While many regard the Web’s strength as interactivity,and everyone acknowledges its vastness, one less recognized attribute of the Web is the quality of shared intimacy which provides a perfect environment for electronic narratives. As an artist creating work for the Web, I’ve become interested in creating work which uses the Web as an intimate storytelling space, and in the renegotiated relationship with audience that results. It’s a paradox of much art on the Web that the seduction of images is the lure that attracts audience (and artists), yet the intimate connection forged by reading and interacting with a text on the Web may be the core of the online experience. This unique fusion of text and image in a dynamic medium with a mass audience provided a particular challenge. My presentation examines the genesis of my Web- specific work (“Realism,” at http://artnetweb.com/projects/realms/notes.html, and “It’s Pedestrian” which is in development) and my ideas about the development of a text-based visual narrative. When I began my first work for the Web, “Realms,” I started with a vision of images accompanied by short narrative phrases. As I worked, the narrative took over, and the balance of the piece began to shift to become a narrative with images. I was struck by the power of text on the web, and felt the extraordinary intimacy between artist and audience. I began to develop what writers call “a voice”, and to design the piece as a very direct juxtaposition of deceptively simple, short texts paired with a background image. Each episode in “Realms” was designed to be complete on one page, and the texts were designed to play with or against the images in an unexpected way. The tempo of the piece, and its pacing, began to be determined by the speed of absorbing text, as well as by the speed of download over the Web. And the imaginary viewer became a tangible presence in the work. I found myself thinking intensely about storytelling, dramatic structure and the viewer/reader relationship. Several concerns emerged: the special qualities of the audience and the audience-artist relationship (a broadbased rather than art audience); problems of timing and attention span (notoriously short on the Web); the possibilities for communication with the reader/spectator/participant; the choice between direct and abstract communication (in consideration of the broader and more accidental audience); and alterations in the theatrical model of attraction, development and resolution to fit the more sporatic and randomized space of the Web. From my perspective, Web-based art work is a largely theatrical and story-based medium with the potential for creating unique dramatic narratives of text and image and for reaching a diverse and engaged audience. My presentation will focus on this perspective, using the evolution of “Realms” and “It’s Pedestrian” to illustrate the process, and will examine these intersections of text and image, the development of a storytelling space, and the challenge of creating an richer and more complex relationship between artist and audience.
- Annette Weintraub, USA, New York University and independent artist