Author Letizia Jaccheri
For Norwegian click here.
New media art
Art is about communication, between authors and spectators, but also between spectators. While science primarily concerns itself with facts, art is primarily about feelings and emotions. Nevertheless, art and science have always been interdependent, as artists of all times have used state of the art scientific and technical knowledge to express their feelings through their artworks. Think of the mathematical knowledge that led to the discovery of perspective in the Renaissance, or the cultural revolution triggered by technological inventions like photography, cinema, television, the computer, and the Internet.
In project ArTe, we use the term “new media art” to describe artworks involving digital images, animations, digital music, computer games, digital poetry and literature, computer based installations, and robots.
To explain the term new media art and to provide a context, we need to reconstruct some historical facts. The summary below should not be regarded as a piece of art history nor a piece of technological history. Rather, it is an attempt to summarize some of the important historical developments regarding the two main issues in ArTe, the relationship between the author, the audience and the media of the artwork, and the technology used to realise it.
Art and technology then, have been in contact since ancient times. Let us take a brief look at some historical periods:
- 1800 – 1900
- Author and the audience: In the latter part of the 19th century, Romanticism in the arts, with artists such as Goethe and Beethoven, focused on feelings and targeted middle-class audiences rather than courtly patrons.
- Media and technology: In the years 1826-1827, French Joseph Nicephore Niepce managed to develop the first photographic picture. Later, in 1888, Kodak produced the first portable camera, making it possible for normal people to take pictures anywhere they wanted, not only in studios. Film technology came about in 1895 as the Lumieres brothers produced the first film camera.
Around 1875, the telephone was invented, although who invented it is still a matter of discussion. Among others,
Antonio Meucci, Alexander Graham Bell, and Thomas Edison have all been credited as pioneers which made the telephone a reality.
- 1900 – 1940
- Author and the audience: Modernist art brought the author and his or her audience more closer to each other by letting the artwork represent everyday life and everyday objects, including technological technology. The Italian writer Filippo Tommaso Marinetti launched the Futurist movement, an art movement inspired by technological inventions such as film, air planes, and fast trains. André Breton published the first edition of Manifeste du Surrealisme in 1924. The work of artists such as Marcel Duchamps (1887-1968) shifted the focus of art from objectivity to subjectivity. Moreover, Duchamp explored the role of the audience’s interaction with works of art. Artists became free to express them self on any issue, through any medium.
- Media and technology: In 1907, the Lumieres brothers produced their first color film.
Experiments with image transmission had begun at the end of the 19th century, and regular television broadcasts began in Germany in 1929. Painting, sculpture, design, film, fashion, textile, literature, music, and architecture, as well as combinations of these, all became accepted media for artworks.
Picture of “Rotary Glass Plates, Precision Optics”, a motorized sculpture, built by Marcel Ducham in 1921, with help from Man Ray.
Video relating to Dadaism and Surrealism: “Marcel Duchamp with John Cage”, .
- 1940 – 1960
- Author and the audience: At the end of the 1950’s artists like John Cage and George Brecht contributed to the growth of the aspect of event and performance participation. They developed the artistic base for Fluxus, a movement that would dominate the following decade.
- Media and technology: ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was introduced at the University of Pennsylvania in 1946. In 1951 the first UNIVAC became commercially available.
- 1960 – 1970
- Author and the audience: Pop art came along, and artists were no longer as afraid to mix different media and to copy the work of others. Andy Warhol produced the well-known Marilyn Monroe Diptych in 1962. Participation and event based art goes beyond modernism by focusing on the participatory aspect of art. See for example the work of artists like Yoko Ono and theorists, like Umberto Eco. Nam June Paik, the “father” of television art, develops Magnet TV in 1965 while American A. Michael Noll and German Frieder Nake experiment with computer art. In 1965 the first computer art exhibition is held in New York.
- Media and technology: Arpanet can be regarded as the start of today’s Internet, connecting two geographically distributed computers as early as in 1969.
- 1970 – 1980
- Author and the audience: Political oriented artists as Les Levine and Frank Gillette experimented with video art. Art and culture besides books, painting, and sculptures gradually became more accepted by a larger audience. The aspect of participation and intereaction with the work of art becomes more and more important. Artists like Galloway and Rabinowitz experimented with mail art and other participation-focused art forms like radio, telephone, and fax. The first Ars electronica festival is held in Linz in 1979.
- Media and technology: In 1974 Vinton G. Cerf developed the TCP/IP-protocol. IP means Internet Protocol and it was the first version of the set of rules governing how information is sent as small electronic packets. At the end of the 1970’s, Usenet is developed. Usenet is a big discussion group supported by computers and users in many different countries.
- 1980 -1990
- Author and the audience: In 1989 Jean-Pierre Yvaral produced Mona Lisa (a digitally manipulated photography). Artworks like Yvaral’s Mona Lisa poses important questions about authorship and replications of artworks which have only become more important over the years.
- Media and technology: The Free Software Foundation published a single license usable for all software in 1989, called the GNU General Public License (GPL). This formalized the concept of copy left as opposite to copy right.
Picture of Yvaral’s Mona Lisa, 1989.
- 1990 – 2000
- Author and the audience: Artists began to exploit the new technology offered by the web(Internet art) from the very beginning, developing new forms of interaction with the audience and shared authorship. See for example Muntadas’s The Thing, Rhizome, and The File Room, an online database that has grown since 1994 as users input cases.
- Media and technology: Photoshop 1.0 was released in 1990 as a tool for digital photography. In the following years, digital cameras appeared on the market. Pictures could now be uploaded to computers and then manipulated. The first multimedia PC was released in 1991, its defining components being the CD-ROM drive and the sound card. The performance of micro processor-based computers reached the point that real-time generation of computer music using more general programs and algorithms became possible. In 1991, the first Web server was installed at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in California. In 1992, the portable browser was released by CERN as freeware, and the world had approximately 50 Web servers. The Linux operating system (developed by Linus Thorvald in 1991) received an art prize at Ars Electronica in 1994. Google is established as a company in 1998.
- 2000 – 2009
- Author and the audience: The concept of shared authorship and collective production become ever more central. Visit shiftspace, the work of Phiffer (hacker and activist) and Zer-Aviv (artist), which provides a set of open source tools for collaborative authorship. The new Ars Electronica Center opens in Linz. The core of the center is a 1,000 m2 space in which artists and scientists, school kids and college students, parents and children can experiment, work and play. The question artists and spectactors are all invited to address is this: “what is the impact of the technological development on me and my life?”
- Media and technology: In the second generation web, called Web 2.0, the users themselves become the producers. At the time of writing (2009), there are 150 millions users on Facebook sharing their pictures and videos, there are 100 millions pictures on Flickr, and there are 130 million works with a Creative Commons license. 1.574 billion people are using the Internet and Skype has, at the time of writing, more than 450 Millions of user accounts. Around year 2009 there are around six billion people in this world, and more than three billion mobile phones. Even very cheap mobile phones now come with a camera able to capture both pictures and video, giving everyone the possibility to become artists. The number of people accessing the web through a mobile phone is greater than the number of people who access the web on a computer.
New media art in Norway
Here follows some information on Norwegian artists who are related to new media art. For each artist, I will refer to at least one artwork as well as explain why I have chosen to include this particular artist. Readers of this page are invited to comminucate their knowledge about new media art and artists on ArTe’s website.
Arne Nordheim is a Norwegian composer who’s international breakthrough came in the late 1950s. Since then, his works have been regularely played by International orchestras and performers. Nordheim is a pioneer within Norwegian electronic music. In his early works, Nordheim was using equipment from technical acoustics, like sinus generators and tape machines usually found in radio studios. In the early 1960s he went to Warzaw to use a radio studio to prepare musical material. Some of this material were used to accompany Arnold Haukeland’s sculpture in Skjeberg called Ode to Light .
Ode to Light was installed in cooperation with the acoustics department at NTH (NTNU) in 1968.
The artwork Gilde, at NTNU Gløshaugen, has been developed during recent years (2000), and is a cooperation with Carl Nesjar and Soundscape Studios (Robin Støckert, Sigurd Saue, and Øyvind Brandtsegg). The artwork is a sound system with 24 “moveable” sound channels. The movement of the sounds is determined by such parameters as the number of people in the building, the weather and light conditions, or the birthdays of famous composers. A set of neon sculptures are controlled by the same system.
Nordheim is relevant to the ArTe project as he is one of the first Norwegian artists who cooperated with scientist in order to be able to use electronics tools to generate sound (media and technology). Furthermore, Nordheim challenges the relationship between author and audience by introducing sound into the public sphere. In addition, Nordheim cooperates with other artists by mixing his sounds into other art forms like sculpures (in Ode to Light) and neon art (in Gilde).
Gilde is a cooperation project between two artists working with sound (Nordheim) and light (Nesjar), and IT engineers (Soundscape). Gilde is installed at Realfagbygget NTNU, Gløshaugen.
Ode to Light is a new media artwork that cannot be regarded as computer art, but rather as electronic music. Ode to Light is an important artwork because it encourages the viewer to reflect on the cooperation of artists (a sculpturer and a composer) and scientists.
Espen Gangvik is a Norwegian new media artist based in Trondheim. He uses IT systems to produce sculptures. Gangvik is the founder of Trondheim electronic art center (TEKS), which is a resource for new media artists in Trondheim. Espen Gangvik is the main organizer of the Matchmaking festival, which started in early 2000 and invites important International new media artists to Trondheim each Autumn. Stelarc, Roy Ascott, Natalie Jeremijenko, and Victoria Vesna are all artists who have visited the festival. Espen has a long record of collaborations with researchers and students at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
There are two reasons why Gangvik’s work is relevant to ArTe. Firstly, he is a network builder in the Norwegian new media art arena (participation art), and secondly, his sculptures are developed by IT intensive processes without necessarily being IT objects (artwork media and technology). They are rather traditional sculptures located in the public space or exhibited in museums.
Espen Gangvik’s Transformer is a sculpture that continously redraws its own positions in space. New shapes are being created in a process where the movements itself takes part as the sculpting force.
Kristin Bergaust is a Norwegian artist and professor who has been active in the Norwegian new media art arena for more than twenty years. Her work has relevance for the ArTe project because she has been using the digital medium for many years (media and technology). Her common work with the artist Alexis Parra provides important examples of how Internet technology and video art can be used to explore political, geographical, linguistic, and cultural issues in a meaningful way. In La Conferencia, for example, Bergaust and Parra manage to involve other geographically dispersed artists and to convey a poetic message about “la amistad y la distancia” (friendship and distance).
La Conferencia is a video-based artwork by Kristin Bergaust and Alexis Parra.
Samir M’kadmi is both a curator and an artist working with video and sounds. M’kadmi is the artist behind Sonic Onyx, an Interactive Art Installation Project commisioned by Trondheim Municipality and located at Blussvold school in Trondheim. The sculpure enables its users to send files via a Bluetooth interface and plays these back.
Sonic Onyx has 14 legs and a big white sphere on top. The sphere has a Bluetooth sensor and is lit with changing colours. People can interact with the sculpture by sending messages, images or sound files from Bluetooth enabled handheld devices such as mobile phones, laptops and palmtops. It is also possible to send audio, text, and image files. The received files are converted into sound and mixed with other sound files. The converted sound file is then played back by the sculpture.
Sonic Onyx is particularly relevant to the ArTe project as the author wants to involve a audience of teen agers to play with sound (media and technology) by interacting with the artwork and with each others.
Sonix Onyx is placed in the backyard of Blussvold Ungdom school in Trondheim.
Video of Sonix Onyx.
Flyndre is a sound installation located at Inderøy, Norway, from 2006 to 2016. Flyndre is created by the composer, musician and programmer Øyvind Brandtsegg. This work of sound has been built over an existing sculpture by the sculptor Nils Aas, which carries the same title. You can listen to the music played by the sculpture by accessing the flyndresang website. The installation’s soundtrack is generated by an algorithmic process with parameters such as ambient light, temperature, tidal water flow, moon phase, date, and time. The total duration of the work is 10 years, and the music evolves continuously over this time span. The computers controlling the sound generation are situated at NTNU server rooms in Trondheim, while the physical installation is some 100 km north of Trondheim. Communication between the two sites relies on ethernet streaming technology.
Brandtsegg is a relevant artist to the ArTe project because he cooperates actively with technologists and because he is himself a software programmer (media and technology). Brandtsegg challenges the relationship between author and audience by introducing sound into the public sphere. He also cooperates with other artists, by mixing sound with other art forms like sculpures. In addition, Brandtsegg is active in the open source community.
Picture of Flyndre at Inderøy, Norway, 2006-2016.
The Open Wall: who is the author?
The Open Wall is a 80 x 30 pixels resolution 201 inch LED screen! Its exact dimensions are 480 cm x 180 cm. The tool is developed in the context of the SArt project at the Department of Computer and Information Science. The source code of the installation is available and can be changed.
This artwork is relevant to the ArTe project as it is an example of LED based art (media and technology) as well as challenging the aspect of interaction between author and audience even further by encouraging the audience to change the code governing the installation.
Picture of The Open Wall at NTNU.
Video of The Open Wall at NTNU.
In his artistic work, Gilje is exploring how audiovisual technology can be used to transform, create, expand, amplify and interpret physical spaces.
Gilje is relevant to the ArTe project because he exploits Arduino technology (media and technology) in order to produce artworks.
The web page Conversation with spaces is made with Arduino technology.
Beloff is Finnish-born and she was a professor for media arts at the Art Academy in Oslo, Norway from 2002 to 2006.
Her artistic works can be described as peculiar wearable objects, programmed structures and participatory networked installations. In her pieces she combines technology with various mediums ranging from video to textile, from sound to sculptural and organic materials. Many of her works deal with individuals in the global society trying to adapt to a highly complex technologically enhanced world, which is becoming increasingly mobile. Collaboration with other artists, musicians and computer scientists has been one of the features typical for her working methods.
Beloff is relevant to the ArTe project as she challenges the notion of collaboration between authors(author and audience) as well as exploits different medias (media and technology). She has also worked expecially with children, as in the project TRATTI.
Laura Beloff’s web site.
Picture of TRATTI, by Beloff & Pichlmair 2006.