The following was originally posted as a comment to the somewhat fruitless Net Art 1.0 vs Net Art 2.0 discussion at Rhizome.org. The "old guard" Internet art crowd has been characterizing the art on the newer group blogs such as Nasty Nets as "ironically posting links to existing media on a group blog" and asking for more explanation of why this was art, or Internet art, while at the same time saying that NN was just a later version of stuff they'd been doing for years. You can't really take both positions. The following stabs at the issue by examining a specific post from Nasty Nets on April 1. It's been rewritten slightly.
Petra Cortright had this post by Javier Morales onscreen for a while during the recent Net Aesthetics 2.0 panel, and I think it's brilliant. Using very simple means (screenshots of Google search results and some html scrolling), it tackles sexual content in a very distanced, fetishistic way--the words "penis" and "vagina," in boldface, slowly move towards and away from each other in a configuration that is both a mirror and conflict. It is a snapshot of current culture: some earnest websites such as democraticunderground.com, cybersleuths, and cvcorner are captured only because they use the word penis or vagina and google finds them. There are accompanying thumbnail images that seem to have no connection to the words underneath them--did google do this or the artist? Plus snippets of text, moving just slowly enough to be read: "or is the penis a very large clit?" "the craze for designer vaginas" that somehow have to be accounted for in the overall clash of contexts. And it's nice to look at, with its suprematist squares collapsing into each other.
This was not submitted to Rhizome for institutional sanction as far as I know. It existed "out there" with 4Chan and all the other mashup sites. It's true that Rhizome gave approving coverage to Nasty Nets but there is no link on NN to Rhizome or any other signifier that it exists in an approved stream of processing "art" content.
Perhaps you hate this piece but I don't think you can reduce it to "ironically posting links to existing media with your friends on a group blog." Perhaps you like it but I don't think you can claim it is what Net Artists have always done since the means (blogs, Google caches exploding with content) didn't exist in the early days of the web.
I personally believe this is a new taxonomic class to be evaluated. The fact of it being on a blog, a blog that blends into the Internet "street," existing "outside" the world of grants for technological innovation, where the surrounding posts may very well be found material (but you have to figure it out), the fact of it using Google to generate a snapshot of the present moment, using search features (images, etc) that were not commonly available in 1999, while maintaining old school simplicity, means it is different, and I think better. More complicated, more real than XYZ tech art where algorithm Y converts raw material X into social solution Z. Morales can't be blamed if some Rhizome staffers think what he is doing is important enough to rate a new version.
But regardless of whether I'm right about it being different, you can't both claim it and repudiate it.
In response to this one of the commenters said, in effect, "yeah we already did that" but continues to characterize the piece as "ironically posting links to existing media on a group blog." I officially give up.