“Welcome to My Homey Page: Seven Years of Paperrad.org,” a commission for the New Museum’s First Look: New Art Online series, presents seven individual home pages from paperrad.org, each one taken from a year in the website’s life, (2001–08).
The interface, which provides a glimpse into the prolific artistic production of this collective, was produced by New Museum affiliate Rhizome in conjunction with the preservation of the entire Paper Rad website in their online archive, the ArtBase. The project is set to launch on November 28, 2012.
One of the most important collectives to emerge in the last decade, Paper Rad exploded at the edge of a cultural time zone—before the social web—when subculture was still palpable and also clearly becoming impossible to sustain. They emerged in the early ’00s within a community dedicated to DIY art practice that had strong roots in Providence, Rhode Island, as well as cities like Detroit, Baltimore, Boston, and towns in Western Massachusetts became known for a cartoon cosmos that felt like a psychedelic, subversive response to American pop culture that was hatched out of a sincere and deep engagement to it. Their work began with ’zines and music, and eventually grew to encompass digital animation, videos, installations, and their website—paperrad.org—which became an increasingly central part of their work as it drew attention and followers.
“Welcome to My Homey Page” only alludes to the dynamism of the Paper Rad website. This project presents an evolution of yearly periods but the page was changed daily, continually layered with new content or reorganized spatially. Amid this constant development, there are a few distinguishing elements to the website that endured throughout its seven-year life. First, it carried over the DIY ethos and aesthetics from the culture from which it emerged—paperrad.org was not an easy-to-navigate online artist’s CV but existed more like a maze of found, remixed, and original content. Visitors were only able to track the identities of participating members through deep research, which lent the site a mysterious and open feel, as if Paper Rad could be as small as one person or as large as a thriving subculture. A second distinguishing factor was that Paper Rad created their own discreet world that blended influences from both analog and digital culture. In the Paper Rad cosmos, hacked and re-versioned My Little Ponies mingled with animated gifs and characters originally rendered in printed ’zines, like Tux Dog, which were digitized and made open source. This straddling of different pop cultural realms—television and the internet, mass media and amateur media—became a trademark of Paper Rad, as did a disregard for medium specificity. The Paper Rad website, presenting recycled cartoon characters like Gumby in Flash animation sagas, was evidence of the eroding boundaries between media we are so familiar with today.
Thanks to Rhizome’s preservation efforts, the Paper Rad website will be back online—free and available for the public to view. These pages, and the entire site, feel both in and out of time—representative of one of the most forerunning approaches to art-making in the last decade while also perfectly at home in the anarchic, hybridized media terrain of today.
About First Look: New Art Online
To celebrate the Museum’s 35th Anniversary, the award-winning New Museum website (newmuseum.org) has been reconceived as a unique destination with major new programs designed to strengthen and serve our digital audience. The re-envisioned website launches several key online initiatives such as the First Look series that showcases a new digital artwork each month. The selected works will represent the breadth of art online—from interactive documentary, to participatory applications, to moving-image-based works, all exploring the formal, social, and aesthetic possibilities of the web. Works will vary from pre-existing projects, which have had little exposure, to new commissions. The New Museum will invite artists who take the internet as their primary medium as well as artists established in other fields who have a project they would like to execute online. First Look is curated by Lauren Cornell, Curator of the 2015 “The Generational” Triennial, Museum as Hub, and Digital Projects. This new series reflects a strengthening of the New Museum’s ongoing commitment to the digital realm as a space for art making and its relationship with Rhizome, a leading online platform and longtime affiliate organization in residence at the Museum.