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Net art back to square one

Wednesday, 14. November 2012 | 13:00 (tz: Europe/Amsterdam)
nettitudes2

The introduction ‘Net art back to square one’ to the book Nettitudes: Let’s Talk Net Art by Josephine Bosma accurately maps out how net.art was perfectly post-media in the arts sense of being ‘post-Greenbergian’. What the author Florian Cramer means by that is articulated in his introduction, elucidating the manifold definitions of ‘media’, as well as emphasising the inhibitions within the fine art world to embrace technology. Furthermore he contextualises the necessity of this book about net.art in the larger picture because it addresses issues of ‘cultural relevance’ rather than specific forms of technological development and skill.

For those not initiated net.art is not the stuff that floats around at ‘new media’ festivals. It actually never really did and nowadays is preserved as secondary documentation in numerous publications, as the technology does not exist anymore or cannot be maintained. Cramer first begins with explaining that for him the ‘precursors’ to net.art were not computers and telecommunication systems, but those akin to a ‘particular social dynamic of practicing art within certain historical moments of transformations of media, communication.’ He then applies the term ‘Ereignis’ in the sense of not only incidence but appropriation and links together movements of avant-garde film, alternative TV stations, radio activism and zine culture. Ereignis ‘not only for the purposes of aesthetic experimentation and breaking out of established art systems, but also shaping the medium itself and indirectly the culture and society influenced by it.’

Cramer also reminds us that during the period of net.art, let’s say mid 1990’s, these ‘artists still had the opportunity to shape the Web as their own medium’, something we perhaps rarely could conceive as being possible nowadays. Crucial is also his point that now artists have access to the tools of mass-media and communication like the multinationals, which highlights Bosma’s charge that net artists ‘internalized the net’ as being neither about technological craftsmanship nor some cyberpunk fusion of bodies and machines but an artistic understanding of the internet as a cultural apparatus rather than merely a new channel for existing work.

The crux of this argument Cramer reinforces by citing her premise that net.art is an ‘art based in internet cultures’ and that this ‘describes the major challenge to this kind of art today.’ He plays devil’s advocate by asking if ‘this (net.art) was nothing more than a historical milestone in between earlier art that experimented with telecommunication systems and the countless contemporary art blogs and networks of today?’ One of his cited examples is e-flux, which far surpasses Nettime and all other artistic mailing lists because it is used by fine artists to promote their works and visibility. He goes on to explicate that these conventional resources function ‘on art happening anywhere else but on the mailing list itself.’ 

In other words, for fine artists the internet is not their medium of production. Rather, the art contained within the pages of Nettitudes embraces mass communication media ‘in order to radically move art away from objects and individual practices, as the ‘potential and actual expansion (or even redefinition) of various art practices’ in net art. He concludes with observations of the contemporary art world ‘being stuck in a mentality of regarding (and using) the internet merely as a medium on art instead of one where art can happen (and whose cultural impact presents urgent aesthetic-political issues such as the notion of intellectual property). ‘The situation is comparable to earlier times when photography, books and magazines were considered media only for reproduction, not the production, of contemporary art.’

 

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