What Is Beauty in Net Art?

What role do patterns play in Net Art? Can we change patterns just by staring at them? Can a machine be a composer? And do patterns create beauty?
Four new web residencies
have been selected for call no. 2, 2017 by Solitude and ZKM. Read an interview with the curator and juror Claudia Maté on the topic and the chosen projects.

The artists Jim Rolland (Marseille/France), Eric Parren (Los Angeles/USA), Jeffrey Alan Scudder (Maine/USA), and Nicolas Sassoon (Vancouver/Canada) will work on their projects for four weeks (until August 3, 2017), regularly posting articles and works or reporting on the steps to their final piece. The projects will be shown on Schlosspost as well as on the ZKM website. All projects and the shortlist of the call can be found here.

Clara Herrmann: What inspired you to put out a call on this topic?

Claudia Maté: I got the idea in an M.C. Escher exhibition in Madrid. I’ve been very obsessed with him since I was a kid, and I think his work has greatly influenced my work.

CH: What role do patterns play in Net Art today?

CM: When you code you have to deal with repetitions and loops all the time, so in the Net, it’s very easy to end up with patterns at some point.

CH: What special challenge did you invite the artists to take, and what projects were you looking for?

CM: Playing with patterns is very easy but when you apply chaos to a regular loop, it breaks. It creates a rhythm and it makes the piece unique and interesting.

For this call I thought it would be important to have applications based on differents methods exploring chaos and patterns in as many ways as possible. So first of all I tried to separate all the participants into a list of disciplines, after that I chose the best one’s of each field. The decision was not easy, but I made it based on a combination of good ideas, technical skills, and previous works.

The four disciplines for this call are:

SOUND – music patterns from mathematical formulas (Jean-Michel Rolland)
VR – environment that creates and develops patterns based on what the viewer is looking at (Eric Parren)
MOVING IMAGE – large animated GIF, rendered using pixel patterns and digital moiré (Nicolas Sassoon)
PAINT – web based project that runs differently upon each execution based on themes of repetition, permutation, and stochasticism in painting, poetry, and electronic media. (Jeffrey Alan Scudder)

CH: One statement in your call claims »some patterns are so obvious they can’t be true. Others are so complex they can’t be true. – And some are just right. Or beautiful.« What is beauty for you in Net Art?

CM: People usually equate beauty with perfection, but perfection is boring and shallow. It works very well when you want to sell a product, but I don’t think it has anything to do with art.


CH: The patterns made by the moving icons of the background you designed for the call seem predictable and unpredictable the same time, showing exactly this tension between patterns and chaos you mention. How do you work as an artist between reproduction/repetition and new ideas or unpredictable paths?

CM: My work is based more on experimenting than working on fixed ideas. I really like it when I get results that surprise me. Chaos theory is the perfect way to end up with something unexpected. The ideas become fractals and that really makes me enjoy my work.

CH: What’s your advice for young emerging artists to find their own individual way of working within Net culture and not follow established patterns?

CM: The Internet is a world with infinite possibilities to create and experiment. My advice would be to never get stuck and keep learning.