Introducing Net Art, art that acts on the network, or is acted on by it. Pieces made for the internet, meant to be experienced at home, behind your device. For example, when you have to stay at home, there’s always Net Art. Not only in these quarantine times but actually Net Art has a history that spans more than 30 years.
You might be asking yourself, or me—the writer—how does it look like? Show me now for god's sake! Well, give me just a minute, or scroll down to see what has been created and by who. On the other hand, if you choose to stay here and read a little bit of context, I'll be delighted to tell you some interesting facts, before the fun visual part.
Meanwhile, for the patient ones, here's a small preview of Net Art.
This might not look like a digital collage, I'll give you that.
Why should I learn anout Net Art?
The intention of this post is to open your mind to the possibilities that the internet offers in these modern times. What I'm about to show you here, will inspire you. Most importantly, you are going to get some ideas on how to use the internet to take your work beyond.
Everyone is using Instagram, Pinterest, or Behance to showcase their digital work, and that's perfectly fine. To clarify, Modern Artists should use every channel there is. Firstly, to grow their audience. Secondly, to brand their work. Thirdly, of course, to make a sustainable income to keep creating and pay for rent. However, there are other things you could take into account in the game.
What if you could take your art further. For instance, creating domains for each piece, and creating a unique experience for your whole practice. What if you could create, for example, your own personal gallery, a behind the scenes studio, or your own wall like Rafaël Rozendaal´s website. Which features all his websites, a collection of 114 websites. Yes, I counted them. One by one.
This idea of making independent art on separate websites has started to look amazing and creatively valuable to me. This is different from making portfolios, in other words, this is a performative experience. On a portfolio, you show the work you have made in other mediums. These pieces are actual websites that perform aesthetic concepts, not only with abstraction but also with typography.
I'm not a developer, can I create Net Art?
Yes of course my dear non-code trained digital artist.
I think you could create a Net Art website with any popular builder like WordPress, or Elementor. The perk is that those builders are only template-based. Get your head around it and find some way of building weird things. However, I have not tried it myself, though.
I don't know anyone who is using Webflow to create art pieces, but it works perfectly for it.
Remember, if you are familiarized with any design tool like Photoshop or illustrator, you can learn Webflow faster.
On the other hand, if you are a developer or have any knowledge of HTML at least, you can do amazing things. Just with HTML you can create interesting pieces, buy yourself a funny named domain and publish your piece of art.
I have also thought about the possibility of putting together the teachings of the Digital Collage Starter Guide with Webflow's capabilities. For example, you could create your collages, and then animate them in Webflow.
The one thing that motivates me to write about these ideas, however, is the incredible number of ways that we have at hand to make art nowadays. I want to push creators to take advantage of these tools through inspiration. We live in a time in which access to web development and digital art technologies is immense, and I wake up every day feeling incredibly blessed to be alive right now.
So, this Net Art thing... when did it start?
Well, after the internet was invented of course, but the exact date according to the Net Art Anthology by Rhizome, is 1982. Net Art Anthology is a collection of Net Art pieces from the 1980s to the present, aimed to "Retell the history of Net Art". It is the go-to digital preservation space presented by Rhizome, and organization championing digital art, in affiliation with the New Museum in New York City.
Net art artists are recognized by highly influential artistic organizations like the Moma and Artsy. That is to say, it is a legit practice with value in the world of art. However, that's not the only argument in favor of it. As we established in the Modern Artist Manifesto's Principles, you should "Work always with passion in one hand and patience in the other". Therefore, introducing new ways of expressing yourself is a value in itself, not only for your economic plans but more importantly, for the creator within you.
But it is important and motivating, however, to know that integrating these web skills within your creative process could render your hard work and everyday creation sessions, valuable for your potential audience, and make you become a great artist. It is the work you make, the constant work, that makes your career grate and transcendent.
There's not much to know about the history of Net Art beyond the work that net artists have produced. Of course, there are interesting facts to get you interested, but art is not necessarily experienced through its history. Above all, the actual works and the expression they exude visually and emotionally are the main sources of artistic experiences.
Works are not only web-based, that could also come as videos on Youtube as the one we show at the start of the post, or this one:
Alright, I want to see some Net Art stuff now!
Well, you came to this point, and I promised you visual stimulation (artistic only).
Many artists have embarked on the Net Art world. However, they are not restricted to that medium. You could find many of them have created pieces in many other formats, and that's is even more exciting. Right? Are you going to create beyond your present art form?
No pressure, but The Modern Artist requires and welcomes some pressure. Well, some of them. No problem.
Alright, examples, now! (notice the URLs)
Rafäel's websites are colorful and colorless, they move in interesting ways. In general, this websites have only one section, no scroll, and some mouse triggered animations. Take a look at them on your desktop.
Jodi is a Belgian collaborative art duo formed by Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans. Clever Huh? Joan and Dirk, Jodi, get it?
They have many HTML experiments, you just need to learn HTML in a month with Codecademy or FreeCodeCamp, and start making experiments like Jodi's.
Pro Tip: Use your browser's inspector to see Jodi's HTML document and any other website. To open it just right-click on any website and look down for the inspector option, click it and it will show you this.
Software artist Lia, considered one of the pioneers of software and net art, has been producing works since 199. Her code-based work sells digitally, you get the website link when you buy her pieces.
There are many more works to show. I'm struck by the simplicity and the focused functionality of this web-based creations.
Net Art is a field in which very prominent works are still inaccessible because there is little information about it. One of the downsides of this world is the devaluation of art, because the medium, the Internet, is open for everyone. Should these works go behind the paywall? That is something we could discuss in the comments.
One thing is sure, Net Art unites artists from many different art forms and disciplines. The pieces show how internet technologies can be used for self expression, critical reflection and communication between artists and audiences around the WWW.