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Chapter Two “His hands are free and he is not anchored” (Vannevar Bush)

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On her collaborative work Push The Boat Out, performance artist Leslie Hill, documents similar findings on hypermedia as a structuring system for artists ideas and designs,

“I began using the Internet and the modus operandus of jumping from a hypertext hot link to a photograph, video clip or sound bite and from one web site to another instantly appealed to me. In a book format one faces the necessity of arranging narrative in a linear fashion - no matter how experimental the form or content, the author still commits to a page 1, 2, 3... sequence. In hypertext, however, I could arrange the different pieces of 'trash', personal and audience narratives and images in a series of links unlimited in their complexity, a format much more akin to the installation itself, where sequence and interrelation were dependent on the enfranchisement of the perceiver… Formally a Push the Boat Out hypertext could never resemble the live work, but conceptually a series of text, image, sound and video links navigated by individual users seemed much closer in spirit than a set text or straight video could ever be.” ( HYPERLINK "http://www.placelessness.com/works/boatout_article.html" Hill, 1998, online)

Both statements define how for each artistic practice, a hypertextual system seemed more akin conceptually either to the idea behind the work or the documentation of its existence. Another commonality in both testimonies is that hypertext allowed them to address the idea of audience interaction. For many artists it no longer seems appropriate to restrict their audience to the status formerly identified by Barthes as passive. Barthes declares that literature should no longer be characterised through the boundary between reader and author (Barthes, 1977, p.146). Could this statement not also be true for art?

In hypertext the interaction and consequent two-way communication between the reader and the text gives room for the text to grow and change. Through the manipulation of each reader the text becomes something far greater and more comprehensive than the author could possibly have created as an individual. Furthermore because each interaction happens on a personal level, as does each reader’s addition to it, the text becomes a tissue not only of other texts “which blend and clash” (Barthes, 1977, p.146) but of individual experiences gleaned from countless lives. As digital artist Sarah Rubidge states,

“When viewers, or performers, are given direct input into the generation of the form a work takes, they become not merely a participant in a dialogue with the work, but responsible for the form those works take on a given occasion.” (Rubidge, 2001, online)

Although it could be argued that artists who use hypertext are merely adopting a structuring form which is topical and somewhat ‘trendy’ in our contemporary society, by doing so they open the work not only to the ideas and criticisms faced by all artists, but also the possibility that through audience interaction the work could change into something entirely different to what they initially intended. A daunting prospect it would seem, yet it could result in some surprising artistic discoveries.


intro : what : works : writing