Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Final Paper

The works of digital media artists are always on the rise, with technology becoming more so prominent in our culture today.  A digital artist, rather than create art with his hands, creates his artwork with computer technology.  To really dive headfirst into the digital world of modern art, I chose two modern day working digital artists and researched their works, installations, and performances.  The two artists I chose are Don Ritter, who mostly does his work on the interactive spectrum of digital art, and Nicolas Anatol Baginsky, who likes to create a lot of performance art.  The two are still currently working as artists in their respective fields, and have created many works since the dawn of technology.
I will start with Don Ritter, a Canadian born artist and writer, who is now living in Berlin, Germany.  He is an interactive artist, and has created a lot of digital works since the 1980s.  His artist website is http://aesthetic-machinery.com/ , where he has his own biography, and links to his several projects that will provide you with a description of the project and a short video of what the project is all about.  Some of his more notable projects include Fit, which is an interactive exercise video in which the aerobics instructor on screen will copy movements that someone makes in front of the screen.
Another work is called O Telephone, which is made up of a room full of telephones that will all ring at the same time.  When one answers the telephone, a humming sound will be heard, and different tonalities of the hum sound will change with different phones the person picks up.
The work of his that I found most intriguing is called Vox Populi.  With this interactive work, a person must first approach a podium, on which a teleprompter sits on top.  The teleprompter has the words of a speech scrolling through it, much like a karaoke machine.  The participant must read a speech shown on the teleprompter to a simulated crowd.  The virtual crowd is made up of either one large television screen, or a few screens put together that has video of a group of people acting as an audience.  Before the speaker starts to speak, the crowd will try to encourage him to give a speech.  Once the participant starts speaking, the crowd will react to the speech giver voice.  The simulated crowd will either react by encouraging the speaker to go on, or they will yell profane things at the speaker.
As I see it, this experience could either be terrifying or uplifting for the person giving the speech.  If the simulated audience is encouraging the speaker and cheering the speaker on, the speaker will feel a sense of power from the virtual crowd.  However, if the virtual crowd does not like the speaker and yells discouraging things at the speaker, the speaker could in turn feel very uncomfortable and horrified in the situation.  This installation shows the power and of a great orator, and also shows the control any kind of crowd may have over a speaker.  In this particular experience, however, the speaker can also control the crowd by changing their tonality or the way they are speaking to the crowd, which is almost never true in a real life speech setting.
My second artist is Nicolas Anatol Baginsky.  Baginsky was born in in Gräfelfing, Germany in 1961. He is now living and working in Hamburg, Germany where he makes a living as an interior designer, theatrical set designer, and performance artist.  He has performed in many different places across Europe including Great Britain, Holland, Germany, and Switzerland.  His artist website is http://www.baginsky.de/ where you can find many projects he has created, including both interactive and performance pieces.
One of his most well known interactive pieces is called Narcissism Enterprise, which mimics man’s own narcissistic love for his own self-image.  The face of a viewer at the installation is being recorded by a small video camera that is attached to a mechanical arm, which follows along with the movements of the person’s head.
There’s also a small microphone at the exhibit that picks up the sounds that the viewer of the exhibit makes.  The sounds are then mixed with an audio mixer, which turns the audio into a song-like compilation that doesn’t just sound like everyday babble.  The images of the person’s face and the sounds they make are then compiled by a computer that produces a sound and image sequence that is projected and replayed to the viewer.
Narcissism Enterprise is an artificial intelligence system, meaning that it works through the means of computer technology.  The project of Baginsky’s I decided to focus on for the comparison also works through the help of an artificial intelligence system.  This project is called The Three Sirens.  The Three Sirens is a self-learning robot band conceptualized and built by Nicolas Baginsky.  The band consists of a guitar player known as Aglaopheme, a bass player known as Peisinoe, and a drummer known as Thelxiepeia, though other robotic instruments such as Aciilyzer, a vocalist, have been added to the group over the past few years.

These artificially intelligence robots are self learning in the way that they compile their own musical assemblages.  No set of music is the same each time the robots play, and because of this, Baginsky says, “the authorship for their music does not belong to any living being, all musical material is generated by self organizing learning processes in an improvising manner.”

The robots are interacting with themselves just as much as with the audience.  Each instrument is producing a variety of notes or beats, that essentially go along with whatever notes or beats every other instrument is playing.  For this to work, Baginsky must have put in some parameters to the artificial intelligence system, so as not to make the robots purely sound like a jumble of noise.  The robots produce their own music, but with the same kind of tonality to make the robot band actually sound like a band, rather than flat, sharp, off-key, or off-beat.
The Three Sirens brings in audiences and performs shows much like any other band would.  The machines work off of artificial neural networks that control every movement the robots make through an artificial intelligence system.  Free mp3 of The Three Sirens can be found and downloaded from Baginsky’s own website at http://www.the-three-sirens.info/songs.html.  Their most recent shows were in September and October of 2008 in Germany.
Both of these works by Ritter and Baginsky share a common goal of trying to engage an audience into an interactive or performance type setting.  Vox Populi is definitely the more interactive of the two, with the observer actually being the main focus of the artwork.  The Three Sirens is interactive within itself, with the robots playing off one another to create different songs.  The Three Sirens experience gives the audience the feeling of actually being at a live show or concert, the only difference is that humans aren’t the ones who are playing the instruments.  Both these installations do well to catch the audience’s attention in a unique way that is different from traditional art forms.
These works also have very distinct differences.  They are different in the aspect of operator of the piece.  The operator of Vox Populi is the participant, who is physically standing before a screen to be a part of the installation.  Without the participant, Vox Populi wouldn’t work effectively.  The installation cannot stand alone without an audience or observer to operate it.  On the contrary, The Three Sirens operates entirely independent of audience, and even human, input.  Since the machine is creating music on its own accord, a human’s essential reason to be there would be to push a start button.  The Three Sirens works whether or not an audience is there to cheer the robot band on, and can therefore stand on its own in being recognized as a performance piece.
I found both Vox Populi and The Three Sirens to be very interesting pieces, for the reason that they are so different from other works of art that are not classifies as digital media.  I think there is a certain aspect of Ritter’s and Baginsky’s work, as well as all other digital art, that makes it more enjoyable on a separate level than traditional art forms.  From tradition art, you are left with a thought to ponder, yet with the new rise of digital media, you are more times left with an experience rather than an initial reflection.  What I took from both Ritter’s and Baginsky’s works was that they actually did provide this kind of experience, which I believe can’t be encountered in traditional art galleries.