"history is the art of forgetting…"
– Michael J. Masucci
The term ‘digital art’ seems like an anachronism today. Many, if not most contemporary artists, whether they are visual artists, musicians, writers, architects or even performing artists, use many of the same digital tools, that were once only in the hands of a privileged few. Those early adopters were more lucky than visionary in many ways, and as the “Digital Divide” which separated those who did and did not have access to computers diminished, the true manifestation of the digital revolution became more obvious.
There will, no doubt, be many self-serving ‘histories’ concerning the rise of this now ubiquitous digital culture. For me, the real ‘revolution’ was no so much the transition from analog to digital, because so many of the tools and techniques invented in the analog space, were instantly translated from the older to newer technologies. For me, the real revolution began with Nicoli Tesla.
Tesla, as many are aware invented the type of electricity (AC) that allowed for (with the help of industrialist George Westinghouse) widespread dispersal and distribution of electric power. Electricity that entered into our homes, our studios, our offices, our factories, our universities. Without this development, no computers would have been possible a mere half a century later. This electric innovation, nothing less than the controlled use of lightning, made more changes to the human condition than arguably any since the controlled use of fire.
The time will one day be upon us, when digital computers are replaced with quantum computers (and of course then something will replace them as well). When quantum computer take over (perhaps literally), then today’s digital supercomputers will seem as quaint as the gear-driven mechanical calculators that accountants used a century ago.
The core artists at EZTV were less concerned as to how a tool was manufactured ( i.e. analog vs digital) than they were concerned of the intrinsic value that the tool may offer.
Some projects straddled the presumed divide between analog and digital. Nina Rota’s animations, for example, combined traditional drawing with digital photography and editing techniques.
Other projects, combined live performance with various types of media tools, ranging from analog video, to electric guitars, to desktop digital devices.
In 2006, I was asked to curate an exhibition for 18th Street Arts Center, as well as produce new work to be included in the exhibition. He choose to create a survey of EZTV, its CyberSpace Gallery as well as key artists from the LA Digilantes movement, most notably Victor Acevedo and Michael Wright as well as digital pioneers David Em and Tony Longson, and animation/installations by Nina Rota.
I called the show “Hacking the Timeline”, coining a phrase that I would use from that time forward. The phrase relates to the need by underrepresented artistic movements, to inform, correct and therefore ‘hack’ into the official canon of the industry known as art history ( a term I contend should more correctly be called ‘art fashion’).
In 2011, as part of 18th Street Art Center’s participation in Pacific Standard Time, a Getty Museum and Research Institute sponsored region-wide exhibition, I expanded upon this theme in his series of performances, screenings and presentations: “Hacking the Timeline 2.0″. In it, I included a wider dispersal of the concept that art fashion must be ‘hacked’ by those excluded from participation.
I am not really concerned about tools, but I use them in everything I do. My art projects utilize whatever is best available to provide a solution to a needed process. Sometimes it is an electric drill, other times a traditional screwdriver. Other times its a music synthesizer. And I still often need to pick up a paintbrush and use traditional paint. But of, course usually I will use some type of computing device, desktop or mobile.
We must all hack the timeline of our lives and communities, to make better use of the massive information now available to many. Only in this way, may be keep in check the self-appointed individuals and institutions to otherwise presume to be the official chroniclers of history.
"Hacking the Timeline"
Written by Michael J. Masucci