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.
"..."Baby Play" is installation 1.0 of Cheang's "Locker Baby" project (2001-2002), which features three Net installations based on a fictional scenario set in the year 2030. Produced by the Dolly Polly Transgency (DPT) with genes extracted from deep sea pearls, the clone generation of Locker Babies are born out of Tokyo coin lockers and entrusted to retrieve our collective deposits of ME-motion data on the Net..." [Hisanori Gogota] *1
The Whitney Museum in New York are setting up an historical database of net art, which they are inviting the net artists themselves to construct. This is 'open source history' in action and the artists can change previous entries about their works. "...If someone else made an entry for your work, feel free to edit it as you consider necessary!" *2 Programmed by Martin Wattenberg, this database is called "Idealine", which will be located within the Whitney's artport website, "a map of net artworks created over the past six years - visualizing a "history" of net art in terms of the ideas and concepts the works are based upon..." *3 This project has similarities to Rhizome's Artbase, and the 'Telematic Timeline' which is open source, so that anyone can add information about telematic artworks not mentioned in the exhibition 'Telematic connections: Virtual Embrace'.
With the 'Idealine' the traditional academic or curatorial mediation that constitutes documentation is replaced by the mediation of a computer program and a database. This suggests a new kind of history, one that is a collective construction. Idealine is also an interface to this history.
Meanwhile, some current art practice online, also explores the interface. From the mapping of auction lots to a map of a football field, the new media artist primarily "links both physical and online spaces" *4 Nina Pope's "A Public Auction of Private Art Works", and Shu Lea Cheang's "Baby Play", are both examples of interfaces between physical and net space, clearly using this interface between net and physical art event as either webcasting for bidding at 'A Public Auction', or as a non-interactive web 'movie' which changes through participation through the gallery based interface environment in "Baby Play".
Both Pope and Cheang were concerned with the interface, and distributed, shared authorship, in the late nineties, and in her net based work "Brandon" (1998) Cheang used multiple interfaces to the work. The construction of an interface as the creation of an artificial space with behavioural rules, touches on the problems of subjective classification in the "Idealine". A multiplicity of views are being explored in these ways.
"A Public Auction of Private Art Works" took place on 24th June at Kimbolton Castle, and was organised by Nina Pope, "...in collaboration with public art organisation Commissions East, Pope has invited over thirty leading artists and designers to create a contemporary work of art in response to the possessions of the Duke of Manchester sold in the 1949 auction at Kimbolton Castle, UK." *6 By making an art work of the auction process itself, and selecting her own 'private collection', Pope mixes curation with personal network, and heritage with open source (re-writable) history. Using the role model of the Duke of Manchester, and asking the selected artists to respond to his previously auctioned possessions, this work shows how differently personal and mediated validation of art works occurs, and raises questions of what governs interest in art objects. By effectively producing a small scale 'media' event , webcast to allow bidding online, Pope draws attention to market forces and to the individual's relationship with art, and plays traditions off against one another: aristocratic authority; financial speculation; media sensationalism; local bargain hunters, within the realm of the conceptual and electronic mediation of the interface.
Another conceptual and electronic mediation, within a different cultural context - the Japanese ITCC centre, is Shu Lea Cheang's "Baby Play". The floating memory game of ME-motion is played out, and online appears in the form of a football which moves from point to point around the screen and as it arrives at each location a little burst of ME-motion is released. The whole interface environment becomes a ME-motion playing field, linking the virtual online space to its real space counterpart, "...an immense foosball playing field (15m x 7.5m)"*8, where gallery "...participants engage in a game of foosball, the image of the ball bouncing in the actual playing field is sent to the ME-motion virtual field on the Net. The movement of the ball in the actual playing field is tracked by 36 touch sensors and sent to the "Baby Play" website where the virtual moving ball retrieves sound and text files as ME-motion data." *9
The public can also use the '36 lockers for data deposit', but unless you are in Tokyo you can only watch as the gallery based data is translated onto the screen. The rules of participation are clearly defined, and the 'gaming' interface of Baby Play uses the Net as a memory storage space for emotional footballs which no-one wants to keep. This rule based 'safe' space allows the exploration and expression of emotion, in much the same way as a baby can safely express its undirected emotions within the safety of play. By projecting this emotion into space, the participants can 'let it go'. Online we watch these ME-motional footballs, disconnected from the physical location and individuals concerned, and experience the data playing field, through music/sound and Japanese texts.
Different participatory interfaces create alternative spaces for self expression, and for the exploration of ideas. Different levels of communication can be realised through the 'rules'. The Idealine at the Whitney uses conceptual and electronic mediation to 'construct' or map net art history, but perhaps the rules are less clear than in these two art works described, which use existing conventions to structure participation: the auction and the football game.
Sarah Thompson 27.06.01
*1, *2, *3, *4 Christiane Paul, "Request for help for Whitney project, fwd by Alexei Shulgin to: RHIZOME_RARE, 12.06.01
*5, *7, *8, *9 Shu Lea Cheang's new project, fwd by Diane Ludin, firstname.lastname@example.org, 19.06.01
*6 Nina Pope, RHIZOME_RARE, A Public Auction of Private Art Works, 21.06.01