josephine bosma on Thu, 22 Jun 2000 17:25:05 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> net art definitions

Here's an unedited excerpt from a text of mine, which also written for that
infamous conf in Moscow, pro@contra. You can read the entire text at Switch:


Although there are interesting, sometimes rather obscure conferences and
festivals on special aspects of net art in Europe and elsewhere, the
perception of net art both online and in the mainstream media is more
and more colored by the state of net art in the United States. The
creation of the Webby by the SFMOMA certainly has caused mainstream
media to finally wake up, but the Webby seems to be almost the logical
consequence of an opening up of the traditional artworld to net art from
within an American context. Its mailings don't have the atmosphere of a
TV show for no reason.  Ironic gestures aside, the Webby looks like an
early step in the direction of a Web TV award. The loss of a conscious,
cross-continent, cross-disciplinary discourse on net art has brought
American art discourse into an advantageous position, due to its
dominance in a few respects.  Firstly language (the German speaking
countries have a strong art theoretical discourse and a forerunner
position in the field of net art theory that is obscured because
publications are not being translated into English), and secondly 'the
Americans' have a highly dominating input into the development of the
Internet. We now face a net art discourse that is strongly influenced by
American economic traditions and mechanisms.  Especially the role of web
designers and their connection to soft- and hardware designers becomes
more influential. Rules of web design slowly gnaw away at net art
practice and theory like acid gnaws at iron. The term net art gets
confused with or replaced by web art as if the two were interchangeable,
without many questions asked. Traditional art practitioners too easily
turn to the structurally (in terms of basic development of and economically important 'group' of web designers for
what they think is the highest form of knowledge of a medium they know
little or nothing about. Art historical analysis is barely applied to
net art, and if it is, it usually happens through the slightly younger
tradition of video art. A historically deeper and therefore more radical
analysis of the difference between the Internet and mass media, like TV
and radio, that includes global economic and political developments as
well is rare. Replacing the term 'net art' by 'web art' causes a
negligence of art history within a political and economic environment.
The radical implications of net art are replaced by the much less
threatening aspects of web art. It therefore of course also becomes more
compact, easier to grasp and more marketable.


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