tom moody

Internet Aware Art; Emotions in Net Art

A couple of follow-up comments to last night's Net Aesthetics 2.0* panel.

--Moderator Ed Halter mentioned the term "internet aware art" as an alternative shading of "net art." He attributed the term to Guthrie Lonergan but it had not registered with me before. I put one panelist on the spot asking for an example. Sorry, wasn't trying to be jerk, but was genuinely curious to know what this subgenre might consist of. An example could be Aron Namenwirth's paintings of Hillary Clinton and Osama bin Laden as barely-formed pixelated imagery. You can't look at them without thinking "blurry thumbnail on the Net blown up" but they are not Net Art because they don't use the medium of the web. Guthrie's use of the term, in his interview with Thomas Beard, takes the emphasis away from the Net but also objects (i.e., paintings):

Right now I'm scheming how to take the emphasis off of the Internet and technology, but keep my ideas intact. Objects that aren't objects... I got a couple of books and a t-shirt in the works. Right now I'm really into text (not visually/typography... just... text...), and lots and lots of lists… "Internet Aware Art." :)

This concept could use some elaboration!

--Halter asked whether Internet Art was always minor or slight and if anyone had produced the "long form" equivalent of a novel or opera. I said that a blog over many years could be like a novel but it isn't a novel or read like one--it's a new creature. Ed asked if Internet art could express emotions like sadness. Didn't have time to mention, for example, Guthrie Lonergan's delicious bookmarks tagged "self publishing". Sad might be too dramatic, but there is certainly melancholy in these found book covers for self-published books. The style is below professional design standards but not so low that it becomes entertaining "dirt style." In a way it reflects on all of us who self-publish, we see our own pitiful aspirations reflected in these barely-off-the-ground efforts. To get back to the long form, Travis Hallenbeck's bookmarks have hundreds of examples of "not ready for prime time" art that evoke struggling "little guys" or "lonely girls" right out of Tennessee Williams. The bookmarks alone define the artistic sensibility, there is no self-conscious shaping. YouTube abounds with sad videos and Guthrie has an eye for them and how to put them together. So the answer to the question is an emphatic yes, but because we're talking about a "new medium" here the emotions may not be so apparent as someone in Viking garb singing his heart out with a downcast expression.

Update, 2010: "Internet aware art" continued to be discussed after the panel. Halter and others kept using it to mean "offline art based on online activity" or some such and pointing to Lonergan's quote above as the source of the concept. Lonergan has since clarified that he was (i) being sarcastic, as in "who's not aware of the internet?" and/or (ii) thinking more about people who make things off line with an eye to how they will ultimately look on the web (i.e., internet-ready, a la Vvork.com).

*Update, 2011: The Rhizome link has been changed to http://rhizome.org/editorial/2008/jun/2/net-aesthetics-20/

- tom moody

June 7th, 2008 at 10:23 am

Posted in general