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Media Art Net 2 Key Topics / Medien Kunst Netz 2 Thematische Schwerpunkte

by Rudolf Frieling and Dieter Daniels, Editors / Hrsg.
SpringerWien, Austria, 2005
320 pp., illus. b/w. Trade, (English/German) EUR 49,00
ISBN: 3-211-23871-9.

Reviewed by Martha Patricia Niño M.
Pontificia Universidad Javeriana
Facultad de Artes Visuales


This book has a collection of essays around media art that is the continuation of Media Art Net / 1, Survey of Media Art. These books are the physical counterparts of the well-known portal http://www.mediaartnet.org an extensive resource of Media Art that compiles critical descriptions of over 1400 artworks by approximately 1000 artists. The project started in 1998 and is commissioned by Goethe-Institute and ZKM Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe.

Sound & Vision in the Avant-garde & Mainstream by Dieter Daniels analyses the perception realm that mediates the transformation of data into meaning. After years of studying the synaesthesia phenomena, neurobiologists found that perception is the place in which sound and image can interact in ways that challenge technology and physics. The chapter also has a historical commentary of future art predicted by Wagner and looks over the almost forgotten invention of the first synaesthetic apparatuses in the early twentieth century.

The Mythical Bodies chapter by Verena Nuni
transcends the fear of the body's obsolescence in order to analyze the post human relation with subjectivity. Microscopic, cellular, bioorganic or even code-based entities dethrone the human as the central piece of creation. In such social scenario, new conceptions of the subject should emerge. Bodies are described also as maps of power and identity that can eventually be constructed from our social perceptions and projections that fuse reality and fiction together. There is also interesting documentation about the promises of monsters in relation to the creative act, artificial humans, interfaces, and the imperatives of anthropomorphism.

The Photo/Byte chapter by Susanne Holschbach points to the chemo-optical properties of photography and its promise not only to represent reality but also to being able to verify it. Digitalization, in contrast, is linked to the idea of intentionally fading away any external reference to reality and, as a result, the individual's power of judgment. The latter situation can be seen as a loss of power that is in direct relation to a cultural revolution that might be responsible for the death of photography and discussions about the photographic and post-photographic truth. Photography was among the first media to introduce the current and unavoidable events of mediation, mechanical reproduction, and key issues unresolved such as whether the consumer is a producer or the producer is a consumer.

Read_Me, Run_Me, Execute_Me by Inke Arns is one of the most attention-grabbing essays of the book that wonders if code has an audience outside the machine it addresses or has an existence outside a set of computer literate experts. Generative art for Arns is a practice that has to comply with efficient and elegant code. It focuses only on software. Many generative art works are concerned, if not blindly fascinated, with the superficial result that the software produces, while as a tool, is not in itself questioned. These automatic processes, thus, negate the intentionality of the artist. Software art, instead, enables a reflection on both software and its cultural and social significance within the medium of software. The code seeks the equilibrium between randomness and control and is excessive, extravagant, anti elegant, and experimental. Far from being just art for machines, it is highly concerned with artistic subjectivity and its reflection and extension into generative systems.

Inke Arns traces the boundaries between software art and generative art in a polemic way because even if software art can have lots of elegant codes, and there are abundant sites full of graphical algorithms for creating beautiful generative graphical effects, some artists refuse to make products suitable for the dead end-commodity of art as explained at the site and discussion portal
http://www.generative.net. Generative artists should be aware of the new conditions of authorship and with it control and subjectivity, and the cultural implication of the production of such mediated creativity. The book 4x4 life and Oblivion: Generative Design gathers generative artwork that questions software as a tool.

Constructing Media Spaces by Josephine Bosma explores the topic of public domain, activism, communication and freedom of expression. Is public Domain a myth? Which are the roles of physical interfaces, software, and media installations to achieve greater social engagement toward issues of openness, generosity, collaboration and political awareness? Bosma illustrates the work of many activists, artists and online spaces of discussion that include Heath Bunting, Mongrel, Elisa Rose Gary Danner, Etoy, RT Mark, Jaromil, The Thing, Rhizome, Nettime, Runme.org, to name a few.

Archive, The Media, The Map and the Text by Rudolf Frieling indicates how maps have served colonial interests. A map is not just a cognitive instrument but also a step in the competition for economic advantage and power. Data loss is inherent to the archive or database and implies discarding and not finding again. Maps and texts can configure knowledge. It would have been great to have also in the book a reference to what practices are necessary in order to configure media history. Gregor Stemmrich at the beginning of the book raises the question of how the history of media art can be conveyed in digital space in such a way that our awareness of history is not corrupted by digital space. One can question also how to make history out of an "impure" or hybrid medium characterized by challenging our notions of space, reality, perception, time and memory. This book provides a temporal frame for media art that starts from 1870 to date. Not an easy task if you consider that this occurs in a cultural and commercial context that favors the new as more important than the old. Both history and maps are more than a collection of chronological ordered events; it implies selection, accident, randomness, construction, narrative, and even fiction. The reflections about new media make the whole project more than a good encyclopedic resource; in congruence with Bosma’s writing, free online access to database material is not an accessory but a central part of the Media Art Net site. The book has few illustrations, but you can find online wide-ranging audiovisual complements that are being updated on a regular basis and that can be accessed through a search engine and/or indexes. It also has a useful manual of icons that help you to identify along the pages of the book references to artworks, texts, URLs, and items for online search. Both the web site and the book are an excellent resource for artists, teachers and persons interested in the field of new media.



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