THE SOCIOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ART/TECHNOLOGY INTERFACE
We live at a time when the impact of technology on art has never been more apparent. The artist's
toolbox has been extended to such a degree by digital technology that even the traditional
benchmark concept of "medium" has broken down, erasing the possibility of capturing and containing the artwork by describing accurately the physical support system required
for communication of the idea that supposedly lies at its core. The current trend towards "conceptual" art can be seen as an instinctive response to this process: artists are moving their activity into new areas in an attempt to isolate this aesthetic core from a series of physical media in which they have subconsciously lost confidence as a storage or communication mechanism.
At the same time, this digital technology is revolutionising the basis of human communication. The
groundwork was laid more than twenty years ago when the world's telephone companies started the explosive growth of IDD (International Direct Dial) facilities. IDD has freed up international
telephony and resulted in a massive growth in international networkbandwidth. People started to
regard global communication as being normal, natural and direct. Simultaneously, rules (Internet
Protocol) have been created for inter-computer communication via this network. Because digital
technology enables a combination of store-and-forward and real-time facilities, it is now possible to
communicate globally via computer at a previously unimagined level of complexity and sophistication. Thus we have the extraordinary phenomenon of the Internet.
The advent of the Internet, and its explosive international growth, has given a powerful new
sociological dimension to the changes created by the revolution in digital technology. It has
democratised communication to the point where the tools of publishing and distribution are now passing into the hands of the individual who originates the cultural objects that were previously mediated, and hence controlled, by a variety of organisational structures: dealers, galleries, museums, publishers, academic institutions, etc. etc. .
This trend is fundamentally subversive, in that it calls into question the role of the entire set of social
structures that have grown up between the artist and his audience. And, for that audience, there is
now a new possibility of direct contact and communication with the originators of the cultural objects that it consumes.
It is against this background, and as a response to it, that Renaissance 2001 (R2001) has come into
being. The following list serves as a non-linear guide to its key concerns and characteristics:
- ART, CONTENT & COMMUNICATION
Traditionally, art 'movements' have been (as social constructs) defined by some organising principle
based on content - that is to say, some perceived common thread inherent to the work of the
participants. Thus, it should be possible (assuming prior induction into the grammar and vocabulary of Art Criticism) to recognise and distinguish between the work of, say, an Impressionist and that of an Abstract Expressionist. R2001, in contrast, is pluralist in its basis and relatively unconcerned about content. Instead it focuses on areas of intention, recognising that superficial similarities of surface appearance have become inadequate criteria for categorising cultural objects. The members of R2001 share a common, loosely defined, humanitarian purpose: to create
art that makes a positive contribution to human social evolution during a period of unprecedented
technological and social change. As artists, we are most comfortable with the idea of achieving this
end through intuitive, 'organic' methods. An important aspect of this preference is the use of the
Internet as a means of working together and building an international audience for our work.
- R2001 & THE INTERNET
Until very recently, artists have tended to use the Internet in a relatively conservative fashion, as a
straightforward communications channel (building their own 'homepages' and 'virtual galleries) or
sales medium. R2001 represents the next stage of development beyond such activities: as a
phenomenon, it has arisen as a result of, and could not exist without, the Internet. Its organisers live
in Tokyo, London and Helsinki, and have never met face-to-face. Its membership is drawn from
artists living in Japan, Australia, Spain, Korea, Germany, New Zealand, Finland, England, Italy,
Norway, Canada, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iceland, France, Scotland and the USA. Its
website draws hundreds of visitors daily from every part of the world. And all of this has been
accomplished in just a few months via the Internet - a logistical exercise impossible by any other
- R2001, ART & SCIENCE
R2001 comes in many different flavours, with an artistic, cultural andethnic diversity that already puts most conventional international artsfestivals to shame. Its artists use the computer and the paintbrush with equal comfort, evolving a new relationship between art and science that integrates the new digital media with other, more traditional,forms in a bewildering rush of styles and virtuosity. This tendency is supported by a growing database of digital resources held at the R2001 website for the benefit of members and others. Moreover, the R2001council has become proactive in a series of initiatives to extend thebenefits of leading edge digital technology to artists who wouldotherwise lack the technical skills to deal with it: in the website'sVirtual Reality section there are a number of Java, QTVR, and Virtus Player applications we have developed in order to display members' workin a public setting that they themselves would not be capable ofinitiating. It is already clear from the response to these efforts that many artists are keen to engage with new technologies if given a context that is sufficiently supportive of their work.
- PUBLIC TASTE & THE GLOBAL AUDIENCE
R2001 is creating a global audience for an expanding group of artists from every part of the world.
A key aim in this process is to subvert and reverse the traditional processes whereby public taste is
manufactured on a top-down basis through the arbitration of institutions that have hitherto 'owned'
the world art audience. The power of museums, public galleries, art critics, commercial galleries and academic institutions is exercised (sometimes unconsciously and sometimes quite deliberately) in such a way as to shape and mould public taste in art. R2001 seeks to democratise this process by creating its own audience via the Internet, and then by converting this influence into pressure on
institutions to embrace the art to which its audience has responded.This possibility of reversing the
directional flow in the process of constructing public taste, may well be the single most significant
outome of the new digital techologies. And it is notable that this outcome portends a socio-aesthetic
rather than a technical change, inthe form of a shift in the power-base for determining which art gets
to be seen where and by whom.
The first art galleries around the world to mount R2001 exhibitions, consisting partly of computer
screens linked to R2001 members' Internet sites from every corner of the globe, will be active participants in a fundamental process of change that encompasses Art, Science, Technology
and Communications. It is R2001's belief that this change willconstitute a paradigm shift in
socio-aesthetics, creating the basis for positive and permanent change in the relationship between
artists and a new, democratised, global art audience.