Dooley Le Cappellaine on Sun, 12 Sep 1999 05:04:33 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Artists and New Media

Recently Peter Small author of a wonderful book "Lingo Sorcery"  (object
oriented programming in Director)
available at

( also author of another great book on Avatars)

 invited me to participate in a Virtual cafe to preview his new book on the
subject of e-commerce.

In the early chapters of the book Peter talks about how inapproriate old
strategies are when building something that "works" on the web.

The participants at my table were invited to share their experiences in
business  and their adaption to "e-commerce":

   During the late '80's and early '90's I ran an Art Gallery in SoHo New
York. The main focus was on young cutting edge artists. I was constantly
swamped with artists bringing in their slides, huge crowds attended the
openings; if I'd been running a Night Club I would have made a fortune.
Often artists would aggresively try to get my attention while I was talking
to a collector or I was trying to get the invitations out on time for the
next exhibition.

I could understand their desperation; colleges turn out thousands of
"artists" from their (very expensive) Art Schools each year.
These artists have been taught that being an artist is a viable middle
class career.
Students emerge with a powerful sense of entitlement and a large debt to
pay off.
 Commercial galleries cannot afford to nurture the careers of these young
artists and only a tiny percentage will continue in the idea of an "art
career" 5, 10 years later.

I began a limited edition magazine: "Virtual Gallery" it was an alternative
space in order to provide artists with  a venue for their work. A venue
that didn't cost me $5,000 a month to run.
Artists would make 500 drawings, xeroxs or collages and they would be bound
each month. Each edition had a guest curator/editor and each issue was sold
as a Virtual exhibition (at Printed Matter, 77 Wooster St,in New York).
The title "Virtual Gallery" was a joke: at that time "Computer Art" was
derived from commercial compuer graphics of the most gross, slick and
vulgar kind.
The virtual exhibitions I produced through "Virtual Gallery" were
definitely early 90's in aesthetic and real artists exhibited.

By 1994 I became more and more interested in the space of the net.
At the end of the year I closed the real gallery and began to study the
programs that would enable me to build a gallery on the web.
There was at that time a few other gallery sites mostly very boring
, the slide show paradigm or the click on a "Virtual plan of a virtual
I began to think that in presenting art in this new space it should in fact
be new art that utilised the possibilities offered by New Media.
I put the online gallery idea on the backboiler and launched into creating
an exhibition on CD Rom.
Several problems became immediately apparent. One was that some of the
participating artists made no attempt to make an artwork but made an
infomercial about other previously existing work.
Several artists could not conceive of "moving art" their experience was in
photography or sculpture.
Most of the artists did not have the computers and the programs themselves
so I ended up making the work for them , trying to realize ideas that were
often derived from the existing art world i.e. "Video art" or ideas they
had which came from the movies. If you have ever tried to make a full
screen presentation work with  quickTime movies to play off a CD Rom you
will know that there are very specific limitations.

As an artist what had excited me about New media as an Art medium was the
freedom to create unexpected new forms and the ability to make your own
movie , edit and transform your own video.

It was evident that some artists were very well trained at playing the
rules of the game that constitutes what is accepted as the practise of
"making art" at the present time and were uncomfortable that the rules of
the game could change.
The art world is organized around the sale of objects.
The sale of web art works is extremely rare although the Cartier Foundation
in France has sponsored individual works ($5,000) which it now owns.

The CD Rom ("Technophobia") took most of 1995 and 1996 to make (in my spare
I built a website to promote and sell the CD.
I get a lot of compliments on my site but I don't think I've made one sale
from the site.
"Technophobia" has been seen at many New media and Moving image festivals
but I don't think I've made one sale from a festival screening.

Most sales were generated from magazine reviews.

During the year I spent working with artists on the CD two fairly definite
approaches to the use of computer technologies became clear:
While some artists were interesed in ideas concerninga new means of
production and it's implications for meaning, some felt very strongly that
the use of comuter technology was insignificant in itself; that it is just
another tool and the rules of the art/commodity game remain unchanged.

Others felt it represented an entirely new means of production,
distribution and a new kind of mental space in which art could take place.

The critical and historical framing of art has paid little attention to the
significance of means and how this might effect a new relationship between
art and reality for young artists working in this field today.

In a recent review of Jeffrey Shaw's Golden Calf (Art meets Virtual Reality
and Religion) by Edward Allen Shanken:, (e-mail: he mention's the possibility of a different kind
of perception "... a cyberception, based on mutuality, simultaneity and

In 1997 I was one of the founding members of DIGICULT; it's members were
all involved in Art using New Media.
It was very evident that some members were building careers by theorizing
about this medium ; without exception employing the most hackneyed cliches
of French critical theory. Here was a real live case of the Top down
scenario. Of imposing a previously configured analytical matrix to an
entirely new subject. Or perhaps it was just some member's very recent
exposure to de-constructivism that caused in a sort of puppyish self
confidence; an  innocent onrush of gibberish.

On the other hand older persons in Museum positions with hiring power are
familiar with this format and apt to employ young men in Ralph Lauren who
can perpetuate "old style deconstructivism" as a middle class
pseudo-academic sap to intellectual  credibility.

My insistence on the fact that it's through working in this medium that new
theoretical pespectives will occur to us was met very cooly by members (who
having never operated a single program and could hardly e-mail correctly)
were being invited to make presentations at conferences, curate new media
events at venues like the Venice Biennale, Documenta etc.

 I think that a "Top down" separate theoretical /investigation will
inevitably  result in worn out post- structural rhetoric.
Such an approach is inappropriate to a new communications medium which
seems to mutate in unpredictable ways and is not going to conform to any
master plan.

In connection with this is the interesting art historical factor within the
art of this century where the activity of making art, has Forms just as
much as the end product.
In the post optical art of this century these forms of production are often
forms of behaviour. Often these forms of behaviour are aimed at testing the
"interface" (joke) of the artist's actions and reality.

 New technology is being used by young artists in this way now. For example
RealitySynth (an English group of 2 artists) who block television
transmissions to send "messages" (within a 2 mile radius so far),
 and the work of Guillaume Wolf and Genevieve Gaukler who make ads for RGB
force Inc. offering eternal life via cryogenics to artificial intelligence
enhancements; made to order plastic surgery and virtual sexual playmates.
The artist Heath Bunting is well known for his hacker like  interventions.

The possibilities of computer space as a medium and how it relates to the
coming years is of vital interest particularly where it concerns
alterations in mental experience. (Although this is rather abstract the
idea of alterations in mental experience rather than an emphasis on
"communications" may be a useful talking  point).

For example: e-mail has produced an entirely new strain of communications;
frank, informal and often obnoxious. That e-mail is a new form of
communicating is not interesting in itself but the new kind of mental
experience this has created probably is.

Dooley Le Cappellaine
284 Mott Street #9K
New York NY 10012
Phone(212) 966-3046

For an order form for "Technophobia":  e-mail:
For a preview of "Technophobia":
Phone and Fax (212) 966-3046

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