« Art Critics' Reading List


Domenico Quaranta is an art critic and independent curator based in Brescia, Italy, who has focused his research on the impact of the current techno-social developments on the arts. Along with Matteo Bittanti he is co-editor of GameScenes. Art in the Age of Videogames (Johan & Levi 2006) as well as the author of Media, New Media, Postmedia (Postmedia Books 2010) and In Your Computer (Lulu 2011). He has also curated various exhibitions, including “Holy Fire. Art of the Digital Age” (iMAL, Bruxelles 2008, with Y. Bernard), “Playlist” (LABoral, Gijon, 2009 and iMAL, Bruxelles, 2010); “Collect the WWWorld. The Artist as Archivist in the Internet Age” (Spazio Contemporanea, Brescia, 2011; House for Electronic Arts, Basel and 319 Scholes, New York, 2012). He is a regular contributor to Flash Art and a founding member of the Link Center for the Arts of the Information Age.

Julian Stallabrass. Internet Art: The Online Clash of Culture and Commerce. London: Tate Publishing, 2003.

The ultimate book about artistic activity online has still to be written. This is perhaps proof of the transient, ephemeral, performative nature of art on the Internet—but still, I think that the best way to preserve this fragile flower is probably a book. Some good attempts have been done at the beginning of the century: Internet Art (World of Art) by Rachel Greene (Thames and Hudson 2004) is still worth reading. Josephine Bosma did an amazing work with her recent effort Nettitudes: Let’s Talk Net Art (Nai Publishers 2011); and Brad Troemel’s Peer Pressure (Link Editions 2011) provides a fresh look at recent practices by a young artist and theorist. In this context, Julian Stallablass’ early work is still the best in outlining the social and economic landscape in which Internet-based art flourished in the late ’90s, introducing into the contemporary arena something that has still to be completely understood and digested. And it is definitely the one that had the bigger impact on me and my understanding of the field.

Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied. Digital Folklore. Stuttgart: Merz and Solitude, 2009.

Things don’t exist until we find a name for them. Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied found a beautiful name for Internet vernacular, and we should be grateful to them for it. But this book isn’t just that. While most books on online popular culture embrace Web 2.0 rhetoric, as if none of this could even exist without Facebook and YouTube, they show us that digital folklore is as old as the net itself, and it’s not something we should thank Google for, but it’s the collaborative product of computer users, the true heroes portrayed in this book. Artists themselves and teachers at the Merz Akademie in Stuttgart, Germany, Lialina and Espenschied are also original thinkers and with the help of their students are contributing to shape a different Web. Beautifully designed by German designer Manuel Burger and blessed with a preface by Cory Arcangel, this book is a pamphlet, tutorial and collection of projects and papers that helps us understand, enjoy and shape the digital environment in which we live.

Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger. Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age. Princeton University Press, 2009.

If Marshall McLuhan was right with his well-known mantra about the medium, you should forgive me if I tell you about a book reader instead of a book. The truth is that the Kindle completely changed my reading habits, for good and for bad. I read more than I ever did. When I travel, I don’t have to choose which book I will bring with me—I can carry my whole library. But I read less books and, except for novels, I read most of them in a non-linear manner. The book I’m reading all the time is not actually a book, but an ongoing collection of texts—essays, interviews, short articles, excerpts—I find online and send to my Kindle. I download more books than I could ever read, and sometimes I feel that having them in my e-library is enough. Don’t make this mistake. Though Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger insists on the importance of forgetting in an age that seems to be able to remember everything, this book could be better described as an invitation to keep remembering and forgetting in a human way, without relying too much on externalized memories that can keep everything, but also forget it all in the space of the blink of an eye.