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Indepth Arts News:

"Readme.txt Browsing online art: An exploration of various directions in networked art projects"
1999-09-30 until 2000-03-30
Museo de Monterrey
Monterrey, , MX Mexico

Increasingly, computer language is permeating the traditional linguistic structures, and the way we relate to our environment. Readme.txt, the title of this essay, effectively refers to the instructions format we have grown to be accustomed to, which replaces in many instances the good old instruction manual that used to come with every device we acquired, ranging from vacuum cleaners, to toasters, to software and related computer equipment. - Benjamin Weil

The Web has now become part of our lives. When I was last given to travel in Mexico, I was astounded to find little shops in the middle of nowhere offering a multitude of communication services that almost always included access to the Net: Larga Distancia, Fax, Copias, Internet has become part of a rural landscape the same way it has become part of our urban experience pretty much everywhere on the globe.

The purpose of this essay is to outline a number of trends, which have been developing since artists first started using the network as a natural extension of activities offline, as well as exploring its potential as a new medium, and a new realm. Indeed, what happens online is rather unique, as it is probably the first time when the means to produce an artwork and the way it is to be distributed and experienced have come to be the same: the medium and the locus have become one. Artists working on installations had already explored a system within which the boundaries between workspace and distribution space were erased. Here, however, the added factor of a virtual location forces a re-assessment of the notion of in situ. Similarly, the process and the result are collapsed into one entity, which is also something art has been exploring before: the form of an artwork may consist of a set of documents that recount an action; the thought process that informed its making is meant to be visible.

Therefore, it is not a surprise to find a vast array of achieved online projects by artists. These often can be understood in the context of art making, and the various experiments that took place since the beginning of the 20th century, when artists in the Western world started challenging the notion and function of art, bringing in a number of new approaches to this form of creativity. Art, today, is far more in touch with it's surrounding socio-cultural context than it ever was, or at least consciously: from an idealized portraiture of its time, it has become an instrument of social criticism, and a reflection on issues that condition our lives. The meaning of the word representation has shifted, and one sees in many cases artists playing with the landscape, selecting fragments, isolating them, thus offering a different understanding of those components. What we can see online is pretty much comparable, in many instances, to what was happening in galleries and various institutions in the 60's and 70's. It is a fluid praxis, that does not necessarily rely on formal conventions, and that offers a different perspective on our common landscape we tend to take for granted.

This is maybe why one of the most dynamic and interesting aspect of the online art investigation is based on the structure, and this is certainly one area of work which I believe bares the most interesting dynamics.

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