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Reading New Media Art


Consider the dichotomy: an art object in a gallery setting versus a software program in a computer. On entering an exhibition of media art we encounter signs that tell us that we are in the realm of Art: the overall exhibition space is dark, each installation is positioned in a separate, carefully lit space, each accompanied by a label with an artist's name. We know well what to do in this situation: we are supposed to perceive, contemplate, and reflect. Yet these initial signs are misleading. An exhibition of media art points us to very different cultural settings such as a computer games hall or an entertainment park (in each of these one often has to wait in line before getting a chance to "try" a particular exhibit) and also to a different type of cultural object (and, correspondingly, a different set of behaviors) - a software program in a computer.

In approaching a media artwork, we typically discover some elements of standard human-computer interface (a computer monitor, a mouse; arrows, buttons and so on); we have to read instructions which tell us how to us it; we then have to go through the process of learning its own unique navigational metaphors. All in all, the behaviors which are required of us are intellectual problem solving, systematic experimentation and the quick learning of new tasks. Is it possible to combine these with contemplation, perceptual enjoyment and emotional response? In other words, is it possible to experience the work aesthetically while simultaneously learning how to "use" it? The works in NEWFOUNDLAND II exhibition provided a variety of different solutions to this basic problematic of media art.

Article  1995