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Working the Screen 1999

Australia’s expanding screen culture


“If new media teaches anything, it is that communal culture is productive. New media, like pop culture, shares its power with group reference. The more the better.”
Ross Gibson*

It would be right to say, the tiredness of the metaphor aside, that there has been an explo- sion of new media activity in Australia, an enormous amount of it online. It’s hard to keep up with, hence the importance of Working the Screen to help anticipate new works and com- prehend the breadth of activity. But explosion is not the right word. In her critical survey of the nurturing and development of new media, Sarah Miller argues that there’s been a great deal of teaching, learning, researching and experimenting going on for a very long time, and, despite funding cuts and some curious spending directions, artists have created many sig- nificant and innovative works throughout the 90s.

When we sent out messages requesting information from artists all over Australia about their works-in-progress the response was immediate and overwhelming. (It was interesting to read recently that the number of new media submissions for MAAP 99 (Multimedia Art Asia Pacific) quadrupled when compared with last year’s figure.) For Working the Screen, over half were works online, the rest installations (working from hard drive), CD-ROMs, a DVD-ROM, films and videos. There were also submissions from artists working in performance, spec- tator-activated installations, public art, dance and sound. Among the creators of the works- in-progress detailed in this liftout were some who once called themselves visual artists but are more likely now to label themselves media artists.

We were unable to contact some artists (overseas, too busy) and some felt that their projects hadn’t developed sufficiently to be reported. However, there were enough queries after our deadline passed to suggest we could immediately produce Working the Screen II. Jack White, producer of Museum Victoria’s Digital Planetarium (Scienceworks Museum, Spotswood) emailed us recently to report that “The new Melbourne Planetarium is cur- rently preparing a series of productions for its opening in September. We are employing 6 local digital artists and a couple of programmers for the job. The new facility is equipped with a 16 metre dome, 3D Star projector, 3
Barco projectors motorised for motion paths, a heap of slide and sfx projectors and six channel surround sound. The visuals are driven through DVMs. Production elements include 2D and 3D animation, multi-layering and all types of compositing, 3D star render- ing etc.”

We’ve just received Chunky Move’s CD-ROM (reviewed in RealTime 32), an Australian dance first exploring the collaborative creation and performance of the dance work C.O.R.R.U.P.T.E.D. 2. It was developed in collaboration with Peter Hennessey and Drome. Sound artist Nigel Helyer is working with Lake DSP in a 12 month partnership to create a 3D audio space with artistic and commercial potential. Justine Cooper, winner of the 1998 National Digital Art Award for Rapt, is developing a Biological Maze, with ramifications artistic and medical. There are also a number of dance new media projects by Jesse McNicholl, Chrissie Parrott and the new artistic director of Australian Dance Theatre, Garry Stewart, that we hope to follow up soon.

We also received many requests for reviews, given the limited availability of critical responses to new media art works, and even a job description redirected to us from recode: “A project between the Song Company and Martin and Peter Wesley-Smith to develop and write a new multi-media work exploring the scientific, ethical, social and political aspects of biogenetics and genetic engineering using the 6 singers of The Song Company and real- time computer processing of sound and images. The project URGENTLY seeks expressions of interest from artists working with video and multimedia wishing to contribute to this project. Further information: Roland Peelman, c/o Eugene Ragghianti.” Don’t hesitate.

We hope that Working the Screen excites interest in the range and complexity of new media work in Australia both as part of our rich screen culture but also right across the arts.

Our thanks to the Australian Film Commission, in particular to Kate Ingham and Julie Regan, for initiating Working the Screen, and to Brendan Harkin and Thea Butler of Online Australia (The National Office of the Information Economy) for their support.

* “Spacing the digital”, page 4

RealTime issue #32 Aug-Sept 1999 pg. 3

© RealTime ; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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