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Artistic Identity within Cyberspace

published in: New Media and the Politics of Online Communities – Critical Issues series Publishing Creative Research, Inter-Disciplinary Press Oxford, UK, 2010, ISBN: 978-1-84888-032-0

Artistic Identity within Cyberspace: Issues go global, Interdisciplinary Projects do evolve – A personal View

Abstract

This paper involves a case study about ART IN PROCESS (Austria/ Australia), a partnership based in Fremantle, Australia. Our work is a critical engagement with a number of issues specific to Western, consumer culture and behaviour. We work together across installation, video, new media, performance and live art. In this paper we will address the growing inter-human and artistic communication through cyberspace. How can artistic networks be built through the Internet? How do they influence the artistic practice itself in their aim to reach the public on various levels? Another objective of the paper is how social media as well as cyberspace itself can increase the transportation of artistic message and lead to transformed, extended and even enhanced work-conglomerations between artists and a wide international audience. This opens up for completely new forms of expression, extended varieties of working on participatory projects, linking artists from around the world. Virtual residencies exist already. Calls can be made over platforms, only a mouse-click away from reaching the World Wide Web and its users. Our intent is to instigate a change of thinking, a shifting of accommodated world conception within the viewer/participant, in continuously looking for an open dialogue with the public. We do this through art-interventions, performances in public and private spaces and partly online-exhibitions with video and sound and mixed media installations and through platforms in cyberspace in the use of social media. Over the years we have started to grow cyber-work relations with individual artists and institutions around the world. The paper focuses on a presentation of running projects by ART IN PROCESS as well as a compilation of past work based on discussing, how online presence and virtual communities led to the creation of new work and could enhance our artistic profile in reaching out for another and wider audience. 

Key Words: Art, social media, collaborations, internet, networking, video art, installation, media art, performance art, online-screening.

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1. An Introduction: Globalisation and Cyberspace – Perceptions and Worlds of the Altermodern

Globalisation has opened up enormous possibilities of linkages; it ideally means dissemination, diversity and insight into foreign worlds. But other than leading to a broad perspective or enthusiasm about the various aspects of this world per se and its cultures, we must admit that – critically observed – globalisation really often concludes in generalisation and uniformity. It has become the ideal platform for broad mainstream, the playground of unquestioned fast food and monopole society.

For artists globalisation and the Internet have opened up new ways of engaging and gathering together to produce work that sets a counterpoint to the various and absurd forms of mass consumption.

Such an example is a video we developed together with RAM Productions in 2009/10, a collaborative effort of an artist interview that has partly been produced in our studio in Fremantle, Australia and in a studio in Philadelphia, USA.[i]

Artists employ the web as a communication platform and new technologies to make their work available to a greater audience these days, even if they still use traditional media in the making. Others have chosen the World Wide Web as the main media of creation, a field of experimentation under the umbrella of new media and cyber arts.

We generally cannot deny that the Internet, science and technology have severely influenced the arts in the last twenty years.

In this paper we are giving some concrete examples of how we personally use the Internet in particular and how aspects of globalisation are presented in this work. We do not aim for a theoretical approach in our artistic work. Nevertheless we question its context and of course revisit existing material. The work grows out of a reaction to the present. It translates our own perceptions into works of art; it transmits our thoughts and feelings/emotions into an interpretive and aesthetic object (a wall-object, a video and sound installation, a social sculpture) that becomes an artistic statement. It engages with people – not just through the white cube/exhibition space, but through the work process itself; questions are asked, discussion takes place and work is being produced. The context’s origin is socio-political, in which we explore relationships between humanity, technology and the natural environment. The outcome: new media art projects, mostly leading into installations (video and sound).

Within those installations we attempt to illuminate problematic issues inherent in multiculturalism, globalisation and mass-consumption; this work further addresses notions about how we fit into certain places, what impact we have on our surroundings and what impact the surroundings have on us. Artistic outcomes are based on certain explorations through on-site projects (residencies, travel) in reflection to our own living environment.

Our overall work dissociates itself from artistic projects that today still seem super-academic in the use of new technologies. In working with these media we try to overcome the excitement of their technical abilities and use them to transform artistic thoughts and inspiration into an artwork that derives from a multitude of different media/art forms.

In our independent research regarding our work-context we are especially interested in terms used and created by Nicolas Bourriaud, describing how use over meaning in Art has developed in recent years and how the Internet leads into a new direction of artistic expression.

Under the term of Altermodernism (after Postmodernism) he addresses the global movement of engaging with the Internet as the main tool of expression; expanding the artist’s possibilities to interact with the world instead of reflecting only on own cultural heritage. Postmodernism – in his opinion – was still occupied by Western culture, whereas Altermodernism involves now streams around the globe (including African, South American, Asian Art and more). Bourriaud refers to this global culture as the playground for artists to experiment and to start building new forms of expression – influenced by and associated with the World Wide Web.

He sees the human frame of mind, characterized by a global culture, today dominated by exchange. Artists use and create out of different streams of knowledge that are presented within this global culture. Altermodern in his opinion intends to define the actual modernity according to the specific context we live in: globalization, and its economic, political and cultural conditions.

In an interview he states: “The core of this new modernity is, according to me, the experience of wandering – in time, space and mediums.”[ii]

Some of our past projects like Digital Trilogy (2003), manipulated (2005) or Identical City (2006) tried to capture the evolving characteristics of the phenomenon of globalisation that derives among others from mass information and mass media. Those installations exemplified how global culture ends up in layers over layers, images over images, collected to create collages out of the mass information we consume through the media, education, personal and daily experiences.

Digital Trilogy addresses differences and cultural identities between people; focusing on modern movements inspired by nature and urban settings this digital installation is about how people interact with nature and the modern world. It tells a story about changing the view on things in society, nature and life in general; showing slow and fast movements by replacing points of view and by separating nature from the human being; shortcuts and profiles of facing the beauty temples of Western Society such as soap operas, shopping malls and mass events.[iii]

Manipulated deals with questions like how the fragments and remains of pre-existing life forms become the starting point of new creation. Where do we come from? How far are we prepared to go? The urge to take control of nature, genetic engineering and searching for an overall answer are the main issues that find expression in this virtual collage. The work tells its story through the composition of a multitude of scene shots, selected from films and documentations.[iv]

Identical City was created in connection to an unknown Renaissance painting called „The Perfect City“, showing the Central Perspective of city buildings with the absence of any inhabitants. 21st Century: what does identity in times of a global union mean? Is there a cultural consciousness (about Western culture) within the anonymous city environment? [v]

The three installations are currently presented in the solo-exhibition called IMPACT & FUSION that questions the social impact of human beings on nature through mass consumption and globally increasing population, touring in Australia from 2008-2011 (WA, NSW, QLD).[vi]

2. Cyberspace: New Forms of Expression

Our projects don’t originate from particular theories – but of course, are influenced by our immediate surroundings, by the contacts we make to others, by the media, by education (to an individual and certain degree) and by a long history of our own underlying culture, we grew up with.

Travelling and the constant aim to connect to people and different cultures as well as nature lead to our ideas.

In becoming an extremely globalised world the western image of art and the exhibition space per se have died. Art lives now in cyberspace, it happens within the social space; it spreads out into our daily surroundings. Artists/people are suddenly able to participate in the creation of a new artistic era that connects them with different places and different cultures, away from exclusion and one-sidedness. [vii]

It is true that new technologies and the Internet – especially as a social media – opened up new possibilities for artists to use its various platforms of communication as well as to create and model their own; not only to promote their work but more to start working on projects within an international network in collaboration with others. This has found our particular interest.

In 2009 we developed an international project series called INTERVENTION that initially derived from cyber-relations that developed over time.[viii]

A new kind of communication takes place between artists. Their meeting places have changed. They often gather together in the use of the Internet – just not in a physical way. They meet in Cyberspace, where they collect and share information, and develop projects together online.

For us the www has become a constant and one of the most important tools for making our art available to a broader community, for creating new connections and to establish a different image of art that does not merely try to establish itself locally. E-communication made it possible to connect with institutions worldwide. Social media like facebook, vimeo, flickr and others introduce new forms of presentation, away from the physical exhibition space and away from censorship and elitism.

History is filled with examples of new technology that enabled new art forms to develop while vastly widening the audience. Printing created the best seller… eventually the novel. Lithography, an inexpensive printing process that also permitted wide distribution, brought art out of palaces and galleries and into ordinary homes.[ix]

Digital Art can travel the world through cyberspace. It can be incorporated within the living space and people are suddenly able to consume it where and whenever the media of the Internet is available. It is again a media that breaks the aesthetic boundaries of traditional art perception and extends into daily life. It connects artists that might otherwise have never had the chance to meet in person. It serves us as a springboard for making international connections; it serves as a database, a digital archive for many artists, including us. Of course, considering the fact that there is a multitude of people with no access to technology, Internet is still a Western commodity/toy. And what do we do with art that derives from and spreads through the Internet – if we take Technology away? We have to look at this kind of art from a different perspective. We simply cannot apply the same guidelines here than we did and still do with traditional art forms (also in terms of preservation). Digital media art is a contemporary art form that is ephemeral, is process orientated; because of its temporal appearance it is there and then gone again. But exactly this temporality is the art form’s main character. We can present it in many places at the same time. It can be consumed in a different way than art has been consumed before. But if this art form is presented away from the exhibition space and on the Internet, it has to compete (with all the other things available); it has to defend itself as art, even more than in the real space, where the white cube can provide some sort of a protection shield. How can it maintain its status alongside the global wave of using the web as a social communication tool, entertainment facility and field of experimentation with new technologies and streams that suddenly become a commodity for some, but the playground for recreational pleasure for mainstream society?

3. Personal Use and Global Culture’s Platform

Today the Internet has a significant status within global culture; it forms a new culture that artists started to incorporate in their work not so long ago. Cyberspace has clearly opened up new ways of art-production and presentation; it created and made space for the various and quite diverse means of new media art. How does this affect our work in particular?

The Internet serves us to collect, process and develop material into an artwork that again grows into something else – the process is the outcome, its fragile nature a side effect that has to be considered carefully. Most of our work can be viewed online through our own website, as well as using other platforms to spread our audio-visual work. We created some of the videos particularly for online-presentations: i.e. The Curio Kiosks Project (2009, The Kumasi Symposium, Ghana), Infertile Future (2008, ISEA Singapore) or Seafactory & White Net (2007, Techart, Brisbane).[x]

Our website has become our personal database, our archive, serves us as the documentation room/station/space; where people can find all updates on our work. But the Internet still does not replace the need for physical travel; instead inter-human communication through Cyberspace has even increased the need for physical travel. This sort of communication has become one of our strongest tools to go international. We are suddenly able to communicate with the whole world. New opportunities arise, which otherwise would go by unnoticed. The Internet has extended the artist’s ability to expand the work field in various ways. Our projects can be viewed on DVD and Blu-ray discs; eventually books are printed as an artistic documentation of a project but most of our video and sound installations can be viewed online, even if the overall work is not solely created for the Cyberspace.

4. Disconnected we search for new Connections: Inter-Human Communication in the World Wide Web and Face-To-Face Projects

Again, for us, finding connections, building and maintaining relationships to other artists and institutions worldwide are mostly based on using the Internet. Not only that the digital work we produce can travel more easily; the Internet affects the whole work process. It helps us to position ourselves outside a local presence and extend our abilities to reach an international audience. It enables us to show our work outside the locations, in which we are physically present. Claire Bishop writes about virtual relationships and globalisation that they would have prompted a desire for more physical and face-to-face interaction between people – which inspired artists to respond with real-time projects.[xi]

Wherever we go, the Internet is the common meeting place and the basic tool for communication, but still travel and the face-to-face balance is needed to succeed in our projects. Years and years of building our own networks provide us today with selected e-news on a weekly or monthly basis, with updated information about national and international events, institutions and calls that relate to our work in particular. Emailing has become a most effective method to communicate. A lot of our e-connections result later in personal connections through travel and onsite projects. To name a few examples:

Sonance – artistic network Vienna[xii]

ARTECH: International Conference on Digital Arts, held in Porto/Portugal, discussing conception, production and dissemination of Digital and Electronic Art [xiii]

ISEA: the International Symposium on Electronic Art initiated in 1988, the world’s premier media arts event for the critical discussion and showcase of creative productions applying new technologies in interactive and digital media; held biannually in various cities throughout the world [xiv]

CAM: Contemporary Arts Media is one of the leading consultants and suppliers of films and books for Arts Education worldwide [xv]

Ram Productions: a video production, post-production company, Philadelphia/USA[xvi]

POOL Project: collaborative space where audiences become ‘co-creators’.  Pool brings together ABC professionals and audiences in an open-ended process of participation, co-creation and collaboration[xvii]

Virtual Residency Project: a European Capital of Culture 2007 project – international media art project[xviii]

Dance in Portugal: platform for dancers, performers, video art [xix]

MONA: Museum of Modern Art Detroit [xx]

ACCEA: The Armenian Center for Contemporary Experimental Art is an alternative center for avant-garde and modern art in Yerevan, Armenia[xxi]

Subnet: platform for experimental media art and technology, Austria[xxii]

AMODA: Austin Museum of Digital Art[xxiii]

5. Emotional Seasons – international project series in 2010: experimentation between performance and new media art

Internet Culture has awoken again the interest in an interdisciplinary and within the arts the hybrid process of crossing media. This is nothing new, just appears as a new form of an old system, praising plurality over singularity. Contemporary art’s perception has reached a different level. A shifting takes place: the process itself has become the object of contemplation. Today’s artists navigate and engage in activities, where the process becomes the central part, the end product a kind of post-productive documentation. Bourriaud calls this kind of artist semionaut. He imagines links and is able to picture relations that can derive from those linkages. The semionaut illuminates what is going on in the sphere of visual communication – art, advertising, film and graphic design.[xxiv]

Our 2010 project series, a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary art project, questions borderlines in society, in real- and cyberspace. Emotional Seasons fosters cultural & art networking and promotes the idea of “art as collaborative work” as one of the highlights of contemporary art production. The project is formed by several parts of a bigger context of discovering and discussing different Emotional Seasons in society and diverse surroundings, nationally and internationally, how the living environment is formed and influenced by its people. It includes artistic interventions in public, performed in different places around the world – creating a collaborative effort from diverse artists (partially over the Internet); addressing the various means of identity and belonging. The process: various artists are approached and produce, collect material – following certain instructions. We “acquire” and collect this material from the individual sources; then sample, reprocess the material we are provided with, to produce the final collective work. Based on our own work methods of combining static and temporal forms of expression in a hybrid art process/making and by taking them further into the public sphere (mostly resulting in video installations) this project again seeks to collaborate with others.

First Emotional Season: Christmas (produced in Dec 2009) was focussing on how the western image of Christmas is being perceived in diverse places: Ghana, India, Japan, Austria and Australia; socio-political perceptions of western consumption versus traditional rituals that accompany our image of this event today in different countries and cultures. New technologies and mass information make us believe an illusionary image of today’s world, a global picture of something that doesn’t really exist. Nothing can replace own physical presence in a place. Information we gather through Cyberspace transfers us into a state of a second world that is not real and never can be. Within this world we design a fake reality, multiple realities that do not apply in the real world. This has a manipulating character that manifests itself in mainstream opinion about how the world would look like. The www has a strong impact on that as well. First Emotional Season: Christmas plays with this manipulation and sets real material against the fake, real against advertising, real against the multiple layers of transformed information we are indoctrinated with every day through the media. And then there are real people in real places – away from a response to media coverage – simply in their own worlds and still affected and influenced by a western image that invades and patronizes their own culture at some point.[xxv]

The Second Emotional Season: Not quite kosher is currently developed in Vienna, in connection to the international project called UNDERGROUND CITY 21: Transfer between physical & digital societies as visualisation of virtual society in 21st century: a social sculpturing project, as part of the European Culture Program 2010 – not just taking up the topics of underground societies and social structures, but also practically establishing a platform under the surface of current mainstream society.[xxvi]

Further Emotional Seasons 2010 (onsite projects) are planned for Brisbane, Sydney and Perth and will derive from additional collaborations, capturing aspects of generating the identification with a land, how a multicultural society leaves its footprints on the rising global culture that again influences our identification with it – transforming our perception of this world and its people. Main question of the whole project: What are today’s realities of human existence in a global, but still cultural diverse society? The project will develop from our special perspective and perception of the core theme into (a) video and sound installation(s).

 

6. Artistic Engagement

We believe that the www cannot replace physical relations and connections, but definitely influences the work we do. The artist traveller (in real and in cyber space) explores global culture(s). He translates his visions into a work of art. Today we look beyond our daily environment. Other surroundings extend our world-view, influence us and become an integral part within our own developing work/life. Local art sometimes does not travel physically. It is the artist, who travels the world, visiting local art; shaping and producing out of his experiences, impressions and inspirations. Contemporary artists are about to invent (a) new form(s) of art. Globalisation, new technologies and particularly the Internet lead to an expansion of our worldview. Extensive developments on various levels urge us to reorganise, reshape and rename certain aspects of human existence. A constant questioning of our immediate surroundings can help us to build new solid structures, may enable us to find a new orientation within this explosively growing world, in which we have to redefine identity and belonging. In our artistic projects we will continue to ask questions about the connection points between real- and cyberspace, asking how people’s perception, how global culture per se influences our way of thinking and how this can be translated into artistic expression.

7. Post-Production and Documentation Material

Released DVDs, Blu-ray discs and books in limited editions are distributed by CAM Contemporary Arts Media Inc. (Films and Books for Arts Education worldwide).[xxvii]

Further readings and screenings of our projects on the ART IN PROCESS website.

 

Notes


[i]ART IN PROCESS, ‘RAM Productions artist interview’. ART IN PROCESS

[ii] B Ryan, ‘Altermodern: A Conversation with Nicolas Bourriaud’ in Art in America, 17/03/2009

[iii] ART IN PROCESS, ‘Digital Trilogy’. ART IN PROCESS

[iv] ART IN PROCESS, ‘Manipulated’. ART IN PROCESS

[v] ART IN PROCESS, ‘Identical City’. ART IN PROCESS

[vi] ART IN PROCESS, ‘IMPACT & FUSION video documentation’. ART IN PROCESS

[vii] The French writer and theorist Nicolas Bourriaud addresses the shifting of the worldview according to developments within the Arts in various publications and interviews. His theories help us to understand our work within a greater context and to ask: where does our work originate and how will it develop further?

[viii] ART IN PROCESS, ‘INTERVENTION an international project series – limited editions publication 2010’. ART IN PROCESS

[ix] P Levis, ‘From Science to Art to Science to Cyber-Art’, in The New York Times, Jan 03, 1998, The New York Times Company 2010, 01.02.2010

[x] ART IN PROCESS, ‘Maybe It’s Only…Imagine!’. ART IN PROCESS

ART IN PROCESS, ‘Seafactory & White Net’. ART IN PROCESS

[xi] C Bishop, ‘Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics’, in October 110, Fall 2004, pp. 51-79, October Magazine, Ltd. And Massachusetts Institute of Technology, p. 54

[xii] sonance, sonance Vienna 2010, 01.02.2010, http://www.sonance.net

[xiii] ARTECH, UCP Porto 2008, 01.02.2010, http://www.artes.ucp.pt/artech2008

[xiv] ISEA2008, ISEA Singapore 2008, 01.02.2010, http://www.isea2008singapore.org

[xv] CAM, Contemporary Arts Media Inc 2010, 01.02.2010, http://www.artfilms.com.au

[xvi] R Medrala, RAM Productions 2010, 01.02.2010, http://www.ramvideo.us

[xvii] ABC Online, ABC Online 2010, 01.02.2010, http://www.pool.org.au

[xviii] HBK School of Fine Arts, Saar (D), Virtual Residency, Luxembourg and Greater Region – European capital of culture 2007, 01.02.2010,

http://www.virtual-residency.net

[xix] Dance in Portugal, NING 2010, 01.02.2010 http://danceinportugal.ning.com

[xx] MONA Detroit, MONA 2010, 01.02.2010, http://www.detroitmona.com

[xxi] ACCEA Armenia, ACCEA 2010, 01.02.2010, http://www.accea.info

[xxii] subnet, subnet 2010, 01.02.2010, http://www.subnet.at

[xxiii] AMODA Austin Museum for Digitl Art, AMODA 2010, 01.02.2010, http://www.amoda.org

[xxiv] N Bourriaud, Postproduction. Lucas & Sternberg, New York, 2002, p.19

[xxv] ART IN PROCESS, ‘First Emotional Season: Christmas’. ART IN PROCESS

[xxvi] ART IN PROCESS, ‘Second Emotional Season: Not quite kosher’. ART IN PROCESS

[xxvii] ART IN PROCESS, ‘Released DVDs, Blu-ray Discs and books’. ART IN PROCESS

  

Bibliography

ABC Online, ABC Online, 2010, http://www.pool.org.au

ACCEA, ACCEA Yerevan Armenia, 2010, http://www.accea.info

AMODA, Austin Museum for Digital Art, 2010, http://www.amoda.org

ARTECH, UCP Porto, 2008, http://www.artes.ucp.pt/artech2008,

ART IN PROCESS, bello benischauer & elisabeth m eitelberger, ART IN PROCESS Fremantle, Western Australia, 2010

Bishop, C., ‘Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics’, October 110, Fall 2004, pp. 51-79, October Magazine, Ltd. and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, p. 54

Bourriaud, N., Relational Aesthetics. Presses du réel, Paris, 2002.

Bourriaud, N., Postproduction: Culture as Screenplay: How Art Reprograms the World, Lukas & Sternberg, New York, 2002.

Bourriaud, N., Radikant. Merve, Berlin, 2009.

CAM, Contemporary Arts Media Inc, 2010, http://www.artfilms.com.au

Dance in Portugal, NING, 2010, http://danceinportugal.ning.com

HBK School of Fine Arts, Saar (D), Virtual Residency, Luxembourg and Greater Region – European capital of culture, 2007, http://www.virtual-residency.net

ISEA2008, Singapore, 2008, http://www.isea2008singapore.org

Levis, P, ‘From Science to Art to Science to Cyber-Art’. The New York Times, Jan 03, 1998

Medrala, R., RAM Productions, 2010, http://www.ramvideo.us

MONA, Museum of New Art, Detroit, 2010, http://www.detroitmona.com

Nauman, B., Please pay attention please: Bruce Nauman’s words – Interviews and Writings. The MIT Press paperback edition, Massachusetts lnstitute of Technology, 2005

B Ryan, ‘Altermodern: A Conversation with Nicolas Bourriaud’ in Art in America, 17/03/2009

sonance, Vienna, 2010, http://www.sonance.net

subnet, Salzburg, 2010, http://www.subnet.at

Tagoe-Turkson, P., ‘About Art-Intervention’. INTERVENTION an international project series. ART IN PROCESS limited editions, 2010, p.159.

 

Bello Benischauer co-founder of ART IN PROCESS, Australian/Austrian new media artist, uses hybrid media and develops video and sound installations. His interest in different cultures leads to socio-political work with a strong intervention character. Regular exhibitions and projects internationally.

Elisabeth M Eitelberger co-founder of ART IN PROCESS, received her Master of Arts in Philosophy at the University of Vienna; various employments at Austrian Cultural Institutions; currently living in Australia. Managing ART IN PROCESS she is further involved in the artistic development and independent research of all projects. 2010 marks a ten years milestone for the partnership.


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