Wikipedia Art RIP

Wikipedia Art logo, February 2009

Wikipedia Art logo,
February 2009

Wikipedia Art is a conceptual art work composed on Wikipedia, and is thus art that anyone can edit. It manifests as a standard page on Wikipedia – entitled Wikipedia Art. Like all Wikipedia entries, anyone can alter this page as long as their alterations meet Wikipedia’s standards of quality and verifiability.[1] As a consequence of such collaborative and consensus-driven edits to the page, Wikipedia Art, itself, changes over time.



Wikipedia Art is an art intervention which explicitly invites performative utterances in order to change the work itself. The ongoing composition and performance of Wikipedia Art is intended to point to the “invisible authors and authorities” of Wikipedia, and by extension the Internet,[2] as well as the site’s extant criticisms: bias, consensus over credentials, reliability and accuracy, vandalism, etc.[3] Scott Kildall and Nathaniel Stern, Wikipedia Art’s initiators, refer to the work’s publish-cite-transform feedback loop as “performative citations.” They maintain that the project “intervenes in Wikipedia as a venue in the contemporary construction of knowledge and information, and simultaneously intervenes in our understandings of art and the art object“.[2] The artists request writers and editors to join in the collaboration and construction / transformation / destruction / resurrection of the work, want their “ intervention to be intervened in.”[2] Stern and Kildall say that “like knowledge and like art, Wikipedia Art is always already variable.”[2] The project is “similar to Andrew Keen’s complaints of Wikipedia as being an unreasonable request upon internet society to create cultural foundations (encyclopedias, art media, etc) without compensation, thus devaluing production.”[4] This is definitely a Wikipedia page. Maybe this is art.[5]


Wikipedia Art was initially created by artists Scott Kildall and Nathaniel Stern on February 14 2009. It was performatively birthed through a dual launch on Wikipedia and MyArtSpace, where art critic, writer, and blogger, Brian Sherwin, introduced and published their staged two-way interview, “Wikipedia Art – A Fireside Chat.”[2] The interview ended with Stern declaring, “I now pronounce Wikipedia Art.” Kildall’s response: “It’s alive! Alive!” Within one hour, it was marked for deletion (see [2] ( ). Following that, the Wikipedia entries on Stern, Kildall and Sherwin suddenly had Wikipedia standards problems which were non-existent before (in Stern’s case, for nearly 2 years before; see [3] ( ). Later that day, in response to Kildall and Stern’s call “to join in the collaboration and construction / transformation / destruction / resurrection of the work”, Shane Mecklenburger linked every word on the page, a move to “clarify” which arguably highlighted the Quixotic, absurd utility of Wikipedia’s enterprise. Artintegrated erased highlights from the original article only that were made by Shane Mecklenberger referencing Robert Rauschenberg’s “Erased Dekooning”. Artintegrated (talk) 23:45, 14 February 2009 (UTC) The Wikipedia Art page is a self-aware exploration of Wikipedia’s mission of collective epistemology. It enacts and describes Wikipedia’s strengths, weaknesses, potential, and limits as both a system of understanding and as a contemplative object of beauty. It demonstrates how a Wikipedia page can transcend the medium of Wikipedia while retaining its basic utilitarian Wikipedia function. The page is similarly a self-aware example of the strengths, weaknesses, potential, and limits of new media art. Wikipedia Art also calls into question the basic function and purposes of the encyclopedia itself. Shane Mecklenburger (talk) 02:06, 15 February 2009 (UTC)


Wikipedia Art has emerged from a contemporary online environment of user-generated content, “produsage”[6] and the idea that everyone can/should be an artist. Within this context, the expression of theories of indeterminacy[7], deconstruction and recombination naturally lead to myriad playful experiments with the repositioning of new technologies. The historical precedent to break form and media can be found in earlier art movements such as the Futurists[8], and also in the use of art as a means by which people can come to understand and integrate new technologies. Kockelkoren[9] gives the example of the steam train, which intially caused motion sickness in passengers. Artists created fairground attractions in which passengers sat in a virtual railway carriage and watched a moving landscape created with three canvas rolls that moved at different speeds – the foreground moved more rapidly, the middleground slower, and the distant horizon moved very slowly. Through this simulation, people adapted to viewing landscape from much greater speeds moved very slowly. Through this simulation, people adapted to viewing landscape from much greater speeds than ever before, which had initially made them dizzy and sick. Artists working in the online medium can be seen to be doing the same thing. As people adjust to the new rhythms of the online environment, artists create work that contributes to that adjustment. Theatre theorist Gabriella Giannachi’s concept of the hypersurface[10] is also useful in contextualising such a work. Giannachi describes the hypersurface as “where the real and the virtual meet each other … a liminal space [where] the viewer can double their presence and be in both the real and virtual environment simultaneously” (2004, p. 95) and “places of exchange, fleeting intertextual strata in which dialectical opposites interact and continuously contaminate one another” (p. 99). She gives examples of liquid architecture, telematic art, intelligent agents and virtual reality environments to illustrate the concept. Helen Varley Jamieson has suggested that the personal computer screen could also be included as a hypsersurface[11] and it is on this hypersurface that the palimpsest of Wikipedia Art plays out as a reflection of the inner workings of Wikipedia itself. Wikipedia can be viewed as a platform or canvas, just like Facebook or even the BBC, where users are invited to contribute and therefore create. The form and its rules exist for good reason, but they also exist to be reconfigured and reinvented.


Critics of Wikipedia Art are forthcoming, in numbers.

Notable press and quotes

External Links

See also


  1. Wikipedia Editors, (2009) Wikipedia:Verifiability. Retrieved on Wikipedia:2009-01-26
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Kildall, Scott and Sherwin, Brian and Stern, Nathaniel, (2009) Wikipedia Art – a fireside chat. Retrieved on Wikipedia:2009-02-14
  3. Wikipedia Editors, (2009) Wikipedia. Retrieved on Wikipedia:2009-01-28
  4. WikiPedia art?, February 14th, 2009, by Patrick Lichty,
  5. Pall Thayer. Wikipedia Art. Retrieved on 2009-02-14
  6. Bruns, Axel (2008). Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and beyond : from production to produsage. New York: Peter Lang. ISBN 0820488666
  7. Cage, John (1961). Composition as process : indeterminacy. London: Continuum.
  8. Futurist manifestos. Boston: MFA Publications. 1961
  9. Kockelkoren, P. (2003). Technology : art, fairground, and theatre.. Rotterdam: NAi Publishers. ISBN 0415283795
  10. Giannachi, Gabrielle (2004). Virtual Theatres.. London; New York: Routledge.. ISBN 0415283795.
  11. Jamieson, Helen Varley (2008). Adventures in Cyberformance – experiments at the interface of theatre and the internet. Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane: unpublished thesis. Retrieved from “

Categories: Arts, Art media, Creativity, Works of art, Aesthetics, Visual arts, Internet culture, Art websites, Modern art, Visual Arts