Perceptive and challenging, the work of artist Vuk Cosic mines the backwaters of pop-culture and technology, probing themes of obsolescence, transience, and language. Though primarily designated as a “.net” art, a term used to describe the movement of Internet based works starting in the early 1990s, Cosic’s work strikingly combines his interest in history, film, and experimental literature (specifically “Zaum” poetry and conditional writing) with online computer culture. Labeling himself as somewhat of a ‘media-archaeologist,’ his exploration of change and advancement--both technological and cultural--reveals issues acutely relevant in today's gadget-flooded society.
Because of his interest in the combination of images and technology, artist Vuk Cosic often mixes film and interactive online spaces in his work. In the series of works created in 1998, entitled “ASCII History of Moving Images,” classic-but-tired films are translated into the hackneyed colors of tech-nostalgia, the all-but-forgotten black and green codes of early computer monitors. In each clip, the mute bones of the film are still there; scrolling lines of bright green texts flow into each other to suggest space and movement, the characters interactions reduced to barely perceptible outlines.
Technically, the moving image is rendered in a streaming sequence of what is known as ASCII art: an all but extinct form of image-making (from which emoticons and ‘smileys’ are descended) developed for times when printers and screens could only produce a limited array of symbols, letters, and numbers. This elicits at first a knee-jerk squeamishness… Didn’t we give this up? Haven’t we ‘evolved?’ With the shower scene of “Psycho” jittering before us (with blood-color and screeching violins supplemented involuntarily by the memory of the viewer) the weight of cultural debris is almost palpable.
Like awkward pubescent zombies, mediums that we thought we killed crawl to the surface, demanding recognition, threatening pretenses of progress. In an autobiography, Cosic states: “The only way to fight media obsolescence is by resurrecting dead media.” One outcome of fighting media obsolescence, then, would be an exposure of the odd identities we give our cultural creations, a kind of biology with lives and deaths and generations. Cosic’s work at once confronts us with this fantasy and the anxiety of its break down. If we can’t be immortal, we surely would like to believe that we can control which things are immortalized.
In a last masochistic poke, the lurid, gliding symbols confound: like absurdist poetry, the code flings back our ideals of universal language and meaning. Acting as a kind of memento mori for the belief of a net-utopia, this immaterial, uncanny piece is in a word, haunting.
Vuk Cosic was born in 1966 in Belgrade, Serbia, and since 1992 has lived and worked in Slovenia. He has been involved in many projects and ventures in the field of digital and net art since 1994, including co-founding Ljudmila, a digital media lab for artists in Slovenia. In 2001 he represented Slovenia at the Venice Biennale. He is also notorious for his ‘hacking;’ in 1997, he famously hijacked the website for Documenta X.