“Plastic Bottles”, a work by Chris Jordan, is comprised of a digitally-constructed image of approximately two million plastic bottles. The number is significant in that it is the artist’s estimate for how many plastic bottles are used in the US every minute. From a distance the piece almost appears to be an image of static or some other sort of impressionistic visualization. Only upon close inspection does the image’s true nature become clear. The most obvious meaning that can be taken from the piece is a criticism of consumerism. The sheer number of bottles represented in the piece is only a fraction of what people use every day. However, there is an intrinsic aesthetic value to the piece as well, taking something that most would consider to be waste matter (and environmentally damaging waste matter at that) and presenting it in a way that is oddly appealing.
Created in 1969, “Participation TV” employs the use of two microphones to manipulate a series of patterns on a TV set. The piece was miles ahead of its time, effectively integrating audience participation with what was considered a primarily one-way broadcast medium. Prior to the boom in interactive digital media in the decades leading up to the new millennium, “Participation TV” stands out as an early forerunner to the interactive systems that we now recognize as standard. Given that the work employs the human voice to function, it can be taken as a visual metaphor for the communicative power of technology.
net.flag is a web application currently owned by the Guggenheim and designed by Mark Napier that allows users to create a variety of different flag designs based on their own personal preferences. The work is hosted on a web page and accessible to virtually anyone. The idea is that the interactivity and connectivity of the internet allows for the erosion of cultural and geographical barriers. In this way the “flag of the internet” is not merely one design, but a multitude of designs unique to each inhabitant of the greater web nation. I feel the work is effective in accurately conveying the decentralization and individualization that internet access has begun to foster. There is no authority as to who flag is superior or “official”. The internet is the new great equalizer, melding voices from different backgrounds regardless of distance, giving everyone a voice, and even the smallest groups or individuals the power to make an impact.
Investigation of Salavon’s other work Everyday Playboy Centerfold led me to his website where I discovered <Color> Wheel. The piece is essentially a basic ROYGBV color wheel created from thousands of images sourced from the Bing Image search. Salavon simply queried the corresponding color terms and downloaded as much as he could from each result. The resulting work is purely visual, with no other kind of sensory input or interaction involved. It could be taken as a view of the world through the unbiased and apathetic “eyes” of an inanimate index. Search engines compile and return only what people give them, and the composition of <Color> Wheel is suitably varied as a result. A query for a keyword as simple as “blue” returns everything from ocean water to pornography. The questions presented are many and multifaceted: What do these results say about us and our technologies? Are the algorithms we rely on to navigate the digital world too broad, or does that diversity serve to illuminate the breadth of our capacity to interpret and classify information? I think the piece is extremely subtle and effective in this regard. It addresses very contemporary ideas and conveys them through the most basic of artistic devices.
Landscape One consists of four large video screens arranged to form a small room of sorts. Using a network of projectors, body detectors and touch-sensitive computers, the work sought to simulate the experience of being in Mount Royal Park in Montreal. Its meaning can be taken a number of ways. On the most basic level, it is a representation of the ways that technology can lower physical barriers of distance through immersion and interaction. A viewer who had never been to Mount Royal Park may find themselves closer than ever before. On the flip side, the work’s capacity for crafting a sensory experience is limited to two senses, namely the audio/visual, which could serve to highlight the artificiality of the digitized world. Experiencing life through the veil of technology has broadened our horizons in a multitude of ways, but it is not necessarily a substitution for in-person or tactile experiences.
In the broader scale, the work is an example of new media’s potential in the realm of interaction and augmented reality. And, as stated by Hope and Ryan, it exemplifies the hybridized new media art form, wherein works are compiled from several differing mediums to create a more involved whole.