A reformation of space : intimate transactions in art and distributed communication
Hamilton, Jillian G. (2006) A reformation of space : intimate transactions in art and distributed communication. In Hamilton, Jillian G. (Ed.) Intimate Transactions : Art, Exhibition and Interaction within Distributed Network Environments. ACID (Australasian CRC for Interaction Design), Brisbane Australia, pp. 116-129.
A number of twentieth century Western art movements have been aligned with social preoccupations with the expansion of space. Alongside well-known examples (Futurism, Cubism, Land Art), early experiments in digital art can also be mapped onto concerns with expanded space. Stelarc's Exoskeleton, for example, augmented the body by extending its reach while online artworks, such as Wisniewski's netomat, experimented with the communication networks that were expanding to envelop the earth at the time. By the end of the twentieth century, as Damien Hirst was converting his art into an instrument calibration chart to accompany Beagle 2 Lander's journey to the frontiers of Mars, artists had come to be referred to as 'boundary riders'.
In the new century, a seemingly paradoxical discourse has begun to emerge. Social commentators have started to refer to space in terms of its collapse. We now live in a time in which diasporas that were dispersed between continents in preceding, expansionist centuries are reunited in real time, Skyping across telecommunications networks. Live broadcasts bounce off satellites and reality - from terrible events a world away to the mundane musings of local housemates - streams into the depthless, non-space of our televisions and site after site flickers to the kaleidoscopic dance of the remote control. This conceptual compression of space is bi-directional. New technologies allow us to extend ourselves, and our influence, across the distributed network. Standing at an ATM or ordering a book online, our touch extends beyond the screen and, in this ordinary experience of telepresence, the space between our physical bodies and the site of affect contracts. Together, these possibilities of remote insight and co-located affect have allowed us to move beyond the information age, the age of transmission into what Tony Blair recently described as an age of interconnectedness. It is an age in which social relationships and concepts of community have been reconfigured by the possibility of digital dialogue, online interaction and co-located transactions.
This paper discusses the Australian interactive new media art that can be mapped onto these developments in the technical and social compression of space. With reference to works such as Jeffrey Shaw’s Legible City and the Transmute Collective's Intimate Transactions, it provides an overview of experiments with the potential of networked technology to support co-located interaction, collaboration and communication. It considers how such participatory works - which require a chorography of whole body interaction and provide real-time, highly immersive rich media (sound image and haptic) feedback - produce a sensation of the collapse of space. For they do this on two levels - contracting space between the participant and screen and between the 'co-present' participants at separate sites. This paper argues that if, as these works suggest, it is possible to establish an 'intimate transaction' between participants across the network and to experience the face to face from far away, then it is time to reconsider the spatial theories that have traditionally underpinned our art historical understandings of installation art.
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