How to Experience Net.Art

published: 
September, 1999

Experimental text. Rewrite of an essay/lecture by the Dutch poet Komrij, originally: how to read poetry. Everywhere where Komrij wrote ‘poetry’ I replaced it by ‘net.art’, and where he wrote ‘poem’ I changed it to net.artwork. The text was and is meant to make people see net artworks individually rather than from general assumptions about what net art is. Like Komrij's text, this re-write has no paragraphs. The picture with the quote by Vuk Cosic does not belong to this text, but seems to breath the same spirit.

No matter in which way we approach net.art, the world of the net.art 'watcher' or audience is full of traps. A few examples: Never ask a net.artist what he means by a certain work. That is as stupid as wondering when seeing a painting 'what it is supposed to represent'. If the net.artwork would mean something else then what it shows, it would be another net.artwork. In addition to this a net.artwork can have different meanings and connotations to various viewers. Also a net.artwork can mean -this- now, but it can mean -that- after five years. One can never definetely 'grasp' a net.artwork. A net.artwork has a dynamic content. Never admire a net.artwork because the net seems so well played. Or the visuals are so good. Keep remarks like these for a violin or a landscape. Also never say a net.artwork moves you aesthetically. That kind of language you should save for a visit to the hairdresser or manicure. Never try to draw wise lessons from a net.artwork. Schoolmasters do not agree with net.art, eventhough some schoolmasters have been net.artists by mistake. Net.artists often do not understand the world at all. They can be as stupid as their audience. Net.artworks understand everything. Never think that a net.artwork, like a net.artist, lies shamelessly. There are no lies in cyberspace. The world can be square in a net.artwork, mediatheory can be an orange and grass can be blue. Never be fooled when you read the words 'me' or 'I' in a net.artwork. The maker of a good net.artwork always means someone else by them, even when talking about him or herself. Never pressume a net.artwork is clear and understandable. It would be better to have another look at it in that case. When a net.artwork seems perfectly simple and cristalclear, even then it remains incomprehensible how the net.artist got it this simple and cristalclear. That is: if it is a good net.artwork. Never assume a net.artwork is dark and incomprehensible. Even when you do not understand a byte from it, even if it is as obscure as the night in terms of its segments, there is always a level at which you understand it. That you understand it is a net.artwork for instance. That is: if it is a good net.artwork. Do not wonder if a decentralised net.artwork uses its network well, as you should never ask yourself of a non decentralised net.artwork why it is not networked. That is totally futile matter. Every net.artwork is full of the network. Associations, alliances, codes, thefts, breaks, even the stand alones, it is all networking in disguise. Think with all figure of code, every note and technical trick: it is not just the scenery of the net.artwork, it is the net.artwork. Start seriously doubting your right to live if you never spontaneously burst out crying after witnessing a net.artwork. But let it be existential crying, straight from the midrif. Do not think you have seen enough net.artworks. At any given time or at any given moment a net.artwork can pop up that unsettles everything you have witnessed before. So far for some hints to have a better daily association with net.art. By sniffing and jumping at net.art from all sides en not limit yourself in your taste or preferences - the house of net.art has many chambers - you in the end get used to the idea you will never entirely get used to net.art. Net.art is not your friend, net.art is the mean watchdog in the garden. There is something in net.art, like in music and poetry, that can not be put into words, and as net.art is something made out of data this seems very alienating at first, which seems like we do not want to accept it. Like it is not giving us something it 'could' give to us. Until we discover that its secret reserves are its power. In the previous I have solely spoken about net.art in flat words. I have departed from what I see as the ideal approach: taking an actual net.artwork as an example or rather as a point of departure. Only through a net.artwork one can say something about a net.artwork, and then even only about -that particular- net.artwork. One makes a serious mistake by attacking a net.artwork with conclusions drawn from another net.artwork. Generalizations are the mortal enemy of net.art. Only by putting as many net.artworks together or viewing them next to eachother something clear might come out eventually about net.art. I realise it is cold comfort.