Apropos of my participation in the Net Aesthetics 2.0 panel with Rhizome this Friday, I typed out some words on why I think it’s a bad idea to version art periods. It’s just a couple paragraphs. Hopefully at the panel I’ll be able to flesh out my thoughts off-the-cuff.
Please don’t version art periods…
Oh, alright. I’ve resigned myself to using the term “Net Art 2.0” to refer to the current state of net art. But before I completely give in, I need to put up a bit of a fight.
The main problem with using a software versioning paradigm to distinguish art periods is the implied progression. When a developer delivers new versions of their software new features are added or enhanced, bugs are fixed, new problems are identified and addressed, formats are upgraded and interfaces are streamlined.
Some will say that the progression, though implied, isn’t what people mean when they use the term “Net Art 2.0.” But, when O’Reilly versioned the web with their Web 2.0 conference in 2004 (would there be a Net Art 2.0 without Web 2.0?) it was done specifically to denote that an improvement was happening in regards to business practices on the web. “The pretenders are given the bum’s rush, the real success stories show their strength, and there begins to be an understanding of what separates one from the other” (What is Web 2.0?). So when we describe the current state of net art as Net Art 2.0, the idea that it’s somehow an improvement to artistic or aesthetic practices on the net follows.
But, is so-called Net Art 2.0 a progressive upgrade? Does it add any new features? Does it solve problems that previous net artists ignored? Are there hidden regressions? Is it correct to even think of art history in terms of progression?
If we really want to give net art a number, just call it Net Art 2 — as in the sequel. Otherwise, M.River and I are going to launch Net Art 2.5 in a private beta, and you’ll need to email us for an invite.
(note, there's already a touch of discussion about this over on AFC)