[FISEA’93] Introduction: Roman Verostko — Introduction to the FISEA’93 Catalogue

Introductory Statement

The focus at the 1993 ISEA has been THE ART FACTOR. From the beginning the program committee, recognizing that the clamor of new technologies too easily takes center stage, centered its interest on artistic procedures and information-processing by artists. The “Call for Participation” identified the need for more focused dialogue on the emerging artist/machine dialectic in terms of arts criticism. This new cultural frontier has been changing the way we experience and interact with our world. Clearly our “machine culture” will come to maturity by cultivating, celebrating and integrating “art,” both intentionally and qualitatively. The artistic work of the cyber culture manifests itself as a new edge preceding any art theory or criticism about itself. For this reason we see a need to draw those involved with this new edge into a more focused sharing and discussion about their “art,” both in theory and in practice. So FISEA 93 has been orchestrated to foster dialogue on the “art factor,” especially for those younger artists who have grown more with joy sticks than with paint brushes. The intention has been to promote a greater understanding of both the formal aspects of the work and its technology. In keeping with our theme the “Call” explicitly invited work which the submitters considered to be “art,” thus providing ground to discover “the art factor” through the window of submissions. The very process of hundreds of artists, theorists and scientists pondering the issues and preparing submissions would provide the substance for dialogue at this symposium. Why must we address the critical language and the criteria we use for the “art” of this “machine culture”? Our relation to each other, the world and the things we make are being radically transformed as “ubiquitous computing” invades our lives. This radical transformation includes deep-level changes in how we create and talk about cybernetic art. From networks and form generators to genetic algorithms and computer viruses we see artists using technologies that challenge assumptions about the “hand” of the artist, original art, individual style and private expression. Shall we call “this” art? Where does it reside? While the “modern” dogma has served its time well its critical language and assumptions pertain to a passing culture where cybernetics was the stuff of science fiction. The “modem movements,” like fashion, were in a dialectic with their predecessors; “art on art,” as it were. But those artists who have pioneered the stuff of cybernetics have come to us somewhat sideways, intensely involved with the interaction between humans and machines. The whole range — from networks to artificial life — has seduced many to total commitment. This includes a growing number who come directly out of the sciences crossing over to the world of art. What draws them? How are we to assess their work? The artists’ statements in this catalogue and the works they represent provide a ground for wrestling with these problems. This ISEA series has been evolving terminology and formal categories for reviewing and exhibiting art which has many labels and faces — cyber art, electronic art, computer art, digital media. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the work the categories tend to blur and cross over each other. So submissions have had to be passed around and pondered. Whose expertise pertains to this paper, to this work of art or to this project? How do we exhibit this? What kind of equipment will we need and how do we get it done? Is it feasible? Too often, it seemed to us, the limits of time, money and resources placed unwanted restrictions on our choices. Yet, even within the severe limits of the possible and the overlapping categories the shape of the exhibits and the symposium gradually emerged. This catalogue documents the yield of the process outlined by the Program Committee nearly two years ago. Yet it is but a token of the exhibitions and papers, which in turn are both the fruit and the stimulus for those with a common interest coming together to share their visions, problems and aspirations. For many attendees at the first ISEA Symposium (Utrecht, 1988) — and subsequently — the discovery has been how many have traversed a similar path. Always, the shape of these symposia is defined by the participants, not just those who present papers or exhibit, but by all who submit, and all who come and take part in the discussions, both public and private. Juries and committees make it possible to come together in a meaningful way, but it is those who come and participate who create the substance and meaning of the symposium as it unfolds, and lay ground for the next. So the process yields one ambiance in Sydney, another in Minneapolis, and we may expect yet another in Helsinki in 1994 and in Montreal m 1995. Behind the scenes, thanks! Behind the scenes in all of these symposia are those whose dedicated work makes all this possible. Most important of all has been Alice Wagstaff, my wife, who coordinated the Program Committee, assisted in implementing the screening of papers and panels, edited my writing, managed the Email and salved my wounds for the past year and a half. Her firm and unfailing support at the age of 74 will give many younger participants hope for the future!

We owe much to Lloyd Ultan, University of Minnesota, whose experience helped shape a meaningful “Call for Participation.” Following serious surgery and months of uncertain health Lloyd has given generous counsel and support even as he recuperates. All of us are indebted to the Chairs who shouldered the enormous task of screening the submissions with an eye to generating a diverse, representative and meaningful show of work in their respective areas. This includes especially Scott Sayre, the Interactive Media Group at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, for his playful spirit arid creative work on the Electronic Theater and the Interactive Art works; Homer Lambrecht, University of Wisconsin-River Falls, for magical patience with the physics of time and space as he worked out the Sound Performance Events; Brian Szott, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, for his sound advice and commitment to the Gallery Show; Bradford Smith, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, who treaded where angels feared as he assumed responsibility for equipment; Craig Ede who brought an energized spirit to curating the FAX Arts program; and Judith Yourman, St. Olaf College, who worked generously in curating the slide show. On the administrative side the greatest credit must go to Joan Klaiber our Executive Assistant who, besides being assistant and right arm to the president of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, managed the FISEA office, registration and the hundreds of related details. She has wrought marvels with limitations of resources and space. Andrea Nasset, Interim Academic Dean of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and Chair of the FISEA Steering Committee, took on the big ones cheerfully and saved the day, time and again. Early in the planning stages I received important counsel from Susan Hanna-Bibus, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, who also has made a major contribution as Editor of FISEA publications. Thanks, too, to Beth Giles, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, who has coordinated the Workshops. We are especially grateful to Wim van der Plas (Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts) who wisely and patiently guided us through this project, especially in its initial stages when things seemed so uncertain. Along with him we thank the many international advisors from over twenty countries who have helped us. We particularly note the contributions of Peter Beyls, Belgium; Yoshiyuki Abe, Japan; Artemis Moroni and Rejane Spitz, Brazil; Gary Warner, Ross Harley and Alessio Cavallaro, Australia. We especially thank Roger Malina (Leonardo, ISAST) who recommended us to Wim van der Plas and has supported this and the other symposia from their beginnings. Thanks to him and Craig Harris (Leonardo) for their generous help and counsel. Finally the one person, above all, who made this symposium possible has been John S. Slorp, President of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, who has made College resources available as much as possible. His moral support, counsel and willingness to go the extra mile bolstered the ISEA series at a time when support for the series was waning. For all these good people, including our many exhibitors, contributors and helpers, we say thank you for making FISEA 93 possible.

  • Roman Verostko, USA, program director of FISEA’93, is an artist and art historian, teaches world art history at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. As a Bush Fellow he researched the “changing role of artists” at the Center For Advanced Visual Studies at MIT (1970). His seminal paper Epigenetic Painting, Software as Genotype (1988) identified biological analogues to autonomous form generating procedures. His “epigenetic art” includes a limited edition of George Boole’s Derivation of the Laws… illustrated with his own “personal expert system.” He received an Ars Electronica honorary citation this year and was included in Genetic Art – Artificial Life (Linz, 1993). Other shows include: TISEA (Sidney, 1992), Dada Data, Developing Media Since (970 (Baltimore, 1991), Interface: Art & Computer (New York, 1991), El Art (Finland, 1991), The Technological Imagination, Machines in the Garden of Art (Minneapolis, 1909)