The Whole Internet

Olia Lialina
Olia Lialina
The Whole Internet

30 May – 13 July 2018

Aksioma | Project Space, Ljubljana

On the World Wide Web, quality is measured through the lens of technological innovation and stylistic sophistication and only the newest tools survive, all else becomes obsolete and quickly forgotten. That is probably true for most of us but certainly not for Olia Lialina, a Moscow born, Germany-based artist, digital explorer, archivist, GIF model and iconic pioneer. The reason for this is actually very simple: there has always been a tendency in digital cultures to render the subjacent technology invisible, naturalizing the gestures and habits of the users. It is precisely in apparently obsolete styles or in abandoned internet platforms where the trace of the user’s presence, taking creative and unexpected decisions, becomes visible again.
“The development of the invisible computer”, Lialina wrote “gives birth to the Invisible User”, a standardized user, oblivious to his rights, particularly one that sums them all up: the user’s right to literally use the net, to adopt and customize technologies in creative, unexpected, unpredictable ways, beyond the expectations of the original programmers. Which is precisely what Olia Lialina does since 1996, when she made My boyfriend came back from the war, a narrative experiment with the then brand new technology of the HTML frames. The work became immediately a classic of, an experimental art movement interested in the web as an operative field for the avant-garde, working with tools as mundane as a computer and an internet connection.

The Whole Internet, the title of the solo exhibition by Olia Lialina at Aksioma Project Space in Ljubljana, is borrowed from The Whole Internet User’s Guide and Catalog by Ed Krol, a book published in September 1992 by O’Reilly to make offline users familiar with protocols, utilities and resources already available to lucky owners of modems. The book “sold over 1,000,000 copies and was later selected by the New York Public Library as one of the most significant books of the 20th century. The title and format of this book were in its turn inspired by Stewart Brand‘s Whole Earth Catalog, an American counterculture magazine and product catalog featuring essays, articles, and product reviews on self-sufficiency, ecology, alternative education, “do it yourself” (DIY), and holism, under the slogan “access to tools”.

“I never had a chance to hold the very first edition in my hands” Olia Lialina said “but I am more than happy with my late 1993 edition even if it had only 25 out of 520 pages dedicated to the World Wide Web!” The 1999 edition instead was almost only about the web ― 400 out of 512 pages ― becoming the last attempt to grasp on paper the immensity of the web.

This exhibition is not about the past though. Quite the opposite! For The Whole Internet Olia Lialina selected works that don’t allow the viewer to think in before and after, past and present, not even new and old categories. It shows the history of her favourite medium as a continuum and infinitude.


Janez Janša

The Whole Internet (2018)
The first and the last editions of The Whole Internet will be exhibited at Aksioma next to each other for the first time, as an interactive “ready-made sculpture.”

Janez Janša

Taking Your Talent to the Web (2011 – ongoing)
Taking Your Talent to the Web is a pile of last century web design manuals such as Creating Killer Websites, Bringing Your Talent to the Web, Jazz Up Your Website in a Weekend, Pages that Suck, Finding Images Online, VRML and other books no one read. Visitors of the exhibition are welcome to flip through the pages and get inspired to make their own web site. Among the books is Jeffrey Zeldman’s professional web design manifest, Taking Your Talent to the Web, which the installation is named after.

Janez Janša

Give Me Time / This Page is No More (2015 – in progress)
Give Me Time / This Page is No More is a synchronized slide show that documents the life cycle of the web pages of, the now defunct web hosting service founded in 1994 by Beverly Hills Internet. In just a few years, GeoCities became the third most visited website on the World Wide Web but, with the advent and professionalization of Web 2.0, also became synonymous with “bad taste” and with the rise of social media users drastically declined until the closing of the service in 2009. Internet activists and archivists managed to download a terabyte worth of webpages hosted on GeoCities. This work presents Lialina’s archival study into this unprecedented cache of user culture.

Animated GIFs Timeline (2014 – ongoing)
GIFs are the luckiest element of early web culture. Not only did they survive and make a glorious comeback, they have also received recognition as an art form and have a good chance of replacing all other forms of animation. Lialina’s timelines of the medium is very subjective; it starts with the two legendary animated ladies of 1996 and follows the development of the genre to the present day.

Trajectory (ivk) (2017, with Mike Tyka)
This work is about, a platform that allows people who don’t have Photoshop, After Effects and other pro tools to create animated collages. It is a tribute to one particular Blingee user, Irina Vladimirovna Kuleshova (ivk), the author of many backgrounds, stamps, and frames that have spread all around Blingee and beyond. With the help of artist and machine learning expert Mike Tyka, Lialina created an endless journey through ivk’s creations.


The Whole Internet
TUE, 29 May 2018 at 6 pm
Moderna galerija, Ljubljana

In this talk Olia Lialina discusses the most important elements of the web from the mid ’90s and exposes the relationship between a new medium and its first users. The web of the mid ’90s was bright, rich, personal, slow and under construction. Today this relationship has dissipated as the Internet became a mass medium to accommodate dotcom ambitions, professional authoring tools and usability guidelines. Olia Lialina’s talk deals with the choices web masters of pre-social networks had to make in their work before web design became a profession, and about her choices today, being a designer, a passionate researcher of the vernacular web, and a keeper of the One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age archive.
In her highly illustrated talk the artist will introduce to the audience pearls of the early web culture, going much deeper than usual ‘Under Construction’ signs and animated GIFs nostalgia.


Lea Roewer

Olia Lialina is among the best-known participants in the 1990s scene – an early-days, network-based art pioneer. Her early work had a great impact on recognizing the Internet as a medium for artistic expression and storytelling. This century, her continuous and close attention to Internet architecture, “net.language” and vernacular web – in both artistic and publishing projects – has made her an important voice in contemporary art and new media theory.
Lialina has, for the past two decades, produced many influential works of network-based art: My Boyfriend Came Back from the War (1996), Agatha Appears (1997), First Real Net Art Gallery (1998), Last Real Net Art Museum (2000), Online Newspapers (2004-2018), Summer (2013).

Lialina is also known for using herself as a GIF model, and is credited with founding one of the earliest web galleries, Art Teleportacia. She is cofounder and keeper of One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age archive and a professor at Merz Akademie in Stuttgart, Germany.


Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana, 2018

The lecture is realised in the framework of ALUO uho events organized by The Academy of Fine Arts and Design of the University of Ljubljana.

The Academy of Fine Arts and Design of the University of Ljubljana and Museum of Modern Art Ljubljana

Supported by:
the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and the Municipality of Ljubljana

Aksioma’s programme is additionally supported by the Ministry of Public Administration as part of the public call for co-financing projects for the development and professionalisation of NGOs and volunteerism as well as by JSKD

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