The development of net art originates from the rising of net media generally. During the past two decades, Net art has overthrown the standards of traditional aesthetics, just like the conclusion given by Walter Benjamin that: “Technology and techniques restructure the human sensory apparatus (Esther, 2000, p. 42).” Even though we can admire the unique aesthetics of net art as they appear in some postmodern art movements, Net Art is in such a multi-polar form that one cannot easily find a single point from which to admire it. Based on the research of literature reviews and case studies in net art, this article tries to discuss the characteristics of net art, and classify net art into eight catalogs (Email Art, Non-linear Narrative, Online Performance, Information Art, Game art, Collaborative creation, Internet Community, Physical Interaction) in order to emerge the aesthesis of net art from the general aspect of contemporary arts.
This chapter discusses the characteristics of net art according to different categories, attempting to emerge a breakthrough of net art aesthetics from the phenomenon of its chaos. However, there are some difficulties that I have encountered during the course of cataloguing my findings. First of all, the form of net art depends on technical media; as technology moves on, the forms of net art are getting more difficult to neatly organize. This is why David Ross describes net art as purely ephemeral (Ross, 1999, p. 37). Net art is a historical factor which is proceeding, and it is indeed difficult to determine the category of net art in the progressive tense. Yet, how can an uncategorized art be discussed as to its standard of value? I believe this question also bothers critics of post modern net art.
Rudolf Arnheim argues that in a period of transition from a “post-modern” era to an “information” era, aesthetics is no more regarded as a question of form or style, but of philosophy. It is not about disorder, structure or fracture, but to sense everything, reaching a status so that every thought connects to all human beings (Arnheim, 1996, pp. 117-120). When aesthetics meets philosophy, the discussion is not just limited to the reaction of vision and psychology, but reaches a higher level of concept and creation of concepts. Philosophy has components of logic and thought, and therefore includes a relatively rational argument. Tilman Baumgartel writes in the essay “Net Art. On the history of Artistic Work with Telecommunications Media” that “Net Art is almost a type of new Jerusalem where that which is impossible in the “real world” should happen: global “herrschaft” – or free communication for all, consumers who become producers, social networking over and through geographical and social borders, direct information exchange beyond economic constraints and without filtration through the mass media…… From an art-historical perspective, an important aspect of net art is that in the meantime not only texts but also the most diverse media (film, sound, graphics, animation sequence, photographs, 3-D simulations, etc.) are there in the Internet, next to each other, and can be transmitted. Everything that can be translated into bits and bytes can be brought online (Baumgartel, 2001, pp. 152-159)”. Therefore, net art is so broadly metaphysical that it is inappropriate to simply divine the movement according to its materials.
George Fifield, a curator at the Decordova Museum and Director of Boston Cyberarts, writes that, “Interactivity is the great question of this newest art form. What form of interactivity will most engage the audience and provide a lasting aesthetic experience - emotional, rich, and satisfying? After centuries of linear narrative and the painted square, artists are looking at ways that the art itself can engage with the viewer and modify the artistic experience (Foote, 2003)”. Dr. Amy Dempsey in turn says that: “Internet Art is democratic, and interactivity is its key feature. Images, text, motion and sound, assembled by artists, can be navigated by viewers to creative their own multimedia montages of which the ultimate ‘authorship’ is open to question. Viewers become users (Dempsey, 2002, p. 286)”. In a kind of summary David Ross simply states that, “interaction is the nature of Net art (Ross, 1999)”.
It is useful to turn to a practical industrial means of judging values by focusing on how awards are handed out. In Austria in 1997, the judges of the Global Electric Art Award stipulated eight rules for judging Net art works submitted in competition. These were: A). Use of technology: the technology application should be creative. B). Grammar: creativity in using language links. C). Structure: structural creativity in the texts. D). Public service: creativity about online public service in the work’s concept. E). Net-awareness or self-reflectiveness. F). Co-operation: coordination between text and components, and between human and network. G). Community and identity: creativity in the degree of Net communities’ interaction. H). Openness: the creativity of open texts (Spaink, 1997, pp. 4-6). This annotated list covers most forms of Net art works, and so I made use of these eight rules and the aforementioned scholarship to divide the categories of works I found by the interaction modes between the audience and works.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Note: Above information cited from Digital Art by Christiane Paul, Internet Art by Rachel Greene, and Art of the digital age by Bruce Wands.
HTML: Hypertext Markup Language is a scripting language that makes it possible to establish links between documents and arbitrary nodes.
Conceptual Art: Also known as “idea art”, the conceptual art movement began in the 1960s and extended to the late 1970s. Its tenet embodies the notion that the primary purpose or function of an artwork is to convey its idea or concept; to that end, the physical creation is almost superfluous to the work. Some conceptual artworks are complete when the artist has detailed the piece through text, never fabricating it in a tangible form.
Email List: Or list server A shard distribution list wherein a message sent to a designed email address redistributed the message to all list subscribers. A mailing list that is a administered automatically is called a list server.
DADA: A nihilistic art movement that flourished in Europe early in the 20th century; based on irrationality and negation of the accepted laws of beauty. Dada artists were later involved with Surrealism. Dada was influential to several art movements, including Fluxus.
ASCII: (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) ASCII is a code for representing English characters as numbers, with each letter assigned a number from 0 to 127. Computers often use ASCII codes to represent text, which makes it possible to transfer data from one computer to another.
Hypermedia: An extension that supports linking graphics, sound and video files in addition to text elements. The web is partially a hypermedia system since it supports graphical hyperlinks and links to sound and video files.
Cyberspace: Coined by William Gibson in the 1984 sci-fi novel Neuromancer, cyberspace describes the non-physical terrain created by computer systems.
Fluxus: Is an international network of artists, composers and designers noted for blending different artistic media and disciplines in the 1960s. Fluxus is often described as intermedia, a term coined by Fluxus artist Dick Higgins in a famous 1966 essay.There are hundreds of types of Fluxus. Dada is often used to induce coagulation in the art, although some Fluxus is curdled with ideas from Situationalism or Neoism or with extracts of various species of Pop-Art.
Blog: A noun and a verb, the term “blog” is a contraction of “web log” and is a web-based publicly accessible personal journal.
Hypertext: Linked segments of text that can be navigated by a user. Hypertext originated in Theodor Nelson’s concept of the “docuverse”, a space of writing and reading where texts could be electronically interconnected by anyone contributing to the networked text. While the World Wild Web essentially is a hypertext environment, hypertext software existed before HTML.
Generative Art: According to Adrian Ward, a term given to work which stems from concentrating on the processes involved in producing an artwork, usually (although not strictly) automated by the use of a machine pragmatic instructions to define the rules by which such artworks are executed.