rethinking mind/body [excerpt]

Posted by Rhizome | Mon Mar 17th 1997 1 a.m.

Disembodied Mind (www.interaccess.org/disembodied)

Fresh reporting challenges are created by the complexities of the
transforming contemporary art world. This is especially true when
writing for on-line journals -I kept thinking,- while trying to condense
my views on the new alliances evolving between artists, curators,
galleries and audiences. Two recent exhibitions at InterAcess, Toronto's
electronic art gallery, demonstrated both the diverse aspects of the
shifting currents in digi-art and the emergence of a new vocabulary
which is most evident in the artscape of new technologies.

Since 1982, InterAccess, an artist-run center, has been providing access
for media artists to create work in Toronto. In the last few years
-through a process of self-exploration and by acquiring downtown gallery
space- the collective shifted its focus from access and production to
providing integrated activities of education, production, critical
analysis and showcasing electronic media artworks. The InterAcces
website provides further dimensions for this integrated "ecology" - the
latest projects continue their virtual existence in Cyberspace.

Disembodied Mind, showing works by David Clark, Timothy Dallett, John
Massey, David Rokeby, Jack Butler and Victoria Scott, opened on January
11, 1997. The aim was to experiment with the process of curating and to
offer new interpretations of the relationship between physical and
intellectual presence. By focusing on mind/body duality the intention
was to investigate the prominent views of the "obsolete" physical body
in favour of a "disembodied" mind. Disregarding the call for
"disembodied" work, the obviously embodied statements at the exhibition
evoked the widespread arguments surrounding the notions of redundancy
versus resurrection.

[...]

"Looking around at this exhibition" said Jack Butler curator "I am
coming to the conclusion that the digitally-based, electronically
oriented, computer-set art is in fact intensely embodied. Images, like
the very sexy photographs by Singleton and Massey, are presented on the
walls in traditional art format and they hide the fact that they are
constructed digitally and involve mutual interventions. Scott's huge
wheel, I consider a parody of mechanical technology as it perpetually
delivers the portrait of her father into the fire."

In the middle of the gallery, David Rokeby's experimental interactive
system "Giver of Names" presented an investigation into the structure
and development of language, while nearby "Fate Maps for the New Brain",
Jack Butler's quick time video projection of developing fetal embryonic
cells provided an intriguing complement. The fused historical and home
movie images of David Clark's "GaGe" kept visitors transfixed to the
computer screen.

"In terms of embodiement, Clark extended the hand into the computer with
handwritten text in a hypertext multimedia setting, including the
hand-painted movie screen. My piece, the "Fate Maps for the New Brain"
is about the development of the neuro system in the body of the embryo.
David's piece is about the body of language, body and language, body in
language, language as a body." said Butler "It seems to me even in its
most disembodied computer form, the text is about is how language and
body interplay".

David Rokeby has been working on Giver of Names since 1990. An early
fragment form of this work was shown at the Disembodied Mind exhibit,
the first large show of the more complete work is scheduled for the Fall
1997 at ICC in Tokyo, Japan. I was completely fascinated by this work
and asked him to explain it in detail.

"I had to figure out how to take this potential structure and fill it
very quickly with information" -said David. "The easiest way was to take
already written material. I found it an appropriate experiment for this
new system to read my texts and see what it gathered from that
information. So the system has read most of my texts which existed in
electronic form and it simply chopped this into groups of three
consecutive words. Each set was stored and then the system wandered
through this -in a sense- completely deconstructed metatext. So the
whole Giver of Names project is in a sense a research investigation, an
inquiry into the nature of expression in formulation in digital media."

[...]
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