Art websites and web pages as works of art

By now the internet is an established venue for presenting and selling of fine art (even though sales may not currently approach the levels of the traditional art market). It is a different story, however, when it comes to artworks that use the internet as an instrument for the creation and reception of art.

Although Internet Art has been around for about 25 years, it has barely managed to eke out a niche existence. Even its flashier successor Post-Internet Art receives more attention in the art world.

Collectors, gallery owners and curators alike haven’t yet found the effective ways to access and present this art. But this is certainly not the fault of the medium, since web pages and websites for example provide vast opportunities for the production and perception of art objects.

In combining images, films, animations, sounds and texts, websites and web pages as a medium are quite unique. What makes them even more exceptional is their interactive nature: web pages can react to viewers (e.g. presenting content with the right language) and viewers can react to them (mainly by clicking or tapping links and images).

With these characteristics of interactivity and the ability to combine different media types, web pages as an artistic instrument provide a fascinating plethora of possibilities to create meaningful works.

Detached from time and space

With the growing propagation of fast networks and devices with web browsers, web pages can be viewed practically everywhere on the planet at anytime. This makes them very attractive as a medium for art objects.

No more lining up for an exhibition, no complicated art handling: just use your smart phone and tablet or switch on your smart TV to enjoy the artworks you like wherever and whenever you like.

Size doesn’t matter

Modern web pages adapt themselves to the device that they are displayed on. Whether it is a smart phone or a huge smart TV - it doesn’t matter. These web page displays are automatically formatted to whatever size screens they are being viewed on.

Such web pages are even independent from the dimensions: portrait, landscape and square – they adapt to every conceivable proportion.

Persistent as stone

The development of the technical infrastructure of the internet was decisively promoted by the American Department of Defence in the 1960’s. The main objective was to build a network that keeps on operating for as long as possible in case of an attack.

Starting with these technical origins, engineers have developed and continue to develop an increasingly sophisticated and very durable system that will presumably exist as long as there is human civilisation.

This is the reason why websites as part of the internet may exist for hundreds of years, provided that people continue to maintain them.

Web pages as a true standard for digital art

Speaking of standard technologies: while it is difficult to watch a VHS or DVD video on your new television or hear the CD that you found in an old box I can still view the first web page that I made 20 years ago because current web browsers are able to display old web pages.

So in contrast to other digital media there is a good chance that web pages constitute a lasting standard for presenting, curating and conserving of digital art.

Unique by concept, exclusive if necessary

With the principles of Responsive Art it is possible to create web pages that react individually to the viewer, the medium, the time and the environment.

Now, the more nuanced the responses and reactions of a web page artwork are, the more unique it becomes to the viewer. The artist can create works that look and react completely different to every single viewer, and that in this respect share characteristics similar to both multiples and originals at the same time.

For some people the exclusivity of artworks is an important factor in the amount of interest they may have in them. Web pages can be as exclusive as desired by limiting access to them. They can be hosted in protected zones so that only certain approved viewers have access to them. If necessary a web page as artwork can be designated exclusively for the use of one person or one device.

Open to change

There is hardly any other medium that allows for continuing to develop an art object after it is released. With web pages as artworks it is possible to keep refining and advancing them technically, aesthetically or content-wise for long after they are introduced.

Imagine works of art that continuously mature, react and respond to contemporary history. Or think of objects that evolve from a 2-dimensional presentation to a 3-dimensional one over time, as well as be adapted to virtual reality headsets. I think this openness to development on multiple levels makes web pages as artworks very attractive and a truly “living” art form.

You can see an early version of a web page as art object: Out of the Cave

April 2018
Last updated May 2019

Examples of art websites / web pages as artworks

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