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connecting to digital art













will bauer & steve gibson - objects of ritual
perry hoberman - bar code hotel
micahel naimark - field recording studies

i was drawn to the works of the above people as discussed in the book immersed in technology: art and virtual environments by mary anne moser and douglas macleod, because of their inclusion of real world objects in their explorations of art and technology. virtual reality realms and immersive technologies that exist solely as computer generated images on a screen feel very limited and detached. i have always had difficulty really connecting to artwork that is strictly computer generated and exists on a screen, especially work that is surreal or fantasy related. if it has some kind of narrative and/or hand drawn, photographic or textural element i am automatically more interested in experiencing the piece. but if it has a more direct connection to real objects, other people, and using my body in space to help understand the work, as do bar code hotel and objects of ritual, then i am much more interested. also, in the case of michael naimark's work field recording studies, the use of older technologies in the process and viewing of the work makes it more real and interesting to me. this is the connection i see among these three works and this would be the area i would want to pursue in my own work, beginning with a strong narrative, or hand-made element in my art made with computers, extending out to the viewer through objects and experiences other than the screen.

the "objects of ritual" piece is dependent on human interaction among each other as well as the technology, within a space over a period of real time. the bar code hotel is capable of but not dependent on multiple participants, however it does require human interaction with objects in an installation space rather than a virtual on-line space. the field recording studies, which was described with more emphasis on process rather than viewer experience, questions the use of older technologies in connection with the current issues of immersive, virtual worlds.

i really enjoyed their reflections on the role of the artist and its relation to available technologies. "is it possible to talk about expressivity in connection with virtual reality and digital technology? or is the public perception that technological art is an inevitably cold medium becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy?" -will bauer

michael naimark's pushed the limits of each of the processes using photography, film, computer software and installations. he had a healthy perspective about when to use the newer computer technologies and when to resort back to older, more reliable and sometimes higher quality technologies such as video and the stereoscopes. "at this point i gave up on computer technology. we were using the world's most powerful graphics computer and it kept choking. the industry, and art, is built around making computer models from scratch rather than from cameras." i found the reintroduction of the stereo image process fascinating - there is such a strong connection between the "new and exciting" technologies from the early stages of an invention, of film, tv, radio, telephones... the stages when problems were being solved in diverse and creative solutions, to the early stages of using the computer to create artwork. i'm experiencing something similar now with using the letterpress type machine technology to create imagery and artwork that i can so easily connect to work i create with computers, photo processes or traditional printmaking.

i was also intrigued by the interaction that was designed by the bar code hotel. the artist recognizes the potential of an installation, "since any bar code can be scanned at any time, the narrative logic of bar code hotel is strictly dependent on the decisions and whims of its guests. it can be played like a game without rules, or like a musical ensemble. objects and their surroundings can be manipulated. it can seem to be a slow and graceful dance, or a slapstick comedy..." that could on brief examination be a hohum work. but by investing time in the space and allowing your choices to be reflected back to you and invite you to continue the interaction becomes more intriguing.

the issue that hoberman raises about the use of "debased technologies" was interesting - "almost every month seems to offer radical new media. this is undeniably useful when promoting and marketing something, but it can be misleading and counterproductive for artmaking." here my response is that it is good to stick to a single approach and push the limits, to really interact with a piece of technology before moving on, otherwise trying to constantly upgrade to different approaches won't leave the time or energy to make art. later he asks about those technologies that didn't become highly used, and it further raises the issue of either choosing to keep up and know enough to find the software that offers the "easiest" solution or to limit yourself to what you know and make art by responding to the process that the "older" technology has available - perhaps the older is more appropriate in many cases, or a combination of the new and the old. somehow using the stereoscope or the bar code makes the work feel more real, heftier, it offers meaning beyond its computer aspect.

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