Technophobia, a new CD-ROM, manages to cover a real variety of
computer-based art by an international assortment of artists–from lush
"VR" graphics to ironic pop culture commentaries, from posing conceptual
or intellectual problems to exploring machine-body interactions. The
most successful of these were those which took into account the specific
qualities of the medium which consists of a mildly interactive exchange
between a single viewer and a personal computer. In addition to the
projects themselves, there is a space for each artist to present their
views on the implications of digital media in their work. While the
viewer has the option to avoid these windows, the chance to explore a
bit of insight into the thought processes behind the work is one option
that a CD-ROM can make available.
"Idea-On," subtitled "prototypes for virtual worlds," by Troy Innocent,
is the most indulgent dabble into the visual possibilities of computer
graphics. Here, three-dimensional computer-generated landscapes "sprout"
tree-like projections or cellular forms which expand branch upon branch;
or you can dive into water where sea monsters swim by and swirling
designs envelop the pool. The risk with projects like this one, of
course, is in producing the equivalent of a visually striking, but
otherwise pointless video game–the "effect upon effect" syndrome which
Tim Maul, another artist on the CD-ROM, compares to the how-to-paint
programs on PBS television. To the extent that Innocent avoids this, it
is due to the combination of viewer control and the "organic" aspect of
the images which grow and sprout beyond of viewer intention.
In some ways on the opposite end of the spectrum, Bill Albertini's more
sparse, conceptual project, called "Viewer," is a self-reflective,
ironic, and even subtly humorous exploration of the space of the viewer
in their interaction with machines. It consists of a photograph of a
computer screen, a television, and a white cube all connected with
electrical cords, plugs and powerstrips, as if on a desk top. Clicking
on the tv monitor produces either snow-static or, alternatively, another
image of itself on the desk, reproducing, *mise-en-abyme*, the whole
scene including, by implication, the viewer his or herself, and their
desk, computer, etc. Clicking on the white cube–a metaphor for both
gallery and computer–causes electricity to zap through the cord.
Another click causes the tv monitor to melt and morph into a red glob
and re-morph again into various organic globs.
In his "interview" section, Joe Ferrarri talks about the specific
relationship between artist, viewer, and artwork experienced on a pc.
Different from either a museum/gallery space or television space in that
produces a personal, even erotic space–one on one in close proximity
with physical contact, perhaps even in the privacy of the home. Taking
the premise of this private, domestic and erotic space, Ferrari produces
"Does not Speak its Name," a meditation on gay identity. This project
combines words and images which can be manipulated by the viewer, but
flash so rapidly that the interaction cannot really be controlled. In
one sequence, images of white picket fences are combined with words like
"dreams," "we," "silly"; later images of a man's face is combined with
words like "wrong," "abomination," "perverted," "unnatural," etc.; or
another series combines burning crosses with "traditional," "family,"
"values," "morality" or "don't" "ask" "don't" "tell."
A few other of the artists seemed to have potentially interesting
projects, but didn't quite manage to successfully translate them to
satisfy the requirements of a CD-ROM. I could imagine, for example,
that the sci-fi inflected sounds and graphics of Huma Bhabba's "Giddick"
would probably be more effective as sculptural installations. On a
personal computer screen, the floating globs, strange faces, and alien
fetuses don't disorient or overwhelm; and the sucking sounds and other
suggestive noises don't disturb or bewilder as much as annoy.
For more information about the CD-ROM, its artists or its organizers, or