Net Specific


Net.Specific is Museum of Contemporary Art's new exhibition website for net art. The site presents different aspects of artistic practices online.

Netspecific på comp 1

About Net.Specific - an online exhibition space for net art

With the exhibition platform Net.Specific, the Museum of Contemporary Art seeks to expand its exhibition space to include the Internet. This is achieved both by involving net art as an art form and by using the Internet itself as an exhibition space. The museum hopes to take full advantage of the possibilities that contemporary art can yield by making a museum-based online exhibition space available for this Internet-specific art.

The name Net.Specific refers to net art that is designed to exist online and which uses the Internet as its material. It is a site-specific art form that uses the Internet as a conceptual backdrop and idea base.

Net art fits perfectly with the Museum of Contemporary Art’s focus on ephemeral, performative and time-based art. It has its artistic forebears in conceptual art and Fluxus and employs strategies that could be compared with mail art’s use of the postal system and the consequent development of artistic collaborations and networks across national borders. Common to all these art forms is their focus on the way in which we communicate and the culture and network that is thereby created.

The exhibition website Net.Specific is a permanent undertaking, through which the museum will hold successive exhibitions of Internet-based art. Net.Specific will focus on allowing users to experience net art from their own homes and at their own computers; in the environment for which the works were created. In this way a higher degree of immersion and interaction with the works will be made possible.

Net.Specific’s curatorial scope centres on works primarily executed in a browser and dependent on the Internet for their existence. Physical detours can, however, be a natural by-product of these works and a direct reinforcement of, or comment on, the works’ online site-specificity and to Internet culture generally. Net.Specific places itself squarely within a curatorial practice that seeks to make net art more accessible to the public. What distinguishes Net.Specific from other similar initiatives is that it is a Danish museum-based space facilitating the production of new works with a view to giving them a worthy and respectful distribution platform.

Jodi 404



What is net art?

Net art is an elusive and sometimes anarchic art form which uses the Internet as its primary material. Net art works often draw on data from other Internet materials and websites, which helps give them their distinctive dynamics and transience.

In other words net art is a site-specific art form bound to its own presence and impact on the Internet. It is therefore necessary to create an online space such as this, where the art can be exhibited and experienced.

Net art – a definition

Net art terminology can be difficult to define, especially when successive net artists have over time moved outside their ‘web domain’. Similarly, the term, with its distinctive central dot, has become a historical term for early net art, which can be dated to having run roughly from 1993/94 to the early 00s. Today, artists working with the Internet do so in an enlarged practice, with mobile devices offering new opportunities in the network. So do artists who link physical space with the online space, although this has previously been used in earlier net art.

It can be difficult to completely define the boundaries of the field of net art. At the very least we can say that it must be dependent on the Internet in order to fit this categori-sation. However, many would also maintain that it must exist within a browser in order to qualify as net art, but this is again dependent on whether it is the World Wide Web we are dealing with here or are we concerned with a more generalised conception of the network.

Net art’s many forms

Many early net artists addressed the utopia that was linked to the Internet in those early years. In particular many of the Internet’s new users idealised the unlimited access to data and the free flow and distribution that the Internet would make possible. This ideal state never became an actual reality, however, as search engines and browsers quickly began to pursue their own economic agendas, which many net artists question and display in their work. For example, the American net artist Mark Napier’s work, The Shredder (1998), which literally shreds and deconstructs the websites that are keyed into the search field.

Early net art often used the Internet’s coded existence as a central thematic in the works; something it continues to do. We can recognise a clear code aesthetic, where the use of faults, or so-called ‘glitches’, act as a methodical conceit in net art. The Belgian / Dutch net art group JODI, who are also a part of Net.Specific’s first exhibition Communication Paths, are known for being the first to consistently use the glitch in their works. By making the underlying code the central focus, JODI is effectively turning the Internet in-side out. The works are often rather chaotic and abstract layers of code which challenge the user’s visuality and navigation patterns on the web.
Read more about JODI’s work in the Net.Specific exhibition

The hyperlink, a core net characteristic, has similarly been used by artists as a narrative, storytelling instrument. For example, the Russian Olia Lialina’s works, which create structures that, amongst others, tell of a hypertextual journey around the net in the work Agatha Appears (1997 / reconstructed 2008), or form a visual poem in My Boyfriend Came Back from the War (1996), where the user clicks around between the sites of the work.

The critical and conceptual Internet practice

While most net artists have a general consciousness of the Internet’s functionalities, there are also some direct activist net art groups who pay particular attention to the Internet’s commercial interests. The group etoy have, amongst other things, worked with users’ own critical awareness with their digital hijacks (1996): When the user searched for specific words, they were literally kidnapped and sent to a website by the name The site took over the search and a digital hijack takes place.
The group has also been involved in extensive litigation with the commercial company eToys Inc. for the rights to the name and web address The trial included a mobilization of the entire network in a TOYWAR (1999), which ended with the net art group etoys winning. The victory has become a powerful symbol for how the balance of power in the digital culture can be tilted.

The same concerns can be seen with the group ®TMark. In 1999 they created two fake websites, and, which focused on key issues in George W. Bush’s politics and the World Trade Organization’s programs, respectively. The WTO website was viewed by many being the official site and gained the group an invitation to attend a congress in 2000 as the WTO – and thus the activist group The Yes Men were born. is a good example of an intervention that began online and subsequently moved out into the physical space as political action. These types of fake website are also a consequence of the anonymity that one can easily achieve on the Internet, where a convincing fake page can be created by anyone with the programming skills. On the Internet it is possible to perform and create one’s own identity, engage in subversive activities and cultivate what the media and net activists in Critical Art Ensemble call ‘digital civil disobedience’.

A more conceptual critical practice can be seen with artists such as the Serbian Vuc Cosic and the English artist Heath Bunting. Bunting has a critical approach to the institution and society. He is interested in seeing the world through the network and various systems. He creates works that explore and question things such as economic interests; for example, in the work Skint: The Internet Beggar (1996) and the complex identity project The Status Project (2004-2014). Much in the same spirit Cosic has criticized the medium of the exhibition. For example, in Documenta X’s exhibition of net art with the work Documenta Done (1997), which was a direct copy of the Documenta website before it was taken off the Internet.

Similarly the Dutch net artist Constant Dullaart plays on the theme of commercial trends on the Internet. He is interested in such things as re-contextualising materials that he finds online and displaying new sides to them. Dullaart, for example, created a rotating, a sleeping and a tilting Google browser and made performances, both live and via YouTube, where he, amongst other things, re-enacts a DVD screensaver, using himself as performer.

Hacking, cloning and copying

That the network is a system which provides material to net art is essential. Hacking, cloning, copying and appropriation can all be employed to create digital collages where questions about rights and authenticity really become issues. Many net artists have a democratic approach to the Internet’s materials and are committed to sharing and ‘copy-left’, which alludes to the absurdity of copyright on the Internet.

The Italian net art group, 0100101110101101.ORG, have consistently borrowed from digital and popular culture throughout their practice and taken the consequences of also sharing their own personal material in the work Life Sharing (2001-03). They have copied and hacked other websites, including the net art group JODI’s work, in Copies (1998), and the exhibition site (1999), in a protest against members only access. The net artists recycling, cloning and further processing of others’ material can be likened to the open-source movement’s ideas on availability, which many net artists associate themselves with. A line of thought that is a direct consequence of the network’s coded materiality.

The Internet – a performative space

The Internet is itself performative, through its changeability and dynamics. To a large extent net art reflects this performativity, and so-called online interventions and per-formances have emerged right from the start. A well known example is the aforemen-tioned WTO intervention of ®TMark. Many net artists also see themselves as per-formance-artists who set events into action via the Internet’s own mechanisms and performativity. Net art works can in this sense be self-organizing viral organisms, distributed over a network, for example 0100101110101101.ORG’s (2001). The work is a python virus that redistributes itself and takes on a life of its own on the network. For Net.Specific’s exhibition Communication Paths, 0100101110101101.ORG have also created a viral work, a happening, where rumour-mongering and the distribution of an online video are in focus. Read more about 0100101110101101.ORG and the work Emily’s Video

Making live performances on the Internet has become more prevalent with Web 2.0 and social media, where synthetic worlds, online games and chat rooms have become the stage upon which artists can unfold their works. 0100101110101101.ORG have specialised in this and from 2003 and onwards they have made re-enactments of famous historical performance works in the synthetic world of Second Life. Similarly, they have constructed a mock suicide via a chat room in the work No Fun (2010).

The use of physical space

That net art can be linked to physical space is nothing new. Right from the start it was important for artists to meet physically. Some elected to create works that activated both physical and digital online space in a process where one supported the other. An early example of a work associated with a physical space where the Internet played a significant role is Antonio Muntada’s The File Room (1994), where users could both search for and archive their own material about censorship. Today, some net artists have a similar focus on the shift that can exist between an online presence and a place located in the physical landscape, such as the Canadian artist Michelle Teran, who creates stories through the use of data and online maps such as Google Maps. Read more about Michelle Teran and the work The Little Yellow House as well as Jens Wunderling and Philipp Bosch’s work Transgression, both of which introduce physical space into Net.Specific’s exhibition Communication Paths.

Paul Baran network 1

Illustration of Paul Baran’s Network Scheme (1964) from ‘On distributed communications: Introduction to distributed communications networks.’


Network curation

It is important to bear in mind that net art is first and foremost an art form that lives its own life outside of museums and exhibition spaces. It is therefore something of a challenge to incorporate it into the institution.

It is important that in the curatorial process one respects the net art work’s dynamics and not constrain them. There is another kind of dynamic at work on the Internet and not only because of the structure of the works, but also because of the impermanence and ‘loss of control’ that can occur in the distributed network. This is a premise that the curator must take into consideration as an important property of net art which one must respect when incorporating it into the museum setting.

Since net art emerged in the mid 1990s attempts have been made to exhibit it in the physical exhibition space. In particular, we have seen exhibitions that have incorporated computer workstations – one for each net artwork. In the most radical, works have been restricted to a single designated computer, which runs completely contrary to the dynamics and original intentions of net art works, being as they are so dependent on their net-specific context – including other websites. We are seeing a move away from an object-oriented approach to curating, towards a focus on process and network where there is, according to the curator and theorist Josia Krysa, a natural shift in how curating, purely politically,with the power relationships and control that this implies, takes place. The curator becomes the producer of a new contextualised framework for the works on the net.

Net art has naturally entered into a curatorial practice online, where small groups and individuals have been able to create link-based exhibitions with net art on their websites. There were also some important initiatives that adopted net art even in the early years, for example and the Danish were on the scene right from the beginning. Large institutions, particularly in the US, have provided similar special ‘spaces’ on the Internet for net art. Worthy of attention, we can name for example, the Walker Art Center’s Gallery 9 (created by Steve Dietz from 1997-2003) and the Whitney Museum Artport (created by Christiane Paul in 2001). Several of these also include other media-based art.


Screenshot af Nettime website anno 2012.


Net art resources on the web

The Internet is in itself an inexhaustible resource when it comes to literature on net art. It’s also online that you find the artworks and where the dialogue continues to exist.

Many renowned researchers like to publish their articles on the web and have been active in the many e-mail lists, discussion sites and forums that deal with digital culture; nettime, 7-11 and for example. The discussions and activities that take place on these lists and sites are essential if we are to understand the movements of Internet culture. The most prominent lists and forums participated in the creation of a culture around net art and drew attention to the existence of the various works. Similarly, the physical meetings were important. They brought together the core of these artists to discuss works and issues, such as the tactical media conference, Next5Minutes. This tradition still continues at the major festivals of digital culture, such as the annual Transmediale in Berlin, Germany and Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria, as well as small artist-run events, such as 0100101110101101.ORG’s The Influencers, which since 2004 has been held annually in Barcelona, Spain. Although, many of these are focused on media and digital culture broadly, the latter also on media activism.

Litterature on net art

Atkins, Robert: “State of the (Online) Art”, originalt publiceret i Art in America, april 1999:

Baumgärtel, Tilman: Materialen zur Netzkunst, Nürnberg: Verlag für moderne kunst Nürnberg 1999

Baumgärtel, Tilman: 2.0: Neue Materialen zur Netzkunst, Nürnberg: Verlag für moderne kunst Nürnberg 2001

Baumgärtel, Tilman: “Mark Napier’s „Landfill‟”, in Nettime, 1998:

Bookchin, Nathalie: a history of net art (open source)

Bosma, Josephine: ”Is it a Commercial? Is it Spam? It is!”, originalt publiceret i Mute, 1998:

Bosma, Josephine: Nettitudes – Let’s talk net art, NAi Publishers, 2012

Brøgger, Andreas: ”net art, web art, online art,” (2000), in on/off:,we.html

Brøgger, Andreas: ””, in Kritik, 34. årg. nr. 149, 2001

Chandler, Annmarie & Norie Neumark (red.): At a Distance – Precursors to Art and
Activism on the Internet, Cambridge, Massachusetts/London, England: The MIT Press 2006

Corby, Tom: Network Art: Practices and Positions, London/Oxon/New York: Routledge 2006

Daniels, Dieter & Gunther Reisinger (red.): Net Pioneers 1.0: Contextualising Early Net-based Art, Berlin: Sternberg Press 2010

Dietz, Steve: ”Curating Net Art: A Field Guide”, in Christiane Paul (red.): New Media in the White Cube and Beyond, Berkeley/Los Angeles, London: The University of California Press 2008, pp. 76-84

Dietz, Steve: ”Collecting New-Media Art: Just Like Anything Else, Only Different”, in Bruce Altshuler (red.): Collecting the New: Museums and Contemporary Art, New Jersey/Oxfordshire: Princeton University Press 2005, pp. 85-101

Gere, Charlie: Digital Culture, London: Reaction Books 2002/ 2008, 2. udgave

Greene, Rachel: Internet Art, London: Thames & Hudson 2004

Krysa, Joasia (red.): Data Browser 03: Curating Immateriality: The Work of the Curator in the Age of Network Systems, New York: Autonomedia 2006

Lillemose, Jacob, Nikolaj Recke & Artnode.ORG (red.) Vi elsker din computer, København: & Det Kgl. Danske Kunstakademi 2008

Lunenfeld, Peter (red.): The Digital Dialectic, Cambridge, Massachusetts/London, England: The MIT Press 1999/2000

Lunenfeld, Peter: Snap to Grid: A User’s Guide to Digital Arts, Media, and Cultures, Cambridge, Massachusetts/London, England: The MIT Press 2000

Nason, Gabriele & Filomena Moscatelli (red.): Eva and Franco Mattes:, Milano: Charta Books 2009

Paul, Christiane (red.): New Media in the White Cube and Beyond, Berkeley/Los Angeles, London: The University of California Press 2008

Shulgin, Alexei & Olga Goriunova: ”Glitch”, in Neural, nr. 28, 2008, pp. 44-47

Shulgin, Alexei & Olga Goriunova: Read_me: Software Art & Cultures, Aarhus: Aarhus University Press 2004

Stellabras, Julian: Internet Art: The Online Clash of Culture and Commerce, London: Tate Publishing 2003

Trant, Jennifer: ”When All You‟ve Got is „The Real Thing‟: Museums and Authenticity in the Networked World”, in Ross Parry (red.): Museums in a Digital Age, Lon-don/Oxon/New York: Routledge 2010, pp. 306-313

Wysocka, Elzbieta: Agatha Re-appears, restaureringsrapport i regi af C3: Center for Culture & Communication Foundation, 2008:

Net art links
Mark Napier
Olia Lialina
Heath Bunting /
Vuc Cosic
Alexei Shulgin
Mogens Jacobsen
Michelle Teran
Anders Bojen og Kristoffer Ørum
Jens Wunderling
Christophe Bruno
Constant Dullaart
Web 2.0 Suicide Machine

E-mail lists, forums and exhibition sites
7-11 (not active)
Dia center

Whitneys Artport

The Influencers
Ars Electronica

Digital Culture:



Net.Specific is a project from Museum of Contemporary Art

Phone: +45 46316570

Project co-ordination: Tina Mariane Krogh Madsen and Mads Kullberg
Design and development: Oncotype Aps. and Museum of Contemporary Art

The exhibition Communication Paths:

Curator: Tina Mariane Krogh Madsen
All texts and editing: Tina Mariane Krogh Madsen
English translation: Culturebites

The exhibition Performing the Media – Online Identities:

Curator: Tina Mariane Krogh Madsen
All texts and editing: Tina Mariane Krogh Madsen

Net.Specific is supported by:

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