Yael Kanarek
Born in 1967 in New York City, Yael Kanarek grew up in Israel, but moved back to NYC in 1991. Here, she became one of the pioneers of net art in the mid-90s.

Her central work, World of Awe, is built around a series of three web-based pieces, 2000 - 2006, but the larger project spans three decades.
World of Awe
"Through a portal on 419 East 6th street in Manhattan, a traveler crosses into the parallel world called Sunset/Sunrise, to search for a lost treasure.

Sunset/Sunrise is a desert. A world but perhaps not a planet. Possibly round or flat or both, or neither. Time is suspended at dawn or dusk. Death remains undefined. At times, long shadows travel around as a sun glides along the horizon, but never sets. Time suspended. Gravity is optional. Water is optional. An algorithm represses thirst.

In Silicon Canyon, a dumpyard for all the hardware and software ever created, computers and accessories pile up. The traveler steps into a minefield, explodes and reconstructs oneself. No mail system. No wireless. Love letters are written and left behind."
419 East 6th Street
Each chapter of World of Awe is an interactive work mixing computer-generated landscapes (constructed in now-obsolete Bryce3D, which launched in 1994 and saw its final update in 2010), recreations of already-archaic computer interfaces, and poetic narrative text. Each could be considered an epistolary hypertext fiction; the work is structured as a series of love letters from the Traveler in a parallel universe to an absent Lover, mediated by technology. Both of these characters are left ungendered. The story is distributed, almost hidden, through icons and modified menu systems. Interactive digressions intercede. They are soundtracked by ambient loops of wind and atmospheric noise.

The projects remain accessible online: https://www.worldofawe.net/

Chapter 1 (2000): Forever
Chapter 2 (2002): Destruction and Mending
Chapter 3 (2006): Object of Desire

While 1 and 2 continue to work as intended, Object of Desire, built in Flash, has recently gone offline. In 2017 Kanarek wrote "It was a risk, but I figured that as long as advertising, video streaming sites, and Facebook use the technology, the work is safe from dying."
Kanarek originally trained as a portrait painter. After moving to New York City, she continued painting, working in acrylic and collage elements in an attempt to distance her style from previous traditions. But as her small East Village apartment studio filled up, moving into a new digital zone of production appealed to her.
It was 1995, Netscape Navigator had just launched and Web 1.0 homepages were taking form. Kanarek's day job provided an opportunity:
"I was freelancing at a travel service on Broadway below Houston. One of the owners kept talking about this 'information superhighway' but couldn't quite explain what it was. He did know he wanted the company to have a website. I was desperate to learn a paying skill and very intrigued by the office computer, so I offered to take it on. Funny enough, the company's website was included in a book called Shopping on the Internet published in 1995."
In the next building over was the office of Razorfish, a design and advertising company started the year before and already at the forefront of early web design (with an animated homepage, one of the first!). Kanarek introduced herself and became involved in a circle of artists experimenting with new possibilities, also contributing to Razorfish's early net art platform The Blue Dot. In addition to her own projects, Kanarek also did web design for other pieces.
The earliest World of Awe creation, still in part an outgrowth from Kanarek's paintings, Love Letters from a World of Awe also appeared in 1995 and continued to evolve through multiple iterations.
Chapter 1: Forever, the piece that defined the project's lasting terms, was launched in 2000, and was included in the 2002 Whitney Biennial, displayed for visitor interaction on a laptop. Orgiginally, this single digital platform was intended to be endlessly extendable, but considering the distributed nature of the internet, Kanarek began to place further chapters on new servers. Chapter 2: Destruction and Mending was the result of 2002 commission from SF MoMA and carried the narrative forward into new explorations.
Chapter 3: Object of Desire, developed in an MFA at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with support from several grants, the Jewish Museum, and the Bitforms Gallery (where I was lucky enough to wander in and see it in 2006!), took the work into a much more elaborate visual language, with explorable animated environments built in Hypercard like Myst. Interwoven into the landscape were the 3D texts of love letters in three languages: English, Hebrew, and Arabic. In embodying the borderless, polyglot territory of the internet, this choice already carries a political weight but the the process of creating this chapter brought further illumination:
"During my time working on the Arabic section with a translator, I experienced a crude political awakening to the living experience of Palestinians under the Israeli state and army. I had some awareness before, but didn't understand what living under military occupation meant to ordinary people, nor what it meant to be a minority in the state. This resulted in an undoing of the education I received growing up in mainstream Israel. Painful, but critical."
Scenes from the chapter would be download not from any single source but, with messages to alert the audience, from servers in four cities: Izmir (in Turkey), Tel Aviv, Ramallah (in the West Bank), and New York City. Sadly, the demise of Flash means that this chapter is the only one not currently accessible. Another challenge of working in Hebrew and Arabic is that the languages are gendered in a way that would normally have forced the Traveler and Lover to have more defined identities. Instead, Kanarek created a new letter, a blinking eye turned back to the audience and used this in place of letters that would have clarified gender.
Other components include landscape prints, data works, an album of music based around the love letters, and variable installation views. The entire project, from early paintings to more recent offshoots was summed up in a show at Bitforms in 2016.
More recently, Kanarek has taken 3D text out of the digital and into physical space, as sculpture (as seen at the U.S. embassy in Zimbabwe) or jewelry. Another ongoing project is to invert all of the genders in the old and new testaments, reevaluating our foundational cultural myths by playing with gender, as in World of Awe.

These and other works can be viewed at www.yaelkanarek.com

Yael Kanarek and Kerry Doran, "World of Awe, Chapter 2: Destruction and Mending", Zoom recording, April 30, 2020, https://vimeopro.com/bitforms/kanarek/video/416375911

Kaela Noel, "Gravity Is Optional", Rhizome, June 15, 2017,

Illya Szilak, "Yael Kanarek's Must-See Show at bitforms", Huffington Post, last modified December 6, 2017, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/art-review-yael-kanareks_b_9778852
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