Preliminary draft for r2001.com's WebArt Manifesto - by Gerald O'Connell

October 1998

The WebArt Manifesto


The exponential growth of the Internet has been the global
communications phenomenon of the last decade of the 20th century, and
as we prepare to enter the new millennium this growth shows no
indication of abating. The World Wide Web has been the driving force
behind this phenomenon, and its ubiquitous success has been attributable
to the open, extensible nature of HTML code.

We believe that HTML code and its derivatives, as a medium, are now the
basis for a new, independent artform. We advocate the adoption of the
term 'WebArt' as the proper nomenclature for that artform.

We define WebArt as: "That artform which depends upon HTML code,
including HTML's derivatives and successors, as the medium for its
creation, presentation, communication and expression."

We have adopted this particular nomenclature in order to distinguish
between WebArt (with its particular dependencies as set out in its
definition), and a host of other terms such as 'art on the web'; 'web
art'; 'internet art' etc.. These other terms are inadequate for our
purpose, principally because their imprecision admits the use of the
WWW/Internet communications vehicle itself for the mere transmission of
a wide variety of other (largely, at this time, pre-existing) artforms
in their digitised versions or formats. Such activity is not
characteristic of that which we seek to isolate and identify: 'a new,
independent artform'.

From the position we have adopted it will be immediately apparent that
WebArt is capable of encapsulating an increasingly wide range of other
media, digital and otherwise. We acknowledge this freely and regard it
as an important aspect of the artform - one that arises as an inevitable
and welcome consequence of HTML's flexibilty as an 'envelope' for the
communication of digitised data. It follows from this that much WebArt
activity will be characterised by the juxtaposition and integration of
'particles' of work in other media -text, sound, painting, drawing,
film, sound, music, photography etc.. In this regard, 'multimedia' and
'digital art' are merely further 'particles' for inclusion alongside
these others. WebArt is distinct and important because HML, its medium,
carries within it an additional and uniquely powerful (largely by
virtue of the liberating impetus of interactivity) dimension of
global communicability via the Internet. By analogy, it as though
somebody had invented a form of painting in which works could be
searched for and seen by anybody, anywhere, and at a time of their own
choosing....

Finally, we are aware that the background to this manifesto is a period
of dramatic change and advance in digital technology. The conditions
for WebArt are therefore equally dynamic, and we acknowledge that there
will be much more debate and revision on these matters as the technical
and communications parameters for WebArt shift.