“The internet is more than just a canvas, medium or publishing platform for art. The internet is a system that links human and machine intelligence to produce politics, economics, culture, and subjectivities. To make ‘internet art’ is to intervene in, or participate mindfully in, these processes.”

That’s the opening shot of the jury statement from Prix Net Art, a new international prize. Co-organised by the web-based arts organisation Rhizome (affiliated with New York’s New Museum) and Tsinghua University Art and Science Media Lab in Beijing, along with an organisation calling itself the ‘Center for Art and Technology at CCIA’, the prize intends to recognise ‘the future promise of an artist making outstanding work on the internet’.

Prix Net Art’s ten-strong shortlist was generated through an open nominations process (and artists could nominate themselves) that closed on 31 August 2014. The first-ever winner of the $10,000 prize, Netherlands-based artist duo JODI, was announced on 30 October, with a $5,000 Award of Distinction given to US artist Kari Altmann.

Endeavours and achievements

The top award wasn’t, in the end, so much about ‘future promise’ as the past endeavours and achievements of an artform stretching back over 20 years. The jury – comprising curators Michael Connor (Rhizome), Samantha Culp (director, New Territories, China), Zhang Ga (professor of media art, Tsinghua University), and Sabine Himmelsbach (director, House of Electronic Arts, Basel) – said that JODI received the award “in recognition of the rich tradition of web-based art”.

They continued: “Following the release of the first widely used web browser in 1993, a number of artists embraced the web for its aesthetic and political possibilities, particularly as a way of reaching far-flung publics with a minimum of resources.

“JODI were key figures in this generation, often disrupting the web – its HTML and other code – in order to make its processes and effects more transparent. Throughout their careers, they have remained committed to the internet, in its changing forms over the years, as a contested and vital site for artistic practice.”

Flexia from Hitashya on Vimeo.

Altmann, meanwhile, was awarded her prize in recognition of the present and future of internet art. Born in 1983, she has grown up with the web and refers to her art practice as “based in the cloud” – although she is also a gallery artist.

Said the jury: “Altmann works fluidly across the web and the gallery space, considering each artistic medium as another kind of file format, and each artwork as a node in an evolving, collaborative, and networked system in which she is also a node.”

Altmann recently presented her piece, FLEXIA, as part of the Serpentine Galleries’ Extinction Marathon event, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Gustav Metzger, amongst others. More proof, perhaps, that after two decades on the periphery of the contemporary art world, work in the digital domain is ceasing to be a peripheral, minority occupation.