Internet art | Digital art glossary



Internet art (also known as net art) is a form of new media art distributed via the Internet. This form of art circumvents the traditional dominance of the physical gallery and museum system. In many cases, the viewer is drawn into some kind of interaction with the work of art. Artists working in this manner are sometimes referred to as net artists.

Net artist may use specific social or cultural internet traditions to produce their art outside of the technical structure of the internet. Internet art is often — but not always — interactive, participatory, and multimedia-based. Internet art can be used to spread a message, either political or social, using human interactions.

The term Internet art typically does not refer to art that has been simply digitized and uploaded to be viewable over the Internet, such as in an online gallery. Rather, this genre relies intrinsically on the Internet to exist as a whole, taking advantage of such aspects as an interactive interface and connectivity to multiple social and economic cultures and micro-cultures, not only web-based works.

New media theorist and curator Jon Ippolito defined “Ten Myths of Internet Art” in 2002. He cites the above stipulations, as well as defining it as distinct from commercial web design, and touching on issues of permanence, archivability, and collecting in a fluid medium.

History and context

Internet art is rooted in disparate artistic traditions and movements, ranging from Dada to Situationism, conceptual art, Fluxus, video art, kinetic art, performance art, telematic art and happenings.

In 1974, Canadian artist Vera Frenkel worked with the Bell Canada Teleconferencing Studios to produce the work String Games: Improvisations for Inter-City Video, the first artwork in Canada to use telecommunications technologies.

An early telematic artwork was Roy Ascott’s work, La Plissure du Texte, performed in collaboration created for an exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1983.

In 1985, Eduardo Kac created the animated videotex poem Reabracadabra for the Minitel system.

Media art institutions such as Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, or the Paris-based IRCAM (a research center for electronic music), would also support or present early networked art. In 1997 MIT’s List Visual Arts Center hosted “PORT: Navigating Digital Culture,” which included internet art in a gallery space and “time-based Internet projects.” Artists in the show included Cary Peppermint, Prema Murthy, Ricardo Dominguez, and Adrianne Wortzel. In 2000 the Whitney Museum of American Art included net art in their Biennial exhibit. It was the first time that internet art had been included as a special category in the Biennial, and it marked one of the earliest examples of the inclusion of internet art in a museum setting. Internet artists included Mark Amerika, Fakeshop, Ken Goldberg, etoy and ®™ark.

With the rise of search engines as a gateway to accessing the web in the late 1990s, many net artists turned their attention to related themes. The 2001 ‘Data Dynamics’ exhibit at the Whitney Museum featured ‘Netomat’ (Maciej Wisniewski) and ‘Apartment’ (Marek Walczak and Martin Wattenberg), which used search queries as raw material. Mary Flanagan’s ‘ The Perpetual Bed’ received attention for its use of 3D nonlinear narrative space, or what she called “navigable narratives.” Her 2001 piece titled ‘Collection’ shown in the Whitney Biennial displayed items amassed from hard drives around the world in a computational collective unconscious.’ Golan Levin’s ‘The Secret Lives of Numbers’ (2000) visualized the “popularity” of the numbers 1 to 1,000,000 as measured by Alta Vista search results. Such works pointed to alternative interfaces and questioned the dominant role of search engines in controlling access to the net.

Nevertheless, the Internet is not reducible to the web, nor to search engines. Besides these unicast (point to point) applications, suggesting the existence of reference points, there is also a multicast (multipoint and uncentered) internet that has been explored by very few artistic experiences, such as the Poietic Generator. Internet art has, according to Juliff and Cox, suffered under the privileging of the user interface inherent within computer art. They argue that Internet is not synonymous with a specific user and specific interface, but rather a dynamic structure that encompasses coding and the artist’s intention.

The emergence of social networking platforms in the mid-2000s facilitated a transformative shift in the distribution of internet art. Early online communities were organized around specific “topical hierarchies”, whereas social networking platforms consist of egocentric networks, with the “individual at the center of their own community”. Artistic communities on the Internet underwent a similar transition in the mid-2000s, shifting from Surf Clubs, “15 to 30 person groups whose members contributed to an ongoing visual-conceptual conversation through the use of digital media” and whose membership was restricted to a select group of individuals, to image-based social networking platforms, like Flickr, which permit access to any individual with an e-mail address. Internet artists make extensive use of the networked capabilities of social networking platforms, and are rhizomatic in their organization, in that “production of meaning is externally contingent on a network of other artists’ content”.


Post-Internet is a loose descriptor for works that are derived from the Internet or its effects on aesthetics, culture and society. It is a controversial and highly criticized term in the art community. It emerged from mid-2000s discussions about Internet art by Marisa Olson, Gene McHugh, and Artie Vierkant (the latter notable for his Image Objects, a series of deep blue monochrome prints). Between the 2000s and 2010s, post-Internet artists were largely the domain of millennials operating on web platforms such as Tumblr and MySpace. The movement is also responsible for spearheading slews of microgenres and subcultures such as seapunk and vaporwave.

This term “post internet” was coined by Internet artist Marisa Olson in 2008. According to a 2015 article in The New Yorker, the term describes “the practices of artists who … unlike those of previous generations, [employ] the Web [as] just another medium, like painting or sculpture. Their artworks move fluidly between spaces, appearing sometimes on a screen, other times in a gallery.” In the early 2010s, “post-Internet” was popularly associated with the musician Grimes, who used the term to describe her work at a time when post-Internet concepts were not typically discussed in mainstream music arenas.

“Internet_art” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, n.d.

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