In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section New Media Art

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Virtual Art and Mixed Reality
  • Computer Art and Software Art
  • Telematic Art
  • Performance
  • Internet Art
  • Game Art and Machinima
  • Glitch Art
  • Activism, Hacktivism, and Tactical Media
  • Bio Art and Transgenic Art
  • Media Concepts and Technologies Around 2000
  • Early Debates
  • Current Debates
  • Historical Approaches (Media Art Histories)
  • Curating, Restoring, and Preserving
  • Online Archives and Platforms

Art History New Media Art
Oliver Grau
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 May 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920105-0082


New Media Art is a comprehensive term that encompasses art forms that are either produced, modified, and transmitted by means of new media/digital technologies or, in a broader sense, make use of “new” and emerging technologies that originate from a scientific, military, or industrial context. Along with its emphasis on the “new,” New Media Art signifies an explicit difference—or différance—with art practices that make use of traditional, in other words, “old,” visual media. Hence, much of New Media Art indicates a concern with and reflection of new media and its ever-changing, complex modes of expression. A list of genres that are related to New Media Art showcases the large spectrum of this term—among others, it (commonly) includes virtual art, software art, Internet art, game art, glitch art, telematic art, software art, bio art, computer animation, interactive art, and computer graphics, as well as practices in the field of art and activism, such as hacktivism and tactical media. Given that the technologies, practices, and discourses of New Media Art are in a constant flux, the understanding of New Media Art and its affiliated genres is constantly shifting, as its—somewhat scattered—history implies. Evidently, much of New Media Art challenges the very foundations of an object-centered understanding of art, in particular with regard to its characteristics of interactivity, nonlinearity, immateriality, and ephemerality, and its intricate interrelation between artist, artwork, and spectator. It is important to note that these features are shared with other strands of contemporary and modern art and are not equally inherent within all genres of New Media Art. Nevertheless, digital technologies exceptionally allow artists to develop interactive artworks, as in Internet art and virtual art, which provide the spectator with a specific freedom of (aesthetic) choice. In other words, the aesthetic object is—in a majority of New Media Art—ultimately created by the spectator as a “user,” even though the artist assesses the framework and specific context for the action and participation of the spectator. New Media Art was coined by the interrelation of art and science from its very beginnings, because the sciences often acted as an engine of innovation and a reservoir for (aesthetic) inspiration in various art practices—conversely, New Media Art repeatedly served as an innovator for new technologies, for instance, in computer graphics, computer animation, and virtual art. In more recent years, art practices have emerged that prolong the art-science connection (as well as the notion of the artist as engineer, and vice versa) with the use of biotechnologies and biological and living material; such artistic endeavours are usually referred to as “bio art,” with proponents including Eduardo Kac and Joe Davis. A multitude of annual festivals and biennales dedicated to New Media Art—specifically to digital art—can be considered forums and catalysts for current developments regarding topics, technologies, and discourses of New Media Art.

General Overviews

The bibliographical account in this article attempts to overcome a potential constraint to monographs that are explicitly confined to New Media Art by including the most significant monographs and anthologies that are commonly referenced in the research of New Media Art, digital art, and electronic art, which has existed since over fifty years. Since 1968 most of the early debate was published in the Leonardo Journal. The major publications to date were published, by and large, after the turn of the millennium—because of the obvious fact that digital technologies in fine arts (with digital art as arguably the main strand of New Media Art) have a rather short history. Even though monographs and anthologies that were published before 2000 might have a limited or partial scope, they are nevertheless informative, since they discuss New Media Art primarily in relation to a wider art and media historical context, such as Popper 2007 (cited under Virtual Art and Mixed Reality). Essential monographs on the definition and discussion of Digital Art include Paul 2003 and Grau 2003. Similar publications are either dedicated to digital art as a distinct field, such as Hope and Ryan 2014, or attempt to examine the impact of digital technologies in fine arts, such as Wands 2006. Several authors have offered an explicit introduction to new media along with an ample selection of artists who engage in new media technologies, such as the authors of Wilson 2010, Shanken 2009, and Tribe, et al. 2006. The anthology Frieling and Daniels 2004 endeavors to increase the scope through a selection of texts that discuss relevant debates and issues in (New) Media Art. In addition to publications that concentrate on the field of digital and new media technologies, Wilson 2002 offers a comprehensive and well-informed introduction to the intersection of art, science, and technology—basically a field that would constitute a bibliography of its own.

  • Frieling, Rudolf, and Dieter Daniels, eds. Media Art Net 1: Survey of Media Art. New York and Vienna: Springer, 2004.

    Together with an online platform, Frieling and Daniel offer an anthology that comprises articles from some of the leading scholars in the field. The articles address the art historical background of media art, as well as the connection between art and science.

  • Grau, Oliver. Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2003.

    Virtual Art discusses the “evolutionary” art history of illusion and immersion, demonstrating that various epochs tried to reach the maximum illusionary effect possible with the available technological means. The book offers a historic comparison in image-viewer theory of immersion today primarily based upon interaction; e.g., through real-time imagery and haptic feedback. Also offers a systematic analysis of the triad of artist, work, and viewer under the conditions of digital art.

  • Hope, Cat, and John Charles Ryan. Digital Arts: An Introduction to New Media. New York and London: Bloomsbury, 2014.

    Hope and Ryan offer an up-to-date introductory digital art text that does well in the discussion of digital art in relation to other art forms and concepts such as electronic art and virtual art. Furthermore, the authors provide insights into a variety of topics in digital art, including performance, photography, glitch art, and Internet art.

  • Leonardo Journal.

    Leonardo, the journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology, since 1968 has been a very influential forum for professional artists to describe and discuss their work. Also since the beginning, scholars like Ernst Gombrich, Rudolf Arnheim, and William Gibson published on related themes like vision, perception, optics, color, creativity, art, and psychology.

  • Paul, Christiane. Digital Art. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2003.

    Already a classic, Digital Art provides a critical approach to the notion of “digitality” in the arts and offers a comprehensive viewpoint on the phenomenon of digital art. Paul developed the valuable hypothesis that digital art should be distinguished from other art forms because of its use of digital technology. Therefore, media applications in New Media Art are used either as a tool or as a medium.

  • Rush, Michael. New Media in Art. London: Thames & Hudson, 2005.

    New Media in Art provides a historically inclusive approach to the notion of “new media.” Instead of focusing on the last decades, Rush outlines the development of New Media Art, beginning in the 19th century, through classical avant-garde, video art, and performance art, up to contemporary art and its use of digital technologies.

  • Shanken, Edward A. Art and Electronic Media. London: Phaidon, 2009.

    Shanken provides a comprehensive survey that introduces the reader to the exchange and mutual influence of contemporary media cultures and art. On the basis of a selection of New Media Artworks, Art and Electronic Media addresses issues such as motion, electronic production, environments, networks, bodies, and simulations.

  • Tribe, Mark, Reena Jana, and Uta Grosenick. New Media Art. Cologne: Taschen, 2006.

    New Media Art provides a general—and popular—introduction to New Media Art and combines a short overview of New Media Art with a number of case studies from a variety of artistic fields. It also focuses on conceptual strategies such as appropriation, commercialization, identity privacy, and the public domain.

  • Wands, Bruce. Art of the Digital Age. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2006.

    Art of the Digital Age offers a condensed history of digital art and discusses the different modes of expression ranging from digital imaging and sculpture to performance, animation, software, and Internet art.

  • Wilson, Stephen. Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2002.

    Information Arts provides an extensive introduction to the various fields of art and science beyond the limits of specific media.

  • Wilson, Stephen. Art + Science Now. London: Thames & Hudson, 2010.

    Art + Science Now is a well-illustrated, popular survey of the interrelation between art and science. The book provides an introduction to such issues as molecular biology, living systems, human biology, and physical sciences.

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