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Queer Arts Resource issued an open Call for Entries in June '99 for our second annual Net Art Exhibition, and assembled a jury to review the submissions that we received. There's still a lot of confusion as to what 'Net Art' really is: many submissions simply reproduced artists' work created in traditional media. Our jury selected five of the best projects which could only be created using the technologies of the Internet. Their comments are below.

We would like to thank all of the artists who submitted work for consideration, the members of our jury, and Macromedia for furnishing prizes of their latest software.

In promoting this new medium we are trying to show the potential for artistic expression that is offered by the Web. As for Queer Visions at the Millennium, we can only observe that our eyes are the same, but what we see is very different. 

 

Jillian Hayden
multimedia checkout chicks, Annandale NSW, Australia.

As we are all aware artworks on webservers are experiments that can be created through adopting any of a ever increasing palette of technical and aesethetic devices/tools. Of the seven works in the final round the ones that seemed to rely on proprietory tools e.g. Flash had a very similar finish and style. The tools used can sometimes dominate the aesethetic and it takes very clear strategies and content either narrative, textural or visual and to a lesser degree sound wise, to challenge the proprietal surface that is inherent in its programming defaults.

Another proprietorial surface that I find challenging is that of the Queer and how the internal dynamics can be subsumed by the overt, the fetish, the "bright & shiny". This struck me when I started to problematize why I felt so strongly sutured into Susan L. Harmon's Navigating the Body, maybe one of my connections to this work is resonant of Alice Walker's observations when she writes of the one thing that cannot be taken from the dispossessed is the experience of pain. I like this work very much, it doesn't need to scream out "lesbo pussies galore!" The strength of this work stayed with me long after I had switched off the p.c.

I have repeatedly been drawn into Quicksilver's Mirrorwound episode by episode. With all its resonances and fractured reflections of and on the "virtual body". The perversely theorectical/the intimate and personal. Quicksilver's exploration of narrative and stylistic devices kept me hanging in when yet another 2 or 3 megabyte of material was downloading (oh for an isdn of one's own).

Stones by Brian White is a great example of the fruits of the early work at the visual languages lab at MIT. This series of short texts and the onamatopeic use of the temporal and spatial presentation is of great design and friendly GUI. The stories are so powerful and Brian's simple yet dynamic methodology is one that lifts the text through the screen rather than leaving it stranded on a flickering surface of pixels.

To artists whose submitted works weren't selected I think that when a webart work is really "successful" is when the dynamic and temporal aspects arise from the hypertexual potential of the material rather than ideas superficially adapted to the medium. This can be a bit of a "chicken and egg" situation but there is a queer future in them there codes!!! Get those browsers busy and check em out.

 

John Killacky
Executive Director, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco.

Graham Crawford's Mirrorwound was by far the most pleasing site for me. His wonderful art deco-like animation (gay fabulous indeed) drew me into the multiple vignettes with a marvelous murder mystery embedded within.

Keith Keilman's HIV TV was compelling to me for the graphic punch as the text jumbled and jumped into my psyche. Poignant and powerful -- text, images, and animation added to the punch.

Brian White's Stones done in a lilting minimalist style seduced and involved me in following the text narrative of his four story poems: park, melville, gun show, and pocket. Each had it's own particular rhythm and design.

 

Dan Cameron
Senior Curator, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York.

I agree with John that Graham Crawford's Mirrorwound is the most compelling work of the seven choices. It's an unsettling and very personal narrative that uses effective graphics and music.

Brian White's Stones was the first time I've seen concrete poetry adapted so comfortably to a computer program. The pieces were well-written and their movement was very appropriate.

I also liked Sarah Patterson's Sepian Dreams for its lush imagery and whimsically disjointed narrative. Her paintings, which are also part of the site, are not as interesting as her computer work.

 

Carla J. Wolf
New media artist, Canada.

Brian White, Stones. Beautiful! The movement of the text and simple objects on the screen with the content combines to create meaning that is deeply felt. Brilliant. This was the one site that gave me that intake of breath when I really understand and felt what the artist is expressing.

Susan L. Harman, Navigating the Body. Up front I had a role as programmer for this piece and so have an intimate relationship with the site. Therefore you can take my comments with that in mind. For this web site the graphics come first, designed to use the web's limited pallet and animations worked into the pages to highlight areas not simply to wow the viewer. The narrative is compelling, diverse and succinct. The interactivity is minimal throughout the site, mostly for page turning, with the important addition of the comment area. An interesting aspect of the Internet is the "net" part; the networking that can be created in a site. The comments area and the sharing of stories from viewers keeps the site in touch with the audience in a way that a gallery exhibition can not.

Sarah Patterson , Sepian Dream. Controlling colour on the Internet is difficult and a challenge for a designer. The site also used it's interactive elements well. The richness of the colours are reinforced by the viewer's constant exploration of the surface of the screen looking for the next link. My one critique is that most of the picture elements hang in the background. Try to find ways to stitch the images to the screen surface and design each page as whole. Consider the loose right and bottom borders and the variable screen sizes of viewer's. (This in spite of your instructions, not everyone will or can comply)

Graham Crawford, Mirrorwound. A vast piece (and I'm not impressed with size by the way) that technically worked well (which is lucky because it depends on the tech) and rather time consuming with my 28.8 modem which weighs heavily on the spontaneity of the mystery. I can hear the comments now, "the work is intended for high end, web savvy users." Granted, but the web is also read by a lot of different equipment and I think that is an important element to consider when designing for the web. It had it's moments where the self reflection, presented as a theme of the work, actually surfaced. For example, when our hostess in the pavilion deleted a guest and the resulting explanation, references to source code, etc. These are the places that drew me into the piece but it took a lot of searching to find them. Time and speed are also material elements of website design.


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