Is the the
virtual world, really that different from our real world, and how does
this possible difference impinge on the fields of art and creation?
First of all, virtual time and virtual space obey different rules. Even
if, paradoxically, most models of simulation are basically trying to imitate
reality, the possibility of creating new laws can also allow for the familiar
laws to be modified. The virtual space of data is an abstract and symbolic
space. The computers circuits, its hardware, are part of physical
reality but their physical substrate is neither material nor energy: it
is made up of information. Whence its utopian character. It does not have
its own dimensions nor its own fixed place or topos.
2. By choosing, the spectator
of an interactive work becomes a co-producer of the work. But in interactive
works, all the variables are already written into the script. The choice
is therefore imposed. If, by definition, interactive art is predetermined
indeterminacy, what is at stake for the author or the spectator in presuming
that there is a choice? What are the limits of interactive subjectivity?
Imagine two doors, side by side, with masculine and feminine symbols marked
on them. In order to advance, a subject must choose, as he or she does
every day, obeying the conventions of gender distinctions or, alternatively,
by a fictional choice, transgressing these conventions and choosing the
door of the other gender. Choice is often seen as an end in itself. But
what if the explicitly limited choice was used tactically to thwart simple
dualisms such as masculine/feminine, subject/object, inside/outside, public/private,
moral/amoral, real/virtual, passive/interactive?
3. Looking beyond questions
of perception and of possibilities offered by the radically new parameters
of space and time, we might ask what universes we will be invited to explore
and how rich and complex these will be and indeed why we should
want to visit them in the first place. Further questions, touching on
both dramatic effects and ethics, concern the ways in which these worlds
may be shared with other inhabitants. What games will be played in these
universes where the body becomes elastic, transformed at a whim and where
the self can adopt other personalities, where it may be possible, for
example, to be an angel, a lion, or even to change sex? Finally, at the
heart of these new works, we come to the question of experience. But what
experience might this be, at a time when, in every form of mass leisure,
these technologies, from amusement arcades, Imax and Omnimax spectacles
and all sorts of other systems, the solicitation of our perceptive senses
is becoming ever more intense? Is there not a risk that sensation will
be sacrificed to sensationalism? Our senses may well end up saturated
to a point of anaesthesia.
4. Reversing the ideology
of the virtual: what is real and rich behind the highly sophisticated
technical objects, the technologies of virtual environments?
5. How to update the wooden
horse of Troy type of subterfuge, allowing societies to invent the physical
and mental means of measuring their capacities for evolution and adapting
themselves to the artificial transformations they themselves bring about?
6. Have researchers taken
a direction which will lead them, with different forms of objectivity,
into a metaphorical trap? In front of their computers like the demiurges
of the future, might they not forget that what they are creating is almost-life,
not real life itself?
7. Artist or researcher?
We should think about the different roles that technical models of life
forms might be called into play in the future and toward which aesthetic,
epistemological, economic and sociological reconfiguration they might
lead our societies.
Artificial life may turn out to either an extraordinary adventure of humankind,
or a terrible nightmare.
8. What are the dimensions
of human identity today?
9. How the world will react
to these constantly progressing new technologies?
10. Are we on the eve of
social and technological changes which will bring a radical transformation
to our definition of man and of the world in which he lives, or are we
simply caught up in another fashion?
11. Is the virtual world
really that different from our real world, and how does this possible
difference impinge on the fields of art and creation?
12. Are the artists at the
cutting edge of research making a real contribution to the construction
of a radically new model of self-perception?
13. Is virtual reality generated
by a quest for some new art for, or by the desire to replace an incomplete
reality by another, more easily mastered one, an ideal, platonic reality?
14. The world-wide network
represented by the Internet is in a state of transition which is highly
propitious for all sorts of creative experiments. The simple, but decisive
question raised by all these experimental projects is as follows: faced
with such telematic structures, or inside them, is artistic subjectivity
still possible? And how can this subjectivity be defined and transformed?
In 1995, a conference about Antonin Artaud at the Cologne Academy of Media
addressed the question of the position to be adopted by the twentieth-century
artist with regard to appearances, and more particularly with regard to
technical equipment. The recurring metaphors to be found in the works
of certain artists seem close to what the Knowbotic Research group tries
to define with its neologism mem_brane. This term is used
to designate a vibrant zone situated between different realities, all
of these realities being in conflict with each other: between the interior
and the exterior, for example. Between technology and politics, or between
art and science. This zone, which is characteristic of todays age
of transition, can be fraught with risk.
15. Cyberspace frees the
body of its constraints: weight, history, institutional authority. Sometimes
called a new frontier, cyberspace is represented as an unknown space,
untamed and destined for colonization. Its very emptiness is seen, paradoxically,
as representing individual liberty. It is true that the new media technologies
are a source of new freedom, guaranteed by interactivity, the liberty
to choose. But when we know that all the possible variables are already
recorded in the interactive programme, what does this freedom of choice
really amount to? The increased liberty that supposedly came from glass
buildings was eroded by the knowledge that the most free were not those
inside the building. And similarly, free access to information is conditioned
to a point where it must be asked: what liberty can there be when there
is a good side and a bad side of the interface? And what kind of democracy
are we talking about when socio-economic conditions found categories which
are more and more remote from each other: the info-rich and the info-poor.