When reading Greene’s article, I am most interested by the purposes of net.art, especially when it was first developed. Personally, I like the idea that it was created in part to make a community where art would always be present throughout one’s day. Yet, internet art has changed vastly since it was first introduced, and so it not only is used for the pure purpose of creating things which are fun to play around with and look at, but it can also be used as a medium for “artivists.” The internet became a great medium, because at the time, it was relatively empty (as compared to the pure amount of content filling the web today).
I find it interesting how some people were worried “that the Internet would soon be colonized by the mainstream media,” and how this fear even inspired the work of Paul Garrin (Namespace). Yet, I do feel that the internet today is largely dominated by mainstream media and news outlets (even if they simply appear in an ad bar on the side of a website.
The internet, back in the start of net.art, was a place where people could not easily discriminate one’s identity, mainly because their identity was what existed behind a screen. Therefore, the rise of ‘cyberfeminism’ in reaction to internet art is interesting, as there is an almost perfect medium for these people to spread their opinions, and to use nontraditional mediums as a means of expression.
While trying to define internet art is constantly evolving, I think the early appearances of it on the Internet has been most influential to what it has become today. Internet art has many purposes, not solely limited to the making of art. Like many works of art, internet art is a representation of freedom of expression and can often be used to understand the voices of the people.
Response to “History of Internet Art”
Rachel Greene, in her article “History of Internet Art”, discusses the history and topic of internet art. Internet art, or “net.art” does not have a single, solid definition, but can be described as an interactive work of art online. Internet art is one of the newest artistic movements, due in part to the recent creation of the internet in the 1990s. Internet art is very innovative and not bound by many limitations. While a painting is restricted to its canvas and movies are restricted to what was filmed, internet art manages to break those barriers with its interactive element. Internet art can have animation or sounds. The same internet art project can look different from one another if a user interacts with it differently. While internet art began as very simple designs on old computers, it has evolved to endless creations involving every aspect of the arts. Internet art is widely used today, in works used to promote activism or critique politics, news outlets, etc. I found a connection between this article and Paul Rand’s “Computers, Pencils, and Brushes”. In his article, Paul Rand discusses how classic artistic equipment, such as pencils and brushes, can be replaced by computers. He views the computer as an artistic tool not bound by the many limitations traditional art has. In my opinion “net.art” can be an outlet for people who are not good at working with the traditional arts but are good at working with computers. The medium of the internet is a way for both artists and computer coders to create and share their art.
It was not difficult to come to the same opinion on the current state of Net art that Green reveals only at the end of her article, and that is that the increasing popularity of net art might pose a threat to its “freewilling antiestablishment spirit” as Green puts it. When discussing some of the pioneering net art-work, Green explains very well what made net art such a valuable outlet to the net community, and how it contributed to what we value the internet for today – communication, openness and raw, unique content. Some of the works that she mentions, such as http://404.jodi.org are great examples of what internet offered to its users that other forms of media (newspapers, television, radio) could not. It was an outlet that belongs to and depends on its users, and it provided (and to some extent still does) a space free from the confinements of authority and norms. An example of this is http://404.jodi.org toying with the user’s private information (IP address), and a more contemporary example might be the 4chan community and their insistence on pushing boundaries and highly controversial and gorish humor (https://www.dailydot.com/unclick/4chan-controversies/).
While it might be true that net art lost some of its free spirit value as its popularity grew, I believe that becoming mainstream does not pose a major problem to it, given that there will always be a need for a space free from the limits that other forms of media and expression are bound by. The many times that masses mobilized towards preventing major censorship (such as the worldwide Annonymous protests in 2011 ) show that the internet community has grown large enough to eliminate, and resistant enough to contain from evolving further.
“Web Work: A History of Net Art” by Rachel Greene gave a precise and detailed history of the creation and development of NET.ART starting from 1995. And I was quite shocked after reading through the who article.
As a someone born in 1998 in China, a country which has the most severe Internet censorship, the perception of the Internet of us is clearly different from the rest of the world. In China mainland, this debate has always been going on between the liberals and conservatives: should speech online be controlled by the government? And apparently, according to the real history, conservatives won this debate with the goal of reaching “harmony” in the Chinese society, which is something the central government is more than glad to see. So The Great Firewall of China was built and our generation can never have a chance of actually using the Internet to speak freely, to create freely, and the Internet became a huge prison that jailers are monitoring everyone. As a result, the Internet has always been just a tool of basic needs and web art has never been a thing on Chinese online community. This is actually the first time I encountered the world of web arts, and I have already fallen in love with all of the passionate artist and the social changes they made through this art form like the Australian feminists the author mentioned in the essay.
Reading Rachel Greene’s article, I hoped to gain a more clear understanding of what exactly “net.art” is; however, upon completing the article, I feel that I have an more vague understanding of “net.art” than before (Greene). Greene defines “net.art” as “communications and graphics, email, text and images, referring to and merging into one another” (Green). This definition deviates from everything I understand to be art. While art can hold social significance through its “‘optical’ aesthetic”, the idea or message it attempts to convey is its primary purpose. I suppose that the general notion of “net.art” seems to be a visual or auditory piece utilizing the internet with a purpose.
“Net.art” seems to actively subvert the traditional art scene while also playing into similar aesthetic tropes. As artists strive to present an innovative and original piece, they often create work that mirrors the tones set by abstract art. Shapes, construct, and design act as embodiments of ideas and feelings. The messages encased touch on everything from serious social issues to the skillfully executed, simplistic ideas of Rafael Rozendaal.
I feel that the ideas of internet art explored in Rachel Greene’s article can coincide with Paul Graham’s “Hackers and Painters” interpretation of software code. Greene’s inclusion of the collective I/O/D’s web browser touches upon Graham’s central idea of code being viewed as aesthetically pleasing. Best stated by Simon Pope, “We tried to expand on the idea of ‘software as culture’”(Greene). When good code is produced, programmers recognize the various layers to its “beauty” (Graham). The execution of clear logic, clean syntax, and finally desired output are the general benchmarks for “beautiful code” (Graham). Net art pieces that bring code to the forefront exhibit a new, modern art form. Pieces such as I/O/D’s web browser attempts to accomplish the same idea with an ambitious take on an established tool of the internet community and execute it in an original way.
Rachel Greene’s piece throughly describes the history of a new art form called “net art”. While this art form is new as of the last 25 years or so, clearly it has gone through many stages. I must admit I often get a little lost in this passage because of the amount of description and to be honest, a lack of understanding certain terminology. Perhaps a visual representation of the information would allow for us viewers to better understand such art. Anyways, I gathered a few good points and quotes from this piece. The main two being that “net art” was/is a platform for activism and the interactivity of the art form not only is what the art form is about, but separates it from other forms of art. I want to highlight the portion where she talks about the cyber-rape within the chat room because I think that is the most thought-provoking part of the essay presented. Whether you agree or do not agree that this instance was rape, it shows that this is a kind of art that can emotionally impact someone unlike anything else.
In the “History of Internet Art” by Rachel Greene, she talks about the initial formation of net.art, which was a term that describes art that is being seen through the form of internet and it also allows the user to interact with the creator visually. What intrigued me the most in this article was that around the time of 1997, female artist were the ones that were prominent on the net.art industry. Most of the artist that had a successful net.art webpage were females and they used the internet as a medium to share their voice. One artist, Olia Lialina, published multiple projects and out-programming many of her male co-workers (Greene). Back then, the Internet allowed the artist to talk freely and create artwork without being marginalized or deprived of communities (Greene) and this was a great platform for artists like Lialina to create art that is unique to them. As the internet became prominent with female artists, there was a movement called the “cyberfeminism” that people are telling these female artists to take their discussion somewhere else. What I found interesting was that if the females artists are creating better work and making more commission on it, they should be able to continue to do so instead of creating their own platform. On the other hand, if the females did create a new platform and it became even more popular, what would the reputation of internet art become? Would people shift from net.art into a female art webpage? This net.art movement really generated many interesting thoughts if things had shifted and maybe the internet today would be completely different as well.
Documented by: Flora Lu
Date: Apr 22th, 2018
Rachel Greene’s “History of Internet Art” delineates the development of net.art, a term that is not specifically and rigidly defined but often used to describe art along with a form of interaction happening between the creator and the user through the medium of the Internet. I find it intriguing to think of how small and unknown the Internet is in the beginning but how it evolves to be so popular today. As McLuhan argues, “[T]he medium is the message”, the emerging internet art also marks the societal development entering the Information Age. I am enlightened to see how net.art is often connected with social activism. Given the social meaning of internet as an emerging medium, it makes a lot of sense to me that the creation of a net.art piece is based on sociocultural backgrounds and it intends to address on issues and advocate ideologies on social movements. I do agree with the author that the Internet isn’t just for formal matters and information, it can be and works very well as a platform for art and creativity. But I also believe that there does not exist pure art without meanings, so I think the development of net.art is more socially driven than technically.
There is one example I found extremely fascinating where people could call up and talk to a random stranger when passing by a booth and picking up the phone. This case is kind of actualizing the idea of the internet, which is connecting people instantaneously and breaking the geographical boundaries. Hyperlinking on today’s web embodies this idea, which uses something in front of the user, linking the user to somewhere else. Society has changed so drastically in just a few decades, I am more than willing to see new forms of net.art emerging on the web.
Rachel Greene’s “History of Internet Art” traces the origins of net.art, a term used to describe art and communications, often with sociocultural grounds of inception, with the Internet as a medium that originated in the 1990s. It both surprised and made a lot of sense to me to find out about the political backgrounds that many of these artists had, and I find it extremely fascinating how they were able to use the Internet in its early form as a communal ground for sharing and exchanging their ideas. In a time of emerging new political and cultural norms, these artists were able to use an emerging new medium to create non-traditional art to reflect it. I especially think it is interesting how even knowing that net.art referred to art forms existing on the web, I was still surprised to find the different ways in which it was implemented–through hyperlinking (a concept that I really like yet have never considered as a way to create art), or creating networks, or, as Jodi.org did, simply using code, the components of the art itself.
I think one of the most important factors in the development of this new genre of art was the personal drive and individuality behind each one; each net.art site was created for personal expression, which was what made them so unique. And it was this uniqueness that led to their growth in popularity, which subsequently led to their shift from purely art into opportunities to be capitalized on. Does art on the Internet still exist in such a way that net.art did? My guess is that because of the growing intertwining of the digital and financial world, the answer is no.
In her article, Rachel Greene traces the ongoing history of net.art, from the accidental coinage of the term itself in 1995 to its current positioning in politics and society at large. From its inception, net.art has existed as a space for practitioners to explore as well as exploit, offering enormous opportunity to work towards collective goals. I found this aspect of net.art surprising and really interesting, as I had never really considered how Internet art can be about community and equity in a way completely unlike any other medium. Greene delineates how, in the late 90s, art communities formed as the Internet provided a unique space independent of art-world bureaucracy, in which net.artists could “work and talk without being marginalized or deprived of community.” The atmosphere of the time seemed optimistic, even utopian—imagining and creating the Internet, an artistic medium characterized by limitless communication capacity and imbued with the enthusiasm of an ostensible neoliberal post-Communist world.
Along with many other kinds of “opening” across the world, particularly Eastern Europe, these visions for the Internet and its artistic potential seemed to be reaffirmed. I find it fascinating that this allowed systems analysts, designers, and “artivists” to work towards collective goals ranging from critiquing corporate news outlets, to forging “cyberfeminism” in the Internet space, to simply playful and creative Internet artworks. Vested with the power of the “equal playing field” that Internet accessibility offered, many feminist collectives during this time were able explore and express their work through creative and impactful media.
What I found most interesting about this reading was the way that net.artists seemed “empowered” by their growing popularity and relevance in society, which in turn altered the original conception of net.art itself. Originally an alternative social field bringing together art and everyday life, the free, “antiestablishment spirit” of net.art is now increasingly compromised by its acceptance into the institutional fold. To me, this produces an intellectual conundrum that much of so-called “antiestablishment” thought and practice (postcolonial studies, for example) grapples continually with. Through institutionalization, movements and discourse formulated to be “anti” institution/establishment lose some part of the original essence, perhaps irrevocably. A paradox thus arises: while unforseen or even unwanted, “selling out” to the institution may very well be the only way to gain recognition and ensure the survival of the movement or culture, with the alternative of relegating it to perpetual obscurity. Is it, then, ever possible to chart a path forward while holding to an ‘original essence’? Can there ever be fruitful, unproblematic integration to the institutional fold, or is history always doomed to repeat itself? If the latter, when the anti becomes the establishment, will movement through new(er), unexplored media, rise to take its place?