Rhizome | Contemporary Art Website


Rhizome is an American not-for-profit arts organization that supports and provides a platform for new media art.


Artist and curator Mark Tribe founded Rhizome as an email list in 1996 while living in Berlin. The list included a number of people Tribe had met at Ars Electronica By August, Rhizome had launched its website, which by 1998 had developed a significant readership within the Internet art community. Originally designated a business, Rhizome became a nonprofit organization in 1998, switching to the domain-name suffix “.org.”. In an interview with Laurel Ptak for the Bard Center for Curatorial Studies and Art in Contemporary Culture Archive, Tribe explains “I thought of it as Artforum meets AltaVista (AltaVista was one of the first web search engines), as a kind of bottom-up alternative to the top-down hierarchies of the art world.”

Rhizome established an online archive called the ArtBase in 1999. The ArtBase was initially conceived exclusively as a database of net art works. Today, the scope of the ArtBase has expanded to include other forms of art engaged with technology, including games, software, and interdisciplinary projects with online elements. The works are submitted by the artists themselves. In addition to hosting archived work, Rhizome’s digital preservation work includes conservation of digital art and updating obsolete code.

In 2003, Rhizome became affiliated with the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City. Today, Rhizome’s programs include events, exhibitions at the New Museum and elsewhere, an active website, and an archive of more than 2,000 new media artworks. This relationship has been contentious at times, with Rhizome members citing the museum’s toxic working environment practices including verbal harassment and abuse.

The organization has published one book with Link Editions, “The Best of Rhizome 2012” edited by former editor Joanne McNeil. In 2015, the organization relaunched rhizome.org with a new design created by Wieden+Kennedy.

Digital Preservation Program

Rhizome operates a digital preservation program, led by Dragan Espenschied, which is focused on the creation of free, open source software tools to decentralize web archiving and software preservation practices and ensure continuing access to its collections of born-digital art.


Founded in 1999, the Rhizome ArtBase is an online archive of new media art containing some 2,110 art works. The ArtBase encompasses a vast range of projects by artists all over the world that employ materials including software, code, websites, moving image, games and browsers to aesthetic and critical ends.

Web archiving

In response to the needs of the ArtBase—as well as to the increasing number of artists creating works on social media platforms and as interactive websites—in 2014 Rhizome began a program to develop open source web archiving tools that could both serve its mission and a broader community of users. Rhizome launched the social media archiving tool Colloq in 2014, which works by replicating the interface of social media platforms. Amalia Ulman’s instagram project “Excellences and Perfections” (2014) was the first social media artwork archived with Colloq. Colloq pays special attention to the way a user interacts with the social media interface at the time of creation, using a technique called “web capturing” to store website behaviors. The tool was developed by Ilya Kremer and Rhizome’s Digital Conservator Dragan Espenscheid. In 2015, Rhizome unveiled its archive of the influential art blog VVORK, marking the first time Colloq was used to archive an entire website. Archiving VVORK allowed Rhizome to tackle the challenge of archiving embedded video content, which is often hosted on a third-party site. The website had been previously archived by Internet Archive, but this recording did not include embedded media like videos that Colloq was built to capture. Of the tool, Jon Ippolito, professor of new media at the University of Maine, said: it makes archives “as close as possible, you’re going to get the experience of interacting with the actual site.”

In 2015, Rhizome folded the Colloq project into a more expansive Webrecorder initiative. In August 2016, the organization launched the public release of a more fully realized Webrecorder tool, which is a free web archiving tool that allows users to create their own archives of the dynamic web. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Webrecorder is targeted towards archiving social media, video content, and other dynamic content, rather than static webpages. Webrecorder is an attempt to place web archiving tools in the hands of individual users and communities. It uses a “symmetrical web archiving” approach, meaning the same software is used to record and play back the website. While other web archiving tools run a web crawler to capture sites, Webrecorder takes a different method, actually recording a user browsing the site to capture its interactive features.


In December 2015, Rhizome launched oldweb.today, a project that allows users to view archived webpages within emulated versions of legacy web browsers. Users are given the option of browsing the site of their choice within versions of Mosaic, Netscape Navigator, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome. The project gives users a deeper understanding of web history and the way browsing environments alter one’s experience of the internet. It is an example of “Emulation as a Service” technology, imitating old software programs so that they can run on new computers.

Rhizome Commissions Program

Founded in 2001 to support artists working with technology, the Rhizome Commissions Program has awarded more than 100 commissions as of 2016. In 2008, Rhizome expanded the scope of the commissions from strictly Internet-based art to the broad range of forms and practices that fall under the category of new media art. This includes projects that creatively engage new and networked technologies or reflect on the impact of these tools and media. With this expanded format, commissioned works can take the final form of online works, performance, video, installation or sound art. Projects can be made for the context of the gallery, the public, the web or networked devices.

Among the artists awarded a Rhizome commission: Heba Amin, Aleksandra Domanović, Aram Bartholl, Knifeandfork (Brian House and Sue Huang), Mendi & Keith Obadike, Trevor Paglen, Jon Rafman, Tao Lin, Tristan Perich, Angelo Plessas. Brody Condon, Jona Bechtolt, Kristin Lucas, Evan Roth, Rafaël Rozendaal, eteam, Steve Lambert, Zach Lieberman, Porpentine (game designer).

Exhibition Program

In its two decades of activity, Rhizome has presented exhibitions online and in gallery spaces.

ArtBase 101

In 2005 at the New Museum, Rhizome presented this exhibition of 40 selections from its online archive of new media art, the ArtBase. Cocurated by then-director Lauren Cornell and former director Rachel Greene, the exhibition addressed dirt style, net cinema, games, e-commerce, data visualization and databases, online celebrity, public space, software, cyberfeminism, and early net.art. Selected artists included John F. Simon Jr., M. River and T. Whid Art Associates, 0100101110101101.org, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, and Cory Arcangel. Sarah Boxer, reviewing the exhibition for the New York Times called Artbase 101 “an ambitious and risky thing to do.”

New York New York Happy Happy (NY NY HP HP)

In 2013, the organization presented an experiential artwork by artist Ed Fornieles, which sent up art world and high society debauchery with “forced undressing,” eating salami slices from nude bodies, the exploitation of unpaid performance artists, and male strippers. Writing for Noisy, Zach Sokol said of the event: “Fornieles may be tinkering with the idea that we force imagined social archetypes and social spaces into existence… We all become sociopaths when there are beautiful people, fancy spaces, exclusivity, and of course documentation with iPhones, cameras, and video cameras.”

Net Art Anthology

In October 2016, Rhizome launched Net Art Anthology, a two-year online exhibition devoted to restaging 100 key artworks from the history of net art. One project per week will be restaged and conceptualized through an online exhibition page. Devised in tandem with Rhizome’s digital conservation department, Net Art Anthology makes use of the tools Rhizome has developed for preserving dynamic web-based artworks. The project was launched with an artists’ panel at the New Museum on October 27, 2016, featuring Olia Lialina, Martha Wilson, Mark Tribe, and Ricardo Dominguez.

Source: Wikipedia

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