Rhizome (organization)

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Rhizome is an American not-for-profit arts organization that supports and provides a platform for new media art.

Rhizome at the New Museum
Rhizome organization logo.png
FounderMark Tribe
TypeArt nonprofit
Headquarters235 Bowery, New York, NY 10002
Executive Director
Zachary Kaplan
Key people
Michael Connor, Aria Dean, Dragan Espenschied, Ilya Kreymer, Kaela Noel


Artist and curator Mark Tribe founded Rhizome as an email list in 1996 while living in Berlin.[1][2] The list included a number of people Tribe had met at Ars Electronica[3] By August, Rhizome had launched its website, which by 1998 had developed a significant readership within the Internet art community.[4] Originally designated a business, Rhizome became a nonprofit organization in 1998, switching to the domain-name suffix ".org.".[4] In an interview with Laurel Ptak for the Bard Center for Curatorial Studies and Art in Contemporary Culture Archive, Tribe explains "I thought of it as Artforum meets AltaVista (AltaVista was one of the first web search engines), as a kind of bottom-up alternative to the top-down hierarchies of the art world."[5]

Rhizome established an online archive called the ArtBase in 1999.[6] The ArtBase was initially conceived exclusively as a database of net art works. Today, the scope of the ArtBase has expanded to include other forms of art engaged with technology, including games, software, and interdisciplinary projects with online elements. The works are submitted by the artists themselves.[7] In addition to hosting archived work, Rhizome's digital preservation work includes conservation of digital art and updating obsolete code.[8]

In 2003, Rhizome became affiliated with the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City.[9] Today, Rhizome's programs include events, exhibitions at the New Museum and elsewhere, an active website, and an archive of more than 2,000 new media artworks.[10]

The organization has published one book with Link Editions, "The Best of Rhizome 2012" edited by former editor Joanne McNeil. In 2015, the organization relaunched rhizome.org with a new design created by Wieden+Kennedy.[11]

Digital Preservation Program[edit]

Rhizome operates a digital preservation program, led by Dragan Espenschied, which is focused on the creation of free, open source software tools to decentralize web archiving and software preservation practices and ensure continuing access to its collections of born-digital art.[10]


Founded in 1999, the Rhizome ArtBase is an online archive of new media art containing some 2,110 art works. The ArtBase encompasses a vast range of projects by artists all over the world that employ materials including software, code, websites, moving image, games and browsers to aesthetic and critical ends.[10]

Web archiving[edit]

In response to the needs of the ArtBase—as well as to the increasing number of artists creating works on social media platforms and as interactive websites—in 2014 Rhizome began a program to develop open source web archiving tools that could both serve its mission and a broader community of users.[10] Rhizome launched the social media archiving tool Colloq in 2014, which works by replicating the interface of social media platforms.[12] Amalia Ulman's instagram project "Excellences and Perfections" (2014) was the first social media artwork archived with Colloq.[12] Colloq pays special attention to the way a user interacts with the social media interface at the time of creation, using a technique called "web capturing" to store website behaviors.[13] The tool was developed by Ilya Kremer and Rhizome's Digital Conservator Dragan Espenscheid. In 2015, Rhizome unveiled its archive of the influential art blog VVORK, marking the first time Colloq was used to archive an entire website.[14] Archiving VVORK allowed Rhizome to tackle the challenge of archiving embedded video content, which is often hosted on a third-party site.[14] The website had been previously archived by Internet Archive,[15] but this recording did not include embedded media like videos that Colloq was built to capture.[14] Of the tool, Jon Ippolito, professor of new media at the University of Maine, said: it makes archives "as close as possible, you’re going to get the experience of interacting with the actual site."[16]

In 2015, Rhizome folded the Colloq project into a more expansive Webrecorder initiative.[17] In August 2016, the organization launched the public release of a more fully realized Webrecorder tool, which is a free web archiving tool that allows users to create their own archives of the dynamic web.[18] Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Webrecorder is targeted towards archiving social media, video content, and other dynamic content, rather than static webpages. Webrecorder is an attempt to place web archiving tools in the hands of individual users and communities. It uses a "symmetrical web archiving" approach, meaning the same software is used to record and play back the website.[19] While other web archiving tools run a web crawler to capture sites, Webrecorder takes a different method, actually recording a user browsing the site to capture its interactive features.


In December 2015, Rhizome launched oldweb.today, a project that allows users to view archived webpages within emulated versions of legacy web browsers.[20] Users are given the option of browsing the site of their choice within versions of Mosaic, Netscape Navigator, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome. The project gives users a deeper understanding of web history and the way browsing environments alter one's experience of the internet. It is an example of "Emulation as a Service" technology, imitating old software programs so that they can run on new computers.

Rhizome Commissions Program[edit]

Founded in 2001 to support artists working with technology, the Rhizome Commissions Program has awarded more than 100 commissions as of 2016.[11] In 2008, Rhizome expanded the scope of the commissions from strictly Internet-based art to the broad range of forms and practices that fall under the category of new media art. This includes projects that creatively engage new and networked technologies or reflect on the impact of these tools and media. With this expanded format, commissioned works can take the final form of online works, performance, video, installation or sound art. Projects can be made for the context of the gallery, the public, the web or networked devices.[21]

Among the artists awarded a Rhizome commission: Heba Amin, Aleksandra Domanović, Aram Bartholl, Knifeandfork (Brian House and Sue Huang), Mendi & Keith Obadike, Trevor Paglen, Jon Rafman, Tao Lin, Tristan Perich, Angelo Plessas. Brody Condon, Jona Bechtolt, Kristin Lucas, Evan Roth, Rafaël Rozendaal, eteam, Steve Lambert, Zach Lieberman, Porpentine (game designer).[21]

Exhibition Program[edit]

In its two decades of activity, Rhizome has presented exhibitions online and in gallery spaces.

ArtBase 101[edit]

In 2005 at the New Museum, Rhizome presented this exhibition of 40 selections from its online archive of new media art, the ArtBase. Cocurated by then-director Lauren Cornell and former director Rachel Greene, the exhibition addressed dirt style, net cinema, games, e-commerce, data visualization and databases, online celebrity, public space, software, cyberfeminism, and early net.art. Selected artists included John F. Simon Jr., M. River and T. Whid Art Associates, 0100101110101101.org, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, and Cory Arcangel. Sarah Boxer, reviewing the exhibition for the New York Times called Artbase 101 "an ambitious and risky thing to do."[22]

New York New York Happy Happy (NY NY HP HP)[edit]

In 2013, the organization presented an experiential artwork by artist Ed Fornieles, which sent up art world and high society debauchery with "forced undressing," eating salami slices from nude bodies, the exploitation of unpaid performance artists, and male strippers.[23][24] Writing for Noisy, Zach Sokol said of the event: "Fornieles may be tinkering with the idea that we force imagined social archetypes and social spaces into existence... We all become sociopaths when there are beautiful people, fancy spaces, exclusivity, and of course documentation with iPhones, cameras, and video cameras."[25]

Net Art Anthology[edit]

In October 2016, Rhizome launched Net Art Anthology, a two-year online exhibition devoted to restaging 100 key artworks from the history of net art. One project per week will be restaged and conceptualized through an online exhibition page. Devised in tandem with Rhizome's digital conservation department, Net Art Anthology makes use of the tools Rhizome has developed for preserving dynamic web-based artworks.[26] The project was launched with an artists' panel at the New Museum on October 27, 2016, featuring Olia Lialina, Martha Wilson, Mark Tribe, and Ricardo Dominguez.[27]

Seven on Seven[edit]

Since 2010, Rhizome has held an annual conference at the New Museum pairing leading technologists and contemporary artists to create something new—art, apps, often arguments about digital culture.[28] The program has led to many influential projects such as a start-up called Monegraph; a short documentary film for The New York Times by Laura Poitras; and artworks later shown at major art institutions, like Image Atlas by Taryn Simon and Aaron Swartz.[29][30][31]

Artists that have participated in Seven on Seven: Evan Roth, Aaron Koblin, Monica Narula, Ryan Trecartin, Tauba Auerbach, Marc Andre Robinson, Kristin Lucas, Michael Bell-Smith, Ricardo Cabello (mr.doob), Liz Magic Laser, Zach Lieberman, Rashaad Newsome, Ryder Ripps, Camille Utterback, Emily Royston, Aram Bartholl, Xavier Cha, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Naeem Mohaiemen, Jon Rafman, Taryn Simon and Stephanie Syjuco.[32]

Technologists who have participated in Seven on Seven: Jeff Hammerbacher, Joshua Schachter, Matt Mullenweg, Andrew Kortina, Hilary Mason, Ayah Bdeir, David Karp, Andy Baio, Ben Cerveny, Jeri Ellsworth, Kellan Elliott-McCrea, Bre Pettis, Chris Poole (moot), Erica Sadun, Jeremy Ashkenas, Blaine Cook, Michael Herf, Charles Forman, Aaron Swartz, Grant Olney Passmore, Khoi Vinh and Anthony Volodkin.[32]

Previous Seven on Sevens have been supported by Ace Hotel and HTC.[33][34][35]


In 2014 the organization publicly denounced a work by artist Ryder Ripps[36] titled "Art Whore". Ripps had previously contributed to the organization,[37] was shortlisted for their Prix Net Art,[38] and had been a participant in the Seven on Seven conference.[39][40][41] The controversy was covered by various publications, including Gawker[42] and Art Fag City.[43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Digital Artworks that Play Against Expectations", New York Times, September 30, 2002.
  2. ^ The Rhizome email list was hosted by Desk.nl in Amsterdam starting February 1, 1996. "Community Via E-Mail List", by Mark Tribe.
  3. ^ "Interview with Mark Tribe, Founder, Rhizome", Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, April 29, 2010.
  4. ^ a b "Art Site Takes Plunge Into Not-for-Profitability"
  5. ^ Ptak, Laurel. "Interview with Mark Tribe, Founder, Rhizome". Art Spaces Archives Project. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  6. ^ Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI)
  7. ^ Preserving the Rhizome Artbase
  8. ^ Digital Preservation Practices and the Rhizome ArtBase
  9. ^ "New Museum Joins Forces with Artists' Web Site," New York Times, September 30, 2003
  10. ^ a b c d Duron, Max. "A NET ART PIONEER EVOLVES WITH THE DIGITAL AGE: RHIZOME TURNS 20". Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  11. ^ a b Chiaverina, John. "'UNDER CONSTRUCTION SINCE 1996': RHIZOME'S NEWLY REMODELED WEBSITE DEBUTS". Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  12. ^ a b Dazed (2014-10-23). "New Rhizome tool preserves net art for future generations". Dazed. Retrieved 2016-10-29.
  13. ^ "Preserving Instagram's #perfect troll". Hopes&Fears. Retrieved 2016-10-29.
  14. ^ a b c "After VVORK: How (and why) we archived a contemporary art blog". Rhizome. Retrieved 2016-10-29.
  15. ^ "VVORK on Archive.org"
  16. ^ Goel, Vindu (19 October 2014). "A Dynamic New Tool to Preserve the Friendsters of the Future". New York Times. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  17. ^ Connor, Michael. "WORKING TO CREATE A DIGITAL SOCIAL MEMORY FOR ALL". Knight Foundation. Knight Foundation. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  18. ^ "Rhizome Releases First Public Version of Webrecorder". Rhizome. Retrieved 2016-10-29.
  19. ^ "Symmetrical Web Archiving with Webrecorder, a Browser-based Tool for Digital Social Memory. An Interview with Ilya Kreymer | NDSR – NY". ndsr.nycdigital.org. Retrieved 2016-10-29.
  20. ^ Dellinger, AJ (8 December 2015). "Oldweb.today lets you browse the Internet like it's 1999". Daily Dot. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  21. ^ a b "Rhizome Commissions". rhizome.org. Rhizome. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  22. ^ Boxer, Sarah (June 28, 2005). "Web Works That Insist on Your Full Attention". New York Times. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  23. ^ "Hungry for Love, The New Inquiry"
  24. ^ "NY NY Happy Happy An art event goes awry"
  25. ^ "I Ate Salami Off a Naked Person and Acted Like a Sociopath at a Fake Gala"
  26. ^ Rose, Frank (October 23, 2016). "The Mission to Save Vanishing Internet Art". New York Times. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  27. ^ Chiaverina, John (3 November 2016). "Keep It in the Browser: At the New Museum Launch of Rhizome's Net Art Anthology". ArtNEWS. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  28. ^ Thayer, Katheryn. "What Happens When Artists And Technologists Work Together: Inside The Seven On Seven Conference". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-11-04.
  29. ^ "Electronic Superhighway Guide" (PDF). Whitechapel Gallery Website. Whitechapel Gallery. October 2015. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  30. ^ Constine, Josh. "Monegraph Uses Bitcoin Tech So Internet Artists Can Establish "Original" Copies Of Their Work". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2016-11-04.
  31. ^ Poitras, Laura (2015-06-09). "The Art of Dissent". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-11-04.
  32. ^ a b "Seven on Seven website". Seven on Seven. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  35. ^ "#7on7HTC: Fever Pitch"
  36. ^ "Controversial Tweet"
  37. ^ "The Week Ahead: Thank You Edition"
  38. ^ "Announcing the 10 Artists Shortlisted for the Prix Net Art"
  39. ^ "Rhizome announces the Seven on Seven line-up"
  40. ^ "Barbican Rhizome's Seven on Seven event page"
  41. ^ "Seven on Seven LDN: RYDER RIPPS"
  42. ^ "Artist's Scummy Escort Exploitation Turns Art World Against Him"
  43. ^ "Ryder Ripps’s “ART WHORE” In the Running For Most Offensive Project of 2014"

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]