John Greenwood
California State
Channel Islands
Capstone Project
Fall 2005

    The New Media    
       Internet 101       
   New Media Artist   
 The Original Replica 
     NET.ART, Inc.     
     Interactive Art      
   Art Technologies   
  Selling Art Online   



Click Image to Enlarge


Original Advertisement for The File Room. An early NET.ART exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center.
Photo courtesy of
The File Room



The Original File Room Installation.
Photo courtesy of
The File Room



ASCII Art and Animation





An example of Machinima. Uses the Halo game engine.



Online Comics Strips

Artwork courtesy of
Online Comics



An art show that refrences the early video games of the 1980's.



Rise of the
Mushroom Kingdom.

Flash animation that immitates the characters and pixelated graphics of early Mario Brothers video games



An interactive Flash animation by Yugo Nakamura



The introduction of Mosaic, the first image-capable browser, in 1993, opened the door for web developers to put visual content on a web site This spawned a new visual medium, and many artists began to learn to build web sites and quickly adapted their skills to the demands and limitations of the Internet. Artists began to produce art to display on web sites and by 1995 eight percent of all web sites were completely produced by artists (Ippolito). We have a pretty good record of some of the better known early NET.ART artists, but overall the early history of Internet art in general is vague and poorly recorded. There are many opinions as to the reason for this. Initially net art was not taken seriously by the conventional artistic community. There were no big productions as in cinema nor were there any grand art shows as in the more conventional artistic mediums, so there was very little public recognition (Stallabrass, p. 114). It was often difficult to identify the creator of a work of art, and do to the easily reproducible nature of digital art, many works were copied almost as soon as they were displayed on the net. Yet within a few years an entire new art form had developed. The evolution of this new type of art was so rapid and widespread that it took the conventional institutions of the art industry by surprise. The conventional curators and critics of the art world still did not consider NET.ART a true art form. Many claimed that the graphics were fairly simple and the medium of the computer screen did not allow for the necessary environment in which art should be viewed. Another reason that much of the art industry shunned net art was that it was almost impossible to control ownership. Anyone with a browser could download any web site or digital image. Since there was little money to be made in the reselling of web art it was of no interest to many predominant gallery owners, collectors and curators of the era.


As the Internet grew at exponential rates through the 1990’s NET.ART continued to become more popular. First considered as sort of underground art form, Internet art soon became an accepted form of expression in our culture. This new medium quickly evolved and branched out in many directions. Early Internet art consisted mainly of text based projects or simple graphics, but soon Internet art included video, sound, complex interactivity and elaborate graphics. Millions of artists had discovered an outlet for their creativity. Artistic talents were displayed on commercial and personal web pages. Logos, games, web site design and all forms of video and images were appearing on the net, applying the unique cultural blend of technology, creativity and imagination. The phenomenon of net art grew as more people went online. Eventually the art industry was forced to take notice. Museum directors and gallery administrators soon found that more people were visiting their web sites than entering their establishments. In 1997 Documenta X in Kassel, Germany was the first major exhibition to include Internet art (Stallabrass, p. 121). The same year net art by Peter Halley was exhibited on the New York Museum of Modern Art Web site (Rush, p. 197). The Guggenheim Museum featured Internet art in a major show in 1998 and in 1999 ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany hosted an exhibit called “Net Condition”. This presentation attempted to encompass the history of the Internet (Stallabrass, p. 121). By the end of the twentieth century Internet art had become an accepted part of our artistic culture, yet there were still many obstacles to overcome.


Internet art, which has come to be known as NET.ART (Stallabrass, p. 10), online art or just net art, seems to be a self-defining term. The term is loosely used to describe any art that is designed to be displayed on the Internet. Yet there is dissension in the artistic community regarding the use of these terms. While they are often used interchangeably, many consider each term to have a unique definition. Author Andreas Brogger defines net art as “…art that can or should only be experienced online…”. His definition of online art is slightly different. He feels that online art refers to any art that is delivered over the Internet. This would include art that can be downloaded for off-line use. Brogger also includes mediums that originate off line and are then broadcast online, such as webcasts or Internet TV in the mediums that are defined as online art. In defining the term NET.ART (NET-dot-ART) Brogger believes that it describes “…a more or less specific phase in the art of the Internet, that began about 1994." He defines NET.ART as “…low-bandwidth, html based projects developed by the early pioneers of art on the net.” This definition of NET.ART seems to indicate that NET.ART is a thing of the past. It gives the feeling that NET.ART was a brief and subtle artistic movement that has become obsolete with the advancement of Internet technologies. Most members of the artistic community seem to disagree with this definition. Most refer to NET.ART as a living and functional art form that is continually evolving with technology. There are many websites currently displaying an array of NET.ART projects that utilize many of the latest web technologies, and most digital art exhibits recognize NET.ART as a current art form.  


Yet there are broader discrepancies among members of the art community as to what actually constitutes NET.ART. Many questions arise as to what is art and what is not. Is a video game art or is it a form of entertainment? Is a web site designer an artist? Is there not more to art than just design? Is the act of creating a website artistic, or is it actually the act of creating an interface by using a computer language or a WYSIWYG editor? If a movie is digitized and displayed on the net does it become NET.ART even though it was originally created for cinema? Is an inanimate digital image created for a web page art? What about a digitized photograph of “The Last Supper”? Each question can be a subject for debate, and every question brings up other questions. David Ross, Director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, stated:


No curators, no critics really know where it is artists are taking us in this extraordinary moment. I find that quite exhilarating, a little frightening at times, primarily it's energizing. The idea of art that's developing not only in a way that we can't predict, but in this case it's hard to even understand what it looks like, what it's going to do, how it functions on a most basic social level to a complex aesthetic level, we are groping in the dark (Ross). 


There have been many other opinions published as to the defining characteristics of NET.ART. One opinion is that NET.ART (and all “new media” art) not only uses the technology as the medium, it also uses technology as the subject matter. Another opinion is that online art “…must exploit the particular qualities of hardware and software to the extent that it is unthinkable without its medium, the internet.” (Stallabrass, p.139). Some believe that interactivity between the art object and the viewer is an integrial part of NET.ART. Still another opinion insists that NET.ART should involve a shared, almost communal like activity. This opinion insists that human collaboration and communication are mandatory features of internet art (Stallabrass, p. 140). These are all interesting viewpoints but they all seem to be attempts to put NET.ART into a limiting mold that will regulate its content or medium. There have been so many varied examples of internet art that the parameters of any of these descriptions have already been violated. The art community has yet to put a comprehensive handle on NET.ART, and there is still appears to be a wide inconsistency in opinions. The opinion of an art purist will doubtless be different from an avant-garde tech-head, as will the opinions of a museum curator and a digital artist. In attempting to establish a way to identify NET.ART Ross commented:


We are trying to identify the activity that is net art. Since we know what older art looks like, we can start to develop standards and a critical evaluation framework for looking at net art based on our ideas of what art should act like or look like (Rush, p. 119).


As a museum director Ross seems to believe that net art should be judged by the standards of the more traditional art forms. He seems to be trying to identify net art by using standards and norms that he is familiar with. He is applying his expertise to develop a set of standards by which we may recognize the unique characteristics of net art. This may be a very valid way to assess this new type of art. As with any new cultural phenomenon we cannot fully appreciate or understand it until we have compared it to our current values and standards. Yet Alexei Shulgin, (early digital artist, writer, curator and musician) offered a somewhat different viewpoint when as he stated:


…NET.ART, like the internet itself, encompasses everything so it resists definition. After all, an operating system, a database and a site devoted to sponsoring subversive acts have all been declared works of art (Stallabrass, p. 138).


Doubtless the analysis that will determine the distinguishing characteristics of NET.ART will encompass the opinions of experts throughout the art industry. Putting a limiting and recognizable label on internet art will be a subject that will be debated for a long time. We may need to develop an entire new set of standards for before we can determine the parameters of this new art form.


For now we shall abide by the simple initial definition of NET.ART stated above, if it is designed for the Internet, then we shall consider it NET.ART. This encompasses an extremely broad spectrum of technologies and art forms. Modern browsers support a wide range of file formats and plug-ins are available for dozens more. Images, animation, audio, video, music and text are all part of this new artistic landscape. Continual improvements in file compression and bandwidth have brought internet video and audio to a ever increasing levels of quality. Animation programs such Macromedia’s Director and Flash have become two of the primary mediums for modern NET.ART. These programs have had an important influence on NET.ART and are the standard for web animation they have made it possible for animators to get instant, inexpensive global exposure without compromising the quality of their work. Artists of all sorts use the internet as a worldwide gallery in which to display their electronic creations. More so than most forms of art, NET.ART is constantly evolving, continually manipulated by advancing technologies, cultural changes and the demands of the global art community.


Introduction | The New Media | Internet 101 | The New Artist

NET.ART | The Original Replica | NET.ART, Inc. | Interactive Art

Net Art Technologies | Selling Art Online | Conclusion | Bibliography