The Net Artist as Auteur In Virtual Space

Mark Amerika, Museum of Glitch Aesthetics

The Third Space Network presents Mark Amerika this Saturday, April 25, 12-1pm ET-US on Networked Conversations, broadcast live from the Underground Studio Bunker in Washington, DC. Please join us in Crowdcast, our third space online platform for creative dialogue. Register to Save Your Spot.


During the heady net art years of the late 1990s, I wrote a hyperessay entitled Net Art as Theater of the Senses: A Hypertour of Jodi and Grammatron. The piece was written for the Walker Art Center’s Beyond Interface exhibition, curated by Steve Dietz, who was one of the leading instigators and catalysts of the net art phenomenon. It was clear very early on that net art is not just a set of tools, it is its own medium-specific mediaspace. Net art is an architectural dimension, it is a DIY exhibition palace where the artist plays a multiplicity of roles as curator, director, theorist, educator, and designer: the artist as auteur, master controller of a networked world of immersive, sensory theater.

“Jodi is Code stripped of all functionality, Code for its aesthetic value, Code as abrasive language, Code as hallucination, Code as theater.” – Randall Packer

Dirk Paesmans & Joan Heemskerk, Jodi.com

Many have since proclaimed net art as dead, a product of the high-tech world in the swinging ’90s that would ultimately collapse in the post-millennial 2000s as a result of the dotcom bust. But I would venture to say that net art has evolved, considerably, as Mark Amerika aka Artist 2.0 articulates so well in his art/theory/autobiographical treatise Museum of Glitch Aesthetics:

“For me, art and life are all about style, and my own style is in constant metamorphosis. It’s about filtering the data and then rendering into vision the next version of creativity coming.” – Artist 2.0

Mark Amerika, Lake Como Remix, Museum of Glitch Aesthetics

Artists such as Mark Amerika have since mined the net as performative/theoretical/exhibition space. The British theorist Roy Ascott has defined this networked integration as the gesamtdatenwerk, or total data work of art. Ascott derived this term from Richard Wagner, the ultimate auteur of opera, who defined the concept of the gesamtkunstwerk (total artwork) as a compositional schema to unite all the arts into a single, theatrical medium of expression: music, poetry, stagecraft, scenic design, etc. Now updated for the era of digital media and telematics, Ascott has provided a conceptual frame for the integration of data, code, graphics, VR, animation, video, sound, interaction, and connectivity: the sum components of the networked theater of the 21st century.

Jon Cates, Gl1tch.us

Today the net artist as auteur continues to take control of the experiential, dynamic space of art on the Web. However, networked art has evolved well beyond its original novelty of Web-specific paradigms of viewer interaction and distributed media. It has since the ’90s further expanded as a portal into the artist’s world of making, an open source invitation to enter the studio, revealing the sketches and theoretical musings, the circuitous twists and turns of the creative process, the rants and manifestoes, an immersive, networked environment of links, animated gifs, cutup graphics, net mashups, cultural artifacts, glitch, and media trajectories that invariably lead to wormholes and endless digressions.

Molly Soda, Exposed, presented by Silcon Valet

Unlike the net artists of the 1990s, today’s millennials and digital natives have never known a world without the Web. They are the product of a life on the screen of social media, chat, texting, viral YouTubes, and circulating memes. However in many ways nothing has changed: the net is an ever-expanding, fertile territory for auterism, a medial dataspace of experimentation, and an unlimited repository of mass media for appropriation and transformation. The net continues to be a theater of sensory experience, a phantasmagoria of networked debris floating through the virtual ether, a place where there the artist is in full command, no holds barred, no constraints except perhaps, whatever lies beyond the extreme outer edges of imagination.

Systaime aka Michael Borras, Attract Money

Now more than ever, in these viral times, when the whole world as one planetary audience seems poised in front of its glowing screens, staring into the abyss, waiting for the walls to crumble, we look to the net artist to capture it all.


The Third Space Network presents Mark Amerika this Saturday, April 25, 12-1pm ET-US on Networked Conversations, broadcast live from the Underground Studio Bunker in Washington, DC. Please join us in Crowdcast, our third space online platform for creative dialogue. Register to Save Your Spot.