exhibition InterAccess, Toronto
conference Ontario College of Art
The 25th anniversary celebration at the InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, provides us with an excellent opportunity to reflect on the historical and contemporary context of media art/new media developments in Toronto. For two and half decades the ongoing activities of InterAccess faithfully mirror the progress of conceptual and technological (media) art innovation in our city. This process is undoubtedly reflected in the work of the artists featured in the exhibition. In this brief essay we focus on the historical background of the exhibition concept related to the featured artworks. To provide a larger framework referencing Canadian/Torontonian media art developments is obviously beyond our options.
Artists and artworks
The “logic in the machine motif” is woven through the exhibited works right up to Scorer’s freshly produced Network touch, which aptly introduces our contemporary preoccupation with social networking. ……
Menage (1974) Norman White
The art of Norman White incorporates many hybrid features. His background in science and electronics, his intense curiosity and deep interest in innovation and logic-based machines are all reflected in his work. Menage represents a Canadian benchmark in kinetic electronics and it is White’s first robot. According to White “Menage was inspired by the work of W. Grey Walter, a neuroscientist who studied the effects of brain damage to soldiers returning from battle during WWII... trying to find links between the parts of the brain that were damaged and the effect it had on behavior. He was one of the first researchers to employ EEG-like technologies. I first came upon Walter's work in a 50's issue of Scientific American, where he demonstrated surprisingly complex emergent behavior among simple robots (he called "tortoises even managed to simulate conditioned reflexes. Walter's robots exhibited a complex attraction/repulsion behaviour.” In Menage, White adopted similarly complex configurations. The four robots are moving back and forth on ceiling tracks and are programmed to recognize and respond to light sources on other robots including a fifth robot placed on the floor - with unpredictable dynamic results.
Unprepared Architecture (2007) Simone Jones and Julian Oliver.
Simone Jones' kinetic sculptures and installations include a series of embodied electronic sculptures and interactive works, challenging strictly choreographed interventions. Unprepared Architecture raises issues of space, body involvement and questions of mediation by interactive technology. Interactivity implies a certain degree of symmetry in the relationship, not a hierarchy of control but a sharing of control. The installation created in collaboration with Julian Oliver a 3D game designer and programmer, uses pattern recognition software to construct "augmented reality". The visitor is invited to interact by placing him/her at the centre of the mediated experience. Unprepared Architecture builds on Jones’ and Oliver’s interest in the relationship between perception, virtual and three-dimensional space. According to Jones “the viewer is confronted with a split between their visual perception of an event and their physical interaction with the cube. There is a split between the eye and the hand (similar to Descartes reference to the mind/body split). “
Untitled (solenoids) (2005) Lorena Salome
Coming from a background in science and engineering, Lorena Salome’s work often XXX(insert here). Contained in Plexiglas, Untitled (solenoids) is built of twenty moving solenoids and a stream of hanging red wires connected to a laptop computer. Here we see her work building upon a machine aesthetic – exposed and raw in its elemental lure and industrial bits and bytes. Creating a high volume of sound from the individually programmed clicking of each solenoid, the viewer is drawn to the movement and apparent life of the piece. As the viewer gets closer the sound lessens, but is still quietly heard allowing for a more intimate concentration on what this piece has to offer. Standing still, examining the piece and meditating on its clicks and hums, movements back and forth, we experience the dynamism of the solenoid community. Appearing to be interacting with each other – in conversation or in play – we project our own human tendencies onto its existence. We wonder: What are they doing? Does one have an effect on the other? What is driving them? And what are they saying to each other?
Network Touch (working title) (2007)
When we first encountered Galen Scorer’s work he was exhibiting a series of playful one-night performance pieces driven by audience interaction. Requiring two persons to act as the users of Network Touch(200?), and the proceeding Network Kiss(200?), the participant’s delight in connecting their bodies through a wireless(?) network in order to visually “touch” or “kiss” one another on a large screen, becomes equally entertaining to onlookers. Extremely absurd, considering the pair is located in relatively the same space, the users could have done so in the living flesh if so desired. Why are we interested in this digital-haptic connection? What drives this desire?
Inter(PR)Axis is a free one day conference addressing the historical context, current practice and future directions of media art in Toronto and beyond, as a parallel event with the InterAccess exhibition IA25: Mapping a Practice of Media Art. Conference panelists from the Ontario College of Art & Design and York University — many of whom have been integral to the development of InterAccess over the past 25 years — will reflect on the historical and contemporary context of Canadian media art, as traced through these two important educational programs, the surrounding community, and the innovative activities of InterAccess, Canada's first and premier centre for electronic art. Keynote speaker Machiko Kusahara, whose research ranges from the history of Japanese automata to device art, will address these issues in terms of current international media art practices.
Machiko Kusahara, Ph.D Media Scholar/Curator, Waseda University, Tokyo.
Panelists: Mike Darroch, Patricio Davila, Judith Doyle, Anna Friz, Paula Gardner, Simone Jones, Janine Marchessault, David McIntosh, Jim Ruxton, Geoffrey Shea, Nell Tenhaaf, Norman White.
Moderators: Nina Czegledy, John Greyson, Michael Longford.