[ISEA97] Panel: Bonnie Mitchell, Paul Hertz, Susan Dallas-Swann & Harlan Wallach – Building Bridges or Tearing Apart Authorship: On-line Collaborative Art

Panel Statement

The development of collaborative on-line art projects pose questions that challenge the notion of the artist as lone creator of completed work. The hierarchical structure of artist/viewer is flattened as the artist relinquishes control and the public becomes a colleague in the creative process. Collaborative tactics may carry an implicit message of social change, attempting to move from symbolic actions to material ones by expanding the rupture of hierarchies outwards.
Whereas theatrical and performance-based art are often structured as ensembles, the visual artist typically works independently and is rewarded for autonomous innovation. The act of defying social expectations of independent creative genius often marginalizes the artist’s standing in established art institutions. Yet, more artists are seeking on-line interaction and collaboration as a means of overcoming the isolation of the studio.
The artist(s) who develop collaborative projects are often interested in investigating on-line interaction, development of artistic style through visual influence, differing response to various issues, and other human factors. Contributors to on-line collaborative projects often gain gratification through the publishing of their work, social interactions occurring via the project, the exchange of intellectual and visual idea, etc.
The notion of appropriation as a form of collaboration extends the genre further. When participants are freely invited to use other participant’s imagery to create their own, copyright becomes obsolete. The notion of “original” is challenged as many individuals’ imagery and ideas merge to create collective forms of expression. Legal authorship of the work is ambiguous even as expressed in current definitions of “joint work: The lack of independent ownership poses problems for artists wishing to financially prosper or protect the integrity of their work.
The concept of a completed work of art also becomes arbi-trary, if not impossible.”The meaning of the work is defined and redefined continually throughout the collaborative process. Intention and outcome differ as coordinator and participant become fused though on-line interaction. Oftentimes the project continues to evolve well beyond the predicted life span.
Although the structure of on-line collaborative art projects differ, issues of curatorial responsibility and integrity of the work prevail. Participation open to the public invites varying degrees of artistic ability and interpretations of the intent. Collaborative art thrives on multiplicity, yet obstruction, errors, and vandalism sometimes occurs. Occasionally the original concept of the project is challenged and manipulated by the participants. Oftentimes there will be participants that become active joint owners of the project and oversee the activities of the other participants.
While the experience of coordinating and participating in an on-line collaborative art project differs, the vision of the creation of art as a group activity with process and interaction as, or more important than the final product prevails. Artistic communities are formed and virtual friendships are defined through shared visual experiences. The resulting work reflects the merged vision and experiences of many, without the inhibition of cultural and social boundaries.

  • Bonnie Mitchell (U.S.A.), chair, is an Assistant Professor at Syracuse University’s Art Media Studies/Computer Graphics Department. She currently teaches 3D modeling/anima­tion, virtual environments and art, and interactive multi­media (CD and WWW). She received her MFA in Visual Design/Computer Art from the University of Oregon in 1992. Ms. Mitchell is internationally recognized for her col­laborative Internet-based art works. Early in 1993, using FTP and email, she organized the ChainArt project, which involved over 130 people from 15 different countries. In 1994, she coordinated the Digital Journey project; 1995 the Diversive Path project, and also in 1995 she organized the ChainReaction project which premiered at SIGGRAPH 95 and ISEA95. ChainReaction currently has over 350 images and over 140 participants in 16 countries. Her most recent WWW collaborative project is entitled As Worlds Collide and focuses on the integration of 3D and 2D imagery. Bonnie Mitchell also works with stereo imaging, installation, and 3D modeling to explore spatial environments and experien­tial relationships to natural elements. Her work was recent­ly exhibited as part of Arcadell; Bunch of Digital Art and the ISEA96 Art Show. Recently Bonnie Mitchell has presented at SIGGRAPH 97, typoMedia: Germany, FATE:Virginia, RIT, CAA, the NY State Media Festival, American Academy of Art, Chicago Womens Art Caucus, SIGSCE: Barcelona, and SIGGRAPH 96. Bonnie Mitchell’s WWW work has been pub­lished in several books and magazines as well as receiving numerous awards.
  • Paul Hertz (USA) used to live in a volcanic cave beside the sea in the Canary Islands. Now he lives in a house with a garden in Chicago. He develops collaborative on-line multimedia projects as a member of the Collaboratory Project at Northwestern University, where he also teaches in the Department of Radio, Television and the Medill School of Journalism. He spent many years in Spain, where he exhibited his drawings, paintings, and musical and theatrical compositions, notably in the XVIII International Theater Festival of Sitges, at the Universitat Nova in Barcelona, and in various editions of the Joan Miró International Drawing Competition. Now he makes art with computers. At the School of the Art Institute of Chicago he began to work with technology as an MFA candidate Fellow of the Center for Advanced Studies in Art and Technology. He collaborated on the development of Antoni Muntadas’ WWW project, The File Room, and recently curat­ed a WWW installation of work by seven artists on the col­onization of cyberspace entitled The Homestead.  paulhertz.net/pdf/hertz_6p.pdf
  • Susan Dallas-Swann is an internationally exhibited artist exhibiting real-time multimedia interactive installations of sound, light, movement, animation, holography and sculpture. She is an Associate Professor and Co-Program Coordinator in Art and Technology at The Ohio State University Department of Art and Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD). Recent exhibitions and panels include EQuinox ’96; WWW and The Funnel, Prague, Czech Republic, and The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, Ann Arbor Michigan w/Gerald Horn and Jamy Sheridan,’96; College Art Association, New York; Crossing the Boundaries: Electronic Art Within and Without, New York, NY, February,’97; Equinox ’95, Fundacio Pilar i Joan Miro a Mallorca, Spain, w/G. Horn, Mar-Apr’95, Tracor School of Art, Madrid, Spain, Arte Nuevas Technologias y Ciberespacio,’94, Hogeschool Katholieke Leergangen, Tilburg, Holland, and many others. Grants include New Forms Regional Grant, New York State Council for the Arts, Art Awareness Residency, Artist’s Space Exhibition Grant, P.S. #1 Artist Materials Program Grant, National Endowment for the Arts, Individual Fellowship Grant. Collections:International Museum of Electrography Collection, University of Spain at La Mancha, Quinca, Spain, and Fundacio Pilar i Joan Miro in Mallorca, Spain.
  • Harlan Wallach (U.S.A.) I am a Photographer & Graphic Designer, currently living in Chicago. My work has been exhibited in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York, and is available on-line.