In 1996

What is net-art?

The “Internet myth” is the result of a massive self-referentiality of our media landscape. Unlimited communication in a yet unknown conglomerate made of machines, cables and people.The exclusive networld of cyberpunks, scientists and artists has been superseded by the thirst for information of the industrialized mass consumption. Nevertheless, the cultural “stylistic howlers” of communication in data networks continue to exist not only in the underground.

Artistic projects, strategy projects, discussion forums and autonomous network structures within the vast Internet, but remote from the glossy,dust-free surfaces, show interesting beginnings for an alternative use of this medium.


Netart functions only on the net and picks out the net or the “netmyth” as a theme. It often deals with structural concepts: A group or an individual designs a system that can be expanded by other people. Along with that is the idea that the collaboration of a number of people will become the condition for the development of an overall system. Netart projects without the participation of external persons are perhaps interesting concepts, but they do not manifest themselves as a collective creativity in the net …

(Dieter Daniels,

With the collaboration of many others, is incalculable. Like the incentive of gambling, here too the openness, the curiosity about an imaginary end, the exciting challenge of taking part in such projects. And that with a medium like Internet, which makes a direct form of intervention possible at the same time on different levels of communication (text, sound, picture, motion picture,real time).

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In 2002

On the Whitney Biennial Net Art Panel Discussion (excerpt)

Christiane asked the artists why connectivity is an important element:

* Klima: Data is a resource that brings life to the work, it makes it dynamic

* Napier: Because of the human component, multiple people interacting in a space to create a question. Connectivity brings people together under a specific context.

* Kanarek: the Internet as a means of distribution, the dissemination of narrative and the ability of users to modify the World of Awe.

* Lovejoy: To bring people together in the sense of community. Allowing people to build communities that we tend to be loosing by sharing stories.

* Flanagan: To explore our personal relation with the computer in the context of a globally connected system.

Figure: They Rule by Josh OnThey Rule by Josh On

One commonality amongst the projects is that each one presents a neat package. Though they may all contain or even be composed by dynamic data, the visual format and representation is polished (this to my estimation is the curse of institutional museums that renders them incapable of presenting something truly experimental or innovative). Secondly, amongst the projects there is an absence of critical thought with social relevance that is with the exception of Josh On’s They Rule. Mary Flanagan’s [collection], touches upon current issues of privacy in the networked public domain, however she seems more enamored with the computer as a personal space turned out. The lack of art with social constituency, again, reflects the conservative character of the Whitney, an unfortunate shortcoming in relation to net art.

Four of the nine projects included, Mark Napier’s Riot, Lisa Jevbratt’s 1:1, John Klima’s EARTH, and Benjamin Fry’s Valence, all had a similar undercurrent ­ that of learning how to paint with data. Perhaps, this is what Christiane means by data visualization, if so data visualization in art falls far short in comparison to robotics and other applied fields. According to such a definition of data visualization, net art merely emulates traditional mediums, primarily painting and illustration, only using data rather than paint and graphite to produce nifty visuals that may change in real time. Fortunately, to other artists and curators, data visualization contains much more potent and applied social significance.

… it was Lovejoy’s statement that “meaningful art will last, whether object or net art” that was a nice closing statement for the panel discussion. Indeed as net art is embraced by cultural institutions, it is these institutions that will historicize current net art, simply because they have the means to do so. Overtime, it may be the more relevant institutionalized projects that will remain documented, while others will eventually disappear.

Ricardo Miranda Zuñiga, 2002


In 2003

NetArt for real (excerpt)

Jørgen Hedegaard and Cornelia Sollfrank talk.

JH: The project made by Alvar Freude & Dragan Espenscheid at the Academy of fine arts in Stuttgart was fine. It’s basically the same going on in China today, here it’s just the government controlling the server between the internet and the user, blocking unwanted content before it reaches the endures.

Yes I know about the random generator you made. Random generators are very popular in NetArt, maybe because the computer can make “random” easily, also the old computers could do that. For me “random” is connected to the ideas developed in USA after the 2nd world war in the 50ties and 60ties (art has to be un-personal, without personal/political attitude/history +). For me most “random” projects are about breaking down structures, and it sometimes ends up with just “random”. I feel like living in an age hungry for meaning and history, also on a personal/ political level. Art must again take responsibility, and get connected to personal and political reality.

Figure: Old Boy NetworkOld Boy Network

OK, dada was earlier in deconstruction no doubt, but the meaning they should have created on an unexpected level is unknown to me. The experiments of the Dada movement only brought forward a context already there I think. To make it clearer with a Dada experiment: If you take a newspaper, cut up the lyrics with a scissor, and throw the paper-pieces in the air, you will (maybe) find new suppressing sentences made randomly after the paper-pieces has landed again. But this sentences was already present in your brain, you just needed a push. I respect this mechanism, and find it interesting, but not focused. I tried your generator, using the words “schoolgirl” and later “schoolboy”. The generator produced a site with porn on the schoolgirl word, and a site about football on the schoolboy word. I guess that’s not too surprising or new to me.

I don’t think you go against the expectations of society and audience doing things like that. Actually I think it would be much more of a surprise if you acted as a preacher (as you said you wouldn’t) having some hand fest rules for the “audience” to obey. An authoritarian role would be a real surprise, not some randomly search for new meaning I think.

This brings me to your other argument. I agree there has been a quit big marked made on “pseudo-humanist/political” issues. In Denmark it was real big, especially in Copenhagen (town) some years ago. People walked around using items/signals relating them to the humanists and freedom fighters of the 70’s. They made “events” in exhibition rooms, and arranged demonstrations against racism ++. It had no or very little effect on society I’m afraid. But however the minor effect on the political situation here in Denmark, they tried to make a difference, and I liked that (even though some projects seemed a little overdone, maybe trying to qualify for the institution ok ok).

I agree that art has a bigger potential, and I would like to see more art dealing with the world outside the institution (and closed circle of art-friends). That’s the problem I think, art in an institutional context, or art trying to qualify for the institution, just ends up miming the context asked for (like people miming the youth ideals (70 stuff) of an elderly museum manager or institution leader). It’s a closed cycle, and paralyses art efforts to some degree. I started using the internet because it gave me the opportunity to work outside the institution, and make my own context trough, like being critical towards feminism for example. This project had close to zero changes in the Danish institution at that time. That’s the cool thing about the Internet, it gives us back the autonomy and control, leaving the institution behind :-).


Artport Whitney 2001-2006

Figure: The Presence of Absence by Peter HorvathThe Presence of Absence: Peter Horvath

Artport is the Whitney Museum’s portal to net art and digital arts, and an online gallery space for commissioned net art projects. The site consists of five major areas:

* The archive of “gate pages,” which function as portals to net artists’ works. Each month, an artist is invited to present their work in the form of a gate page with links to the artist’s site and most important projects.

* The “commissions” area, which presents original net art projects commissioned by the Whitney Museum.

* The “exhibitions” space, which provides access to and information about current and past net art and digital arts exhibitions at the Whitney.

* The “resources” archive, which links to galleries, networks and museums on the Web; past net art exhibitions at venues world-wide; Web publications relating to net art and digital arts; as well as new media festivals. This archive is constantly evolving as new organizations and resources are added.

* The “collection” area, which archives the works of net art and digital art in the Whitney Museum’s holdings.

The current Artport site, designed by treasurecrumbs, was launched in February 2002. Artport 1.0 (March 2001 – February 2002) is accessible as an archive.


In their book New Media Art, Mark Tribe and Reena Jena name several themes that contemporary new media art addresses, including computer art, collaboration, identity, appropriation and open sourcing, telepresence and surveillance, corporate parody, as well as intervention and hacktivism. (Tribe, Mark; Jena, Reena (2007-02-22). “New Media Art – Introduction”. New Media Art. Taschen/Brown. Retrieved on 2007-11-29. )

The interconnectivity and interactivity of the internet, as well as the fight between corporate interests, governmental interests, and public interests that gave birth to the web and continues today, fascinate and inspire a lot of current New Media Art.

New Media Art – Introduction (excerpt)

Art historical antecedents

Hannah Hoch, Schnitt mit dem Kiichenmesser Dada durch die letzte Weimarer Bierbauchkulturepoche, 1920 Although New Media art is, on one level, all about the new — new cultural forms, new technologies, new twists on familiar political issues — it did not arise in an art historical vacuum. The conceptual and aesthetic roots of New Media art extend back to the second decade of the twentieth century, when the Dada movement emerged in several European cities. Dada artists in Zürich, Berlin, Cologne, Paris, and New York were disturbed by what they perceived as the self-destructive bourgeois hubris that led to the First World War, and began to experiment with radically new artistic practices and ideas, many of which resurfaced in various forms and references throughout the twentieth century. Much as Dada was in part a reaction to the industrialization of warfare and the mechanical reproduction of texts and images, New Media art can be seen as a response to the information technology revolution and the digitization of cultural forms.

Many Dadaist strategies reappear in New Media art, including photomontage, collage, the readymade, political action, and performance — as well as Dada artists’ provocative use of irony and absurdity to jar complacent audiences. Fragmented juxtapositions of borrowed images and texts in works like Shu Lea Cheang’s Brandon and Diane Ludin’s Genetic Response System 3.0 (2001) are reminiscent of the collages of Raoul Hausmann, Hannah Höch, and Francis Picabia.

Video: Electronic Disturbance Theater’s FloodNet

Marcel Duchamp’s readymades prefigured countless New Media art works involving blank appropriation, from Alexei Shulgin’s WWWArt Award to RSG’s Prepared PlayStation (2005). The work of George Grosz, John Heartfield, and other Berlin Dadaists who blurred the boundaries between art and political action serve as important precedents for activist New Media art projects like Electronic Disturbance Theater’s FloodNet and Fran Illich’s Borderhack. The performances of Emmy Hennings, Richard Huelsenbeck, and others at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich set the stage for New Media performance artists such as Alexei Shulgin and Cary Peppermint. And echoes of Hugo Ball’s absurdist sound poems can be heard in r a d i o q u a l i a’s Free Radio Linux.


“A networked book is an open book designed to be written, edited and read in a networked environment.” – Institute for the Future of the BookFive writers will be commissioned to develop chapters for a networked book about networked art. The chapters will be open for revision, commentary, and translation by online collaborators.

Networked Objectives:

• To develop and publish an online, trans-disciplinary book that will address recent artistic developments made possible by computers, networks, and mobile connectivity

• To present the book in an open, participatory and social form

• To document: a) the collapse of the traditional distinction between artist, art work and audience; b) the shaping of creative practice that is open, contingent and participatory; c) the building of virtual communities which, in the words of Howard Rheingold, “becomes inevitable wherever computer mediated communications technology becomes available to people anywhere.” (The Virtual Community, 1993)

We invite contributions that critically and creatively rethink how networked art is categorized, analyzed, legitimized — and by whom — as norms of authority, trust, authenticity and legitimacy evolve.

“Networked” proposes that a history or critique of interactive and/or participatory art must itself be interactive and/or participatory; that the technologies used to create a work suggest new forms a “book” might take.

We hope to spark a conversation between researchers and practitioners, curators, artists, and academics in the fields of art (music, sound, dance, e-lit, visual art …), architecture, convergence, mapping, urbanism, games, sociology, visualization, cultural studies, and environmental studies.

Once the chapters are published online, registered users will be able to revise, add to, and translate the existing texts. There is no end date for the project. When “Networked” has attracted substantive participation, we will consider publishing a print version of the project, which may itself be updated over time.

New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc. (NRPA)


LA Freewaves

Telic Arts Exchange

Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Excerpt of New Media Art Open Course Ware Proposal by Lily & Honglei