New Media Forum

Amanda McDonald Crowley

Time for a New Image? was held at the Art Gallery of NSW on Sunday 4 June, 1995. The forum was the second in an occasional series organised by a group of artists, critics and curators who work with digital media: Maria Stukoff, John Potts, Rebecca Cummins, Nicholas Gebhardt, Victoria Lynn and Mike Leggett (who chaired this session) and was supported by the Australian Film Commission and the Art Gallery of NSW. The initiative began when a number of these people returned from the International Symposium of Electronic Art (ISEA) held in Finland last year. Australian artists were well represented at ISEA, in the exhibition program as well as in forum sessions. However, many of those who attended had not heard each other’s papers, and also felt that it would be valuable to present the papers to an Australian audience. Australian artists working in new media are well represented at many international forums, but opportunities to present work and to discuss issues and exchange ideas are limited within Australia. Galleries and museums have been slow to pick up the work and support organisations for artists working in these areas – such as the Australian Network for Art and Technology in Adelaide, which was represented at this forum by Jenni Robertson – are poorly resourced and limited in the amount of support they can provide.

The aim of this series of events, is to provide a forum that is primarily about creating a critical environment for ideas and debate, using as a catalyst a series of short papers.

John Collette discussed the current hype surrounding interactive multimedia, questioning the much-touted CD-ROM boom. He contested the notion that information or communication will be revolutionised by repackaging existing information into CD-ROM format and argued a case for artists to be involved in the development of new media technologies. Collette argued that it will be artists who will push the boundaries of interactive multimedia: it will be ideas, not marketing, that will potentially produce competitive and challenging international recognition for Australian multimedia.

Sally Pryor discussed Postcards from Tunisia, an interactive multimedia work she is developing concurrently with her research and exploration of the human computer interface. She linked her research with an analysis of the development of writing, in an attempt to formulate new ways of navigating interactive space.

Darren Tofts followed on from Pryor’s line of thinking in a paper entitled The digital unconscious: the mystic writing pad revisited, in which he undertook to explore Derrida’s discussions of writing as a graphic process irreducible to speech. He went on to discuss digital art in terms of surrealism, analysing digital art as an aesthetic of the marvellous.

Jon McCormack outlined the emergent nature of his own art practice. He spoke of writing software as an intuitive process, a process which for him was one of creation. Writing software is as integral to artmaking for McCormack as the aesthetic decisions he makes in the development of the synthesised ‘unimaginable’ images he creates.

The opportunity the forum provided for artists working in digital media to discuss their work in terms other than as a technical exposition was extremely valuable. There was potential to link discussions of interactive media to debates about the aesthetic qualities of digital art, and the opportunity to debate issues of interactivity, connectivity and transformability of new media. This was a welcome change from the hardware, software and technical debates that have surrounded interactive multimedia in recent months and which have generally focussed on commercial product and export viability. The next New Media Forums are planned for October 15 and 22, where artists will discuss their experiences at ISEA ’95 to be held in Montreal in September.

RealTime issue #8 Aug-Sept 1995 pg. 8

© Amanda McDonald-Crowley; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 August 1995