This article was written for 'Content-Type' in 2001, which I conceived of as an idea virus, later as the site evolved, I was to think of these texts as symptomatic of the Media/Art Identity Crisis in style of delivery.
"...As they walked, Georgia looked around herself at the familiar landscape, and as she did so she realised that it had taken on a dark, brooding, gloomy aspect she had never seen before. Later, she wrote to one of her sisters about her revelation: "How you feel affects what you see." And that was it. The big breakthrough. Emotional content overrides technique. "Nothing is less real than realism," she said in that pragmatic yet enigmatic way of hers..." [Sally Vincent]*1
Slipstreams is "A Film and Video Umbrella online project that revolves around a series of digital art works that appear, as interventions, on participating sites on the internet..." *2 The works are described as: "An initial series of eight newly-commissioned pieces... with each intervention manifesting itself in a surprising and distinctive way. In some instances, a downloadable video, audio or text file was secreted or embedded on the site itself. In others, a specially-created link or window on the host site directs users to a webpage containing the artist's work. In others, the conceptual nature of work has emerged from the evolving relationship between artwork and host, continuing a tradition of artists' interventions in public space and extending that model to encompass the vast digital arena of the Internet." *3
Some of the techniques of the net, embedding, downloading, hosting and linking, are emphasised by this work. As part of the concept behind this project, this only emphasises the exclusivity of net art, or art which is primarily about the net itself. If the user can actually make sure they've got the extensive list of required plugins, and is then motivated to locate the complex locations of the work within the network itself, and then use their skills of appreciation, they might just get it. The notion that the net is somehow a straightforward public space is shown here to be not true. Access is based on information technology skills and not simply entering a building or other public space.
Looking at Slipstreams, and the nature of the net referentiality of the work it presents, with artists, like Adam Chodzko, making a web cam work about a district council car park, in Consett Co. Durham, and Lucy Kimbell doing a 'performance analysis of the artist', in the style of stockmarket analysis, the only work to make any emotional impact was by Thomson and Craighead. Their work 'Read_Me', which involves downloading a piece of shareware, includes a sequence of downloaded documents which are secreted on the user's harddrive, and these are texts which have emotional content - 'pleas for help'. In e-motional terms, this is a mix of relationship problems, a need for financial advice, through to a plea for help in language translation skills. This is e-motion: a dehumanising process where having a nervous breakdown sits next to, 'where can I get the best car insurance?' E-motion is composed of indexical choices on the scales of relativity.
The American Modern Art critic, Clement Greenberg, called Georgia O'Keefe's art "pseudo-modern", when reviewing her retrospective at MOMA, New York in 1946. He described the work as: "...less to do with art than private worship and the embellishment of private fetishes with secret and arbitrary meaning." *4 It would not be surprising if net art was sometimes a continuation of that modernist legacy, where technical innovation holds too much of a sway over an appreciation of emotional perceptions and expressions.
Sarah Thompson 02.05.01
*1, *4 Sally Vincent, All Woman, "Georgia O'Keefe thought God was a woman", The Guardian, 28.04.01, [O'Keefe's O'Keefes: The Artist's Collection, by Barbara Buhler and Russell Bowman, Thames & Hudson]
*2, *3 Film and Video Umbrella, firstname.lastname@example.org, announcement of Slipstreams, ICA New Media Centre, on RHIZOME_RARE, 17.04.01