Although a growing segment of street artists and graffiti writers are making organic viral art, there are also many artists making organic viral art who have never put up a piece of street art or tagged a wall. Much of the work from the chapter 3 is organic viral art, made by artists who were fully aware and comfortable that they were going after an online audience. As Kyle Chayka has suggested is necessary, those artists adapted to the new environment of the internet. But they’re still creating work with methods and in mediums familiar to the street art and graffiti communities. Further adaptation is possible, necessary even. Organic viral art doesn’t have to exist as anything more than a jpeg or a GIF or even a string of text. Organic viral art is art made with the knowledge that it will primarily be shared through active sharing of the content by and to an unknowable group of people rather than through accidental discovery or an invasion of space. That doesn’t mean it has to have ever existed on a wall or a canvas. Like street art, organic viral art is defined by distribution methods rather than aesthetic criteria or medium.
It should come as no surprise to readers of this book that graffiti writers and street artists often make work to display in galleries in addition to their ephemeral outdoor artwork. Every once in awhile, I’ll meet someone who is surprised by that fact, and I’ll have to explain that just because an artist works outdoors doesn’t mean that they can’t also work indoors, and that a given artist’s indoor and outdoor artworks are often closely connected in style and content. As outdoor artists transition to making organic viral art for digital spaces, the aesthetics and the medium may change, but keeping accessibility of the work as a driving factor stays the same, whereas that factor usually becomes significantly less important when an artist goes from primarily showing work on the street to showing in galleries.
It’s not like digital art and street art have never intersected before. John Fekner was the director of the Long Island University C. W. Post Campus’ Digital Arts and Design program and has made animated computer graphic videos for decades.Shepard Fairey released a series of digital animations through s[edition]. And Faile’s early websites were a lot more than just portfolios of their work. Faile approached the various iterations of their website as artworks, art experiences in and of themselves rather than simply places to find photos of their street art or their prints. But just because these street artists were making digital art does not mean they were making viral art. Fekner didn’t have a good way to distribute the videos he was making until recently. Shepard Fairey’s work at s[edition] is difficult if not impossible to share because it is protected by digital rights management and it is intended to be collected rather than shared. And Faile’s early websites were closer to fun versions of early internet art than anything else. So these examples are not really viral art, just digital art by people with a street art background.
In addition to the work written about in chapter 3, street artists and graffiti writers have been making organic viral art that most people would not consider to be street art or graffiti. Many of these works would fall into the category of digital art, but this new intersection of street art, graffiti and digital art is more than just dabbling in digital art. It’s the fusion of the core values of street art and graffiti with the technologies of digital art. If the artists covered in chapter 3 were beginning to adapt to the internet, the artists in this chapter have completed that process of adaptation.