[ISEA2011] Panel: An­nette Wein­traub — In Pur­suit of Time Re­gained: Rec­on­cil­ing the Un­sta­ble Past, Pre­sent and Fu­ture of Web-based Art

Panel Statement

Panel: Slowness: Responding to Acceleration through Electronic Arts

“The enormous multiplication of books in every branch of knowledge is one of the greatest evils of this age; since it presents one of the most serious obstacles to the acquisition of correct information, by throwing in the reader’s way piles of lumber in which he must painfully grope for the scraps of useful lumber, peradventure interspersed.” _Edgar Alan Poe (1845)

By titling the last volume of his novel À La Recherche du Temps Perdu (In Search of Lost Time) as Le Temps Retrouvé [Time Regained], Marcel Proust in the first decades of the 20th Century, captured and anticipated our contemporary anxiety about time and consciousness of time passing. A modern phenomenon, the awareness of the speeding up of time is a result of the increased rate of change since the Industrial Revolution. In recent decades, and with electronic media, this change has quickened into a tidal wave of ‘too much information.’ Perception of change has altered as well, from an awareness of acceleration of time generally, to an acutely internalized sense of change. In a progression from Edgar Allen Poe’s 1845 quotation decrying the proliferation of book publishing and the difficulty of filtering for quality, to more recent books like Alvin Toffler’s (1970) Information Overload reporting heightened stress and impaired judgment as a consequence of rapid adaptation, and Richard Saul Wurman’s (1989) Information Anxiety presenting strategies for processing information overload, there has been growing alarm regarding the effects of accelerated change. More recently, there has been a lot written on the effect of the Internet on deep thinking, including numerous hyperventilating polemics on how the Web, social networking and the culture of instant response is actually changing our brains. Yet if speed, fracture and overload are the outcome of the 20th century celebration of the dynamism of change and the machine age, there are also many works of contemporary art which engage ‘real time’ as counterweight. It’s possible that ‘real time’ as an artistic convention became interesting just as our perception of actual ‘real time’ in lived experience sped up. In Warhol’s Empire (1964) or Michael Snow’s Wavelength (1967) time is experienced minute-by-minute, with a slowness that can be meditative, contemplative, immersive or alternatively boring, suffocating and lacking drama. Yet even ‘real time’ isn’t safe from acceleration. The ‘real time’ format of the TV series 24 is paradoxical: the minute-by-minute equivalence between plot action and viewing time is exact, yet the action in each moment of narrative is so hopped-up it feels like real time on methamphetamine. That image of real time adrenalized is an apt framework for looking at the challenges to artists working with technology. As an artist making projects for the Internet, I am aware of the technologies pushing me forward in new work at the same time I am looking backwards at eroding and vanishing technologies, and earlier projects that are stranded, mutated or irretrievably changed by browser obsolescence. This pull of simultaneous opposing directions is a Proustian nightmare in which the involuntary memory is not the savor of a treasured bite of the past, but a constant reverie on the instability of past, present and future. The tension of this pull in two directions raises many questions about approaches to making, maintaining and conserving Internet-based artwork. Do we accept the ephemerality and expendability of web art as it has a brief moment and then ‘breaks’ when the tech passes on; migrate the work by updating to current browser standards; or ‘show’ the work in another form that may convey the appearance and preserve the content, but is no longer the ‘original’ work. What is the ‘shelf-life’ of art made in the context of rapid evolution of technology, and is it possible to adapt one’s studio practice and relation to technology in a way that assimilates rapid change? This presentation will explore these issues of adaptation to change in the preservation and conservation of art made for the Internet and will also examine a variety of approaches to the experience of duration in web-based artwork.

  • Annette Weintraub is a media artist whose projects embed layered narratives within a variety of architectural constructs. Her work is an investigation of architecture as visual language, and focuses on the dynamics of urban space, the intrusion of media into public space and the symbolism of space. She creates web projects that integrate elements of narrative, film and architecture within a conceptual representation of space to explore modes of spatial representation and the subjective experience of physical space. Recent exhibitions include: 2010 FILE, Electronic Language International Festival, Sao Paulo; “A Slow Reveal…”  at University of Maryland, College Park, and “Day of the Dead,” at the Everhart Museum, Scranton, Pennsylvania. Her projects have been shown at venues that include: The Atlanta Contemporary Art Center; The International Art Biennial-Buenos Aires; 5th Salon de Arte in Cuba; Video Biennal Israel; The 5th Biennial of Media and Architecture in Graz Austria; The Whitney Biennial; The International Center for Photography/ICP; The First Chiang Mai New Media Art Festival; The International Film Festival Rotterdam; Thirteen/WNET TV’s ReelNewYorkWeb; Viper in Switzerland; at SIGGRAPH and ISEA and numerous other national and international exhibitions. Commissions include The Rushlikon Centre for Global Dialogue, CEPA and Turbulence. Her work has been cited in many publications, including: Aperture, Art in America, Artforum, ArtByte, Newsweek, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, The Boston Globe, Leonardo, and Intelligent Agent as well as online citations including the New York Times, CNN.com and NetArt Review, She is Professor of Art at The City College of New York, CUNY.

Full text (PDF) p. 2558-2564  [Title slightly different]