What is digital medium? Is it art fueled by technology or technology
with exaggerated art? The following, a priori, invariably
categorizes the digital medium by its underlying technology. It
dispels the often misconstrued and common misconceptions amongst
Is computer graphics considered as the thing of the past? If so,
non-digital media artists who remain status quo, should be considered
as heroes of the past, journeying into the future by repeating the
past! What is the present, how long is the present and what holds
for the susurrant future?
As archiving takes a new perspective, should a digital media museum
be concerned with collecting works generated by once glorified hardware?
Even so, where are they now? Will they be displaying and collecting
the "Man and Cola Bottle runs into Africa"4) -- indeed, it is just like
collecting the Dan Flystra of today's spreadsheet. Will this
cast an image of a computer history museum or will it not? Unlike
collecting a work from Picasso's Blue Period, first generation computer
graphics are purged before they are even known; it is strange to
think that the first generation has just begun?!
In any case, if computer graphics exemplifies artificial realities,
then digital art is the supremacy of computer graphics --
a genre of digital media. As conceptual primitives form mental constructs,
the understanding of its constituent parts is a basic prerequisite
for many higher-order concepts of digital art. Contrasted with the
indigenous and long forgotten ancestors of the 70s and 80s, digital
art today has since progressed to the artistry of only massaging
a two-button mouse with a 16.7 million color digital palette. Whether
to create an authentic oil painting or a lyrical Chinese ink painting
is only a matter of choice5). These highly compressed 2
x 2 cm tif files can suitably be printed to their respective
surfaces with high resolution!
If a digital media museum aspired itself to collecting "art
on the non-digital wall", if media curator thinks the language
of curating is uniquess, originality and creativity, then the unprecedented
is le parole. A digital media museum must widen its aperture,
accept new values and set new standards. It must appreciate and
understand the excellence of technology behind pixels -- the nomenclature
of art born out of technology .
There are no fanfares, no fireworks, no ticket booth at the entrance.
Just scores of pages, spawning like mushrooms, scattered like snowflakes
all over the Web. Innocent and the esoteric by turn and at random.
Such is the state of the "art weaponry" published by individuals
and institutions alike. Since September 1994, the Web has unveiled
a new era of computer graphics5) created by the pseudo techno,
or techno-abled, pseudo artists, or artistically qualified selves.
Are they art on the Web or Web art?
is defined as art
generated by harnessing the capabilities of the Web. It is a concept-based
Web site where art unveils itself by navigating through a spider
of HTMLs or DHTMLs6). Web art authoring tools include
scripting7), animation8) and an array of multimedia
tools9). Generally, the proficiency
level with commands determines the sophistication of the presentation.
As such, many art sites are backboned and fabricated by an
army of techno- soldiers weaving scripts among the tapestry
of images, network administration, and even the education of differentiating
browsers behaviors, search engines, Web positioning, Internet securities,
robots and crawlers.
If art takes pride in technology, its name must be reflected accordingly.
Web art must not be mistaken as Net art, or even a hideous name
like .Net art as the Net implies Internet.
To many, art is no longer a standalone achievement; art is interdisciplinary,
a collaboration. Has art departed from its individualistic echelon?
Is the result of technologists producing art specified by artists
"art" or the result of art produced by technologists "technology"?
the Real and the Virtual
Human beings have an intensely strong attraction towards the virtual
and an equally intense fascination10) with the virtual which is
contrasted with the real. This sublimation dreamable quest generates
structural emotion, provided and sometimes fulfilled by the virtual
environment, and dominated by floating feelings of a close association
to the unreal -- one that gives rise to e-motion. There are
different ways to achieving this fulfillment in the virtual environment
on the Internet, hence the name Net Art. Basically, it is
art generated in a multi-user environment based on object technologies
and the inheritance of the Internet protocols.
and Object Technologies
According to Yourdon and Coad: "An object is an abstraction
of something in the domain of the problem or its implementation,
reflecting the capabilities of a system to keep information about
it, interact with it or both." In other words, object has identity,
behavior and state. Thus, object-oriented programming is
based on the idea of explicitly describing the set of allowable
or prescribed transformations that may be used on or as an object.
The notions of avatar11), cyber-garden, robo-pets,
artificial life, superbeings and warriors ... are
none other than the virtual simulating the real, or the virtual
disguising, or the virtual transforming the real. Whatever, the
incarnation is transcended by role-playing based on variations of
a theme played in a multi-user environment with a logon (during
the entire life of the simulation) per single userid
from remote locations. It is formulated with the Telnet protocol
and object technologies. But what isn't variations on a theme? All
still life and portrait drawings are no different from playing the
avatar game. The former lies on the ability to draw whereas
the later lies in the ability to code.
Fun or Fund?
To consume or to be consumed in the virtual is perhaps reaching
a laudable aim: for it would conduce to a jester triumphant over
the virtual environment, both good and bad. However, while there
are many who thus appreciate the expression of the sincere virtual
realities therein, there are fewer who can appreciate the technical
excellence, and even fewer that will understand the expression of
significant commonness, a commonality of being fooled by
the deployment of a generic genre of programming based on a rhapsody
of human willingness to be transformed into prescribed clones. If
an art museum aspires to uniqueness and originality, then repetition
is a crime. If a digital media museum aspires to new technologies,
then this might just be suitable for the time being, not withstanding
that some may frown upon the justification of the heavily-funded
technical investments for pro-tempore fun.
Human beings need to behave within the boundaries in these rule-bound
and ordered societies. As such, daily living constraints have propelled
communities into virtual living. Virtual beings or cyborgs
can evolve, mutate, morph, over time and at the whim of their
creator with persona non rivelazione beyond the plane of
identity, just by logging into the Internet. In a digital media
museum, creating a MUD12) characters can be seen as
a useful vehicle for experiencing, and teaching art within an artwork
and across museums. The flexibility of self-presentation provided
by MUDs makes it possible for players to experiment with aspects
of behavior and identity that would be otherwise unattainable. Is
this a way to assume, subsume, consume, (and be consumed by)
virtual selves (art) and be mused, even resume to be another
virtual being (art)? In line with this concept, there are other
forms of gratifications based on the derivatives of MUDs like MOOs13).
Like any education-flavored institution, a digital media museum
must host art forums periodically via designer chat rooms, conduct
ICQ14), CU-SeeMe sessions,
that move beyond threaded discussions in hypermail and displaying
e-mail contacts on the Web.
Unlike MUDding, performing artist Stelarc16) piloted Ping Body
by first postulating his concept of "useless (physical) body"
and "redesigning the human body". He then attached himself
to the heavily embodied external electromechanical devices to activate
his (himself) designated body components involuntarily. This performance16) was realized via connecting
a Mac to a muscle stimulation box which is connected to a PC that
pings17) predetermined servers connecting
to the Internet. By means of a Perl Script program, packet counts
and average round-trip time thus collected from Ping over
the Internet at a set interval are parsed, together with IP addresses,
host domain name and the country location. This external
ebb and flow of data activates animated limb movements thus demonstrating
the presence of his virtual body. It displays the collaboration
of the performer and his technical entourage. However, the artistic
merits of this rhetorical performance need to be identified in proportion
to its technical achievements.
Other Ping-based applications has been demonstrated by various
groups of Japanese technologists, for instance, collecting sound
generated by predefined servers on the Internet at different geographical
locations18) or measuring the temperature
of the earth surface19). Repeatedly, these examples
clearly demonstrated the scientific usage of Ping.
By the instantiated and inherited properties of this simplest and
most economical command, Ping on the Internet, a wide range20) of interesting exhibits
can be conjured up and implemented to demonstrate and realize telepresence21), or choreographing devices20) attached to the pinged
server. Undoubtedly, this will largely depend on the intelligible
exposition of the relation of the artist and the technologist, an
In the age of interactivities, a click of a mouse is considered
interactive. Basically, Interactive Art is viewing art through
the involvement of the interactivities between participants, or
the discrete or simultaneous interactivities between participants
and digital devices, or interactivities generated amongst inter-digital
devices. One form of interactive art, the interactive art created
by the collaboration of Toshio Iwai and Ryuichi Sakamoto22) is aesthetically pleasing
and intellectually satisfying.
Abstracting Renaissance perspectivalism as seen in Rome, Angkor
Wat or the Great Wall of China, can be encapsulated in Virtual Realities
and be entered onto your own screen via the VRML23) on the Web. Different scenes
and worlds24) can be linked, and even
transformed into a new world. Shake and quake the world to
get another world. Well, it can be a virtual world that allows
you to momentarily experience floating on the Dead Sea while strolling
along Champs-Elysee or the delightful tour brought by the cartoonized
Firenze? While a digital media museum can leave the navigation through
a 3-D human body to the teaching science museum or the deja-vu
on the Web, all ye who are keen in acquiring such experiences simply
purchase VRML shells to boost the also-have VRML ego! If this continues,
will exhibits constantly emerge and suffer from the "old wine
new bottle" syndrome eventually? While facts remain, one should
just fly in and move into the latest VRML features to create
a whole new world, feedback and enhance VRML features to
its committee! Ironically, if art owes it to technology, it should
also payback! With no shortage of VRML expertise across the world,
is a world bordered by a digital media museum wall more prestigious
than those outside? Those outside the wall should share more or
equal glories than those within, after all, who brought the wall
Like the real world installation art,
digital installation art25) is defined as art installed
and performed over a 3D Web space within a defined duration based
on a set of 3D digital media created by a single artist.
The artist should announce event dates prior to the performance
so that the audience can capture the entire sequence of the installation.
Art & Hybrids
Chain Art is defined as a theme-based art, chained as mosaic pieces
created by participating individuals across time-zones. The chaining
sequence can be fired by a Perl-scripted engine with
predefined downloading and uploading criteria. Thus the completed
digital work is as unpredictable as it started. It depends largely
on the notion of aesthetics of the varied participants coupled with
the unknown and unpredictable nature of the adjacent mosaic. However,
the final tiled mosaic art thus constructed within a Web
page can be permutated20) by the participating mosaics,
with sound and animation attached to any selected mosaic by the
same or different set of participants.
some 25 Internet protocols, the real artist-technologists will not
be surviving in an idea-vacuum. Rather, they are constantly
publishing their innovations in their private garages. Digital media
museum authorities must open its doors, attract, collaborate and
welcome new blood with fresh ideas!
distinction versus the masses
If the function of a museum is to curate and educate, though with
varying degrees of emphasis, then curatorial functions must march
in tempo in the digital epoch. If one can build one's "own world"
from an inexhaustible killer database of scenes and themes,
walls and floors in one's own comfort and space with a mere ten
dollar monthly subscription fee to a VRML service, will viewing
a puppeted VRML exhibit of a Sistine Chapel or the Buckingham
Palace with a easily affordable 3D eyeglass be more exciting then
the result of a DIY? Or, experiencing the virtual in the real museum
space by watching yourself being transformed into an avatar being
displayed on a 7 x 7 29" cube high resolution digital video wall
be more superiorly purgatorated and real then sipping
café latté along the sidewalk cafe and watching the
avatars sip cappuccino amidst the illusion of 3D space in
West Hollywood? Subsequently, can the curious peruse the technicalities
of VRML on the Net? Strangely, the paradoxical physical being seems
to enjoy indulging the virtual in the real space,
and if this is true, museum must dwell on the driving force behind
the selection criteria:
- cost versus performance
- scale versus quantity
- art versus entertainment
It is in this context, aesthetics and artists must be redefined.
exhibits versus Permanent Collections
Unlike wine, technology depreciates with time; what is new today
quickly dissolves into ether without warning. Searching for the
coolest, hottest and newest in an embedded web of technologies has
increasingly become more difficult, exponentially. Who is the roi
de jour is a difficult question. Contents of the "current
show" versus the collectibles are becoming remarkably blurred
without grace. If a digital media museum is a place that shoulders
the responsibilities of a museum, then it should not function like
a media laboratory in a manner that everything is in-transitu
and experimental. Neither should it evolve into a time capsule!
With its Web compendium, the real world digital media museum
may increase its popularity via its Web presence, interactivities
and collaboration or its traffic may decrease because of its Web
accessibility will largely depend on what the visitors can derive
outside the scope of its virtual essence. The scope of its content
is a careful differentiation and integration of art wrapped by technological
excellence, versus technology wrapped underneath art.
Museum curators must not rest on an art history and plot the selection
confidence curve with their familiar favorites and laud over
their real past while looking for their virtual presence. This
means, a Picasso of the mainframe era may not necessarily
be the best fit.
In the digital era, conservation of the "material" is no longer
an issue, however, conservation of equipment or archiving an old
release of the software for an outdated hardware supported
exhibit can be outlandish. How should a digital media museum accommodate
and even accomplish such maintenance? Whether an exhibit of a digital
media museum should become a museum piece is certainly worth debating
at length. As and when this happens, and it certainly will, sooner
than you desire, how should a digital exhibit be treasured? Like
a real and original Rembrandt classic? Who assigns
the value, who prices the work? Perhaps, technology will price it
to zero value? By stretching your imagination further, will there
be even a digital Sotheby's or Christie's auctioning the once highly
fashionable data-glove in the millennium? These may well
be concerns for the next conference.
How should a digital museum be staffed itself? What should be the
balanced aesthetics-technology-savvy ratio of a curator and
amongst curators, among administrative and supporting staff? How
should they be designated? How relevant is the past curatorial experience
incubating current inspirations? These are eminent issues prior
to the museum formation. Maybe, issues will evolve into correctness
with time? Or rather, it is the usual who has the bigger paw
or who has a bigger jaw enlightenment?
REAL WORLD ARCHITECTURE
In considering a real world building
to house digital media exhibits, do we want a wireless wired
museum26) or a wired museum
with permanent video wall, movable data projectors, broadcast sound
qualities and hidden image capturing systems? The question is: how
do we provide and divide temporary and permanent physical space?
How much automation or intelligence should be built into the building
such as robo-greeted, smartcard entrances with guest hand-written
sign-in on a LCD panel randomly beeping out the looped museum lyrics
or watch the Java-powered ticker-taped what's-on today for
a start? Beyond its front door, step onto an auto-navigated path
on a slow-moving artvelallors27) and be fascinated by the
no-longer silent corridors decked with VR-room-filled
spaces, click and change the default to your choice of virtual
wall-paper while you proceed to view special exhibits. Is this
science fiction or entertainment? Indeed, will the museum become
a conglomeration of laboratory and entertainment theme park under
the umbrella of art? The question remains: where does art begin
How can a museum formulate and decide on the optimal number of
"rooms" versus the number of temporary or permanent exhibits
-- hence deciding on the temporary versus permanent
space and equipment, facilities and fixtures? Can the authorities
afford to update real world space as frequently as updating their
Web sites? If so, are they guaranteed a steady flow of research-funds
to acquire the most avant-garde exhibit while being bewildered
by "who will be the next sponsor"? With the proliferation
of the pervasive technology across all domains and disciplines,
the museum statistician must measure the before-and-after-excitement
ratio28) of visitors by age-group,
in justifying space versus exhibits performance.
Based on the fact that the Web compendium of a real world
digital media museum is as important to attract people to its real
world space, different approaches can be adopted to conceptualize
its virtual presence.
- web sites, though representative, evoke only thumbnail
- Rich-media content Web sites that inform and represent their
real world presence.
- Web sites dedicated to and dependent on the interactivities
Will an alternative of building a Web-based digital media museum
to achieve a satisfactory pseudo physical presence be possible?
Currently, this may not be ideal, due to downloading Internet pipeline
constraints. As it is, what is certain is: it would never be the
same looking at a real Picasso Gernica on the wall vis-à-vis
viewing its gif file on the Web. On the other hand, it maybe
the best way to accelerate Web Art. Again, one asks: what is the
life span of Web Art? Should Web Art created in 1997 still be the
same in 1999 or should one proceed to create new sites?
The once a year events like Siggraph30), Arcs Electronica31), ISEA32), DEAF33) are some of the more visible
yearly shows staged to evangelize digital media, even though their
names reflect their epoch of origin. How would a digital media museum
curator take the contents of these events into consideration in
planning their exhibition schedules? On the other hand, would any
of these event organizers agree to move any of their exhibits
to be a permanent resident of the museum after the event is over?
In the non-tenure digital world, what is permanency? Nevertheless,
by doing so, will a digital media museum which aspires to the newness
and innovation of technology be considered as an art-folks
home? In any case, quantifying this impact is by no means easy,
even more difficult to virtually plan real exhibition
five years ahead!
With plagiarism abounding and the ever presence of robots, crawlers
and spiders on the Web, how will the Websters34) decide on how much presence
is sufficiently attractive and contribute to the critical success
factors of the Web positioning? One must weigh the tradeoffs between
copyrights, proxy servers, plagiarism, Web indexing and cataloging
versus the richness and extent of the content. Or the real world
presence stamps the presence of the origin or innovations? This
will depend on the truth revealed in the digi-finger prints
The truth of the matter is that ruling artists though not
techno-savvy, are canny enough to see that they have to dance
in tempo before the times run away from them. Anyway, artists
are artists, even in the 21st Century; you only have to go to the
back room to watch and chat with the star-studded technologists,
those that can transfuse the bloodstream of the software and twist
the muscles of the hardware. Doesn't this resemble what goes on
behind the scene of Hollywood techno-produced shows? Unlike in the
movie world, vendors are not necessarily hidden attributes. Nevertheless,
artists get the glint in the art world. Unlike the in the technological
world too, how many know that the pointing device on an IBM notebook
is designed by Richard Zapper?
That is in synch, of course, veteran artist names backed by research
funds, crowd into the public, talking about bridging the cyber and
the real. Or, in minorities, monetarily remunerated technologists
are sometimes invited to color the commentary. Undoubtedly, it is
art that glorifies the sophistication of technologies and it is
technologists that makes the realization of art. Whether it is art
dictates technology or technology dictates art remains to
Ultimately, when paradigms shift and boundaries blur, the current
dictionary meaning of art36) no longer holds. The digital
media museum is a platform of art amalgamated with digital technologies.
It should not be a "warehouse" of archiving the heavily-funded
and the highly evaporative computer hardware that would taxi-in
even before the flight takes off; neither should it be a landscape
of the once awesome non-digital video walls -- the reconfigured
and rearranged TV boxes demonstrating the glorified past of the
70s and 80s. While it is difficult to stay at the leading edge of
information technology that advances without mercy, it should not
be difficult to staff the museum with a chief technology officer
(CTO) with an artistic director, rather than a Chief Artist Officer
(CAO) with a technology director. After all, it is technology that
is empowering and enriching the arts and not art raking over the
coals of technology.
With less than a dozen digital media museums in sight, when will
one see the equivalent of the Mona Lisa and the Louvre
of the digital era will much depend on the pas de deux of
the artists and the technologists and the choreography of the policy
makers. Maybe, a better bet is to search and treasure the digital
"Leonardo da Vinci" of the 21st Century so as to realize
the building and functioning of the next digital media museum! They
may be rare, far and few in between dotting the Web!
1)art as expressed by paintings, sculptures, installation
and performing art.
2)conventional art: art that are not generated by
digital technologies, including non-dgital
video art and films.
3)techno-art are art generated by digital technology.
4)first computer graphics illustrating the concept
of morphing, circa 1971.
5)the author pioneered abstract digital Western oil
paintings, Chinese ink paintings and Chinese calligraphy using this
A Cyberart Show by Lin Hsin Hsin", 1997, ISBN: 981-00-9877-4,
"Reductions to Pixels -- using a common human computer interface to
3D artifical realities" by Lin Hsin Hsin. To be published, Spring/Summer
"Every Pixel takes its own Journey -- using a common human computer
interface to create 2D artifical realities" by Lin Hsin Hsin. To be
published, Spring/Summer 1998.
6)HTMLs include htm, shtm, shtml, dhtm, dhtml and
all Java enabled applets and js files.
7)scripting languages include CGI Script, Perl Script,
8)animated gifs, 2-D animation, 3-D animation, real
audio streaming, real video streaming, Shockwaves, Flash etc.
9)multimedia tools include page-based, icon-based,
time-based and presentation tools
10)estimated Web Pages by search engine: 150 million
Web pages as of January 1997.
11)avatar (as defined in Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
noun, (1784). Sanskrit avatAra descent, from avatarati he descends,
from ava- away + tarati
1 : the incarnation of a Hindu deity (as Vishnu)
2 a : an incarnation in human form
b : an embodiment (as of a concept or philosophy) often in a person
3 a: variant phase or version of a continuing basic entity
an avatar is a living person currently connected to the simulation,
and expressed through
a TAvatar instance. Avatars represent the simulation's living participants.
12)MUD: Multi-User Dungeon (or
Dimension, or Dialog), is a multi-user environment used
to simulate artificial realities within the context of computer networks
There are now some 250 publicly announced MUDs around the world .
MUD has been around since ten years.
13)MOO stands for MUD, Object-Oriented
14)ICQ is an user-friendly, Internet program that
tells you who's online at all times.
15)PING (Packet Internet Groper)
is a TCP/IP utility that sends packets of information to a computer
on a network. It can be used to determine whether a computer is connected
to the Internet.
16)Stelarc first Ping Body performance in 1995.
the author attended his performance in Linz in Fall 1997.
17)based on Unix operating systems.
for further details.
21)"In Bytes We Travel" by Lin Hsin Hsin, 1997, ISBN:
23)virtual realities is a computer-generated simulationof
a three-dimensional environment, in which the user is able to both
view and interact with the contents of that environment. VRML 2.0
and beyond is the Virtual Reality Modeling Language
for implementing virtual realities.
24)world or worlds refers to the world as defined
A Cyberart Show by Lin Hsin Hsin", 1997, ISBN: 981-00-9877-4,
26)for example wireless museum using Lucent
Technologies to connect wireless clients to the servers. see
28)before-and-after excitement ratio can be defined
as: i/j where 0=<i,j>=10 i,j are interests level before and
after respectively. 10 represents maximum interests.
Bytes We Travel" by Lin Hsin Hsin, 1997, ISBN: 981-02-3359-4,
34)Websters means Webmasters or Webmistress
"Building an Ultimate Art Museum on the Web" by Lin Hsin Hsin
35)"In Bytes We Travel" by Lin Hsin Hsin, 1997, ISBN:
981-02-3359-4, p30, 31, 73.
36)dictionary meaning of fine art (ethymology
date: 1767) from Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
1 a : art (as painting, sculpture, or music) concerned primarily with
the creation of beautiful
objects -- usually used in plural
b : objects of fine art
2: an activity requiring a fine skill
Copyright © 1998. Lin Hsin Hsin.
The author is an artist, information technologist and poet based
She can be reached via email at the Lin Hsin Hsin Art Museum.
This file can be found below http://www.archimuse.com/mw98/
Send questions and comments to email@example.com