Episode 261 – New Markets for Artists / Internet Art and the Web

Internet Art and the Web

Online projects ideas are another form of public art. Even museums are starting to collect Internet art. While broad in category, anything that the public can view can be considered public art, even your personal website, though in my view, in order for an Internet project to be art, there needs to be something more to it. The first examples I saw of Internet art in the late 1990s were almost like games, where the cursor would roll over hidden links to other areas or reveal words that were hard to make sense of. The objective of this kind of art was to find out what the Internet mechanics really were and to try and use them to create an interactive, aesthetic experience. Since then, it has vastly evolved and artists are using the Internet to create a variety of new projects.

Taking On Corporate Culture

One fairly radical project was done by a group of artists called the Yes Men. Their artistic goal is to make fun of corporate culture, and in this particular instance, they did so by posing as corporate CEOs. They made websites that duplicated an actual company’s website (and had similar domain names), Exxon, for example, complete with links to parts of the real Exxon website. But the big difference was that they included what looked like email links to the CEOs on their home page, but the links were actually attached to the artists’ personal accounts. Then, they waited for email requests for the CEOs to give presentations at a conference.

Performing

The Yes Men would accept the invitations, and give presentations to very prestigious groups of people because they thought they were hiring major CEOs. The Yes Men tend to be critical of corporate culture. At one event, they presented a gold skeleton and discussed the value of a human life. They said that some skeletons—that is, some lives—are worth more than others and can be calculated precisely when making corporate decisions. They mentioned the Bhopal disaster in India that killed thousands of innocent people and explained how those lives were not as valuable as lives in other parts of the world.

Documents and Reaction

The Yes Men videotaped all of their presentations. The remarkable thing when watching the footage is that often times the audience liked what they heard and agreed with what the Yes Men said. The film they made about their work is a horrifying indictment of corporate culture, and it is available to rent online if you are interested in seeing it. The Yes Men are a great example of how to effectively use the Internet for artistic purposes—in their case, to create art that criticizes corporate culture. In my opinion, their approach of starting something that begins as a hoax and ends in critique is a fairly sophisticated use of the Internet, but there are many other ways to utilize it.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

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