The “Dada” exhibition opened in June at the Museum of Modern Art in New York with more than 400 objects in every medium existing at the beginning of the 20th Century. It was truly an international, cultural movement with artists organizing demonstrations, performances and publishing art and literary journals. The Dadaists’ revolt against the traditional aesthetics and culture forever changed Western cultural landscape and galvanized the new movements including Surrealism and Pop Art.
Is it All Quiet on the Cyber Front? – Anna Frants and Elena Sokol
The “Dada” exhibition opened in June at the Museum of Modern Art in New York with more than 400 objects in every medium existing at the beginning of the 20th Century. It was truly an international, cultural movement with artists organizing demonstrations, performances and publishing art and literary journals. The Dadaists’ revolt against the traditional aesthetics and culture forever changed Western cultural landscape and galvanized the new movements including Surrealism and Pop Art. Ninety years have passed since the first gathering in the Cabaret Voltaire during which the artists, in Marcel Janco words, “began by shocking common sense, public opinion, education, institutions, museums, good taste, in short, the whole prevailing order.”
Different art movements came to life since then which have received much public attention or stirred controversy. But nothing came close to Dada in the real world or on the web. Why have the advances in technology and communications in the past few decades not fostered a new art movement rebelling against cultural and intellectual conformity at the turn of the 20th century? The past decade is characterized by the major wars in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The uncontrolled economic growth threatens the global environment. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening at an accelerating pace. In the age of the information superhighway, are there cyberartists challenging the prevailing order and breaking the cultural and social taboos? Undoubtedly, there are.
The project by Brazilian artists Aloice Cristina Caetano, Cecila Noriko ito Saito and Martha C. Cruz Gabriel (www.nowaroneworld.com.br) chooses the format of the video game to create collages from quotes about peace, which appear every time one of the toy solders makes a move. Cory Arcangel, named by New York magazine the Best Emerging Artist for 2005, created a number of projects such as Mig-29 fighter and clouds, Kurt Cobain’s Suicide Letter vs. Google AdSence, and Don’t Touch My Computer Home Users Guide with similar to Dada sensibilities set in contemporary themes and technologies (www.beigerecords.com/cory). One can draw a parallel between Duchamp’s Fountain and the homemade animation Bomb Iraq, which Arcangel salvaged from a found computer at the Salvation Army store in Buffalo and displayed at Pace Wildenstein gallery.
As in the Dadaist’s times, internet artists can come under public fire for opening up a Pandora’s Box of social taboos. In 2002, J.C.C.S., the designer of the Spanish public domain computer game Slaughter Cofrade was “formally accused by the Cristo del Gran Poder of violating section 525 of the penal code, which forbids any sort of ‘attack’ on religious dogma, beliefs, or ceremonies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech_versus_blasphemy ).” Other subjects, such as sex and prostitution, probably lost some notoriety and became more acceptable as a focus of the art projects. The Aphrodite shoes is a high-tech platform version of the prostitutes’ sandals from the times of antiquity, which would leave footprints with "Follow Me" signs. The contemporary version includes a built-in GPS receiver and emergency button. Shoes also are able to transmit their location via APRS (Automatic Position Reporting System) (www.theaphroditeproject.tv). The Platforms panel discussion, which included both artists and university faculty, was able to elevate the project to a dignified academic level by touching on a number of big topics at the intersection of art, sex work, design and technology.
These are just a few examples of the novel and innovative projects fueled by creative power of the new media artists. There are thousands of them around the world, which is far more technologically complex and information-overloaded compared to the times of Tzar and his friends at the Cabaret Voltaire. As New York magazine said in 2005, “The revolution in digital and internet technologies hasn’t had a major impact on art yet, but the geeks are hard at work.” The power of this impact will depend on the synergy between the original ideas, innovative implementations and creative ways to present and disseminate cyberarts. The success of contemporary digital artists promises the rise of new cyberart movements, which will, undoubtedly, produce the impact similar or even greater than Dadaism almost a century ago.