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Scene One. Exterior/Day. Canberra skies. 3D Cinema Sequence Five airforce jets. Formation manoeuvres. Inscribing the relentlessly grey skies of the nation’s pre-election capital with the expensively red blaze of technology linked with realtime earsplit audio. Multi-military-media.

Scene Two. Interior/Day. Canberra School of Art. Talking Heads Five artists. Computers, VCR, slides. Tattoos and viscera and the intolerable, elective physiognomies, mid-west bowling alley slide to homeless pages on the web, scanning the global telephone book of consciousness, research art, the owning of culture. Five different takes on the phenomenon of ‘multimedia’.

Hyperlink #5 Wallpaper graphics A forum on Artists and Interactive Multimedia organised by the Australian Network for Art and Technology as an adjunct to its National Summer School. A chance for the 14 students to connect their recently acquired practical skills in interactive mm to current cultural and intellectual debates. An opportunity for other artists, artsworkers and IT types to hear five exceptional creative innovators reveal the how and why wonder of their personal connexions to mm.

Hyperlink #7 The forum. Highly non-interactive. The form bearing the weight of 2000 years of the oratorial tradition. Audience required to be passive, quiet, still, patient. To still the present in order to contemplate the future. And yet there was something compelling about the Bodies with Organs, the experience of fleshmeet however formal, the tensions arising from artists with different cultural agendas, different philosophical bases.

Hyperlink #17 Visceral horizontal wipe. Linda Dement guides us through her dark interactive terrains of Typhoid Mary, CyberfleshGirlMonster and In My Gash, a long term project of a virtual space inside a wound. This artist exercises a fascistic control of technology to create a space where the unbearable can be made bearable. Melding flesh not deemed conventionally pretty to objects and organisms which are sharp, dangerous, perversely beautiful, malevolent, Dement slips through the screen, institutionalising herself, prescribing art as therapy . Hers is a highly blasphemous take on multimedia, defying the legislators who would stamp the future technologies with classifications cloned from The Difference Engine.

Hyperlink #24 Jump cut 3D anim. Enter the software artist, the nocturnal self-governing Aberrant Intelligence system whose various projects may be motivated by the desire to create a visual equivalent of music or an interest in seeing how scientific theories of earlier ages bumpmap onto our millennium-fevered minds. Jon Tonkin’s infinite falling squares streammorphed seamlessly into his interactive Elective Physiognomies. Now a series of pseudo gene portraits, now a gang of pseudo mug shots, challenging the player to contribute character assessments based on the purest of subjective responses to the faces . Then the tricky bit, the smartware adding each player’s ratings to the overall score for each mug on each test, spitting statistical updates politely. An oblique collision of science and art, quietly bent.

Hyperlink #32 Multiple video windows of Doctor Caligari’s Cabinet. Third download, artist and educator John Collette. This digital homeboy lacks a healthy reverence for the government money cow Molly Media, recalling that most enabling technologies have been novelties before finding a social value. Almost heretically he talks about transforming new media’s commercial impetus to things of ‘real benefit’. His take on connectivity links to cinema’s grand narratives, TV sitcoms’ ongoing pantomimes and the net as global phone book of consciousness . Through the low/ly bandwidth of the net we can participate and inject something of ourselves, as in Elizabethan theatre. I remember the Indonesian all night Wayang Kulut shadow theatre, shades of LambdaMoo’s living room on a bright night. The Collette mm take is redolent more of passion than profit, imagining a utopic interactivia rising from the ashes of infotainment.

Hyperlink #49 Shu Lea Cheang takes the audience on a comedic tour of some of the cyberfringe zones, revealing her current project of digitalising herself. This nomad in spiralspace appears more interested in homeless pages and collaborations with artists and public to explore notions of access, power and infernal desire than pressing CD ROMs to make a million. From coin-operated video installations to her Eco-cybernoia feature film Fresh Kill, from the sophisticated filth of net-grown multi-authored texts triggered by live bowling alley punters to her gender-fuck and justice web project, Cheang constructs contexts for individuals to create their own adventures from elegantly dismembered narratives.

Hyperlink #56 Lyn Tune, digital pioneer, asks “how do we own culture?” She distinguishes between what she terms ‘research art’ and art that feeds into the commercial spheres of activity. Describing mm, Tune’s take is that in a small box an environment is created and people are put there. Her take on mm is also passionate, and pragmatic.

Transition fade to end cinema sequence. It may be more about alchemy and serendipity, than it is about data rates and platform reversioning.

The artist or interface designer who can create an intuitive front end evoking the economic elegance of a haiku to a multi-sensory digitally mediated experience becomes a cultural alchemist, transforming silicon into thought.

RealTime issue #12 April-May 1996 pg. 18

© Francesca da Rimini; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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