As the recent legal battle waged between etoy retailers eToys.com and Austrian net artists etoy.com has shown, the line separating artistic and corporate content on the Internet is both fiercely debated and frustratingly vague. These days, artists like to incorporate. And at the same time, corporate organizations are becoming more and more aesthetic. What is behind net.art's corporate tendencies?
The Internet is a revolution that worked too well. Artists are now trying to undo its work, to recuperate the Internet, to tame it, so that it may be understood and used in more familiar ways. The appeal of the corporate identity lies in its power to legitimate. Net artists like RTMark and etoy.com have thus chosen to adopt corporate identities, gaining a certain authority from this genre distinction.
On the other hand, net art organizations like Rhizome.org choose to aestheticize their corporate identities. The Internet is the first modern artistic medium where the material used to make art (email, websites) is identical to the material used to critique it. Thus, on the Internet, discourse often appears as art. Rhizome's two new visual interfaces, "Starrynight" and "Spiral," show the interesting way in which discursive communities may be interpreted as art.
Alex Galloway is Editor of Rhizome.org, a leading platform for new media art. Alex has written on theoretical issues surrounding digital technologies and is editing the forthcoming book RHIZOME: Net, Art, Culture. Alex has lectured on new media art both in the US and across Europe.
-- As of 3/15/00