Digital storytelling: My boyfriend came back from the war

I’m liking the idea of posting a short note about technology + art or technology + creativity on Sundays. It seems like the perfect day for not being practical, right? Let’s see how it goes…

I’ve been doing some research on net art narratives, and I’m finding some surprising stuff. This strange but moving example by Russian artist and film critic Olia Lialina called “My boyfriend came back from the war” was done almost 20 years ago, in 1996. I’m trying to grasp a mindset that could produce something like this, back then. It’s quite amazing, a multi-layered story that’s complex and simple at the same time. Open up the web and click on images, words, whatever, and you join a disjointed conversation about hope, stress, love and betrayal. I say “join” rather than “witness” because you direct the pace and order of the dialogue, which makes it feel as if you are participating. Web 2.0, before it’s time. 

Internet art by Olia Lialina

My boyfriend came back from the war, by Olia Lialina (click to go to the interactive page)

Olia was one of the first to talk about “medium specific” art: not art or stories that are shown on the internet, but art and stories that are made for the internet. Adapting isn’t enough. We need to try things that have never been possible to do before. And this was way before the word “disruption” was everywhere.

Its simplicity and “clunkiness” (compared to the slick productions of today) give it a nostalgic feel, that in the current retro-mad culture seems almost modern. Vintage internet? Is that really a thing? Yes, and in this case it shows us that almost 20 years ago can still be surprising and relevant today.

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