"loaded 5x" Interview with Doug Aitken

Posted by Rhizome | Thu May 22nd 1997 1 a.m.

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Editor's Note:

Artist Doug Aitken has been featured in the 1997 Whitney Biennial, the 1996 New
York Film Festival, the 1996 International Festival of New Film and Video
(Croatia) and the 1995 Telluride Film Festival. His Web project with ada 'web,
"loaded 5x," is available at http://adaweb.com/project/aitken. More biographical
information on Aitken is available at

Recently, Adam Glickman spoke with Aitken about his online ad(venture).
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Adam: How did the project with ada'web come about?

Doug: for me it was quite interesting because Benjamin [Weil] presented
the project as an open forum. Web projects, media that is a little more
internet-oriented if you can call it that, is not something that I have
worked with very much. For me it was an opportunity to work with
something where I wasn't sure where the structure lied. At first I
found myself trying to bring my own agenda, my own way of working, to
the project. In that process I ran up against a number of limitations. I
realized after a short time that I had to restructure my thought pattern
to create a more non-linear approach. That was something that I really
enjoyed about working on this piece and also in this medium. Just in
terms of narrative, you're not forced into the linear structure, whereas
if you are working in a film-like medium, you become almost conditioned

a: A dichotomy between new and old media is continuously being
reiterated. As an artist working in both, how do you experience that

d: I think [new media] is more of a term than anything else. And I think
its somewhat of a misconception because it just comes back to
communication. Communication is paramount and what medium or what format
you utilize should be a non-issue. In some respects that has created a
barrier for new media, especially web new media, because often times
maybe the media itself comes before the concept, before the ideas and
ends up navigating or dictating the outcome. And I think that's probably
the most problematic thing with it right now.

a: do you have any other thought into how you might want to go about
utilizing this medium?

d: I found that my attraction to it is in terms of narrative. I think
there is an incredible potential in creating new narrative structures.
That is something that just fascinated me about the project with
ada'web, the notion that you could create a random assembly narrative.
I've always been interested in cinema, but no matter how you slice it,
you're dealing with a single line. And those parameters are just
understood. But its not the same working on the web. Right now it seems
like a laboratory where nothing is really decided. And hopefully it
never will be and it can have that kind of continuous growth as an open
space for exploration.

a: Explain the implications of nonlinear narrative.

d: Nonlinearity is such an open-ended term, its like saying "landscape,"
and landscape is there to explore. Right now we've barely touched on the
potential of it. If you look at the history of narrative and
storytelling, and then you jump ahead to the present, there is suddenly
a new way to approach narrative. Its one of the first times in history
where there is a way to not run directly through the narrative in a
linear fashion. That for me is what it has to offer and that is the real
breakthrough - just having that format, and I'm really curious to see
what people are going to make out of it., how that can be encountered
and dealt with. I think it is a potential tool for a new style of myth

a: What is the level of interest you've encountered in art institutions
for web-based pieces?

d: I think there is a growing interest in projects like this. But there
is always that jump into the unknown, and in a lot of situations it
isn't clear territory, it isn't something that institutions and museums
understand fully. But they still see the importance and have the desire
to create something. So, it is something that will develop in the next
five years, and more artists that don't traditionally work in new media,
there's that term again, are going to start exploring the potential. I
don't think that bridge is totally constructed yet.

a: What are the parallels and differences between works on the web and

d: There are similarities. Early in the history of video art, the number
of artists using video and the audience for it were small. I think that
video and installation art have gained a considerable audience in the
last five or ten years due in part to the fact that the medium itself is
so closely aligned with popular culture. After a while it no longer
seems foreign or risky. For new media and the web, that barrier is much
less present. There has been an audience that has been coming to it for
information, and now there can be more of an emphasis on experience than
just accessing raw data, and on projects that you can penetrate on an
intellectual level. The accessibility of the web as well has a lot to
do with the success of the medium.
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