Z I N E n
new media






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a journal of new media experimental visual literary theory practice


Ted Warnell


Features, reviews, papers

Zn 99/02/19: Cyberart... Web art... Are you having trouble sorting it all out? Relax, it's all new media art.

Copyright © 1999 by Zn and Ted Warnell. All rights reserved.


1999 FEB 19

New Media Art

Web art, a bewildering array of new styles, subjects, and ideas about beauty in the new media. More than a few folks are having a tough time sorting it all out, so...

Here is Zn's Guide to New Media Art


(also digital art) is by far the most prevalent form of new media art you will encounter. Kind of a catch all phrase for almost every kind of art work on the Web, cyberart is almost every kind of art work on the Web...

Really, everything from scanned natural media works like drawings and paintings, photographs, etc., to digitally produced art like manipulated natural media and computer rendered works -- all become cyberart by virtue of the fact they are placed into the cyberstream... onto the Web.

How can you know for sure? Well, a simple rule of thumb... if it looks and functions like traditional art work on your video screen, and still looks and functions like traditional art work when printed, then it's probably traditional art work...

In the case of audio, animation, video, and the like, then could this work function off of the Web, perhaps on a CD-ROM? If so, call it cyberart.

Web art
(one might reasonably believe) should be fairly common on the Web... but this is not the case, in my view. Strange but true, real Web art is rare -- odd considering the Web is what many might first think of when the topic comes round to new media.

So, what is Web art? Well, another simple rule of thumb... if it's concerned with unique qualities of the media that is the Web, and actually incorporates one or more of these qualities into the work, then it's probably Web art...

Web art may or may not concern itself with traditional ideas about art and beauty, and to varying degrees. This makes sense, of course, because the Web is non-traditional, n * e * w media, so what is art and beauty is not yet fully understood. Web artists are exploring the new media, in part, to arrive at an understanding.

Most simply, Web art is the art of the Web. Incorporating unique qualities of the medium (media), Web art works require Web media to function -- they cannot function outside of Web media. If so, call it Web art.
(ah yes, now try to get your head around this...) is... everything that everyone knows should never be done, done.

Where the purpose of a link is to provide access to pages of related information of interest, a link functions to provide access (or not) to information of no relevance or interest; where navigation is designed to provide clear, direct access to site pages, navigation is designed to confuse, or go in circles, or nowhere at all; where most pages are carefully laid out for clarity, and colored for a pleasing effect, pages are laid out (thrown out?) for obscurity, and colored so as to surpass simply vile and achieve truly hideous...

In short, everything that we know (or think we know) never to do is done by the artist. So, are these people crazy or what? Maybe crazy like a fox... and a few of the first artists to practice it have achieved considerable recognition for their efforts -- JODI (Netherlands), Heath Bunting (UK), and Olia Lialina (Russia) are three, well known in new media arts.

The recognition is justified, in my view, as the artists accomplish two important goals by their efforts: 1) they confirm, often, what we all know and believe, and 2) they explode our beliefs, sometimes, showing us new possibilities for this new media that is the Web... and the Internet. is concerned primarily with the Internet as a whole, and only secondarily with the Web, and it is not at all concerned by pre-existing or current notions of aesthetics. By their explorations at the extreme edge of the envelope, artists seek to discover and define their own aesthetic.

Recognizing If it looks and functions like the time you spilled coffee into your keyboard... and you start to think to yourself, `I've never seen anything this ugly before now!', and still, it is oddly fascinating... then call it

And in the end...
beauty was, is, and always will be in the eye of the beholder. So, relax -- call it what you will -- it is all new media art. Enjoy the creativity!
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Copyright © 1997-99 Ted Warnell. All Rights Reserved