At the heart of the Oct. 26 colloquium conversation about art and technology was the question “what is art?” In an engaging roundtable discussion, CMS Professor Beth Coleman, Rhizome Executive Director Lauren Cornell and author and curator Jon Ippolito explored this question in the context of a networked world. How does the Internet change art practice and its relationship to the curator, critic, and public?
Cornell presented the short history and evolution of Internet art from its beginnings in the mid 1990s and shared several examples of early works. Cornell points to the second wave of the Internet, Web 2.0, as the most significant change to the behavior of Net art due to the rise of viral distribution (the “bored at work network”) and community participation.
Rhizome, which functions as a community space and support system for Net artists, has set out to refine digital archiving with a shared vocabulary. For this task Rhizome turns to the participatory community and uses tagging and folksonomy to cull the most important and most popular expressive categories.
Ippolito asked the question, can networks be adapted to support new media or do they cause harm? His overall assessment was that the institution as it is does impede the possibilities of new media by producing an imbalance of archivists to “animateurs,” attorneys to activists, and academics to artists. Ippolito sees the distanced documentation, litigation and study of new media as contrary to the spirit of the art itself.
The essential tone of the evening was similar to the unease and confusion about exactly where participatory culture will take us: how do we talk about network aesthetics, and how will that change art in the immediate future?