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[Nettime-bold] Singapore Art Exhibition
Marchenko Lisa on Wed, 20 Mar 2002 03:00:02 +0100 (CET)


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[Nettime-bold] Singapore Art Exhibition


Singapore Art Museum, Dec 8 2001 - Mar 24 2002
Curated by Gunalan Nadarajan

Exhibition Website: www.cyberarts.scholars.nus.edu.sg/nsa01

In the last few decades the art world has been flooded with a number of 
terms invented to define the developing artforms employing the so-called 
'new' technologies;
for example, electronic arts, digital arts, media arts, new media and most 
recently, cyberarts. While all these terms have been variously useful in 
defining historically
specific developments in contemporary artistic practice, I have found the 
term cyberarts to be most useful and inclusive.  For example, the term 
Electronic Arts is
historically-specific to some art practices from the sixties till the early 
eighties which were based on and operated via electronic systems. The term 
'digital arts' is also
historically-specific to the digitisation technologies brought about by 
developments in computer graphics. These technologies have themselves been 
superceded by the
so-called 'cybertechnologies' of which digitization is merely one aspect. 
Moreover, the term digital arts in also limited by the type of authoring 
techniques used and
images / sounds thus generated. However, it is noteworthy that the term 
'digital arts' enjoys and may continue to have currency in the contemporary 
art world. The term,
'cyberarts', proposed here seeks to ultimately replace 'digital arts' by 
providing a more comprehensive term to embrace artworks and practices that 
already go beyond
'digital media'.

The most recent term that has been invoked to refer to these technologically 
driven developments in contemporary art is 'new media'. Lev Manovich, the 
media theorist, has
in his recent book, The Language of New Media, identified five 
characteristics that conceptually distinguish 'new media' from previous art 
forms. These are namely, numerical
coding that facilitates the programmability of the media; modularity that 
creates a structural discreteness of its parts; automation of its production 
and access; variability,
meaning that the media can continue to be presented in variable formats and 
versions well after its 'completion'; and finally, transcoding, insofar as 
its codes operate between
and are therefore transferable across different systems. While, Manovich's 
conceptual clarification of what constitutes 'new media' is incisive and 
useful for our understanding
of many of the contemporary developments in art and technology, there is no 
reason why the term 'new media' is most appropriate. The term 'new' in new 
media, is
conceptually empty insofar as what constitutes the 'new' at any point in 
time is so variable as to impossible to identify. The use of the word 'new' 
also does not facilitate a
better theoretical framing or understanding of the peculiar artistic and/or 
technological developments of the art works. However, given the theoretical 
value of the
abovementioned characteristics to illuminate our understanding of the 
ongoing developments in the cyberarts, it would be useful to coopt them into 
our understanding of the
cyberarts.

The term 'cyber' derives from the Greek root, kubernare that refers to the 
"act of controlling a ship" where the 'pilot' was refered to as kubernetes. 
Kubernare is also the root
of the word, 'government' which refers to the composite acts of control as 
well as the organization / entity that is charged with that task. The 
mathematician Norbert Weiner
defined cybernetics as the study and strategic deployment of communicative 
control processes within complex systems constituted by hierarchically 
ordered entities. And
by this he initiated a revolutionary development in the way we have come to 
think about information and control. Cybernetic systems are thus conceived 
to be made up of
information flows between differently constituted entities like humans, 
computers, animals and even environments. The flow of information was 
conceived as a principle
explaining how organization occurs across and within multiple hierarchical 
levels. This meant that seemingly bounded entities could be translated / 
codified into information
thereby enabling interfaces and easy interactions between them. It is in 
fact arguable that in the last two decades a large amount of technological 
innovation has been
towards greater cyberneticization. This means that in addition to 
innovations that allow existing technologies to become integrated with each 
other through cross-platform
operability, the 'new' in many 'new technologies' have been exactly their 
ability to hybridise previously separate functionalities, e.g. 
web-integrated mobile phones, biochips,
artificial life, etc. It is this translatability, more accurately desire to 
translate, different physical entities and processes into information as 
well as the control afforded thereby
that distinctly characterizes and enables what have come to be called 
cybertechnologies.

Thus, one can sum up that the term cyberarts refers to all those art forms, 
practices and processes that are produced and mediated by the continuing 
developments in
cybertechnologies, specifically in information, communication, imaging, 
experiential, interface and bio-technologies. The cyberarts as defined by 
contemporary art practice
include the following: digital imaging (whether as digital painting, digital 
photography and digital video); computer animation; holographic art; virtual 
reality environments,
including gaming; robotic arts; net-art, including works in hypertext and 
telematics; human-machine interfaces (e.g. cyborg technologies); bio-arts 
that employ
biotechnologies (e.g. DNA music, transgenic art, artificial life); computer 
music & sound arts; and hybrid art works involving interaction with other 
art forms (e.g. theatre,
dance, installations, etc.).

This exhibition introduces the Singapore audience to the exciting art works 
that have resulted from the intersections of art with recent developments in 
technologies. The
term, techn, which forms the root of the word 'technology' in the classical 
Greek referred to the means and methods of creative making and as such was 
not different from the
idea of art. However, historically technology has been relegated to refer to 
functional and pragmatic creation in contradistinction to art. The aim of 
this exhibition is to
deliberate on the intersections and productive tensions between art and 
technology as exemplified in recent developments in the cyberarts. Given the 
serious lack of such
artforms and practices in Singapore the exhibition had to jumpstart its 
systematic development by facilitating the local production of exemplary 
works in the field of cyberarts.
Through an initial curatorial briefing and introduction to the cyberarts, 
proposals for projects dealing with intersections of art and technology were 
invited. Interested artists
were advised to concentrate on the conceptualisation of their projects 
without being too concerned with the technological peculiarities and 
requirements of their proposed
works. This was especially crucial as there was a paucity of artists working 
with cybertechnologies in Singapore and as such, the bulk of the proposals 
were anticipated to
be from those who worked with other media. From a total of nearly thirty 
proposals, seven proposals were finally selected. The selection was based 
not simply on the artistic
merits of the works but on the potential to exemplify and generate critical 
discussion on the intersections between art and technology. Selected artists 
were then matched
with appropriate technological experts to consult and aid in the production 
of the final works. The works in this exhibition have been drawn together on 
the basis of two
central issues in cyberculture: virtual actions and virtual spaces. All the 
works deliberate on how our conventional notions of spaces and action are 
complicated by
technologies of and encounters with the 'virtual'.




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