Within Post-Internet | Part I

By Louis Doulas

C o m p r e h e n s i o n

While Post-Internet is a term still awkwardly vague to many, it was first conceived by artist Marisa Olson, most widely encountered in a 2008 interview conducted through the website We Make Money not Art.  Her definition acknowledges that internet art can no longer be distinguished as strictly computer/internet based, but rather, can be identified as any type of art that is in some way influenced by the internet and digital media.

“I think it’s important to address the impacts of the internet on culture at large, and this can be done well on networks but can and should also exist offline.” [1]

In the interview she also aligns her definition with net artist Guthrie Lonegran’s own phrase, Internet Aware art[2], or when the documentation of an art object is more widely dispersed and viewed than the actual object itself. More recently in 2009, writer Gene McHugh further articulated the definition, understanding it to be when the internet is, “less a novelty and more a banality”[3].  Furthermore in 2010, in artist Artie Vierkant’s essay, The Image Object Post-Internet, Vierkant defines the term to exist as, “a result of the contemporary moment: inherently informed by ubiquitous authorship, the development of attention as currency, the collapse of physical space in a networked culture, and the infinite reproducibility and mutability of digital materials”[4].  Each definition and interpretation—though slightly varied in meaning—ultimately results in what is a proposal for a new definition of art in a changing internet society: one that exists under technological influence and compression.  A 2011 tweet from artist Harm van den Dorpel perhaps best reveals these conditions:

“Doesn’t the impact of the internet on arts reach far beyond art that deals with the internet?”[5]

Thus, Post-Internet, specifically within the context of art, simply could be understood as a term that represents the digitization and decentralization of all contemporary art via the internet as well as the abandonment of all New Media specificities. Post-Internet then, is not a category, but a condition: a contemporary art.

It is through understanding the Post-Internet condition that we can propose all contemporary art created after the internet to be deduced to an art that has been effected and mediated in some way by the rhizomatic, decentralized network of the internet along with the properties of other media technologies and products.  At its most basic this is art’s existence through various forms of digital documentation (standardized from the 90’s onward with the massive availability of prosumer camcorders, digital cameras, etc.) ranging from videos to gifs to jpegs and ultimately to its presentation on the artist website and its dissemination to other websites, blogs, etc.  At its most aware this is art’s transformation from its previous existence into an entirely new one, utilizing the instrincies of the network.  What now exists is an art that is made before the internet—and thus before its worldwide assimilation into the network— and an art that is made during or after this.  It is because technology and the internet have changed the way we understand, contextualize, curate, appreciate, create and critique art that we can say the future of all art is, and eventually bound to be the product of these societal, cultural and political technologic arrangements.  All art will soon enough—if not already—fully incorporate, transition into, reveal, embody or exploit these properties. Contemporary art and its participants redefine themselves through these digitizations.

As crudely stated above there exists an art that relies on digitization and the internet to represent and disseminate itself into the world network, simply for documentative purposes, merely as a means to an end, and an art that creatively and critically engages these platforms either through physical realization, immaterial formats or both.  The large range of works produced within this latter type of art making yield a multitude of intentions, aesthetics, and philosophies, all with varying levels of self-awareness and criticality. Because, the practices within this type of art making are largely divergent they ask for some clarification through a defining term, and it is here, one might recall Lev Manovich and his ambitious blueprint consisting of five basic principles[6] for what constitutes and determines what we would previously consider to be “New Media” artworks (a well organized method for clarification and identification using numerical representation, modularity, variability, automation and transcoding as defining points).  However, what is formerly recognizable as New Media art today is met with an abundance of different understandings and definitions and thus Manovich’s principles lose some, if not all, of their traction in cooperating with the expanding term. In an online article published this year focused on such concerns, artist Brian Khek nicely summarizes the amalgamated term as it exists today,

“I think it’s also important to remember that New Media art isn’t limited to digital or online works either. New Media related concepts and dialogue can be expressed in any medium. With that logic I’ve always had some problems with identifying things as New Media art. For me, it tends to behave as a term for work that involves current technology and phenomena associated with it. Others use it specific to work that utilizes New Media as a material.”[7]

Through Khek’s understanding we can see the malleability of New Media as a term that determines itself through a larger canon.  Just as Marisa Olson recognized that internet art belongs to both an offline and online existence, the destruction of New Media as a defining term is determined by its ubiquitous translation and integration into the work of all contemporary artists.  As technology and the internet inherently inform and mediate the work of the contemporary artist, the abandonment of New Media is marked with the abandonment of its specificities, recognizing that Post-Internet encapsulates all of these conditions.  But because Post-Internet opens up such a large pool of work, new, temporary classifications as a strategy for comprehension must be carried out.  Such classifications may likely even echoe Manovich’s own principles.

In a Post-Internet society we find that most of all our art experiences are mediated online, as an art existing through various forms of digital documentation.  If all Post-Internet artists have one thing in common it is that all their artwork is digitized and may be regarded as existing in immaterial formats as immaterial entities, regardless of intention. However, a conflict can be observed from these commonalities: certainly not all digitized, immaterial artworks have the same intentions.  While all contemporary art may very well be immaterialized online and equalized in this vein, it is because each artist utilizes these platforms so differently, for different purposes and with different agendas that conflicting notions of display emerge.  If we follow these conflicts, what we arrive at is an art that is digitized through conversion and an art that is digitized from inception.  The former would include art objects that have been digitally documented, and the latter would include websites, digital images, videos, sound pieces, etc., essentially all media that doesn’t require exhibition outside one’s own private computing space; an art strictly created on the computer (or through digital technologies) meant for viewing on the computer (or projection, monitor, etc.).  This type of art likely regards the gallery context display of itself as an ornamental one, unnecessary for the experience of such works.  There is a difference then, in an art that chooses to exist outside of a browser window and an art that chooses to stay within it; that continues to stay digitized and immaterial.  This difference also means recognizing the distinct polarities between online and offline art models and the translations that occur from one space to the other. It is here a potential severance between participants exists and as such, ultimately comes down to the philosophies and politics of the artist: between the traditional and the ideal.

[1] Regine Debatty, Interview with Marisa Olson, We Make Money not Art (2008),


[2] Thomas Beard, Interview with Guthrie Lonergan, Rhizome, (2008),


[3] Gene McHugh, Post-Internet blog, (2009-11),


[4] Artie Vierkant, The Image Object Post-Internet, Jst Chillin’, (2010),


[5] Harm van den Dorpel, Tweet, (2011),


[6] Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media, Cambridge: MIT Press, (2001),


[7] Yolanda Green, An Unknown Error Has Occurred: New Media and Glitch Art, Chicago Art Magazine, (2011),