blind. In dialling a number, there is often a slight pause before the connection is
made. A thin crackle of sound covers the distant business of clicks and beeps as the
network negotiates a meeting. Accustomed to a dozen calls a day, this space has little
meaning for us. What happens when we reach the edges of the network? Making telephone
connections from old Soviet communication systems can leave you marooned in this echo of
emptiness. Are such phenomena a new language for expressing more fundamental experiences
of separation and loss?
Come into the open. Offline refers literally
to a space beyond reach of communication networks. Its strange to think that this
space might previously have been the reality that everyone once took for granted. Perhaps
it is only in attempts to rise above reality that its hard surface becomes disturbingly
apparent. Think of the cold turkey experienced by those who suddenly find
reality raw of a habitual narcotic haze. Jean-Paul Sartre seemed to find it in a drug-free
way by withdrawing from thinking, and confronting the facticity of things.
Maybe today we discover it in system crashes, in the reception shadows of mobile phone
networks, in information-deprived countries, in sleep, in frustration
in fewer and
fewer places. What happens when we turn flick the switch off? Are we then on something
like the open sea, where events occur beyond the reach of reason?
The tea cup in a cattle yard. The information
network seems a Platonic world with neither forgetfulness nor memory. Once uploaded, a
thing is beyond the troubles of a material world. By contrast, the downloaded world offline
is exposed to mortal forces that are constantly at odds with human intentions. Take the
fate of a letter in the wilds of a postage system. The letter can be lost, mis-sorted,
mis-delivered, disfigured, rained upon, attacked by snails or dogs, stolenall before
arriving in the clutches of its intended recipient. At first, wired communications seem so
much more reliable and convenient. But might there be a moment of hesitation, when we find
particular messages that can be better conveyed through the vulnerable passages offline?
Schattenneid. There may be something ineluctably
nostalgic at the heart of the digital revolution. The desire to transcend the material
world may have at its core a search for the essence of corporeal reality. The main
workshop for this revolution, the graphics program PhotoShop, has developed sophisticated
means for removing traces of its digital identity. Its main set of filters offer
specialised means of blurring, feathering and smoothing over otherwise jagged pixels.
Might we see the drop shadowthe ubiquitous filter that now pervades text headlines
in various print culturesas a symptom of this obsession with animating an inherently
cold medium? Will the standards of digital media always be measured by the material world
it purports to deny?
Nude objects live! In imagining the impact of the
digital revolution on material arts, the default thinking poses the question: When will
they catch up? Will crafts, painting and sculpture meet the challenge of the
twenty-first century? By such thinking, the material arts must always lag behind. Is
there another kind of thinking? Perhaps as a Zeitgeist phenomenon, the digital aesthetic
encompasses work made with and without the aid of a microchip. Some of the strongest work
in contemporary Australian ceramics explores the language of unglazed forms. The exposed
body now confronts us with a surface that caresses the eye, almost as though it had been
formed with PhotoShop. Is it possible that this soft hardware shares with digital artists
a fetish for warm reality?
The velvet curtain. Jean Baudrillard once described
modern society as fanatically soft. In the age of soft capitalism,
as christened by Bill Gates, it is hard to find any wall, boundary, barrier or conceptual
category that has not been relaxed. Most of us can remember a time when this was not so.
During the Cold War, the world made sense as an opposition between two tribes. Any
confusion of the two was cast as betrayal, collaboration or reformismof sleeping
with the enemy. It seems harder to make moral sense of a world that has dissolved this
opposition. Might it be that the prevalence of blur in todays design is an attempt
to represent this condition?
This exhibition contains contemporary works of material art
whose construction intimates a response to the digital world. Visitors are invited to
explore a gallery in which objects of art are displayed without any accompanying
information. Instead, visitors are supplied with a map to guide their journey. At the
conclusion, offline visitors will be offered something pleasing to taste.
Those who visit the exhibition online will be
encouraged to contribute a personal story to a memorial database of lost objects. This
database is designed to explore the way in which certain objects have housed important
relations. Unfortunately, given the limits of technology at this time, online visitors
will be deprived of anything to taste.