The New Modern Age of Electronic Art

Not long ago, producing art that utilized electronic technology required esoteric machinery and technological genius. Maybe it would consist of an array of flashing lights or repetitive images on a television screen (and the latter possibility is only since video). Now, not only is it possible to easily and cheaply explore the potential of electro-media with modern computers, but there is software to make it easy (such as PhotoShop or QuickTime) and an interconnected world wide community to which it can easily be published (the Web).

This new freedom and possibility creates many new questions as to the nature of art and art criticism. How can the junk be weeded out from the good stuff if everything is easily published? What new criteria should electronic art be judged? Can an Internet artist make a living with art and so have more time to produce more art? How might one create an electronic art gallery?

Most of the above questions will have to be answered in time, but as far as electronic art galleries are concerned, there are those that are just going ahead and making them. Really a Web Art Gallery (WAG {?}) is an interface to a collection of hypertextual links that lead to histories, biographies, reviews, and the art itself. This is a somewhat different paradigm than a brick-and-mortar gallery where one simply walks in and views artwork while drinking wine out of a box. Not only that, but the electronic reproduction that one views on one's computer is actually the original (your zeros and ones are no different than my zeros and ones).

An example of a WAG is Digital Studies/Being in Cyberspace. This site includes a collection of links to some very creative and entertaining electronic art, Net theory, and some info/views. Interspersed between this list of links is digital rhetoric pertaining to this same subject. This is a really great collection with diverse examples of some possibilities that have been explored in the digital medium. Some are dynamic, with moving images; some have sound; some change depending on the actions of the user. All of it can be seen on demand at any time of the day or night and from anywhere in the world.

One piece that I really liked was Fuzzy Dreamz, by Dr. Hugo. In this piece, the user clicks on little star icons which start six repeated short loop movies as well as a looped music sample. The thrust of the piece is the juxtapositioning and the re-contextualizing of familiar images. One image might be a woman waking up startled from a nightmare, and the above image shows what the nightmare was. Generally the top set of images are meta-images to the bottom set. The music sample creates a mood or environment, which adds texture to the artistic expression. Some of the combinations can be pretty moving.

Many of the other pieces in the Digital Studies art gallery are equally as engaging. As computer interfaces become more transparent and intuitive, electronic technology will feel more like a paint brush than a piece of geek machinery and will be accessible to an even greater number of artists.

Joe Farbrook

Museums of the Mind ||