Net Art 1.0


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In the course of a busy life in a big city, between the nine to five job, the commute, and maintaining of one’s household, relationships, and figure, even the most avowed art lover may be left without enough time to drive to the nearest museum at the end of a busy week. For those of you who fit into this demographic, or those of you who are just bored and curious, looking to entertain yourself online and tired of surfing the same websites, full of predictable gossip or your friend’s myopic status updates, may I suggest you invest a few moments in browsing online art. I don’t mean websites about art, of which there are many which are useful for planning your next trip, learning about new artists, or to see artworks in galleries that are too far to visit in person. I am referring to “web art,” more commonly referred to as “net art,” short for “Internet art.” A simple definition is art being made by an artist using the Internet as the medium.

Arguably, the most important website for net art is the New Museum’s I was originally introduced to Rhizome while in Tiffany Holme’s Art and Technology class, at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Tiffany is the recent recipient of a 2010 Rhizome commission for the solarCircus project, a series of online and real time events exploring artistic usage of solar energy. When browsing the Rhizome site, there are links to actual works of art, that you can only experience on the internet, as well as online documentation of technologically based work. Another great site for reviews with net artists, news and events, is New Media Fix, which serves more as a discussion and critique space than online net art gallery.

Like the “real” art world, the virtual art world is protean; it includes the highly conceptual, such as “Google Will Eat Itself or GWEI a collective that manipulates the Google adwords system to buy shares in Google (impressively, the group owns over 800 shares in Google, at a current value of just under 500 USD a share), its own strain of the Op art movement, here in the form of an animated gif and here, by artist Mich Trale, in the form of something that you might encounter on the wall of the world’s most avant-garde dance club. There is online sound art, a category of art using sound as a medium, often outside of the more restrictive sphere of music, such as Weathersongs a site which documents as well as provides samples of tunes created using sequences from recorded weather patterns in Wales over a specific period of time, by the artist Richard Garrett.

Net art is ideally suited to maximize the contemporary art trends of interactive and collaborative work, such as The Dumpster, by Golan Levin with Kamal Nigam and Jonathan Feinburg, commissioned by the Whitney Artport, “an interactive online visualization that attempts to depict a slice through the romantic lives of American teenagers. Using real postings extracted from millions of online blogs, visitors to the project can surf through tens of thousands of specific romantic relationships in which one person has ‘dumped’ another.”

The world of net art is sometimes difficult to define. It blurs the boundaries between art and design, art and commerce, and art and technology. Often whether or not something is art just depends on who is looking, and with what intent. The MOWA or “Museum of Web Art” appears to have exhibited wallpapers, experimental animation, banner ads, even counters and buttons, from 1997- 1999. The museum’s founders even appeared on CNN. The current site is the number one google result for “web art” without having been updated for a decade.

In closing, there are many reasons to explore the world of internet art. For me, experiencing art online will never take the place of going to museums and galleries. But as shopping, banking, even our jobs become more and more digitized, why not, when in the virtual realm, make room for art?

© 2009 Moira Cue for The Hollywood Sentinel