What Exactly IS Web Art?

This is the second in a series of posts brainstorming about the nature of web art, or, in other words, art that uses the web and the internet as the medium, rather than something more traditional like paint, ink, or pencil.

Please feel free to go back and read Part 1: Web Art, and the Internet as an Artistic Medium

One of the biggest questions about web art for me is what is the art?

If I create a work of web art that you view and experience on a webpage, what is the actual thing that is considered the art?

With a painting, it is very clear what the piece of art is. It is the canvas with the paint on it.

But what about a website that is a work of art. Is it the computer code that creates the site? Is it the server that stores that code? Is it the user’s browser that looks at the website?

All of these things are part of the inner workings that allow a piece of web art to be viewed by someone. I don’t think that any one of these things is the art itself though.

The Experience is the Art

I think that the actual art is the experience that the user has with the website that hosts the art. All of the code that sits on the server doesn’t do anything until someone points their browser to the site. It is then this experience of going to a web site that becomes the art.

To give you an example of what I mean, click on the words “Red Dot/Blue Dot” below before reading further (following this link only takes a few seconds, and you’ll end up back here afterwards):

Red Dot/Blue Dot

Welcome back!

That was, fundamentally, a work of web art.

Pretty lame web art, yes, I know, but it should demonstrate my point. Until you clicked on that link, the art did not exist. All that existed were a couple of HTML files and a couple of PNG files. They didn’t do anything until you clicked on the link and had the experience of seeing a red dot then a blue dot.

In fact, the actual thing I created was this:

	Red Dot

Now click here

The experience you had of seeing those dots, in that sequence, was the art. The file itself is not the art, it is just a tool that is used to create the art.

This gets to one of the most interesting aspects of web art: you cannot separate the art from the experience of viewing the art. It is very similar to performance art in this way.

Additionally, the user plays a vital role in the experience of the art. Without your decision to click on the link, then to continue clicking, that art would never have existed.

User interaction is a vital part of web art. It cannot exist without the user there to view it.

Coming Next

In the next post I am going to start brainstorming and discussing some of the particular qualities that web art can have that distinguish it from other forms of art.

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