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Library of the Printed Web: The Guy Who Makes Art Out of the Internet

Paul Soulellis makes art out of the internet.

This story appeared in the February Issue of VICE magazine. Click HERE to subscribe.

I started Library of the Printed Web sort of by accident. A few years ago, after making some publications using material that I found online, I discovered other artists who were doing like-minded things—taking artworks that only existed on the web and converting them into the printed world. I'm talking about people like Joachim Schmid, Penelope Umbrico, and Christopher Clary. So, in March 2013, I organized a small pop-up show, "Theorizing the Web," where I displayed books, zines, postcards, and newsprints by those who were working in a similar way. I gathered about 50 printouts (photos, drawings, etc.), placed them into a small wooden box, threw the container on some wheels, and rolled it into the event. My physical archive was born, and I've been collecting ever since.

In general, I've always been fascinated by the idea that digital information can be experienced in profoundly different ways when it changes states. With Library of the Printed Web, it's been easy to track—and investigate—this condition in real time. When we print something from the internet, it becomes a tangible artifact, and, in a sense, it slows down. Context shifts, and we're forced to give it another kind of attention. It can even, at times, be a political gesture. 

(We watched Bernie Sanders go viral by printing out a Trump tweet on poster board and bringing it to the Senate floor.) It just puts everything in a new light.

Following Library of the Printed Web, it wasn't long before I created a publishing component. I've premiered four issues of Printed Web—the fifth, exclusively excerpted here, along with some of my other favorite spreads from previous issues. In the past, I've partnered with places like the International Center of Photography, and had open calls that introduced me to many exciting innovators, but this is the first time I'm curating around a particular form: bots. There's a range of art here—from Allison Parrish, Joana Moll, and Matthew Plummer-Fernandez—but I was particularly interested in the response to the normalization of listening bots, like Amazon Echo and Google Home. It's my repeated effort to present the questions I've constantly asked myself about authorship and agency.

Later this year, Library of the Printed Web will be moved to the MoMA Library, where it will rest permanently. 

The following pages, designed by Soulellis, are from the upcoming issue of Printed Web.