Qualities of web art: Variety in Time and Presentation

In this series of posts I am discussing the web as an art form, and what exactly that might mean. Feel free to check out the previous posts in this series:

In this post, I will be continuing to discuss particular aspects of the internet that may help show how web art can be different than any other artistic medium.

Time can be partially controlled (or not controlled)

Building on all of the previous aspects mentioned, time can be controlled, or not controlled in a work of web art. In video and music , time is controlled. Things are experienced in a sequence, and that sequence is determined by the artist. In other traditional mediums such as paint or sculpture, time is not controlled, and the viewer can experience the work of art for as little time or for as long a time as she likes.

With web art, time can be controlled, and further, it can be controlled either by the artist or by the viewer. With programming, an artist can force something to happen after a specific amount of time, or this can be left up to the viewer to decide when to move the mouse or type on the keyboard to make something happen.

When I go to a museum, I can spend 5 minutes looking at a painting by Mark Rothko, or spend 3 minutes looking at a dozen paintings by Piet Mondrian. In this traditional example, I , as the user, have the control over the amount of time that I spend looking at each piece.

With web art, the amount of time that the user has to experience and interact with any particular part of a work of art can be controlled, limited, or be given a minimum amount.

A piece of interactive web art, for example, could give the user a few seconds to interact with it and give an instruction before it executes a default instruction, it may not allow the user to proceed until giving an instruction, or it may require the viewer to examine and experience one particular aspect of a work of art before it allows or forces the viewer to move on to another part of the piece of art.

The ability for the artist to control time, or to hand off that control to the viewer, is particular to art on the web.

Presentation varies from viewer to viewer

What browser are you using to view this website?

If you are using Internet Explorer, things might not look quite right. This site looks downright wrong in Internet Explorer 6.

If you are using Safari, the site probably appears a little smaller than in Firefox, and the colors are a little brighter.

Is your browser maximized, taking up the entire computer screen, or is it a window? How big is your screen, for that matter?

A website is a different experience for me on my large, 24” desktop monitor than it is on the small, 14” labtop screen I am writing this on right now.

The computer a person uses to view a website, the browser they use, and how they use it all contribute to the user experience of the website, and therefor, the art itself.

The implication of this is that the art may not be the same each time it is viewed, due entirely to the hardware that is used to view and display the art. Further, it is possible to program something on the web to behave differently if different browsers are used to view it. This kind of variety removes some of the definitive qualities of a work of art, since the experience of viewing it can be changed based on what and how the viewer chooses to experience it with.

Coming Up Next

In the final post in this series, I will wrap all of this up, and see what it all means, and maybe even see some examples of what I have been talking about.

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