Digital Folklore

25. July 2015 - 01. November 2015 Dortmunder U, Level 3

After having been extended due to its popular success our exhibition Digital Folklore finally closed on Sunday, 1 November. Almost 8.200 visitors immersed themselves in the wild prehistory of the WWW. We would like to express our gratitude to all those who were as much enthused by the exhibition – curated by Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied – as we were!


`Computer and net culture are only marginally determined by technological innovation. After all, it is irrelevant who has invented the microchip, the mouse, the TCP/IP protocol or the World Wide Web, or what was the rationale behind them. What matters, rather, is who is using them, and to what avail. If computer technology has any cultural significance, it is indeed solely owed to its users. Yet their own creative efforts, from shiny-stars live wallpapers to pictures of cute cats or rainbow gradients, are mostly derided as kitsch or general cultural waste. Digital Folklore argues that this apparent aesthetic clutter, created by users for users, is the most important, beautiful and widely misunderstood language of New Media.´

The world’s first exhibition around “digital folklore” is based on the archive One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age, which comprises the remains of 381,934 GeoCities homepages made by amateurs in the pre-industrial era of the World Wide Web. GeoCities, the first free web hosting service, was created in 1994. Only five years later, it sold to Yahoo!, then an Internet giant, which eventually shut it down in 2009. Although GeoCities holds an eminent place in the short history of the WWW as one of its most visited servers at one point, it was short-lived and has already fallen into oblivion. All that is left are the legends and rituals surrounding it.

Among the 28 million+ files – which were hastily copied a few days before total deletion – are user-built personal websites, fan, mourning, recipe, arts and crafts, computer game and domestic pet pages, rotating “Welcome To My Homepage” and “Under Construction” signs, shiny-stars wallpapers and jittery animated characters. For the purpose of this exhibition, these and many other manifestations have been digitally restored and reinterpreted by artists.

An exhibition by the GeoCities Research Institute.

Digital Folklore is a sequel to the immensely popular exhibition „Jetzt helfe ich mir selbst“ (Now I Can Help Myself) - The 100 best Internet video tutorials shown at HMKV in 2014.


Digital Folklore gathers for the first time works inspired by GeoCities by the net artist and folklorist
Olia Lialina (@GIFmodel),
the artist and digital conservator Dragan Espenschied (@despens),
and their students from Merz Akademie.
They are supported by the head of the Archive Team
Jason Scott (@textfiles),
the US artist Joel Holmberg (@dotkalm)
and the expert for Chinese net culture Gabriele de Seta (@SanNuvola).

Curators: Prof. Olia Lialina (Stuttgart) and Dragan Espenschied (New York)

Admission to the exhibition is free - as AOL-free minutes!

Funders and Partners

In Cooperation with:
Merz Akademie - Hochschule für Gestaltung, Kunst und Medien, Stuttgart

Main sponsors of the HMKV:
Dortmunder U – Center for Art and Creativity
Cultural Department of the City of Dortmund
Ministry for Family, Children, Youth, Culture and Sport of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia

Cultural Partner:

Media Partners:
ARTE Creative

You will find press material on this program item in our press area.