The main idea of “Lost Not Found: The Circulation of Images in Digital Visual Culture,” an essay written by Marisa Olson for LACMA’s Words Without Pictures essay series, is this:


After Web 2.0, the materials that form the foundation of the Internet are all of the circulating found photographs and amateur videos contained in searchable databases and meme blogs.  These “vertebrae,” as Olson calls them, tend to be overlooked, though.

She writes:

Those split-second bloopers, acts of conspicuous consumption, and diaristic elevations of

otherwise banal moments found on sites with names like FAIL ( and Ffffound (.com) comprise the backbone of contemporary digital visual culture. They are the vertebrae of a body that we otherwise seek to theorize as amorphous. We tend to

overlook this proliferation of images, considering it as somehow anomalous and not yet part of the master narrative of network conditions.




Because these anonymous images and video clips are not visible as the vertebra of the network, certain artists—she calls them “Pro Surfers”—working on Internet Surfing Clubs such as are taking these materials “out of circulation,” and re-contextualizing them so that might be seen as more than disposable net ephemera.  By doing so, they create “portraits of the Web.”

She writes:

(Pro Surfers) are engaged in an enterprise distinct from the mere appropriation of found photography. They present us with constellations of uncannily decisive moments, images made perfect by their imperfections, images that add up to portraits of the Web, diaristic photo essays on the part of the surfer, and images that certainly add up to something greater than the sum of their parts. Taken out of circulation and repurposed, they are ascribed with new value, like the shiny bars locked up in Fort Knox.


These artists, then, are not merely playing art world games, but helping people see what the Internet look like right now.

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