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h o m e s i t e h o m e: Part 1 of 2 (Web Art)
by Andrés Burbano

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The interaction of art, culture and technology is in itself a network of connections, distances, nodes, meanings, contradictions, and points that are or will be connected. The multiple constellations of nodes that are or will be entwined in that network constitute an unprecedented problem regarding the definition of what has been understood as culture. A dramatic x-ray of this complex situation is the relationship between what is understood and defined as Latin America in the spatial sense, and the virtual dimensions that are multiplying within it, resulting from the data transmission network. The whole physical weight of this large segment of the continent, its history, languages, and all that is unknown to us, in spite of being Latin Americans, is now multiplied by the intangible dimensions of the flow of bits and bytes passing through new inspiration.



Web Art

At the close of the twentieth century, the client-server information that sustained the Web, opened the way to hypothesize about a new style of art that involves the serious use of technology. This new avenue of production demonstrated particular characteristics of what could possibly constitute a communicative art, an interactive art, a hyper-media system of image, sound, hypertext, interaction, etc.

Notwithstanding the interest in these new conditions, from the relatively early existence of experimental projects on the Web one can rapidly identify several fundamental and critical questions regarding the artistic possibilities of the Web. What are the specifics of working on the Web? What is the difference between design and artwork? Up to what point can one enter into artistic communication? What are the conceptual strengths of the Web? What is the relationship between the Web and the global economy and policy? What is the role of Latin America within this system of informative communication, etc.? These questions are still circulating, and will continue to do so for some time. These questions and the attempts to find answers to them are undoubtedly the motivation for several of the Web experiments carried out by Latin Americans in recent years.

As there is already a major assimilation of new experiences such as video art, media installations, etc., it is easy to accept that there would be Latin Americans ready to develop experimental work on the Web. In Colombia, for example, there have been clear efforts to develop artistic and experimental projects on the Web since 1996. The works of Santiago Echeverri, among others, are a good example of this first stage. In spite of their experimental stage, these works demonstrate an understanding of the specificities of the medium and the urge to try bold themes.

Despite the existence of interesting projects and the increasing number of people devoted to experimental work on the Web, I think it is still pertinent, in our context, to work with the idea of "Web Art" as a hypothesis. It seems to me important to consider that the identification of profound artistic aspects in Web projects at this time should be a question of Works in Progress, meaning something that is still Under Construction.

Expanded Web

It is undeniable that the Web itself is currently expanding. Nevertheless, in this type of context I prefer to think of the expansion of the Web as Gene Youngblood did with film, that is, to think of its expansion through aesthetic experimentation. I think of the expansion of what could be called "Web Art" in two ways - one consisting of works developed to interact with the basic elements of a computer, connected normally to the network, and the other consisting of works that involve the Web as one of its developmental elements.

It is important to understand that if there are truly interactive possibilities with the Web, these levels of interactivity are not necessarily limited to interaction with a screen, keyboard, and mouse. The interfaces are increasingly more complex as access to the networks becomes faster. For example, imagine interactions that occur between works on the Web with other spaces, other technological levels, and other creative levels, such as installed elements, biological elements, physical constructions, etc. One of the most radical and interesting examples of this would be works involving the tele-presence of the Brazilian, Eduardo Kac.

In this respect, it is possible that very soon concepts such as "Web Art" may be too general to define the quantity of experimental phenomena that can be developed with and through the data transmission network at the creative and technical level. For example, one could find a videographer who wants to continue developing his work on video. He could do it in the usual way through on-line video transmission, and thus use the Web as a system of distribution. (Systems of artistic production that use the Web as a distribution system.) But on the other hand, creative products exist that traditionally have not been considered art, and begin to delve into profound concepts and notions such as image, virtuality, and interactivity. I am referring to examples such as on-line video games, to audio mixers, etc. (Systems of artistic production that find the specific medium in which to develop their projects on the Web.)

Finally, we should note that the theoretical base of computerization increasingly opens more technical possibilities for interaction with senses of perception that have not been privileged in the context of creation and representation. For example, it is now technically possible to perform experimental work with aromas through the Web. This would open another level of experimentation that only a few visionaries have reached up to now. (Systems of advanced technical experimentation that open new avenues of artistic production.)

This is only one side of the broad spectrum of possible ways to carry out experimental work on the Web. Another level of expansion is the articulation of the Web within artistic systems that stem from the avant-garde and post-avant-garde, such as installation, video art, etc. One example is the latest work of the Argentine artist Marcello Mercado that combines installation, video, and the Web in a complex system at the experimental level.

A Colombian example of this type of work is that of the artists Diana Pabón and Sergio Mora and their project MEKA, a complex system that operates as a video game involving installation and interaction with physical interfaces. This work develops a consideration of identity in a complex manner.

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