Pygoya's India Show Statement

 

 

Calcutta, home for over ten million people, welcomes the new millenium with its first digital art exhibition.
If media adequately succeeds in bringing this historic art event to the public attention, the exhibit space should
be packed every day and be a mad house during the opening reception.  For here lies a quickly passing moment
(exhibition duration is only 6 days) to catch a glimpse at where art is going in the next century. 

I find it significant that for this exhibit, work was curated from around the World Wide Web of the Internet.
Although the stars of the show are the digital imagery, make no mistake in realizing that this exhibit is a
direct result of the arrival of the Internet.  Now art like never seen before in this grand city, steeped with
centuries of its own rich cultural history, makes its debut in the public eye.   Just as the Internet is changing life
as we have known it for generations, this exhibition has the potential to radically alter the nature of Indian
art moving forward after these last fading days of the 20th century.  Major cultural climatic forces are stirring in
powerful  virtual winds that whip around the planet.  The art exhibited here, originating from countries scattered
around the globe, is testimony to the transformation of art as we know it, describe it,   and experience it.

Think about it.  Here are images that are guaranteed to be having been worth making the effort to come
to the gallery to see.  All are visually pleasant and of high quality, no matter what art tool was used to create them.
The diversity of a global range of works adds to the richness of  local visual experience.  But what is also different
here from any other exhibition installed prior to this one in Calcutta?

The artists never saw the printed images of their original work! All electronic images were inked on paper through
the conduit of a single computer printer.  All  printing was done in India to save on costs and confounding logistics.
Singular printing by a third party necessitated sufficient confidence by all the artists that the prints would
approximate enough the electronic imagery they created, thereby remain true to their feelings and aesthetic
statements that are embedded in their digital work.

A computer monitor with an automated "slide show" of the works could have been the modality of exhi-
biting.  But as a first Indian experience, looking at digital imagery is revolutionary enough as it is.  Also peering into
a box that resembles a television isn't as enticing to get people into the gallery.  And heaven forbid if there is an
electrical outage!  We have a well dressed group of dignitaries at a gallery reception without any art!  But most
importantly the selection of ceremonial print, mat and framing, labeling, cataloging and documenting, do succeed
in elevating the appreciation of such reproductions of original electronic imagery as works of art.   Works dressed
up as such, spotlighted in traditional gallery space, and discussed in the company of the society's elite, add up to
a contextual aesthetic experience that cannot be matched by looking at the originals on the lowly PC monitor.

Taking the opportunity to be framed and exhibited in a "brick and mortar" formal art world setting furthers the
cause of gaining social recognition as actual works of art, even if so derived with a machine.  But I  personally
believe such handling of digital  art results in paying  a price. My own printed work can never capture the same
emotional punch as the image I created with electronic light.  Computer artists have had to deal with this displaying
compromise for decades.  To be included in an exhibition an object had to be entered to be juried.  This has
handicapped the images of light, as output to pigments on a reflective surface compromises the visual power of
blazing photonic emissions shooting into the artist's eyes during his actual creative process.  See what I say by
referring to the permanent archival catalog of this exhibition. Steer online to
http://www.lastplace.com/EXHIBITS/India.   Dare to compare.

This show is a bridge for things to come.  Now with the Internet, artists can decide to "show" their digital work in
its original form online.  The Internet is a brand new space for exhibition, one  with so much potential power to
influence perceptual change as works can be seen instantly around the world instead of merely within the confines
of space and time of a scheduled exhibition such as this one at Oxford Bookstore and Gallery. Instead of
surrendering to the conventional conformity of how art has been displayed for painting and sculpture over the past
centuries, now art finally can be freed from definitive sizing for confining framing.  I predict the future availability of
"computer frames".  Hardware costs are drastically dropping during these past few years. Someday  manufacturers
will put just enough processing power into slim and lightweight "monitors" (making them affordable)  that can hang
on the wall.  Turn on the switch, slip in the disk and all it does is display the imagery.   Select "project" and
have the image projected across the room. Focused it like a slide projector. Even have the wall prepared
with textured canvas, then have this "wall paper" enclosed with wall trim molding.  Ah, now reflected
digital art in its original form and of any size for the living room! Pay more and acquire a set of images that animate
into each other at a pace selected by the collector.

Our 20th century's early art mirrored the profound changes of modern life as transformed by the major
inventions of the Industrial Age.  The camera freed artists to create for themselves, at liberty to toss out the
photo-realistic human figure in favor of expressing abstract personal feelings.  Such new freedom led to the
viability of the most influential art of this century, that of Modernism.  But after decades of dissecting the formal
attributes of the aesthetic down to a Minimalism, a more divergent approach to refresh art with complexity and
social relevance ushered in the pluralism of Post-Modernism.  However during this last evolution of this century's
art, the shock of the new was not as powerful.  Art once again did not exist in its own reality but blended back
into society, thereby making art take a seat among the many other facets of modern life of this past quarter century.
High Technology and its personal computers stole our undivided cultural attention,   demanding attention from its
rapid changing of personal welfare, interaction, livelihood and life in general, all at an every increasing speed.  Many
no longer have the time to go to art shows. For many, art took a back seat to the demands of modern techno-life.

Now there is the growing global community of the Internet, a new virtual tribe hungry for a cyber-culture of its own. 
It is only fitting that digital art, a product of such major technological breakthrough, become THE form of art
of the Internet.  My Truly Virtual Web Art Museum,  at lastplace.com, from which many of the artists exhibiting
here were first discovered, unequivocally rests the purpose of  its existence on the mission of contributing
indigenous Cyberculture for the online global community.  It IS a new society and as such it WILL NEED a visual
virtual culture that is different from that which has served for the physical world. Digital reproductions of Picasso
and other painting masters placed online can go thus so far in meeting the aesthetic needs of the virtual citizen.

Besides celebrating the achievement of this first generation of digital artists of the Web, this show serves
another important purpose.  It is designed to rally the excitement of young Indian artists for  the digital
opportunity that awaits them.  With such an invitation for inspiration, we fellow artists of the world welcome
the vast talent of India's gifted artists to join us as pioneers, here and abroad, in creating a new art world for the
new millenium.

 

-Pygoya, December 1999