A pioneer of net art, Vuk Ćosić is a leading figure among the artists who first explored the creative possibilities of the World Wide Web in the mid-1990s. He is the co-founder of the influential mailing lists nettime, Syndicate, and 7-11, as well as of the Ljubljana Digital Media Lab. He is known for creating still and moving image artworks with ASCII code, using a custom-made software he developed in 1996.

 

Website of Vuk Ćosić:
www.ljudmila.org/~vuk

Belgrade (Serbia), 1963

Vuk Ćosić obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in Archaeology at the University of Belgrade in 1991. In 1994, while browsing websites (according to the artist, back then “you could surf all of the Web in one day”), he found out about the work of Heath Bunting, and later on Alexei Shulgin’s Web Art Center Moscow. In June 1995, he took part in the first meeting of the influential nettime mailing list, organized by Geert Lovink, Pit Schultz and Nils Roeller. One of the most prominent artists of the group that came to be identified with the term net.art since 1996, the origin of the term itself was wrongly attributed to him due to a prank mail sent by Shulgin to the nettime list, which is still quoted today. In 1997, several net artists were invited to participate in the documenta X in Kassel, and although Ćosić was not among them, he created the most memorable piece of net art from that event. After the organizers of documenta announced that its website would be taken down after the exhibition closed and distributed on a CD-ROM, Ćosić copied the whole site and hosted it on his own server as an artwork titled Documenta: Done (1997).

He is, however, mostly known for creating artworks using ASCII code, inspired by his attraction to “unorthodox creation and usage of writing,” and influenced by writers such as Raymond Queneau and the Oulipo group, as well cryptography and dadaism. In 1996, he developed his own software to convert still and moving images and sound into ASCII. With it, he generated notable series such as ASCII history of moving images (1998), which comprises ASCII versions of clips from a selection of films as diverse as Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, and the pornographic film Deep Throat, among others. Other works include Deep ASCII, ASCII Unreal, Instant ASCII Camera, and History of Art for the Blind. His attention to both popular and high-brow culture, as well as his irreverent sense of humour, are key elements of his work, alongside his interest in exploring novel forms of using text in audiovisual compositions.

Having described himself as a “retired net.art pioner” Ćosić continues to create and exhibit his artworks, which have been shown at the Montreal Biennale, the 49th Venice Biennale (Slovenian pavilion), the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Bucharest, Kunsthalle Fridericianum in Kassel, Moderna Galerija Ljubljana, Künstlerhaus Wien, iMal Brussels, and ZKM Karlsruhe, among others. He is currently a member of the department of Media Studies in the University of Ljubljana.

— ASCII Histoy of Moving Images: Rocky