This article was published by Rhizome.org, an interview with Simon Faithfull about Adelaide - a work for the net, and is now part of their resource at Rhizome.
Adelaide - a new work for the net by Simon Faithfull
We are always seeing continuous and smooth transformations in CG, even on the web, with Shockwave, Java, etc... and yet it is precisely the very visible breaking down of images into component pixels which gives the sensation of mutable memory in "Adelaide" - a new work for the net by artist/curator Simon Faithfull.
Adelaide exists on what will eventually be the new web site of the Chisenhale Gallery, London. The Chisenhale website "ch2" is currently being produced by e-2: who are Simon Faithfull, Peter Moore, and Mark Brown - "bringing together the respective skills of an artist/curator, an Internet producer and a graphic designer." e-2 also run "Container-Ship", a commissioning web project dedicated to net based art. Last week I asked Simon about Adelaide, e-2, ch2, and future commissions...
Aurora Lovelock: What inspired Adelaide?
Simon Faithfull: Mouse drawings (or now track-pad drawings) have been part of my practice for a while. Perversly, I enjoy using an antiquated drawing program as this, with its pixilated line, brings to the surface the building blocks, almost texture, of a digital image. I enjoy the gap between the personal nature of "doodles" and the anonymous "bitty" recording of this information. A large part of drawing in a conventional sense has been to do with the pencil line being an authentic and unique record of the artists hand. In this case, even though the track pad does faithfully translate this act into low grade digital information, there is of course now no authentic original.
In Adelaide I wanted to highlight this further. By simply shrinking and re-expanding the image in a series of stages, it loses information at every step - coming ever closer to one fat pixel. Does this final pixel contain an essence of the original drawing?
To form Adelaide I simply arranged these images so that on clicking one moves through the series, each frame dissolving into its digital constituents and then slowly reforming into the next drawing in the sequence. Although each consecutive image is summoned by the viewer, he or she can not go back and so is not able to control the ebb and flow of the digital myopia - not knowing for sure which is the final "complete" image until it has in fact gone.
As such, Adelaide comes to deal with the fragility of memory. I've been interested in how a part of the driving force behind technology has been an attempt to augment our own internal hard disks. The drawings hint at a narrative, but one which in fact never quite solidifies. The drawings hang in the limbo of cyberspace in a way that seems to mimic how half remembered scenes hang in the folds of our memory.
AL: it is interesting that the work explores the basics of drawing and the digital image, and yet it has this enjoyable absurdity too.
SF: most of my work does (i hope), I guess the other thing that I should say is that Adelaide was conceived as an accompanying piece to my show "Hertford Union" in the Chisenhale physical space and so shares some of that piece's gloomy absurd humour
AL: how long have you been making art using computers?
SF: tricky... I got over technophobia whilst doing an MA at reading 94/96. I found this anagram generator which spawned 20 anagrams of my name which became the basis for an ongoing piece of work. Since leaving I've published various books using the pixal drawings but this is the first time I've made a web based piece.
AL: Who are E2?
SF: e-2 is a digital arts production group, its remit to develop innovative arts projects within electronic media. Working with organisations and individual artists, e-2 seeks to develop the Internet and other digital media as spaces for contemporary art and culture.
e-2 originally grew out of the ongoing digital arts project Container-ship which was commissioned by a Japanese arts organisation NMP. e-2 has recently received funding both from the Arts Council (for a next round of Container-ship commissions and London Arts Board for a collaboration with Chisenhale Gallery to produce another curated digital space (called "ch2").
AL: do you see cyberspace as a repository; a dynamically updating changing environment, or both?
SF: both. cyberspace is definitely a dynamically updating medium which of course has to be addressed. If, however, the work is any good it should still have meaning when the technology has moved on and left it behind. C-ship was conceived almost as a Marie Celest in cyber space. As such it begins with a post dated feel - it would be good if it builds to be not only a collection of interesting art but also becomes a document charting the passing waves of web development. Ultimately there will come a time when c-ship will sink beneath the waves - but not quite yet.
AL: can yo tell me anymore about the next Container-ship commissions? When are they expected to be online?
SF: We're currently completing a project by Susan Collins called Cruisin' which should be launched in late spring:
Susan Collins, "Cruising": Building upon her piece In Conversation, Collins' project Cruising further explores issues of interaction in digital space. Choosing to view the commission as a site-specific project, Collins has inhabited Container-ship with a roaming chat-space. On entering this space one encounters both other visitors and an on-board cast of five "intelligent" programmed characters. These characters ask and respond to questions, generally engaging the visitor in idle chat fuelled by the tedium of the mid-ocean. Ultimately, it is unclear who is real and who is digital. In its addictive nature, Cruising examines our need for human interaction and how in cyber-space, we sometimes require little to satisfy this need.
the next round will be Anna Best and Janice Kerbal in the summer 99
AL: can you tell me anymore about "ch2"? When will it be online? can you talk about the kind of space it will be? Will you be involved in a curatorial role?
SF: There will be two commissions coming online in September and December 99. Unlike c-ship the space will only contain one piece at a time and they will only be online for a short period after which they will never appear on the web again. ch2is a collaboration between the two bodies so yes I am involved in the curation, as are the chisenhale in the design of the space.
Aurora Lovelock 10.02.99