Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Internet Art

Internet art (often called net art) is art or cultural production which uses the Internet as its primary medium or inspiration (but not necessarily as its subject). Artists working this way are sometimes called net artists.

In some cases there might be an analogy to earlier formal art forms like video art, which uses video as its medium - but is also very much about video, like some forms of painting. Some net artists see the Internet as only one component in a meta-artistic system, depending on their specific artistic approach. Some culture producers on the Internet liken the term "net art" or net.art to a pun, a recapitulation of the consumerist ideals of Pop Art.

Internet art can take concrete form in artistic websites, e-mail projects, artistic Internet software, Internet-based or networked installations, online video, audio or radio works, networked performances, code poetry and installations or projects offline. Internet art is part of new media art and electronic art. A few sub-genres of Internet art are software art, generative art, net.radio, browser art, web-specific art, spam art, click environments, code poetry, and net-poetry.

Internet art is rooted in a variety of artistic traditions and movements, and could maybe be seen as a radical extension of various art disciplines. Some Internet art projects are particularly related to conceptual art, Fluxus, pop art and performance art. Internet art was initially created in an institutional context, partly in the traditional art world and partly in the media art world. Early projects were performed in collaboration with museums and other art institutions, such as Roy Ascott's work La Plissure du Texte which was created for an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris in 1983. 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 net art. The fact that both the computer and the internet have become a common, accessible technology has allowed a much broader scope of artists to enter the field, often completely independent from art institutions.

Internet art was very much in the picture between 1995 to 1998 when the general audience first discovered the Internet. Successful on and offline public venues such as Adaweb directed by Benjamin Weil, Rhizome initiated by artist and curator Mark Tribe and the Dx web site documentaX curated by Simon Lamuniere put Internet art on the map. The dot-com mania at the time created a double edged sword: it created a lot of attention for this type of art, but at the same time connected it to the soap bubble of online commerce in the minds eye of part of the audience. Currently, there is a strong tendency to look at Internet-related artworks in a wider context of art and technology, as also artists working with networks usually prefer to be contextualized within a general contemporary art discourse

above copied from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_art

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Dr. Flux said...

Why art should be free, Jon Ippolito

"Where there is no gift there is no art." --Lewis Hyde

Artists have been both instigators and beneficiaries of the digital revolution. But the delicate ecology that sustains that revolution is at risk of being overwhelmed by the business of art. In the war brewing over creativity in the digital age, artists are going to have to choose a side--and a lot rides on their decision.

The entrepreneurs have been waiting at the gate for some time now, perhaps fueled by journalists' obsession with how much a Web site should cost.1 Until recently, the brick-and-mortar art world had little economic incentive to take its online counterpart seriously. But now that a critical mass of museums has taken the plunge and commissioned artists' Web projects, the more adventurous dealers are testing the waters, wondering whether they should cast in a hook to see if any forward-thinking collectors would take the bait. Some artists--especially those who already have a beachhead in the art market--are delighted at this prospect. But exchange economies tend to steamroll gift economies; if the art market does take root in cyberspace, we have to make absolutely sure that it doesn't overrun the precarious ecosystem that gave rise to the rich global community we call digital art. For property, intellectual or personal, is the enemy of art.

This essay offers neither a Marxist attack on personal property nor a rosy vision of George Bush writing artists a fat check every year. It is simply an acknowledgment of the fact that a gift culture dies if people stop giving. Making art into property helps plenty of folks--even a few artists. The problem is, it cripples artists more than it helps them, by covertly impeding their power to create, to get paid, even to give.


Artist Ilya Kabakov claims that our society needs artists not to create more information or imagery--we've got enough of that already--but to recombine and envision the culture we already have. Fortunately, today's artists have tools that enable them to reinterpret culture as never before. Digital sampling has transformed music, data mining is a critical piece of Internet art, and the reinterpretation of classics is a rich source of contemporary literature. Yet as artists have been moving in this direction, lawyers have been moving in the opposite one, toward prohibiting the re-use of culture. So they've sued 2LiveCrew for sampling Oh Pretty Woman, Arriba Soft for re-framing Leslie Kelly's photos, and Alice Randall for rewriting Gone with the Wind from the slave's perspective. Property--intellectual property--is their rationale.

Intellectual property lawyers running amok have extended the term of copyright eleven times in forty years. It is literally illegal to write software to fast forward past commercials on your DVD. If Senator Fritz Hollings' bill prevails, it will be illegal to sell a fully programmable computer that can run multimedia.

Intellectual property isn't all bad.2 We probably should fine those guys on Canal Street who sell hot copies of Photoshop for $30. The supposed attempt to protect artists via expanded copyright protections, however, is just a smokescreen for guarding corporate profits.

The root of this problem is not the "intellectual" part of intellectual property, but the "property" part. For intellectual property isn't the only possible pollution of the creative ecosystem. The art market's presumption that art is physical property also serves as a smokescreen--and not just for digital artworks.


In principle, there is nothing wrong with wanting to make a living as an artist. What's wrong is the perception that our society's art market will ever make that possible for more than a token few.

The folks this market benefits most are the middlemen: auctioneers, dealers, critics, art school faculty. The meager salary I reap as a curator is premised on a plentiful supply of art to choose from, good and bad. If there are only three artists in town--no matter how good they are--you don't need museums and magazines to point them out to you. The plentiful supply of art in our culture is the product of the unrecompensed labor of countless artists working away in their studios. For no great art was ever made in isolation; indeed, good art plays off the expectations developed by bad artists. There is no way for a market-driven art world based on finding and immortalizing superstars to survive without a rich culture of art to draw from. Yet to say the art market helps the starving artist is tantamount to saying the lottery helps the poor: it profits a tiny percentage, and distracts the rest from their impoverished social position with dreams of sudden affluence.

Leaving aside artists as a class, the evidence that the market has encouraged art that better serves society is pretty scant. It's possible, to be sure, that the need to find a marketing niche is responsible for the pluralism apparent in recent contemporary art. Unfortunately, artists who find such a niche also find themselves caught in what Joseph McElroy has called "brand slavery"--the inability to sell works outside of a signature style for which they have become known. The market also discourages artistic paradigms that depart from the model of solitary genius; I've had dealers admit to my face that they can't take on collaborative work because it won't sell.

Even those selected by the market can end up hostages to it. Musicians and writers gladly sign away their rights for the chance to publish with a major record or book label. Even terms written explicitly into a contract can be meaningless if the cost of litigation is prohibitive for the struggling artist.3 In my gallery experience as a visual artist, I've had to build pedestals, repaint walls, design, print, and mail my own announcements--and then lose 50% commission on anything I sell.4

But what proof is there that artists would bother to make art--much less curators exhibit art and critics write about it--if there were no market to sell it and no copyright to protect it? It turns out there is a vast and vibrant artistic community for which the number of artworks ever sold to a willing buyer can be counted on one hand. Though scarcely a decade old, this community has produced more artistic genres and manifestos, public exhibitions, and critical writing than the market- driven artworld has in the past three decades. It's been more democratic and geographically diverse; statistics indicate that its audience is at least as large as visitors to galleries and museums. This body of evidence is right under your fingertips. It is the Internet.

The invisible hand is a theory. Copyright is a theory. The benefit of propertyless art is a fact--a global, instantly accessible fact.

But that may change, now that Internet art is finally gaining a foothold in galleries and museums. Ironically, it is online artists who have the most to lose from the grafting of an exchange economy onto this extraordinary refuge from property. For market influences threaten to carve up their vital public sphere into separate domains of private ownership. Say goodbye to connective art like Shredder, Netomat, and the Impermanence Agent. Internet artists eager to usher sales of their work may end up trading their wildlife refuge for a zoo.5

Can't Internet artists have their cake and eat it too--sell their work and still have it accessible online? The problem is, dealers who play by the rules of property will want to offer collectors exclusive viewing rights. Even if artists try to sell those rights themselves--say, by offering art online via subscription or pay per view schemes--they may find themselves in the same predicament as their dot-com predecessors. Seventy percent of adults can't see themselves paying for any form of online content.6 Conditioned by Napster, free e-mail, and open source software, the general public has got it into their heads that the Internet is for everyone. And they're right.


Property's apologists might insist that giving art the status of property doesn't impede its ability to be given away. Wrong. Artists are constantly giving, in the sense of working without pay--yet property law makes sure that artists aren't the ones empowered by giving art. If you make art to give away, you won't show a profit on your income tax return, and the IRS will reject as a "hobby" expense your attempt to write off your studio rent. Even if you show a profit, you can only write off the cost of materials for any charitable donations, whereas the collector of your work can write off the market value. So if Robert Rauschenberg gives a white painting to the Menil Collection, he gets a $100 tax break to cover the stretcher bars, canvas, and tube of titanium white. If he gives it to a Rockefeller and he gives it to the Menil, Mr. Rockefeller gets a $100,000 tax break.

If you think artists don't get an even break giving away art while they're alive, just wait until they're dead. My father, a second-generation abstract painter, was well known in the 1950s, but his market shrank when he moved away from New York City in subsequent decades. Nevertheless he continued to paint prolifically and had hundreds of unsold works in his studio when he recently died. As heirs, my brother and I were faced with the dire prospect that the IRS could take his asking price for a painting, multiply by the number of paintings in his inventory, and then levy taxes on this multimillion-dollar figure. But paintings aren't chairs or bolts; you can't just liquidate them at the drop of a hat. I'm sure my father thought of his artistic legacy as a financial safety net for his children, but it has become a road straight to bankruptcy.

Nor are there many options for artists and their heirs to avoid being saddled with "property debt." Establishing a foundation to support a dead artist's work sounds nice, but it requires gobs of liquid capital and entails self-dealing rules that prevent beneficiaries from being decision-makers. Non-traditional bequests are even more costly; gay or lesbian partners of deceased artists, for example, aren't allowed the million-dollar tax exemption of legal spouses. After participating in a conference on estate planning for artists, painter Philip Pearlstein summed up his assessment in the handbook published by the conference's organizers:

"When I die, my studio will have to be emptied of all my paintings....once the stuff is in the moving van, where will it go? After all these years of painting, have I simply created a terrible burden for my wife and children? They will have to give directions to the driver of that van. It almost seems that the easiest solution would be for them to take a few souvenirs and have the rest driven to the town dump."

Unfortunately, even Pearlstein's draconian solution wouldn't prevent his family from paying inheritance taxes, for they're based on the estate's value at time of death. You can't give property away to avoid inheritance tax; you can't even avoid throw it away. Attorney John Silberman once asked the IRS how they would judge a body of works that were made purely for art's sake, with little commercial potential. The response was, "If you do not want to pay taxes on them, destroy them before you die." 7

Which is exactly what artists should do: destroy their artistic property before they die. But how can you destroy artistic property without destroying art?


The answer is with an open license. Open licenses have rarely been applied to art8, but they've been a driving force behind much of the software that runs the Internet.9 The archetype for open licenses is Richard Stallman's GNU Public License, which when attached to a piece of software guarantees that all works based on that software must inherit the same freedoms embodied by the original. Such freedoms can include a requirement that the source code be transparent to anyone who wants to see how it was made; that it be recombinant, meaning that anyone can recombine elements of the original product to make a new one; that it be credited, so there is a record of all the collaborators who may have modified an original product; and finally that it be circulating, that recipients of the code not attempt to prevent others from freely distributing any derivatives based upon it.10

While all of these terms are potentially applicable to code-based products like Internet art, the last criterion is applicable to any form of open culture, from paintings and sculpture to academic research and argument. Soon, artists will be able to learn about and apply such open licenses, thanks to the efforts of a group of affiliates of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society11 who will soon launch a clearinghouse for open licenses at Creativecommons.org.

I'm not proposing that creators be locked into open licenses for all their projects. Individuals could choose on a project-by-project basis which works to be open licensed and which to be distributed based on the closed terms of traditional property. I'm just not sure there's a good reason to call the latter work art; "commercial art" strikes me as a contradiction in terms.

"You can't fight capitalism," I hear some readers say. "The art market has assimilated corners of fat and scribbled blackboards by Josef Beuys, even though there's little evidence he wanted them sold. If a dealer wants to sell your work, they will." Yeah, unless you make it illegal. The GNU Public License uses a strategy called copyleft--an ingenious twist on copyright--to enforce openness. Creators of copylefted products retain their copyright so they can sue anyone who tries to constrain access to work they distributed for free. Open licenses won't put dealers and appraisers and the rest of the middlemen out of business. But it will release the lock the market has on deciding the fate of art--just as GNU/Linux has released the Microsoft's lock on the fate of software.

But why would artists choose open licenses? How would they pay the studio rent and DSL bill? The same way their parents' and grandparents' generation did, the same way the overwhelming majority of them do now: a day job. Day jobs suck, but they help reinforce the line between the choices artists make for commercial reasons and the choices they make for their art. Ironically, Internet artists often complain about having to hold down a day job, despite the fact that they're the artists whose skills put them in the best stead for landing lucrative part-time jobs. Part of the problem is the expectations of comparable wage from the dot-com boom. Something tells me that Merce Cunningham and Nam June Paik never bitched about how much more money they could have made doing developees or smashing pianos for the commercial world.12


Artists aren't the only ones whose illusions would be shattered by taking away the false promise of commercial success through selling art. Up to now, capitalist societies have been able to excuse their unwillingness to support artists by entrusting that responsibility to the art market. America, for example, ranks somewhere alongside Iran when it comes to public sponsorship of the arts: 6$ per capita, compared to Canada's $46, France's $57, or Germany's $85. Our policymakers don't see this as a problem because they're under the impression American artists make a living on the market. When I try to breathe some reality into the stratospheric deliberations of NEA chiefs, copyright registrars, and arts organization policy wonks, they look at me like I'm crazy in the head. Without the pretense of market compensation, the wealthy and powerful might be under a little more pressure to sponsor free health care, grants, and other mechanisms to sustain this invaluable cultural production. But even if they don't, the difference would only be felt among the tiny percentage of artists who currently make any substantial living off their work. And even those artists wouldn't get pinched by the unfair laws preventing them from empowering themselves through giving.

There are also individual benefits to giving--altruistic and economic. To exclude art from an exchange economy doesn't imply it will have no economic value; it's just that its economic value won't be determined by exchange.13 I'm not talking about the benefits you get by being an Andrew Carnegie or John D. Rockefeller Jr. Those people gave with the expectation of getting something else in exchange: tax writeoffs, spin control, the ability to sleep at night. I'm talking about the currency of gift economies--communities that circulate rather than exchange gifts. Achilles and Odysseus had Kleos. The Impressionists of fin-de-siecle Paris had the Troc. Slashdot has egoboo; Everything2.com has experience points. They mean respect, they mean prestige, but they also mean people will listen to you and talk about you. And those things are just as important to the starving artist as the bread on his table. As writer Joline Blais puts it, to sell the products of artistic labor is to tak! e away artists' power as the source of the gift.

Kleos and egoboo don't pay the bills, but no middleman has a cut of them either. And they can lead to grants, commissions, patronage, and other financial rewards that aren't based on property14. Yet any creator who plays according to the rules of gift economies should be judged according to them--in the eyes of the Copyright office and IRS, among others. All of culture, whether protected by closed copyright or not--Mickey Mouse, Bart Simpson, the whole kit and kaboodle--should be fair game when it comes to appropriating material for an open-licensed work. Open-licensed artworks would have no clear sales value, and hence not be taxable as income or inheritance.15 If you get a grant to help you give more things away, you shouldn't pay tax on that money. The primary job of the executor of an artist's estate should be to give the inheritance away in the manner most consistent with the artist's intent.

There should also be consequences for the receivers of these gifts, who would be beholden to the circulation requirement of open licenses. For museums to acquire open-licensed art would require them to transform from collecting institutions to circulating institutions. This change would be just as dramatic for paintings as for online art, for museums commonly exhibit less than ten percent of the works in their collection; the rest gather dust in basements and warehouses. No schoolchild will ever see inspiration in a sculpture banished for eternity to a wooden box. Paintings on a warehouse rack are not common culture, but a dollar value in the assets column of some annual report handed out at board meetings. Art is cultural heritage, not an investment to be squirreled away in a vault as a form of commodity speculation. To acquire an open-licensed work, museums would have to drastically reshape their acquisitions policies to ensure the works in their collection spent the maxim! um possible time on public view--if not on their own walls, then on loan to other institutions. In return, however, such circulators would qualify for regulatory tax benefits of their own.16


Voluntary licensing doesn't require any changes in intellectual property law; this is both its strength and its weakness. As the name "Creative Commons" suggests, open licenses have the potential to demarcate a public space immune from the restrictions of intellectual and physical property--in the same sense that a public park like the Boston Commons is a communal territory available to all citizens equally. But the rest of the digital world is already functionally a commons anyway--it's just not legally one. Software piracy is rampant; Napster and its variants permit unlimited music sharing; and Web designers routinely pilfer code from other online sites whether it's copylefted or not.

That leaves an enforceability dilemma for legislators. They could choose not to put any muscle behind enforcing their own laws protecting intellectual property, in which case those laws will only hurt law-abiding citizens. Or they could choose to enforce them by the only means possible: drastically curtailing the freedoms netizens currently enjoy in order to prevent unauthorized use of digital culture. Senator Hollings has already proposed such legislation: the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act. This act would mandate copyright-sniffing chips in every PC and make circumventing them illegal--effectively forbidding the sale of fully programmable personal computers and eliminating any hope of innovative approaches to recording, playing, cataloging, and distributing music or movies. To disable the Internet to save EMI and Disney is the moral equivalent of burning down the library of Alexandria to ensure the livelihood of monastic scribes. Unfortunately, the! se legislators don't know enough about the Internet to understand why Webarchivist and Google deserve more protection than Britney Spears and The Little Mermaid. It won't do artists any good to copyleft their movies if personal computers can only play videos produced by Hollywood studios.

The mutability of digital media creates another liability with voluntary licenses. Suppose digital artist Geoff Kuhntz scans a copyrighted postcard of seven puppies on a cushion, then uses Photoshop to replace all but one with a flowery background. Suppose Kuhntz then offers his image free of restrictions on a clearinghouse for open culture like Creativecommons.org. He's free to do that, because his "transformative use" of the original image qualifies for fair use protection against a copyright suit. Another artist downloads it, agreeing to abide by the terms of the license. She decides it would look better if there were seven puppies instead of one, so she clones them--and wham, gets hit with a copyright infringement suit by the original artist. You can imagine the same scenario taking place in other media--for example, if an excerpted Philip Glass riff were re-sampled into a minimalist composition that rivaled the original, or if a work of online art that depended on random combinations of image and text from other pages accidentally re-created something dangerously close to one of its victims' Web pages. For digital culture, fair use is a porous category, which makes open licenses no guarantee you won't be sued.

As Creative Commons consultant Wendy Seltzer has observed, these practical obstacles don't necessarily mean the open license approach is wrong, just that it's incomplete. Modest readjustments are not an adequate solution to a legal framework that is out of touch with digital reality. To complement open licenses, we need not a legal or illegal intervention, but a meta-legal one.


The solution I'd suggest to the digital liability of open licenses is as practical as it is radical: a "digital sanctuary." Digital objects are like rabbits--they reproduce easily. It is this promiscuity that creates practical problems for the commons approach. Let's say you take your pet rabbit for a walk in a public commons. If it gives birth, the offspring are still your property, and you can prosecute anyone who takes them from you. But if your promiscuous bunny's offspring happen to hop their way into a wildlife sanctuary, they could go from property to heritage--at which point your exclusive claim on them could vanish.

The Internet could serve as such a sanctuary17 for digital creativity, if our legal system were to treat any snippet of culture that found its way online as communal heritage. The effect of this rule would be that any form of streamable18 creativity, be it a text file, JPEG, or MP3, is automatically copylefted. Streamable versions of fixed formats--such as the MP3 of a live concert or Quicktime bootleg of a movie playing in theaters--would be similarly protected, whether they were streamed by the fixed-format's rights holder or by an unauthorized fan.

While this proposal would radically change the judicial understanding of the Internet's role in stimulating innovation, it wouldn't change the actual everyday use of the Internet very much at all. Although you'd never know it by listening to Hilary Rosen and Jack Valenti, most citizens treat the Internet as a sanctuary already, surfing clear of online content that costs money.

In a global network, of course, enforcing open access--what Stanford cyberlaw guru Lawrence Lessig has called "copyduty"--may be as difficult as enforcing closed access. To this problem I propose a compromise. Hollywood, the record labels, and anyone else who wants restrict access to culture can try out innovative copy-protection schemes online, and hope that Jon Johansen doesn't crack them--or more importantly that his doing so doesn't cut into their profit margins. This "post at your own risk" policy would mean that the circumvention of locked culture would be legal, but not guaranteed. A pet owner may choose to walk her bunny through the sanctuary with a leash--but if that bunny wriggles and hops away, the owner has no legal recourse to getting it back. Should the bunny emerge from the sanctuary and re-enter normal space, the owner can again assert property rights--and the same would be true of digital culture. Under this system, netizens could post endless remixes of The! Phantom Menace online with impunity, but once they tried to distribute them in movie theaters, George Lucas could sue them for infringement.

The digital sanctuary is not a wilderness, but a wildlife refuge--not beyond the law, but protected by it. Legal paradigms like the protection of privacy and the prohibition on dangerous speech, which protect the public rather than rights holders, may still apply. We stamp out forest fires when they threaten parks; maybe we should also stamp out computer viruses that threaten the network. It's not entirely clear how to enforce these protections, but it is important to note that the copy- protection schemes proposed by Hollings aren't the way.

Of course, the media conglomerates and their content providers can continue to make money off of the things that can't be streamed: immersive projections in big theaters, live concerts, leather-bound books you can read at the beach. Painters and sculptors would still have a choice of open or closed licenses for the products of their labor--they just couldn't enforce copyright over online digital reproductions of their work. For their part, Internet artists determined to make a buck could put digital leashes on their Web sites and hope for the best.19 Or they could be grateful for what they have: a refuge from property, poor in cash but rich in gifts. NOTES

1 To be sure, headlines like "Tangible Dollars for an Intangible Creation" are not always the fault of the individual journalist, but may reflect the priorities of the periodical that prints them.

2 By comparison, Berkman affiliate Glenn Otis Brown sees constitutional impediments to legislating a blanket "copyduty"--Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig's term for guaranteed access to copyrighted material.

3 At the 100th American Assembly on "Art, Technology, and Intellectual Property," Tim Quirk of Listen.com recounted how his record label blatantly reneged on their contract's guarantee for a second CD and music video for his band. The record industry lawyers he spoke to all told him he might recoup a few thousand dollars if he was willing to spend three years fighting the case.

4 I've also had a dealer who visited my studio communicate my unrealized ideas to his own artists so they could execute them. Like most artists, I had no realistic legal resource; the gallerist's defense was "I guess these ideas are just in the air." So much for copyright's supposed protection of the struggling artist.

5 Some critics argue that the art world may only assimilate Internet art that can exist in standalone versions or be shared by a "gated community." But why not ask the art world--which is simply a big network itself--to reinvent itself so as to accommodate the networked aspects of Internet art? Suppose galleries and museums told sculptors not to give them works that couldn't fit in their painting racks; what's the point of collecting sculptures if all of them are flat?

6 According to Jupiter Media Metrix analyst David Card. Artist John Simon has developed a brisk market in very low-cost, personalized software sold online; his model, however, isn't scalable enough to sustain an entire artistic community. www.numeral.com

7 Both quotes from A Visual Artist's Guide to Estate Planning, published by The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation and The Judith Rothschild Foundation www.sharpeartfdn.org/estateplanning.htm.

8 An exception is Conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner's BROKEN OFF, a work consisting of the words of the title printed on a wall (and hence easily duplicated). Weiner declared this work to be "Collection Public Freehold"--but like other works in the public domain, his declaration makes no guarantee that works based on it must also be public domain. Hence the advantage of copyleft over public domain. More recently, Michael Stutz has posted a "Design Science License" for linear video and sound files, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation has come up with an "open audio license" for music.

9 The GNU/Linux operating system, Apache Web server, and Perl programming language are three prominent examples of open-licensed software.

10 Depending upon the exact terms of the license, this last requirement can prohibit anyonefrom making a profit by selling something based on the product, or it can simply require that sellers of the product not attempt to prevent others from distributing it for free. Red Hat Linux is a prominent example of a commercial distributor of noncommercial software. More at www.gnu.org.

11 These include Glenn Otis Brown, Wendy Seltzer, and Molly Van Houweling, working under the guidance of Stanford professor Lawrence Lessig.

12 When I was looking up historical reviews of FLUXUS performances for the Guggenheim's Paik retrospective, many of the questions critics asked resonated with Internet art: Is it art? Is it good? But no journalist among the fifty-odd articles I read asked how these artists were going to make a living off their work.

13 To say art shouldn't be sold also doesn't imply it can't be collected, whether by private patrons or by public museums. According to the variable media paradigm I have proposed for collecting new media, an artwork's "heritage value" is the putative cost over time to re-create the work to keep it alive. More on variable media at www.guggenheim.org/variablemedia.

14 Sculptor David Smith was once rejected for a loan in his hometown of Paulding, Ohio. He went around the corner, bought a copy of Time magazine, showed it to the bank clerk, and was instantly approved. His face was on the cover.

15 If an artist open-licenses some works but sells others as property, then the extent to which she is eligible for social benefits could be pro-rated as to how she itemized her relative expenses for these projects.

16 As with artists, the extent of benefits would reflect the proportion of open activity within the organization.

17 The digital sanctuary I propose, of course, is not defined by spatial boundaries. In that sense, the digital sanctuary is akin to an endangered species list, since the animals it protects are defined by a predetermined criterion rather than a predefined location or species. In terms of the criterion for protection, however, the digital sanctuary is the opposite of an endangered list: it protects not that which is most rare, but that which is most accessible.

18 I'm using the word "streamable" in the generic sense of anything that can conveniently be rendered in TCP/IP and circulated online.

19 Of course, the half-life of exclusive online art has historically been short: cf. Vuk Cosic's Documenta Done or 0100101110101101.ORG's remake of Hell.com.

the above copied from: http://three.org/ippolito/writing/wri_online_why.html

Dr. Flux said...

Introduction: "Ten Myths about Internet Art"
by Jon Ippolito

The Dawn of Online Art

By the time the mainstream art world awakened to the telecommunications revolution of the 1990s, a new landscape of exploration and experimentation had already dawned outside its window. Art on this electronic frontier--known variously as Internet art, online art, or net art-matured at the same breakneck pace with which digital technology itself has expanded. Less than a decade after the introduction of the first image-capable browser for the World Wide Web, online art has become a major movement with a global audience. It took twenty years after the introduction of television for video artists such as Nam June Paik to access the technology required to produce art for broadcast television. Online artists, by comparison, were already exchanging text-based projects and criticism before the Internet became a visual medium with the introduction of the Mosaic browser in 1993. By 1995, eight percent of all Web sites were produced by artists, giving them an unprecedented opportunity to shape a new medium at its very inception. Since that time, art on the Internet has spawned countless critical discussions on e-mail-based communities such as the Thing, Nettime, 7-11, and Rhizome.org. Encouraged by a growing excitement over the Internet as a social and economic phenomenon, proliferating news articles and museum exhibitions have brought online art to the forefront of the discussion of art's future in the twenty-first century.

Collecting Online Art

The Guggenheim is commissioning and collecting works of Internet art in recognition of the extraordinary promise that new media, and the Internet in particular, hold for transforming the creation of and access to visual culture. Preserving intangible and often collaborative works of art dispersed across a global network requires the museum to forego its expertise with the traditional artistic means of palette and brush and develop a facility with twenty-first century tools, such as Java or DHTML. While it may be an especially challenging leap for a brick-and-mortar repository, collecting online artworks is nevertheless perfectly in spirit with the Guggenheim's tradition of vanguard collection policies, from original curator Hilla Rebay's championing of non-objective painting in the 1940s to the acquisition of the Panza Collection of Minimalist and Conceptual art in the 1980s. Such a shift in focus is not easy, but to ignore online art could in the short term mean that museums would lose their relevance to an increasingly networked culture, while in the long term technologically obsolete artworks might slip through the cultural safety net into oblivion.

Ten Myths about Internet Art

One of the reasons for the difficulty of adapting a museum to networked culture is that numerous misconceptions persist about that culture--even those who are savvy about art or the Internet do not often understand what it means to make art for the Internet. Here are ten myths about Internet art worth dispelling.

Myth Number 1: The Internet is a medium for delivering miniature forms of other art mediums.

Though you might never know it from browsing many of the forty million Web sites listed in an online search for the word "art," the Internet is more than a newfangled outlet for selling paintings. Granted, searching Yahoo for "Visual Art" is just as likely to turn up alt.airbrush.art as äda'web, but that's because Internet art tends to make its cultural waves outside of art-world enclaves, surfacing on media venues like CNN and the Wall Street Journal as well as on museum Web sites. More importantly, this art exploits the inherent capabilities of the Internet, making both more participatory, connective, or dynamic. Online renditions of paintings or films are limited not just by the fact that most people cannot afford the bandwidth required to view these works at their original resolution, but also by the fact that painting or cinema do not benefit from the Internet's inherent strengths: you would expect more of art made for television than a still image, so when surfing the Web why settle for a scanned-in Picasso or 150 by 200 pixel Gone with the Wind? Successful online works can offer diverse paths to navigate, recombine images from different servers on the same Web page, or create unique forms of community consisting of people scattered across the globe.

Myth Number 2: Internet art is appreciated only by an arcane subculture.

Museum curators are sometimes surprised to discover that more people surf prominent Internet art sites than attend their own brick-and-mortar museums. To be sure, the online art community has developed almost entirely outside the purview of galleries, auction houses, and printed art magazines. Ironically, however, online art's disconnect from the mainstream art world has actually contributed to its broad appeal and international following. The absence of a gallery shingle, a museum lintel, or even a "dot-art" domain suffix to flag art Web sites means that many people who would never set foot in a gallery stumble across works of Internet art by following a fortuitous link. Without a Duchampian frame to fall back on, most online artworks look outside of inbred references to art history or institutions for their meaning. For these reasons, the Guggenheim's acquisition of online works into its collection is less a radical experiment in evaluating a new medium than a recognition of the importance this decade-old movement has gathered independently of the art world's traditional validation mechanisms.

Myth Number 3: To make Internet art requires expensive equipment and special training.

One of the reasons network culture spreads so quickly is that advances don't come exclusively from Big Science or Big Industry. Individual artists and programmers can make a difference just by finding the right cultural need and fulfilling it through the philosophy of "DIY": Do It Yourself. In the right hands, homespun HTML can be just as powerful as elaborate VRML environments. And thanks to View Source--the browser feature that allows surfers to see how a Web page is built and reappropriate the code for their own ends--online artists do not need residencies in research universities or high-tech firms to acquire the necessary skills. The requirement that online artworks squeeze through the 14.4 kbs modems of dairy farmers and den mothers forces online artists to forego the sensory immersion of IMAX or the processing power of Silicon Graphics. However, constraints on bandwidth and processor speed can actually work to the advantage of Internet artists, encouraging them to strive for distributed content rather than linear narrative and to seek conceptual elegance rather than theatrical overkill. Making successful art for the Internet is not just a matter of learning the right tools, but also of learning the right attitude.

Myth Number 4: Internet art contributes to the Digital Divide.

The widening gap between digital haves and have-nots is a serious concern in many public spheres, from education to employment. But this bias is reversed for art. While it is true that online artists in Ljubliana or Seoul pay steep by-the-minute rates for Internet access and triple the price of what a PC would cost at Circuit City, but finding tubes of cadmium red or a bronze foundry in those locales is even more challenging and much more expensive. Even in Manhattan, an artist can buy an iMac for less than the oils and large stretcher bars needed to make a single, "New York-sized" painting. And when it comes to distributing finished works, there is no comparison between the democratizing contact made possible by the Internet and the geographic exclusivity of the analog art world. Only an extreme combination of luck and persistence will grant an artist entrance to gallery openings and cocktail parties that can make or break careers in the New York art world. But artists in Slovenia and Korea--outside what are considered the mainstream geographic channels of the art world--have had notable success in making art for the Internet, where anyone who signs up for free e-mail account can debate Internet aesthetics with curators on Nettime or take advantage of free Web hosting can post art for all to see.

Myth Number 5: Internet art = Web art.

The World Wide Web is only one of the mediums that make up the Internet. Internet artists have exploited plenty of other online protocols, including e-mail, peer-to-peer instant messengering, videoconference software, MP3 audio files, and text-only environments like MUDs and MOOs. It's tempting to segregate these practices according to traditional categories, such as calling e-mail art and other ephemeral formats "performance art." Yet the interchangeability of these formats defies categorization, as when, for example, the transcript of improvisitory theater conducted via a chat interface ends up on someone's Web page as a static text file. Internet mediums tend to be technologically promiscuous: video can be streamed from within a Web page, Web pages can be sent via e-mail, and it's possible to rearrange and re-present images and text from several different sites on a new Web page. These artist-made mutations are not just stunts performed by mischievous hackers; they serve as vivid reminders that Internet has evolved far beyond the print metaphors of its youth.

Myth Number 6: Internet art is a form of Web design.

It may be fashionable to view artists as "experience designers," but there is more to art than design. The distinction between the two does not lie in differences in subject matter or context as much as in the fact that design serves recognized objectives, while art creates its objectives in the act of accomplishing them. The online portfolios of Web design firms may contain dazzling graphics, splashy Flash movies, and other attractions, but to qualify as art, such projects must go beyond just visual appeal. Design creates a matrix of expectations into which the artist throws monkey wrenches. Just as a painter plays off pictorial design, a net artist may play off software design. Design is a necessary--but not sufficient--condition for art.

Myth Number 7: Internet art is a form of technological innovation.

Internet artists spend much of their time innovating: custom-writing Java applets, or experimenting with new plug-ins. But innovation in and of itself is not art. Plenty of nonartists discover unique or novel ways to use technology. What sets art apart from other technological endeavors is not the innovative use of technology, but a creative misuse of it, for to use a tool as it was intended, whether a screwdriver or spreadsheet, is simply to fulfill its potential. By misusing that tool--that is, by peeling off its ideological wrapper and applying it to a purpose or effect that was not its maker's intention--artists can exploit a technology's hidden potential in an intelligent and revelatory way. And so when Nam June Paik lugs a magnet onto a TV, he violates not only the printed instructions that came with the set, but also the assumption that networks control the broadcast signal. Today's technological innovation may be tomorrow's cliché, but the creative misuse of technology still feels fresh even if the medium might be stale. The combined megaHerz deployed by George Lucas in his digitally composited Star Wars sequels only makes more impressive--and equally surprising--the effects Charlie Chaplin achieved simply by cranking film backwards through his camera. In a similar vein, the online artists jodi.org exploited a bug in Netscape 1.1 that allows an "improper" form of animation that predated Flash technology by half a decade.

Myth Number 8: Internet art is impossible to collect.

Although the "outside the mainstream" stance taken by many online artists contributes to this impression, the most daunting obstacle to collecting Internet art is the ferocious pace of Internet evolution. Online art is far more vulnerable to technological obsolescence than precedents such as film or video; in one example, works created for Netscape 1.1 became unreadable when Netscape 2 was released in the mid-1990s. Yet the Guggenheim is bringing a particularly long-term vision to collecting online art, acquiring commissions directly into its permanent collection alongside painting and sculpture rather than into ancillary special Internet art collections as other museums have done. The logic behind the Guggenheim's approach, known as the Variable Media Initiative, is to prepare for the obsolescence of ephemeral technology by encouraging artists to envision the possible acceptable forms their work might take in the future. It may seem risky to commit to preserving art based on such evanescent technologies, but the Guggenheim has faced similar issues with other contemporary acquisitions, such as Meg Webster's spirals made of leafy branches, Dan Flavin's installations of fluorescent light fixtures, and Robert Morris' temporary plywood structures that are built from blueprints. Preserving those works requires more than simply storing them in crates, so too immortalizing online art demands more than archiving Web files on a server or CD-ROM. Along with the digital files corresponding to each piece, the Guggenheim compiles data for an each artist how the artwork is to be translated into new mediums once its original hardware and software are obsolete. To prepare for such future re-creations, the Guggenheim has created a variable media endowment, the interest of which is earmarked for future costs of data migration, emulation, and reprogramming.

Myth Number 9. Internet art will never be important because you can't sell a Web site.

It is true that the same market that so insouciantly banged gavels for artworks comprised of pickled sharks and other unexpected materials has yet to figure out how to squeeze out more than the cost of dinner for two from the sale of an artist's Web site. The reason artist's Web sites have not made it to the auction block is not their substance or lack thereof (since equally immaterial forms of art have been sold via certificates of authenticity since the 1970s), but their very origin. The Internet of the early 1990s, and the art made for it, was nourished not by venture capital or gallery advances but by the free circulation of ideas. Exploiting network protocols subsidized by the U.S. government, academics e-mailed research and programmers ftp'd code into the communal ether, expecting no immediate reward but taking advantage nevertheless of the wealth of information this shared ethic placed at their fingertips. Online artists followed suit, posting art and criticism with no promise of reward besides the opportunity to contribute to an exciting new paradigm for artmaking. Indeed, many artists who made the leap to cyberspace claimed to do so as a reaction against the exclusivity and greed of the art market. It's not clear whether online art can retain its youthful allegiance to this gift economy and still enter the profit-driven world. It is possible, however, to hypothesize a Web site's putative value independent of its price tag in an exchange economy. That value would be the sum total of money a museum would be willing to spend over time reprogramming the site to ward off obsolescence (see Myth Number 8).

Myth Number 10. Looking at Internet art is a solitary experience.

Most people surf the Internet alone, in their home or office, but this doesn't mean that others aren't virtually present. The Internet may be a valuable tool for individual use, but it is far more important as a social mechanism. Beyond the numerous online communities and listserves dedicated to discussing and debating art, many of the best Internet artists reckon success not by the number of technical innovations, but by the number of people plugged in and turned on. The hacktivist clearinghouse ®™ark, for example, connects sponsors interested in donating money or resources for anticorporate protest with activists who can effectively promote those agendas. Not all online communities need be political. Artworks as visually dissimilar as Mark Napier's net.flag and John F. Simon, Jr.'s Unfolding Object capture the traces of many viewers' interactions and integrate them into their respective interfaces. In some cases, viewers can see the effects of other participants immediately, as they are reflected in the artwork in real time. In most online art, however, as in most online communication, viewers' interactions with each other are asynchronous--as though an empty gallery could somehow preserve the footprints of previous visitors, their words still ringing in the air.

the abov e copied from: http://www.guggenheim.org/internetart/internetart_index.html