Interest in the aesthetics of the early web has surged in recent years, and it's not hard to see why: as the homogenized visual handiwork of professional web designers continues to dominate our day-to-day interactions on websites and social networks, we've realized a newfound appreciation for amateur user culture as it existed at the turn of the millenium. Pioneering net artists Olia Lialina and Dragen Espenschied have described this as a period of "digital folk art," when the web's aesthetics developed in tandem with the will of its users and the chaotic, freeform structure of the internet itself.
Artist Alain Vonck captures this with striking effectiveness in Ruins, a masters thesis project which visually excavates the shattered remains of Web 1.0. Covered in a kaleidoscopic cocktail of animated GIFs and drenched in the RGB color schemes and stray UI motifs of homepages past, Vonck's work reflects the destruction wrought by Yahoo's removal of Geocities, and the resulting mobilization of guerilla web archiving efforts like Rhizome's Artbase and Jason Scott's textfiles.com.
"It is not about regretting a bygone era but rather showing and remembering its existence."
"To collect, to archive, to reuse, to reinterpret are the watchwords of this visual anthology of the World Wide Web," writes Vonck. "It is not about regretting a bygone era but rather showing and remembering its existence. Ruins thus allows us to visualize the internet of the past before the arrival of web designers and social networks."
More pictures and text from Vonck's book can be found on Triangulation Blog.