THE INTER-SOCIETY FOR THE ELECTRONIC ARTS ISEA NEWSLETTER #91 ISSN 1488-3635 #91 February - March 2003 _______________________________________________________________ * CONTENTS * * Editorial by Angela Plohman * Introduction by guest editor Marcus Neustetter * "Liberated Zones(1): re:visionary inter-textuality in South Africa" by Stacy Hardy * "The Technology of Representing Cultural Translations" by Kathryn Smith * "Sound Art South Africa" by James Webb * "New Media New Competitions" by Deirdre Pretorius * "New Media in the New South Africa" by Nathaniel Stern ************************************************** Editorial by Angela Plohman ISEA Coordinating Director ************************************************** ISEA is pleased to present this latest edition of the ISEA Newsletter devoted to the electronic arts in South Africa, guest edited by Marcus Neustetter, one of three directors of the The Trinity Session, an independent contemporary art production team based in Johannesburg, South Africa, practising in public art projects, project initiation and production, curating, research and critical writing. We would like to mention that this South African edition is an introduction to the continent and that we hope to publish future reports and texts from other parts of Africa, in collaboration with Marcus Neustetter and others. This edition of the INL is the third devoted to a specific region and guest edited by a practitioner based in that part of the world. In addition to INL #88 (edited by Patricia Martin with a focus on Latin America) and INL #90 (edited by Gunalan Nadarajan with a focus on Asia), this issue highlights a different direction for the ISEA Newsletter. This new form reflects a desire on the part of ISEA to use the INL as a unique forum for disseminating critical thought in the field of the electronic arts. Our member base is extremely active and diverse and we hope to more extensively draw attention to this within the pages of the newsletter, through articles, critical commentaires, reviews and discussion from a wide range of regions from around the world. We are eager to hear from potential guest editors - if you are interested in editing an upcoming issue of the ISEA Newsletter focused on your region, please contact ISEA HQ. In addition to this change in content, we have also decided to stop publishing announcements, calls for projects, opportunities, etc. as an attachment to the newsletter. Several resources such as this exist and do the job well. Through our partnership with fineArt forum, the longest running arts magazine on the Internet, we have ensured that our members stay informed of all the latest news, events and opportunities in the field of the electronic arts. All new members of ISEA are automatically subscribed to fAf's monthly email digest. If any ISEA members are not receiving fAf as a part of their membership, and wish to, please contact ISEA HQ to start your subscription. Lastly, we would like to bring to your attention to some news regarding ISEA2004. New media meets art, science, research, and popular culture at ISEA2004 in Stockholm - Tallinn - Helsinki. For the first time an event of this scale is being organized between three cities and on the ferry traveling between these three Baltic countries. ISEA2004 has recently launched their first call for sub themes and large projects, with a deadline of February 28, 2003. For more information, please see the ISEA2004 website at http://www.isea2004.net. We hope you enjoy this edition of the INL! Any comments on this or any issue are always welcome. ************************************************** Introduction by Marcus Neustetter ************************************************** In addressing this newsletter I asked myself a few crucial questions: What are the benefits of a newsletter focusing on electronic art activity in South Africa to an audience that is well aware of the developments on international electronic art processes and platforms? On the one hand I feel that the exposure of what is happening in South Africa can only benefit any future opportunities, but equally important, the international platforms and activities should be aware of the context out of which the local activities are developing. Even though one is working with platforms that are designed to cross borders and allow global activity beyond the local context, it is important for any cultural and conceptual development and investment in the field of electronic and digital media to understand the needs and problematic that comes with a specific type of art and new media infrastructure such as South Africa. In light of this, does one tap into the regurgitated debates around third and first world relationships, or rather emphasise the activities that are shaping a digital art future in South Africa? The existing problems and debate cannot be escaped when trying to illustrate where the new media art scene is going in South Africa, since it defines the landscape out of which projects are developing and their concepts are evolving. One needs to keep the existing debates and issues in mind. There has been ongoing discussion around the divide between those that have access to resources and knowledge systems of new technologies and those that are more concerned with survival in a harsh terrain. A terrain where viruses cause death rather than hard-drive failures or corrupted files; where the economic status of a country is not a number on the tv screen, but rather the minimum wage job that ensures the survival of a family; where support is obviously not given to creative new media explorations, but rather to basic literacy education. While this is a pessimistic presentation of this terrain, there are constantly questions of relevance in one's own mind of producing and developing structures for electronic art. There is not only the question of who is the limited local audience, but also who are the producers. Educating both producer and audience to the possibilities of creative uses of technologies becomes a necessity. The cultural boycott during apartheid time has impacted negatively on the local development of creative digital media and processes like video art production only impacted late on local audiences and galleries. Therefore the infrastructures and understanding of new media art are slowly now only manifesting in a meaningful way. Important in this process however is to keep an eye on the international developments and programmes so that we are not just left behind. Theoretically and practically South African producers are already forced to play catch up games with international counterparts, a process that is very rarely supported and facilitated. Funding bodies and interested individuals from more fortunate countries have been investing and trying to formulate structures and educational approaches on "connecting" communities and artists to the world wide web, and we are grateful for that, but without any self- sustainable potential in such interventions, we risk becoming a give -me society that does not have the infrastructure to develop its own programmes. In light of the self -motivated activity that needs to take place within the South African context, I have identified a selection of individuals that give their personal point of view of issues important to them as well as profiling interesting developments in the local new media art scene. The focus of this newsletter's content is therefore the subjective responses to a variety of new media activity by practitioners that are part of the local shaping process: In her contribution to the this newsletter Liberated Zones: re:visionary inter- textuality in South Africa, Cape Town based writer Stacey Hardey addresses the online presence of South African content and its relevance in posing resistance to the impositions and structuring process. She highlights the active participation in local change through digital media. Kathryn Smith, artist, freelance curator and critic based in Johannesburg, in her text The Technology of Representing Cultural Translations illustrates some of the complexities of the South African art context that encapsulates both a third and a first world use of technology and its fallible and fetishized digital terrain and communities. In an attempt to develop both practitioners and audiences there have been mass media programmes to address large communities. In the case of recent activities for the 2002 Ars Electronica Festival South African participants were enthusiastically contributing to the Radiotopia project, a sound exchange programme that manifested in sounds from different parts of the world played online, in venues and over the radio airwaves. This project bridged a gap of misunderstanding the use of sound and radio platforms as a way of creatively expressing oneself using technology. James Webb sound artist, writer, lecturer, curator presents a short introduction to Sound Art in South Africa keeping the lack of creative use of sound technology in mind. Understanding that many of the potential new media artists are practicing designers that are experimenting with various electronic languages and communication strategies, this audience needs to be educated and promoted to become more actively involved in entering the international new media art platform. This has happened in the past through a range of symposia and exhibitions that facilitated the relationship of the creative individual to a new medium that requires resource and knowledge. While traditional art competitions are starting to address the inclusion of electronic entries, there are new media specific competitions that have evolved. Deirdre Pretorius, graphic design lecturer and writer, addresses relevant local competitions. Educational institutions in South Africa are also gearing up their facilities to the interest of students and the need of the new media related industries. Over the last few years universities like the University of Cape Town and Technikons such as the Technikon Witwatersrand have been setting up courses and degrees focused on digital and new media. 2003 is the first year for the Digital Media advanced degree program within an arts school context in South Africa. Nathaniel Stern, digital artists and lecturer originally from New York now living in Johannesburg, comments on the new programme. ************************************************** Liberated Zones(1): re:visionary inter-textuality in South Africa by Stacy Hardy ************************************************** Stacy Hardy is a writer based in Cape Town. *** Liberated Zones(1): re:visionary inter-textuality in South Africa The mail arrives in my inbox at 9:35. My mouse reflexes towards the delete button. I pause. The words catch my eyes - "Chimurenga: Cape Town Now! Politics, Music, Culture: An interview with Ntone Edjabe"(2) Cape Town, now? I'm compelled to click, like the millions of computer users who fell into the Lovebug virus' infamous romantic trap; the personal reference has seduced me. Yes, I am in Cape Town now. And I am surprised to find my home city mentioned in an email update from Canadian journal Ctheory.net. Not that I should be surprised. Ctheory, "an international journal of theory, technology, and culture" regularly engages with the digital divide between the technologically enabled "virtual class" and it's "unpluggged" counterparts. It's just that, all too often, comments and analysis from African writers are mentioned as footnotes, as quotes, as references - rarely as headlines. This is a headline. Headlining a full interview with Ntone Edjabe, editor-in- chief of Chimurenga. The book-sized arts.culture.politics magazine, that "provides takes on various eish-ues from 'black secret technology' to Bantu education and Fela Kuti's reading habits, plus poetry, interviews, reviews and visuals by writers and artists at the frontlines", needs very little introduction in Cape Town, South Africa. But to Ctheory's international readership Edjabe describes it like this: "Chimurenga was created as a platform to end the 'noise control' by media monopolies in South Africa."(3) It isn't long before the interview turns away from print. "I am quite interested in the possibilities of new media tools, the ways in which digital resistance such as the blocking of commercial or government websites can begin to factor in bringing about concrete change," says Ctheory. Before the inevitable: "But, are there such initiatives in South Africa at all?"(4) Edjabe's response? "Exchanging revolutionary thought in a tiny circle of net junkies is not my idea of communication," says Edjabe. "We still use the spoken word, not writing, to articulate our struggles," says Edjabe. "Many have suggested 'bringing' the new tech communication -Web and all - to the people like they 'brought civilization' to some of us a few centuries ago," says Edjabe. "In South Africa, the internet is still mostly used to communicate with the 'Other,'" says Edjabe.(5) The words bounce up against the utopian perception of the internet as a "liberated zone" of customised knowledge and demassified engagement and resonate with a low, repetitive clang in an age when the "digital divide" is the topic de rigeur amongst the virtual class. Don't we already have far more accessible mediums for tackling hegemonic power in South Africa? Hasn't South African art and literature historically taken the lead in promoting cultural change? Isn't there something uncomfortably colonial in the desire to "push"(6) the digital resistance into the African cultural landscape? A few months later, the questions are still taunting me. Niggling guiltily at my cyber-self as I log online (to talk to the "other"?). A few random clicks lead me www.chimurenga.co.za. Chimurenga's "free online sibling", "featuring more takes & talks not published in the print issue. mo' fiya: water no get enemy." I stare at my screen. Hit the refresh button, a reflexive digital blink, wondering: have I misunderstood Edjabe's outspoken stance on digital media? "Yes, I've heard quiet a bit about that Ctheory interview, especially my comments around the development of the internet. Here. Now." Edjabe smiles. His lips shooting me an ironic twist, "but let's be realistic. We use computers to publish Chimurenga. We'll use whatever mediums we can get our hands on. We'll use whatever tools are available to us. Because we can. And in many ways, many more people have heard about Chimurenga through the internet." Mo' fiya! More fire. And in the ongoing struggle against the hegemony of narrative the frontline has crept stealthily online. Creating blazing pockets of parallel, counter-narratives that rebel against both the flat-line of print and the hype of hypertextuality; licking away at the shock of the "virtual-visceral banal"(7) and burning holes in the utopia of code-language that dominates literary online production amongst the "virtual class."(8) Surely it's no coincidence that Chimurenga - the name is derived from the spoken word traditions of the music that fuelled the struggle against the white supremacist regime in Zimbabwe(9) - has an online sibling that manifests itself as an interactive space for discussion and comment? A space for diverse voices - speaking on topics that span everything from Indian racism and branding, to African filmmakers' strategies - and bouncing against each other with the unpredictability of street-side interactions. It's also no coincidence that the print version of Chimurenga is built on strategies of direct interaction and reader participation normally reserved for online communities. "The idea is for people to actually go out of their way to find this thing, this Chimurenga," explains Edjabe. "We're so used to things just landing in our laps here. Some NGO buying all the copies, then dropping them on our doorsteps and force feeding us knowledge. The idea here is that we print 1000 copies, and if you're late, you have to go out of your way to find it. There is a contribution, an act of participation involved in obtaining a Chimurenga. Going to get it requires a conscious mental effort." Finding donga.co.za is easier. A click on Chimurenga's links page leads me directly there. But defining exactly what donga is, and why it has become so important in the South African literary and critical landscape is not so easy. A quick glance presents a sparse online journal that relies on stark html to display an array of local voices: poets, critics, prose writers and the in- between and undercover. "I wanted to create an open, white space for the poems, where the poem could look comfortable. I wasn't happy with a lot of the representations of poems I had seen online,"(10) explains Allan Finlay, who - together with Paul Wessels - edits donga. But then: "Donga itself has got something to say, over and above all the submissions, all the parts put together that make up the 'hole'. The submissions we get change and refine that space we call 'donga'. And you can't predict it. But there is some overall tangible feeling, something you can almost hold in your hands. Maybe a donga's a place that collects things. Things we chuck away. Or others chuck away, the other publications."(11) The metaphor is apt. As a child growing up in the rural far-North, dongas ("deep-ridged gulley commons in open veld or near new industrial and residential developments"(12)) were an everyday part of the landscape. They broke the flat, even bushveld and provided hidey-holes, "a good place to go shoot tin cans" and no-go areas where unwanted rubbish collected. And as donga.co.za suggests, and our mothers warned: "dongas are dangerous to people and animals. They undermine houses." And yes, donga.co.za does undermine the fixed walls and halls of the current literary structures and conventions in South Africa. But how? The presentation is simple - no flashy code-work or code-drive flash-work here. No playing link- ity-link or leading the reader on elaborate hypertextual wild-meaning chases. Alan's answer? "I've been thinking about John Cage's 4'33", a nice thought. - it's partly a composition using space only, filled by presumptions and expectations (of the audience), which are entirely subverted. Suddenly the listener stands inside the piece, and finds he/she is part of 'the music'; is in fact, the content. Or their muffled coughs and expectations become the content, and so on. For me the underlying publishing space created by donga is similar. And of course, it's also just about publishing writing. But the internet can be an interesting medium."(13) And the internet in South Africa is fast becoming a interesting medium for new writing. Unlike much international online writing, which remains tangled in a web of hypertext fiction, flash poetry and code-work - which all too often fails to subvert anything but our material habits of literary consumption - the South African writerly web has succeeded in using the technology available without been seduced by it. "The internet has allowed us to reach into a lot more spaces. And for that we give blessings to Bill Gates!" Laughs Edjabe. Adding, "we'll curse him in the print issue and bless him in the internet issue." Rather than obsess over how the medium can challenge the content, South Africa's online journals have focussed on how content can use a medium to create new pockets of resistance, flow, rupture, all seamlessly bound together, all utterly malleable. Paul Wessels, explains it like this: "The trick will be to keep cool calm and collected. Like men in white coats driving an unmarked van, slipping into apartments and with deft precision removing vital organs from unsuspecting television viewers, and before anyone has time to say, 'hey! that's my liver!' we're out the door, organ on ice, engine purring to the next stop."(14) Notes: 1 In Cape Town, the term "liberated zone" has been cut loose from its direct political and revolutionary referents; it's any space that opens the possibilities of engaging in fiery discourse, cultural exchange and more often than not good music. 2 Trebor Scholz, "Chimurenga: Cape Town Now! Politics, Music, Culture," CTHEORY (June, 19, 2002), online: http://www.ctheory.net/text_file.asp?pick=341. 3 Ibid. 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid. 6 See Songok Han Thornton, "Let Them Eat IT: The Myth of the Global Village as an Interactive Utopia," CTHEORY (January, 1, 2002), online: http://www.ctheory.net/text_file.asp?pick=327 7 See John Cayley, "The Code is not the Text," Electronic Book Review (August, 9, 2002) online: http://www.electronicbookreview.com/v3/servlet/ebr?essay_id=cayleyele&command=vi ew_essay 8 See Arthur Kroker and Michael A. Weinstein, Data Trash: The Theory of the Virtual Class: New World Perspectives, CultureTexts Series, 1994. 9 See http://www.chimurenga.co.za 10 Joan Metelerkamp, via email for New Coin, December 2002 issue. 11 Ibid. 12 See http://www.donga.co.za 13 Joan Metelerkamp, via email for New Coin, December 2002 issue. 14 Ibid. ************************************************** The Technology of Representing Cultural Translations by Kathryn Smith ************************************************** This article is an adaptation of two previously published essays: Convergence/Divergence: Voyages into Mutant Technologies published in Published in Ferreira J. (ed.) "sulsouth" (catalogue for exhibition, Mozambique/Johannesburg 2001); and Keepin' it Real, published in "Silent Zones: on globalisation and cultural interaction" by the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten for RAIN Artists' Initiatives Network, Amsterdam. One of three directors of The Trinity Session, Kathryn Smith is an artist, freelance curator and critic based in Johannesburg. She was born in Durban in 1975. *** The Technology of Representing Cultural Translations In developing countries around the world, radical but often invisible changes, are being wrought on communities who are being left behind in the race towards a converged global economy. For the moment, the promised democracy of the world wide web remains a myth, with a small sliver of the total world population managing the hyberbolic pledges of this 'new economy'. With the impending threat of war in Iraq, likewise it's the world super powers that have the agency to 'act on' nations, under the veil of 'acting with' them for the greater good of the world's communities. But this is not a discussion for now. For countries that are predominantly 'third world', the "bigger-better-faster- more" maxim of the post-industrial age is simply not a reality. And despite the obvious abysses between the haves and the have-nots, or those 'plugged in' versus those 'unplugged', when these are contained in separate geographical, national and spatial zones, this is relatively simple to negotiate. Without technology the world is vast. With technology, the world is not enough. But what of countries where first and third world sit (uncomfortably) side by side and the spaces between needing and wanting are so large so as to seem unbridgeable, and at times, incommunicable, palmtops and video-conferencing facilities aside? This kind of situation is endemic to countries like South Africa and others within the Southern African Development Community, and is not unfamiliar to countries in Latin America either. In fact, this is characteristic of most countries still feeling the repercussions of colonial influence. Being an artist and producer firmly entrenched in urban Johannesburg, a city that resembles a snapshot of the entire continent, issues of cultural translation, to borrow a phrase from philosopher Sarat Maharaj, are always focused in the cross-hairs of the social telescope. Implicated in this is the role communication and technology play in the exchange of experiences, information and network contacts among cultural producers and the many publics we need to communicate with in order to survive. In other words, technology is not often something toyed with for its own sake, or used to articulate abstract issues of virtual realities. There's nothing virtual about being here, now, in a city that reeks, bustles, fights against itself and tries to rebuild itself. Rather, technology is relied upon as a fundamental necessity to connect people with people. It seems that science and technology are often unable to cross the space of translation between the quantitative and the qualitative. Are these 'needing' and 'wanting' spaces perhaps strange equivalents of lo-tech (needing) and hi-tech (wanting)? Can we locate an ontology of technology, or rather, put some flesh on the bones of the ontological relationship of bodies and technologies in post-colonial zones? To speak of spatio-temporal convergence in emerging economic zones is putting the GPS system before the abacus. The problem of fundamental intercultural negotiation on a local level is being eclipsed by our desire to be transnational or translocal (take your pick), states of being that are becoming increasingly easier to achieve. How then can these interstitial spaces be articulated, to ease and hopefully clarify the process? >From where I sit, first and third world debates aside, the true potential of digital technologies lies in the shared communities of highly specific interest groups that while creating some sort of convergence (I hesitate to use the definitive term 'globalism'), intensify their own niche zones (divergence). But what interests me above all are the assumptions some make as to the apparent 'cleanness' of the digital medium, and the spaces where its perceived seamlessness is ruptured by the organic and biological. After all, the rhetoric of information technology moves from anthropomorphism (memory) through warfare both biological (viruses and worms) and mythological (Trojan horses). The project of technology that we celebrate and fetishize - and that once seemed invincible (at least in the machine age) - has become analogous with implied threats and fallibility. Colin Richards [1997: 235] has pointed out, the oft-used organic metaphors of 'cultural cross-pollination' and 'cultural osmosis' are not sufficient to deal with the traumas associated with these attempts at translation. These mutations do not obey the laws of nature, but are rather about the work of culture. For an exhibition curated for the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale (1997), he put forward the notion of 'grafting' as an alternative, a metaphor which possesses both surgical and botanical applications, involving edges, boundaries, incisions and contact that may or may not be regenerative or reparative. As such, it is about aesthetic contamination, "the sometimes violent aesthetic of the imperfect fit, the parasitic in the symbiotic" [1997: 235]. It is most successful even in its failure, reminding us "how things can be made to turn out differently". In technological terms, this point of contact between the digital and the analogue, if you will, gives rise to particular forms of mutation. In a heated debate centring on representational politics and involving two prominent art world figures (Okwui Enwezor and Olu Oguibe) pitted themselves against a group of South Africa (female) artists, in particular Candice Breitz and Minnette Vari. The assumptions Enwezor and Oguibe make as to how these artists use technologies of reproduction to critique racially and gender-coded cultural representations are interesting in their short-sightedness. In response to her 'Playboy' series, which collages fragments of glamour models with those of African women in traditional dress (both representations legitimate a particular kind of objectifying gaze), Enwezor slates Breitz for what amounts to, in his understanding, gross mutilation and maiming of African women's bodies. Assuming the images were computer generated (they were 'hand made' and rephotographed), he accuses her of "a discursive absurdity" at the site of representation. Descriptive terms like "spliced" and "scanned" sit alongside "cut", "ripped" and "collaged". In his incorrect assumptions, the absurdity is Enwezor's, but the collision of digital and 'analogue' rhetoric is very interesting. Breitz has been similarly criticised by Olu Oguibe  that her work is an art, not a critique, of hatred and violence. Fellow South African artist Minnette Vari has been equally slammed by Oguibe  for work that critiques the representation of traditional cultural villages (where Africans parade in traditional garb for tourists). Vari superimposed her features over a young Zulu woman in a tourist postcard and reinserted the 'new' postcards into the retail rack, wondering if anyone actually looks closely enough at these representations of 'culture' to notice. Far from seeing the irony not only of the work's provenance but also of its intelligence, Oguibe describes Vari's strategy, which in this case was digitally rendered, in terms of imposition, decapitation, seizure, erasure and even cannibalism. In Enwezor's abovementioned essay, he cites a 1995 text by Oguibe: "the introduction of digitalisation in our time has sanitised erasure and transformed it into a messless act, and the object of the obliterative act now disappears together with the evidence of its own excision, making erasure an act without a trace." [1999: 381] How can this "act without a trace" account for the violent rhetoric used to describe its affect in the work discussed above? Picking up on the implied connections between erasure and censorship, both in gendered and historical (racialised) terms, Breitz strategically employed photomontage to "hold onto visible ruptures and seams". She says: " the act of erasure always leaves a trace?The gap or scar left where the erasure was always reminds us that something was there." [in Richards 1999: 176] Collage, which Enwezor ironically heralds as a unparalled visual metaphor for hybridity, is a visual device often associated with art of poor means ('struggle' or 'township' art in South Africa, for example). I would argue, however, that the digital not only archives these changes in a way that collage cannot, but that this very 'hidden elision' is more of an appropriate metaphor for contemporary manifestations of cross-cultural representation. If collages are the 'true' cut edge, and the final products a keloid scar of history, how do we account for our abilities to 'check our histories' through our archive folders of our web browsers or graphics applications, thus creating an ever- present and infinite document. Are our hands really 'free' in FreeHand? The mutant technology that is digital media has as much to do with 'dermal politics' as its analogue counterparts (and the rhetoric used to describe them). The apparent latency of these shifts would appear to render these products 'seamless'. If we assume that these edges are indeed visually 'invisible', Richards [1999: 176] suggests that "there seems to be an unexamined visual/tactile dichotomy operating here? in which opticality appears to subsume tactility." Incisions and scarring irrefutably exist, but are veiled. The space between the cut edges of a 'graft', to which I have added the digital hybrid, is symbolically dense, as space and spatiality have come to dominate our understanding of visual culture as well as our interaction across geographical borders. References: Enwezor, O. "Reframing the Black Subject: Ideology and Fantasy in Contemporary South African Representation" in Oguibe, O. and Enwezor, O. [eds.]  Reading the Contemporary: African Art From Theory to the Marketplace. INIVA: London, pp 377 - 399. Fanon, F.  The Wretched of the Earth. Penguin Books: UK. Oguibe, O. "Beyond Visual Pleasure: A Brief Reflection on the Work of Contemporary African Women Artists." Unabridged version ) Oguibe 1997. Original published in Hassan, S. [ed.]  Gendered Visions: Five Africana Women Artists. Africa World Press. Richards, C. 'Graft' in Enwezor, O. [ed.]  Trade Routes: History and Geography. Catalogue for 2nd Johannesburg Biennale. Prince Claus Fund and Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Council. Richards, C. 'Bobbit's Feast: Violence and Representation in South African Art' in Atkinson, B. and Breitz, C. [eds.]  Grey Areas: Representation, Identity and Politics in Contempoary South African Art. Chalkham Hill Press: Johannesburg. pp 165 - 209. ************************************************** Sound Art South Africa by James Webb ************************************************** James Webb is a Cape Town-based sound artist, writer, lecturer and curator. Webb's work has been exhibited in South Africa and abroad on a number of group shows. James Webb was a recipient for an Absa Atelier Merit Award in August 2002. His debut solo show, "Phonosynthesizer," a three room sound environment, was held in a deconsecrated Lutheran Church. In 2001 he exhibited "thesexworks," a nationwide telephonic and online public sound installation that was met with critical acclaim. Webb contributed to Holger Czukay's "Linear City" album in 2001 and has attended master classes given by Brian Eno. In September 2002, he exhibited on Radiotopia and took part in Search at Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria. He is also a multi-media writer, conceptualist and journalist. James Webb's work is represented in the South African National Gallery and numerous private collections. *** Sound Art South Africa A general introduction to focus myself. Although there are many artists using sound in their practises and many musicians turning towards art contexts to execute their work, Sound Art is still a relatively small medium in South Africa. A sound installation, by which I mean a work that has been created in response to a space and that uses sound as its primary medium for conceptual delivery, is a sight (and sound) that is quite foreign in our country. Local galleries (and in some circumstances artists and audiences) are still grappling hard enough with most new media art, that it is a stroke of good fortune to encounter a sound artwork inside their hallowed halls. This isn't always a bad thing, and there are, of course, some exceptions? Some sex to get us going. Topless. Breasts bound in masking tape, with jeans unzipped just enough to expose a tantalising tuft of pubic hair; a poster exposes the cropped, fleshy delight of a female figure. The name "Belinda" is branded next to her with a phone number. The number links to an answering machine in the Museum Africa where gallery patrons are privy to the live hiss and crackle of sweaty voices imploring Belinda to meet them; suck them and f..k them. Belinda Blignaut's "Poster" (1995) work had some serious repercussions. Sound art had entered the gallery. What about the people? Technology is a hurdle for many South African artists. One clever way of exploring the city's sound nerve net without the need of heavy technology was highlighted by Jane Rademeyer's "Sound Chain" (2000). People going about their daily chores in the centre of Cape Town started to wonder what was going on as a musical pattern emerged out of the unlikely succession of sounds in their environment. The familiar Noon Day Gun blasted, followed by a sounding of ship horns from the docks, echoed in the hooting of cars and then pursued by the urgent cry of a Fire Engine's alarm. The city was being mapped out in a 3D sound piece that was all around the incidental audience. It was relevant, exciting and accessible. Best of all it was public. How can we afford all the latest sound programs? When a tool becomes an idea - then, very often that idea is nothing more than a gimmick. The same is true in this situation - not every one has access to fancy recording stations, microphones and other props in the international sound artist's arsenal. Sure, with the growing influence of the web more and more computer software is being made available. What about the people that don't have computers? What do they do? Like all good Africans, they make a plan. Examples of this ethic can be found in the work of The Odd Enjinears, a troupe of performers and sound artists who make site-specific sound sculptures in extraordinary locations. Their answer to the expensive and inaccessible nature of technology is to use everyday, throwaway stuff and create the magical out of the mundane. Theirs are traffic cones tuned with piping to make deep, burping trumpets; piano wire suspended from the ceiling and rubbed with thumb and forefinger to tease out hauntingly beautiful drones. One leaves their performances feeling threatened and empowered by the sheer possibility of objects. Let's wrap it up The medium is still in its infancy. Curiosity has set in and more and more people are wanting to play with sound and experience artistic communication through this universal medium. The lack of excessive international influence is birthing some exciting results. These results are often not seen for the gems that they are by local galleries, forcing the artist to take them elsewhere - putting the exciting result to good use by placing it in new spaces for new audiences to enjoy. Our limitations are proving to be our biggest asset. ************************************************** New Media New Competitions by Deirdre Pretorius ************************************************** Deirdre Pretorius lectures Graphic Design at Vega the Brand Communications School in Johannesburg. She graduated with a BA (Fine Art) degree from Potchefstroom University in 1992, majoring in Painting and Graphic Design. A Higher Education Diploma in 1993 and an Honours degree in Art History in 1994 followed this. On completing her studies she started a career in teaching. Throughout her teaching career she has been responsible for a wide range of teaching in the visual communications field, often being required to cross between technical training in traditional and new media, to design history and theory. She is currently enrolled in the MA (Information Design) programme at the University of Pretoria. This article is an adapted version of an article published in the Enjin Magazine (http://www.enjin.co.za/) *** New Media New Competitions Competitions and award ceremonies play a significant role in the South African advertising and design arena. Competitions offer the opportunity for individuals and agencies to showcase their work, offer benchmarks against which industry can measure itself, and create a platform for discussion, exchange and experimentation. This in turn has the potential to accelerate development in the industries in which they function. One of the oldest advertising competitions in South Africa, the Loerie Awards, has been around since 1978 and operates today with the main objective of encouraging creative advertising. Digital interactive media, one of the many media categories of the Loerie Awards, was introduced in the nineties in response to the explosive growth of new media. Although the Loeries created one of the first platforms in which new media works created in South Africa are given recognition, a more comprehensive forum was still needed. The last couple of years have seen the emergence of two new competitions in South Africa aimed at new media professionals and students that attempt to fill this gap. The Construction New Media Awards (www.constructionaward.com) and New Channel (www.newchannel.co.za) both take place in February of this year, offer tempting rewards, and avoid overlapping too much by differing in their focus. While the Construction New Media Awards considers real world projects, New Channel strives to offer an outlet to digital designers and artists to exhibit work free from commercial constraints. Therefore, work is only eligible for entry into New Channel if it was not produced for commercial gain or exhibited before. Now in its third year, the Construction New Media Awards takes place in Cape Town, in association with the 6th Design Indaba (www.designindaba.com). Described by its organizers as the "premier new media award in the country" the competition encourages entry by offering the Grand Prix winner an overseas trip, with this year's winner heading off to London. Boasting an impressive panel of international judges, entrants can look forward to having their work evaluated by the likes of UK based Tom Roope, Malcolm Garrett, Simon Sankarayya and Lewis Blackwell. This year the awards will allow international entries for the very first time. This is an exciting prospect for South African new media artists, as it allows them the opportunity to measure themselves against international standards on home ground. New Channel 2002-3 pegs itself as "mostly competition, but part exhibition, and an all round electronic interactive experience". Coordinated by Digerati, the digital company of the South African advertising agency TBWA, New Channel takes place at Vega the Brand Communications School in Johannesburg (www.vegaschool.com). New Channel emphasizes the new, unexpected and untested aspect of electronic and digital media, aligning itself with the digital art scene as witnessed internationally in major galleries and Biennales. Importantly, New Channel wants to explore the digital age as a valuable part of a typical modern human experience and not as something intimidating and alienating. The Construction New Media Awards and New Channel offer welcome platforms for the showcasing and development of new media talent in South Africa. We will do well to watch both of these competitions closely, as this is where we may get a glimpse of what the future will look like for new media in South Africa. ************************************************** New Media in New South Africa by Nathaniel Stern ************************************************** Nathaniel Stern ( http://nathanielstern.com ) is an internationally exhibited digital/video/animation/installation artist and performance poet. Pieces from his "non-aggressive narrative" have been exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, Ireland, Bristol, Bangkok, Sydney, Johannesburg and Cape Town. nathaniel's collaborative physical theatre work has won three FNB Vita Awards, and has been featured at the Grahamstown Festival and the Dance Umbrella (SA). His poetry repertoire includes the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, CBGBs and the US National Poetry Slam competition, 2002. This article was featured in http://rhizome.org *** New Media in the New South Africa Mid-February of this year will see the launch of the first Digital Media advanced degree program within an arts school context in South Africa. The new division within Witwatersrand University's School of Arts (WSOA) will offer concentrations in either 3D Animation or Interactive Media Design for students working towards a Masters in Fine Arts or Dramatic Arts. Professor Christo Doherty, Head of Digital Media at Wits, designed the program in close consultation with South African new media practitioners from both fine arts and commercial fields. "The structure of the course is a response to the existing areas of interest amongst students in the Wits School of Arts and examples of successful courses in the USA and Europe," says Doherty. His hope is to "teach professional application skills and develop an historically informed and analytical understanding of interactive media as both an aesthetic and commercial form of communication." He plans to do this by engaging with work around the politics and aesthetics of The Digital Object, a la Lev Manovich and Peter Lunenfeld, but to also "test these concepts against the 3rd World context [they] are operating in." Doherty says that, in many ways, the new program at the University of the Witwatersrand is modeled on programs such as the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP - Tisch School of the Arts, New York University), and Digital Arts at UCLA, in that it stresses creativity and experiment, and is pulling students and lecturers from many varied disciplines. "While it's certainly a small/new program, it's coming into an environment that's already very dynamic and interdisciplinary in nature. Wits School of the Arts students have access to critical debate and working professionals across a wide range of specializations," says Nicole Ridgway, an anthropologist who will be contributing to the program. Although there are several two-year certificate programs already available in SA, this course is "also interested in discourse and social interactions - there's a public intellectual aspect to it," she added. The most outstanding difference in the new program, to its international predecessors, is its non-traditional course structure. The two core courses (split into production and history/theory) have short 1-2 week topical segments taught by various academic specialists, professional media designers and practicing artists. These are the same professionals that helped to design the course, and students will also have a chance to see them in action in their work environment. Wits has a superb, Johannesburg-based list of external lecturers from, and internship possibilities at, some heavy-hitting Digital Media companies. To name a few, Interactive Design Studios such as Delapse and LearningThings; Animation Studios like Depth, Luma, Triggerfish and Sphere; Art/Theatre Collaboratives such as The Trinity Session and the Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative; and independent artists & performers, including Clive Van den Berg, Penni Siopis, Marcus Neustetter and Andrew Buckland. Doherty is also hoping to bring foreign insight to the program, wherever possible, by invitation. I, myself (an ITP alumnus), have agreed to take on a handful of lectures; he's also looking into short residencies, guest lectures and small shows in the Wits Digital Media Gallery. "Not many places in the world, much less South Africa, offer an opportunity for student filmmakers or interactive artists to work with professional dance companies, or 3D animators to work with award-winning actor/playwrights," Ridgway added. Philip Boltt, a professional 3D animator in Johannesburg, will be working with students on an animated adaptation of Feedback, an award-winning script by South African playwright and actor Andrew Buckland. He believes that South Africans can pick up technology very quickly, given exposure, and relayed a story to me about an internet-ready machine that was quickly "figured out" by local kids in a community hall in the rural Eastern Cape. Boltt said, "What I'd really like to see coming out of the Feedback project is an increased public confidence in taking on technologically-based programs that we would otherwise have regarded as the domain of more developed countries. What is required is an adaptation of mindset to the peculiarities of our local environment, and a desire to find ways to overcome any shortfalls that one may encounter.... The effect of the project will be felt as a shift, however small, by South Africans from being passive technology users, to pro-active developers." From my personal experience in South Africa thus far, the constraints Boltt refers to force many artists, designers and developers to think harder about both conceptual framework/content, and lo-tech solutions to big problems. Adam Harris, who will teach digital effects and their place in the animation production pipeline, also plans to spend a good deal of time speaking to the "concept of creating a new market, and applying what [South Africans already] know into the business of digital media." He sees the new program as a "unified attempt to establish a talented market pool, and a stronger industry.... If we can do this, the program may have a great effect in reducing the disparities" still very present in South Africa. Boltt similarly expressed that "the training of black and female [media producers] should be a priority." Wits University as a whole has various programs and policies in place that both address and redress the legacies of apartheid. The Digital Media program will see students from many socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, from several African countries. Laine Kiflezion will be coming to SA from Eritrea to study Interactive Media Design at Wits and is very excited to help "increase the number of artists engaged in the field, and develop a diversified creative output to the digital market." "However," Boltt added, "the basic problems of access to technology, and education funding, still exist. No matter how well the course is structured to embrace equality, it will still depend on continued government and private industry funding, in the form of bursaries and sponsorship of resources, to maximize these goals. Without these, the fees will be too high for many, and there will be too few workstations to train on." There are a lot of resources going towards bridging the Digital Divide in South Africa, but they are mostly geared towards entrepreneurship. Wits is looking for support in places ranging from small, local design firms to the government, the Mark Shuttleworth foundation and big, international companies. Obviously, there is going to have to be a lot of cross-subsidy within the program. Doherty has "garnered a lot of support from industry because of its commercial applications, but is committed to having both [artistic and commercial] aspects present" in the program. Harris added that if graduates "produce their own work, and attract foreign investment, they can truly grow [a South African] media/entertainment industry," which will eventually be self-funding, and committed to WSOA's goals - academic, artistic and commercial. The Digital Media division9s new labs, due to be complete just days before the program starts, are located in a renovated convent on Wits' Braamfontein campus, next to the main School of Arts building, and just minutes from downtown Jo-burg - "not just the continent's media powerhouse, but also the only city of world stature in Africa," says Doherty. A very ambitious program with great potential, I expect good things to come from it very soon. Perhaps we'll be seeing some more African faces on Rhizome in the near future.... For more information, contact Christo Doherty firstname.lastname@example.org ************************************************** This edition of the ISEA Newsletter was compiled and edited by: Marcus Neustetter email@example.com +2782 929 1569 +27 11 3392785 Johannesburg South Africa With the assistance of The Trinity Session Marcus Neustetter has been conducting research and developing projects in the field of new media art. His interests have been as artist, producing and exhibiting a range of creative projects both for the corporate and cultural environment, as researcher, completing his Masters Degree in Fine Arts focusing on new media art specifically within South Africa, and as facilitator and curator for exhibitions and conferences. He has also been involved in co- ordinating and participating in international online projects, workshops and residencies aiming to develop the South African relationship of business, technology and art. As joint director of The Trinity Session, an independent contemporary art production team, Marcus Neustetter is actively involved in developing cultural business strategies through a range of projects. The Trinity Session is an independent contemporary art production team practising in public art projects, project initiation and production, curating, researching and critical writing. Specialized interest areas include urban development and criticism, technology, pathology and the body, electronic art and online culture. The Trinity Session runs a project room/ gallery space, The | PREMISES, in Johannesburg. Recent projects include research on the visual arts and crafts industries in the SADC region for the International Labour Office, SafeFood for the Turin Biennale, mobile office residencies such as Transmediale.03 Mobile Office, SEARCH for the Ars Electronica Festival and creative inner city development projects. Current developments include sanman (Southern African New Media Art Network), a resource that promotes new media art and technology amongst audiences and artists in South Africa and networks companies, institutions and individuals that share similar interest in this field. Directors: Stephen Hobbs, Kathryn Smith, Marcus Neustetter www.onair.co.za ************************************************** ISEA Newsletter Contributors: Marcus Neustetter, Stacy Hardy, Kathryn Smith, James Webb, Deirdre Pretorius, Nathaniel Stern and Angela Plohman ISEA Board Members: Peter Anders, Chris Csikszentmihalyi, Nina Czegledy, Gunalan Nadarajan, Anne Nigten, Julianne Pierce, Wim van der Plas, Cynthia Beth Rubin, Mark Tribe. ISEA HQ: Angela Plohman ISEA LISTSERV: To subscribe, send a message to: Majordomo@pd.org - no subject heading, with this message in the body: subscribe isea-forum ISEA, Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts Pieter de Hoochstraat 38-2 1071 EG Amsterdam, The Netherlands Phone: +31 20 6120297 Fax: +31 20 6182359 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.isea-web.org ============================================end of newsletter
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