The World's First Collaborative Sentence

Creative Work
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In 1995, the Whitney Museum acquired its first work of Internet art, Douglas Davis' The World's First Collaborative Sentence. Commissioned by the Lehman College Art Gallery, Bronx, New York, in conjunction with "Interactions," its 1994 survey exhibition of the artist's work, Sentence is an ongoing textual and graphic performance on the World Wide Web that is owned by the Whitney Museum but was maintained on the Lehman website from 1994 - 2005. The work was generously donated to the Whitney by Barbara Schwartz in honor of Eugene M. Schwartz, her late husband, who together had purchased the concept and a signed disk with recordings of the first days of the Sentence.

Visitors to the site may add their own contributions to the Sentence -- there are more than 200,000 to date, separated into twenty-one "chapters," in dozens of languages and with a remarkable range of images and graphics. Any subject may be addressed, but no contribution can end with a period, as the Sentence is infinitely expanding.

The World's First Collaborative Sentence is a classic work of Internet art. With its collaborative, polyvocal, multilingual, and boundless nature, the sentence has become a microcosm of the Internet itself. As a decidedly low-tech "multi-user environment" that allows for combinations of textual, visual, and aural components, it is a collective space which, in its broad array of voices and topics, achieves fluent transitions between the prosaic and the sublime. (Source: Whitney Artport description)

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Jill Walker Rettberg