Sunday, August 5, 2007
The other evening I was at a wine bar thinking about my next post here. What started running through my mind were two web sites - one from 2004 and one quite recent site - where a number of people came together to create works of art. It soon dawned on me that the question I was asking was "Can social networks produce art?" and, if so, could a social network actually produce high art. I became quite excited. Wow, I've invented something new here: social networks producing art. And then I continued: is the art that social networks produce inevitably banal or low art? Is low art bad? Wow, this is going to be big, etc. It's amazing how a glass of Prosecco will boost your confidence.
Later and back on the net and completely by chance I came across AssignmentZero. It's a site about "crowdsourcing" or things created by groups of people over the Intenet. So, of course, my idea was not really new at all. Anyway I had fun looking at Wikipainting and A Million Penguins and other crowdsourced "works of art". When there are six billion people thinking things, the chances of anyone coming up with something new are quite remote.
In coming up with the idea of social networks producing art, I did have two specific web sites in mind. We will talk about the second, the eye-project, in a subsequent post.
The first web site I thought of regarding "group art" is zoomquilt. The given link is a mirror because the original site cannot take much load. The original site is here. The feeling is that you are traveling through a fantastic landscape. In reality you are zooming through 46 still images. As you zoom closely into into area, the next picture comes into focus and replaces the previous picture.
The artwork has a gouache-like quality - quite like backdrops for computer games. It is unlikely that you will be moved by the work (that is to say in an emotional sense) but it certainly is fun to take the journey and move through this rather surreal space a number of times.
Every time I look at Zoomquilt I am reminded of a Chinese panoramic scroll painting. Because the scrolls are very long - several meters/yards - you only unroll several inches/centimeters at a time. You travel through the landscape (and sometimes time as well) as you continuously unroll the new areas and hide the old area. In panoramas you pan, in zoom quilts you zoom.
With both types of images you are in control. You proceed at your own speed. In the Chinese landscape panoramas you follow a river or a road. In Zoomquilt you follow a brown/orange winding ribbon as it is reinterpreted by each artist. Both are highly illustrational. You really feel the need that somebody should be telling you the story behind each new thing you are seeing. And I hope that in future zoom quilts you will be able to click on or turn on running explanations or listen to podcasts or music as the scene progresses. Something like the dude that tells you to watch out for the crocodile as you take the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland. Which I mention because it too is a quite linear, pre-formatted journey through a fictional landscape.
The difference with Zoomquilt unlike the scroll or Disney ride is that you can keep on going without rewinding. The end automatically brings you back to the beginning. So you can just keep on going and going - see new things each time.
I find very few meaningful references or homages to other films, works or art or even games in Zoomquilt. The tree monsters look familiar and the two men with glasses sort of look like Gandhi, but on the whole it looks mostly like random imaginations of people influenced by Disney, Lucas and Tolkien.
Usually when you see an illustration, you see it as part of a story. It's the picture that represents the thousand words. But in Zoomquilt there is no accompanying story. So you could call these abstract or non-representational illustrations. Although everything seems to make sense there is no notion of time place or subject matter to hold the work together. Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending A Staircase was called an explosion in a shingle factory for trying to take a normal image and make it multi-representational . If contrast, is Zoomquilt what an implosion in a shingle factory would look like?