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Reflecting on the Internet as an Open and Democratic Art Form


Due to its relevance, the Internet can also be a work of art.

Yves Michaud suggests that art is in a gaseous state. In a way, during the historical period that begins in the Renaissance and reaches its climax today, art evaporates from museums, escapes from the works, camouflages with everyday life. Aesthetics triumph in a world embellished by the raw materials of global commerce, and by mass media; however, art is blurred in the minds of artists and viewers. It is considered a product and, as such, it is reproduced, sold and auctioned. The French philosopher calls museums and galleries “art malls”, and refers to the displays in institutions that support the cultural industry as “a tourist activity”.

Donald Kuspit speaks of the end of art when artists follow the “Warholian” model and aspire to become business artists. The incisive New York based critic says: “Formerly, the artist was considered sacred —he carried in himself a spark of God’s creativity—, but Warhol’s artist is a negotiator that profanes the sacred and creative by putting a price tag on it.” He also quotes countless philosophers that find in art the most elevated considerations of what is genuinely human. He warns that art “immortalizes the mortal” and relates it to the last spiritual bastion — where men could find refuge after the death of God. Kuspit states:

“Naturally art is not dead, but it needs a new effort at clarification of its principles in an age that is giving itself over to self-destruction with terrifying enthusiasm”.

In this era, which Arthur Danto calls Post-artistic, every work is destined to the market’s voracity. Every piece is lost among thousands, and very few remain in the viewer’s mind. Art in the spectacle society, instead of an emotion, is more an idea and an attitude, an organ, an abstraction, an exception to the rule of the quotidian. Post-artists spread the establishment’s ideals and renounce their natural alienation, losing their critical capacity and supporting the very system that originally oppressed them.

Perhaps works have lost their ability to shake everyday logic, and art has evaporated from them, form museums and from the artists’ nature. Perhaps, as Kuspit reminds us, today, more than ever before, art should “clarify its principles” favoring that “artistic osmosis” through which, according to Duchamp, the work transfers the creator’s human concerns to the viewer. Taking the latter into account, and venturing into a critical and reflexive exercise, we could propose cyberspace as a creative construct that encompasses the values of an open and democratized art.

Consider the figure of the artist and that of the programmer: beyond the obvious relationship they have with creativity, they also share qualities that unite them. Both figures are permeated by a halo of mystery and magic, they share the same mythological ground of the archetypal creator —we could even relate them to the figures of the magician and the shaman, and endow them with a spark of god’s creativity.

They, the creator of art and the code configurator, master a language and technique that is perfected with practice and experience, while their dexterity appears as something concealed to the viewers. Their expression, materialized in shared reality, comes to life once it is exuded by their mind and spirit. This is how the work of art survives for centuries and it feeds the undecipherable matter of the unconscious. The shaman’s magical act guarantees the continuum of space, enabling the cyclicality of ritual time and rescuing the souls absorbed by spiritual outbursts. The work of the programmer is incendiary and it spreads without restraint; software grows and is improved by the minds that possess the code, and programs expand and become more complex, rapidly updating themselves.

Talking about the Internet as if it were a work of art, in an age when so many things are artistic products, is easy. It seems viable to relate cyberspace to the values possessed by masterpieces, and connecting it with art’s immaculate version: that which is profound and connects with the spiritual, critical, creative, sensitive, terrifying, sympathetic, magical, to name but a few qualities.

It’s important to point out that this virtual link happens with the version of art that connects to the symbolic, allegoric and unconscious, and not with the 3.0 version of the art that takes pleasure in the iconic, quotidian, economic, commercial, industrial and professional contemporary art. In this sense, approaching the relationship between the Internet and Art requires countless lines, so we will stop at a simple reflection that is worth digesting and expanding.

Art is not the History of Art, it is not the artists nor the institutions. Art is not only found in works or ideas. It is not present in aesthetics, criticism or academia; in that way it as elusive as Tao and it escapes when we name it, confuses itself when we think it and is impossible to catch. It becomes as abstract as the ones and zeros of the binary code which sustains the postmodern world. Art will never be found on the Internet, just as art will never be contained by a single computer, a single mind or a mobile device. Both creations are unmistakable features of our astounding capacity to relate things, events and moments. Both have been built from the work of countless minds —with some luck, they will continue to exist for many generations to come.

We must remember that neither art, nor the internet nor science relate in their nature to that of money. The will of the bank system’s masters does not seem to connect to the revolutionary and creative principles of artists, scientists and internauts, who are critical and sensitive to society’s needs. In sum, linking them to the market and money is a nihilist effort that will end up impoverishing their transformative capacities. In this manner, the Internet and art share the same transformative ground as science, and we cannot forget that the greatest scientists spread their knowledge freely. Perspective, relativity and the WWW have been incendiary ideas of their age, which have led to the exaltation of their disciplines and humankind.

In sum: the global and globalizing nature of the Internet, its constant expansion and its liaison to humankind’s profoundest issues, place it as a true and enormous work of art, where the world’s quid of transformation lies, for good or evil.

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