Steve Lambert is a world-renowned artist whose credentials extend through a massive variety of mediums. Lambert is incredibly dedicated to making art available to the public, making art something that is accessible to anyone who so choose to seek it out. This notion coupled with a stance against the near constant focus on the consumerism of our modern day has led to the creation of the Add-Art project. Created in 2008 by Lambert, Add-Art is a function that users of Firefox can enjoy. The addon replaces the advertisements that bog down daily browsing with works of art. Created with support from both Eyebeam and Rhizome, the extension replenishes the artwork it exhibits biweekly. Add-Art really focuses on keeping contemporary curators and artists in the rotation, every 2 weeks 5-8 young artists are chosen by curators to be showcased.
“Add-Art can bring contemporary art to the desktops of all types of people at home and in their workplace – all over the world” Lambert, Steve, May 2008, ADD-ART: ART REPLACES ADS
Add-Art works in partnership with Adblock Plus, another browsing plugin that disables the permeation of advertisements in a person’s browsing experience. Add-art.org is a supporting website to the project, as it provides information on both the current artists and curators. Basically the website allows users to view and explore background information on both current and past works, the artists who created said works, and the curators that chose them. The site also provides a schedule of past and upcoming shows. To be exhibited by Add-Art, works must be cropped to the average banner size or can be custom made for this project. Curation duties are received via recommendation, word-of-mouth, and petitions via add-art.org. Lambert was not the only developer involved in the creation of this addon, he was assisted by fellow open source developers Wladimir Palant, Jamie Wilkinson, Matt Katz, Tobias Leingruber, Michael Mandiberg, Jeff Crouse, Sean Salmon, Evan Harper, Michelle Kempner, Dan Phiffer, Mushon Zer-Aviv. The project is only available through Firefox but as the service is both free and Open Source, meaning that the code is available to all developers for improvement.
Many fear that this sort of web-development will lead to more dramatic problems within the online world. Such fears include the death of the free-internet and newspaper industry, which run on money from advertisements, and the possibility of it inducing new, more invasive forms of online advertising. In response to this Lambert has said via Add-art.org’s FAQ page,
“It’s your life and you have no legal obligation to look at every ad presented to you. People that use Ad Blocking software are not people that click on ads or even respond favorably to them. There is no loss in the market when these users block ads. If we extend the logic of Ad Blockers destroying the free internet then online ad blocking pales in comparison to the number of people destroying the television industry by going to the bathroom during commercial breaks, thereby stealing that content from the television companies” Lambert, Steve, Add-art.org.
One opens any browser for whatever reason and is immediately met with an unreasonable amount of marketing ploys designed to be perfect for your current needs. This is due to our cookie usage that digital advertising firms access, they are able to see what you have been searching across different browsers and throughout different sites because browsers feed search histories to said firms. They then spit out and slather your articles and newsfeeds with advertisements that are customized to your “needs”. One might feel as though their privacy has been breached. They shouldn't worry as they are not alone and can stop this cycle of consumerism with the free download of Add-Art. The current artist exhibited is Leah Modigliani, her project being a black and white photo series titled How Long Can We Tolerate this and can be viewed below.
One might argue that this project is not net art, but rather just another advertisement. An advertisement of art. This is simply not the case. Art is someone’s reaction to society, to the times. This is exactly what Add-Art is. It is a reaction and commentary on what we focus on as a society. It is a mockery of our constant existence as a consumer. Art can be an escape and that is exactly what this project acts as… an escape from our commercialism. This project is important as a representation of the concept of art be self-sustaining. Artists inspire artists who later go on and inspire more artists! The concept of an open source project is also representative of this. Developers are artists as well and they are able to create their own art from the code of others! Add-Art is an art project that remodels any browser into a gallery, making any user of the internet a spectator of the arts. It not only allows for up-and-coming artists to be pushed into the forefront, but also allows art itself to to be drawn into the spotlight.
Steve Lambert’s provocative work with Add-Art is not his first push against the consumerism of our modern day. Many of his other projects are billboards, which are normally used again to market products. Lambert’s billboards however are artistic, such as 2014’s Today We Are Alive and 2003’s I Can’t Relax (pictured below). These billboards push against the grain as signs usually tell us to buy, buy, buy! These signs, however, remind us to live and to live well. Lambert's exploration of consumerism through his billboard works are much more in-your-face then Add-Art, as we view these works without much consent. Add-Art however, is a choice. The viewer decides whether or not to escape from the constant marketing, whereas the billboards just force the viewer to confront their current reality. Lambert’s work against the grain of consumerism is also quite relatable to the Brandalism project. This project, facilitated by a large group of artists, subverts advertisement’s seen on the street as a way of disrupting the system and fighting against visual pollution. It is their belief that their acts of “subvertising” are battles against consumerism’s stranglehold over messages in the public spaces we share. Instead of replacing ad's with art as Lambert did, they replace ad's with negative advertisements for the same product or service. Brandalism contrasts Add-Art's consensual methodology in the same way as Lambert's billboard works. Building off of this, Brandalism is a much more aggressive push towards the same greater idea, that we do not need to constantly be viewing things that other people think we need to buy.
Unless you enjoy the ads, please download Add-Art. It is not only an incredible project but also a fantastic tool for discovery. Who knows you may just find your new favorite artist. You can download Add-Art by clicking here! And click here to view the artist’s introduction video!