Essays



Title: Soft Future
Author(s):
Exhibition: SIGGRAPH 1993: Machine Culture
Writing Type: Essay
Abstract/Summary/Introduction:

Will you see a technological utopia, a city of gleaming metal spires orbiting spacecraft, a world spared from nuclear annihilation and united by a common belief in the benefits of rational progress? Nowadays, probably not. At most your vision is likely to be an end to recession, economic stability for at least a while, a new order of gray-suited bureaucracy. Perhaps you see nothing at all, just a hazy mist of half-forgotten ideals. But when I close my own eyes there is still something there lurking in the background, like a memory chopped up into disparate fragments. It coagulates, forming an surface-it is the surface of a computer screen.

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Title: The Art of Understanding: Or, A Primer on Why We Study History
Author(s):
Exhibition: SIGGRAPH 2003: CG03: Computer Graphics 2003
Writing Type: Essay
Abstract/Summary/Introduction:

Why did a substantial number of submissions to the SIGGRAPH 2003 Art Gallery demonstrate a lack of knowledge of the history of digital art? There is an art to understanding creative invention that involves information as well as experience and personal preference.

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Title: The Artistic Origins of Virtual Reality
Author(s):
Exhibition: SIGGRAPH 1993: Machine Culture
Writing Type: Essay
Abstract/Summary/Introduction:

The history of virtual reality is often obscured. It is easy to get the impression that the Big Bang occurred at NASA in 1984 and that virtual reality is a triumph of the technical establishment alone. What has been overlooked is the important contributions that artists have made to the development of the field.

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Title: The Bridge
Author(s):
Exhibition: SIGGRAPH 1996: The Bridge
Writing Type: Essay
Abstract/Summary/Introduction:

In the dream, I am driving over the Charleston Bay Bridge in South Carolina. As I reach the crest of the bridge, my car veers, lifts, and suddenly, without the car, I am flying high over the bridge and the bay. It is snowing, and I am very cold, high in the dark blue night above an even darker blue sea. I realize I am numb. I am dead, I think. It is not an unhappy thought. Thinking I am dead brings a wonderfully exhilarating and freeing sensation. I am at peace.

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Title: The Digital Becomes Contemporary
Author(s):
Exhibition: SIGGRAPH 2003: CG03: Computer Graphics 2003
Writing Type: Essay
Abstract/Summary/Introduction:

We are at a special and paradoxical moment in the development of digital art. Now that it is finally gaining widespread public and critical attention, digital art is also being quickly absorbed into the world of contemporary art. The next generation of artists and critics will not look at making art with a computer as something extraordinary or unusual. This phenomenon is already quite apparent in galleries in New York and abroad. While galleries like Postmasters and Bitforms specialize in new-media art, numerous other galleries in Chelsea exhibit similar work, but do not make the distinction that it is new-media art. Another growing trend in New York is for artists to display prints along with new media as an integral part of the exhibition. The return to the object is due in part to the recent widespread availability of archival printing methods. Museums are also in the process of refitting to accommodate the next wave of contemporary art. The Museum of Modern Art in New York has closed for two years to update its galleries, and the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art in Amsterdam is planning a major renovation for 2004. For those of us who have followed the SIGGRAPH Art Gallery for many years, this acceptance of digital art by the contemporary art world is refreshing, but also raises many questions. Digital art has operated outside the art establishment for many years, and this has allowed it to remain relatively free.

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Title: The Kitchen as a Graphical User Interface
Author(s):
Exhibition: SIGGRAPH 2004: Synaesthesia
Writing Type: Essay
Abstract/Summary/Introduction:

Everyday objects can become computer interfaces by the overlay of digital information. This paper describes scenarios and implementa­ tions in which imagery is digitally painted on the objects and spaces of a kitchen. Five augmented physical interfaces were designed to orient and inform people in the tasks of cleaning, cooking, and accessing information: Information Table, Information Annotation ofKitchen, HeatSink, Spatial Definition, and Social Floor. Together, these interfaces augment the entire room into a single graphical user interface.

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Title: The Mapping of Space
Author(s):
Exhibition: SIGGRAPH 1993: Machine Culture
Writing Type: Essay
Abstract/Summary/Introduction:

1991 saw two events, of different importance and seemingly unrelated. One was the longawaited publication in English of what can probably be called the single most influential essay of modern art history—Erwin Panofsky’s Die Perspektive als ‘Symbolische Form.’¹ The interest generated around the re-emergence of this legendary essay, written in 1924-1925, demonstrates that the problem of perspectival representation is still felt to be relevant to contemporary culture. The second event was the Gulf War, the outcome of which was largely predetermined by Western superiority in the techniques of perspectival representation.

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Title: The Noetic Connection: Synesthesia, Psychedelics, and Language
Author(s):
Exhibition: SIGGRAPH 2004: Synaesthesia
Writing Type: Essay
Abstract/Summary/Introduction:

The literatures that touch on synaesthesias – scientific, art-historical, literary, phenomenological, ethnographic, psychedelic – vary widely in their definitions, their interpretations, and their degree of comfo with the first-person, subjective nature of experiential reports. The signi cances given to synesthetic experiences are similarly wide­ ranging. This paper explores the relationships among synaesthesias, psychedelic experience, and language, highlighting Terence McKenna’s synesthetic language experiences on DMT and magic mushrooms. We describe the complexities of creating and pe orm­ ing with the Synestheater, a system that provides the means to weave together, in multiple mappings, two or more complex visual, aural, and linguistic systems in live pe ormance.

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Title: The Transformed And Transforming Image In The Shift From Print To Digital Culture
Author(s):
Exhibition: SIGGRAPH 1995: Digital Gallery
Writing Type: Essay
Abstract/Summary/Introduction:

This paper investigates issues germane to “reading” images in a digital medium by considering both visual language as it is constrained by hardware and software, and visual culture as it is changed by a medium that pushes us towards a thought idiom that embodies multiplicity and simultaneity.

Images in and of a culture reflect our cultural understandings of ourselves. Images in any culture are constantly changing, and as they change, they transform the culture. Likewise, as a culture undergoes change, the images of the culture are transformed. In this way, image and how we read images are both the trace element of and a visual wake following the shifts in our collective understandings. Image operates both as an integral part of an organic, changing energy system that generates momentum towards a culture shift and as a footprint that references visual metaphors in describing a cultural shift that is taking—or has taken—place.

To understand the transformed and transforming nature of images in culture, we must first understand the components of the image, particularly the compositional or visual language and the cultural context of the image. What sits between the visual language and the cultural context of the image is the medium in which the image appears. It is not that the medium is the message as Marshall McLuhan has suggested; rather the medium creates both a cultural context and a medium-particular visual language, contributing significantly to the meaning we “read” from an image.

Medium in a larger sense designates the boundaries of our collective understandings – our epistemology – in the ways in which it is integral to both how we “read” the cultural context and visual language of the text and how that constructed “reading” defines our thought idiom. Just as the medium in a fine arts context creates a medium-specific visual grammar and a cultural context from which the artist is able to shape an image from his or her own inner vision or knowing, so too does medium in the larger sense define what kinds of “pictures” we collectively create to understand or know the world. In this way, the digital medium is much more than a new tool or toy used by visual artists. Rather, this paper argues that our tentative steps towards using this new medium represent a shift as significant as the move from oral culture to print culture — that we are in the midst of a shift from print culture to digital culture.

Through a comparison of images based on Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass and the Mona Lisa, this paper lays a foundation for similar comparisons of hypertexts which use visual images. By looking at the characteristics of digital visual language and cultural context and noting the similarities and differences between them and the more familiar print culture visual language and cultural contexts, this paper considers issues germane to reading images in the digital medium.

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Title: There are No Philosophic Problems Raised by Virtual Reality
Author(s):
Exhibition: SIGGRAPH 1994: Art and Design Show
Writing Type: Essay
Abstract/Summary/Introduction:

There is widespread agreement that virtual reality presents seri­ous new challenges to perceived ways of thinking about such fun­damental concepts as reality, simulation, representation, percep­tion, and sensation. It has been seen as a practice that might have deep consequences for conven­tional ways of construing the mind-body problem, including the minimal requirements for a body, requirements for the coherent reception of sensation, and the relation between reason and intu­ition. Most fundamental of all, it has been said to entail a new kind of space, differing from Cartesian and other spaces and requiring new definitions of space and form. This paper argues, on the contrary, that virtual reality does not raise any new philosophic problems.

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Title: Thoughts on Hesse, Digital A and Visual Music
Author(s):
Exhibition: SIGGRAPH 2004: Synaesthesia
Writing Type: Essay
Abstract/Summary/Introduction:

This essay describes the influence of Hermann Hesse’s ideas on my creative work and how I create interactive music sculptures and visual music. In his book, Magister Ludi, Hesse describes a game in which art and music blend together in a way that allows for transformation of creative content into various forms of media. “Variations” is an ongoing exploration of interactive sculpture and visual music that began in 1999 and still continues. The following describes my thought process for early versions of this work, as well as for “Variations 03,” an interactive music installation that was exhibited as part of the SIGGRAPH 2003 A Gallery. My approach in creating this work was to develop a three-dimensional sound matrix that viewers could change as they interacted with the sculpture.

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Title: Threading Time Machines
Author(s):
Exhibition: SIGGRAPH 2005: Threading Time
Writing Type: Essay
Abstract/Summary/Introduction:

Threading Time, the title of the SIGGRAPH 2005 Art Gallery, invokes a vision in which the essence of lived reality, time, is measured and used through instrumentalization technology. The very subject of much of the technologically-based new media arts is time itself its uncovering, its displacement, its loss, and its reiteration. The urgency for visual artists to explore the experience of time is pervasive. Indeed, what could be more contemporary than an exploration of the lived moment as a network of relations and responses that too often
go unnoticed? The construction and imaging of visual languages through which time is not only expressed but enunciated and parsed by visual poets, have always and will always fascinate audiences. This instrumentalization is evoked and invoked through our language and the way we move, and through the very social relations between people. SIGGRAPH is both an actor in this play and an instigator; it serves as a barometer (giving us a sense of the pressures we face) and a thermometer, indicating the temperature of the body social and political.”

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Title: Towards Computer Game Studies
Author(s):
Exhibition: SIGGRAPH 2001: n-space
Writing Type: Essay
Abstract/Summary/Introduction:

Part 1: Narratology and Ludology
It is relatively stress-free to write about computer games as nothing too much has been said yet, and almost anything goes. The situation is pretty much the same in what comes to writing about games and gaming in general. The sad fact with alarming cumulative consequences is that they are under-theorized; there are Huizinga, Caillois and Ehrmann of course, and libraries full of board game studies, in addition to game theory and bits and pieces of philosophy-most notably those of Wittgenstein’s – but they won’t get us very far with computer games. So if there already is or soon will be a legitimate field for computer game studies, this field is also very open to intrusions and colonization from the already organized scholarly tribes. Resisting and beating them is the goal of our first survival game in this paper, as what these emerging studies need is independence, or at least relative independence.

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Title: TV NEEDS MTV LIKE MTV NEEDS COMPUTERS
Author(s):
Exhibition: SIGGRAPH 1986: A Retrospective
Writing Type: Essay
Abstract/Summary/Introduction:

J. S. Bach’s last unfinished work, THE ART OF THE FUGUE, is a magnificent network of simple theme and variations that are interwoven, transposed, inverted, and retrogressed. Some believe that Bach’s counterpoint, which consists of a complementarity of voice-parts, exhibits an affinity with algorithmic computer-program instructions and procedures. I agree, and I believe that a video counterpoint offers a special complementarity between its own musical and its visual voice-parts.

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Title: Virtu-Real Space:
Author(s):
Exhibition: SIGGRAPH 1993: Machine Culture
Writing Type: Essay
Abstract/Summary/Introduction:

A significant shift is occurring in the makeup, physical nature, and composition of space as it is experienced in contemporary culture. This shift, which is a direct result of the ubiquitous presence of information technologies in the cultural landscape, signals that physical components alone no longer comprise the infrastructure of the contemporary social environment. The ads, which show American Express cards in locations where they function as architectural elements (i.e., a bridge support, a path on a golf course, a canopy over a restaurant dining area, and others), indicate that it is now a combination of physical components and virtual systems that support and sustain the “real” world. Virtual credit space, symbolized in the advertisements by the credit card, functions not only as structural support for the physical world, but also as solid footing and shelter for the people who live in that world. And since virtual credit space is operationalized by information technologies, it becomes clear in these commercials that the extent to which physical space has been infiltrated by information technologies is both extreme (the cards are pervasive) and covert (no one in the ads notices the cards). Furthermore, because the cards blend into their surroundings unnoticed, these corporate images also indicate that information technologies are our natural setting. It becomes clear, then, that the use of the credit card icon in these commercials represents the extent to which information technologies have become naturalized as an intrinsic part of contemporary social life.

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Title: Virtual Imaginations Require Real Bodies
Author(s):
Exhibition: SIGGRAPH 1999: technOasis
Writing Type: Essay
Abstract/Summary/Introduction:

Virtual reality (VR) works of art conjure up ideas such as virtual sex, virtual frontiers, and to some, disembodiment. Those who uphold the notion of disembodiment claim that works of art that embrace VR technology necessarily encourage a state that affirms the Cartesian duality in which people can leave Earth, nature, and body behind. I counter this notion because I do not believe that the mind can be separated from the body; rather, the two are inexplicably intertwined.

Although this “Gibsonesque” scenario is rich with metaphors and metaphysical implications, I suggest that any virtual space is an embodied experience because the imagination of the artist and the viewer refer back to the body, to nature, and to the Earth. From the physical reality of Earth and our bodies, we may understand and perceive many more realities, perhaps facilitated by virtual space art installations. In fact, I maintain that even the virtual is real. It is a perception that is a real experience, which makes reference to our encounters with the physical world and our flesh.

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Title: Visions of Mind
Author(s):
Exhibition: SIGGRAPH 1986: A Retrospective
Writing Type: Essay
Abstract/Summary/Introduction:

Computer art is unfolding on the basis of scientific and engineering achievements of pioneering personalities, whose vision suggested that it should be possible to wrest something other than calculation speed and numeric precision from those crude and clumsy computers; something that could be turned into meaningful images. They set out to build dedicated machines to interpret an intuitive stroke with a pen or a snapshot taken through the lens of a camera. They designed displays that show more colors and change images faster than the human eye can distinguish. They devised software to generate pictures that appear just like photographs of reality. All of this has been accomplished within the short timespan of two or three decades. The history of computer graphics reads like a tremendous technical success story.

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Title: Why Digital Prints Matter
Author(s):
Exhibition: SIGGRAPH 2003: CG03: Computer Graphics 2003
Writing Type: Essay
Abstract/Summary/Introduction:

In the beginning(s) was the digital image.

It has been established that “computer art” started approximately in 1950 with Ben Laposky’s oscilloscope images, which he generated with analog electronics and then recorded onto high-speed film. This event occurred in the wake of the then-recent developments of the first electronic digital computers: a machine built by John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry in 1941 and then the well known Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), the first major general purpose computer, introduced in 1946. Completed in 1951, the Whirlwind Computer was the very first to be equipped with a (vector scope) video display monitor. A “bouncing ball” animation was actually produced to demo this feature.

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Title: Why it Isn't Art Yet
Author(s):
Exhibition: SIGGRAPH 1986: A Retrospective
Writing Type: Essay
Abstract/Summary/Introduction:

For twenty plus years, I have participated in “computer art” as a developer/ experimenter /inventor of languages/interfaces/techniques, as a collaborator/teacher/writer, and as a “computer artist.” As a result of all this, I finally feel like an established practitioner in an enterprise that doesn’t (at least not yet) exist.

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Title: Will There Be "Computer Art" in 2020?
Author(s):
Exhibition: SIGGRAPH 2003: CG03: Computer Graphics 2003
Writing Type: Essay
Abstract/Summary/Introduction:

It is ironic that the more computers infiltrate our daily lives, the more they seem to disappear. Computer-driven technologies like ATMs and email are part of the subconscious landscape of modern life and require no more attention to use than, say, tuning the radio while driving the car. As the science of computer graphics continues to progress, will computer art become a more prominent feature of the art world? Or will it, like the technology it uses, merge, at least in part, with the background of other art materials and methods?

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