The Internet is Just a bunch of links. Digest 2004 – Stanza.

January 9, 2008 by stanza Leave a reply »
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stanza image 2002.The Internet is Just a bunch of links.


Digest 2004 – stanza. Just a bunch of links

It could be argued that any submission to an exhibition about net art should just be the link to the work. The link is the work – its address, its location in the virtual world, its place within the system. The net itself can be interpreted as just a long list of links. As the net has become such a long list then maybe there’s a role for some curation after all. I didn’t believe this initially. Now I’ve come to believe that at least some focus on issues such as what may or may not be net art is surely a good thing. It seems too obvious to suggest this. But why not, when the burgeoning of net art has led to the proliferation of organised lists of links which are called online exhibitions.

The development of types of experience called net art has expanded to such a degree that there are now many genres of art on the net. In so much as seeking an absolute definition is futile, it could be said that net art is or has become a combination of many things incorporating some new technologies (ie. html , java, shockwave etc.), but also other disciplines such as music, programming, design, fine art and many more. And depending on which discipline you’re coming from, you might prefer conceptually led works or video based works or whatever.

Is there any good net art?

For some time now I’ve felt the proliferation of different net art linked shows has detracted from this issue. Although we should focus on the nature of specific works there is a problem when the works then become subsumed by the politics of the curation process. The beauty of art on the net, networked art and net art itself is that it is art for everybody. You can engage with the work at whatever level you want. But when the major curatorial institutions start to engage with the work, they bring their baggage to the party. And who are they to say what is good and bad net art?

Stanza. Networked and connected systems. Map Software.

Stanza. Networked and connected systems. Map Software.

Rather than read pages of text (like this) let’s just look at the work and engage with it. When we go to a gallery, do we read and study text before experiencing the work? But net art shows are increasingly text driven in order to explain away the concept or process. Maybe this isn’t a bad thing, but it occurs to me that rather than lots of curators in many different museums pitching to arrange shows on this theme or that, would it not better serve the artists’ needs if these museums considered a different approach. Maybe they should first find out what it is the artists need.

A national virtual new media (data) centre. {developed art techology assembly}

What is needed is a stronger virtual infrastructure, not for net art to be presented in a physical manner. Imagine a virtually networked national new media centre with a solid technical backbone, back end systems, fast delivery, and capable of running whatever one wanted. This would be like building a new Tate Modern except for the virtual world. Maybe we could call it ‘Tate Virtual’, maybe the netart museum. Such a system would allow the curator to come in and re-interpret the works, to redesign from a back end and arrange and re-arrange at will. They could recommend work, and archive and re-contextualise it.

The new media centres and museums could team up, dare I say it collaborate, in order to represent the new work that exists online within a larger umbrella structure. This approach would be better, cheaper and offer the artists more scope. I’m not just talking about a virtual museum but a real delivery system through which curators can mobilise the artworks. Certainly in terms of any arts funded project this would be a very good way to collate, archive and reference the work from an art historical point of view. It would also be useful in terms of accountability. Sooner or later someone is going to ask what the return has been on all the investment of public funds into new media art.

A good idea. Memes

I’ve spoken before about the need for collaboration within the convergent media process. With the phenomenal rise in the number of artists using computers to make art, this is self-evident. But what’s far less obvious is what’s happens to all the work. And whether it’s graphic, music or emergent interactive works we’re talking about, there’s lots more of it on the way. Well curated online art spaces allow artists to show their work in online communities relevant to the work itself. Such sites can provide a specific platform, for example, for a streaming service for digital video, internet art specific projects, or java networked projects etc etc. My idea was/is to create a media arts portal under the name, ‘The Armchair Universe’. I started this back in 1997 but it proved too large an undertaking without funding.

The most succesful of the sites I’ve developed is soundtoys.net. It now has over one hundred artists’ works exhibited online, and specialises in audio visual work. The idea has been to develop these projects and link them together in a media arts portal. Not just for delivery but as a virtual community on the net.

Imagine a situation where artists that use computers make works and share these works online with other users and artists within a global network. Artworks can be posted up, and other people can vote for their favourite works. The most visited works can be highlighted and users can write up reviews and comments.

An environment like this, if funded and developed properly, could have a very significant impact on the art and culture online. Online users making digital TV could create their own schedules for an online community to watch. Generative music systems could be deployed online to play across networks. The promised new media revolution could become a reality rather than a disparate network of links that are variously alive and dead.

My existing sites are already attracting thousands of new users and tens of thousands of hits per month. With funding, a major online media portal such as this would also provide invaluable information. It would be a research and development resource revealing what people are actually creating with the computers of today. This information would enable us to better know what artists and creatives want from the technologies of tomorrow.

Everyone as artist

A media environment such as the one I am proposing would change the way people use their computers – and the users would become artists by exhibiting the work they create. This new media network would enable that process. Any company advertising or building such an environment would be making artists out of users/consumers. So let’s have some corporate involvement from the computer industry itself!

A national virtual new media data centre

I’ve attempted a few times to curate and show ‘exhibitons’ which explore the diversity of net art. (See links below). My idea was and still is to form a network of new media situations that represents the variety of artwork available online.

Soundtoys.net is a space for artists at the forefront of the audiovisual field, where they can show work which focuses on a developing artform area. Soundtoys can be described as “new audio visual experiences”, or multimedia experiments, which explore the parameters of our new media world. They might be described as the fusion of audio and visual output through new technologies available on the internet.

The site looks at issues around interactive arts, audio visual synthesis, generative art, and the history of interactivity. It looks at how artists are exploring, researching and playing within the parameters of online art. The site attracts a diverse and convergent range of practitioners including designers, fine artists, programmers and musicians who are all expanding their creativity within the online audio visual domain.

The convergence of hardware and software has further encouraged convergence between different creative disciplines. Perhaps now some curation and critical perspective is needed. And the constantly changing and developing nature of technologies also allows for nature of the artwork itself to change. We’re starting to see a greater emphasis on works that generate and evolve. Formal relationships within art will change as the artist’s relationship to the process changes.

Online we have net art – artists who are specifically addressing the uses and abuses of the Internet as a medium for creative expression. Within this context artists are exploring many technologies including shockwave, flash, vrml and java. Offline we see more application driven interface experiments using technologies such as max, super collider, and exploiting multi user systems, generative audio, and graphics displays. Soundtoys.net addresses the blurring of these boundaries and presents artists working at the edge of software development and at the interface between art and new music.

However this is just one site amongst many that are dedicated to various forms of net art and new media. Rhizome,Turbulence, Futherfield – there is now a growing list that exists in the virtual world. And in the physical world in the UK we have Watershed, Fact, Hull Time Based Arts, Lighthouse Media Centre..etc etc.

Alive or Dead

My Netart museum ( Now also dead) was a links site which also attempted some chronological overview of the net art scene. To my amusement the last time I looked most of the work from 1997 is now dead links, in fact over 500 dead links. This is the true nature of the web and really the whole point of the web as an emergent system

The web as an emergent network

Image: Stanza City Souel

Image: Stanza City Souel

Cities hold a fascination for me in that the more you become familiar with navigating a city’s structure, the less likely you are to get lost. But even in a familiar city, it’s still possible to find new spaces and ones which have changed and evolved; or places that are no longer there. Buildings, estates, streets come and go – they have their own life cycle of birth, decay and death. When streets are demolished other spaces are left behind. The city is a truly emergent space. In looking at art on the web with all its convergent plurality, a similar pattern is emerging.

In the past five years alone, hundreds of thousands of artworks and websites have been created and leave their footprint of connectivity online. Occasionally these sites last, but more often they are taken down, or replaced when they become obsolete. This is the nature of the internet, of new technology and of emergent systems – things change, situations evolve. Contemporary artists working online tend to focus on connectivity and realise their work across networks, or within databases and information systems. And while artists are busily creating works as emergent systems, or to create metaphors for situations that evoke connectivity, the web by its varying defaults has created its own emergent system.

Error 404s as dead spaces, as voids, as the death or obsolescence of what was once there – representing a place for contemplation, transience and the eternal hope of renewal. These spaces are the memories of things past. You might come across them by accident, only to find on the error 404 page a description of a page that no longer exists.

But these pages make up an obsolete and emergent system of their own. Probably the most common page of information on the web is a web page that suggests it has no information. And yet these pages are all different, with different layouts, fonts and languages but the same message. Type error ‘404’ into a search engine and thousands of results are displayed. Information consigned to the cemetery of the internet

A small footprint for contemplation

The search engine displays information about the information you seek, but the information you seek is no longer there. My favourite website is this space, that has been created not by the process of artistic endeavour but by the medium of the internet itself. It’s a self-regulating body of images and texts. In the sense that it is a space to reflect, a space for memories and feelings, the 404 page creates a small footprint for contemplation.

So in an ideal world, it would be nice to customize your error404.html pages within websites(and certainly you can do this), and make artworks to go in these spaces. Then we’d have hundreds of thousands of error404 artworks. Which I guess is like putting a tombstone over the grave.

At

www.erroneous404.com

www.netartmuseum.com

www.stanza.co.uk (main stanza site)

www.soundtoys.net

(C) www.stanza.co.uk

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