The art market has already got to grips with the ephemeral nature of contemporary artworks. For our purposes it matters little whether these solutions are compromises, or in some cases, not terribly functional. The “Black Box” came about with the aim of offering a safe haven for the temporal nature of video, enabling it to be experienced over time; performance and conceptual art have learned to use methods of documentation (photography, video) and in some cases, certification. Even rapidly obsolete media have found a protocol: old film reels or VHS videos have migrated onto digital media, possibly also being restored in the process. Organic materials can be replaced, as can neon tubes. Sometimes it can be impossible to replace the original material: this was the case for Dan Flavin, who used a particular shade of red in his neon installations which has been withdrawn from the market due to toxicity. It was a fairly predictable outcome, but did not overly trouble his collectors. Hirst knows his sharks’ days are numbered but the artist’s popularity is not suffering as a result. Or it might be suffering, but for different reasons.
The issue of the “technical reproducibility” of works of art has also found a solution: photographs and videos sold in limited editions. Not even the digitalization of the image has challenged this convention, as absurd as this might seem. The fact of the matter is that those who collect works of art, be they museums or private individuals, do not let things like this stand in their way – unless they are convinced of the low cultural or financial value of the work in question. In other words, if New Media Art is struggling in market terms, this is not due to the aforementioned issues, but because there are still doubts over its value as art. Once again, it comes down to a question of appeal, a question that is influenced both by the technology and generation gap, the difficulties faced by traditional criticism and resistance to the New Media paradigm. If I have to choose between two things I have my doubts over, I will go for the one that offers more guarantees in terms of conservation and uniqueness. Such as a painting, for example.
“While museums have repeatedly attempted to ride the digital art wave, it is also true that other key areas of the contemporary art world have taken things much more slowly. And the sluggishness of critics, curators, galleries and collectors is what has occasioned the failure of all attempts to lend legitimacy to work using the new media in the contemporary art world. Together with the other players mentioned, the market and the collectors have the power to reverse this trend.”
“For our purposes the “Boho dance” model is a perfectly apt description of the way in which, over the last twenty years, New Media Art has approached the platform of contemporary art. Interpreted through the ritual described by Wolfe, this lengthy courtship could be described as an ongoing Boho dance enacted by two lovers who have never actually managed to consummate their relationship. […] There would be nothing wrong with this if New Media Art was a brand new avant-garde, ready to embark on its courtship ritual. The problem is that in our case, the Boho dance has been going on for almost twenty years, and while from time to time it might have seemed that Consummation was near, the applause never came. The result is that today this ritual looks like a pathetic tussle that has been dragging on for far too long. But why is this the case?”
“in the attention economy of the internet, value is not measured in financial terms, but in numbers of unique users, links and search engine results. Once results have been achieved in terms of quantity, the criteria of quality obviously reappears: the value of an online project thus also – and above all – depends on whether it is being talked about in contexts like Rhizome, Neural and We-make-money-not-art, whether it has attracted the attention of certain critics, and whether it has been exhibited in certain settings, online and off-line. The aura of the work of art, removed by the functional design of the screen we use to look at it, its infinite reproducibility without loss of quality, its accessibility and complete lack of financial value, re-emerges in the form of “tag clouds”. […] But an economy based purely on attention also has its weak points, the main one being its impermanence, something which does not suit works of art. Ultimately this is probably the reason why Net Art never developed into an independent art world, remaining mainly an extraordinary opportunity. […] For the younger generations, in any case, it is no longer a question of “translating” works created on the web to suit traditional exhibition venues and the art market, but simply operating on all the available platforms.”
“Rather than being a structured world with borders, for art the net is a border territory. It does not have confines, but rather represents a threshold: a point of encounter and exchange for different situations and cultures. Yet even the net has gradually developed its own filters and points of access, with a series of journals, portals and collections that lend authority to a work or an artist due to the simple fact of having produced it, linked to it or talked about it. […] Yet on the net, unlike in the two highly institutionalized worlds described previously, this credibility is a fragile thing, and there is always the opportunity of commanding the same level of attention as these sites offer (or more), but without going through them. The current dynamics of the Web 2.0, in particular, enable new players to enter rapidly into competition with more established situations. […] One reason for this is that the net lacks various “sanctioning” mechanisms that continue to play an important role in the so-called real world […] surfing the net is basically a private experience, and the socializing it offers is organized in a different way to real life. Reputations are never a given, but constantly have to be earned.”
“while there is no such thing as a “net artist”, in view of the fact that the web is not chosen as an exclusive medium, and indeed is often used on an occasional basis, when artists decide to produce a project on the net they undoubtedly have to tackle a series of prerogatives which are not secondary to the nature of the project, and it is true that many artists, setting aside all reservations, embrace these unconditionally, seeing them as an opportunity to strike a mortal blow to some of the dogmas of the art system. In the first place, working on the web means abandoning the notion of authorship, or at least continually having to renegotiate it; working with others, and leaving the user, or software to perform part of the creative process. Identity itself can be simulated or constructed. While the romantic legend of the artistic genius could have survived in certain conditions, the net sounded its death knell. […] The weakening of the notion of the author went hand in hand with that of the concept of artwork as fetish object. Digital data is replicable and always will be; information is by nature free. […] Lastly, the internet as a medium breaks down the art world’s traditional distinctions between roles: community practices, art as communication and dialogue, the use of a medium that is at once means of production, distribution, promotion, dialogue, consumption and critique, rehashes the mediating role played by institutions, critics and curators, and redistributes these roles between the artists and the public.”
“[the internet] elicited growing interest among artists who did not belong to the New Media Art world, and had no connection to its history. Secondly, new generations of artists came onto the scene, artists who would see such a distinction between worlds as pointless, obscure and obsolete. Lastly the internet – not as a medium but as a social setting and public arena – offered itself up as the “art world” for a new “native” artistic practice that is produced, distributed and discussed there: Net Art. Despite its ups and downs, Net Art still represents the main challenge thrown down to the art market on one hand and to New Media Art on the other.”
“right from the very start Net Art stood proudly apart from the two worlds described above, despite having things in common with both. It established itself as a sort of caustic, irreverent end-of-millennium avant-garde, the “novelty” of which lay not in its use of a new medium, but in taking the implicit potential of the information era to extremes, like the avant-garde movements of the Twentieth century did with industrial capitalism. This period did not last long, but Net Art had significant consequences on the artistic use of digital media from then on. It should therefore come as no surprise that Net Art was the first “media art” to arouse the interest of the art world, after the institutionalisation of video and a 40 year long rejection of the “art and new technologies” paradigm.”
“By rejecting the fetish object, and the aura that is both the cause and consequence of its financial worth, works of art lose the very characteristics that enable them to be distinguished from other kinds of artifacts. If we throw into the mix the fact that the New Media Art world has no objections to works with a functional value, but on the contrary is extremely well disposed towards works which elicit active engagement; that techne, in the New Media Art world, tends to prevail over content and that this very world has come together as a result of figures fleeing their respective “worlds” – various disciplines from visual arts to music, drama and dance – taking all these factors into account it is obvious that the typical work required by the New Media Art world is by nature a hybrid one, and that the confines of this world are anything but fixed.”
“[…] while the contemporary art world, in a small number of cases and with precise conditions, takes upon itself to welcome works from different disciplines and bestow the status of “art” upon them, the New Media Art world is a “temporary holding center” for works that are so radical or marginal that no-one else will take them. The only passkey required to enter is a creative use of technology.”
“The artist figure that emerges from this picture is still firmly anchored to the romantic vision of the genius, obviously updated to today’s standards. Figures like Olafur Eliasson, who created waterfalls cascading down the struts of New York’s bridges, and Matthew Barney, who spent five years of his life producing an unprecedented cycle of films, conceived in its entirety as a sophisticated allegory of male genitalia, embody this idea to perfection. The romantic genius acquires celebrity status, and is required to be an excellent entrepreneur of him or herself: think of figures like Damien Hirst, Maurizio Cattelan and Francesco Vezzoli, and further back Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol. If we descend gradually from art’s lofty pinnacles into the complex, variegated fauna of artists, many of these aspects fade away, but the one constant, the one thing we always expect from an artist, is absolute devotion to a project, an idea.”
“All of this, and everything we have not yet managed to account for, can be taken care of with a simple theorem: that the expression New Media Art identifies an “art world” that is entirely independent, both from the world of contemporary art and any other “art world”. To be comprehensible, the definition of New Media Art must be based on sociology rather than technology.
In other words, the expression New Media Art – like those which preceded it and those which will sooner or later follow it – does not indicate the art that uses digital technology as an artistic medium; it is not an artistic genre or an aesthetic category; it does not describe a movement or an avant-garde. What the expression New Media Art really describes is the art that is produced, discussed, critiqued and viewed in a specific “art world”, that we will call the “New Media Art world”.”