Building Bridges or Tearing Apart Authorship: On-line Collaborative Art


Session Title:

  • Building Bridges or Tearing Up Authorship: On-Line Collaborative Art

Presentation Title:

  • Building Bridges or Tearing Apart Authorship: On-line Collaborative Art



  • The development of collaborative on-line art projects pose questions that challenge the notion of the artist as lone creator of completed work. The hierarchical structure of artist/viewer is flattened as the artist relinquishes control and the public becomes a colleague in the creative process. Collaborative tactics may carry an implicit message of social change, attempting to move from symbolic actions to material ones by expanding the rupture of hierarchies outwards.
    Whereas theatrical and performance-based art are often structured as ensembles, the visual artist typically works independently and is rewarded for autonomous innovation. The act of defying social expectations of independent creative genius often marginalizes the artist’s standing in established art institutions. Yet, more artists are seeking on-line interaction and collaboration as a means of overcoming the isolation of the studio.
    The artist(s) who develop collaborative projects are often interested in investigating on-line interaction, development of artistic style through visual influence, differing response to various issues, and other human factors. Contributors to on-line collaborative projects often gain gratification through the publishing of their work, social interactions occurring via the project, the exchange of intellectual and visual idea, etc.
    The notion of appropriation as a form of collaboration extends the genre further. When participants are freely invited to use other participant’s imagery to create their own, copyright becomes obsolete. The notion of “original” is challenged as many individuals’ imagery and ideas merge to create collective forms of expression. Legal authorship of the work is ambiguous even as expressed in current definitions of “joint work: The lack of independent ownership poses problems for artists wishing to financially prosper or protect the integrity of their work.
    The concept of a completed work of art also becomes arbi-trary, if not impossible.”The meaning of the work is defined and redefined continually throughout the collaborative process. Intention and outcome differ as coordinator and participant become fused though on-line interaction. Oftentimes the project continues to evolve well beyond the predicted life span.
    Although the structure of on-line collaborative art projects differ, issues of curatorial responsibility and integrity of the work prevail. Participation open to the public invites varying degrees of artistic ability and interpretations of the intent. Collaborative art thrives on multiplicity, yet obstruction, errors, and vandalism sometimes occurs. Occasionally the original concept of the project is challenged and manipulated by the participants. Oftentimes there will be participants that become active joint owners of the project and oversee the activities of the other participants.
    While the experience of coordinating and participating in an on-line collaborative art project differs, the vision of the creation of art as a group activity with process and interaction as, or more important than the final product prevails. Artistic communities are formed and virtual friendships are defined through shared visual experiences. The resulting work reflects the merged vision and experiences of many, without the inhibition of cultural and social boundaries.