How does the internet influence the practice of contemporary artists and illustrators?



In this essay I hope to grasp a deeper understanding in why the internet has had a profound influence on the practices of some contemporary artists and illustrators. I intend to explore the social and cultural implications that surround the infamous term ‘internet art’.

The theory behind internet art:

Before delving into the social aspects of what causes internet art and its popularity, it’s important to first determine what it means. Internet art begins first with the invention of the home computer, when it became available in the everyday home in the 1970’s, “the computer offered a digital alternative to traditional ways of working, often more economical and efficient for artists and designers” (Noble cited in Mealing 1997[1]). Even Noble writing in 1997, before the internet became a discussion of human right in the early 2000s, he began to address “what is the computer to a fine artist?…For one artist the computer is only a tool, for another it is a completely new medium” (Noble cited in Mealing 1997[2]). Speaking a few year later in 2004 the discussion of technology and art moves from the production of computers to internet art, Greene believes “The internet is a chaotic, diverse and crowded form of contemporary public space. It is hardly surprising, therefore, to find so many art forms related to it” (Greene 2004). Its natural for attists to use their surroundings and objects to inspire them

(Insert quotes and definitions)

Art will always have links to what is happening in the current social climate, and for the past 20 years or so, the internet has increased in popularity, undoubtedly going to inlfunece the minds of many. We are currently living in the internet age; it’s all around us and would be impossible for us to ignore its existence. Like in the golden age of illustration printing provided new ways for illustrators to work and allow them to be widespread.

The theory behind this is reminiscent of popular culture in the 60s, Pop culture will forever be synonymous with consumerism, part of the throw away culture, everything became disposable and replaceable, and people had the money to do so. Ideas of consumerism were famously reflected in the work of people such as Andy Warhol. Today’s equivalent of that is this generation’s obsession with technology, which moves at an alarming rate. Mark Napier’s work from the late 90s, an era where the internet is still a slow progression into people’s homes, is a reflection of that.

It is also reminiscent of the golden age of illustration, where developments in the printing industry provided new ways for illustrators to work and allow them to be widespread. New digital programmes and a large amount of online webhosts are today’s equivalent of that for the contemporary artist.

(Continue to analyse such work, and similar using analysis from Greene. R ‘Internet Art’, perhaps show a comparison between popular art and this modern internet art, also slightly between Arthur Rackham’s work from the golden age)

Conclude chapter by reflecting that contemporary art, will continue to be a product of its time, and it’s impossible to ignore that the current economic, social and cultural climate is highly revolved around advances in technology, and this is clearly something impossible to ignore by many artists.

The aesthetic and appeal of internet influenced arts

When talking about any artwork its materiality plays a part in its context and message, and it’s important to consider when seeing images online, the screen and where it’s uploaded to plays a part in its materiality.

For example, when talking about viewing work branded internet art it is more than likely displayed on a screen, and also most likely to be found by it being shared on the internet. The materiality of this plays a really important piece of criteria for artist creating such work, it is work that purely exists because of the material being used and effects the way we see it. The theory links back to the work of Lucia Fontana’s ‘Spatial concept ‘waiting’’ (1960). He is deconstructing the materiality of the canvas and allows us to deconstruct and understand what a canvas should be. And when contemporary artist are using the websites, or gifs or an digital image on a screen as a material its making the viewer consider why we are seeing it in that format. It also makes us realise that is the only way it can exists, if A piece of work is made as an interactive website, we know there is no other way for us to view it, and that makes part of the work, It exists on that one form.

(Analyse examples such as Anasomnia, Tim Holman, Francoise Gamma, and finish with Gamma’s GIF work which leads on to…)

When discussing internet art it becomes impossible to mention the art of the GIF, originally designed in the 80s as a format of moving image to be sent in emails, the birth of its popularity only really boomed in later years and proceeded to get noticed by contemporary artists and illustrators. It again is a form of online material that exists only in the form of an on screen, online file. The Gif could perhaps be deemed the most popular form of internet art.

(Find more examples of popular GIF art and discuss with reference from journals discussing the phenomena that is the GIF)

The artist Alexander Glandien and Brian Stauffer (find the rest of the names) have all been editorial illustrators for the ‘New York Times’, what has set them apart from other illustrators is they have used GIF or interactive art. This new wave of contemporary illustration is illustrators understanding that the materiality of editorial artwork being printed in papers or magazines, isn’t the most likely option to be seen by a wider audience and it is in-fact much more likely to be seen. This is an explanation of how we they are beginning to adapt their way of working to fit in with the digital age

(Continue analysis of such works)

The internet is also immediate; people struggle to read things for long periods of time. Changes the way we process thing on a screen, instant format. This can either work in favour for artists or play against them. We lose being able to thoughtfully stare at an image in a gallery or book, as a hyper link or the next image on a page will force you to look elsewhere. However, if people don’t have the time to read anymore they can instead briefly look at images. Perhaps the way many artists get round this is by creating interactive, or moving images the spark the interest of a lazy mine to linger on the image, something long pieces of text do not do.

(Reference online article discussing said matter)

To conclude, looking at the GIF , after understanding the context of its materiality, and why artists and illustrators are influenced in this way, we can then move on to understand the social and cultural implication behind this.





















The social and cultural implications surrounding internet influenced work

Continuing from my discussion in the previous chapter discussing GIF art it becomes important to mention the transition from internet art being a commonly regarded low-brow to something more considered as an art form. This could be related to the way we view images online and the culture of image sharing. The Photographers gallery in London set up a exhibition running from 19th May to 10th July 2012, simply a screen situated in their galley displayed a range of GIFS submitted by artists, this exhibition highlighted its importance in the photographic digital art world, and again had to be shown on a screen to be appreciated, only accessible as a digital format. ‘the Wall’ originally show cased a selection of artists GIF’s that they chose to represent the medium of the GIF well, but they eventually encouraged members of the public to submit GIF’s to also be showcased.

(Insert references from interview with the curator

Also mention current exhibition at ICA celebrating union of technology in the arts))

This not only highlights the transition of something being established, moulded and viewed on the internet, being brought into the realm it’s never been experienced before. But it also highlights the importance of social media and its involvement with internet influenced art, it’s how it becomes shared and eventually leads to the popularity. Furthermore Pierre Bourden invented the notion of cultural fields and cultural capital. We allow ourselves to add cultural capital to certain things, make it seem more worthy of our approval or time, like classical music for example has more cultural capital than popular music. As internet art is a popular art form shared online it’s easy to understand why this particular art form is considered ‘low-brow’ and little talked about in journals or discussion of popular art. Galleries are seen as culturally rich places so would automatically have more cultural capital apply. I feel as though when an artist’s creates work to be seen online this is considered, it immediately change the tone and context. This is something the infamous street artist Bansky touched on when he put his own primitive artworks into galleries, unknown by the establishment to see how long it would take. The result being they did not notice, this could be because just by placing it in an gallery environment cultural capital was added and allowed visitors to presume it was meant to be there.

(Insert references or images of Bansky’s artwork in gallery)

Furthermore, social media plays a huge part in the creation and inspiration in some contemporary artists influence , it allows artists to cultivate communities online, form collective and projects, all within the realm of the internet, only rarely bring the work into a real life dimension, see examples

(Insert examples such as pictoplasma, show studio, gif art gallery)

To conclude the internet doesn’t just influence the content of the work, which it primarily was when the term ‘internet art’ first established in the 90s, it’s now used to inspire a wide range of an audience,, its popularity allows the influenced work to also be able to be brought into galleries and thus its cultural capital being shifted. The internet also encourages contemporary artists to cultivate ideas using social Medias and produce work from doing so. Something that may not have existed in the past century, as it’s now far easier to create online communities.

Political issues

It’s also important to remember that by artists working on social media platforms it’s easy for them to address certain social and political issues. By placing it on social media platforms like Tumblr, like artist Milos rajovik, its making his artwork widely available to the public, he doesn’t have to be an important member of society to be published in the newspaper to be able to spread his opinion and message. In this days generation the internet is also far more viewed by younger, teenage generations, especially a platform like Tumblr. This means the intern also allows rajovik to get his message to the people young enough to make a difference.

(Analyse his artworks and reflect back to why it’s important it’s on the web)

To conclude, the inert is a powerful tool used to inspire artist’s to get their message across.





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