My art works can be viewed as involving three main areas of investigation. Telecommunication art as exemplified by Art Dirt and Collider, digital performance art as exemplified by Port-MIT and A SoaPOPera for Laptops, and net.art represented in various web projects including Faux Conceptual Art and Art Direct/ Sex, Violence and Politics.
My research into telecommunication art involves two main areas (others are in development), they are Art Dirt and Collider. For Art Dirt, <http://www.walkerart.org/gallery9/dasc/artdirt/index.html> , I engage in a round table discussion on topics involving digital art. In Collider, <http://bbs.thing.net> (click on video click on archive), I use a dialog between myself and another digital artist. These are presented as streamed audio and video over the internet. They are also archived. The archives may be accessed via the world wide web. Both works are extensions of earlier types of conceptual art practices. If I were to trace a historical path I would start with the Joseph Beuys idea of social sculpture. Following on would be my involvement in video-performance art in the 1970's and No-Wave cinema and Punk art in the 1980's. What this historical thread indicates is a group communication activity that leads to aesthetic insight and refers to various mass media forms as it's subject and also as it's object (vehicle for presentation). In the 1990's I have extended these forms into the digital arena of the world wide web. I see this as having interesting implications. What I have been doing is creating a personal media form and narrowcasting it over the internet. In an information society everyone has the means of production, the product being information. Whether or not people are aware of it, I believe a post-media information society is beginning to emerge. This means that mass production, mass distribution broadcast modes are being supplanted by a digital immersive information environment. In this new environment, it becomes important to project a web persona that one creates using personal media.
My investigation of digital performance art started with Port-MIT (1996) an exhibition at the List Visual Arts Museum of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that was organized by artnetweb in 1996.
For Port-MIT I created two web jam <http://www.artnetweb.com/gh/Cosi_frametest.html> remote events, one for the opening and one for the closing. For the opening I was at the Ecole D'Art D'Aix-en-Provence in France where I hosted a series of performances that were streamed over the internet to screens at MIT. For the closing I invited people for a CU See Me session and also had digital musicians stream realAudio files from around the world. I then did a live mix of the streamed video and audio at MIT. The audience also participated in the CU See Me. For A SoaPOPera for Laptops (1997-2000) <http://www.thing.net/~soapop>, I began working with Peter Sinclair who lives in Marseille. I had been working with text-to-speech as a logical extension of my text based conceptual art and performance work. Peter and I have created a sort of bricolage robot performance troupe. Part of what I have been doing with Peter is telematically projecting performance art into the robot/vehicles.
My works involving net.art are an extension of the post modernist discourse into the digital arena. They are critiques of post modernist practices as well as the art worlds enormous marketing and distribution mechanism. My position in this respect is to avoid commodification and to present as many alternative models for what an art work is and how artistic practice may be defined for the 21st century. The web site, Faux Conceptual Art (1994) <http://artnetweb.com/projects/fauxcon/> is a prank piece that is a send up of appropriation art. It also has the first DIY (do it yourself) internet art work Video Affirmations. The work allows people to print out the text and paste them up in a room. I have received many emails from people who have done just that. The web site, Art Direct/ Sex, Violence & Politics (1995) <http://www.thing.net/~gh/artdirect> is a critique of American mass media. It's also a challenge to those who would censor internet art. The major piece is BKPC (Barbie & Ken Politically Correct). Mattel inc. the manufacturer of Barbie dolls, unsuccessfully tried to force The Thing to remove the piece citing copyright infringement. Another piece Pray for Death uses the slowness of the internet to create an animated montage. What this piece points out is the difference between digital art and other screenic art. Digital art is rendered in real time on the screen and through loud speakers. I am interested in using the peculiarities and faults of computer systems as an aspect of the work. A third piece Tactics for Survival in the New Culture is the clearest trajectory of taking an earlier conceptual art piece done in 1974 and extending it into hypertext on the web.
Mutability of Form:
Most of my work blurrs the lines between media forms and has been presented in a variety of formats or has that capability. So that for instance art dirt and collider have some aspects taken from a television talk show but the reality is they are art works. My collaborative work, A SoaPOPera for Laptops may be inspired by pop media, computer music and robotics but it doesn't really fit neatly in those categories. Indeed my net.art projects have a similar problem insofar as they sit uncomfortably balanced between hard core coded art and information pranksterism on the one hand and media critique on the other. In order to propose a trajectory for new media art I feel one has to encompass the teleology of previous media and art forms.
Net Culture is the validator:
In a more generalized disussion of aspects of digital art certain issues seems to be peculiar to digital art. For instance the elimination of both a discreet art object and an encapsulated time based performance are to my mind hallmarks of digital art. How this differs from earlier forms of conceptual art is simply this; time based work always has a beginning and an end. Conceptual Art tends to rely on a substituted discreet object such as a photograph and or text. How the work is presented and received is also quite different. Digital art (New Media art) depends on the internet to give it meaning. This means that all the other existing systems for presenting art have little impact on how the works are perceived. With digital art, net culture is the validator of the art work. Indeed, I feel there has been a massive rupture between, post modernist systems and new media systems just at the point where post modernism has secured it's ascendancy as the dominant form of artistic practice.
Information Filter/ The machine as co-producer
Perhaps by discussing the structure of a web jam I can clarify some of the differences in new media art. The two web jams I organized depended on two types of locations. The main gathering place for all the artists was a reflector site on the internet. The actions occured in this virtual space. People who accessed this via the web, also had various physical activities happening at the same time. This might entail a group of people standing around a computer sometimes paying attention and sometimes ignoring the whole thing. At the List Center people were also physically engaged in parts of the web jam or they immersed themselves in the four screens. The structure was one of distributed nodes which had a loose communication motif. The performances were streamed into this mix. In the first web jam I was a performer/ host at a remote node. In the second I performed a remix of the information that was being streamed to the reflector sites. I then presented the information in the physical space. In a certain sense the artist (me) performs the function of an information filter organizing the data streams.
In A SoaPOPera for Laptops, I projected myself into the computers via text-to-speech. Peter Sinclair my partner in this and other works has matching aesthetic concerns and a facility for creating both the underlying progamming structure and the physical/mechanical manifestation. Indeed, working with computers tends to create collaboration. The networked structure of information processing naturally lends itself to cooperative projects. Over the course of several works we have been moving into a symbiotic relationship with the computers as co-performers and co-creators of the art work. In our upcoming piece Heartbreak Hotel we have begun a process of removing the author by using text generators to create the texts the virtual characters speak.
My first internet art work was executed before the advent of the world wide web. This was done on The Thing bbs (computer bulletin board service) in the fall of 1994. I presented BKPC as a series of digitals images that users of the bbs could download and collect on their computer. 12 images one a week for twelve weeks. I discovered that a gallerist in soho had downloaded them onto his computer and was using them for a screen saver. I found this to be very amusing. I had circumvented the standard mode of distributing art work. The work was being displayed in a prestigious gallery without going through the normal routes. Later I incorporated the work as a client pull animation into my website, Art Direct/ Sex, Violence & Politics.