Cultimo on Mon, 24 Aug 1998 15:32:04 +0200 (MET DST)

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>Today the language of cultural interfaces is in its early stage, as
>was the language of cinema a hundred years ago. We don't know what
>the final result will be, or even if it will ever completely stabilize. 

It is a long way to go before there will be a computer Picasso

Maybe it will take a long time before it will be possible to create 
something that can realy  be called computer art in the way we call a 
Picasso art (though somepeople give that name to their creations). 

More and more people stress the need for a computer interface that is not 
leaning on the metaphors of the past, non-computerworld (see also: 
<nettime> The anti-mac interface). But it is not just the interface of 
the operating system I'm talking about, and it is not solely the programs 
that run on computers and what one can do with it. It has also to do with 
people and what they can do with a computer, how they think about it, and 
- more important - how they can controle it. 

The medium is the message, people said. So art is about choosing a medium 
and making it speek out loud. Some things that are said in a work of art 
are due to the artist, some things are due to the medium. The medium is 
like a garden, the artist is the gardner. He plans out, he can correct, 
but he or she  doesn't have total controle. There is one thing the artist 
does know: He knows the laws of the garden, he knows the clock that makes 
the garden do tick-tock and he knows which tick or tock shall give him 
something that approaches the message he desires. The rest is wait and 

Do people nowadays know the tick tock of the computer well enough to be a 
cyber gardner? It will take a cultural shift that nobody can predict. At 
art-colleges students get lessons computer-art from people that know less 
about computers than they do. So they are not the gardners that can teach 
their students to make their cyber gardens flower. And it is not just the 
technical knwoledge that makes the difference. It is also the aesthetics. 
The aestetics of the teachers are based  on a tradition without 
computers. Computers fit in to that tradition quit nicely though. Because 
somehow the aesthetics of today tends to be an aesthetics of 
fragmentation and chaos. Art has been given the responsibillity to rise 
above all cultural, individual, political, gender related reality 
differences without destroying the uniqness of each individual cultural, 
individual, political, gender related position possible in reality.

Maybe the above formulation of the aesthetics of fragmentation is not 
true. Maybe the aesthetics of fragmentation is just an awnser to the 
overwelming information, an awnser to the overwelming feeling that we are 
not alone on this planet - and therefore an individual artist can not 
make art without stressing that he not just makes a medium speek while 
making his artwork, but that he himself is a medium through which the 
culture of this planet expresses itself in his work of art. It doesn't 
matter. But what I see around me (and I interview and meet a lot of young 
artists each year) is that most young artists tend to create a work of 
art that stresses multiple dimensions at once, by combining and pointing 
at other sources, with fragmentation and collages etc. And it is not just 
that: In video clips the same thing happens. Literature had its 
post-modernism and look alikes (OULIPO etc).

One of the possible ways to use a cmputer in art is to see it as an 
instrument for fragmentation and giving expression to fragmentation. But 
that is not controling the machine. That is being controled by that 
machine, because it happens to easily. It is the ghost of the machine set 
free without knowing its force. It is the opposite of being a gardner  
that makes the medium speak. 

Apart from the above stated aesthetics of fragmentation (art-students get 
high grades for fragmented works of art) it has to do with the fact that 
a computer is over-estimated and underestimated at the same time. It all 
has to do with the amount of time and knowledge one needs to controle it, 
and to work with it. A computer is a myth. A computer makes complicated 
tasks easy, one can work very hard because of the computer, and one can 
get rich easily because of a computer. But that's not true. A computer is 
a complicated device and sometimes it is a miracle that it does the 
things one wants it to do. It takes a lot of skill and time to make it do 
the things you want. And most people that try to get rich go bankrupt at 
least once. 

It is the euforia of the desktop/secreatry-like GUI and the way companies 
advertise with it that is to blame for that believe ( and an other part 
of the problem could be the inmense believe in progress). The computer is 
underestimated. It takes a lot of work to create something as colossal as 
a work of computer art. With a computer one can be a film editor, writer, 
musician, photographer etc, at the same time. That is what one thinks. 
But few people can combine that in one person. Most of the time it takes 
several people to do that job. 

Next to that problem stands the fact that creating an interactive 
structure is like playing  blind chess simultaniously with a lot of 
people. And I believe I once heard that in Russia it was prohibited to do 
that with to many people. Everybody likes the idea of a never ending 
non-linear story with a lot of excitement and thriller potential, but few 
are able to create it.   

Combine the over- and under-estimated possibilities of the computer with 
the aesthetics of fragmentation and one gets students that never learn to 
create a work of computer art that is a finished whole, but instead they 
always create fragments of what the final product would be like when they 
had had more time, more experience and more people to work on it. 

In order to create the possibility for a new culture and a new aesthetics 
to emerge from the computer and with the computer, the myth that 
computers are easy toys has to be torn down. 

Jeroen Goulooze



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