The Art Screen Scene

By Colman, David | Artforum International, September 1995 | Go to article overview

The Art Screen Scene

Colman, David, Artforum International

The elusive and protean entity known as the Internet Is straining to be more things to more people with every passing moment, and it is now metamorphosing Into a gallery space as well. In New York this summer, the Dia Center for the Arts, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Museum of Modern Art all Inaugurated spaces on-line, to promote exhibitions and to exhibit artwork created for the Internet. At this writing, Digitalogue, a gallery devoted exclusively to digital art, was scheduled to open in Santa Monica in September. New York companies called Tractor and Artix are helping artists, galleries, and museums with lifo on-line, and the Microsoft Corporation plans a contemporary-art program for its new on-line network. "It's like the Wild West," says MoMA's Barbara London.

Questions about art and cyberspace persist, however: will artists and institutions on the Internet be playing to an audience whose highest word of praise is "cool"? How will artists respond to the restrictions - physical, esthetic, social, not to mention financial - of a high-cyber diet? Don't Americans eat poorly enough as it is?

MICHAEL GOVAN (DIRECTOR, DIA CENTER FOR THE ARTS): I can't spend more than five minutes on the Internet. The Alternative Biennial, the Internet's answer to the Whitney Biennial, was the most reactionary art you've ever seen - surrealist, Renaissance-looking pictures. [But] I also find it hard either to be a supercritic saying there's nothing on the Internet, or to take this other side that says the Internet is utopia. To me, it's just there.

Our Fantastic Prayers project, by Tony Oursler, Stephen Vitiello, and Constance DeJong, was on the Internet and was a performance at Dia as well. It was about the naive space of Arcadia, where these teenagers look around with no sense of anything but the present. That's what the Internet is like - this bizarre utopian Arcadia. I saw the figure that DeJong played, the voice of memory, as potentially interrupting the Arcadia of the Internet with deeper and darker concerns. The Internet is clearly becoming a distribution and merchandising device. I'm coming from a nonprofit, and my perspective is to prove there's a value in not charging for everything - especially on the Internet, where, once commercial enterprises are up and running, it doesn't cost anything extra to broadcast other nonprofit programs. The infrastructure should stay as free as possible.

DAVID ROSS (DIRECTOR, WHITNEY MUSEUM): For me it's very encouraging that the Internet is such an accurate reflection of the world, in that it's mostly dreck. Every once in a while you find something interesting, and even more rarely you find something extraordinary - sort of like video in the early '70s.

It's our job to let the public know there are artists out there making work that can be seen with no social pressure - you don't have to walk around a museum and maybe feel you don't know what's going on. You can visit it, like it or not, and leave. And if you like it you can explore further. There's a certain booklike aspect in the privacy of the experience. It loses some of the social experience of looking at art, but there's something gained in the intimacy. Vito Acconci, in his early work, talked about the seductive power of television; I haven't seen anyone explore that aspect of the Internet yet, but I'm sure someone will.

STACY HORN (FOUNDER, ECHO CYBERSALON): Artists on the Net are making the same mistakes the early television people got into when they made TV look like theater: they're treating the Net like an archival medium. In fact it's more dynamic than that. This may sound like heresy, but it's hard for me to go to galleries and museums because they seem so lifeless by comparison. The Net has tremendous potential as a medium for artistic expression, but people haven't begun to realize it.

RONALD JONES (ARTIST): I'm creating Web sites to complement my exhibitions in Berlin, Atlanta, and New York. …

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