Russian artist Olia Lialina’s “My Boyfriend Came Back From The War” (MBCBFTW) is a key work of 1990s artistic practice on the web, marking its 20th anniversary in 2016. It has a pioneering character, as an interactive narrative and a work of net art. MBCBFTW presents two people who are trying to talk to each other about a war, after the fact.
“My Boyfriend Came Back From the War” is a unique case and a fascinating example of a work that has inspired artists for 20 years; they cite it time and again, they focus on it or reinterpret it through remixing. Lialina has collected these works in her private archive under the title Last Real Net Art Museum. So far she has gathered 27 versions, 13 of which she has chosen for the HeK exhibition. Thus the show covers an arc of more than two decades of artistic practice on the net. Her collection includes works from the pioneering phase of the mid- to late 1990s up to today. With these artistic works, the exhibition illuminates 20 years of the World Wide Web as medium and technology – from the initial enthusiasm over a new medium to its acceptance as an omnipresent technology today. The Internet’s stages of development will be traced through the structure and technical constitution of the projects: from HTML to Flash, from dot-com to e-commerce, from the website to the app.
Those shown here will be presented on historical equipment, in order to capture their original “look and feel” and demonstrate changes within the communications technologies, up to and including today’s all-encompassing Internet, accessible anytime and anywhere thanks to mobile devices.
A publication linked to the exhibition will present both the works themselves and key essays on the development of Internet culture. The authors include Michael Connor, curator and director of the Internet platform Rhizome in New York; Joanne McNeil, freelance curator and author; Russian Internet theorist Roman Leibov; and the American science fiction author Bruce Sterling.