The exhibition The Art Formerly Know As New Media marks the 10th anniversary of the Banff New Media Institute at The Banff Centre. The twelve projects were selected from the work of over 600 artists who have participated in the Institute's programming (symposia, co-productions, labs) in the last decade. We chose not to make it an historical retrospective of work commissioned, produced or previously presented at Banff. It is a refreshed look at how we have come to understand both what new media and art mean.
Recent histories of new media have focused on its range in form interactive installations, dynamic interfaces, software, responsive performances, immersive spaces, the Internet. Histories of art have traditionally focused on meaning and how artworks present unique perspectives on broader questions of economics, politics, social relations, public space, leisure, aesthetics, and memory. In this exhibition we propose that the best of contemporary new media art is important for what it says and not, primarily, for how it is made.
In the front half of the gallery the projects on view interrogate newness in new media by appropriating old forms of media to new ends a patent, a kinetoscope, a radio signal, and software. Each artwork makes reference to, and yet is of interest beyond developments in methods of communication and tools of representation. Next, after traveling through two early net-art projects and the sped-up time-warp of 3 Seconds in the History of the Internet, you enter a space in which some of the distinctive characteristics of new media challenge our traditional assumptions of the work of art, particularly that art can be an interactive and dynamic platform rather than a fixed product. Here new media art is seen as research and as something ongoing and collaborative. Toward the back of the exhibition the projects foreground the relationship between mind and body, from artificial intelligence to the cybernetic control of behaviour in animals, from the human control of software to the physical self and its limits; in short, what it means to be human as we increasingly become machine.
All of the works in The Art Formerly Known As New Media challenge and exceed the terminology by which they have, at least initially, been categorized and theorized. This art is indeed much more than the media in which it is inscribed, just as the importance of art is to be found in its meaning not its means. We are grateful that the Banff New Media Institute has been here to help flesh out the meaning of our mediated cultural lives over such a significant period of time. This exhibition is one way of pausing to honour that important, ongoing work.
Brandon is an ambitious, multi-part, multi-venue, online/offline, and politically grounded artwork by Shu Lea Cheang, an artist whose work has been exhibited in two Whitney Biennials; at the InterCommunications Center (ICC), Tokyo; at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; The Project, New York; the Palais de Tokyo, Paris; FACT, Liverpool, and Public Netbase, Vienna. It derives its title from Teena Brandon / Brandon Teena, a gender-crossing individual who was raped and murdered in 1993 after his female anatomy was publicly exposed. Brandon uses a website to both present and link various explorations of gender-based issues - from a hyperlinked road trip along Nebraska's Route 75 to a fictional narrative in which Brandon falls in love with a 19th-century hermaphrodite and the two are scooped up by an alien spacecraft. In addition to the website exhibited here, the work also included public events and activities, which took place over the course of a year, such as a collaboration with Harvard's Institute on Arts and Civic Dialogue to stage an online public trial of sexual assaults in cyberspace.
The New York Times, Art in America, Artforum, Village Voice, and Wired each wrote about Brandon when it premiered as the "first website commissioned by the Guggenheim." This level of attention to new media art is hard to imagine today (or hard to recall), but at the time it seemed like a certain future. In the net community, as Rachel Greene noted on Rhizome at the time, Brandon
has a certain symbolic importance: . . . Internet art has reached a stage when museums and established art spaces and sponsors are interested in enough to invest time and resources.
Matthew Drutt, the associate curator for film and media who collaborated with media artist Shu Lea Cheang to develop the project, views Brandon as the foundation for the next Guggenheim--'the cyber equivalent of Bilbao.'
In fact, while the Guggenheim has since commissioned two other works of net-based art, the vision of a "cyber-bilbao" was never realized and Brandon was not scheduled to be formally accessioned in to the collection until this year.
Commissioned by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and produced in association with the Waag Society for Old and New Media, The Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue at Harvard University, and The Banff Centre, with additional funding from The Bohen Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Mondriaan Foundation, 1998-99
[Dollspace] deals with extreme psychological states, memories, fantasies, power relations, erotic relations, sexual taboo, amongst other things. - Francesca da Rimini
Da Rimini was one of the founding members of VNS Matrix, a pioneering artist group, which focused on the politics of women in art and technology, promulgating much of the early theory and activism around the term cyberfeminism with their 1991 Cyberfeminist Manifesto for the 21st century.
In Dollspace, da Rimini is less overtly political and takes on the fictional, semi-autobiographical identity of Doll Yoko, who, as she writes,
was born in a deep muddy pond in the mountains of Kyoto where women used to drown their infant daughters - so she is coded with a particular sadness and multiplicity of identities/voices which were silenced too young, before these cunts could present a danger to society.
is at the same time dead and alive, who wants to destroy and to be destroyed herself, is a deeply paradoxical figure, situated in an in-between space called "deep doll space zero" -- a space behind the closed eye through which the visitors have to enter in the beginning.
Dollspace was conceived in response to a poetic email dialogue da Rimini struck up with a Mexican Zapatista activist living in New York, Ricardo Dominguez, who created a parallel site, Hauntologies, "exploring the living dead who are excluded from the world of Capital and Power," the Zapatistas, and which is also interwoven throughout Dollspace, along with emails, commentary, memories, sound files, animations and graphics of others.
The accompanying "Soundtrack for an Empty Dollspace," was created by Michael Grimm.
CodeZebra is an ongoing collaborative project led by Sara Diamond investigating the visual representation and analysis of social interactions - in particular dialogue and conversation taking place on the Internet. The project thus far has included performances, club nights, games, workshops, and software development.
Diamond and her collaborators built four prototype visual chat systems using Java, voronoi sets and a mass and spring system. These are represented on the banners here. The left hand banner has an image of each version of the software (prototype 1 from 2001 built with John Tonkin; prototype 2 from 2002 led by Richard Lachman; prototypes 3 and 4 from 2004 built with V2). The second banner has three more detailed images of the latest prototypes. In all cases, individual online chat participants are represented by 'nodes' and their links (their conversations with other participants) are represented through proximity and the emotional quality of their posting (aggressive, happy, shy) represented through patterning. Topics of conversation and the intensity of the discussion are represented by the clustering.
The garments indicate the strong research interest within the Code Zebra project in wearable technologies and ideas of camouflage. They were used in performances and in workshops that used role-playing to analyze underlying social behaviors.
The video is a compilation of documentation and raw footage from Code Zebra performances and the 'lock-ups' performed in 2003 wherein pairs of artists and scientists were 'caged' together for 24-hour periods to come up with inventions and new concepts. Their social relations were captured through real-time video streams, documentary footage and online chats - the conversations and actions were logged and the dialogue analyzed (you can read these logs and analyses in the binders on the desk).
On the computers are both the current Code Zebra website, which documents all facets of the project and provides games to play and an archive showing the software running through the chat of one of the lock-ups. Given the rush in the last decade towards ever-more ubiquitous computing platforms and the customization of services that facilitate social interactions, Code Zebra represents a significant artist-driven work of ongoing research and development. It draws upon a longer debate of the relationship between art and science, the behaviours and characteristics of the inhabitants of those disciplines.
Sara Diamond was the founder and artistic director of the Banff New Media Institute until earlier this year when she took up the position of President of the Ontario College of Art and Design. She has had her work exhibited at the National Gallery of Canada in a retrospective in 1991. Her video installation and video works reside in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and many international galleries, universities, and colleges. CodeZebra has been exhibited at Digital Bodies, Ludwig Museum, Budapest, Hungary (as a dance, spoken word, music and software performance); Future Physical, United Kingdom (as part of dance club and conference events), the DEAF Festival, Rotterdam, Netherlands (as a habituation cage event) , at a conference about role-playing and visualization at University of Turku, Finland and used as a collaborative tool in workshops in the UK, Canada and the USA.
Garnet Hertz has implanted a miniature webserver in the body of a frog specimen, which is suspended in a clear glass container of mineral oil, an inert liquid that does not conduct electricity. The frog is viewable on the Internet, and on the computer monitor across the room, through a webcam placed on the wall of the gallery. Through an Ethernet cable connected to the embedded webserver, remote viewers can trigger movement in either the right or left leg of the frog, thereby updating Luigi Galvani's original 1786 experiment causing the legs of a dead frog to twitch simply by touching muscles and nerves with metal.
Experiments in Galvanism is both a reference to the origins of electricity, one of the earliest new media, and, through Galvani's discovery that bioelectric forces exist within living tissue, a nod to what many theorists and practitioners consider to be the new new media: bio(tech) art.
Hertz is a Fulbright Scholar and Research Fellow at the California
Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology. He is pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of California Irvine. Hertz's current artwork consists of developing hybrid insect/machine systems, taking cybernetic-inspired forms as an origin to analyze contemporary developments in "cyborg" existence: artificial life, body modification, biorobotics, genetic engineering and posthuman theory.
irational.org is an online platform for the single and collaborative activity of artists Heath Bunting, Rachel Baker, Minerva Cuevas, Marcus Valentine, Daniel Andujar and Kayle Brandon. Difficult to categorise, and even more difficult to document, their work has entailed the sharing of knowledge around topics as varied as genetically modified foods, passport control and immigration, urban landscape architectures, and methods of living and working. Using simple computer programming and a hands-on approach to the development of technological tools (i.e. databases, servers, community or pirate radio), irational have established themselves as one of the most important projects of the last decade.
The irationalists often collaborate on projects, but they are not, strictly speaking, an artmaking collective. Thus for this installation we sought to represent the contents of the server in an open and fluid manner, noting the creators of the projects housed on it. On the chalkboard timeline the projects' creators are denoted by a coloured vertical chalkline and each project has been assigned to the following categories, one concerned with type: product, service or information system (i.e. the database of medialabs or the guide to border crossing), and one concerned with thematics: GM (genetically modified), hacking, roaming and social networks (i.e. the mobile camera obscura or tigertxt). Each of the irationalists engage in activities within the cultural field that spread beyond what is housed on the server - Minerva Cuevas has a busy fine art career, Rachel Baker is in a rock band. Yet the ways of working established by the initial irationalists in 1995 - free exchange, critique of structures, that life is in many ways performed art -- remain even more pertinent today.
The vitrine includes archival objects related to projects while the computer allows you to access the website and listen to the London Pirate radio scanner, log your journey on the irational courier system, or participate in the many other projects listed on the wall.
See Banff! is an interactive installation based on an Edison kinetoscope, an early form of moving images. On top of the cabinet is a stereoscopic hood for viewing short sequences filmed by Michael Naimark with Gilles Tasse around Banff and rural Alberta in 1993. A hand crank on the side of the cabinet allows the viewer to "roll" the short films forwards or backwards. Next to the viewer is a lever to select one of 14 silent views.
The Edison kinetoscope was introduced to the public in April 1894, and "movies" such as "The Wrestling Dog," "The Boxing Cats," and one about a sneeze were immediate successes. Less than two years later, however, on December 28, 1895, Louis and Auguste Lumiere projected films onto a screen for a paying audience of 33 people. The new medium of the kinetoscope had been replaced by the next new medium of the projected film, although arguably both constitute types of cinema.
Technically the See Banff! films were recorded with two stop-frame 16mm film cameras mounted on a "super jogger" baby carriage. Stereoscopic recording was either triggered by an intervalometer (for timelapse) or by an encoder on one of the carriage wheels (for dollys and moviemaps). Naimark and Tasse made over 100 sequences with this rig. Aesthetically, Naimark relates,
On the one hand, the sites in the Banff area are monumental in their grace and beauty. Some are sacred. On the other hand, watching the tourists at these sites told a different story. Busses and busses pulled in and out of parking lots seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Tourists would get out - cameras in hand - for twenty minutes, then back on the busses off to another site. Gilles and I agreed that the strength of the footage would lie in counterpointing these two conflicting messages.
See Banff! was first developed during the Art and Virtual Environments programme here at the Banff Centre, a programme central to the founding of the Banff New Media Institute a year later. Of the 9 projects by 15 artists, in the medium of virtual reality, creating during that residency, only See Banff! has been selected for this exhibition due to its central connection with the place and its clear representation of repurposed formerly new media.
Naimark is a media artist and researcher with over 25 years of experience investigating "place representation." He has worked extensively with field cinematography, interactive systems, and immersive projection. He was instrumental in the founding of several world-renown research labs.
For its presentation here, the artist undertook a substantial upgrade of the programme powering See Banff!, replacing an old Apple IIci computer and large analog laserdisc player with a small compact Mac mini computer with integrated digital video card.
Collection of the Museum of the Moving Image, Astoria, NY
Organum Playtest is an interactive sound work that uses vocal collaboration to control the gameplay of a dynamic video game, exploring the human voice through sound, image and technology. In Latin "organum" means "tool," "organ" or "sensor," and refers to a composition method when clerical composers wrote music for distinct, but harmonizing voices. In this installation, viewers are invited to step up to the microphones and sing (in harmony or not!) in order to navigate through the Organum story.
Organum Playtest is based on a feature length animated fable about human organs that have become creatures of their own. The main characters are voice boxes with tattooed lungs and three legs. They live in the "Valley of Distributed Organs," where they sing to the brain creatures for new ideas and sing to the stomach creatures for food. But there is a drought in the valley, and they are forced to change their ways and explore beyond the boundaries of their home.
Three or more gamers travel the length of the trachea from the bottom of the lung to the tip of the tongue, the goal being to make it to the end of the trachea without being destroyed by pathogens or ruining the trachea. Each gamer steers a different aspect of the motion (up and down, left and right, and forward) by singing or otherwise vocalizing. Gamers must collaborate as a collective to control their movement, but because the computer only registers volume and tone how each gamer chooses to vocalize is an individual choice - you can sing, talk, scream, hum, or even pray. The project allows for a wide variety of people to play and successfully collaborate, creating an impromptu performance for the non-player audience.
Greg Niemeyer is professor for Digital Media at UC Berkeley. He studied Classics and Photography in Switzerland before he came to the US in 1992. As an MFA grad student at Stanford University, he founded SUDAC, the Stanford University Digital Art Center, in anticipation of the need for an academic space dedicated to the practical and theoretical exploration of digital media and art. Supported by the prestigious Intel Art and Technology Research Grant, Niemeyer has completed several digital media installations, which explore novel experiences with computing including, in collaboration with Chris Chafe, Oxygen Flute, which translates the human-plant carbon cycle into four-channel music in real time. Chris Chafe, a frequent Banff visitor, helped develop the sounds of the Playtest as well.
Dan Perkel and Ryan Shaw are graduate students in Digital Media at UC Berkeley's School of Information.
Free Radio Linux is an online and on-air programme. The sound transmission consists of a computerized reading of the open-source code used to create the operating system, Linux. The Linux kernel, the basis for all versions of Linux operating systems, contains 4,141,432 lines of code. Reading the entire kernel is estimated to take 14253.43 hours, or 593.89 days.
Each line of code is read by the computerised automated voice - a speech.bot built by r a d i o q u a l i a. The speech.bot's output is then encoded into an Open Source audio stream (using the codec, Ogg Vorbis), and sent out live on the Internet. A low power FM transmitter constructed by media pioneer Tetsuo Kogawa is also able to Free Radio Linux in the Banff Centre campus
In the hierarchy of media (whether new or not), radio still reigns. There are more computers than modems, more phones than computers, and more radios than phones. The hyperbole of the Internet, blogging and podcasting aside, radio is the closest we have to an egalitarian method of information distribution.
Due to the extraordinary success of Linux, the ethic of code sharing has reached new heights of popularity. Code sharing is no longer a process specific to computer science, rather it has become an ideology embraced by business, the computer-using public, and a multitude of cultural, artistic and academic sectors.
Free Radio Linux continues the tradition of FM 'code stations' of the early-mid eighties. These stations were pirate broadcasters who distributed bootleg software programmes via radio transmitters, allowing early hackers with home computers, such as Sinclair ZX80-81s, Commodore 64s, and Acorns, to demodulate the signal through a modem and run the code. The modern day equivalent, Free Radio Linux, similarly enables anyone with notepad to transcribe the code and utilize it at his or her convenience.
r a d i o q u a l i a is Honor Harger and Adam Hyde. Founded in 1998 in Australia, their collaborative work, which includes the development of hardware and software, performance, and streaming audio has been exhibited at the New Museum, New York; Videopostive 2000, and Liverpool; Ars Electronica 99, Linz; Free Radio Linux was commissioned by Gallery 9/Walker Art Center with the support of the Jerome Foundation, USA.
Catherine Richard'sShroud / Chrysalis II is a continuation of her 1995 work Curiosity Cabinet at the End of the Millennium - a Faraday cage that insulates its contents from a spectrum of electromagnetic fields, grounding the electricity that fills the surrounding air. In Shroud / Chrysalis II, two attendants wrap a visitor in copper fabric, turning the work's spectator into the work's object. The glass table on which the person lies is inspired by the tables that were used in early electricity treatments where the 'patient' had a little table under their feet to unground them. Even though the cloth is semi transparent and when wrapped, the visitor can see through, the piece has a slightly menacing air about it - it is both visually seductive and yet anxiety inducing.
The artist has described the experience as
a total immersion in a wireless circuit. But instead of plugging us in, which is the accepted notion of wireless, this copper unplugs us from cell phones, radio, television and other signals that habitually submerge us. Is it a body bag or a chrysalis? Will it be the death of 'us' or a kind of rebirth of 'post human'? Or both?
The work hints at the ever-present discourse of ubiquitous/responsive computing and wearable technology prevalent in the field of new media art and research, but instead of suggesting the move towards ever smaller and more invisible tools it returns us to the physical self and the aesthetics of the object.
In this version of the piece, a stereoscopic print of a figure wrapped in the shroud is placed on the glass table and a single point viewer placed in front, hinting at the absent presence of the body, and standing in as a kind of virtual memory.
Richards is the winner of the Petro Canada Media Arts Prize (1993) and her work, in virtual reality and other new technologies, has been commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada and exhibited internationally. She has a long-standing relationship with the Banff Centre and was the co-director of the groundbreaking residency 'Bioapparatus' - a programme seen to have been fundamental to the founding of the Banff New Media Institute. Her work Method and Apparatus for Finding Love is exhibited in the front gallery.
Catherine Richards Method and Apparatus for Finding Love, 2000
Patent filing confirmation letter, 8 1/2" x 11" paper
Patents were invented to protect and make public - in a regulated fashion - details of things (devices, methods or processes or substances) that are considered new, inventive and useful. In this they are both a tool of communication and suggest the iterative process of launching new technologies into the world. In this filed patent for a Method and Apparatus for Finding Love, Catherine Richards and her collaborator Martin Snelgrove have attempted to patent something both as obvious and yet elusive as the mediation of emotion by technologies.
Many of us know the excitement generated upon feeling one's cell phone vibrate in one's pocket with a message or call from a loved one. The vibration is but an alert feature on the phone and yet has been theorised by technology-watchers as a kind of deep emotional trigger. For Richards, it is in this play between abstract technological capability and tangible intimacy that the experience of art can provocatively reside.
Method and Apparatus for Finding Love initiates a discussion of intellectual property, which is an increasingly privatizing human activity. It speculates on a terrain that is now increasingly being charted in research labs, often without examination of the implications of the launch of the products resulting from their research. While the earliest patent law required that a working model of each invention be produced in miniature, in this contemporary case Richards has not had to attempt to make what she describes here (and in fact, to make it on any scale would be hugely expensive). This frees her to playfully include diagrams of works from the history of art as her figures to communicate the process the 'apparatus' would facilitate. As she writes, the patent is "an established form that offered an extraordinary opportunity to entwine both science and art as agents of desire."
Richards is the winner of the Petro Canada Media Arts Prize (1993) and her work, in virtual reality and other new technologies, has been commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada and exhibited internationally. She has a long-standing relationship with the Banff Centre and was the co-director of the groundbreaking residency 'Bioapparatus' - a programme seen to have been fundamental to the founding of the Banff New Media Institute. Her work Shroud / Chrysalis II is exhibited in the rear gallery.
Thinking Machine 4 -- an artificial intelligence programme - explores the invisible, elusive nature of thought. Visitors are invited to play chess against each other or against the computer. Simply touch the "new game" button on the screen and start playing by dragging pieces on the chess board. To play against the computer, wait 30 seconds for it to move. During play, the computer creates a map from the traces of literally thousands of possible futures as the programme decides the best move. The curves show potential moves -often several turns in the future -considered by the computer. Orange curves are moves by black; green curves are ones by white. The brighter the curve, the better the move (in the computer's mind). Those traces become a key to the invisible lines of force in the game as well as a window into the spirit of a thinking machine.
Martin Wattenberg's work centers on the theme of making the invisible visible. He is a researcher at IBM, where he creates new forms of data visualization. He is also known for the SmartMoney.com Map of the Market. He holds a Ph.D. in mathematics from U.C. Berkeley.
Marek Walczak is an artist and architect who trained at the Architectural Association in London and Cooper Union in New York. He is interested in how people participate in physical and virtual spaces. This has led to projects such as Apartment, shown at the Whitney Museum and many venues worldwide, and Dialog Table, a commission of the Walker Art Center that replaces a keyboard and mouse with a shared interface based on gesture recognition technology.
3 Seconds in the Memory of the Internet uses a custom-designed "spider," based on Wisniewski's software netomat, to crawl the Internet gathering files that were created or modified at three different moments in history: December 10,1989 at 00:41: 45 GMT, April 4,1994 at 20:00:00 GMT, and August 2, 2001 at 14:53:54 The data, retrieved over the course of one month prior to the opening of the exhibition, includes email and communications messages, news, documents, log error files, and images. Surprisingly, even in 1989, prior to the invention of the World Wide Web as we know it now, there is rich material to be found. A custom-designed image and text synthesizer and animation engine are used to display the collected data as three simultaneous feeds on separate wall-screens. Walking through the time tunnel of 3 Seconds in the Memory of the Internet, it is clear that the Internet has become increasingly visual over the past 10 years; the content is a snapshot of one aspect of society's telematic unconscious.
Maciej Wisniewski is an artist and programmer whose work focuses on the underlying creative and social implications of the Internet, networks, and technology in general. He was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1959. He studied toward a Ph.D. at the Institute for General Linguistics and Computational Linguistics at University of Stockholm, Sweden. He holds an MFA from Hunter College in New York. He is Founder and Chief Scientist of netomat, Inc.