Net Art: virtuality, multimedia and interactivity on the web

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Net Art: virtuality, multimedia and interactivity on the web



Internet is based in logical and physical structures originally designed for military purposes and later transformed into a corporate plateau for frictionless flow of information as goods. Internet and mobile network computing (tablets, phones..) generate a permanent flow of connective information that is globally extended as a medium of production and consumption of data and metadata feed by a mix of machine and human perception, emotion and cognition. In a certain way Marshall McLuhan had anticipated it in the fifth chapter of Understanding Media (1964) predicting the development of electronic technologies as vehicles through which to expand not only our senses, but our consciousness itself.
Penetrating at the heart of current networking dynamics and outside of the gallery and museum circuit, Art that is centered on networking technologies and/or its meaning and existence is purely based on Internet, can help to develop culture of  critical exploration, transformation and uses of ubiquitous network technologies.



Case Studies


  1. King’s Cross Phone-In (1994)


The King’s Cross Phone-In (1994) which may be considered the first network-based artwork, was created by British artist Heath Bunting to disrupt the everyday routine of King’s Cross railway station, and utilized various newsgroups and emails lists to distribute instructions that included the telephone numbers for over 30 public phones located in the King’s Cross station. Participants came from all over the world, and they were advised to call these numbers in a premeditated manner and also answer phone calls and chatting with those on the other end of the line.


2. Collective Intelligence: Mankind’s Emerging World in Cyberspace (1994)


Pierre Lévy’s Collective Intelligence: Mankind’s Emerging World in Cyberspace (1994) has helped shape the dialogue about the aesthetic and social implications of multimedia, influencing artists and theorists alike. A counterpoint to the dystopic vision of William Burroughs and William Gibson, Lévy points to a digitally-conceived utopian universe, a virtual world in which vast repositories of information, decentralized authorship, mutable identity, and telematic interaction form an “endless horizon” of evolving forms of art and communication. According to Lévy, the break from traditional notions of authorship is leading us towards cultural transformation. He envisions a collective society linked by electronic networks, with citizens actively engaged in the “continuous invention of the languages and signs of a community.” Levy proposes that multimedia is a catalyst for social evolution. It is, he writes, “the architecture of the future” – or the language of the new era.

3. Ping Body (1995)

Stelarc employs pinging as a control mechanism for his body: his body movements are not caused by his own nervous system but by an external data system. The data is generated by pinging randomly at some thirty Internet domains and measuring the spatial distances and the time the signal needs to travel. The variation in ping values depends on both the distance and the level of traffic on the Net. The data thus collected is used to trigger a multiple muscle stimulator that activates muscles by tiny electrical currents. In this way activity on the Net is converted and used to set a body in motion.


4. Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet (1995)


Life on the Screen is a book not about computers, but about people and how computers are causing us to reevaluate our identities in the age of the Internet. We are using life on the screen to engage in new ways of thinking about evolution, relationships, politics, sex, and the self. Life on the Screen traces a set of boundary negotiations, telling the story of the changing impact of the computer on our psychological lives and our evolving ideas about minds, bodies, and machines. What is emerging, Turkle says, is a new sense of identity—as decentered and multiple. She describes trends in computer design, in artificial intelligence, and in people’s experiences of virtual environments that confirm a dramatic shift in our notions of self, other, machine, and world. The computer emerges as an object that brings postmodernism down to earth.


5. (1995)


Joan Heemskerk (NL) and Dirk Paesmans (BE) -the duo behind the collective of artists JODI- are considered as pioneers of net art. They produce videos and new media works that play with the growing presence of technology in our daily lives. JODI interrupts and disassembles ubiquitous software, video games and popular Internet platforms such as Google Maps and Twitter, cultivating coding malfunctions and programming problems. Concerned about exploring the opportunity, mysterious products of these system breakdowns, Heemskerk and Paesmans suggest a new aesthetic for the digital age., his magnum opus released in 1995, contains flash pages and record, scrolling and display of uncontrollable computer code, fragmented fragments of interface elements (menus, buttons, etc …), nude code of its functionality, once Symbolic Language converted into a magical surrealist theater of the absurd.


6. My Boyfriend Came Back From the War (1996)


Olia Lialina’s 1996 piece My Boyfriend Came Back From the War is a browser-based, hyperlinked “netfilm” that tells the fictional story of an unnamed beau returning from an unspecified conflict, with black and white images and simple bits of text.


7. Grammatron (1999)


The GRAMMATRON project is a “public domain narrative environment” developed by virtual artist Mark Amerika in conjunction with the Brown University Graduate Creative Writing Program and the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Graphics and Visualization Center as well as with the support of many individuals without whom none of this would be possible. The project consists of over over 1100 text spaces, 2000 links, 40+ minutes of original soundtrack delivered via Real Audio 3.0, unique hyperlink structures by way of specially-coded Javascripts, a virtual gallery featuring scores of animated and still life images, and more storyworld development than any other narrative created exclusively for the Web. A story about cyberspace, Cabala mysticism, digicash paracurrencies and the evolution of virtual sex in a society afraid to go outside and get in touch with its own nature, GRAMMATRON depicts a near-future world where stories are no longer conceived for book production but are instead created for a more immersive networked-narrative environment that, taking place on the Net, calls into question how a narrative is composed, published and distributed in the age of digital dissemination.



8. Life Sharing (2000-2003)



Life Sharing is the project by which Franco and Eva Mattes ( turned their private lives into a public artwork, by making all of the contents of home computer accessible to the public for three whole years, between 2000-2003. During this time everything – including emails, files, bank statements, etc. – was made available in real time to be read, copied, and downloaded, as a radical gesture of self-surveillance. Unlike social networks, which didn’t exist at the time, its focus was sharing. Anything on this computer was available to search, read and freely copy, including the system itself.


9. Summer (2013)

Olia Lialina’s Summer (2013) is a short animated loop of the artist swinging from a playground swing that is seemingly fixed to the top of the browser window where each frame of the animation is played back from a different website. By automatic redirection from one server to the next, the speed and smoothness of the animation dependent on the functioning of the internet infrastructure that supports it.  (all browser security restrictions must be disabled).


Project deployment










Local Server

If you choose to develop locally and later upload contents to public server, please follow this guide to get local server running.

Python local server


HTML5 Frameworks













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