Pedro Morales's City Rooms on view at the 50th Biennial

An incident from the 50th Venice Biennial in 2003 highlights the role of the Internet as a tool that can both expose and actively oppose repression. Venezuelan artists Javier Téllez and Pedro Morales were selected to represent their country in the Biennial. Protesting his government's policies, Téllez withdrew his participation in February 2003, leaving digital artist Pedro Morales to be the sole representative of Venezuela in the Biennial. His work entitled City Rooms is a virtual environment consisting of a number of rooms, each presenting the user with a different mode of interaction to communicate the content of his social commentary. Shortly before the opening of the Biennial, the Venezuelan Deputy Minister of Culture, disapproving of certain components included in the piece and faced with Morales' refusal to make changes to the work, canceled Morales' participation in the Biennial. Though City Rooms is a digital work, Morales insisted on exhibiting it in the physical space for which it was originally intended. Barred from entering the locked-down Venezuelan pavilion, Morales resorted to presenting the work on a hand-held computer. While a physical space such as the pavilion can be locked down, the task of shutting down the Internet is an illusive task, much harder to accomplish due to its decentralized structure. A photographic documentation of City Rooms at the 50th Venice Biennial and the interactive piece are available on the artist's website.

Essential to the spread and sustenance of socio-political art both off and on the Internet are the many artists' communities that foster and promote such activities. The core activities of such communities and organizations emanate from the various websites populated by such groups. For almost a decade now, organizations such as the New York-based rhizome.org and the Danish artnode.org have been at the forefront of the artistic exploration of the digital realm, supporting and engaging in a multifaceted artistic social exchange, fueling the proliferation of socio-political art in the digital realm.

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