Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Web Work Reconsidered by Spencer Twelmeyer

ArtForum's Rachel Greene published an article titled "Web Work" in 2000 in which she discusses the major players in "net.art" (http://artforum.com/archive/id=465). Here is what I understand as net.art: not the aesthetic manifestation of the idea but the ideas themselves, similar to conceptual art. Greene describes it as the discourse, exchange, links and emails. So when does net.art stop being art and start being just another online discussion or blog? The answer art historians and critics always give is: "It's the Intent."

But, what is the intent of these net.artists? Greene refers to many artists also as hackers and reports their desire to remain "independent of bureaucracy" and "activists." Anarchist convictions are best represented by Heath Bunting founder of Irational.org. In 1994 he created the work "Kings Cross Phone-In." This webpage listed the phone numbers for the phone booths of London's Kings Cross train station. The site invited people to call these numbers intending to break up the monotonous days of commuters.

Most net.art pieces attempt playfulness yet many maintain an abrasive tone. Greene notes that in 1999 the tide turned for net.art, "as net.artists were seemingly empowered by their sense of pending popularity and relevance." Her forecast was dead on. If you are wondering how artists have continued to use the Internet just recall Valentine for Perfect Strangers by Ben Coolney, a piece that recently was shown at the MOA. I just wonder what's next.


  1. I had never thought about this genre before. I have so many questions: How does one anticipate/generate an audience for net.art? Can net.art be created accidentally? If someone creates a website (or even a meme) with a specific purpose and aesthetic, but without considering themselves "artists" is their creation art? Also, this seems to be an interesting middle ground between art and visual culture. I wonder how much the division matters in and internet context?

  2. P.S. The video Valentine for Perfect Strangers is available online here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETQ0urHjSIk.