New ways, New Possibilities
By Hugo Ares
Multi-media and new media arts developed thanks to the evolution of digital technologies, especially that of electronic data processing, which took place during the 1980s and 1990s. The presence of these digital technologies in the world of the arts has generated a change in the aesthetic paradigms. The new media have entered art’s territory, or perhaps art is daring to conquer new tools with the purpose of reaching different ways of expression.
Even though photography and film can already be considered "classical" cultural practices, the introduction of video, computers and the Internet have expanded their possibilities, modifying intrinsic characteristics of each medium.
Considering Lev Manovich’s ideas (1), who establishes five principles that define new media (numerical representation, modularity, automation, variability, and trans-codification), we can state that all new media objects, whether created directly on the computer or converted from analogical sources, are constituted by a digital code or numerical representation, using the code of 0 and 1. Each object, image, sound, or text is represented by a mathematical function and is susceptible to algorithmic manipulation, that is to say, it is programmable. Nowadays, many artists work with computers in the fields of "net art" and "software art", and focus their investigations and aesthetic creations in the development and manipulation of existing software.
This process of digital representation allows objects to be shown in a single machine -the computer- that acts as a multimedia device. Artists interact with digital objects through interfaces and devices like voice recorders, mobile cameras, photo cameras, etc. These digitalized objects can be manipulated subsequently with software that allows us to copy, cut, paste, find, combine, transform, filter, etc.
This process could relate to the collage technique, in which visual, audible, or textual fragments of diverse origin are combined in a new context to produce new meanings, process that implies another way to open the path to new esthetic fields. In this manner the presence of digital works (net art, software art, video art, computer installations, etc) establishes links between the different media and their contexts of display and exhibition.
These radical changes of hybridization and medium transformation -where the digital device dominates in most of the productive processes- are generating the homogenization of the parameters by which the dialogs within the languages of artistic production take place.
As art moves away from the private and enclosed space of the museum and galleries into mass media like the Internet, it changes its scope and configures new possibilities of social insertion.
On the other hand, the public that consumes this new media is increasingly heterogeneous, not necessarily specialized and not always realizing that what they are experiencing is an aesthetic proposal.
The works in this exhibition reflect on identity, migration, displacement, surveillance, cultural tolerance, issues of personal, social and individual character. The pieces have been technologically intervened, mixing traditional elements of production with other possibilities offered by new technologies, resulting in a new form of expression.
Other glances, other bodies.
The first territory occupied by these technologies is the work of Jorge Lozano, "Eye Function” that undertakes the troubled relation between the contemporary spectator and the severe objectivity of reality, declaring a permanent ambiguity in the processing of the images. In the definition of the scenes, Lozano does not pursue a mere esthetic goal, but tries to show a fact that stays beyond its constitutive gaze, and where the images themselves constitute the story.
The work shows a political-cultural context where the artist reveals his worries about the "new violence" of the world-powers, which justifies itself with the argument that it is necessary to watch out for the security of the "good countries". The work confronts this institutional violence with the everyday violence. The work takes images extracted from YouTube, where Canadian troops are seen interacting with children in a small town of Afghanistan, and contrasts them to other images taken with a cell phone where an out-on-the-street murder is seen. In this way, it is suggested that what influences in a more direct way the logic of the spectacle and the mass media are the stories around war, violence, and fear, in which each weapon and each military speech becomes an object of contemplative fascination by the spectator.
The second territory occupied, this time by the photographic media, is the work of Lidia Leon, "My Bodies: My Soul", who, taking the idea of Plato (the body is the jail of the immortal soul), reflects on the antagonism between the physical exile and the emotional one, both caused by the distance from our own history, our own blood and our own territory. Here the story is accompanied by the intrinsic relationship between the feelings of the artist and her environment.
In her work, composed of photographs of great scale and many in small format, we can observe how Leon has been able to find a middle ground between her personal narrative and the historic narrative that affects her native land. In this way the spectator can interact with the work exploring the idea of body-image-soul as a method of perceptive exchange.
The third territory is occupied by the work of Alexandra Gelis, "Borders", a photocomposition carried out in video, where the body, just like in the work of Leon, takes an important prominence.
Gelis’s work is accompanied by audio stories that help us enter a world where the individual sees herself trapped by the physical limits of her own body. In "Borders", the video shows a pictorial composition that, in an infinite loop, reveals how close to the border are those souls that in some way are trying to modify their own essence.
In this exhibition we find a group of artists that have carried out their work jointly with the participation of external agents. In the proposed work by Élène Tremblay, curator of "My contacts", presented by the L’Agence Topo organization and carried out by Marcio Lana López, Maryse Larivière, Marie-Josée Hardy, and James Prior, we can observe how Internet users debate the trustiness of information questioning what is true and what is fake. To reach their goal, the artists have modified their own identities causing the net surfers to doubt that existence, building a fragmented story of reality.
Another work that has used this approach is "Big Stories, little India", a collaborative project between South Asian Visual Arts Centre and [murmur]. This work shows how the visual and oral stories can explore and expand histories related to specific areas of the city and the people connected to them. Using recordings, photos and videos, the artists Amin Rehman, Ambereen Siddiqui, Avantika Bawa, Brendan Fernandes, Rashmi Varma, and Zaheed Mawani have created an atmosphere of historic and personal connection among the inhabitants of the neighborhood.
To finalize this concept of group work, with intervention and external participation, the work of New(be)comers, "Youth Project" recreates the idea of self-identification through self-portraits carried out in different media. Drawing and creating portraits based on the idea of lack of memory, on texts of how other people see us, or from allegoric objects, the project draws us immediately to the concept of personal search and perceptive interchange. This work has been carried out by artists Rodrigo Hernandez and Rita Camacho, the academics Elisa Segnini and Saša Stankovi?, with the participation of youth from a family shelter in the East side of Toronto.
We can observe in these pieces how the artists present their aesthetic proposals with different media and scenarios, organizing a visual journey that offers the spectator a varied, interactive and captivating atmosphere.
(1) - Lev Manovich (The Language of New Media, 2001)