LOLA (Lehman OnLine Archives)


LOLA (Lehman OnLine Archives) will provide a much-needed, permanent archive for resources to be posted on the World Wide Web. LOLA will bring together--and "cross-fertilize"--the cultural resources of the Lehman College Art Gallery, the Lehman College Library, and the art and math departments. It will house new and existing cultural and art-historical materials, which fall into three categories:

1) LOLA will provide a computer-server home for "homeless," pioneering online artworks such as the acclaimed File Room (1994), Antonio Muntadas's interactive archive of social and cultural censorship, which was produced as a conceptual artwork by the non-profit Randolph Street Gallery in Chicago, which recently went bankrupt.

2) LOLA will produce, develp, and present new online projects, the first being the online adaptation of the illustrated book, The Harlem Renaissance: Hub of African-American Culture, 1920-1930 (1995), by Steven Watson, and the digitization and online archiving of the physical archive of avant-garde performance documents of the past two decades owned by Franklin Furnace, the noted New York organization devoted to artists' books and performance.

3) LOLA will consolidate and make more accessible existing online projects which the gallery has produced including The World's First Collaborative Sentence (1995), Douglas Davis's landmark online artwork now jointly owned by the Lehman College Art Gallery and the Whitney Museum of American Art, and TalkBack! A Forum for Critical Discourse, the first American online journal about online art and cyber-culpture founded by Robert Atkins in 1995 and comprising a history of the early years of online art, discourse and documentation.


Understanding the online medium requires a broad and unprecedented field of analysis. The Internet and online media are hybrid--this is a medium in which production and destribution, design, aesthetics and economics are intextricably linked. It differs from previous media by aggregating vast new audiences and offering outreach possibilities; it redefines presenters' and funders' traditional ways of thinking, especially in relation to seemingly familiar categories ranging from audiences to collections and preservation.

What will happen, for instance, to online artworks when the software for a work's production and distribution are no longer cuurent? (This has already happened.) What are a commissioning institution's responsibilities to an online artwork and its creator, as with Muntadas's File Room? How can we design projects for a single audience when an online projects is available to so many different audiences throughout the world? How do we deal with a medium that combines the static images of visual art and the time-based nature of performance and film?

LOLA will grapple with the implications of pressing issues like these because they are no longer theoretical for the Lehman College Art Gallery, which must manage its online collection and build on its foundation of experimentation. LOLA will provide educational, exhibition and production opportunities for diverse bodies of scholars, students and artists, while tapping into a potentially vast audience online. This project will be a model for other cultural institutions.


To create LOLA, the Art Gallery has established partnerships with the Lehman College Library, as well as the art and math departments. The Gallery will work closely with the Library to identify and acquire for LOLA archives relevant to library and information studies, and archives that can serve as resources for students and faculty in a wide number of departments and programs. Franklin Furnace's physical archive of performance documents will be housed in the Library.

Lehman College Art Gallery will also work closely with faculty in the art and mathematics departments to supervise the computer programming and graphic design necessary for the production, operation and maintenance of LOLA. Such "real-world" project experience--rather than the "make-work" nature of so many clasroom assignments--is, of course, invaluable for studients. In the prodess, LOLA will provide Lehman College's extraordinarily diverse student body with opportunities for valuable career training in computer-related programming, design and production fields that might otherwise be unavailable to them. This project will create a national model designed to attract and train the skilled designers and technicians needed by artists to work in this collaborative medium. Over the next two years, it is expected that LOLA will serve 200,000 people, 20% of whom are expected to be repeat, site visitors.

Unlike the art-museum storage-room or traditional archive, LOLA will be dynamic, mirroring the intellectual ferment and educational mission of the college (and CUNY system) on whose server it will reside. In addition to being utilized as a vehicle for career training, it will also function as a curriculum resource in many classrooms. The online adapation of The Harlem Renaissance: Hub of African-American Culture, 1920-1930, for instance, might be utilized in African-American history, art history, music, art, literature, and cultural studies courses. It will also serve as a compelling reource for under-served African-American communities in the Bronx and throughout New York, as well the potentially vast, world-wide online audiences which will have access to the site.

LOLA's online resources will be complemented and broadened by public programs including lectures and symposia. It is expected, for instance, that The File Room will be contextualized and made accessible by a conference collaboratively produced with organizations involved with censorship and human rights including agencies of the Unitied Nations, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the National Campaign for Freedom of Expression and the ACLU. These, too, will be supplemented with online research through webcasting and an email symposium, which will recapitulate and extend the dialogue begun in the actual symposium.

© 2002