second year: 1998 series of lectures: lectures / conversations with lecturers / lecturers

course for curators of contemporary art: course participants / study excursions / program collaborators / exhibition /


Vuk Ćosić, text, introduction

You are reading a short text about a particular art practice that was compiled by a practitioner without any ambition or intention to offer any thorough theoretical analysis like scholars usually do. The ambition of this essay is to give an idea, with regards to the way in which and the net.artist function and leave any historical analysis for a later moment.Somebody once said that is the ultimate destination to emigrate to from the contemporary art system, thus, most of the excerpts used in this text are supposed to illustrate how complicated or even impossible it is to do so., the term

Regarding the origins of the term there seems to be no consensus, although Alexei Shoulgin did offer a charmingly romantic story to fill this void:

"I feel it's time now to shed light on the origin of the term -''.

Actually, it's a ready-made.In December 1995 Vuk Ćosić received a message, sent via an anonymous mailer. Because of incompatibility of software, the opened text appeared to be practically unreadable ascii abracadabra. The only fragment of it that made any sense looked something like:

[...] J8-g#|\;Net. Art{-^s1 [...]

Vuk was quite amazed and exited, for the net itself had given him a name for the activity he was involved in! He immediately started to use this term. After several months he forwarded the mysterious message to Igor Marković, who managed to decode it correctly. The text appeared to be fairly controversial and a vague manifesto in which it's author blamed traditional art institutions for all possible transgressions, sins (sic) and declared freedom of self-expression and independence for all artists on the internet. The part of the text - the fragment mentioned above - and so strangely converted by Vuk's software said (quotation by memory):"All this becomes possible only with the emergence of the Net. Art as a notion becomes obsolete...", etc. So, the text turned out not to be so interesting. But the term it indirectly brought to life was already in use by that time. Regretfully, for future historians, the manifesto no longer exists, it was lost with other precious data after the tragic crash of Igor's hard disk last summer."I like this strange story very much, because it's a perfect illustration of the fact that the world we live in is much richer than all our ideas about it. per se

In general perception the list of specific properties that distinguish from most other practices goes somewhat like this (I hope I didn't forget any major ones):



Networking / Collaboration

Artist run initiatives / Immediatism


Multimediality needs no further explanation, being actually present in the world of CD-ROMs. Anyway let's say, that for a practitioner, this means that text, graphics, sound and video can be seamlessly used at the same time. Of course, net.artists are continually trying to use this in new ways.

Interactivity sounds like a novelty and is usually what curators want to see in a piece. Usually, the net.artists don't want the user to interfere much with the work. Typically it ends with a guestbook or a 4 scenarios story, like in those famous interactive TV schemes.

Networking / Collaboration is much more important, and is possibly the most serious analogy between and the historical avant-garde movements of this century. Free communication channels offer truly novel and intriguing possibilities to exchange contents with other artists in the global landscape (I would not like to enter the "haves and have nots" here, the word "global" is used as a metaphor). Net.artists use this and identify each other well.

Artist run initiatives / Immediatism is a possibility that has also existed in other new media forms - as in video art of the seventies - but have failed - as in video art in the eighties - because of various, mostly economic reasons. With there are a few details that bring this utopian situation a step closer; the key detail being the fact that the net is the FINAL context for a work of, and by choosing to avoid the curators, an artist doesn't necessarily become inaccessible, nor does his/her/its work. Theoretically the Immediatist model (Hakim Bey) - that of a secret society of artists where works are shared and exchanged freely, within a network of trust - might work this time. Unmarketabillity is the most slippery of these commonly known features, and is supposed to mean that the digital nature of the work (with the unlimited number of identical copies) will ultimately prevent the ability of being sold on the market. For now there are several market models: - the "non-exclusive rights" system, when an institution buys a copy of net.artist's work for a collection. (ZKM, Karlsruhe)- "access control option", where the buyer decides who gets to see the original (as experimented by that assigns the originality - and almost the aura - to the URL, the universal unique Internet address that a file has)- commissions (where artists usually get paid for the effort without any further control or interest by the buyer - best example: Ars Electronica, or without any real knowledge of what the field is all about - i.e. Cartier, Guggenheim).There are works that deal with these issues and also such works that are intentionally unsellable., the artists

Usually the term is used as a label for the work of four artists - jodi, Alexei Shoulgin, Heath Bunting and the author of this text, although people like Rachel Baker, Olia Lialina and many others are definitely part of the same chapter. The following are the "words of experts" as stated at, the first real gallery:

Tilman Baumgaertel about Alexei Shoulgin:

"The father of Russian"... "The inventor of Form Art"... "Cyber-Majakowski"... or simply: "The Master"... Over the years Alexei Shoulgin was given many tender or admiring names. Small wonder: the Russian photographer, turned net.artist, has provided the young scene with some of its finest accomplishments to date. By creating net-works that aim to engage the user as a collaborator of the artist, he stands both in the tradition of Russian conceptualism and of the "social sculpture" of Joseph Beuys. The 35-year old artist from Moscow, who received a honorary mention at the Austrian media arts festival Ars Electronica in 1997, is one of's fastest rising stars, and worthy both of your attention and of your investment.

Natalie Bookchin about Heath Bunting

Love him or hate him; you can not ignore him. He is a force to contend with; a tidal wave in the ocean of; a bookmark in the library of URLs; substance in the sea of superfluous surfers, and a one in a crowd of zeros. A highly disciplined advocate of a transgressive social and political anarchy, Bunting is a complex and controversial figure; an outlaw to some, a dictator to others, he has singlehandly carved out a position that some claim to be naive, others dismiss as contradictory, but few have so compellingly persisted in asking hard questions and refusing to provide easy answers.

S. Albert about jodi

Jodi's work is native to the web. It is composed of denouőd stylistic elements, functional systems and computer iconic imagery. Jodi puts those materials to previously unimaginable uses; for example, jodi uses (or misuses) a text scrolling Javascript to animate a cascading flood of images and icons, texts and textures. The dimensions of the screen, the semiotic and political structures of the web form much of their subject matter and provide their ready-made materials.Having spearheaded a stylistic movement on the web of functional cool: low resolution images, fast loading pages, their work is now eminently collectable. jodi's endless innovation within the limits of the computer-network / browser / user interface is an invaluable resource for those interested in exploring the web as a context for any endeavour, artistic or commercial.

Sandra Fauconier about Vuk Ćosić

This fine artist - a cosmopolitan with Balkanic roots - is well known for his challenging, ground-breaking work as a pioneer in the field of Ćosić's constantly evolving oeuvre is characterized by an interesting mix of philosophical, political and conceptual network-related issues on the one hand, and an innovating feeling for contemporary urban and underground aesthetics on the other. Last year he thoroughly astonished the art world by stealing the Documenta X website - next time he is said to be, most likely, a part of the show, considering the quick and extremely interesting evolution of his artistic career. Purchasing one of his works right now will undoubtedly prove an excellent investment within very few years., the life

The above mentioned artists spend most of their time in front of machines doing some work or participating in various on line forums. The most important one, historically, is Nettime where it all began, but since September 1997 the mailing list called 7-11 is being the key hangout for this group. The other common ground is the conferencing and festivals circuit. Places like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Budapest, Linz, Banff...that are hosting these events are the usual meeting points where most of the necessary plotting and collaboration plans are done., the conclusions

At this moment in development of (September 1998) there are few visible processes going on. The first is that none of the net.artists are doing only any more (Shoulgin music, Bunting genetics, jodi CDROM, Ćosić this text), and the second is the massive assault by the art institutions. eco system is still not visible, and all that happens is incidental. Several art and internet labs are created in these few years and are dedicated to the explorations although not a single piece of relevant work came out of them in terms of, so a major redefinition of quality is behind the horizon. I have to go now.



  1. Aleksej Šulgin, Unsignifying context as seen by the artist
  2. Heath Bunting, Fight for a tactical usage of new media in case of the pirate radio as an artistic action
  3. jodi, A radical abuse of graphic capabilities of the net and of the users expectations
  4. Vuk Ćosić, Entry page