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WonderWalker (A Global Online Wunderkammer)

Steve Dietz, 2000
WonderWalker is a project by Marek Walczak and Martin Wattenberg commissioned by Gallery 9/Walker Art Center with funds from the Bush Foundation as part of a grant to explore global issues across the museum's programming. It launched November 3, 2000, as part of the Medi@terra Festival in Athens, Greece.

In some senses, WonderWalker is another response to questions raised--both internally and externally--when the Walker formed it's Digital Arts Study Collection with the hosting of äda'web and the commissioning of The Unreliable Archivist by Janet Cohen, Keith Frank, and Jon Ippolito. What, indeed, does it mean for an institution to collect/archive digital objects and web-based works?

The idea for a commission related specifically to wunderkammer and cabinets of curiosity first germinated in conversations with my colleague Sarah Schultz, director of Education and Community Programs, who has organized a series of lectures about collecting and the institution. The idea sprouted further, in two talks I presented around these issues of archiving and the institution in Barcelona and at a symposium sponsored by Parsons School of Design, "Excavating the Archive: New Technologies of Memory", with particular reference to a paper by Friedrich Kittler, which proposed the reintroduction of the conceit of the wunderkammer in the digital age. The talk is presented here as The Online Museum-Archive-Library of Wonder-Curiosity-Art.

Thanks also go to artist/educators Richard Rinehart and Brett Stallbaum, who worked with their students to experiment with and prototype issues of classification, authority, and interface in relation to the idea of the wunderkammer. Rick writes up this work in Global Online Wunderkammer -> WonderWalker: a truncated
project (pre)history.

In some ways, the idea of a Global Online Wunderkammer as a way to intersect individual points of view with the institutional fabric in a networked society is ironic, if not misguided. In fact, the early wunderkammer were not intended for a public audience; rather they were the private preserve of an elite few, a material basis for power through knowledge.

In WonderWalker, however, Marek and Martin have wrested exclusivity away from institutional authority by creating, as they emphasize in their interview, a social space, much more about interaction than classification per se.

Add your curious connections to the WonderWalker or simply visit and be amazed by this open-ended, self-oganizing collection of the Internet.

First published by Gallery 9/Walker Art Center, 2000.