Let's talk about aesthetics. In many contemporary cultural circles, beauty is subordinated by grand statements, elaborate concepts, social context, critical theory or technological functionality. We think it might be time to reacquaint ourselves with it. Collective, digital, disembodied or embodied, abstract or figurative, connected or disconnected, what do digital artists consider beautiful? Do we even remember how to talk about it?


Moderators: Maja Kuzmanovic (FoAM) and Michael Samyn (Tale of Tales)

Participants and their thoughts:

Guy van Belle aka Givan Bela

the will to connect (against save as…) 20040620 At some point it will become necessary to formulate a poetics of how a new connected art can be realized. Also, it is needed to describe along which lines it can evolve. So here we begin: for uncertainty and vagueness to allow multiplicity and openness. Against the narrative figurative and for the experimental abstract. Not for an audience but for the involved participants in the aesthetical action. From the simplicity of one algorithm put into a network topology, to the complexity that develops over time again into simplicity. Back and forth. And back again. No reductionism. With the technical as its sole subject against the forced representation within a familiar theme or a consistent content. Away with the format and do concentrate more on the relation between objects. No random no sequencing no sampling no noise. For the construction of a machinic perception, through analysis that leads to realtime synthesis. The output alters the input again and again. Loops have at each turn a different length. Time is not to be chopped up in recognizable units. Each logical construction is to become a lyrical expression but does not fit an historical representation. No imitation but originality and uniqueness on all levels. Individualism can only be allowed if it reinforces the collective and collaborative expressivity. The individual does not exist in seclusion. So, against sedimentation and stability and for mobility in thinking, communicating and creating. Why don't we forget where we were born and where we were raised and do never sing in your mother tongue. No pure art. No functional art. No need for signs, rhetorics, the grammar they taught you to use: they were mere slogans made for blinding and stuffing our ears. Against all unconnected objects. For active and open spaces. For a self-directed art. For a self-organizing art. For Kropotkin's mutual aid. For Tony Conrad's rapture. For the formulation of a poetics as a political act. It will change the way we look, hear and feel. It will change the way we use our existing cultural artefacts and why we are making new things. It will change everyone's aesthetics. Support reality TV soaps and series, it is the first step in making former media neutral and later on obsolete. Promote the appropriation of digital media by the masses. It will prepare a society for the great abstract and experimental leap forwards. Into a connected art. No further references to the existing and to the past. That is too easy. A new aesthetics for a society that does not need us yet. For a society that does not exist yet. Make a new temporary commissariat of enlightenment and repopulate it every day. Against save as…

Auriea Harvey

Somewhere in the modern era a definition of beauty was lost. Especially in new media art, artists associate beauty with the creation of simple visual “prettiness†. As if aesthetics are something shallow which should not be part of the equation when designing technological systems. In the meantime offline art has become simplified to commodity, decoration and private possession while audiences are left to the mercy of a poorly designed pop culture. My standpoint is that beauty is a language that communicates to entire cultures and should be shared with the masses. In my small case, it is shared with networked communities. I look into past eras for a lost history of beauty. One which is deeper than the surface of what one can see. As a creator of 3D interactive environments I feel there is an opportunity to connect to artistic traditions of storytelling and craft through design. In virtual environments filled with non-verbal and multi-sensory narratives, design is about architecting the experience of interaction for the audience. This requires considering the entire aesthetic illusion. It is most important to ensure that the confrontation between audience and virtual world communicates the intended message but also allows imaginations to run wild. Beauty of the totality of the world an interactor experiences, concentrating on the big world and not just individual elements and not stopping at a pretty picture is essential to achieving these goals.

Auriea's biography

Auriea graduated as a sculptress in 1989. In 1996 she began her life online with her website Entropy8.com which became well known in the early days of online art and design for its intricate graphics and experimental design. She worked independently in New York City, earning accolades for her design work which was primarily for music industry clients such as Virgin Records and MTV. But still, it was her personal website which gained her the most attention and gave the most satisfaction to her. She decided to focus more on the artistic side of the web, as she saw much potential there. In 1999, she met Zuper.com's Michael Samyn with whom she merged into Entropy8Zuper! Together they created both commercial websites for corporate clients, and very personal online artworks, like Skinonskinonskin and the Godlove Museum. They were happy doing this, but still felt the limitations of web technology as being too constraining for the projects they had in their hearts and minds. And then, quite suddenly, Auriea's attention shifted away from the web towards games technology. Tale of Tales was founded in 2002 with the purpose of exploring the artistic potential of realtime 3D. The first project was a game called 8, about a young girl trapped in a sleeping palace. Next was The Endless Forest, a multiplayer online game where every participant plays a deer. Currently, Auriea is art directing and designing the characters and environments for “144†a horror game which has a narrative inspired by the fairy tale, Little Red Ridinghood.

http://tale-of-tales.com http://entropy8zuper.org http://entropy8.com http://zuper.com


… or jodi.org is a collective of two internet artists: Joan Heemskerk (the Netherlands) and Dirk Paesmans (Belgium). Their background is in photography and video art; since the mid-1990s they started to create original artworks for the World Wide Web. A few years later, they also turned to software art and artistic computer game modification. Since 2002, they have been in what has been called their “Screen Grab” period, making video works by recording the computer monitor's output while working, playing video games, or coding.

To those that aren't in on their conceptual jokes, Jodi's works seem inaccessible and impenetrable, appearing to make the user's computer run amok. For example, their 1995 work http://wwwwwwwww.jodi.org/ appears at first glance to consist of meaningless text, until a glance at the HTML source code reveals a detailed diagram of a hydrogen bomb. Their work challenged expectations of the behavior of the computer, created humor from the misery of the glitch and the virus, reanimated obsolete technologies, and satirized the ocean of opinion and convention that governs the practice of interface design.

In more recent works, they modified old video games such as Wolfenstein 3D, Quake, and Jet Set Willy. Jodi's approach to game modification is comparable in many ways to Deconstructivism in architecture, because they would disassemble the game to its basic parts, and reassemble it in ways that do not make intuitive sense. One of their more well-known modifications of Quake places the player inside a closed cube with swirling black-and-white patterns on each side. The pattern is the result of a glitch in the game engine discovered by the artists, presumably, through trial and error; it is generated live as the Quake engine tries, and fails, to visualize the interior of a cube with black-and-white checked wallpaper.

Jodi's “Screen Grab” period began with the four-screen video installation “My%Desktop” (2002), which premiered at Eyebeam Atelier in New York. The piece appeared to depict mammoth Macintosh OS 9 computers running amok: opening windows cascaded across the screen, error messages squawked, and files replicated themselves endlessly. But this was not a computer gone haywire, but a computer user gone haywire. To make this video, Jodi simply pointed-and-clicked, dragged-and-dropped so frantically, it seemed that no human could be in control of such chaos. As graphics exploded across the screen, the viewer gradually realized that what had initially appeared to be a computer glitch was really the work of an irrational, playful, or crazed human.

Jodi's work has been included in many international exhibitions and festivals, including documenta X in 1997. They received a Webby Award in the Arts category in 1999; as their mandatory four-word acceptance speech, they exclaimed “Ugly sons of bitches!”.

Lawrence Malstaf

The human body takes a central place in your work. How do you feel about the “escape to virtuality” of so many other technology-inspired artists? However virtual the project , there are always physical parameters that color the experience of the visitor: is it cold in the room, is it dark or bright, is the air ionized or conditioned: In short we underestimate the weather (natural and artificial weather) when talking about the virtual. The virtual and real are not so separated.

What do you find interesting about confronting human spectators with technology in such a physical way? Technology is part of our daily life and I'm interested in the side effects that affect us all but often in an unconscious way (air pressure, vibration, noise pollution, but also its beauty…). Sometimes I call my installations training devices to learn to deal with our industrialized environments, train our senses, concentration skills, to find peace…

Do you feel that your work refers to certain narratives somehow? Where is the beauty in your work? Do you consider yourself (part) designer, (part) engineer? How do you feel about the pre-modern desire to create uplifting art, art that makes the spectator feel good about being human? Beauty and optimism have somehow become unpopular maybe because they pretended to hold the answers. The postmodern artist is mainly asking questions and focuses on the big problems. Personally I m very much looking for beauty , not in a pretentious modernist way but more on an energetic level beyond the human drama. The magical way that energy travels through a system and animates it, makes a balance, brings it to life . The magic of physical laws (conservation of energy), the ‘optimism' of a solar panel, the cycles of climate changes. Humanity is a the last snapshot of a very long and fascinating movie. We are only visitors, lets observe and behave well). Its through that the technology fair of Hannover was the most interesting exhibition I saw this year. Designers and engineers are often very creative and politically or environmentally motivated people. In practice my projects start with an artistic or conceptual phase then an engineering phase: how to materialize it, and then a design phase: how to make it presentable, comfortable, readable

Lawrence's biography

Lawrence Malstaf was born in Brugge in 1972, studied industrial design At the Henri Van De Velde Institute in Antwerp. After his studies he started designing props and scenografies, later on installations on the border between visual arts and theatre. Inspired by his work with choreographers on one hand and industrial environments on the other hand, his works are mostly dealing with movement and offer a strong interaction with the visitors. Malstaf creates often spaces and environments that can be experienced individually according to ones own personal choices and rhythm. The sensorial experience is often more important than the external aesthetics. “Being in the middle†is a key notion in Malstaf’s works, the audience often becomes an essential physical part of the installation.

* Notes from the panel on 20060524

Auriea Harvey

  • Aesthetics of New Media is often very shallow
  • beauty is language * it requires storytelling and craft
  • in new media, we're dealing with aesthetics of illusion
  • in interactive media, beauty arises from the confrontation between the viewer and the image
  • new media aesthetics aims for 'total experience' * bodies are intertwined with the work
  • emotional response is needed for something to be considered beautiful
  • it has to touch that space inside your head…
  • beauty implies elevation, transcendence of the material

–> a question for new media artists - does the materiality of the object matter?

Guy Van Belle

Adorno - perception of visual work is always active; perception of musical work is more collaborative

  • Language has meaning, while materials do not; sound is something in between, hence music always stays abstract
  • ritual (one interpretation) ←→ composition –> network (many interpretations)

–> aesthetics of border crossings


  • why is there nothing to say
  • we should minimise and erase more
  • our aesthetics emerges from our work always being against something

–> which is sometimes even described as mystical

Lawrence Malstaf

  • virtual is always influenced by the physical
  • weather influences our realities, both natural and artificial weather
  • side-effects of events unconsciously affect us
  • beauty and optimism are highly unpopular because they might have answers
  • energetic beauty
  • beyond human drama
  • how do we combine industrial and natural?
  • magic of physical laws
  • optimism of a solar panel

  • on_beauty.txt
  • Last modified: 2007-06-13 09:40
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