This article was written for 'Content-Type' in 2001, which I conceived of as an idea virus, later as the site evolved, I was to think of these texts as symptomatic of the Media/Art Identity Crisis in style of delivery.
"...the rapid growth in the use of the Net has given artists a large potential audience for their work, but has also profoundly changed the character of the online community..." *1
The concerns expressed by Julian Stallabrass in his exhibition announcement for 'Art and Money Online', Tate Britain, 6 March - 3 June 2001, are reflective of his perception of the net in terms of the commercial structures proliferating online.
Rather than looking at net art for its own sake, in all its diversity of approaches - cultural as well as technical, we seem to have a different attitude in this country to art online, as distinct from America, or even other European countries like Germany or France. Germany has ZKM for instance, and this week there was a report on 'The International Festival of Multimedia Urban Arts', which took place in December 2000 in Belfort, France. G.H. Hovagimyan was impressed: "The festival compares favourably with other European venues such as Ars Electronica or the "Net Condition" show put on by the ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany". *2
In the UK, we seem to address issues first, art forms second. And nowhere does this happen more than with new media. According to Stallabrass "The rapid growth in the use of the Net has given artists a large potential audience for their work, but has also profoundly changed the character of the online community. It is now more diverse and less cohesive, and (some would argue) more passive, less engaged in talking than in gazing and shopping." *3 This is a rather generalist approach to a community, which like any community is made up of many different sub - communities and networked groups and approaches, to the same internet.
Two of the artists involved in Art and Money Online, are Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead, who make work that deserves to be looked at, for what it can tell you about the aesthetics of computing and the net as well as the emergent culture of networks. Recently participating in "010101" at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where their work "e-poltergheist", 'a mysterious force which hijacks your browser and launches its own windows, carrying out searches at Yahoo.com. Pages of live queries for "Anyone there?", "please listen", and "help me", twitch on your desktop'.*3
Through the "ghost in the machine" affecting the browser, the instability of networks is explored, as well as a kind of screen gazing antidote. By clicking on the search results you find yourself wandering into interesting corners of the human condition.
By primarily critiquing only one, although important, aspect of online culture, curators are limiting access to net art in the broadest sense, by projecting meaning onto a cultural phenomenon that is much too complex to be fully understood yet.
Sarah Thompson 07.02.01
*1 Julian Stallabrass, exhibition announcement, Art Now - Art and Money Online, Tate Britain, 6 March - 3 June 2001
*2 G.H. Hovagimyan: Interferences festival, Belfort France, RHIZOME DIGEST: 2.9.01
*3 Jason Spingarn-Koff: 010101 --SFMOMA Goes 'Hyperbolic', RHIZOME DIGEST 1.26.01