become easier to make maps, to change them, and also to work on them collaboratively and collectively and share them (e.g. Google Maps and Google Earth). After the focus on social networks of the last couple of years, I have come to see the focus on location as a key dimension.

N is for New geographies 
The Internet has fuelled (and been fuelled by) a relentless economic and cultural globalization, with all its positive and negative aspects. On the one hand, there is the danger of homogenizing forces, which is also at stake in the world of the arts. On the other hand, there are unprecedented possibilities for difference enhancing global dialogues. In the long durationthere have been seismic shifts, like that in the 16th century when the paradigm shifted from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. We are living through a period in which the center of gravity is transferring to new centres. . The early 21st century is seeing the growth of a polyphony of art centers in the East and West in the North and South.

N is for Non-mediated experiences N is for the New Live 
I feel an increased desire for non-mediated experiences Depending on one's point of view, the virtual may be a new and liberating prosthesis of the body or it may threaten the body. Many visual artists today negotiate and mediate between these two staging encounters of non mediated intersubjectivity. In the music fields the crisis of the record industry goes hand in hand with an increased importance of live concerts.

P is for Parallel realities 
The Internet creates and fosters new constituencies; new micro-communities. As a system that infinitely breeds new realities, it is predisposed to reproduce itself in a proliferating series of ever more functionally differentiated subsystems. As such, it makes my thinking go towards the production of parallel realities, bearing witness to the multiverse, as the physicist David Deutsch might say and for better or worse, the Internet allows that which is already latent in the fabric of reality to unravel itself and expand in all directions.

P is for Protest against forgetting 
Over the last years I feel an increasing urgency to more and more interviews, to make an effort to preserve traces of intelligence from the last decades. One particularly urgent part of this are the testimonies of the 20th century pioneers who are in their 80s or 90s or older and whom I regularly interview, testimonies of a century from those who are not online and who very often fall into oblivion. This protest might, as Rem Koolhaas has told me, act as 'a hedge against the systematic forgetting that hides at the core of the information age and which may in fact be its secret agenda'?

S is for Salon of the 21st century 
The Internet has made me think more about whom I would like to introduce to whom; to cyberintroduce people as a daily practice or to introduce people in person through actual salons for the 21st century (see the Brutally Early Club).

Last but not least a the response of David Weiss who answers this years Edge question with a new question asking if our thinking can influence the Internet.