Annick Bureaud ...(Deanna Morse...Jane Stevens)
"Where is the computer?" is a question that arose many times in the jury's dis-cussions. And it is an important one. SIGGRAPH is a high-tech show, the state of the art in computer imagery. Does the art have to match the techni-cal requirements you expect in the technical and scientific papers or demos, using the last technological innovation? This question was particu-larly crucial for the two-dimensional works. Computer-manipulated images are everywhere. We have learned to "read" them, and they have became common to us. If a work is challenging but uses basic functions of Photoshop that students learn in the first class, should we dismiss it for this single rea-son? The answer was no. But then we asked another question: "Could the work been done without a computer, with the old and well-known photo-graphic manipulations?" If the answer was yes, then I rejected it, because this is an electronic art show. Sometimes, this question was not so easy to answer.
With the installations, this question was even harder. When every kitchen device has a microchip, when navigating Sojourner on the surface of Mars looks like a piece of cake (even if it was not), where is the computer? And where/what is electronic art today? In a way, there are experimental works focusing on exploration of a technique, for which the message is the medium. The Vasulkas and Myron Krueger are important names in this respect. Then there are works that deal with other issues, using the technology at its best, but where the technology itself is not the central part. If the work is experi-mental in some way, then the question is relevant, otherwise the computer does not need to be "evident" to be used in a subtle and challenging way. We do not remember works of art for their technical achievements but for their aesthetic qualities. When oil paint-ing or enamels were high tech, they drew attention, but that is not the pri-mary reason they are kept in our muse-ums today (and why they were appreci-ated in their time either). Furthermore, as the "computerized" world becomes second nature, we are encountering a "disappearance" of the computer, which is reflected in the art. We might just be entering post-computer, post-electronic art.
The third question that I asked myself during the selection process was: "Can the work face SIGGRAPH - this huge, noisy, busy place where hundreds of computer screens compete to attract 40,000 people rushing from one meeting to another panel? Right or wrong, it was clear to me that some works, although I think they are very good, could not survive the show because they just need another kind of environ-ment.
In the end, we chose artworks that we felt were good art. This is an especially difficult task when you have to evaluate the work as slides, video, and written descriptions. To my surprise, some of the documentation presented to the jury did not describe the artwork in a clear manner, and we just could not figure out what was going on! Maybe this is something to put on the agenda of the art schools: teach the students how to document and write about their work...
Deanna Morse ...(Annick Bureaud...Jane Stevens)
Morse has served as President of ASIFA/Central, the midwest chapter of the international animated film associ-ation. She was recently elected to the Executive Board of ASIFA International. She was chair of the Art and Design Show for SIGGRAPH 94.
Morse is presently a professor in the School of Communications at Grand Valley State University (Michigan), where she teaches interactive multi-media, computer animation, media production, and film theory and histo-ry. She has been a visiting artist at many schools and universities. She was an artist in residence for four years with the South Carolina Arts Commission, and she led animation workshops at the Sinking Creek Film and Video Festival in Nashville for over a dozen years.
Morse has produced over thirty inde-pendent films and videos. She has received numerous grants to support her films and videos, including three Creative Artist Grants from the Michigan Council for the Arts, and four NEA regional film grants through the Center for New Television.
Several of the pieces we selected ele-gantly consider the issue of the human-computer interface. In a classi-cal garden setting, Stream of Consciousness allows us to play with visual language as we grab floating words and build new poems. With The Winds That Wash the Seas, we get up close and personal with a TV moni-tor and use our breath to blow away an image, revealing other surface layers.
Other pieces challenge us to reconsid-er the human-computer interface and our comfortable roles as passive observers. Items 1-2000 forces us to use the bar-code reader as a virtual scalpel. In Project Paradise, we control a distant human. And Case Study 309 challenges us to take presumed risk as we recline under a precariously sus-pended television set.
Other artworks make a political state-ment or comment on the times we live in. The viewer/tourist/photojournalist participant in World Skin finds the act of snapping the camera shutter a charged activity - not neutral, not benign. The large murals No Man's Land and Oral History employ visual codes from advertising to comment on our obsession with the body. The Doll Floated By, ReGrowth from the Wreckage, Is it Really Over?, and To Bury Recollection... are quiet state-ments, the artists' response to tragic events.
Several installations create their own world-spaces, their own fanciful envi-ronments. In KAGE, our perceptions of the physical reality of light and shadow are questioned in a playful manner. Iconica devises a new symbol system for its universe, building a self-con-tained artificial life environment.
Touchware is one of the few places at SIGGRAPH 98 where the computer is used to comment on the role of tech-nology in society today. In a field that is primarily collaborative, Touchware pro-vides an opportunity to consider state-ments by individual artists.
Jane Stevens Annick Bureaud...Deanna Morse
The art work we saw during the two-day jurying process showed me that there are many people around the world using these new tools to expand and enrich the creative process and human experience. Some of the work showed great creativity and sensitivity to the process. Some included more traditional concepts of beauty. Some pieces were incredibly beautiful and delicate, while others questioned the very use of technology. Some of the work showed humor, some pain and harshness. Some looked at the new technologies as harsh controlling agents and others as user-friendly tools for creative exploration and cele-bration.
I feel very optimistic about the artistic avenues being explored by the founders and current generation of artists. We are creating our own worlds and using the tools available to us to expand that experience.
ACM SIGGRAPH Online!
email: Bonnie Mitchell
Special Interest Group
on Computer Graphics.