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 Douglas Davis
«The World's First Collaborative Sentence»

Davis’s interest incommunication technologies led him to explore the artistic possibilities of the Internet in the mid-90s and eventually to «The World’s First Collaborative Sentence,» the first work of art conceived for the World Wide Web. The «Sentence,» commissioned in 1994 by the Lehman College/CUNY Art Gallery in New York, is probably also the first [net] art work to be bought by a collector. Today it is part of the Whitney Museum for American Art in New York.

«A tiny art gallery in the Bronx, the poorest legislative district in the US, got a server in 1994; a very rare event back then. The director, Susan Hoeltzel, asked me if I wanted to create a new work linked to the title of my exhibiton which was installed there at the time, entitled InterActions (1967-1981), which was about my early work. She also planned to put the whole show up there.
Immediately I thought of the keyboard, the means of interaction allowed by the Web but not by video or other ‘flat art’. The huge difference between broadcast TV and the Web is the keyboard. With that people can say anything; they have full expressive capacity. This means a more intense and personal link could occur between me and the audience. So why not get the whole world together to write a sentence? […] When we began to plan it, my colleagues Robert Schneider and Gary Welz confirmed that we could devise a program that would keep you from typing a period. This means that the moment you address the Sentence you understand you are a part of an ongoing statement that will never end. Every day, every month, every year the sentence changes. The contributions now are much more graphically sophisticated than before. The Sentence is hot pink now, pulsing with Java, video, audio, color, simply everything. In the beginning it was black and white but rich with soul and personality. All the original passion is still there, but is designed so well that you miss what the world is really saying. What matters about the Sentence is the content above all.»

(source: Douglas Davis, in: Tilman Baumgärtel, [] New Materials towards Net art, Nürnberg, 2001, pp. 60–62.)