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Leonie Bradbury, IDSVA





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As it reshapes the world we inhabit, the concept of the network has emerged as the dominant cultural paradigm across numerous fields and disciplines. Whether biological, social, political, global, communicational, or computational, networks are constituted by a decentered, distributed, multiplicitous, nonlinear system of nodes, plateaus, and edges that are endlessly interconnected and interdependent. Networks prioritize relationships between things over the things themselves, suggesting a reconfiguring of binary elements including: digital/tactile, virtual/material, private/public, and past/present. As networks rapidly change our world, it is logical to assume that contemporary artistic practices are impacted as well. In fact, works of art are uniquely situated to discover and reveal new ways of understanding social and cultural phenomena including that of the network.

Several questions arise: How do contemporary works of art relate to network culture? Alternately, how do networks redefine our understanding of specific works of art? How, in turn, are these works expanding our understanding of the network? As a way of focusing these questions, the dissertation addresses works by four contemporary artists: Franklin Evans, Simon Starling, Jenny Odell, and Pablo Helguera. Based on close art historical analysis, I argue that instead of depicting, illustrating or referring to networks as context, the works discussed are constituted or composed in and as networks. They are dynamic relational forms in which the work of art and the network are rendered indissociable from one another. I further claim, that components which were previously considered as existing outside of the work of art – the gallery, the studio, references to texts, histories, artworks, historic objects, other artists, place, and even public programs and participants – are now part of what constitutes the work, thus indicating a profound shift in perspective in what we consider the “work of art” and the ways in which it is addressed and interpreted.


Art and Design | Communication | Critical and Cultural Studies | Fine Arts


Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts


Portland ME

Artwork as Network: A Reconceptualization of the Work of Art and its Exhibition



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