Art and Culture of the Web

A new track at the Mozilla Festival 

In the autumn of 2014, Paula le Dieu and I convened the Mozilla Festival’s first-ever Art + Culture of the Web track, aimed at exploring emergent links and tensions between creative and open digital technologies and their communities. 

The #ARTOFWEB story starts, fittingly, with the web itself. We believed that as an Internet connection becomes increasingly ubiquitous around the world, more and more web users had unprecedented opportunities to transition from experiencing the web as consumers (viewing Facebook, watching a TV show, buying a book on Amazon) to experiencing it as creators, play-testing new methods to build surprising interventions.

What would happen, we wondered, if we released a call for submissions centred on the concept of every participant helping to build a “living gallery” that would live for 48 hours — a place where each exhibit would also be an invitation for participants to create together with the artists and machines? Combined with a series of equally hands-on workshops facilitated by a diverse set of organizations, from Creative Commons to Rhizome, the Internet Archive to the TATE Britain, and Aalto University to Europeana, we hoped the end result would be a new manifestation of networked art, built by the collective hands of a shared creative public.

This track wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work and passion of everyone who helped us build it. The original rebellious read/write spirit of early movements remained alive and well in the global team of #artofweb collaborators, and revealed itself in the track’s results:

1,000 visitors to the gallery in 48 hours. 600 copies distributed of a guerrilla ARTOFWEB minizine. 30 new public domain gifs. 12 skill-share workshops, some of them day-long. 10 generative art exhibits, one exquisite corpse of many parts, hundreds of excited kids, a Minecraft fontface. A series of unexpected collaborations between machine, creator and curator. Paintings co-created with a troupe of drawing bots. 10 amazing artists who stayed in the space to share their artworks live across both days, far longer than the 2 “office hours” they had signed up for.

Our experiment in (re)interpretation was both unexpected and inspiring – and it is impossible to do it justice here. I wrote more about how #artofweb related to earlier net art movements on Medium, and the bot-artists at Meemoo wrote this piece about their own experiences, while #artofweb alumni continue to create digital artworks around the world.