I am seeing a lot of digital video on the net. I really have nothing
against video, and according to Moore's law it might be the ultimate
direction for net-art. At the present, however, it kind of annoys me.
From my understanding, the video interface is quite different from the
GUI of the computer display. For one thing, the information on a video
is broadcast either through radio waves or from media that don't require
Internet bandwidth. Video is seen in galleries with the presence of the
"appareil" (technical equipment). The television monitor carries an
exact duplicate of the recording studio (or the camera) into the viewing
space. The broadcast is the content of the art (Couchot, 1998). The 20th
century "trained" me to see movies and video in the model that was
presented to me. Of course, my initial expectation was that the Internet
followed the models to which I had grown accustomed.
In any technology, there is also the aspect of "fun". It's fun in a
world of movies and television to sit at your computer and play with the
actual tools of movie making. With endless amounts of storage space, ram
and lots of time, anyone can be a director. The very nature of the
Internet allows you to post and wait for an audience.
This is why I expected to see videos on web sites. Convergence seemed to
be always just one new processor away from profit. The nature of the
Internet however is different from broadcasting and the medium
inevitably changes the nature of the message. For one thing, the GUI is
not a metaphor for a piece of paper nor a television screen. On the net,
dimensions are abstractions determined by a program and may approach the
limits of whatever the architecture of the processor and the network can
provide. I think that better web-art takes advantage of this fact.
I admit that part of the fun of working in techno-art are the toys that
money can buy. The prevalence of video on the Internet assumes a
universal access to the most sophisticated equipment available. The
viewer should be capable of endless cycles of upgrades, have lots of
storage space and possess endless amounts of time to sit and wait for
things to download (doesn't everyone have a Xeon processor and broad
These images that move a bit like TV have a mesmerising effect that is
difficult to ignore. My students are forever downloading Flash culture
by the young Adolphe William Bougereaux of the net. Commercial software
with pre-determined parameters allow for homogeneous products in
exquisite taste. The "bells-and whistles" approach certainly works well
to attract individuals to the economy of consumption.
I am perhaps nostalgic for an earlier aesthetic on the net, where
artists generally worked outside of the cycle of corporate sponsorship,
organised curatorial bureaucracies and the bias of profit. On the net,
at least there seemed to be, the beginnings of a break up of
hierarchies. Artists broke through national barriers and independently
challenged the way that we see.
So now, I look at my display and I'm a bit tired of the "loading" band.
Good net art, I think, expresses the interactivity and flux of the net.
Bit by bit (no pun intended) bandwith and our attention is being
swallowed up by toys, and to paraphrase Phil Ochs, they're all made out
of ticky-tacky, and they all look just the same.
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