SIGGRAPH 1992: Art Show



  • John Grimes -
    • Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology (llT)


Chicago, Illinois


July 26th-31st, 1992

Art Show Overview:


The idea of a creating a Visual Proceedings originated early in the planning of SIGGRAPH ’92. The traditional Conference Proceedings documents the current state of technical and algorithmic knowledge. It has a life beyond the conference and has an enormous influence on the software and hardware features that will become generally available to the users of computer graphics. We believe that SIGGRAPH also needs a permanent record of the most creative applications of hardware and algorithms. For 1992 our answer is a second volume, the Visual Proceedings, which combines the art show and electronic theater catalogs into a single publication that will be available beyond the time horizon of SIGGRAPH ’92.

The art show and the electronic theater present some of the most visually interesting applications of computing. Unlike the technology on which they are based, these works do not, if they have any lasting claim on our attention, get better. Technology improves; art changes. Past work does not become obsolete. Newer and more powerful methods may change the vocabulary and the range of issues that the contributors to the art show and the electronic theater address, but in these areas the need for a permanent record is arguably more important than in areas where the most recent work is the best work.

The combination of venues in this volume also acknowledges the blurring of distinctions between media that is a consequence of changes in the intellectual discourse concerning the nature of author/audience relationships and the concomitant extension of technological capabilities. Virtual reality, real-time interaction, computer-assisted performance, multimedia, collaborative work, and structured graphic telecommunication do not neatly or naturally sort themselves into the overlapping and ill-defined categories of artwork and animation. Also this year, the electonic theater and the art show share a projection and performance space which presents the art show reel, the screening room material, and live performance.

The Electronic Theater serves several functions. First and foremost it provides a forum for the recognition of the year’s most exciting new work in computer graphics. Entries for the show are judged on technical as well as aesthetic merit, with particular attention paid to new and innovative applications. We realize that computer graphics has never meant just animation and that the field is quickly expanding to include applications and specialties unheard of only a few years ago. In response, the electronic theater has taken on the role of stimulating interest and educating the audience in the range of time-bound computer graphics in all of its emerging forms. Lastly, the electronic theater must entertain. Its role as showcase and educator would go unheeded if it were not for the sheer pleasure of attending the show. For many of the approximately 13,000 show-goers, the electronic theater represents the high point of the conference. The show audience is thoroughly diverse. It is only through maintaining these varied elements that the electronic theater has and will continue to offer something of interest to everyone.

The Art Show has a broad charter. It presents any and all applications of computer graphics and interactive techniques in which the visual or experiential product utilizes the unique qualities of computing technology to embody the content of the work. The number of distinct areas of inquiry is so great that each year only a few of them can be sampled. This year, in addition to two- and three-dimensional work of significant interest, telecommunications is represented by three large-scale experiments. Performance and virtuality are also represented. The Visual Proceedings is, of necessity, visually dominated by static images. The essays included here point to the experiential and transactional modalities that are most in evidence in the “performances” of the art show and the electronic theater during their one week lives. The Visual Proceedings, like its predecessors, is a printed volume. Hardcopy, it is said, is the last refuge of fools. Witness fax versus modem. While the printed form is adequate for the reproduction of static works and probably the best for linear text, it has never been adequate for the electronic theater. Videotape has served as an admirable palliative. CD ROM seems to promise a path to a more complete visual record in the future, but that path will inevitably be littered with the ruble of obsolescent standards, copyright disputes, and lost data- unrecoverable and invaluable. For now, welcome to our book.

John Grimes and Gray Lorig, Editors


    General Committee:

    Additional Committees:

    • Marla Schweppe -
      • Rochester Institute of Technology
      • Northwestern University
      • School of the Art Institute of Chicago
      • The Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design of Ohio State University


Exhibition Artworks:

Exhibition Writings and Presentations:

    Title: Reality Versus Imagination
    Category: Paper
    Abstract Summary:

    Fifteen years ago I exhibited some work that explored unusual perturbations in otherwise consistent color interpolation. The gallery was a part of University College, London and several scientists saw the show. One, a Polish mathematician and physicist called Andre Lissowski, chased me up. He was interested in the work I had done and wondered if it bore any relationship to other contemporary research into what ore now called non-linear phenomena-port of the field fashionably dubbed Chaos. Chaos studies were still an underground activity at that time and Andre took me along to small back rooms at the Royal Institution and ancient London Colleges where mostly young scientists along with the occasional Nobel laureate discussed the fantastic new ideas that were emerging worldwide.

    [View PDF]

    Title: Aspects of the Aesthetics of Telecommunications
    Category: Paper
    Abstract Summary:

    For the past fifteen years, increasing numbers of artists around the world have been working in a collaborative mode using telecommunications. In their “works,” which we shall refer to as “events,” images and graphics are not created as the ultimate goal or the final product, as is common in the fine arts. Employing computers, video, modems, and other devices, these artists use visuals in a much larger, interactive, bi-directional communication context. Images and graphics are created not simply to be transmitted by an artist from one point to another, but to spark a multidirectional visual dialogue with other artists and participants in remote locations. This visual dialogue assumes that images will be changed and transformed throughout the process in the same way that speech gets changed-interrupted, complemented, altered and reconfigured-in a spontaneous face-to-face conversation. Once an event is over, images and graphics stand not as the “result,” but as documentation of the process of visual dialogue promoted by the participants. This unique ongoing experimentation with images and graphics develops and expands the notion of visual thinking by relying primarily on the exchange and manipulation of visual materials as a means of communication. The art events created by telematic or telecommunication artists take place as a movement that animates and unbalances networks structured with relatively accessible interactive media such as telephone, facsimile (fax), personal computers, e-mail, and slow-scan television (SSTV). More rarely, radio, live television, videophones, satellites, and other less accessible means of communication come into play. But to identify the media employed in these “events” is not enough. Instead, one must do away with prejudices that cast off these media from the realm of “legitimate” artistic media and investigate these events as equally legitimate artistic enterprises. This essay partially surveys the history of the field and discusses art events that were either motivated by or conceived specially for telecommunications media. The essay attempts to show the transition, from the early stages, when radio provided writers and artists with a new spatiotemporal paradigm, to a second stage, in which telecommunications media, including computer networks, have become more accessible to individuals and through which artists start to create events, sometimes of global proportions, in which the communication itself becomes the work. Telecom munications art on the whole is, perhaps, a culmination of the process of dematerialization of the art object epitomized by Duchamp and pursued by artists associated with the conceptual art movement, such as Joseph Kossuth. If now the object is totally eliminated and the artists are absent as well, the aesthetic debate finds itself beyond action as form, beyond idea as art. It founds itself in the relationships and interactions between members of a network.

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    Title: Artistic Frontiers in Virtual Reality
    Category: Paper
    Abstract Summary:

    At a conference called “Inner Reality and Outer Space” sponsored by the Jung Institute in San Francisco several years ago, former astronaut Rusty Schweickort told a wonderful story. He was outside the spacecraft, the first astronaut in space without a tether-nothing but a backpack to supply air. His goal was to determine whether a person could move hand-overhand over the surface of the capsule to reenter it, and astronaut Dove Scott was to take pictures of him from inside. The camera jammed, and commander Jim McDivott gave Scott five minutes to try to fix it. For that interval, Schweickort says, he became “the world’s first unemployed astronaut.” He swung out on one arm and regarded the Earth, and at that moment he realized that he had a choice. He asked himself, “Am I going to let it in?” He did, and his life changed.

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