TimeStream press release

January, 2001

Published by Museum of Modern Art


On February 15, 2001, artist Tony Oursler and The Museum of Modern Art launch TimeStream, a broadband Web site that is the first in a new series of interactive projects produced by MoMA. As an artist known for constructing phantasmagorical video tales, Oursler has now co-opted the hard drive. TimeStream, located at www.timestream.moma.org, presents the online visitor with an "optical timeline" that, like Oursler's other work, mixes intricate research with idiosyncratic information.

Users of the site will follow Oursler's shadow history of telecommunications, which is divided into four distinct chapters of history, from antiquity up to the present. References to early technologies such as the camera obscura, Leyden jar, kaleidoscope, and X-ray indicate precursors to today's Web art, satellites, cell phones, and minuscule surveillance cameras. Each new advance is not without uncanny repercussions in social conventions, however, such as the creation of the Ouija board following the development of the telegraph.

"TimeStream demonstrates the resonance of the moving image's transformation from medium to medium," notes Barbara London, Associate Curator, Department of Film and Video, who organized and produced the site. "Oursler's interpretations of technology within the evolving world of the Internet are expressed in a collage of mysterious apparitions."

The inherent qualities of TimeStream relate directly to the HTML and JavaScript used in the project. The site was built by Eric Rosevear, a designer well known for his gritty approach to Internet production, with technical assistance provided by C404. Timestream can be accessed from the Internet at www.timestream.moma.org or from the kiosks at MoMA's CafeĢ/Etc. (on the Museum's lower level), as part of an installation designed by Oursler.

"TimeStream is an interactive timeline that invites the viewer to trace the development of various technologies from virtual imaging to telecommunications and to make cultural connections between these developments," says artist Tony Oursler. "As an artist, it is my hope that people will use this timeline to better understand their position within it and the creation of the next moments."

For the new online projects series, MoMA will invite, on an annual basis, two to three artists working in different mediums to create projects for its Web site. The next artists to be featured on the site will be chosen by a committee of MoMA curators from different departments later in the year. The new artist sites will join the Museum's Web archive of earlier online projects, which date back to 1995.

This program comes at a time when MoMA's Fifty-third Street gallery space is temporarily constricted while construction proceeds for its new $650 million building project, to be completed in late 2004 to early 2005. MoMA has a vigorous exhibition program scheduled throughout the expansion; the design for a temporary exhibition space, MoMA QNS, in Long Island City, is in progress. This virtual forum, however, will allow the Museum yet another way to bring contemporary art to the public during this period of transition.

"The portability of the online series and its availability to anyone who has a Web connection is an important part of our strategy to engage artists and audiences in a time of physical change at the Museum," says MoMA Director Glenn D. Lowry.

TimeStream is made possible by Susan G. Jacoby, the Edward and Marjorie Goldberger Foundation, and by The Contemporary Arts Council and The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art. Additional support is provided by NEC Technologies and Color Wheel.