Can Internet Art Move Offline?

With the majority of our lives taking place on the internet, it’s no surprise that it’s also becoming one of our primary mediums to engage with art. From gifs on Tumblr to Twitter bots to artsy Instagrams, we’re constantly consuming art on the web — even when we don’t know it. And in recent months, this art has been moving to IRL with artists like Arvida Bystrom in Sunday’s "Hot in Here" show and "Same," the Molly Soda curated show at Stream. With all this web art moving into offline spaces, the question that remains is: how well can it change mediums?

Now, we can see webcam selfies in SoHo galleries and a well-curated Instagram in the New Museum. The line between online and offline is collapsing as what we consume on the web comes alive in front of us. The problem is that at times turning GIF-ridden NewHive pages into gallery pieces takes away the meaning behind the medium: the internet is accessible to everyone.

In putting art on the internet, you’re allowing wide swaths of the population to see it. Not everyone lives in NYC and wants to go to a gallery, but almost everyone can log onto a computer and engage with art for a few minutes a day. Twitter has over 300 million users, New York City only has around 8 million people. The audience of the internet is as large as the internet itself. This type of accessibility breeds vulnerability, the artist is quite literally allowing anyone and everyone to see what they’ve created. This can make art feel more personal.

But, as we all know the internet can be pretty terrible. And art on the internet is no different. The internet is amazing because anyone can show their art, but this also includes kids with shitty DeviantArt pages and pretty disturbing fan art. Digging through the terrible art to find the good stuff can be tiresome and difficult, often involving way too much porn.

With some standout artists like Molly Soda and Petra Collins easily translating their work into gallery shows, moving online art offline has the promise of being rewarding for the artist’s career.

What’s more important than keeping all online art online is keeping the medium of the internet online. The internet is an incubator — or a cesspool — but it’s what most people are using to create and consume art, keeping this kind of anarchic space to create art is what brings us new and revolutionary artists.

Moving offline isn’t bad, but it is difficult, with some art forms — Twitter bots and gifs and webpages — being completely unable to make the transition. But when good art moves offline, it’s still good art. Changing the audience and medium doesn’t change the level of the work.

Photos via Molly Soda, Petra Collins, and Arvida Bystrom

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