This article possibly contains original research. (September 2010)
Internet art (often referred to as net art) is a form of digital artwork distributed via the Internet. This form of art has circumvented the traditional dominance of the gallery and museum system, delivering aesthetic experiences via the Internet. In many cases, the viewer is drawn into some kind of interaction with the work of art. Artists working in this manner are sometimes referred to as net artists.
Internet art can happen outside the technical structure of the Internet, such as when artists use specific social or cultural Internet traditions in a project outside of it. Internet art is often—but not always—interactive, participatory, and multimedia-based. Internet art can be used to spread a message, either political or social, using human interactions.
The term Internet art typically does not refer to art that has been simply digitized and uploaded to be viewable over the Internet. This can be done through a web browser, such as images of paintings uploaded for viewing in an online gallery. Rather, this genre relies intrinsically on the Internet to exist, taking advantage of such aspects as an interactive interface and connectivity to multiple social and economic cultures and micro-cultures. It refers to the Internet as a whole, not only to web-based works.
Theoriest and curator Jon Ippolito defined "Ten Myths" about Internet art in 2002. He cites the above stipulations, as well as defining it as distinct from commercial web design, and touching on issues of permanence, archivability, and collecting in a fluid medium.
Forms and presentation
Internet art can be created in a variety of media: through websites; e-mail projects; Internet-based original software projects (sometimes involving games); Internet-linked networked installations; interactive and/or streaming video, audio, or radio works; and networked performances (using multi-user domains, virtual worlds such as Second Life, chat rooms, and other networked environments). It can also include completely offline events, like Alexei Shulgin's 1997 Vienna performance, Real Cyberknowledge for Real People. Shulgin printed out copies of 'Beauty and the East' / ZKP4, published online by the mailing list nettime, and handed the booklets out to passers-by on the streets of Vienna. Internet art overlaps with other computer-based art forms such as new media art, electronic art, software art, digital art, telematic art and generative art.
The terms Internet art, net-based art, net art, Net.art, Web art, and even networked art have all been used to classify this type of work. However, the term networked art has a history of usage for artworks that were connected through closed networks before the Internet's popularization and commercialization in the early 1990s, such as many Telematic art projects. Net.art (pronounced "Net-dot-art") was a more popular term in the 1990s, often referring to some of the first net artists who were critiquing the structures of the Internet.[improper synthesis?]
Critic Rachel Greene states that the term originated "when Slovenian artist Vuk Cosic opened an anonymous e-mail only to find it had been mangled in transmission. Amid a morass of alphanumeric gibberish, Cosic could make out just one legible term —'net.art'—which he began using to talk about online art and communications." Greene lists several artists as early experimenters of the form: Vuk Ćosić, Jodi, Alexei Shulgin, Heath Bunting, Shu Lea Cheang, VNS Matrix and Olia Lialina. In her book Internet Art, Green places the inception of Internet art after 1993, with the popularization of graphical web browsing.
History and context
Internet art is rooted in disparate artistic traditions and movements, ranging from Dada to Situationism, conceptual art, Fluxus, video art, kinetic art, performance art, telematic art and happenings.
As the art form develops, its historical context is continually re-evaluated. Amsterdam-based critic Josephine Bosma defines Internet art as having "five generations", where the first generation of artists did not work with the Internet proper, but with electronic interconnectivity—precursors to the Internet, such as fax, slow scan television and videotex. These earlier forms are often defined more broadly as Networked art.
In 1974, Canadian artist Vera Frenkel worked with the Bell Canada Teleconferencing Studios to produce the work String Games, the first artwork to use telecommunications technologies.
An early telematic artwork was Roy Ascott's work, La Plissure du Texte, performed in collaboration created for an exhibition at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1983, using a closed-network of invited artists on the ARTEX network. Media art institutions such as Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, or the Paris-based IRCAM (a research center for electronic music), would also support or present early Networked art.
However, as Greene and others note, with spread of the desktop computer in the 1980s and the advent of the Web in the 1990s, a much broader spectrum of artists entered the field, often completely independent from art institutions—and often purposely at odds with institutional culture.
Between 1994 to 2000, several public venues formed to archive, disseminate and promote Internet art. Key organizations included SITO; The Thing; Adaweb, directed by Benjamin Weil; Alt-X, founded by artist Mark Amerika; Rhizome, initiated by artist and curator Mark Tribe; and FILE Electronic Language International Festival, founded by artists Ricardo Barreto and Paula Perissinotto.
With the rise of search engines as a gateway to accessing the web in the late 1990s, many net artists turned their attention to related themes. The 2001 'Data Dynamics' exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art featured 'Netomat' (Maciej Wisniewski) and 'Apartment' (Marek Walczak and Martin Wattenberg, which used search queries as raw material. Mary Flanagan's 'The Perpetual Bed' received attention for its novel use of 3D nonlinear narrative space, or what she called "navigable narratives."   Her 2001 work in the Whitney Biennial, 'collection' collected items from hard drives around the world and displayed them in a 'computational collective unconscious.' Golan Levin's 'The Secret Lives of Numbers' (2000) visualized the "popularity" of the numbers 1 to 1,000,000 as measured by Alta Vista search results. Such works pointed to alternative interfaces and questioned the dominant role of search engines in controlling access to the net.
Nevertheless, the Internet is not reducible to the web, nor to search engines. Besides these unicast (point to point) applications, suggesting that there is some reference points, there is also a multicast (multipoint and acentered) internet that has been explored by very few artistic experiences, such as the Poietic Generator.
The emergence of social networking platforms, understood to be “web-based services that allow individuals to… construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system… articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and… view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system,”  facilitated a transformative shift in the distribution of internet art. Early online communities were organized around specific “topical hierarchies,”  whereas social networking platforms consist of egocentric networks, with the “individual at the center of their own community.”  Artistic communities on the Internet underwent a similar transition in the mid-2000s, shifting from Surf Clubs, “15 to 30 person groups whose members contributed to an ongoing visual-conceptual conversation through the use of digital media” and whose membership was restricted to a select group of individuals, to image-based social networking platforms, like Flickr, which permit access to any individual with an e-mail address. Internet artists make extensive use of the networked capabilities of social networking platforms, and are rhizomatic in their organization, in that “production of meaning is externally contingent on a network of other artists’ content.”
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