Armin Medosch on Tue, 3 Mar 1998 21:48:25 +0100 (MET)

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<nettime> Leading Art Site Suspended

Leading Art Site Suspended

          By MATTHEW MIRAPAUL=20

               The Ada'web Web site, one of the most dynamic destinations
               for original Web-based art, is being suspended.

          Benjamin Weil, the co-founder of Ada'web, announced on Monday in
          an e-mail message that Digital City Inc., the site's publisher,
          had canceled its financing and that Ada'web would cease producing
          new artistic content. Weil is now seeking a permanent home for
          its archives so that its material can remain accessible.

          In a telephone interview on Monday afternoon, Weil (pronounced
          "vial") said the five Ada'web employees were expected to leave
          their Manhattan office by the end of the week.

          "It's not the most rejoicing news," Weil said. "However, this was
          more or less doomed to happen. Obviously, the compatibility
          between what Digital City is planning to do on the Web and what
          we've been doing is not clear. When companies restructure and
          refine their focus, what is not within that beam of focus is
          going to be taken away."

          Since it was conceived in late 1994, Ada'web has become one of
          the premier destinations for online creativity. Ultimately, it
          presented about 15 Web-specific projects by such high-profile
          contributors as the conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner. The site's
          first offering, launched officially in May 1995, was Jenny
          Holzer's "Please Change Beliefs."

          In contrast, Digital City is assembling a nationwide network of
          online guides to metropolitan areas, including Digital City New

          The announcement of Ada'web's demise comes 13 months after John
          Borthwick, the new-media pioneer and Ada'web's co-founder, sold
          control of WP Studio to Digital City, owned primarily by America
          Online and the Tribune Company. Borthwick did not returned a call
          for comment.

          Weil said: "Two weeks ago, it started becoming clear that, within
          the restructuring that was taking place at Digital City, there
          would be a serious problem. Last week, they said, 'We don't have
          any more money to fund this,' and then it was our decision, more
          or less, to stop. You know, how could we do it without money?"

          In addition to =F5da'web, WP Studio published Total New York, an
          online city guide, and The Spanker, an electronic magazine with
          attitude. Both of those sites will also be shuttered, although
          some of their seven employees may find work elsewhere within the
          Digital City organization, according to Sean Elder, the executive
          producer of Total New York.

          Typically, Internet-art sites are personally paid for by their
          creators or subsidized by a cultural or educational institution.
          After Ada'web fell under the Digital City corporate umbrella,
          skeptics started to anticipate its closing, unable to reconcile
          the site's high-minded mission with the mass-market orientation
          of the metro guides. Nor, given the often-challenging nature of
          the material, was commercial sponsorship a likely option.

          Weil agreed, saying: "For one year, it's been very difficult.
          We've been trying to find ways for our corporate parent to
          understand that there was value in this for them. It seemed like
          the message didn't really get through. And then we tried to go
          non-profit to remain online, but we realized there was very
          little funding available."

          Weil is negotiating with a "prominent" American museum to acquire
          the Ada'web archives, although he declined to reveal its name. He
          said the institution would be outside Manhattan, ruling out the
          Museum of Modern Art, with which Ada'web has previously
          collaborated on several projects. He also excluded the San
          Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which last year asked the site to
          donate its digits to its graphics collection.

          "The institution that is probably going to end up with the site
          is very interested in using it as the basis for a very ambitious
          project in collecting online art," Weil disclosed, "and also as a
          research and educational instrument. They've got quite a lot of
          ideas around it, but they won't touch the site itself. The site
          is going to be sealed completely."

          Ada'web's name is a tribute to the Countess of Lovelace, Ada
          Byron King, who was Lord Byron's daughter and something of a
          Renaissance woman. In addition to being a poet and a musician,
          she was a scientist who collaborated with Charles Babbage on some
          early computing devices. If Babbage was the father of computing,
          King was the mother of software, the developer of what many
          consider to be the first operating system.

          Weil, 34 years old, said Digital City had agreed to maintain
          Ada'web until a new home for its archive was found. The Ada'web
          staff is completing its last project, "Dataspace," a
          collaboration with the artist Laura Kurgan.

          Two weeks ago, Ada'web employees held an opening reception for
          its most-recent exhibit, "Blindspot," the first Web project by
          the novelist Darcey Steinke.

          "Little did we know it was our last party," Weil said.
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