The main question is quite simple, but as you will see I have been delving into philosophy and art history to get to a better understanding of the meaning of "network" in art: What is network and/or networked art?

For the past several months I have been thinking deeply about this. I spent the summer working on comprehensive exam papers for my current PhD program, in which I defined for myself a definition of networked art that I felt was perhaps a challenge to the mainstream notion of “network”. Without getting too much into the literature I based this on (ie. Jean-Luc Nancy), I argued that by using the word network, the Internet itself is predominant over any other associations we might have (see Sack, 2007 on “network aesthetics”) and that if artist educators focus more on what emerges within the relations and processes of a network, such as with Internet art, then we can perhaps gain new understandings of network culture that reflect more the sociocultural aspects as opposed to just the technological aspects. I refer to Fluxus practices, most specifically mail art, and the ideas explored by George Maciunas and Robert Filliou, connecting this to later relational art and participatory art practices. My interests pertain to aspects of what I am calling “relational learning,” thus I see these networked forms of art to be significant…yet not just in terms of individuals collaborating, but most importantly on the emergent knowledge that occurs in these processes.

Within my recent writing, I suggest that we need to expand our understanding of networked art in order to obtain new understandings of network culture. I have been defining “networked art” as the following:

“…practices not based on art objects, nor digital instruments, but on the relationships and processes that occur between individuals (Bazzichelli, 2008; Kimbell, 2006; Saper, 2001)….Networked art, sometimes described as participation art (Frieling, Pellico, & Zimbardo, 2008), consists of multiple connections made through generative processes, often, but not always, incorporating digital technology. In many cases, the production and dissemination processes become the artwork itself.”

“….New understandings of network culture may require us to understand that technology enables social and economic activities, as opposed to something that determines society (Castells, 2001). This research will examine how art addresses aspects of network culture, in terms of it being a sociocultural shift that is not limited to digital technology (Varnelis, 2008)…By employing a broader understanding of the notion of network within analysis of networked art, this research aims to provide deeper understandings of network culture…”

But after sitting with these ideas for awhile now and being confronted with needing to write a research proposal, I’m in the doubting phase that I think all graduate students go through. Is it really possible to use the term “networked art” in the way I would like to without it immediately conjuring up digital practices alone? (even though I acknowledge this in my argument) Am I just confusing things by saying that I am indeed interested in Internet art practices but only for the aspects I have defined above, and particularly in cases of artists who are interdisciplinary vs. strictly “digital”? Do people think about the differences between “network art” and networked art” the same way they might have distinguished between “net art” and “”? In my writing, I opted to go with “networked” over “network” because there is more emphasis on being within a process (verb. vs. noun), but now I’m starting to regret that, thinking that “networked” might clearly imply dependence on an electronic system whereas a “network” might allow for more human connection. (For those who are familiar….I am a bit torn between Craig Saper’s (2001) use of the term “networked art” and Tom Corby’s (2006) use of the term “network art”)

To make matters somewhat worse, I've been told by someone I respect in this area that the notion of "network" is not heavily dependent on "internet," considering the long history of network associations before the internet. But this is someone who is quite knowledgeable of network notions in academia and English literature, and I question if those outside of academia feel the same way today. Speaking as an artist who teaching art at universities and college, I feel that "networked art" is immediately associated with digital and new media.

Thoughts? Opinions?




, Brooke McGowen

As a painter, I see the internet as offering great public exposure, much more than any gallery. Although I work with
paint and canvas (as opposed to digital media), I am thankful to the internet and the many diverse on-line galleries and
e-zines to save me from the arrogant attitudes of the ruling galleries and their market-orientation. Artists sites give me great feedback from other other artists and art-lovers, I can get my art "out there" without compromising. So for me, networking with the internet does not mean working with digital media. Thank you for your inspiring

, Gabriela Galati

I strongly recommend you this book, in case you don't already know it:

Bazzicchelli, Tatiana: Networking. The Net as Artwork.

The book represents a first tentative reconstruction of the history of artistic networking in Italy, through an analysis of the realities which during the past twenty years have given way to a creative, shared and aware use of technologies, from video to computers, contributing to the formation of Italian hacker communities.

Written by Tatiana Bazzichelli, with the preface of Derrick De Kerckhove and the epilogue of the videoartist Simonetta Fadda.
Translated by Helen Pringle and Maria Anna Calamia.

, Heidi May

Thanks, Brooke. I agree with you about the opportunities the internet has to offer for all artists, regardless of a specific medium. I am most interesting in artwork that utilizes the Internet as part of its production, dissemination and/or reception…and new understandings that might emerge in this process, either in connection to the media or content.

Gabriela…yes, I absolutely love Bazzicchelli's book and you will see it is referenced above. It has had a big impact on my ideas. I would like to know of any other related resources you might know about.