Tag Archives: FOTB

FOTB 08 and a question of Art.

Flash on the beach this year for me was fantastic. John thanks to you and every one involved in putting the event together. This year I found the practical sessions were very informative, and the presenters did a fantastic job of convincing me to look at some areas of Flash I have been shying away from. Thanks particularly to Koen De Weggheleire, Seb Lee-Delisle, Chris Orwig and Dr. Woohoo! (Drew Trujillo) whose sessions I found to be full to over flowing with information and inspiration. There were 3 sessions that stick out in my mind. The reason for this was not only for the content that was displayed, but also for the discussions the presentations generated afterwards. In no particular order, Erik Natzke, Jonathan Harris and Robert Hodgin.

This was my first time seeing Robert Hodgin’s work and the first time seeing Robert present. I had heard the glowing reports from the previous year, but believe it of not FOTB08 was the first time I saw his work. In hind sight I am so glad I got to experience his work first time on ‘the big screen’. It was a fantastic show.

I saw Erik Natzke’s work and presentation at last years FOTB, and was really looking forward to seeing his session this year. Last year his presentation felt like a teaser, a peak in side the early stages of his work. This year I felt the presentation showed where that journey had taken Erik’s work over the last year.

The final session of the conference was given by Jonathan Harris. I had not previously heard Jonathan speak before nor had I seen Jonathan’s work. I found some of the projects Jonathan presented very interesting but his work did not affect me to the same degree as Erik’s or Robert’s did. But then after the main body of his presentation, Jonathan kept talking. What he said really interested me, it made me think. I think it was this last 15 minutes that ‘made people gasp’ and generated the most discussion.

To provide some context to the rest of this post, the core of all the discussions I have heard, read or been involved in largly related to one, some or all four of these slides to some degree or other.

Language – Flickr Link
Questions – Flickr Link
Masterpieces – Flickr Link
Insights – Flickr Link

Or the conversations centered around how Jonathan delivered the last section of his presentation (PlayPen has the audio and also as a download.

It would also be worth reading the post Jonathan has made as a more detailed explanation of his presentation.

The discussions that have taken place since Jonathan’s presentations reminded me of my days in College or University. They are the conversations of people with fire in their bellies, opinions to be voiced and ideas that they needed to be heard. The discussions have often been heated, fiery even.

At university after any of the students presented work to ‘the group’ there would always follow a period of discussion and dissection of the work and also the ideas behind the work. Unfortunately Jonathan left no time at the end of his presentation for questions or discussion. As a result I feel slightly cheated that Jonathan left no time for the crowd to talk to him and provide him feed back on his work, ideas, and the assumptions he may or may not to have made. So here are some of the things I would have liked to discuss with him.

Personally for me one of the failings of the last 15 minutes of Jonathan’s presentation was the feeling of an underlying message that Art should have a message, a story or something to say to the viewer. That for our work as practitioners of ‘new media’ to be considered Art it must move beyond the tools that are used and say something of value about the world we live in today.

I don’t believe this is true. Yes i agree that throughout art history there have been artist and art movements that concerned themselves with providing a commentary or message on the society of the day, but there have also been great artists and works of Art that are nothing more than the realization of the ideas, concepts, emotions or any aspect of the human condition. We call it Conceptual Art, Art that investigates a concept or an idea rather than presenting a message, story or subject that the viewer must interpret and understand. Additionally and slightly more cynically there are HUGE quantaties of Art works that may only exist because someone was willing to pay for them to be produced, they were commissioned to the artist that went on to produced them. It is no coincidence that Art is referred to as ‘Works of Art’ or ‘Art Work’, Artist coming from the original Artisan.

One trained to manual dexterity in some mechanic art or trade; and handicraftsman; a mechanic

( Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary. MICRA, Inc. 16 Oct. 2008)

Art was generally a paid profession. I defy you to name an artist that has not received some form of payment for their work, and not been considered a failed artist.

On talking about the adoption and application of new mediums into the artistic relm Jonathan had this to say (Time Stamp 1:05:59 from the MP3).

Artists grope with the new medium to say something that needs to be said about the world, to process reality in some way.

I feel this is a sweeping statment that is only I belive is only partly true. I feel it misses the concept of the artist as artisan. Historically new tools, mediums and techniques are embraced by artists artisans or crafts people as ways to better complet their work, expressing their ideas, and bringing their concepts to life, or to a state they are able to call ‘complete’ . For example its been shown that early photographic methods were employed as a tools by painters so they could more closely depict the reality of a scene by way of ‘tracing’ a projection, thus speeding up production. Technology, tools and mediums are not always about the message, they can simply be the means to an end product. The most direct or natural way for the artist to reach a creative destination.

On talking about Language Jonathan said this (Time Stamp 1:08:47 from the MP3)

We speak a new and powerful language, capable of saying things no other language can say.

Once again I have to disagree with Jonathan at a very basic level. I feel that we, as modern society, do not speak a new language. We do have new tools, techniques and technology with which we are able to conceptualise, express, externalise, present, publish and disseminate our ideas, concepts, emotions and yes our messages. But the language is still the same. We use the language of human creativity, a very raw and base form of communicating. It allows us to express ourselves externally to any number of others humans that happen upon us, or that in some cases will explicitly ask us to externalise some aspect of ourselves. This expression is regardless of form these aspect of ‘us’, ideas, concepts or opinions, feelings, emotions might manifest themselves. For example through speech, dance, mark making, or any other activity or action that we as humans embed on the reality unfolding around us. Its a big subject, far bigger than I am able to express. Maybe I could draw it.

I will cut this post short(er). I very much look forward to a future opportunity to talk in person with Jonathan, I feel there some fantastic conversations to have with him, great ideas and opinions to chew over, I only regret I missed the chance in Brigton. As way of closing. Jonathan posed these questions, among others.

Can it make someone gasp or cry

Will it be relevant in 25 years


Does it compare to the masterpieces of other mediums

On the first question, I believe it is incomplete. I would prefer.

Can it make someone, gasp, cry, laugh, shout, spit, scream, kick or even kill. For me in order that the products of Artisans to be considered Art, the viewer, user or audience should be unable to contain there own emotions and will find any way they can to express a reaction to that ‘other’ idea which they are experiencing.

On the last two questions, if any of people that we consider masters today had asked those questions would they have bothered to produce the work that we, today, now consider master pieces. Would Picaso have produced Les Demoiselles d’Avigno having compared it to La Grande Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, would Jeff Koons have had his Michael Jackson produced having compared it to Michelangelo’s David. Could Leonardo really have know that the Mona Lisa would be such an iconic image today. Would Duchamp EVER, after any of Jonathan’s questions, have conceived his Fountain?

These pieces are considered Masterpieces now, but what evidence is there that they have always been Masterpieces to every age though history. When does a Natzke, a Harris or a Hodgin turn from a piece of modern virtuosity in the medium of ‘New Media’ into a Masterpiece of our modern time? Who has the right to declare they haven’t already? The term Masterpiece is as subjective as the term Art.

I very much enjoyed the presentation Jonathan gave, I may not have agreed with everything that he said, but I love the fact that it brought back some of that fire, there is nothing like a conceptual conflict to get the mind racing.

Today, I feel like an Artist.