A comment on the V&A Exhibition Decode: Digital Design sensations which I went to Wednesday 17.02.10
“Digital technologies allow for a wide range of reciprocal relationships between the work and the viewer. Both can respond, react and interact instantly. Digital works often use a combination of technologies – sensors, cameras, tracking – together with feedback and coding” (exhibition catalogue)
The exhibition displayed a wide range of digital artworks that in different ways addressed questions related to digital technology. The exhibition catalogue states that digital technology can be seen as a “new tool for artists and designers”. This tool can then be applied to Art-works both aesthetically and thematically addressing questions concerning technology and society.
The exhibition had three main themes which where: interactivity, networks and computer codes. The interactive works looked at relations between humans and machines and relationships between the physical and virtual. The second category was artworks related to “The networked world”. These type of works looked at how humans in different ways are connected to each other, the internet and in a global world. This information can then again be used to create artworks based on the recorded network-material. The last category of the exhibition was “Computer-codes” which the catalogue describes to be: “both a new ‘material’ that artists can use and an inspiration for their subject matter. Practitioners are exploring the beauty if algorithms and the artistic potential of computer systems”
I always enjoy interactive works and the exhibition displayed works that made me engaged in different ways. For example the entrance piece which was an electronic field that reacted when you walk through it. It produced both a physical and visual feeling. Another type of interactivity was given in the immersive- mirror that photographed spectators and displayed you for a short period of time (but most likely also capable of storing the information to be used for future artworks) A third type of interactivity was the digital flower where you used a hairdryer instead of your own breath to blow the seeds of a flower into a digital field/ farmland. This provided me with questions of the difference between engaging physically or virtual with nature.
As spectator and not participant. Even though I enjoy interactive works I was most impressed with one of the Art works that did not invite me to interact but to engage as a more traditional spectator. The Artwork by the Japanese sound artist Ryoji Ikeda (1966) “Data-scan, 2009” is a work I would place in the Computer-code category. The work itself was a type of object – a digital light box, which was placed horizontal at a waist level height. The screen displayed simple codes (html) patterns of read and white lines on a black screen constant moving and creating new patters. These patterns represented a combination of different types of star coordinates that was mixed with documentation of data that surrounds us on earth. The data changed constantly and as a spectator I had the feeling that it was telling me something, providing me with sort of a travel route that was to abstract for me to comprehend. The way the coordinates moved over the screen and my eyes chasing the arrow It reminded me of science-fiction movies I have seen and especially the movie Star-gate with Kurt Russell from 1993 At first I was a bit disappointed since I expected it to invite to a greater interaction as many of the other works at display. But the simple formal and aesthetic qualities in combination with the: “mix of the comprehensible (human scale) with the incomprehensible (universe)” created for me a very poetic and subtle experience.
Furthermore I also found what was written in the catalogue text about computer codes to be a “new material” for artists and what I experienced to be Ryji Ikeda’s play with the “the beauty of algorithms” to make me look at the digital in an new and broader sense than before – as a type of physical material. This work also gave me associations to an Artwork described by Anna Munster in the network book, IP-spy. IP-spy is an anti Data-mining piece from 2006 created by RYBN that displays and visualizes all information from one IP-address. This information created a visual map, coordinates of where the IP user had moved in the virtual space.