Being There (excerpt)

Being There

Eno and Anderson were featured at something called The Imagination
Conference in San Francisco this past weekend (June 8), and since I'm
thousands of miles away, I was glad HotWired announced a week ahead of time
that they'd be carrying the event live.


Both Eno and Anderson were concerned at the outset with feeding the art world
nuggets mined from pop culture and vice versa. And both have always had a thing
for new technologies and how they might be put to art's use.

So it's interesting that while both have evidently been "on the Net" for
years, neither has yet actually produced an artwork there. Instead of being
attracted to cyberspace as creative space, both have been drawn to other forms
of new media art as evidently more direct extensions of the art they'd been
doing in the first place.

Laurie Anderson's early performances featured inventions such as a violin
played with bow outfitted with magnetic tape. More recently, Anderson has
remarked that she likes CD-ROMs because they never end.

Brian Eno's work seems to have had the unique and not insignificant quality
that those drawn to it were on the Net early on. Before the Web, there were
newsgroups and mailing lists built on a nearly fanatic obsession with anything
the man did at all.


Eno is essentially a spontaneous tinkerer, so we may not see
an intricately constructed Web site or CD-ROM until the means of their
production jive more smoothly with his methods. Further, he's not all that
wild about the computer-to-person experience.

The more I learned about what would actually transpire at the Imagination
Conference, the less interested I was in logging into it… Anderson's might
be interesting, but diving into the live chat before the event might be even better.

So I did… When I tried to log into the event, however, I discovered I simply
wasn't well enough equipped to take it in. The lines were sluggish and the WebVideo,
even set at its lowest rate of image delivery, exhausted my patience.

I've got nothing but praise for the intentions behind making an art event
accessible to the entire globe. The basic idea is one of the aspects the
Net gets hyped for, and rightfully so. Content providers, whether that
content is art or not, are placed on a level playing field where, armed
with URLs like skeleton keys, anyone can move freely among the beauty and
the bile.

But theory and practice butt heads once again when the technical
requirements for taking part include add-ons and plug-ins or even certain
levels of bandwidth and processing power most of us don't have access to.
… Until practice catches up with theory,reading about it in the next day's
morning paper remains the next best thing to being there.

As noted, there are loads of places to go on the Web for more Brian Eno and
Laurie Anderson. Conveniently, they're rounded up at Pop. Pop's Gallery,
by the way, is shockingly unimpressive, but that's another subject altogether: