For the first assignment, we were asked to think about how artists have embraced new media. We had to choose three visual artists and explore some of their work to see how their work has been influenced by new media and why they have chosen this way of working as opposed to more traditional ways. I initially found it quite difficult to choose artists as I had no idea what it meant to be a “new media” artist so I decided to look for a definition. The only real definition I could find was on Wikipedia and it said that new media art “involves interaction between the artist and the observer or between observers and the artwork, which responds to them”. With this in mind I chose Chris Levine, Bill Viola and Lynn Hershman-Leeson as the artists I wanted to explore within this assignment.
Chris Levine is a UK based artist who was born in 1960 in Ontario, Canada and he is a light artist. I first noticed Levine’s work back in 2012 when I visited the York Art Gallery and saw “Equanimity”. I was really amazed by the piece as it was something I had never seen before. The portrait is a lenticular portrait which incorporates over 300 images into a single 3D stereoscopic effect portrait. What makes the image so special is that it appears to move as the viewer walks past the image, giving the viewer the impression that the image follows you. He has also done an image similar to this of Kate Moss. Levine prefers to take portraits like this as he feels it captures a “chunk or section of someone’s life” as opposed to a photograph which only captures a moment in time. This is because the process involves using a linear rail to take over 300 images which equates to about 8 seconds of the person’s life. Levine gave the piece the title of “Equanimity” which means steadiness of the mind under stress. He felt that this optimises the Queen as she has seen a lot throughout her reign, good and bad, however she has always remained very calm and in control.
Bill Viola was born in 1951 and is a contemporary video artist. His work focuses on births, deaths and aspects of consciousness infused with a spiritually heighted awareness. Viola chose to work with video as he felt that it had the power to engulf the viewer entirely and because a “still image can’t embody or create time like motion does”. The piece of work that I chose to analyse further was “Nantas Triptych” which was made in 1992. The piece was made up of three video panels; the first showing a birth, the second showing a man floating in a swimming pool (from an earlier work “The Passing”) and the third showing his mother as she lay dying in a coma. The soundtrack played alongside it was of crying, moving water and breathing. The concept behind the installation came after his mother’s death and made him think about how short life is and how people should make the most it.
Lynn Hershman-Leeson was born in 1941 in Ohio, USA and she is an artist and film maker. In 2004 she was named one of the most influential women working in New Media. She has gained this notoriety through her 53 videos and 7 interactive installations that delve into the social construction of female identity and issues of social conditioning to which they relate. She also looks at the relationship between humans and machines. The piece of work that I chose to explore further was The Dollie Clone series 1995-1998. The idea behind this piece was to explore masking and identity theft and the hidden dangers inherent in surveillance technology. Using two dolls, Tillie the telerobotic doll and CyberRoberta, Hershman-Leeson replaced their eyes with cameras. The first camera was a video camera which recorded what was in front of the doll and the second camera was a webcam which viewers accessing the website could move the dolls head to “survey” the room she was in. This allowed people to see the world through the dolls eyes and essentially become virtual cyborgs. At the time that this was created, it had only been announced 2 years earlier, that the world wide web would be free to everyone so this sort of piece would have been quite mind blowing and progressive to people as they were able to login be able to manipulate and see things from its perspective through the internet.
I found this assignment quite difficult as it took a while for me to choose artists to use. Apart from the work I look at of Chris Levine, this is not really a genre of art that I am particularly interested in as I often find that the subject matter is a little too intense and not something that I can relate to. Once I had chosen pieces from Bill Viola and Lynn Hershman-Leeson that I wanted to explore further, I started to become more interested in their works and began to have a better understanding as to why they had chosen to work with New Media as opposed to more traditional forms of artwork. I think that by using their chosen mediums the artists have been successful in portraying their ideas as they engage the viewer and can make people stop and take notice. This would not be possible if the artists had just painted on canvas.