Semiography: Art History as an Art Medium in the Age of the Network

A project by Chrystelle Desbordes and Christophe Bruno


Laureate «Villa Medicis Hors les Murs Artistic Residency 2016», The French Institute, (CA, USA, 2016)

«The convergence will not happen’ between the seemingly irreconcilable aesthetics of ‘Duchamp-land’ and ‘Turing-land’», Lev Manovich, The Death of Computer Art, 1996

«What cultural epistemology might a digital reordering underwrite for art practice, art museum, and art history alike?», Hal Foster, Design and Crime: And Other Diatribes, 2002

Semiography deals with representations, archives and signs in relation with the idea that the advent of the network (and more precisely the transition from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0) entails a shift that turns art history into an art medium.

The project was initiated in 2013 by the encounter between an art historian, Chrystelle Desbordes, working on art history in the age of the network and a network artist, Christophe Bruno, using art history as a medium for his art.

The second episode, Semiography #2, allowed us to be selected by the French Institute in 2015 as lauréat de la Résidence « Hors les Murs », with California as our destination, from August to mid-October 2016.

Our residency project Semiography #2 focuses on the specific context of the hard-to-reconcile territories of “Turing-Land” and “Duchamp-Land”. We investigate the two-fold emergence that occurred in the 60-70’s: on the one hand, the emergence of Californian conceptual art (at the crossroads of Pop Art / Minimal Art / Land Art / Feminist Art / Performance Art, etc.), and, on the other hand, the rise of digital technologies whose pioneers settled in the Silicon Valley. To question contemporary art history, its symptoms, its writings and survivances (“nachleben”) and its possible futures, we will use and hijack digital tools from the big data era (producing maps, cycles, atlases, graphs…) and we will meet and interview artists, researchers, actors within the digital economy, between L.A. and San Francisco.The results of our research will be presented in various exhibitions and contexts.