In the book, the author explores Web Art and the characteristics of the Web that allow it to be an interesting and experimental platform on which to produce and make interactive art. As the book was published in 2002, during which the use of the Web for art-making was still a fairly new concept, I felt that it would be interesting to try and relate some of the characteristics to our understanding of the Web today and perhaps how they have evolved, in a world where the Web has become a normalised phenomenon.
Connectivity between Persons / Internationalism
Firstly, the author talks about how the Web enhances connectivity between persons. This still holds true for the Web today, and it has become widely accepted to think of the Web as a social platform. Examples of this include social media platforms, online chat services and online games where people are able to interact with one another in real time through the Internet. Also, the author mentions that this communication is worldwide, which leads to a variety of causations and implications.
An example of this is r/Place, a Reddit thread created by Brian Simpson, Matt Lee, & Daniel Ellis. It was created in 2017 on April Fools’, and Reddit users were given 72 hours to place coloured tiles anywhere on a space measuring 1,000 by 1,000 pixels. Although, users had to wait a few minutes before placing the next, which meant that their pixel could have been overwritten by another user. In order to create full images, people had to collaborate to write pixels together to ensure that their image would be formed in completion. The end result is a colourful mash of images from all over the world – and at once this work shows both the collaboration and internationality of the Web, and its potential in creating works of art.
Collaboration and Group Work
The author also mentions that the Web has become a platform for collaboration where different artists can come together to create a body of work together through the Internet. I think this builds on the previous point of connectivity and it is because of this increased connectivity that artists are able to work together in ways that they have never done before. The synthesis of ideas now happens on a virtual, online space which allows for unlimited possibilities, some of which are not achievable in the physical realm.
One example of this is the webart.sg movement started by Eugene Soh in 2013 where he bought multiple domains ending in “.sg” and put out an open call for artists to adopt these domains and create whatever they wanted on the websites. The virtual space allows artists to express themselves freely and the end product is a collection of Singaporean visual vernacular.
In my opinion, the collaboration that can happen over the Internet space shows the spectrum of human experience and the variety and mass of information that we are constantly creating and amassing in the digital world.
Comment on the Web Context
Lastly, the author mentions that the Web has become a tool for artists to comment and critique on developments in areas surrounding various social issues, such as imperialism, commercialisation, privacy and more. I feel this is especially prevalent today as the Internet amasses so much power because of its ability to affect us through the information and content we consume and create on the Web. In fact, there is also a need to critique the Internet itself, and consider its impacts and the structures that are inbuilt into Internet systems to determine their validity and credibility, and this is especially so when we consider the enormous reach of the Web today.
Wikipedia Art Exhibition
One such work that comments on technological and Internet structures is the Wikipedia Art performance by Scott Kildall and Nathaniel Stern, launched in 2009. They did this by first publishing a page of Wikipedia titled “Wikipedia Art”, intended to be a Wikipedia page where art could be composed on, and hence becoming art that anyone could edit because of the open source nature of the website. But because Wikipedia enforced its standards of credibility, any changes to the page had to be cited from external “trustworthy” sources to make it legitimate. But since the article was a performance in and of itself, and was never an informative one, it was taken down promptly by Wikipedia, stating that it did not adhere to the verifiability standards. The work was a critique on the sources we consider to be credible, such as mainstream news media, and to highlight that such sources may contain inherent biases and agendas that are ignored because they are part of bigger institutions of power and resource.
In a world where the Internet has such an extensive reach and impact, it is increasingly important for artists to raise questions about the hidden structures within such technology.
In conclusion, I believe that the Web will have a long lasting impact on humanity, and there are many developments in its technology that we have yet to reconcile with or truly understand. Internet art then becomes an important and poignant method through which we can discuss and explore the cultural and social impacts of the Web in our world today.