Net.art or the art that deals with the net

The internet and the new technologies have become an indispensable part of our lives. We could even say that our day-to-day revolves around them as, every day, a wider range of things get on board of this digital cart; and arts isn???t staying out. The only reference used for this column is Juan Prada???s text Prácticas artísticas e internet en la época de las redes sociales.

By Marina P. Villarreal
Translated by Ninoska Banda

For many, the term ner.art may be familiar. However, some others, in spite having heard of it before, may wonder what net.art really is; since even when it is quite current and recent, knowledge about it is little spread.

So, what exactly is net.art? The term was originated in the most random way. Its means itself provided it and it???s attributed to Vuc Cosic. In 1994, this Slovenian artist received an anonymous e-mail, which, due to a software incompatibility produced a failure message that concluded with an ASCII code text: ???[???] J8~g#|\;Net.Art{´^s1 [???],??? in which only the word Net.art was legible. Instantly, Vuc Cosic interpreted the text as a sort of ready-made and, consequently, a new form of creation.

As for a definition, many authors have ventured to give an explanation for this type of artistic discipline. In the Prada book, Andreas Brogger defines it as: ???art that deals with “the net” and all that the net is about, regardless of medium???. Other artists nuance more when defining it, as Joachim Blank, who says: ???Netart functions only on the net and picks out the net or the “netmyth” as a theme.??? But they all agree on the usage of the net as the base support of the artistic product and on its nonmaterial, transformable or mutable, collaborative feature. 

 
Net.art brought with it not only a new way of creation, but also, one that was outside the institutional cultural control. Its difficult adaptation and categorization as an artistic object granted it freedom of creation that other disciplines didn???t offer. Since its very beginning, it showed itself as an authentic alternative an autonomous space, though ???at the end, it was a new attempt to try ???a new form of expansion of the concept of art???.???

The first net artists started to work in the 90s. Cosic, Aexei, Shulgin, Jodi.org, Heath Bunting and Olia Lialiana were the protagonists of the first group of this discipline: the net.art group. Their works, just like net.art in general, had as direct predecessors some of the avant-garde trends: futurism, kinetic and optic art, the posterior conceptual art, land-art, mail art and fluxus. With all of this, it was expectable to see this movement taking an activist path revolving around political causes and social inequality. Out of this works, virtual spaces of theoretical and practical dialogues emerged, such as on-line forums, platforms or e-mail lists. Some of this virtual places directed towards the ???construction of open communicative communities??? are Rhizone, Syndicate or Nettime.

From its appearance in 1994 ???till today, two phases of net.art have been identified. The first one goes up to 1997, even though some have placed the limit in 1999; the year in which this discipline entered the institution. Until that moment, net.art had earned adepts and increased its popularity so much that it got into the cultural offer and the institution, receiving its recognition through the participation of the discipline???s experts in seminaries and conferences. The 1998-1999 period was the most algid for net.art. After that, the second stage began, which put its fight ???against the connected and the popularization of the artistic practices within the net-system by a random audience,??? as the center. During this second phase, the discipline became a hotchpotch, in which any form of artistic practice in the network could fit in. That is to say, from projects that work with the experimentation of cybernetic languages, to those that focus on the written sign of the net or on the plurality of the information supports, among others. This association or extension in the applicability of the term, won more importance from 2003, due to the social transformation of the web as a result of the instauration of social networks as a new model. This is why some authors, like Ibáñez, suggest a possible third phase, supported by the notable changes this field has suffered since that date.

We don???t know whether we are in a third phase of net.art, or we still haven???t got passed the second one. What we can say is that this attempt to try a new form of expansion of the art concept has given results, and, thanks to the net, today art offers possibilities that a couple of decades before were unimaginable. 

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