A Digital Prophecy
Digital Art Online at the Remedi Project
Context is key in the dialogue between the viewer and the artwork. Museums and galleries are created with this very principle in mind. Yet in an environment where security guards watch you watch the work, and little old ladies with big hair and red, white and blue barrettes discuss the innate beauty of the hips of the ladies in Picasso's "Les Demoiselles," and eight-year old boys snicker and point every time they see more naked ladies with big boobies, the museum transforms into a sort of performance installation. Focus is shifted away from the artwork towards anything and everything unconsciously interacting around the artwork. In this atmosphere, the reception of the work can definitely be muted.
Juxtaposed against this backdrop, I can see why more and more art is being presented on the Web. The accessibility of this medium calls for a greater level of intimacy, interactivity and dialogue between the viewer/participant and the artwork. Not to mention the fact that technology is permeating all spheres of culture and life. How often have we heard "experts" remind us in recent years that we are living in the computer age?
With palm pilots, email and personal Web pages, every day depends on our relationship with new media. As we move towards a more digitized way of receiving and perceiving information, many artists are now identifying with the Web as a mode of representation.
The conversation between digital media and art is explored closely by The Remedi Project (www.theremediproject.com), a site dedicated to presenting inventive work by artists, photographers, writers and programmers who place particular emphasis on interactivity. The Remedi Project (REdesigning the MEdium through DIscovery) provides insight about these works by including online interviews with the artists.
One of the works on the site is Method's "Use Me," which centers around the activity and passivity of both the viewer and the computer. Upon entering "Use Me," we are confronted with an intense red background and a drawing of an animated hand with a bold white outline that is slightly reminiscent of a fragmentary Keith Haring painting. The next window contrastingly features a much calmer gray behind the same white animated hand. The final window displays spontaneous activity - the color gradually changes from gray to blue to blue-green, and text changes as it moves off the screen while numbers are automatically counting in the top corner.
"Use Me" is interested in a one-sided relationship. In fact it's doing a little role-playing. Gone are the times when we tell the computer what to do. That's ancient. This is a new era in which the computer defines us. The roles are reversed and activity and power lie within the computer. "Use Me" reminds us that computers now have a personality and are continually working towards redefining the dynamics of the existing relationships between viewer, artist and artwork.
Also exhibited is Mashica's "I Ching," a piece which serves to reveal the divinatory power of the Internet. Mashica created the sleekly designed "I Ching" with slight mystery. Juxtaposed against a sea green background, a simple, intensely colored red rectangle protrudes from the left side to situate itself in the middle of the screen. Fine baby blue text announces what we are about to enter: the "oracle-operating system." The next window tells the historical context of "I Ching," as well as how to operate it. Finally, you are prepared to enter and experience the divinatory power first-hand.
You type a specific question, click six lines, and then your answer is revealed in a stylish lime green window. I wanted to know "How should I get home for the holidays, by plane, train, or bus?" Mashica enlightened me: "Decorating the foot, leaving the carriage to walk. Wearing foot ornaments and leaving the carriage to walk barefoot suggests exuberance." So, I guess I'll be walking home barefoot with nice footies. Hey, I need the exercise.
Despite the ambiguous answers, "I Ching" reminds us how necessary digital interactivity is in our lives, and how much we rely on the Internet for day-to-day prophecies. From weather updates to daily horoscopes to job and apartment hunting, we look to the Internet for answers.
Digital art continues to grow in popularity, presenting new perspectives on visualizing the conceptual, and even allowing us to move beyond the sphere of the physical. Even SAIC is recognizing the growing power of Web art with its newly formed Art and Technology department. In the marriage of visual and digital media, interactivity is encouraged, the barriers of locality and identity are removed and new modes of spatial representation are available for production and consumption. We are connected.