There’s been discussion on Rhizome about whether or not Rhizome is covering net art well enough. This discussion led into a debate on the robustness of net art. Amongst this discussion, there has been several assertions made that the dot.com bust poured cold water on the movement but I wanted to look at it a little more closely.
As some of you know, M.River and I were very much involved with the net art movement from 97 onward. I was also working within the dot.com bubble at the time and was very attuned to its movements.
I remember knowing there was trouble with the bubble in mid-‘00. Then, by late 00/early 01, it was obvious to everyone that the burst had happened. (See this graph of the nasdaq.)
I was out of work in early/mid 00 and it was super-easy to get a dot.com gig at the time due to the fact that the forward momentum of companies isn’t as easily stopped as the rise of their stock price.
Remembering the crash, I was thinking at the time that it would throw cold water on the net art movement and thinking that it didn’t seem to be happening.
Probably due to the fact that museums and art institutions are even slower-moving than businesses, it took a good year or two after the dot.com burst for the net art fad to fizzle in the art institutions. Not to say that the dot.com collapse didn’t help cause it, but it took a while for it to be felt.
I’ve always thought that the linking of the dot.com boom/bust and the art world’s early interest and then abandonment of net art is a red herring. I feel something else was in play. A clue may be found in the recent championing of art works and artist that use the net as a reference or source but do not use the net as the primary site of the work.