Response to Roger Malina on ISEA96

Posted by Rhizome | Tue Oct 1st 1996 1 a.m.

I'd like to add something to Roger Malina's comments on ISEA 96
Rotterdam.

Yes, electronic art ... always an awkward term, but at least it allows a
good breadth, and a certain amount of chaos. Somehow or other the ISEA
conferences steer the discussion forward.

My worry goes the other way, the tendency towards homogeneity and
consensus. This year there wasn't too much controversy, and maybe there
was too much about working with corporations and colleges, too little
about actual pieces of art. That's fine, we have to deal with
institutions, but it's not exactly heroic stuff - unless you buy that
line about subverting it all from within. I noticed the body language -
and I don't mean the virtual bodies - and what that said about being an
insider or an outsider. Mixtures of complacency, anxiety, creativity. I
liked hearing little details about Zagreb, Prague, Slovakia, New
Zealand, Malaysia... stops me complaining about London. But I will
anyway.

I'm wary about generalizations, and any idea of an evolutionary process.
For a start, recognition of "electronic" art varies arbitrarily from
place to place. London is supposed to be a happening place, cyber cafes
and so on. But there haven't been any significant shows since '68. A
quite ambitious show I was curating (VR, interactive, etc, mostly from
overseas) got cancelled early this year, and I hit a lot of resistance
and misunderstanding (familiar enough from trying to show my own stuff
here). We don't even have "computer art programs" in London art schools.
In evolutionary terms we lag 5 to 10 years behind some of the computer
art faculties I've seen in the US. There are all sorts of reasons for
this, but it doesn't make it impossible to do your own work... maybe it
makes you sharper. Some work I see doesn't get any better with extra
funding...not that I'd refuse the funding.

Evolution..? Well, I'm not sure. Do you remember kinetic art? Art
history, or music history for that matter, is full of dead ends,
reverses, sudden corners and stupid boasts. It's never forwards and
onwards. So I'm not convinced that interactive, virtual, or web-based
pieces are "further on"... they just have our approval right now, a kind
of "art of the future" status. I'm often impressed, but not often moved.
OK, as a 2D artist I'm biased, and maybe reacting to the way "computer
graphics" (another non-category) gets a bit marginalized. Animation is a
bit out there too. For me the highlights of ISEA 96 were not on the web
but on the fringe, and certainly not at the centre of any debate: Troy
Innocent's PSY Vision fragments; Beriou's Limbes; Boustani's Bruges; and
above all Mari Kimura in the concert, especially the Nancarrow violin
sonata. I liked the sensuality, the directness, the passion.

A final point. I'd like more from the scientists - like Roger Malina.
Just a taste of some of your projects - illustrated...e.g. the Rosetta
mission...what does a probe landing on the ice of a comet look like?
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