A Fat, Juicy File of Web Art: Net Art in the Museum and New Ways of Collecting
In 2016, Hong Kong’s M+ Museum acquired the entire body of work, past and future, of Seoul-based internet art duo Young Hae-Chang Heavy Industries (YHCHI). The initial batch of works, accessioned under one title YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES: THE COMPLETE WORKS (YHCHANG.COM/AP2) included more than 450 animations created initially in now obsolete Adobe Flash format. The ‘collectible’ consists of videos that YHCHI share on their website accompanied by drafts and preparatory work, artworks that had previously been presented as installations, and public performance lectures. The internationally unprecedented decision of M+ shifts a commonly asked question on what it means for an institution to own a net art piece, to what it entails for a museum to own a still-expanding oeuvre by living net art artists.
This paper will address these questions by examining how this ‘unruly’ musealium challenges institutional collection care practices and how museums as safe-keepers can learn and benefit from dealing with unconventional musealia. Through the example of the collaboration between YHCHI and M+, it will reflect on the importance of establishing long-term relationships between institutions and artists for perpetuating media art forms.
Unpacking the YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES acquisition at M+. | Photo: M+, Hong Kong