In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Digital Debris of Internet ArtAn Allegorical and Entropic Resistance to the Epistemology of Search
  • Nils Jean

The research explores the idea of digital debris in Internet art from 1993 to 2011. Here, digital debris is understood as streams of data that are turned into a material. As a result, the thesis aims at unpacking and defining the paradoxical state of digital debris. The research argues that the digital debris of Internet art represent an allegorical and entropic resistance to what art historian David Joselit calls the Epistemology of Search. To do so, the project develops a speculative language in between the agency of the artist and the autonomy of the algorithm.

While New Realist studies are concerned with the material object of the computer as debris, very few studies have analyzed waste as discarded data in their visuality. Illustrations of such considerations can be found, for instance, in Cory Arcangel’s work Data Diaries (2001)—where QuickTime files are stolen, disassembled and then re-used in new displays—or in Jodi’s (1993) and Asdfg (1998), where websites and hyperlinks are detourned, deconstructed and presented in abstract collages that reveal the architecture of the Internet.

Not only does the thesis question the status of digital debris once it is incorporated into art practices but it also examines the method according to which it is retrieved, manipulated and displayed to submit that digital debris of Internet art is the result of both semantic and automated processes. The PhD concludes that the serendipity at play in digital debris holds a form of entropy that imbues it with criticality.

Click for larger view
View full resolution

Nils Jean, Digital Debris, an Installation, digital print, RCA SHOW, 2015.

(© Nils Jean. Photo: Dominic Tschudin.)

Supplementary Material

Digital Debris of Internet Art, an Allegorical and Entropic Resistance to the Epistemology of Search. (.jpg 4 MB)
[Click to Download] An illustration of the artworks discussed by Dr Jean in his writing. (© Nils Jean 2015)

Nils Jean
<>. PhD diss., Royal College of Art, U.K., 2016.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
p. 533
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.