First Collective Work Of Art

“One on one, even ten on ten, we are embarrassingly similar to chimpanzees. Significant differences begin to appear only when we cross the threshold of 150 individuals, and when we reach 1,000–2,000 individuals, the differences are astounding.” (Y. N. Harari, Sapiens). The greatest strength of humankind is not within an (or even the) individual but within the collective. If we know that this is true, why are the works of art still made by the individuals?

Historically speaking, with few exceptions all to film, art has always been defined through the creator and interpreted through his individual work – opus – the product of one person. Remember paintings, sculpture, music, architecture, prose, poetry and film as well as theatre, ballet, performance, etc.

On the other hand, in the period between the 18th and 19th centuries, science slowly begins to understand its own stubbornness in individual creation. After accepting the united creation method (which means that there is no more “one man band”) an unseen exponential development emerges. We would not be wrong to say that the last two centuries have been marked by science, not by art. Hence the age of information. Thanks to this science we have come to the greatest transformation in the history of civilization.

As a consequence of it, we live in a time in which almost every individual carries the amount of knowledge that could not be imagined in the past. The development of science has resulted in an extension of life, an overall increase in the scope of education, leisure time (even to the level of boredom) and the rise of the general comfort of life.

On the other hand, art somehow stagnates and cannot be pulled out of its frames in which it is defined and interpreted. Even in the era of mass-production of art, artist are still individuals limited to themselves or a certain number of specifically picked people/creators (orchestra, film, theatre etc)

Still, the situation may not be what it seems like. The human world may have truly created an artwork as a product of a collective rather than a single or a limited number of creators. Due to the fact that this is a collective work, it is completely unusual. It’s so strange that in the strict (philosophical or broader, theoretical) sense, it cannot be called artistic, but meta-artistic work of art. It’s so strange that it’s left unseen, although it’s been in front of us for quite some time. Is this meta-artwork the Internet? Let’s make a thought experiment. Let’s try to look at the Internet as a singularity and not a plurality (ie. as one rather than many) and then to simply put this in the context of aesthetical observations.

The newly emerging phenomenon is an artwork that has been created and is still being created. In addition, it is also a tool for creating and a place for consuming. So, if we look at things from this angle, we see that established schematic changes in three essential relations: creator – work; work – consumer; consumer-creator. In the most plastic sense, this new-born relation now looks like this: The creator-consumer stands in front of the screen as before the final manifestation of the meta-artwork.

Is this idea in any way contrary to the artistic definitions we had?

If we make a small step of common sense and will and put aside the intuitive recognition of an artwork (intuition as an emotion), which, we should not forget, is the result of two narrow reference frameworks, we can look for contradictions in the real knowledge we have.

What happens if some of the creators of the previously based observation of the artwork are set before this phenomenon? Do their opinions confirm or deny the idea of the Internet as a meta-artwork?

Plato believed that the essence of the art was to simulate reality. The Internet does not only replicate external phenomena to the border of hyper-reality but in the sum of these replicas builds itself as a world for itself. Seling argued that an artwork must set up a whole universe within itself, or, in other words, it must build an autonomous world. The Internet world is not only real in one fantasy-based sense, but it is actually completely independent of every fantasy. Social networks are virtual (which is not the same as non-real) place where the phenomenon of the inner autonomous world arises. Jung gave two basic models of artworks: the harmonious completeness and suggestive incompleteness. In its parts (web portals, networks, etc.), the Internet is harmoniously completed and taken as a (still)-developing singularity (the process) is suggestively incomplete. In the end, did Eco not show a change in the aesthetic standard (change of the ideas of beautiful and ugly through the ages)? In this case, the aesthetic standard is so far that we do not have capacities for its complete determination. Even from the perspective of moral values (the difference between good an evil), internet again provides an ideal image for the interpretation and a discussion of the world in these categories.

Thus the internet as the work of the next category – meta-art – encapsulates all previous definitions in the absolute line.

In a descriptive sense, the Internet is not just a network because it is singular. The Internet is one and it has it’s space and it’s time. From these elements, a mechanics of events different from the one in the “offline world” is created. That it has its own space is clear and that needs no more explanation. As for the time – it passes faster, although the basic measurements are the same as on the other side. In addition, these elements produce a bunch of brand-new and autonomous phenomena (subcultures etc.)

Hence, the Internet is a truly existing world (it should be remembered that the virtual does not mean non-existing) with its own space, time and mechanics.

However, as the pragmatic value of an object goes “up”, the aesthetical value goes “down” in the eye of the one who is using it. And internet exclusive had pragmatic or use-value from the start. Whit the passage of time, the Internet only existed in the context of mere practicality.

The screen is a portal to the world of a different, non-linear and non-successive hyperspace. This space (world) holds nearly the entirety of the knowledge of humanity, and we can access any part of it within seconds.

This world, besides holding knowledge and information, has such a complicated structure that it can satisfy most of the curiosity-induced needs. A place where it is equally possible to work, to rest, to entertain, to socialize, and to learn; a place with internal hierarchies in which, through our own online avatars, we get a reward for merit and condemnation for the opposite.

Simulating the feeling that our thinker from the past would have in front of this portal is not entirely possible. Still, we can get close. That thinker would look at this collective meta-artwork, probably in a similar manner to that in which we would look at Borges’s Aleph.


Written by:

Luka Stojanovic

Mihailo Stojanovic

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