Why We Believe in Net Art

Recently, we have been working on a Gif exhibition to take place in Oakland, California titled “OAK.gif” which we were approached about doing shortly after returning from our Matchbox.gif exhibition at Rice University. Our idea was to take what we had done, which was to display really innovative gif art and focus on works that were politically charged, and/or “Net art Gifs and videos celebrating ethnic cultures and history.” Originally, I thought this would be a pretty difficult task, but as soon as I started looking for the gifs I found them, and an impressive amount of amazing artists are producing them. Inspired by the art, our vision of what “OAK.gif” would be expanded beyond projecting the gifs into conversations about VR, AR, and alternative spaces.

Largely based on how overwhelmingly impressed I am with the caliber of artists and quality of gifs, we are making the difficult decision to postpone the “OAK.gif” event planned for October 14 until later this year. While the event has the potential to be a great show, we feel that this experience deserves a higher level of production. Postponing OAK.gif gives us the ability to expand our resources and reach, allowing us to give these cutting edge artists of the future the best platform possible.

The conversations I have had over the last few weeks concerning marginalized artists since being tasked with creating the exhibition have started to weigh on me heavily. I believe that their is no task more important to internet art than making sure that queer artists, people of color and women always have a seat at the table. In order for internet art to live up to the ideals we set out to achieve we must make it a top priority to champion women and ethnic net art-focused artists, writers, curators like Rafia Santana, Terrell Davis, Nora Khan, Joygill Moriah, JAWN BiLLETES, Salome Asega, Cecily Feitel, and countless others. Of course, it goes without saying that any and all art made by all people should be recognized on creativity and artistic merit – for whatever that means – but history has shown us time and time again that if we do not focus on making inclusivity and real diversity of thought and experience a priority we just won’t get it.

There’s no Jack Shainman of internet art, and as the current wave of internet art is growing into its own we are seeing “cliques” emerge which usually represent people that look like them. We ALL share the responsibility to make sure that our culture isn’t defined by a few verified artists, or the handful of people who have connections at top blogs and institutions. Perhaps the most powerful, interesting aspect of net art is the ease of entry to programs like Daz 3D which allow an influx of new artists daily – let’s all lean into this and challenge ourselves to find these artists and foster their careers.

As internet artists we all face a common bias. Our work is often trivialized, many people do not understand that our pieces are created for social media formats, and honestly, people can become extremely offensive when talking about net art – one time I was out with Lil PDF and JAWN BiLLETES when someone told us that internet art was the mental equivalent of gifs and memes of “dogs smoking a bong”, which, to be real, doesn’t sound like a bad concept for a piece and is pretty relevant to American society at large.

All of this goes to say that I am proud that there’s a culture in art that challenges the status quo and even ruffles a few feathers. As net artists we believe in each other because very few others do.

To the culture. To all of us.