choreographing chaos

One must have chaos inside oneself to give birth to a dancing star.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Genealogies of Morals, 1887

Asserted as a defining feature of this technetronic society, 'convergence' is used and reused so often that its meanings are becoming confused. Taken in the sense of drawing things together, though, convergence can refer to the partnerships that enable digital work to be created and presented. Artistic practice and its presentation has rarely been a purely solo endeavour, and this is especially true for artists working with digital media. Celebrating such creative synergy, the Third Asia-Pacific Triennial (APT3) has joined with Multimedia Art Asia-Pacific (MAAP99) to showcase the work of more than fifty artists who engage with new media. The selection of works for APT and MAAP is also a product of collaboration - and convergence - drawing on the talents and expertise of artists, multimedia developers, film and video makers, writers and curators throughout the region.

It is only through utilising the knowledge of these individuals that structures can be applied to the chaotic plethora of digital art. This 'chaos' stems from a number of factors, including the lack of distribution networks, the problems of locating and accessing online works, the need for technology to experience the work and the difficulties institutions face in displaying, and in some cases, understanding the work. In their nascent stages, digital works, particularly those online, do not yet have widely accepted criteria in judging their accomplishments. The works themselves are constructed from disparate ingredients - light, code, images, film, electricity - moved and moving together to re-present the artist's vision. It is these conceptions, in turn created through associates between artists, filmmakers, designers and technical advisers, which will be spotlighted through the partnership between APT3 and MAAP99.

Works will be available online, within the physical exhibition space, in various public venues, via screenings and live links for the duration of APT3, and will profile the concerns and explorations of artists throughout the region. The relevance of the work of these artists is augmented by APT3's theme 'Beyond the Future'. They are not only using the tools of technology, but in many cases examining and critiquing its impact on society's being, the relations between art and technology, display and access, audiences and institutions.

Like MAAP's inaugural festival in 1998, MAAP99 revolves around three separate but inter-related streams: SEE, the national and international screening program; SEEK, an interactive exhibition program in galleries, public spaces and online; and SPEAK, which include forums and training, and is part of the APT3 Conference. The Virtual Triennial and Screen Culture, APT3's screen-based elements, combined with MAAP's online and physical presences, expand both the audiences and the works available.

The screening program incorporates, Sydney-based dLux media arts annual showcase of experimental digital film, digital video and computer animation; the 'One Minute Video Festival' a selection of works from China curated by Hong Kong's VideoTage; a special children's edition of 'Art Rage, Artworks for Television', encouraging exploration in the creative uses of new technology; 'Digital Fresh Out', highlighting the digital projects of multimedia and design graduates and 'Self Made Cinemas' from Hong Kong, curated by Jo Laws.

Recent video and CD-ROM interactive pieces by Beijing artist Feng Mengbo demonstrate his interest in the audience. He has described his interactive work as:

[not] made for the imposing walls of an art gallery. It's in an accessible format that anyone can use. Through it I extend an invitation to you to experience it in the whimsical manner in which I have produced it. Perhaps in the future all of our memories will speak to each other in this way, gradually forming an opaque mass, at once both chaotic and inclusive.

This 'inclusivity' and 'chaos' may relate to artistic practice itself, our understanding of it and its presentation. The spaces of the Internet and the Gallery for example, contain the 'chaos', and create access to information. Platforms such as APT3 and MAAP are necessary within this arena, bringing together diverse investigations into artistic practice and new media in this way, broadens and educates audiences.

One conceptual approach cannot explain the complexities of modern technology , and no one artist, medium or institution can explain the world. The multiplicity of viewpoints is reflected in the multiplicity of deliveries utilised for this 'dance'. As Beth Jackson discussed at the last MAAP forum, a multiplicity of deliveries is not only desirable, but necessary when dealing with digital works.

Humanity is learning new ways and languages to secure and understand our place with technology. Artists are exploring innovative ways to implement the pervasive technology of this period into their work, and in turn serve to allow audiences new ways into seeing the potentials for creativity in the media. Strikingly, they also place themselves and us within the picture of humanity's relationship to technology. Steve Dietz, Curator of the Walker Arts Centre's digital program quotes Steven Johnson's vision for artists of the late twenty-first century. They have become some new fusion of artist and engineer - interfacers, cyberpunks, Web masters--charged with the epic task of representing our digital machines, making sense of information in its raw form.

Works of art create a space for contemplation, revealing and redefining space in the technological era also affected artworks. Within the art museum's role as presenting and interpreting contemporary art, there is an imperative for the museum to utilise technology and in turn to teach visitors about the technology itself. In her project for Shoreline, Shiralee Saul wrote: "the museum must change its role as guardian of an official reality to being that of guide to an Emergent Reality, to Nature II, and to entirely new forms of collaborative experience."

MAAP have planned Missile Project Launch to maintain the festival's momentum throughout September, where each day a project will be spotlighted and launched. net:works/ has been funded by the Australia Council's New Media Arts Fund, and aims to encourage dialogue, exchange and collaboration by establishing an online residency program, with artists from Australia and Asia.

The online selection of works includes a selection of works by Japanese net.artists, curated by Lehan Ramsay; Pre Fab: Invisible Cities and Photon Palaces, a virtual architecture project by Shiralee Saul, which compares and contrasts digital architecture projects in Australia and Asia, and other pieces by individual artists in Australia and throughout the region. Other works will be presented both online and onsite: Shi Yong's The new image of Shanghai today and Jun Jieh Wang's Neon Urlaub Agency Version. Both use the World Wide Web, but are also physical installations, utilising the information collected or available on the Web. A selection of works by UNIMAS ARTISTS from Malaysia will also be available online and shown in the screening program.

The perceived 'chaos' of the new media art world and the proliferation of work and ways of accessing it, means that events like APT3 and MAAP have a role to play in directing people toward and informing them about the 'stars'. Such a choreography weaves stories from improvised and prescribed steps and gestures, drawing them in the space of the screen. This is mirrored in the relationship between APT3 and MAAP, with the creation of new spaces for the viewing and discussion of digital art.
June 1999