Now I have a good understanding of the internet as a medium, I want to pause and look into GIF artists and bring a focus to the content of other internet artists that are not using GIFS, and how they are using the medium to their advantage. To begin this research I have returned to a previous text I was using by Rachel Greene, simply titled ‘Internet Art’. In the opening chapter; entitled ‘Early internet Art’, Greene suggests that early internet art consists of themes related to “‘information’, ‘communication’, ‘interaction’ and ‘systems’”. (Greene 2004 p 31), Perfectly summarised in Douglas Davis’ work, ‘The World’s First Collaborative Sentence’ 1994, which is situated on the first page of the chapter.
Douglas Davis created an interactive webpage in 1994, designed on attracting people to be part of a collaborative online project, with a simple task, users contributing online to an ongoing sentence website. This was one of the earliest examples of interactive computer art and attracted 200,000 contributions, a huge amount, from all over the globe over a span of 6 years (Ryzik 2013). His work deals with basic interactive website that could only include online participants, which uses familiar imagery and style to comment on the interactions of the format. Greene doesn’t directly mention the work in the text but by having the imagery of it next to her comments on the specifications of the piece being reliant on the medium reminds us that it is a popular piece of work which does in fact solely rely on its medium. The website ran up until 2005 due to immense popularity, up until the website was acquired by the ‘Whitney Museum of American Art’, the first ever internet work to do so. The fact that the website become acquired and restored, notes the immense popularity, thus the success of early internet art. This provides the information that this medium of work became timelessly popular and will continue to be an example of successful collaborative internet art. I found out this information when I looked into the original website and the ‘Google’ results from typing in ‘worlds first collaborative sentence’ threw up a host of articles celebrating its takeover in 2005, and writers taking a moment to revisit it, understand its popularity and promote its importance, which again underlines for me its importance amongst the vast realm of internet art.
The popularity of this work, and other internet based work links back to the ethos of internet art and its mission to make art with a communal element. “There exists no viable or stable market for net art.” (Greene 2003 p 31). Because of this internet artists then develop ways of creating online art communities to avoid isolation. (Greene 2003). This then provides the artists with another positive dimension to their work, encouraging artist from around the world to get involved. It’s something that has struggled be addressed before because there has not been a readily available platform to do so, but with the introduction of the internet the opportunity and medium was given for anyone with access to be internet to become a part of something incredibly refreshing, and technologically ahead at the time. Again this refers me back to my research into the medium by Marshall McLuhan, again a reoccurring theme and reference back to the medium and its capabilities.
Where Davis was one of the first to use it as a piece of artwork, it not only may of encouraged to also make internet art but to also be a part of it, something new and exciting. Some are able to use it for selfish reasons such as shameless self promotion, in other parts there is a wide range creative writing, all seamlessly becoming one piece of text, an online community coming together as one piece of writing. I took quite a few screenshots of the original artwork which show dates, and also conversation, a sense of community, which is really nice to look back onto, its shows the materiality of it as non perishable. It also seems to give people a source to be creative, people are writing deep meaningful words, which debatably can be described as poetry perhaps? It was really fun to research deep into the old website, closer to when it was first created and see the initial impact it had on the users. It still exists today but under a new URL. There was a huge amount of pages which took a very long time to look through, but this just lays homage to the success an popularity of the artwork. Also a clear pointer as to why Greene used it as her first key image.
One of the articles I found writing about the reconstruction was Micheal Connor from Rhizome magazine. He mentioned that Davis had a strong interest in the way television was able connect people over long distances, the introduction of the internet as a new medium then strengthened his belief in creating intimacy through a network of communications (Connor 2013). This confirms my research into the effect of the medium and its affect on the practice of artists, it added and developed his way of thinking as a practitioner.
Although online interactive art communities are incredibly common now, at the time it was not the case at all, which is why this artwork is in particular one of the most successful examples or creating a community driven online art project. It’s a key example of successfully using the internet as a medium to creating community based art on a global scale, which in turn influenced others join in and be part of the movement.
After learning about Davis’ work I feel as though I’ve learnt a lot more about the role of materiality and the power of the webpage on the art and design community. I think this si an artwork I will definitely find worth mentioning as not only does a pivotal book defining internet art use it as a first reference its a true example of the internet as a medium make that first initial impact on the community and practicing artists. This particular artwork will be one I will definitely use in my final essay. From this point in my research I want to continue looking at original internet artworks that were the first ones to grasp strongly the idea of the internet as a medium, and its capabilities.
References for this post:
Greene, R., 2004. Internet Art (World of Art Series), United Kingdom: Thames & Hudson Ltd.
Connor, M. (2013). Restoring ‘The World’s First Collaborative Sentence’. Available: http://rhizome.org/editorial/2013/jun/12/restoring-douglas-davis-collaborative-sentence/.
Unknown. (Unknown). DOUGLAS DAVIS THE WORLD’S FIRST COLLABORATIVE SENTENCE 1994. Available: http://whitney.org/Exhibitions/Artport/DouglasDavis
Ryzik, M. (2013). When Artworks Crash: Restorers Face Digital Test. Available: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/10/arts/design/whitney-saves-douglas-daviss-first-collaborative-sentence.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.