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radical software

The history of Net Art is a history of work both constituted and debilitated by the particularities of its momentary technological conditions. The singularity of this technology has nurtured idiosynchratic new modalities of intercommunication, driven by the felt need to make the evolution of this medium synchronous with the evolution of new cultural experiences and values. It seems that the Internet will certainly become the ubiquitous information space that connects everything with everything. This convergence will subsume all media within one generic technology that can then be configured to embody any bandwidth ranging from text chat on digital paper to immersive shared virtual environments in the home sensurround internet theater. The varying texture of these intercommunications will no longer be the consequence of technological limitations, but rather design choices driven by content contexts. At present this hyper-connectivity is still in the realm of prefabrication and simulation, intra-networked models that embody rich content and probe the viabilities of many possible paths of artistic action in the realm of distributed computing.

The works produced at the ZKM Institute for Visual Media in this exhibition are of this nature - they are test beds offering prefigurations of the imminent modalities Net intercourse, where tentative intimacies can be experienced. Shane Cooper's Anchorman mines the news streams on the Internet and poetically reconfigures its texts which are spoken by a virtual newscaster. Ken Feingold's Seance Box Nr.1 is a oracular model stage for the proximate world stage interaction between our real, surrogate and virtual embodiments. Knowbotic Research's 10_dencies configures a networked communications medium which gives urtban planners a uniquely new ambiance of exchange and reflection. Masaki Fujihata's Impressing Velocity presents a paradigmatic exploration of the emergent modalities of tele-operation and tele-presence. Jeffrey Shaw's Distributed Legible City allows remotely located bicyclists to meet and converse in an artistically defined shared virtual environment.

And Blast Theory's Desert Rain conjugates corporeal theater with networked virtuality to constitute an interactive polemic narrative experience. It is indicative of the new position of artistic research that these works were produced in the context of the principal European long term information society research program ESPRIT (i3 project) where the ZKM has worked in close association with major academic and industrial research centers in the UK, Sweden and Switzerland.

The net condition is a circumstance, a contingency and a predicament. It has made our screens into lattices that hide and expose the terrains of newly formed intelligent information spaces. These shared environments of any and every level of embodiment are above all social spaces in which the artwork is no longer a mere accouterment, but can define the very structure and cosmology of those spaces and their inherent/emergent activities.

Jeffrey Shaw


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