On Pay-Per-View Net Art: an Interview with Carlo Zanni
ETC Revue de l’art actuel, Issue 95
In the mid-1990s, when artists first started to explore what could be done in the World Wide Web, they soon realized that it would become not just a canvas but a medium in itself. Internet art was born as a sort of neo-avantgarde movement, whose name incorporated the famous dot that denoted its allegiance to computer culture instead of art history. Consequently, when artists Natalie Bookchin and Alexei Shulgin wrote the manifesto Introduction to net.art (1994-1999), they declared the independence of this art from any institution and saw the Internet as “a medium for production, publication, distribution, promotion, dialogue, consumption and critique”. It seemed, then, that it would be possible for an artist to break free from the traditional art system, bypass the gallery and the museum and directly reach his or her audience and, eventually, collectors.
The dot-com bubble burst brought many utopian ideas about the Internet to an abrupt end, and the initial interest that museums and collectors had for this new kind of art faded off some years later, but neither the Internet nor net art had lost any of its potential. The web 2.0 introduced new ways of distributing and consuming content online, and new forms of artistic creation began to emerge, along with new ideas about selling net-based artworks. One of the most prolific artists to create Internet art while exploring forms of selling his work in the art market is Carlo Zanni (La Spezia, Italy, 1975) . Early in his career, he initiated a research on creating a market for net art by organizing a three day chat based discussion under the title “P2P_$: Peer to Peer $elling Processes for net_things” (2002), with the participation of a large number of artists and curators. Later on, he created Altarboy (2003), “a portable server-sculpture containing a network based art work that can be sold.” Since then, he has developed a series of net-based art projects in which he has maintained an interesting balance between object and process, public and private, owning and sharing. His latest work, My Country is a Living Room (2011) , is a short poem generated online using Google Scribe that takes the form of a print-on-demand book and a pay-per-view net art piece. Is this the end of net art for free?
In the following interview, Carlo Zanni exposes his thoughts about selling net art to the people and outlines some of his strategies to develop a market for an art that once claimed its own temporary autonomous zone.