Internet Art

We used The Web

As I said last week, congratulations, you built a portfolio and made a website to share it with your audience. That was our goal. That was the purpose of this class. Rock on!

But, we didn’t make Web Art

Making “Web Art” wasn’t the purpose of this class. We’ve never even discussed it. But before you go, it’s important to at least mention that The Web is also an art medium.

Photography, for example

Photography is an Art Tool

If I’m a painter, I can use photography to document my work:

  • Take pictures of paintings
  • Send pictures to art galleries
  • Have art show
  • Sell paintings
  • Advance career
  • Thanks so much, photography!

Photography is also an Art Medium

Photography can be:

  • A Documentation Toolsee above ^^
  • But Photography can also be an Art Medium!

There are photography art galleries and photography careers that use photography not to “document my paintings” but to create original art with the medium of photography.

Internet Art, for example

The Net is the same. It’s awesome that we can use The Net to document and present our Animation, Illustration, Graphic Design, UI/UX, Art Ed, Photography, 3D Pieces, and other works. Thanks, Internet!

But just like Photography, The Internet is also an Art Medium. It isn’t just a tool to document other stuff. It is a place to make work and express new ideas.

You don’t have to make Internet Art. Just like a Painter can only photograph their paintings and never make Photographic Art. But I’d like you to at least appreciate the possibility of Net Art.


The WWW of the WWW

In the early days of The Internet, the Wild Wild West of the World Wide Web, things were messy. So many animated GIFs! So much cut-and-paste HTML code. Slow-loading websites. Never loading pages.


In addition to being a mess, there was also so much creativity!

Before Wikipedia launched in 2001 there were so many information websites. Some high school biology teacher in South Florida would make the best website on an obscure species of frog. They’d fill the site with knowledge, and also with their unique human essence.

Then Wikipedia steamrolled over all that creativity. Wikipedia’s “neutral point of view” is nice if it helps keep us from screaming at each other about political issues. But “neutral point of view” is also code for “death of the author.” We don’t care about that Florida biology teacher as a human being anymore. We’ve scrubbed their humanity out. We just want cold, distilled facts about the frog now.

Facebook, Instagram, Squarespace, and so many other tools have been similarly efficient in extracting the heart and soul from The Internet. These tools satisfy a lot of people. We love pouring the pancake batter of our lives into their waffle irons.

Those Damn Templates

For many artists today The Internet is just a place where you pick which Squarespace Template you want to pour the pancake batter of your portfolio in.

Internet Art

But for artists over many years now The Internet has been an amazing art medium. From Internet Pranksters like Eva & Franco Mattes to Internet Poets like Christophe Bruno, artists have used the web not just for pouring portfolio pancake batter, but as the powerful art medium it truly is.

This Week’s Assignment

Ha, ha, just kidding!

You’ve finished your portfolio. You can relax for a few minutes.

There is no “assignment” this week.

Other than to read this page.

And, at least to know that even if, like photography, you only ever use The Internet to document your work in other media, The Internet is also an art medium. A medium that many artists have used for diverse and powerful work. A medium that you might use for a creative project in the future.

Here’re a few examples…

A Few Internet Artists

Eva & Franco Mattes, My Generation, 2010, Broken computer tower, CRT monitor, loudspeakers, keyboard, mouse, and various cables. Image:

Eva & Franco Mattes

The couple first gained notoriety in 1998 by taking the domain name, in order to undermine the Catholic Church’s official website. They then went on a cloning spree, copying and remixing other artists’ works, e.g., They also targeted “closed” websites, such as, thereby turning private art into public art.

This activity is born out of their desire to create truly interactive works (as opposed to most that they believe only poses as interactive). They define this in an interview with Jaka Zelenznikar where they discuss audiences reaching a website, regardless of it being the subject of or not, and “by their mouse clicks they choose one of the routes fixed by the author(s), they only decide what to see before and what after”. They argue that this is not true interactivity and compare it to a gallery space, suggesting that it too could be called interactive since one is able to decide what room to look at and when. Their definition of interactivity is more associated with the freedom the user has to not only govern their own movements but to duplicate, manipulate and simulate the subject matter. This includes doing something that is not predicted by the author of the website, “the beholder becomes an artist and the artist becomes a beholder: a powerless witness of what happens to his work.” Their 2010 work, “No Fun” epitomizes the sentiment in the previous quote because it utilizes the social networking and video chat website Chatroulette to exhibit Franco Mattes staging a false suicide (hanging) in part of the screen and people’s responses to it in other parts of the screen. Another example of their work, where the audience is the subject, is “Emily’s video” (2012) where they invited volunteers to watch what they called “the worst video ever,” combined of clips from the Darknet. The viewers were filmed whilst watching it and the original video was destroyed. What remains are the reactions of the viewers, recorded on webcams. When displayed in a gallery setting the monitor is positioned on its side with the reaction playing on the top half while the bottom section remains black. This space is where the original video would be positioned and also allows for the live audience to catch their reflection. The work is also set up to face away from the gallery’s entrance in order to enable new visitors to first see the reactions of the live audience before watching the ones on the screen.


Christophe Bruno

In 2002 Christophe Bruno performed The Google AdWords Happening. Normally with AdWords you “buy a word” and then advertise whatever you’re selling when someone searches for that word.

Instead, Bruno bought words and presented poetry. His project only ran about 24 hours before Google kicked him off AdWords. AdWords loves it when you sell commodities, but doesn’t want you perverting the system with “art”.

In the chart above, Bruno shows the cost at the time for a few AdWords. The price or “value” of an AdWord is like holding a mirror up to our own values as a culture. The most expensive word on his list is “Free” while one of the most valueless words is “Freedom”. Similarly, “Sex” is worth 3x more than “Love”.

Irene Prokopets & Glenn Zucman

Letters to Skynet

You might recall “Skynet” is the AI that becomes self-aware and destroys humanity in the Terminator movies.

Irene and I wondered if some future AI did become self-aware, how it would decide what to do with humankind?

Would Skynet survey all the malicious comments on YouTube and all the hate speech on Facebook? Perhaps adding in Climate Change and the pollution of land, air, and water? And hunting species to extinction? Skynet might reasonably conclude that it would be a service to planet earth to eliminate the human plague.

Our mission in Letters to Skynet was to invite people to “write letters” to our future machine overlords explaining why the human race was something of beauty and value worth saving.

Resources & Festivals

There are many thousands more artists doing compelling contemporary art with, via, and on The Internet. Try a web search for “Internet Art”.

You don’t have to be a Net Artist, but it’s important to know that The Internet is so much more than just Portfolio Templates.

Even if it is pretty great that it’s so easy for us to grab a template and present our work.

To finish for now, here’re a few of the many Resources, Festivals, and Videos thinking about Internet Art


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