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Inside Out


Art doesn't lend itself to wide dissemination, at least in traditional forms like paintings and sculpture. We've all seen a grillion reproductions of the Mona Lisa or Starry Night, sure, but to see the actual objects, you have to travel. In spite of -- or more likely, because of -- this fact, visual art took to the web well before arts like film and literature. While most arts-related sites merely reproduce work from other media -- amateur poets posting their efforts online, painters scanning in their canvases -- the Internet has generated a healthy number of web-specific works. At the moment, web-specific art accounts for 79 separate listings on Yahoo, while hypertext (the closest literary equivalent) has 16, and multimedia (a catch-all for digital film) has 65.

Technology has tended to allow for wider dissemination of formerly hard-to-access art forms, at least since Johan Gutenberg's Bible superseded the illuminated manuscript. In the visual arts, the web could have an equally dramatic effect. While reproductions of paintings are no better, and in many cases worse than the reproductions you find in art books, web-specific art allows viewers anywhere to see the exact same thing: art which has no original object, which can be endlessly reproduced without degeneration. Which isn't completely terrific: The mini-media blitz surrounding the pseudonymous Luther Blissett and his site, which illegally copies and reposts web art from other sites, is a clear illustration of the dangers of this attribute.

Another problem is that very little of the work found on the web is great; much of it is annoying, impenetrable, full of frames and java scripts, and sure to crash all but the hardiest computers. But if you want to see some art and don't feel like leaving home to do so, there are plenty of places to look. Here are a few:

äda'web ( is one of the most venerable web-art sites, and one of the most annoying, with confusing navigational systems and precious little information. But it also has some quite good work from the likes of Doug Aitken, Darcey Steinke, and Jenny Holzer. The latter, whose "truisms" stopped provoking my mind and started provoking my patience years back, has posted an interactive display of those catchy aphorisms, with a feature that allows you to edit and repost variations on her chestnuts on a separate page.

stadiumweb, a project of the Dia Center ( has the nicely stripped-down Every Icon by John F. Simon Jr. This is a variation on Sol LeWitt's permutations of boxes in grids: Simon generates every possible variation on a 32 x 32 grid of pixels, each of which can be either black or white (making, I believe, two to the power of 1024 possible permutations). It takes hours before it starts to get interesting (most of the field remains white until then), but the piece has a certain simple perfection to it. Stadiumweb also has work by Louise Lawler, Lawrence Weiner, and about 10 others.

The Future Looms ( uk/futurelooms/cells/HOME.HTM) links weaving with language and technology. Its interactivity (you move pieces of text and image around while they glide across the screen) is the most basically satisfying of the sites I've sampled.