Thursday, February 19, 2009

Email: Net Art Now

Every now and then, a student will send me a request for an interview and if I can find time in my schedule, I'll email them back some answers (I think of my own students, current and former, and how getting their email answered from other artists out in the network often helps them develop their research projects too).

The inquiries usually come from PhD students all around the world who are trying to place net art in its proper historical context while at the same time tease out its unique qualities as both an art form and unrealized commodity (per se) in the art market. These kinds of "practical" questions used to come to me in the pre-net art days in relation to the print books I was known to have published and the e-books I was now giving away on the net for free as part of some idealized gift economy populated by innovative hackers.

But now we have Kindle and besides, those questions about books in general have stopped coming in.

As the CEO of Amazon was quoted as saying last week while releasing Kindle, "Our vision is every book ever printed in every language, all available in less than 60 seconds."

He did not mention the potential profit margins or sealed programming languages the works might come packaged in.

Meanwhile, after some back and forth, this brief dialogue emerged with a student from Sotheby's Institute writing about "net art and the art market," although I can see now that I was a little bit rushed when composing my on-the-fly responses:

• What prompted you to get into net art, and did you at first view what you were creating as art, or programming?

Net art found me. I was experimenting with new forms of visual & narrative art in the early days of the net and started getting feedback from an emerging online audience – including net surfers, major media outlets, curators, critics, art magazines, etc.

• What do you see as the biggest benefits and limitations of net art?

The biggest benefit is that once you are ready to exhibit or go public with your work, you can immediately upload it to the net as a public art space and start the meme PR strategy to attract an audience.

The biggest limitation is that there are more sites competing for our attention, so attracting that audience to your site is more difficult than ever.


• How does net art fit into the context of the established art world?

In 2000-2002, it was The Next Big Thing. All of the big museums were literally buying in to it. But that has tampered down a bit and art on the net is now part of the established art world like any other media/medium.

What's still missing, though, is that the gallery scene has not successfully developed a strategy for selling net art to collectors. In some ways, this proves why net art is still the most interesting art form of all. That it can still attract major art world and higher education student attention while not being absorbed and neutralized by the commercial gallery scene points to some hidden strengths.

• Is institutional validation important to the legitimization of net art as art?

No, not really. But that does not mean that net artists cannot use institutional validation to their benefit.


• Can you tell me about some net art pieces that you have sold? For example, what did the works consist of; who purchased them; how did you find the buyers; what is the price range of the artworks that you have sold, etc.?

I have sold net art to a quite few collectors as have other net artists I know. They are all private collectors who collect all kinds of art from a variety of media. Mostly, the collectors find me, although it's always a result of patient networking.


• Do you think that net art has a place in the commercial art world?

Yes, but we need to look at the possibilities of hybridizing net art so that there are other ways of presenting / exhibiting it.

• How can net art be bought and sold, when there is no art object, and when the information is infinitely and perfectly reproducible at zero (or near-zero) cost?

Lots of ways: CDs, DVDs, Mini-Macs, iPhone apps, domain names, etc.

• How would you propose applying a market model to net art?

Same as all other art, just sell it as a commodity (in various media forms like the ones just mentioned above).


• Do you see bringing net art into physical space as being contradictory to its intent (ie: democratic nature of the internet; the intangible presence of net art)?

It depends on the piece and how it is exhibited. My work – in fact, in some instances, the same exact work – has been exhibited successfully in one venue and miserably in another. As with complex installations, a lot depends on the creativity of the exhibitions manager and their staff and the opportunities provided by the unique space where each exhibition takes place.

• Do you feel that physical modes of display diminish the experience of net art?

No, not at all. Sometimes it enhances it.


• The rapidly-changing technology platform upon which net art is built poses inherent challenges to conserving the artworks. How you feel this can be overcome, and the works adequately preserved?

It won't be easy! We may want to archive the technology (hardware/software) too and artists will always have the option of allowing emulation-as-restoration for their work over time.

• Whose responsibility should it be to preserve net art?

Museums, collectors, libraries, etc.

The Future

• Are we going to see more recasting of web pages as art objects as commercial interest in net art grows?

One would think this is inevitable. The collector mindset will change over time too.

• What is the future of net art as a genre?

The future of net art is art. It's not a net art thing, it's an art thing.

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Blogger El Guero Mestizo said...

thanks for a quick FAQ

2:14 PM  

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