What do you mean by internet art?

What do you mean by internet art? 

The beginnings

Reddit users, source: Smithsonian Magazine

The most dramatic changes in Indian art can be observed in the late twentieth century, affected profoundly by changes that were triggered by the so-called liberalization and integration into the global market. An unprecedented openness to technology, art was affected as was any other sphere of activity. “These measures also mark a response to the challenges posed by the mediatic structures that now constitute a pervasive counter reality: art must now compete with and steal devices from, cinema, 24-hour satellite television, computer morphed advertisements, the music video, the internet and the virtual-reality game.” (Sinha, 2009, 205) It was photography and film that had first challenged the field of fine art and it survived. Later it was the computer and internet that challenged art and yet it thrived.

How do we then think about visual arts? Is virtual culture taking its place? What are the new directions? How does one approach something so accessible and yet not sometimes?

Art also finds itself adapting to this expansion of human experiences through the possibilities and interaction into the virtual space made available by the internet. This quest to find a new aesthetic language in a fast changing world, internet art projects have seeped into cultural productions and online circulation. They can be understood as works that are digitized forms of art uploaded on the internet and are importantly made specifically to be viewed online, on a web browser. Interactivity is also introduced through engaging viewers into participating via mouse clicks and keyboard. The quick dissemination and accessibility was key.

Baiju Parthan, Brahma’s Homepage (Image courtesy:

Baiju Parthan’s works paid attention to the implications and changes that technology brought about in our culture. One of the earliest works of its kind, Brahma’s Homepage saw itself playing with the parallels between the physical and virtual by showing a painting on the wall which, after clicking, was brought to the fore as a painting on the computer screen. Clicks on images, hyperlinked, offered stories, meanings, and narratives that also gave a brief history of painting. Parthan had created this work himself by making an HTML. The name Brahma, as the creator of the world, threw light on myth and culture while at the same time juxtaposed them with the endless and limitless virtual. Other works like Code (2000) interacted with the audience by answering questions posed by the audience. Parthan further delved into the medium to make works such as Diary of the Inner Cyborg (2001-2) and so on. His works were not presented as websites or available as downloads because he preferred to keep them in the space of ‘fine art’.

Kiran Subbaiah, CrashRun.exe, 2002. Screenshot of the artwork, 2016. © Kiran Subbaiah, 2019.

Kiran Subbaiah made interesting works that involved an element of surprise by replicating works that appeared to function like computer viruses. His Crash Run (2001-2), a compilation of few programs, when played would appear as a glitch and wreak havoc on the screen of the user. It only simulated a computer crashing and the system could function normally on uninstalling the application. Subbaiah, very importantly points out that the internet at that time seemed liberating whereas today it has become like television with too much noise and traffic. “People call me a ‘Duchamp baby’”, he says. Subbaiah claims that there need not be any purpose in art, explaining that most people look at art as a way of deriving pleasure, which it does not require to be.

Screenshot of Source: (2003), Users are told they will be blessed by touching the screen. (2003), A certificate can be printed as "proof" of the blessing.

Blessed Bandwith (2003)

Shilpa Gupta was driven by a number of e-commerce websites that were popular in the late 1990s. While she was working as a web designer she made Diamonds and You. Her work gives the user a false impression of control, commenting on consumerism and socio-economic oppression. She recalls in an interview, “When Blessed Bandwidth was launched there were more than 3000 visitors a day, much more than a gallery may have in one month! And not just from the art audience – for example I found the website on the homepage of Christian Post newspaper based in Pakistan, from where many visitors came, or had 409 clicks from a blog run by teenagers from a website called Portal of Evil discussing how God looked like - many having downloaded god.exe – this I think is most interesting part for me – which is to get a wider audience where participation and interaction is part of experiencing the work.” (Singh, n.d.)

Skip to the COVID-19 pandemic ostensibly pushed the world into a virtual reality, when physical installation of works and gallery shows were not possible there were various shows that were hosted online. Artists’ adapted to using digital means producing fresh takes on digital and internet art. 


Singh, A. G. (n.d.). shilpa gupta. shilpa gupta. Retrieved March 6, 2022, from, G. (Ed.). (2009). Art and Visual Culture in India, 1857-2007. Marg Publications.

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