[ISEA94] Introduction: Perttu Rastas – ISEA94 Electronic Theatre

Introductory Statement

The computer represents the same chameleon technology as video, although they have given names to two different forms of art (video art/computer art). The definitions describe the art forms’ contents as well as the technology used in them. Video art has its roots in experimental music performance art, feminist theory of the image and the everyday use of video, as well as in the conventions of traditional cinema and television. The computer can be understood as a language as well as a form of technology. It is a universal medium, encompassing the typewriter as well as the 3 D animations that aim towards perfect likeness with the reality.

From the artistic point of view, the universality of the computer can be seen as a dilemma that escapes our definition. “Computer art” can be any thing that copies or replaces former visual technology. So far, the computer has not created its own independent reality that would fulfill Gene Youngblood’s absolute definition of the computer art: “art that is not possible to create by other means.” Computers are widely used in the audiovisual technology due to their excellent editing properties. They have become an essential part of the working process, yet in aesthetics we are still discussing other things: pictures, sounds, stories and collages. The subcategories of computer art are in my opinion problematic, purely hierarchical classifications of the  professional technology. Such a classification, consisting of ten subcategories, was presented at the IMAGINA festival. The subcategories simply refer to different ways of using the computer;  they don’t describe new forms of art. For the sake of art, according to Youngblood, we ought to look for something particular to computer art. In my understanding, such particular works have already been presented especially in the fields of Virtual Reality and A-Life. The third useful area provided by computers, telecommunication, is in fact television satellite technology. Naturally, we can find typical (yet not unique) characteristics to describe the computer images. A central one of them is the “Techno-collage”. Computers make the production, editing and copying of pictures such a quick routine that the mere routine process in itself can produce an aesthetic format. The artistic originality of the Technocollage can be seen, for example, in the works of Beriou and Peter Callas. The genre reflects the ISEA94 theme ‘High&Low’ – the easy experimentation possibilities provided by the computer have tempted many artists to create simple, yet interesting, “icon testaments” about their own life and ideology. However, the most interesting area of computer art is a world still to be created. I call this world the “Real fiction”.
It is fascinating to observe the world of computer games from the point of view of the subconsciousness. Their images seem to be based on a dark, medieval subconsciousness, the
mythological reality of knights, with the creatures of the underworld and the heavens romping freely around in our earthly symbol realism. Yet I’m waiting for us to completely liberate  ourselves from the basically realistic world of images, and to move into the “real fiction” (Youngblood’s “simulation”), into the mist of man’s imagination that has no holds with this world. Culturally and historically, we are the product of this world’s image realism, but let us prepare for the moon trips of imagination.

  • Perttu Rastas (MuuMediaFestival), Antti Kari (IMI/UIAH) & Ilppo Pohjola (all Finland) were in charge of the ISEA94 Electronic Theatre.