net.dialogue.6

Posted by Rhizome | Sat Dec 29th 2001 1 a.m.

net.dialogue.6
Digital Hallucinogens
(Mark Amerika with John Vega)

"telltarget ("memoryfield") {
gotoAndPlay ("disintegration");

"Digital debris. Excess cache. Spiritual bedlam.

"The glue of minds.

"Ultimate execution: triggering a digital weapon, a recordable memory
device that captures your seeing for you, that tells it like it is, but
with a supplemental metacommentary that is always ready to rip you, mix
you, burn you into being.

"Who are the image killers?

"Who writes the Action Scripts?"

from FILMTEXT

+ + +

Mark Amerika: I just received email from Andrew Chetty, new media
curator at the ICA in London, saying that our collaborative project,
FILMTEXT, and the net art retrospective it is part of (HOW TO BE AN
INTERNET ARTIST), will get an extended exhibition profile in the New
Media Centre. The second exhibition will take place January 9-31. How do
you feel about having your web work in a high-traffic art institute like
the ICA?

John Vega: Having FILMTEXT in a major art venue is both an honor and
also abstract. It is an honor in that digital art (and specifically
Flash art) is certainly not part of the mainstream art world and having
an actual on-site version of the piece is one of the real rewards of
creating this piece. It is abstract in that I could consider the ICA
simply another node on the network, meaning that the piece really ISN'T
there physically, but simply extends to there from here. I hope that
this new showing will continue the movement of digital art (net.art,
Flash.art) into the museum realm so that more folks are exposed and
challenged by it.

MA: Sometimes Flash art gets a bad rap in net art circles. The biggest
criticism is that it all starts looking and feeling the same. Can you
relate? How can artists working in Flash silence their critics?

JV: I can relate to the criticism as much Flash art has been created
using only the "timeline" or "movie" capability of Flash. In other
words, many commercial and fine art applications of Flash are simply
attempts to create sequences which could just as easily exist in digital
(e.g. QuickTime) or traditional movie forms. What is missing in much of
this work is "surprising familiarity" - the use of interaction,
mathematics, randomness and networking technologies that are available
with Flash's underlying scripting layers that would transform these
simple linear movies into four-dimensional, cyber-physical experiences
where art is created anew each time the users interacts.

Flash artists can silence their critics by pursuing original ideas that
step outside the traditional timeline metaphors (so prevalent in most
commercial Flash work) and extend into metaphysical space where "time"
is dispensed with and the need to derive ideas comes not from what has
preceded (the Flash crap we see now), but from what is yet to be. For
me, nearly anything I can "see" with my artist's eye can be translated
into a net experience using Flash.

MA: Seeing, being seen, and being the seer: this is what FILMTEXT
explores, especially in relation to digital narrative and how the story
behaves (or doesn't behave, as the case may be). One thing I find most
interesting about our use of action-scripting in this work is how we use
the code to, in essence, bring Flash into the net art fold. Which, by
the way, was not so easy for me, as I have been resisting this format
for a few years now. Along these lines, how does Flash art become a kind
of Internet art and what are the net art works that have recently
influenced your thinking as an artist working primarily in Flash?

JV: Flash art becomes Internet art when it extends beyond a simple
"player" and "movie" model, and reaches into the realm of a connected
piece whereby the engine of the net helps fuel the Flash work as it
breathes in datastreams, responds to user's thoughts and emotions
(interaction) and generates the digital art answer.

A good example of what has influenced me lately would be the generative
(and multi-user) work of Mark Napier as well as the ambient-generative
work of Joshua Davis. With Davis's Praystation, we see the "player" and
"movie" dissolve as the art is recursively grown, three dimensionally
displayed, and distributed to the users mind via phosphor screen.

MA: Flash seems so well-suited toward narrative and gaming, both in a
mainstream sense but also in an artistic way. In FILMTEXT, it was weird,
because, even before the Playstation 2 commission, we were already
developing our self-described "ambient game" model where progressing
through different levels became the net art equivalent of navigating
into higher or alternative states of consciousness; as if "playing" the
game were part of a meaning-making adventure i.e. "how much meaning do
I have to generate out of these filmtext scenes to make it to the next
level?" This, of course, brings up the issue of how much intelligence
needs to be programmed into an "ambient game" so that it can deliver
conscious otherness.

JV: Yes. Because the machine (Flash) can monitor, track and evaluate
the user's actions, the idea of game is fully realized with an authoring
tool like Flash. With a net art application, this capability becomes
transparent as the user travels through the artists' dream unknowingly
diverted and persuaded to follow paths intended or not. By evaluating
and acting upon the users' decisions, the game then becomes art as new
idea-seeds are flung and planted into the lines of action-script
blossoming into new cyber-realities which gently (or not) tweak the set
and setting of the digital hallucination.

MA: Yes, that was one thing I found really fascinating about our
collaboration, that is, the entire team of collaborators from Twine and
Williams to you and me -- it was as if we were all intuitively
generating images, sounds, texts, design and action-scripts heavily
geared toward the psychedelic. And yet, even as we were creating this
trippy narrative-game, we were also highly conscious of the final
output, the instrumental use of technology. The ESSENCE of technology
(as Heidegger reads it) was, of course, explored too -- this time in
FILMTEXT via that long meditation on Digital Thoughtography (DT).
Editing the digital images while writing those DT scenes and listening
to Twine sound loops in the background made for a powerful work flow
experience.

JV: Working with Twine on FILMTEXT was both a functional and revelatory
experience. The sound art of Twine acted both as functional soundtrack
for the piece and "sound-map" for me as the Flash artist. As with most
multimedia construction, the artist (or designer) ends up listening to
endless playings of the sound objects to be used in a piece. In the
case of FILMTEXT and Twine, this repetitive consideration soon revealed
the true nature of the piece as it eased me into cyber-meditation-space
where my mind's eye opened to the world of FILMTEXT.

+ + +

Mark Amerika's first European net art retrospective, HOW TO BE AN
INTERNET ARTIST, and his new work of net art, FILMTEXT (commissioned by
Playstation 2), will enjoy a second exhibition at the Institute for
Contemporary Arts in London from January 9-31, 2002. The site is
accessible now at amerika.newmediacentre.com

John Vega is a digital artist and animator living in Boulder, Colorado.
His award-winning interface design work can be found at his web base of
operations: dancingimage.com
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