Florian Cramer on Sat, 20 Nov 1999 23:54:22 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Re: olia lialina: Re:art.hacktivism

Dear Craig,

you wrote:

> Florian Cramer <paragram@gmx.net> writes:
> > No, I wanted to suggest something else. If most "Net Art" merely consists of
> > static files on servers, it interfaces so superficially with the Internet
> > that it should be more properly named "Netscape Art". Thanks for mailing me,
> > I will have to clarify this point on Nettime.
> What if I don't look at it in Netscape?

I agree with your critique - I was, seduced by the terminological pun,
over-simplifying things. So I would like to correct my statement as
follows:  Although a lot of Net Art can't be seen without Netscape or IE
(Olia's own works, www.jodi.org, Alexej Shulgin's "form art" and even Vuk
Cosic's "ASCII history of moving images" which despite its name doesn't
display in lynx), this is not the point of my critique. The point is that
much if not most of what's called Net Art - as, for example, the works
currently on display at ZKM's "net.condition" - can just as well be
experienced _without the net_. 

When I fetched the contents of www.0100101110101101.org and the
net.condition web site onto my own harddrive, I realized to my own
surprise that the bulk of what is commonly referred to as Net Art does not
actually use and technically rely upon the Internet, but turns out to be a
bunch of files which can be viewed offline without loosing anything
(besides the domain name in the URL display). 

In other words, it doesn't matter whether one views it over the Internet
or from a CD-ROM, except that - as olia pointed out - the Internet gives
the creators more flexibility to update their work. Yet many and
particularly the 'classic' pieces of Net Art (a) are not conceived as
works to be experienced in continuous change, if they are still changing
at all, and (b)  do as technical systems not rely on the net, i.e. they do
not alter any of their components or parameters according to information
which they _have to_ receive over the net. 

So shouldn't the term "net art" be used more cautiously and not be mixed
up with "browser-based media art"? Isn't mixing up the net and the browser
display the most basic mistake to be made in any net (art) criticism?[1]
If one would instead argue that "Net Art" qualifies for its name not on
technical grounds, but because it's being created for and out of networked
contexts, then "Net Art" wouldn't signify anything, because all art is and
has always been created out of networked contexts. 

In my view, an example of a "Net Art" intertwined in its very structure -
technically and conceptually - with the Internet is Mongrel's manipulated
search engine <www.mongrel.org.uk>. I personally would like to see more
Net Art investigating (and subverting) what's underneath the browser.[2]


[1] Certainly, the technical distinction between "net art" and
"browser-based media art" has its own potential quirks and traps. 
www.jodi.org, for example, might be read as a fun and sophisticated
simulation of how the Internet is experienced through contemporary browser
and user interface paradigms; and the fact that its interfacing with the
Internet is mocked-up by local, static files - i.e. is networking
simulated with browser tricks - adds just another ironic twist to its
play. With this irony however, www.jodi.org seems to me the only Net Art
project which can convincingly declare its technically network-independent
art as "Net Art". 

[2] This critique also affects most of my own works on the World Wide Web,
although they are not Net Art. 

Florian Cramer, PGP public key ID 6440BA05
Permutations/Permutationen - poetry automata from 330 A.D. to
present: <http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~cantsin/index.cgi>

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