Histories of Internet Art
Interview by Rick Silva.
Rick Silva: In “The Language of New Media,” you talk about Eisenstein's montage as the root of frames in net cinema, and Len Lye and Brakhage's painting on film as being the precursor to today's video editing software that includes paint features. Have there been any cinematic precedents to the web's use of multimedia, that is, when a site has separate audio, film, text - all relating to the same piece? What about interactivity in cinema history?
Lev Manovich: Regarding Web's use of multimedia, I would say that cinema was the original multimedia, combining iconic images, music, voice, text and sometimes graphics (think of Godard's films from the 1960s). To me this is one of the main reasons why it makes sense to think of new media in relation to cinema: throughout its history cinema already worked out many sophisticated techniques of how to combine various media in a s ingle multimedia piece. Regarding your second question about interactivity in cinema: during cinema's first decade, a projectionist would select which short films he would show and in which sequence. So we can say that early cinema was interactive (although this is of course the most simplistic type of interactivity). In terms of more recent cinema, many people thought that "Run, Lora, Run" was influenced by interactive narratives of computer games in that it showed three different scenarios which started from the same promise - as though you are playing a computer game and choosing a particular path through all the possible narratives possible.
Rick Silva: Have there been any works of net art that have approached or embodied your macrocinema concept?
Lev Manovich: Olia Lialina's classic Web work "my boyfriend came back from the war" came pretty close. As I wrote about in my The Language of New Media, "As the narrative activates different parts of the screen, montage in time gives way to montage in space. Put differently, we can say that montage acquires a new spatial dimension. In addition to montage dimensions already explored by cinema (differences in images' content, composition, movement) we now have a new dimension: the position of the images in space in relation to each other. In addition, as images do not replace each other (as in cinema) but remain on the screen throughout the movie, each new image is juxtaposed not just with one image which preceded it, but with all the other images present on the screen." Another work that I thought was a real breakthrough was text.ure by io360 (1999). As in Olia's work, here the screen was also broken into a number of frames that were all "wired" to each other; that is, an action in one of the frames made information in other frames change as well.