5.9.05

[digital poetics]

If it is true that the devil's in the details,
then most of what has been written in new
media studies is truly angelic. - Matt Kirschenbaum
In “Bandwidth as an Accessibility Issue,” written by Millie Niss on the Writing and the Digital Life blog, highlights current problematics involved with the production and creation of digital art. Just as Brenda Laurel, twelve years ago, encouraged us to see the computer interface not as simply a “transfer link” ( Computers as Theatre, 35) but as a stage for performance, Millie tackles the current state of digital invention and directly questions the poetics of “web art.”

If aesthetics signifies the artistic idea and poetics indicates the way the artist gives shape/form to her (or his) creation, then is Millie drawing our attention to a double-bind? (To create with one’s audience firmly in mind but simultaneously aware of the extreme diversity that implies). It seems that in order to make web art available to users/viewers/readers (?) one must create with audience accessibility in mind; i.e. conscious of narrow bandwidth etc... Does this awareness then suggest that the artistic creation is no longer simply “inspired” and then articulated, but now after inspiration and before creation, the artist must devise solutions which enable widespread interaction? As Millie says, this stance involves greater time and education as artists must learn to programme and I wonder if this step also creates a more expansive gap between the artistic idea and its production and if so, does it pose a problem?
Web artists, then, seem to consider the relationship between the art and the audience not one of passive consumption or dynamic interaction, but one of complex communication between interactor and interface. Can we say that digital art is not so much “an” artwork but a network of potentialities? Do web artists create a myriad of potentials and readers/users/viewers interact or activate individualised versions?
I think the questions raised here on “Writing and the Digital Life” are evidence of the changing aesthetics and poetics of art. Within a certain tradition of art, one might say that art stands alone and in front of the viewer (painting on canvas, prose on paper, images on video). With the arrival and development of web-based art, the way the art work is presented or shown becomes of tantamount importance and interest. In Millie’s case it is an awareness of bandwidth but I think one can extend this attention to the interface as a reconfiguration of the role of the audience. Digital artists, then, do not seem solely concerned with making art available, but with making the art accessible.

Any thoughts?

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