The term is used to describe a process of making art using a computer in some form or other, whether to download imagery that is then exhibited online, or to build programs that create the artwork.
Net art emerged in the 1990s when artists found that the internet was a useful tool to promote their art uninhibited by political, social or cultural constraints. For this reason it has been heralded as subversive, deftly transcending geographical and cultural boundaries and defiantly targeting nepotism, materialism and aesthetic conformity. Sites like MySpace and YouTube have become forums for art, enabling artists to exhibit their work without the endorsement of an institution.
A sub-genre of internet art, browser art is a renegade artwork made as part of a URL that uses the computer as raw material, transforming the codes, the structure of the websites and the links between servers into visual material
Some browser artworks automatically connect to the internet and then proceed to mangle the web pages by reading the computer’s ‘code’ the wrong way. The duo Joan Hermskerk and Dirk Paesmans, known as Jodi, have devised a program which the net art writer Tilman Baumgärtel has described as transforming a PC ‘into an unpredictable, terrifying machine that seems to have a life of its own’.
Other artists, like the British based duo Tom Corby and Gavin Baily, reduce image-rich web pages to stark white text. While the American artist Maciej Wisniewski has developed a browser that transforms the interactive experience of surfing the net into a passive activity, staring at floating images and texts.
In the 1960s, software programs were the digital tool with which artists could create art on computers. Since then, these programs have become so sophisticated that they can now be considered the work of art rather than just a facilitator.
Often software art parodies or re-configures existing computer programs. Web Stalker, created by the art collective I/O/D was a radical re-interpretation of an internet browser and Adrian Shaw’s Signwave parodied the computer program Adobe Photoshop. The rise of software art has led to several international new media festivals, namely FILE(Electronic Language International Festival) held in São Paulo in Brazil and transmediale in Berlin. The rise of software art has provoked questions about the de-materialisation of art and culture and how this has had an effect on the world of conceptual art.
The term telematic art was coined by British artist and theorist Roy Ascott in the early 1990s to describe interactive art that uses the internet and other digital means of communication, like email and mobile phones. (The term ‘telematic’ was first used by Alain Minc and Simon Nora in the late 1970s to describe the way computers transmit information).
Much of the writing surrounding telematic art focuses on the human aspect of the medium, the desire to communicate with another even in the virtual world, and how this is central to the creation of the medium.