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Generation Flash


This essay that consists from a number of self-contained segments looks at the phenomenon of Flash graphics on the Web that attracted a lot of creative energy in the last few years. More than just a result of a particular software / hardware situation (low bandwidth leading to the use of vector graphics), Flash aesthetics exemplifies cultural sensibility of a new generation. This generation does not care if their work is called art or design. This generation is no longer is interested in "media critique" which preoccupied media artists of the last two decades; instead it is engaged in software critique. This generation writes its own software code to create their own cultural systems, instead of using samples of commercial media. The result is the new modernism of data visualizations, vector nets, pixel-thin grids and arrows: Bauhaus design in the service of information design. Instead the Baroque assault of commercial media, Flash generation serves us the modernist aesthetics and rationality of software. Information design is used as tool to make sense of reality while programming becomes a tool of empowerment.
It is no longer October and Wallpaper but Flash and Director manuals that are the required read for any serious young artist.
Enter a software artist – the new romantic. Instead of working exclusively with commercial media – and instead of using commercial software – software artist marks his/her mark on the world by writing the original code. This act of code writing itself is very important, regardless of what this code actually does at the end.

A software artist re-uses the language of modernist abstraction and design – lines and geometric shapes, mathematically generated curves and outlined color fields – to get away from figuration in general, and cinematographic language of commercial media in particular. Instead of photographs and clips of films and TV, we get lines and abstract compositions. In short, instead of QuickTime, we use Flash. Instead of computer as a media machine – a vision being heavily promoted by computer industry (and most clearly articulated by Apple who promotes a MAC as a “digital hub” for other media recording / playing devices), we go back to computer as a programming machine.

Article  2002