Thomas Hobbs on Sun, 30 Mar 1997 01:25:07 +0100 (MET)

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<nettime> Re: nettime: Net Art

I know that the original posting for this discusion were nearly tens days 
ago, but unfortunately i have been away form my eamil for a little while.

I want to make this point, as i feel that it was seriously over looked 
(and often is in many discussion about the internet in other 
disciplines): You must remember that the internet is space in its own 
right, it is far different from any medium that has ever gone before it. 
Much like there is much discussion about not thinking about the computer 
as a tool but as an environment, the same applies to the Internet as it 
is an extension of the computer. The variety of software and types of 
ways of using the internet is now as more diverse than the variety of 
software that is found on the average home PC user. The Internet is no 
longer confined to the linits of text based chatlines (irc's), email and 
ftp. I could describe a number of 'chat' environments that run through 
the extremes of text based irc to text MUD's and MOO's to VRML 
envrioments to java based system like 'world fiction' at Nexsite. My 
point comparing '' to relatively specific video art, proformance 
or whatever is now as ridicous as comparing the tidal currents of the 
pacific to that of a shaking glass of water. Almost asking what is net 
art is like asking what is art: it can only ever be a subjective 
individual with relatively 'shared' opinions. Let me explain:

I am a student of interactive art at Newport School of art and Design in 
the UK. My background is basically with (computer controlled) video 
installation which has be heavially influence by the the notions of site 
specific (the writings of Robert Smithson, Dan Graham and Gordon 
MattaClark) and the Video art of Bill Viola particually and Nam June 
Paik. This has a board basis including 'anti-modernism', Fluxus etc. to 
develop its own genre which I am interpreting myself. This means I am 
seeing the internet or more specifically to my work: the World Wide 
Web. This is based on ideas of space (defined as 
achitecture, environment and 'conversation' [between its components]) 
used in creating (previously) site specific installations is used to 
develop projects on the Web and in physical space. (The first of these 
projects on on my site This is 
very different form the way Stelarc has used it for proformance with 
video conferencing, the work of Jenny Holtzer on the 'after 
capricorn project', Dew Harrison's collaborative inititive to do 
with reintepreting the Large Glass, Heath Bunting's variety of 
activities (described elegantly by j.bosma), Julie Myers' Peeping 
Tom or any number of internet projects I could mention that are 
done by my contemporaries at Newport: need I explian? My point is 
the people above I have mentioned have approached in very 
different ways, very different backgrounds within an art context and with 
very deifferent ideas about exploting the potential of the web. 
befroe you you suggest that people approaching painting or video 
art have very different ideas about what they want to do with may 
I suggest that yes this must be so but these have very real 
particular subjective attributes that cannot be ignored: painting 
is pretty much 2d and is an object that has no power as a moving 
space, video moves but is confirmed to a beginning and end with a 
middle, a TV and no interaction it is not a changing space. The 
web or the internet can be exploting for all these attributes and 
many more, attributes which are growing all the time. Or it can 
homein one: perhaps the 2d and painting (like virtual galleries) 
or concentrate on the genre of video art. 

J. Bosma talks of its relationship to Wim T. Schippers writings 
about the net art like a process of murder for its requirement 
for perfectionism and secrecy. I don't like the secrecy but I 
believe there is a great deal of truth in this, but more to the 
wider scope of things: art is about perfectionism and 
excellence. This does not mean art cannot be rough, simple of 
spontaneous, it is just that it requires thought that takes 
time and contemplation, it is just that the net (because it is 
multi-media) highlights if you do not. Romanshy (Technology as 
symtom of dream) describes Alberti's development of 
single point perspextive in relation to the self, he describes 
the creation of a window, a window that becomes a veil that 
the world is viewed through. I quote:

'The veil here is not one that is given but a self chosen one, 
a vieling which the self has itself created. the self here has 
written its own prescription. it has created its own vision, 
which is peculiar as creating one's own language, as 
Merlean-Ponty notes, as much we are born into and borne as 
much as we are born into borne perception. the modern self is 
however a radical departure from this position. The 
intentional self chosen character of the veilling proclaims at 
the theshold of the mordern world and a new power: the power 
of the self to be its own creator. In tis respect the artist 
at his tabel can be regarded as a harbinger of Fausrt who is 
perhaps the most dramatic illustration of the passion and 
tradegy of slf creation, and the image of faust finds a later 
echo- perhaps more familar to us today in that of Dr Victor 

I would perhaps not go as far a Romanshy but I think he makes 
a significant point that artist (those considering 'net-art') 
that you will see it how you want to see it, the confinement 
and 'termalisation' of viewing the net work is singular: it 
reaffrims the self, it ignores quite often the space you are sitting in 
looking at the computer creating a world of its own. If you do not see it 
as a space its own right, like the (slightly) less complicated world or 
environment you are failing to recognised it significance and 
diversity. Much is said about the disappearance of the self 
as it desperses across the landscape of the internet, but is 
it completely the opposite: your self is becoming more and 
more confirmed taking on more and more information relative 
complicating your ideas. It is more like everyone else has 

Bosma talked brilliantly of Heath Bunting's work which highlights the 
essence of space, it has a relartionship to the physical. 
The net is a great advocator against semiotics and 
representation, in preference of mediation and creation. 
The great thing about the potential of net-art is that is 
not an tangible finite static object, it is a space that can 
contain objects, the change flux and can be interpreted 
different and make spaces we as artist never dreamed of. I 
fwe think of it like this and develop to this end it can be 
agreat educator, if we look for a defined genre of 'net 
art' we are encouraging a single point perspextive that the 
discussion of net art on nettime proves will never happen. 
In this direction all we as individuals will learn is more 
form our own ideas than from eachother.

remember there is no such thing as virtual realtiy, 
anything becomes reality if we confine ourselves to it for 
too long.

Tom Hobbs

--Newport Sch of Art and Design (UK)

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