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Exhibit: The Rotten Machine, Retrospective of Brian Mackern’s Early Net Art Activities

Still from video documentation, available at Dropbox

The Rotten Machine (La Maquina Podrida) is currently on display at the MEIAC, in Badajoz, Spain.   On the 8th of May 2004, Brian Mackern, born and living in Montevideo, Uruguay, put for sale his personal laptop computer, in which he developed his early net art projects.  He also used the machine to document early online activity–particularly from around the Americas.

When considering the history of new media, the sale was made at a moment when web 2.0 was about to change: the blog, for instance, which was one of the pivotal tools of the next stage of web development, became quite popular at this time.  Simultaneously, the machine’s sale is an overt commentary on the preciousness of the work of art, which was the subject of several attempts of dematerialization during the heyday of conceptualism. The fetishization of the object of art was an issue to consider for many early online art practitioners, since in online practice there appeared to be  no “object of art” to deal with directly.  The Rotten Machine turns this convention on its head, and shows that “anything” can be commodified.

These are some of my brief observations on a work that deserves more analysis, and that I hope now that it enjoys its first exhibit, will be acknowledged around the world as an important contribution to the history of art. 

Hard disk of the rotten machine with the fingerprint of its owner, brian mackern

A text was written in 2004 by Raquel Herrera: http://www.cibersociedad.net/congres2004/grups/fitxacom_publica2.php?idioma=ca&id=95&grup=60

Below is part of the official press release written by curator, Nilo Casares:


exhibition:::::::::::::::::::the rotten machine aka the toothless old thing
:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::all net.art in a brian mackern’s laptop

works of:::::::::::::::::::::brian mackern

curator::::::::::::::::::::::nilo casares

technical coordination:::::::àngela montesinos

and organization:::::::::::::meiac

texts of catalogue:::::::::::rodrigo alonso
:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::andrés burbano
:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::nilo casares
:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::gabriel galli
:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::brian mackern
:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::àngela montesinos

edited by::::::::::::::::::::nilo casares


designer:::::::::::::::::::::fundc [http://www.fundc.com]



:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::from tuesdays until saturdays

gallery::::::::::::::::::::::3th floor
:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::virgen de guadalupe, 7.
:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::[meiac@juntaextremadura.net  ]

press contact::::::::::::::::àngela montesinos

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::exhibition intro::::::::::::::::::::::

the rotten machine is a surprising exhibition that emanates from an old laptop from 1999, owned by the uruguayan netartist brian mackern, to recreate the time when net.art had its peak brightness, and perhaps therefore, the rattle before the emergence of web 2.0 (known as social network).

brian mackern is a founding artist who was ahead of the time in the development of online and offline soundvisual interfaces. founder of online directories artef@ctos virtuales [http://www.internet.com.uy/vibri] and latin netart database [http://netart.org.uy/latino/index.html] (currently owned by meiac).his reference sites are http://netart.org.uy, http://34s56w.org and http://no-content.net.

his computer, the rotten machine, it’s full and complete of all the data collected until the moment it was decided to be sold, on the 8th of may, 2004. it was the working tool (the studio, in classical terms) that accompanied brian mackern between 1999 and 2004, both in his personal work and in collaborative works for other artists and net jamms, apart from his work as a vj, conferences and workshops. in short, his tool.

a computer full of information and history, acquired by the meiac in order to expose it to posterity, when the development of hardware and software will prevent us from viewing many of the art pieces hosted on this computer.

the exhibition is divided into 5 audiovisual stations navigated by brian mackern himself.

1 – anthropological station: content and hardware components of the machine. sounds generated by its operation. references to files, etc.

2 – studio station: personal work (source files and visible works). the source code of his own work and at the same time the navigation of it.

3 – internet and networking station: content related to many of the projects and online/offline collaborative groups in which brian mackern has intervened.

4 – file, documentation and analysis station: random collection of information about net.art and internet culture of that time.

5 – history station. history of net.art: remix of endless net.art sites, in different states of preservation, many of them with retrofitted code to allow navigation within the machine without internet connection.


a: starting point for the auction of the “rotten machine”. peam,
pescara (italy), 2004

b: display of directories contained in the computer

c: hard disk of the rotten machine with the fingerprint of its owner,
brian mackern

d: some of the stickers on the computer

e: keys that are missing, the reason why this computer is also called
*the toothless old thing*

f: way in which *the rotten machine* was exposed for auction in peam,
pescara (italy), 2004

g: accompanying monster for the rotten machine during countless
tours, alongside with the backpack shown in the picture above

h: the rotten machine working, during the exhibition for its auction
at peam, pescara (italy), 2004

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