What designates a work of art as "new media," exactly? The answer might be found in a recently-published book, "The Language of New Media" (MIT Press, 2001), by new media scholar Lev Manovich. In the book, he is careful to distinguish between analog forms merely transposed to a digital version and truly new media, such as interfaces and database algorithms. Manovich also places more recent formats and platforms within an art historical context and a broader cultural continuum while simultaneously attempting to present a fresh vernacular. Thankfully, although he's an academic, Manovich presents his ideas in language that is anything but esoteric.
Michael Mandiberg has scanned photographs shot by noted artist Sherrie Levine in the late 1970s, taken of black and white documentary photographs of Depression-era Alabama sharecroppers originally photographed in 1936 by the legendary Walker Evans. Mandiberg has posted his digital photos, essentially reproductions of reproductions, on two Web sites he has created: AfterSherrieLevine.com and AfterWalkerEvans.com. The public is prompted to download and print Mandiberg's third-hand images along with a "certificate of authenticity" -- stating that the re-appropriated photographs are genuine Mandibergs. Printed out at 850 dpi, they have the same resolution as the Levine photographs, yet look almost exactly like the original Evans images. This conceptual work of net art forces us to question how we choose to value an image -- or not.
We all are aware of a Web site's name as it pops up in our browser. But how many of us know the secret identity of any given Web site -- the numerical IP address? Bay Area artist, curator, and scholar Lisa Jevbratt and her fellow members of the collective C5 are creating a database of IP addresses that serves as a non-narrative work of net art (entitled "1:1") that reminds viewers of the intricate, unseen design of the Web. At last count, two percent of the spectrum has been searched and 186,100 sites have been included.
Two recent trends: one, the blurring of boundaries between art, architecture, and a digital-age aesthetic; two, the internet as a site for symposia in which experts around the globe can participate in a round-the-clock roundtable discussion. Both trends collide with Artforum's recent online symposium, entitled "Art and Architecture in the Age of Design," featuring gallery owner Henry Urbach, Galia Solomonoff, partner at Open Office Art and Architecture Projects and Vito Acconci, artist and designer, among other notable figures. The postings are moderated by Philip Nobel, contributing editor for Metropolis magazine, contributor to the New York Times, Architectural Digest, Artforum, and essayist for a forthcoming book the New York firm LOT/EK. Don't worry if you're on summer vacation or missed the live posts. The symposium's archived (along with an earlier online discussion on digital art...)
Tonight, if you're in Los Angeles, stop by the Electronic Orphanage at 975 Chung King Road and witness the third installment of "Siggraph Nights," a preview of the net art component of the Tirana Biennale, entitled "10 Hours," which opens in Albania next month. Curator Miltos Manetas has assembled intriguing Web sites that range from the home pages of new media theorists (like Lev Manovich, author of the recently released book "The Language of New Media") to online art and design projects. The series continues through August 19th. It's for nightowls only: the events begin at midnight and end at 4 AM each night.
Brian Judy, the creator of "The Grid," has worked in computer gaming industry, and his latest piece displays a hint of a gaming sensibility. Those who log on take an active role by intuitively scrolling their cursors across the matrix-like structure of the home page, void of navigational directions. Various abstract digital forms appear. It takes time, patience, and a sense of adventure to figure out how to maneuver through the site to get to different levels of this multilayered work of net art -- sort of like pondering a modernist painting, only this one moves...and keeps moving, the more you scroll and click.
Is it possible to create site-specific work for the Internet? Especially since a Web site is essentially an ephemeral, abstract construct? Simon Biggs' "Babel" is an impressionistic data browser that confronts these issues head on. Using the Dewey Decimal system as a means to navigate the Internet and (essentially numerical code), "Babel" creates a shared 3-D data space (among all who log onto the site simultaneously) that disintegrates into an indecipherable landscape. Ultimately, the jumble of colorful numbers serves as a poetic metaphor for the endless amounts of information available online.