|ART AND CULTURE
One of the best challenges to the
age old autonomy of the artwork is the World Wide Web, used by artists.
I've seen signed copies of videotapes, and even computer diskettes with
the signature of an artist, but a website cannot possibly function as an
original, unique and irreplaceable work of art. Unless you define these
terms in a different way. It has been argued that the 'art' in online artworks
lies not in the visible result but in the invisible intricacies of the
algorithms that direct the cathode rays behind your screen. They who master
these indeed unique combinations of formulas are the true artists of our
times. On the other hand this way to define the new artistic realm in digital
environments may be stressing the old criterion of craftsmanship too much.
What about ideas?
Judging from the experience with
a large sample of artworks on the WWW, it is striking that this new medium
is so often used in a nostalgic and melancholy way! Why would one find
so many old photographs on the Web, and so many images that seem to be
almost withered away with age? So many thoughts about a lost childhood
or a vanished past? Maybe this reflects the other side of the World Wide
Web that links everybody to everyone: the side where one sits alone behind
a screen and a keyboard, trying to make connections between old memories
and a world that sometimes seems to be so disconnected...
Maybe it has to do with the reflective
character of working with the medium; there's one thing you can't do in
hypermedia: improvise with the material with the same directness with which
one can improvise with paint or pieces of raw material. The artist who
wants to show anything on the Web needs to be a very disciplined editorial
designer as well. And there's a lot the artist cannot control: they can
ask you to change the settings and typefaces on your browser, but if you
don't, you may see something rather different than the artist had in mind.
So what else can they do, but adjust themselves to the conventions of the
medium and try to tell their own stories within these still narrow confines?
A lot of artistic websites function this way: often visually stronger than
most sites, they use the same structural routines: main page, indexes,
sections, interlinked series of images and texts, all kept together by
a navigating system that consists of toolbars, pictograms and buttons.
Very rare is a site like that of Debra Solomon who makes art out of navigating
within basically one screen, an abstract room seemingly with no boundaries,
just directions. Ironically, this kind of work comes very close to the
most autonomous art of all times, abstract art.