“I would like for my project to capture the
essence of John Perry Barlow’s “A Declaration
of the Independence of Cyberspace”.
I can achieve this through a variety
I may use comparisons to other revolutionary
movements. I have always been
interested in the Soviet Union and the
style of Soviet propaganda so it may be
interesting to create cyberspace propaganda
in a similar style. This Soviet-Cyberspace
comparison can be pushed further
by incorporating the authoritarian control
of cyberspace into the final piece, as well
as the nationalistic referencing to a motherland/
I would execute this idea through the use
of interactive media. More specifically, I
would draw influence from Net.art that
was popular at the time of the writing of
the declaration. This involves the use of
a browser and coding to create my final
I would use the style of a mid-nineties/
early noughties website to spread cyberspace
propaganda. The innocent-looking
site could tell a story through web pages
that are all linked together, but upon
close inspection, the viewer will begin to
see behind the utopian facade and see
the reality that lies behind it.”
So to sum up:
- Heavy influence from John Perry Barlow’s ‘A Declaration of Independence for Cyberspace
- Revolutionary style- in a literal sense as in Soviet art styles- suprematism or constructivism, or just in the method of presentation or tone.
- Use the web as a medium?- I could use a mixture of the web skills I gained from last year’s web project and from p5.js. I think I may find it difficult thought to produce something interesting in the amount of time I have.
- The idea of things not being what they seem. ‘utopian facade’.
I think I’ll spend the first couple of days researching net art online and in the library. I will then storyboard. I will probably need at least at least 1 week to develop my project so hopefully, I can make a start before the end of week one.
Narrow down, choose a couple of key points to explore. Draw from net art style. Avoid too many comparisons with other revolutionary movements, will involve too much research into history.
Olia Liana ‘My Boyfriend Came Back From the War’ 1996
The work consists of 2-bit black and white images or gifs. Pages have music, and the narrative is navigated through hyperlinks in images and text.
Results from clicking are unexpected. Each time the woman’s face is clicked, the page fragments further. Dialogue appears within these frames and will fragment when clicked on.
The story of a couple reunited when the man returns from war. It appears as though both characters have changed and an affair is hinted at. The woman suggests getting married the next, but she decides it would be better to do that some point in the future- suggesting it may never happen.
Typeface and colour were chosen by users in the early 1990s.
“each user was defining the look of the whole WWW for themselves.”
Although the images are very small in file size nowadays, in the 90s they would still take some time to load. Lialana used this to set the pacing of her work.
There are references to Hollywood film within the piece. An ideal declaration of love followed by an image of the 20th century Fox logo.
Hypertext and lack of hierarchy.
Lialana put the audience in a voyeuristic position.
Refers to her work as ‘net film’.
‘Agatha’- another loves story between a woman from a village and a system administrator. She gets uploaded to the internet and becomes visible in the address bar.
“Internet is not computers, applications, scripts… It’s not a technology but a new world. New world, new philosophy, new way of thinking. To understand the net u must be inside”- captures mood and hope for internet. This passage seems personal as if she is using the system administrator or Agatha as her mouthpiece.
Dialogue appears through pop up messages. Like Jodi, Lialina’s work goes beyond the page and uses many functions within the browser.
Internet Art: The Online Clash of Culture and Commerce
The Internet is not a medium, but rather a transmission method for data.
Homogenisation of web
Comparison between net art and graffiti. Both degrade within there environments and that is part of the work. Links break, software is no longer supported, servers go down.
User navigates website through apparently meaningless buttons and checkboxes. Rhizome Article accurately describes it as a labyrinth.
WWW Art Medal- Alexia Shulgin
Awards pages with an arty feel to them a medal (image of a medal).
European art collective of Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans.
They often code their sites to appear broken and glitchy. They use hypertext to construct the ‘narrative’ of their work.
I find Jodi’s work to take a much more aesthetic approach rather than a narrative. So far I’ve found very few pieces of net art that are actually aesthetically pleasing.
Josephine Bosma describes them as “pleasantly awkward and highly visual”
The work %Location appears to be jumbled up code in the familiar green text against a black background. However, when the user inspects the HTML code, the artwork reveals itself.
Clicking on the link will take the user to a military style map of potential targets to bomb.
This narrative is interesting as it isn’t obvious like Liana’s work (not to say this makes it superior). Jodi’s work is particularly interesting as it could only exist in a digital context. Its narrative reveals itself through browser functions.
“Bugs, design flaws and maybe even a ‘design surplus’ for Jodi reveal the true ‘nature’ of digital media.”
Nettitudes: Let’s Talk Net Art
Most early net art no longer exists on the web.
“a subversively imaginative, non-institutional, activist countermovement to institutional high-tech media arts”
“net artists ‘internalized the net’ as being neither about technological craftmanship nor some cyberpunk fusion of bodies and machines, but an artistic understanding of the Internet as a cultural apparatus rather than merely a new channel for existing work.”
Josephine Boma’s definition of net art as ‘art based in internet cultures’
“The notion of an internet-specific social communication culture has migrated from artist- and activist-run online systems”…” to corporate services like Blogspot.com and Facebook, which have turned social networking into a commodity”.
Described as post-media, however, media is required in the communication of work.
“In their prime, the involved artists were suddenly accused of having ‘failed’. They had allegedly failed to subvert the art world, had failed to escape commodification, failed to keep their noses clean, or failed to include other artists in net.art’s very relative success.”
“Net art, to put it more precisely, is the potential and actual expansion of various art practices.”
most compressed definition of net art is “art based in or on internet cultures.
It can exist outside the web.
“Net cultures are the basis, the means and the source of net art”
“Net art is art that is created from an awareness of, or deep involvement, in a world transformed and affected by elaborate technical ensembles, which are, in turn, established or enhanced through the Net.”
net art is “art that deals with the genuine characteristics of the Internet and that can only happen through and with the internet”
I forgot I hadn’t written about mouchette.org in my proposal so I will write about it here. Mouchette is a hypertext narrative by Martine Neddam that has been active since 1996. The site is framed as a young girl’s blog. The blog explores themes of suicide, identity and sex. Users will be prompted to submit methods of suicide.
The audience participation of Mouchette.org has possibly been responsible for keeping it active for so long.
The narrative contains many hidden paths. I am unsure of how many pages exist within the site.
I want to produce a narrative on the net, that references the failure of the internet revolution. This is unlikely to change.
However, stylistically, I am unsure whether to make it appear like existing 90s net art pieces, or whether I should wing it. I’m also not sure whether to code the site in HTML, to try and mimic these older pieces in a more authentic way or whether I should just produce the whole thing within p5.js where I’m more comfortable or work with both. HTML would be more interesting technically I believe, and it would be fun to play about with pop up boxes and such, however, I have more experience with p5.js, and I could use the time I would spend learning more HTML, to focus more on the concept and narrative.
I also need to think about how to tell the story. Who is narrating, an obvious character, the user, an institution? Or should it be a mix? Will the story be linear or branching? Will it all exist on the one page? or will the user navigate between several pages?
I don’t know whether to start learning more HTML and letting the narrative appear as I build the website, or whether I should start with the narrative and build around that.
I’m constrained by JPB’s declaration of independence. I want to show the change in the net. How can this be done? Can it be illustrated through a story like Olia Lialina’s work?
The Internet Then
Equal, hopeful, mature, revolutionary, frontier, slow, hidden, exploration, blogs, activist, Netscape, dial-up
The Internet Now
Hierarchical, Capitalist, quick, endless media, deep web, bots, propaganda, fake news, surveillance, data in corporate and government hands, fibre optic broadband, Russian bots, 3D printed guns, captcha, location, instant messaging,
Story from the perspective of a bot, maybe the user plays as a bot. Spreading propaganda and gathering information. But how would I bring the original internet into this? Would stylistic reference be enough?- The story of an anthropomorphised bot/ web-crawler within a 90s net.art setting. Fails a captcha test.
I will look at more hypertext narratives for reference.
Web Design Recap
I made a quick page with an embedded p5.js file and a linked CSS file. I’m just making sure that I’d be able to conceivably produce a hypertext narrative by the end of it.
Message boxes, hover over text, HTML source code, gifs, bitmaps
Oskar Fischinger creates abstract animation by painting onto acrylic glass. His work uses very simple geometric shapes, but he focuses on scale, colour and movement to create his films.
I could use this method to tell my story as it would be easy to recreate in p5.
After trying out the Dom library, I’ve found some useful HTML functions.
Russian bot exploring web- reference to my Boyfriend came back from the war (Russian net art piece). They contaminate the web as they explore the site.
To get a crisp low-quality image, I can take photos, apply a gradient map to they image is just about only black and white, then I scale it down and back up with nearest-neighbour interpolation. The quality in the image below is perhaps too low but it illustrates the method.
Just as ‘My Boyfriend Came Back From the War’ uses very limited colours, I plan to do the same. I will likely experiment a bit though to find more interesting colour combinations.
I hit a bit of a wall in terms of story, so I thought I would start with the website and see where it took me. I decided I would try and make your typical 90s website.
I went into the CSS code and made the page appear more authentic. I used the most tacky background I could think of, which is a tiled image of space. I also added a CCTV camera GIF, that will take the user to another page with the webcam on it. This is to represent the surveillance that is possible in today’s web. I know this is really obvious but it’s just a starting point.
I have run into an issue that Chrome asks for permission to access the webcam every time the page is opened. I will look for ways to bypass this.
facebook terms and conditions in the background
I spent a good while attempting to create a page in P5 that displays the webcam and pastes the avatar image above. I got it to work, however, I couldn’t find out how to create links to local files on my computer via P5. Instead, I found a way to use CSS to move an image above the webcam video and apply links.
I changed the index page once again. It now has a word art title and a photo of NSYNC. I plan to use NSYNC as an example of streaming services collecting data to suggest music you might like.
It’s extremely difficult to talk about capitalism without falling into cliches but its nearly unavoidable in this project. The commodification of cyberspace was inevitable but I find this difficult to convey. I could reference real events like the dot com boom, colonisation or something like deforestation. Cyberspace has been colonised and those within it have become another product.
I thought of the avatar as a personification of these internet colonisers.
“Internet is not computers, applications, scripts… It’s not a technology but a new world. New world, new philosophy, new way of thinking. To understand the net u must be inside”
“A new world? Left unclaimed?”
“The elite derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours.”
“Your consent is not required. For others will always be tempted to sell their slice. “
“Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.”
“Your land is virtual, but silicon is not. It can be bought with gold”.
Above is a conversation between the avatar and the natives of cyberspace. “Internet is not computers…” is a direct quote from Olia Lialina’s “Agatha” and the rest are from John Perry Barlow’s declaration.
Although I like this, it doesn’t seem to flow very well from the blog and webcam page. Hopefully, it will feel better if I move the webcam page to the end.
I also need to resize the background in the dialogue scenes as it begins to tile on the right-hand side of the screen.
This background is made from a graph of the dot com boom. The images within it are tree stumps- an image for colonisation and the commodification of nature that ruins ecosystems.
The characters from this scene are also taken from Olia Lialina’s “Agatha”. I pasted the avatars head onto Agatha.
Clicking the final checkbox will take the user back to the index page for now. But it looks likely that this will be where the narrative will end.
“The giants of flesh and steel moor by the shores of cyberspace in incomprehensible numbers.” – reference to JPB and the idea of cyberspace being physical land
“They tear the land with imaginary borders.”– capitalists begin to take more and more of the internet with vast numbers of sites and servers.
“Digital railways cut through forest.”-colonisation imagery- these companies start to appear all across the country.
“The natives ferociously defend their servers, but their efforts are more than often futile.”– many of the original users of the webs lost their pages or moved to sites like Blogspot. I like to think of this as a reference to the death of net art.
Earlier I wrote a bit of code that generates random names in the blog at the start.
After playing through the narrative, I realised that the blog at the start and the webcam page don’t really flow together with the actual narrative scenes. I think I may have to cut these pages out, which is quite annoying as it is half of the work. However, the final piece will make more sense. I would just have to submit the blog and webpage together as a separate study piece.
I don’t have enough time to extend the narrative so I may just have to polish it up and show that at the open studios event.
I removed the blog page and webcam page and added a 404 error page at the end that links back to the home page. The 404 page marks the end of net art, as most net art pages no longer exist either as the servers are no longer running or the code is no longer supported.
I am not that happy with the final result. I really struggled to find the motivation for this project. I felt quite burnt out over the past two weeks and had to really work at trying to develop the piece whereas my final pieces normally develop naturally.
I don’t know whether this was because I worked within web and maybe I don’t enjoy the medium so much or whether it was the subject matter that I didn’t find interesting.
I feel like the work eventually said what I wanted it to say, but it wasn’t long enough or deep enough. I also didn’t have the time to add sounds to the work. It also didn’t really have that maze-like feel that most net.art pieces have.
Open Studios Event
I discovered that my piece didn’t work too well in the exhibition environment. By the end of the event, I noticed that it had been left on the same page it started on. This may have been because net art pieces require a bit of exploration on the page, and this may have been intimidating in a gallery setting.
Also, some people didn’t like the fact that the search bar and tab were visible at the top of the page. This was an intentional decision to show it is within a browser.
I also wish I had enough time to add sound to the piece.