Discussion on distribution, with all presenters, and audience.
Thank you very much for these presentations. I’ve been struck and pre-occupied how collaboration is a major feature of new media, more in terms of production, and in terms of distribution or dissemination and this was I think exemplified by some of the speakers today, beginning with the collaborative projects which Catherine started to talk about in the morning and also the on-line collaborations.
True collaborations, particularly with the game girls exhibition, truly transform a very ordinary, although nice, ‘cube’ atmosphere into something totally different, and give new flavour to the work exhibited and this could be said for the other exhibitions that they have done together as well. I would be very interested if they themselves have any comments on it and also if anyone from the audience, from their own experience or their interest, has some comments on how these alternate ways – whether we show on billboards, such as Michelle was talking about, or in transforming a certain space – how does this work and what could we do in order to make further and to develop this further. Do you have any comments Kathleen and Amanda?
Kathleen Pirrie-Adams: I guess I would like to ask a question to the audience. I have identified features of new media that constitute distinctive qualities or capacities of it. And I am curious as to whether I missed any. If there is anything that someone thinks is a defining feature. [Kathleen re-reads them]
Michelle Kasprzak: You’re missing instability. That’s key.
Sarah Cook: the other one might be, and I’m not sure if you could include that in scalability, because I haven’t thought about it in that way, but the idea of something being iterative and being able to change over time based on a participant’s interaction.
Kathleen Pirrie-Adams: Marilyn just asked me if I could define some of those terms a little more clearly. I guess particularly scalability – it can be used in a couple of ways and in a way that I appropriated the term is quite broadly and I’m using it to consider the possibility that technically, when you have digital information, you can re-scale it into various sizes and I think ultimately you can transform it into different formats. So while in the context of public presentation, I’m trying to use the idea in a somewhat more literal way so that we’re thinking about say a suitcase as a venue and the gallery as a venue, and especially with the work that we do in Images, or in addition, we worked on a project from Finland called F2F, which used a number of venues. With the Images projects and those projects you’re using an even broader space and specifically with the images, we’re actually making the assertion in the way we’re developing the exhibition strategies, that it’s a city-wide exhibition and that that type of unit is not each venue, or each gallery but the whole city, and the whole of the embrace of the festival is a unit of curation, I guess. So that’s how I see scalability.
I think interactivity is much debated, but I felt I was using that in a most casual way, you know. You participate in things and the way I’m using that today is emphasising the physical aspect of touching things in the gallery, whereas in the visual arts tradition you tend not to. The idea of the gallery as a modelling space, do you want to say something about that?
Amanda Ramos: It starts to relate to the idea of scalability as well, but it’s just the idea that within the text you can have a curatorial concept then within the way they can chose the works and have a curatorial concept then you jump to where you locate the project and how that relates and likewise. It keeps going and I think that that, to me, is the idea about the modelling practice – that there’s some concept and something that we’re really intrigued with, and that’s happening in the space, it’s happening in the text. And that is the way that we’ve been thinking about it.
Nina Czegledy: Do we have any comments from the floor please?
Woman from StudioXX: Yes, two. I guess I was especially interested by Kathleen and Amanda’s presentation because I find that probably the biggest challenge, especially in relation to what I said earlier of new media becoming essentially computers is that we’re faced with screens. And I know that more and more with an organisation where we show a lot of WebArt, we have a lot of discussions about how to show WebArt and even myself, I feel this way. After spending most of my life – well most of us spend time in our lives front of a computer screen – and people always tell me “You work at StudioXX, you probably know so much WebArt?” and I go “Are you kidding? After I’ve spent like hours doing, like writing at my computer, researching for data – usually textual, at my computer, doing video editing, the last thing that I want to do when I have time off is surf my computer with my mouse and keyboard and look at that screen.” I think that in Montreal we’ve had a lot of discussions, notably at CIAC (Centre Internationale d’Art Contemporain) which also shows WebArt and at FCMM, and how to show WebArt in such a way that isn’t boring to people and then actually the fact that a lot of people go and check their email unless you put some kind of protection, is a sign of what I think a screen represents to people and I think we really do need to think of as many ways as possible to show these computer-screen based works.
Also I also have a comment for Tricia (Skawanetti) but I think that in new media in distribution we can never forget and (you just mentioned it and left that question aside) is that truly not everyone has computers and I’m shocked at how many new media events around the world, particularly networked-based, do not take into account that a huge part of the world has no computers, and then like all of Eastern Europe where a lot of people still have 286’s and 386’s – it’s like we’re making things and works which are using the highest end languages and the most memory consuming things. But it’s like as if we’re saying “you’re not part of our club, forget it!” We have remember that and we have to remember to at least include text only versions, I don’t know how many times I have to say this, even at XX we have a text-only version and people go “Oh, yeah right”, because we live in such a privileged country for that. But even as far as Western Europe is concerned, their connection is so expensive that sometimes depending on what you’re trying to get across a text only version is just making poor artists save money. So they were just a couple of comments I wanted to make. I don’t know if you want to comment on them.
Nina Czegledy: Further to Kathleen’s comments on accessibility in terms of how technology is a great problem around the world and people who are aware of this try to create projects which can be accessed over certain softwares that are easier to access and not necessarily high-end ones. Of course many of the people who create works feel that they want to do their best, which can only be shown off best with high-end technology. Another point in terms of distribution is the problem of language – English is such a colonising language and in certain areas, for example at ISEA we try to post as much as possible in various languages so that people have access not only in English-speaking countries and this is also very important in other art works that you can have either a non-language based art work to be shown, or at least keep in mind that not everybody speaks English around the whole world.
In terms, for example, of the exhibitions, what I would like to mention here, about the Interaccess exhibition, the game girls exhibition and other works by Amanda – is that you have to keep in mind that when you see such a programme, the website and you see the incredible list of exhibitions and events, and when you see some pictures, the physical reality and the funding reality are very different! I have been working with interaccess for several years and its what I said this morning, it’s a miracle what some artist-run centres produce I was practically thinking of this example and I think there are several other examples too. Does anybody else have any comments? Is anybody going to say something?
Marilyn Burgess: This is for Skawennati. You had not much time to present so you didn’t talk a lot about the gathering sites, but I think the gathering sites were really a timely, intelligent solution to the question of not everybody has a computer or can surf the web, or can use the Palace. Maybe you should talk a little bit about how those came about. I would also be curious to see if you see them as a kind of permanent aspect of Cyber PowWow in the future?
Skawennati Tricia Fragnito: Thank you very much for bringing that up because I think that I may have created a little bit of confusion because when I talked at the very beginning about the fact that not everyone has a computer, I should have made that link and said that was the reason why we did choose to have gathering sites. The way it started out was word of mouth – we’ve talked about word-of-mouth here today. I was working at Oboro and we were all very excited about this brand new thing, the Web. And we had some computers and I think that was around then that we made the decision to get a higher speed line in at the time and networked, so that three people at one time could be on the Internet. [laughter]. Then Circle Vision Corporation some of you might remember from Saskatchewan – they were a native art organisation who put out Talking Stick – the magazine. We were friends and they very interested in connecting up with us, but they didn’t have the same level of technical know-how or computers – they had one computer with access to the Internet. But we did talk – we managed to talk and link up and a few individuals, not at organisations or institutions. The idea of gathering sites is definitely a permanent one in my eyes – as long as I am part of the Cyber PowWow project, I would like that to continue and I feel it is very important for that gathering, that mini-Powwow, because Cyber PowWow is kind of a powwow of powwows. There are all these people and it’s really exciting when you’re there and you’re chatting, knowing that here I am in this room with many only us three (though more places have more than three computers now so there might be five to ten people) all sitting here chatting to each other on the computer, talking to one another and of course chatting to someone in Australia, and you know that they are sitting around five computers doing the same thing. It’s an important part of Cyber PowWow and it’s very much about overcoming that cold, impersonal, isolated idea of technology and making it like “No, you can have technology” – it’s such a generalised word – but you can be using computers and not be all by your lonesome, and adrift on that virtual scene. So, yes, have I answered the question?
Marilyn Burgess: [question about the software]
Skawennati Tricia Fragnito: The Palace is extremely easy to use, so when we have these events, it’s all one thing. There are three big aspects of Cyber PowWow. One of them is the building of the website and that is really done through a residency which has so far we’ve always had it at Banff. So all the artists are brought together and we make the work. Then everyone goes home and the next event is Cyber PowWow. Each person, each artist, becomes a host in their community, so they completely know the project – that’s one important thing I forgot to say – and they can be that person that says, “Hey, come on in and sit down. It’s really easy! This is how it looks and how it works. All you do is type right here!” And so that’s the kind of training session – the actual event. We had a training session in Surrey a year before Cyber PowWow 2K, and I would like it if Liane could talk about that right now or later, about how effective that was. Because I think it was way too far away from the actual event – well that’s my opinion. I don’t know, and maybe it was another way of building an audience that did show up when the actual that happened, rather than the training event.
Michelle Kasprzak: I have a comment and it goes back to not everybody has computers. Not everybody has clean drinking water or cable television either, but there are people who are doing stuff to rectify that situation. There’s a place called the Redundant Technology Initiative in England that has created centres with computers that were being thrown away by businesses because they were not using them or because they were not using Windows 2000, they were using Windows 98 or something like that. RTI de-installed all of the proprietary software and put on Linux operating systems and created a free space for anyone to go and have access to the Internet and to all kinds of other things and the only obligation of using the centre was that you had to be willing to help to others get on - if you had the knowledge, then you had to share your knowledge and that sort of thing. The last I heard, maybe Sarah and others from England can correct me, they were in danger of closing because they were in a funding middle grey area where they couldn’t get arts funding because they weren’t making art; and they couldn’t get municipal funding because the city couldn’t figure out what the hell they were doing, or something like that. So it’s tragic! It would be tragic if they closed and I think these are critical initiatives and I think – well I hope they find some kind of place. I think an Arts Grant system could work in terms of audience development, because that’s what I see it being – is training people to become users. Anyway, it would be great if there was something like that here.
Sarah Cook: Just to add to that. I understand that Redundant Technology Initiative was invited to be in an exhibition at The Tate (Britain), which was an exhibition of three pieces of art based on the Internet-based network but that would exist in a gallery space. The Tate Britain gave Redundant Technology all their old computers – and that’s quite something, because normally art galleries aren’t always the first to get into technology themselves. But your comment about that raised a question in my mind too, also about distribution in terms of geographical dispersion. (Distribution as dispersion maybe). For instance in England there are lots of centres in the North, traditionally seen as marginalised from London (and places that had heavy industry, but the industry is no longer there and is now become soft industries – technology and telephone call centres and so on), and these sites in and around the North of England, they are very productive, have lots of artist-run centres, and have developed real networks with each other, completely independent of London. And sure enough, a month ago in London the Lux closed – the Lux Cinema which was really the only venue in London to show alternative media, new media and cinema and independent films and it also had a gallery space. It was just interesting because at the moment when arts funding and the power is being re-centralised in fact it’s not doing anything to help the centre and the margins are able to continue independent of that and I would be interested to know about any other similar Canadian examples. Having been in St.John’s in Newfoundland recently and thinking of just shipping, this is a big problem in this country – shipping and the loan of equipment! For instance here we are in Ottawa and in Ottawa we've got lots of IT companies with their headquarters here and so we can borrow computers from Apple – other places aren’t so lucky. So I would be interested in finding out more about that in terms of the gallery sites but also just partnerships you’ve had with other dispersed distributors.
Amanda Ramos: When we work with the Images festival, the scope of it for that exhibition is that there’s sometimes almost - we had eighteen galleries participating and all of the galleries completely ranged through the technological capabilities and what I think ends up as being a really interesting thing is, like I said, where the galleries start to collaborate to be able to show the work, and I think that because of the way it was set up, now all of a sudden all of these artist-run centres, commercial galleries, somebody’s house – they can all of a sudden learn how and work together to put on a new media exhibition. And that’s what we try to do – we try to distribute the resources, we try to involve every link in the scope of the work. It’s not about this, it’s actually about signal flow and let’s talk about what that means, then we develop strategies and try to bring everyone into it. I can’t give any examples, but speaking from my experience – Interaccess will provide their technician, Mercer Union has a lot of VCRs, someone has a projector, and we [swap] them all around. I’m sort of talking about it a general way, I’m sure that it’s a lot more complicated than that. But I think that the idea that we are coming together and trying to – there’s multiple curators, there’s multiple people and coordinators and all of these are kind of involved artists, and commission projects – I’m really excited about that as a context for doing the work, where everyone sheds their gallery logo and we put it all on the same poster and start talking about the work.
Kathleen Pirrie-Adams: Part of what makes this possible and very vibrant for us is that our unit for exploration is the city and in this case with Images, we’re working with kind of downtown core, and it’s not too disparate a distance, that is theoretically we can walk between all of the venues. So we’re networking on a smaller scale. I think what you’re talking Sarah is kind of more regional, and what those dynamics are, and as far as Interaccess goes, that hasn’t been within our range to explore yet.
Skawennati Tricia Fragnito: Well, it is a little bit like what you said anyway, but more of a sense of finding the right venues, say, that can do it. One of our gallery sites for Cyber PowWow 2K was Darwin Australia. Now Darwin is the largest city in the Northern Territory, but it’s freakin’ far from Sydney or anything else going on! The only way that we could have a gathering site there was through a personal connection to the school. So there’s Darwin University and they have a computer lab. So we were able to have a gathering site in Darwin, and of course it was because one of our artists was from Darwin, and so that’s how that worked. I’ve often been asked “why don’t you approach the North – the Canadian North?” Well, approach the North! Now I’m starting to find some context to that, but another big problem is, it was really hard to sell Cyber PowWow in the beginning. When people don’t know about the technology, it’s like telling them about something that they’ve never ever seen – you’re trying to sell them this Palace and it’s almost impossible. So the strategy I ended taking for Cyber PowWow 2K was that if I was approached, I would totally work with the people – and I was approached six times, and that’s why we had six gathering sites – people were like, I’m very interested in Cyber PowWow – how can we work together? That’s all it takes for me. Then we find a way to work together. But for me to go and say “Hi! Are you into Peerasat? Do you have four computers online; or are you interested in doing this?” well that is just opening up just a huge job that I’m just not, at this point, able to do that.
Nina Czegledy: I would like to slowly bring this to a conclusion and I would like to comment on something. I have noted that particularly in Toronto, a big change in the last few years. Five years ago I saw several organisations who hardly knew each other. They knew each other on paper, but they didn’t work together and it’s really over these last few years that they have more and more collaborations in terms of workshops, in terms of whatever the event is appropriate for. And this is not only in Toronto, I think it does happen in other places recently and what we have to do is really to try to link together, even just by information so that we know more, and I hope that this way we can disseminate better as well – and maybe we can discuss this in the next session. I wish you a very good coffee break.