Tag Archives: digital material culture

Terminal 2.0

This second part of my four part Hub blog series continues to discuss my singular interface experience of the Western Front’s virtual space of Terminal. Terminal 2.0 is a web presence that considers the impact of graphical user interfaces (GUI’s) on the progression of artists' creative processes. In the early 1980’s, GUI’s offered a user-friendly visual means of making the operation of personal computers more accessible. These types of visuals are usually in the form of graphic icons or menus. The transition of computer operations from command-line interfaces to point and click devices transformed the manipulation and processing of imagery.

Commodore Amiga 1000 personal computer with 1081 RGB monitor. (1985) Photo Courtsy of Creative Commons Attributions, Kaiiv

Commodore Amiga 1000 personal computer with 1081 RGB monitor. (1985) Photo Courtsy of Creative Commons Attributions, Kaiiv

The web presence of Terminal 2.0 consists of computer animations by artists Barry Doupé and Amy Lockhart, along with Clint Enns’ text, Nostalgia for the Digital Revolution: Interfacing with Obsolescence. The Amiga personal computer that was sold by Commodore as a ‘multi-media’ machine is the focus of Terminal 2.0. The personal computer era from the 1980’s and 90’s was a technological phase that influenced digital drawing and animation. Clint Enns’ text illustrates the historical and technological influences on digital tools that are utilized today with personal computers. With these insights, Enns also includes the relevance of nostalgia toward this style of digital imagery and the devices that enabled it.

Doupé and Lockhart’s animations have a sense of nostalgia. Doupé’s Vhery visually presents an abstract manner of drawing, but progresses traditional drawing techniques by pairing them with digital animated movement and “techno” sound. Lockhart’s Amiga Shorts presents the sense of nostalgia by indicating to the viewer that her digital animation was created with an Amiga Emulator. An emulator offers the ability to obtain a specific style by simulating obsolete equipment and software. Both animations embody an early experimental approach to digital imagery. The bright color palette and pixelated edges of the 2D forms indicate some of the limits present in early stages of painting and drawing software.

I grew up during this time-period (1980’s – 1990’s) and have my own sense of nostalgia toward this style of digital imagery. With the progression of digital imagery and my own fine art study from the early 1990’s, I can relate to the nostalgic accessibility of obsolete software. Because of my work with current software, I can also relate to the progression of Photoshop that has enhanced my ability to digitally refine imagery. I remember an undergraduate design course that included a painting program in the curriculum. These software options were offered as part of the course to stimulate critical thinking around the use of digital imagery and to make these tools accessible for students to utilize in future projects.

Looking back on that course, I realize that the inclusion of the painting software offered an inkling of how to work in the “now”. I define “working in the now” as an artist working with a current technological means to create art. Considering the exploration of Clint Enns’ essay and accompanying videos, below are two examples of artists that created work with the media available at the time. Each example is accompanied by a video that documents the artist’s perspective.

John K. Ball’s The Artist and the Computer, a 1976 documentary about experimental filmmaker Lillian Schwartz, explores Schwartz's experience working with a Bell Telephone Laboratory engineer to produce some of the earliest computer animations. Approximately a decade later, Andy Warhol used the Amiga 1000 to push the boundaries of the portrait further. Watching Warhol’s ease-of-use with the early 1980’s GUI’s offers a move away from complicated technological notions of the creative process. The decade’s difference in videos visually depicts the "user-friendly" options of a personal computer to an artist collaboration with technicians with specialized computers.

Screen Shot of Terminal 2.0 Graphical User Interface on Western Front website November 2016

Screen Shot of Terminal 2.0 Graphical User Interface on Western Front website November 2016

Because of my own background with fine art printmaking, I can’t help but consider Warhol’s foundations in graphic arts and print in relation to this digital work.  Walter Benjamin's The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility investigates the cultural influence of media and art.  Benjamin's essay refers to the condition of media production by considering chronological print history (woodcut, moveable type, lithography) and how print was surpassed by photography in pictorial reproduction. Benjamin includes artists' tasks within his discussion of media production. His argument is that photography relies primarily upon the eye to create an image. The succession of media has freed the artist’s hand from manual tasks, especially drawing. Benjamin’s 1930’s perspective of the human relationship to the acceleration of technological processes comes full circle with the specific working tasks and digital tools of Schwartz and Warhol. Benjamin’s argument is that “the eye perceives more swiftly than the hand can draw.”  The computer brings a quicker speed of production to Benjamin's condition of media production, while the computer's capabilities of restoring and remembering an artist process bring the eye and the hand back together for the artists tasks.

This is particularly demonstrated with Schwartz using a light pen in the production of her animations. The Amiga 1000 and the early 1980’s GUI’s bring the concept of “point and click” to the ways in which hand and eye relate in the process of creating imagery. While these late 20th Century technologies do bring back some sense of physicality to artists' tasks, Lillian Schwartz describes her experience of using a light pen in detail in the documentary. She considers the physicality of working with a digital tool, but relates the task back to the movement of painting or creating visual gestures. Schwartz states in the video that the only thing missing in this process is the smell of the paint.

I view Schwartz’s remark as a moment of nostalgia in relation to a traditional art medium with her loss of the sense of smell in the digital process. Enns’ final section of his essay, Dead Media: Emulating Nostalgia offers these technological and nostalgic ideals toward obsolete equipment and imagery. While I have only hinted at a sense of nostalgia with my time spent with Terminal 2.0., Enns’ essay and accompanying media increased my sense of wistfulness toward the progression of media as it is used within the creative process.

REFERENCES

Benjamin, W. “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility: Second Version” in The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility and Other Writings on Media, Eds. Jennings, M., Doherty, B. and Levin, T., Translators Jephcott, E., Livingstone, R., Eiland, H., and others. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2008.

Enns, C. (2016) Nostalgic for the Digital Revolution: Interfacing with Obsolescence [Internet], Vancouver, Canada. Available from: http://terminal.front.bc.ca/ [Accessed November 10, 2016].

Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2011) Walter Benjamin [Internet] The Metaphysics Research Lab, Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University. Available from: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/benjamin/ [Accessed November 30, 2016].

Terminal 1.0 Part One NMC Hub blog series

By: Carrie Ida Edinger

Carrie’s interest with new media is in interdisciplinary methods and the use of the Internet as a presentation site for evolving contemporary projects.

Terminal 1.0

My curiosity began with an animated, vintage flashing square cursor next to the title Terminal 1.0. Terminal is an installation project at Western Front in Vancouver, Canada. The installation project examines single-user interfaces, along with how technology influences the adaptation of new artistic forms. My mini blog series will follow the four-part installation project through 2017.

Media Curator, Allison Collins has curated the project so that it occupies two available spaces, one physical and one virtual. In our email exchange Collins described the physical location, “The on-site element of the project repurposes an under-used space in the Western Front building, to deliberately offer an alternative to installing a computer into a traditional exhibition space. It allows for a single user to access an intimate experience of a work created to take place on a machine.”

bp Nichol, First Screening, 1984 Photo credit : Ben Wilson

bp Nichol, First Screening, 1984 Photo credit : Ben Wilson

I asked Collins about her specific curation methods for Terminal. She stated, “The methodology was one of pairing and contrasting the possibilities for accurately conveying artworks within those two spaces.” With these methods she considered what the project addressed, which was the user-experience of the computer. What brought together these two different spaces were both the experience of artists who utilize computers to create and the viewers of the computer-based artist works. This is how her curation methodology necessitates thinking about the virtual and physical spaces as separate experiences.

Collins has navigated the different spaces to inquire with an audience for viewing a specific work on-site and other work online. Since she curated the project in Vancouver and I reside on the East Coast of the United States, my text will present the single-user experience from online viewing. The first installation is entitled Terminal 1.0 Programmed Poetry. It considers language within the broader investigations of the overall installation project. The artist and two poets presented on the webpage utilize text, while the written format was modified from a specific technological time-period. This not only demonstrates the experimental process from the 1960’s era to now, but also offers insight to how artists and poets from the Vancouver area had a role in influencing theses specific processes.

From my singular interface experience, I immediately noticed how the curation of the digital content runs parallel with the context of the selected work. The acts of composing text, distributing and reinterpreting language can be distinguished within the curation process. I have observed this by the multimedia choices of text, audio and video. These multimedia elements refer back to Collins’ curatorial selections, made specifically for the virtual space.

terminal1_screenshot

Screen Shot of Terminal 1.0 Programmed Poetry on Western Front website October 2016

Collins’ text, Media Poetics: The Cut, The Context and The Cute, offers the viewer an opportunity to have a detailed insight that reaches beyond the technical elements of a computer-based work. The inclusion of social and cultural aspects of the artist creative process offers a broader depiction to the progression with technology, along with the impact the medium had for contemporary experimentation. The text depicts this with the work of each poet and artist.

Programmed Poetry regards the human element from the creative process with technology. In 1966 Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) was formed and was based in New York City. The first large project that E.A.T. is known for is Nine Evenings. The electrical engineer at the forefront of the movement E.A.T., Billy Kluver acknowledges, from a 1995 interview with Garnet Hertz, that from his experience with E.A.T. he recognized that involvement of artists with technology has introduced a more humanizing element with the collaborative projects. Kluver’s assessment is derived from his matching of artist’s projects with knowledge from engineers. Part of his evaluation suggests that the artists brought situations to the standards of technology that were not in an engineer’s everyday routine concerning rational problems. Kluver believes the questions raised by artists concerning the use of technology brought the engineers and the technology from that time-period closer to humanity.

Programmed Poetry examines single-user interfaces from poets and artists and their own technological knowledge rather than a specific collaboration between artist and engineer. Poet, bpNichol transformed language and the viewer’s engagement with basic code. In the early 1980’s, a period of technological evolution where computers became affordable and portable, the Apple IIe was accessible on a consumer scale. bpNichol utilized the Apple BASIC programming language to animate, communicate and distribute his twelve kinetic poems, First Screening. He extends the context of code by embedding the virtual accessibility of two of the twelve poems on a 5.25 inch floppy disc that was in an edition of 100. The viewer would have needed to be code savvy to activate the text-based digital animation with the BASIC command (RUN 1748-). Reading Collins’ text reveals the human element of bpNichol’s creative process with code, which was by placing puns and language tricks to play on the commands of the program for the curious viewer. She does acknowledge bpNichol’s perspective of handling code as a space for the invitation of user interaction.

Crossing disciplinary boundaries in the 21st Century is artist and poet Tiziana La Melia. Viewing the Eyelash and the Monochrome images on the webpage, I relate back to the concept of “the cut” with the direct collage composition of each print. The two spaces La Melia is inquiring with are from the software of Word’s virtual page and the visual art space of the image plane. The Eyelash and the Monochrome image titles that begin with (Spread 1) (Spread 2) persuade my thinking of how many variations there could be of these prints. Collins’ text and the image titles inform me that La Melia’s working progress has direct links to the computer. It comes from the input of composing text and output of printed objects. In a broader context, La Melia’s project resonates with the current single-user interface by creating the unlimited ability to reinterpret content and the various transmission methods.

screenshotterminal_lemelia

Screen Shot from Terminal 1.0 Programmed Poetry of Tiziana La Melia, The Eyelash and the Monochrome on Western Front website October 2016

My intimate viewing via the Internet had the curation structure and multimedia elements aiding in my interpretation of the time-periods and specific works. The obvious limit is being absent from the physical object or moment of experiencing the physical site of Terminal 1.0. Even though I haven’t physically seen bpNichol’s First Screening run on an Apple IIe, or stood in front of Tiziana La Melia prints, I was able to mentally engage with the physical aspects of these works by invitation of Collins’ text. I do not see that I am completely missing out on the physical site, because Programmed Poetry occupies two available spaces and I experienced the work in the virtual space. The virtual space, similar to the context of the works and the curation of Programmed Poetry, has transformed the language of experiencing installation projects.

 

REFERENCES

Collins, A. (2016) Media Poetics: The Cut, The Context and The Cute [Internet], Vancouver, Canada. Available from: http://terminal.front.bc.ca/ [Accessed September 10, 2016].

Hertz, G. (1995) The Godfather of Technology and Art: An interview with Billy Kluver [Internet], Vancouver, Canada. Available from: http://www.conceptlab.com/interviews/kluver.html [Accessed July 10, 2013].

By: Carrie Ida Edinger

Carrie’s interest with new media is in interdisciplinary methods and the use of the Internet as a presentation site for evolving contemporary projects.