group 404 on the internet

some thoughts by h.m. van de veert, BA, dutch art historian (holland)

The annual conference of European artists ECCF has been the source of many great artistic initiatives. Yet never before has this mega-manifestation given rise to so many new ideas as in the year 1994. It was not just the Greek-Dutch Collaboration of Coal-Mining Artists that was founded in this year -- the Collaborative Group that won the prestigious Award for Renovative European Arts, but there was another group that drew a lot of attention: the Swiss-English-French initiative Group 404 (Gruppe 404, Groep 404, Groupe 404.

The special thing about this group is that they use the completely new medium Internet. They obtained free space on a great many commercial, cultural and technological locations on the Net. They never payed to get those locations: getting space for free is part of the artistic creation. In this respect the work of the group is best viewed as a virtual response to the world famous artist Christo.

The Group prefers to work as a collective. Although we sometimes see a clear signature of a certain member of the group in an individual piece, the main raison d'être seems to be the collective. The group even prefers to work anonymously. ALthough the group's name 404 (a clear reference to the crazy number fetishism that dominates the Internet) is present in almost all pieces, names and addresses of group members are never disclosed to the general public.

The Internet of course is not the proper medium to discuss at length the artistic and historical role the group plays in the history of art (cf. Van De Veer 1996 for a strong attack against the new media and some idealisation of the use of those media by real artists), we can conclude already now that the Group 404 will continue to play its role!