Recreating Reality -- Redefining Art
A continual process

by Nancie Clark

Art has been and continues to be recognized as a means of communicating ideas through the technology of the times. From lasers, holograms, lumino-kineticism, light art and photography to cinematography; from conceptual and performance art to video; from computational design and computer design to virtual communities, robotics and artificial intelligence -- the progression towards the evolution of art has coalesced in a pool of inspiration of diverse electronics and science.

Technology is the form through which these ideas manifest. The artistic urge to convey ideas stems from an inward desire to communicate a vision. If the form by which the artist chooses to employ ideas is faulty, the ideas collapse. If the form is solid, the ideas and visions of artists transcend across eons as cultural statements. The technical expertise determines how well the artist utilizes tools in order to express her vision. Cave dwellers scratched ideas on canvasses of solid rock with intrepid flint. Artists today engrave ideas in the history of the future with electronic environs adding depth and interactivity to their visions.

An example of a cleverly engineered electronic design which allows for interactivity and innovation is found in a stunning piece of electronic art entitled "A-Volve" by artists Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau. It portrays a vision of evolution. The 3-D installation is set up to enable each players or viewer to draw an image with the touch of his finger to an electronic pad. This shape, a primary a symbol, manifests in a actual pool of water. From there on, the shape evolves into a life of its own. Different shapes created by different players either mate and exchange their genetic coding, or they expire.

How do the changes in art -- the redefinition and reinvention of art -- affect culture? By a continual proliferation of creative expression by many through the accessibility of current day technologies. For artists who specialize in communications, the vast electronic networks are more than a system of information distribution. They are the symbolic foundation which opportune a spatial and temporal perception. The computer and telecommunications are essential in the continuation of art's recreation and redefinition, if only because they are the technologies of the times. This process is a perpetual operation. In doing so, an artist uses the technology as context along with aesthetic understanding as content to produce a body of art that has purpose. It is a sense of a fundamental view of life, whether a dirty struggle or a glorious vision -- tragic or far reaching. Art expresses a certain value system or a view of life as the artist sees it from her reference point -- past, present and future.

Interactivity and joint-authorship offer a challenge. If art is designed to present a value or a world view, then does making art interactive detract from the artist's ability to express a value? Given that when the artist invites participation, that participatory interaction adds new value or interpretation. Does this detract from what the artist has originally created, or can the framework allow that interaction while still maintaining the ability to express what the artists initially had in mind? For example, what if an artist builds a virtual world where the framework is a battle of antagonists -- can this art be creative while building something destructive? Can a virtual world that promotes optimal thinking and creativity be at the discretion of how well the players create something enlightening?

Participatory and interactive art brings a provocation to the question of who has the right to redefine art. If the individual mode of expression remains primary in the manifestation of a concept, is it the engineer or the viewer? Critics may attempt to decide for you or me what is art and what is not art in substance as well as definition. I challenge their aesthetic know-how and I challenge their pockets. Certainly the critique as a literary medium is valid and noteworthy, yet the appreciation of art cannot belong to anyone other than the individual to whom it is experienced. Therefore, personal taste is the definitive judge of its desirability.

Performance Art offers an example. "The history of performance art in the twentieth century is the history of a permissive, open-ended medium with endless variables, executed by artists impatient with the limitations of more established art forms, and determined to take their art directly to the public. For this reason its base has always been anarchic." Performance Art, Rose Lee Goldberg.

Performance Art can be an immediate and overall conscious mode of expression. It does not bear an absolute definition, leaving it continually open to redefinition and reinvention. Whether or not this is a cheep shot or a mythical experience, it is up to the authoring artist and his talent to convey information and ideas. Within the realms of performance art, the artist has leeway to do just about anything, and usually does. On a more academic note, it allows the artist to compose compositions with a collaborative sense by utilizing a variety of individual skills. In this sense, one is not just a designer, an author, a producer, an actress, but an architect of vision engineered to communicate information. Thus, it can be all encompassing. Perhaps there is more stress in the completion of such a challenge; but, on an individual note, there can be more freedom of expression and less time to worry about what to do with dormant talents.

Artists can be zealous activists in stretching the limits of vision. As cultural agents -- the artist can assert her creative talents towards an optimal future. Rather than let our imaginations become hijacked by perpetual, continuous mass dissemination of information, an opportunity awaits the artistic cultural landscape. All the aspects of aspiration are here, now, and the culture has been calling for a new context and infrastructure. A choice is to create images that are important but may not be identified as commercially viable, just yet. If the culture is not ready to identify a value to a new context, then do it anyway! It will catch up. As an architectural metaphor -- the context is the technology, the content the aesthetics.

Now, as we move into the 21st Century -- towards transhumanity, indefinite lifespans and extraterrestrial environments -- the development of ultra intelligent machines affects our view of art. More than ever, art will grow more optimistic and inherent in the world around us. New kinds of artifacts and new kinds of Transhuman networks can evolve as far out into the capillaries of our culture as possible.

How will 21st Century art look? It will look like the 21st Century technology space craft that will stream across the solar system and beyond; like the new and versatile durable immortal bodies that we will inhabit; like the symbolic foundations for electronic networks that will carry information; like the vision of those imaginative to transcend the limitations of their conditions with the fusion of biology and intelligent machines.

Today the very core of creativity lies in imagination encapsulated in the brain. Tomorrow the recipe for any and all vision will become the blending of disciplines crossing all boundaries, physical and intellectual. There will be challenges that far transcend challenges of the past -- more complex, more unpredictable, more exotic than anything with which we have had yet to deal.

Nancie Clark
EXTRO-2 Conference

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