Monday, May 29, 2006

or New Media Art

The Taschen "New Media Art" put me on a couple of new angles to Internet Art or New Media Art as they call it (although the label as a reference to the employment of "emerging media technologies" seems on the one hand of its time only - why appropriate the term when other media will come along sooner or later?).

So we have hacktivist artists who combine political activism with art. See Borderxing Guide and then data visualisationists who make data patterns more visual, eg. in the project

But there are also those who explore the world of technology and its relation to traditional art and media more thoroughly, and it is some of these projects that I find the most interesting.

First in line we have Life Sharing - an anagrammatical play on file sharing - by Eva and Franco Mattes shared the content of their computer online using the Linux Debian OS and opened up a whole can of worms: the notion that privacy in the contemporary information era is becoming an outdated concept (and what will replace it? Perhaps, as Donna Haraway says in her A Cyborg Manifesto, a hybridised cyborg citizenship!). It is not purely for show either - it is true sharing, everything can be downloaded the same way that software can be shared in the open source community. It problematises the notion of sharing and who can use it, since we are all aware that our identities are floating around the databases of large corporations. How visible are we really? Can our identities be constructed into profiles that are as defined as Eva and Franco allow?

For every old school gamer (which includes me - I haven't played a contemporary game in years, but how can I ever forget the joys of Software Projects' Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy, or Gremlin Graphics' Bounder and Trailblazer?) Cory Arcangel's Super Mario Clouds evokes the nostalgia inherent in the almost iconic familiarity of clouds in Super Mario Bros. He hacked away to edit out the rest of the onscreen digital presences, leaving only the clouds.

And finally, for a more intellectual experience one may go and look at the excellent The Intruder, brainchild of Natalie Bookchin. It explores the line between narration in the traditional literary sense, using a short story of Jorge Luis Borges, and information media by weaving the story - a misogynistic plot wherein two brothers mistreat and eventually murder a sexually enslaved woman - into a simple computer game wherein the different stages engage the user to participate in the story by moving it forward whenever certain game actions are successful. The game is very simple but the concept is adequately realised. I found the voice over quite atmospheric.

The possibilities opened up by these commentaries are quite vast. Imagine the subversion possible in online games such as World of Warcraft! Creatures that criticise the violence or the quests themselves - annoying online consciences that spread their thoughts by constructing protests or hacking the very network fabric that holds the game together.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Never let me go and stay connected

I finished reading Never Let Me Go on Monday and my clearest memory is the perception of the main characters' dilemma - their sheltered upbringing, then their gradual acceptance of their sad fate - as analogous to the fate of people in society in general. Those of us brought up in above average families in terms of education and economic wealth, and a measure of love, tend not to lack some cherished dreams and fantasies lingering from childhood into adulthood. But what a shock adulthood can be for so many! Expending your energies for the sake of others who are shut off from you by the barriers and burdens of bureaucracy, in order to earn a living. This, it occured to me, is what was meant by the concept of a donation.

Of course I don't pretend that the analogy holds up all the way, perhaps I am too self-centred and my own life's anomalies prevent me from imagining Ishiguro's characters living the way he wants us to believe they did. They are me, and I am not a clone. Although it is just as true that in the bureaucratic world I am replaceable like practically anyone else. New age self-growth remedies aside, no amount of self-promotion will ever cause that annoying reminder of bottom-line factuality to stay away.

On a different note I was thinking of the fundamental connectedness of everything and everyone and wanted to remind you that this highly spiritual concept does not you shouldn't disconnect from time to time. But ideally, hey, I think the connection is the healthiest thing one earth! What can be better for your emotional, physical, and mental health than having the harmonious companionship and support of your entire being?

Has Internet Art been forgotten? Not at all! It has transported itself through time and will reappear in soon. xxx