Zoltán Szegedy-Maszák





In view of the genres of five young French artists – Joelle Bitton, Gregory Chatonsky, Philippe Dabasse, Karen Dermineur, Reynald Drouhin and Julie Morel – the website found at the above address summarizes their rather heterogeneous works. Alongside their web-projects, writings of a theoretical nature, downloadable screensaver programs, "error art" t-shirts on order, and even sound-CD's are available here. The web-projects, in part, are joined to the homepage only in the form of links, and it emerges from the project description that the aim of the artists was not the production of an organic website, but rather the establishment of a network node that endeavours to examine the points of contact between art, philosophy and technology. Independent of genre, it gathers up the artistic-theoretical products related to this.

From the conscious, active and well-prepared presence of each of the works, the relation of the individual (the author, as well as the recipient user) to hypermedia (the analysis of the medium being the theme of these artists) in the multimedia world of the Internet, though not the operation of technology, is revealed. In the background of the individual projects, the guiding principle lurking in the theoretical reflections is the interaction between the person and the immaterial space of the network, the positioning of the relationship into the focus.

At the same time, the works found here are entirely experimental; with the propagation of the new technologies, the multimedia possibilities and forms of the media have been rendered accessible, and they might even be considered as linguistic analyses. In my opinion, the surveyable, researchable attitude of the potential genres of on-line speaking is admirable, especially in view of the fact that the projects attempt a technical virtuosity deserving of recognition.

Because the works attempt to raise questions in connection with the ethereal informational-space, and with the subjective interpretation of time and distance measured within it, in their search for the possible forms and frameworks for content publishable on the Internet, they employ a fairly large amount of technology, understandably. In order to view the works, in practically every case it is necessary to download some sort of "plug-in" or other, but the project-pages opening from the main page indicate the required supplementary programs, which are anyway fairly widely distributed, and thus, there is a good chance that they are already present in the viewing computer. An extremely creative usage of these "plug-ins" is characteristic in the case of each project – not only from the perspective of vision, but from that of sound, as well.

There is only one project found on http://www.incident.net/ which is based upon a theme treated by several authors: “Silence” (http://www.incident.net/home/works/silence/), whose title is interpreted in various ways by Joelle Bitton, Gregory Chatonsky, Reynald Drouhin and Julie Morel. The adapted technology (Macromedia Flash 4), nevertheless, is identical in each related project, and even in spite of the differing approaches, they result, to some extent, in a common visual world. However, it is not merely the title, but the technology developed for the realisation of the quickly downloadable animations, the webpages enriched with sound and moving images, that provide the individual works with unique novelty, in a visual sense as well. Common among them is the interest directed at interactive forms and the attitude of the receiver, and the appropriate experimentation with the potentialities and limits of the “multimedia-response”.

Although the "Silence" project is the only material on the website which is associated with the names of several artists, perhaps the most interesting two works accessible from the network node demonstrate considerable correlations with each other. By way of the points of engagement between Reynald Drouhin's “Rhizome” and Gregory Chatonsky's “Nervures”, a significantly broader field of interpretation is opened up between the projects than would otherwise be the case for the individual works, inspiring as they are independently.

"Rhizome" (http://www.ensba.fr/rhizomes/) – in the words of the author – aimed for the foundation of a “ephemeral and collective” artwork. Drouhin offers the pieces of an image sliced into 192 miniscule details to potential participants in the hopes that they will place those pieces visibly on their own websites. Only the pieces of the complete image that some participant has “adopted” and made available on her/his own website appear on the webpage that contains the whole picture (http://www.ensba.fr/rhizomes/rhizomes.html). The picture, however, presumedly never coheres completely from the mosaics accessible from the various corners of the network, since the “adoption” is only applied for a determined length of time: there are those who undertake to render accessible a detail only for a few days, or even merely for an hour, and consequently, with the expiration of the accepted time-period, this detail is rendered eternally invisible.

Gregory Chatonsky's work entitled “Nervures” (http://www.incident.net/works/nervures) responds to the thematic of “Rhizome”: while “Rhizome” is concerned with the “collective demonstration” of a “transient picture collaboratively rendered visible”, “Nervures” is interested in the “imageless” geography of the adopted picture-fragments. Rather than the handling and presentation of the picture-fragments, Chatonsky researches the trajectories between the servers giving them space and the terminals of the viewers. In connection with the network, the use of the practically cliché nervous system analogy of “Rhizome” is treated as a metaphor for digital memory. He does this not in the customary way, to the extent that he focuses on topology rather than topography, and that he substitutes human-paced (as corresponding to the temporality of the net) solutions for the spatial coordinates of access. In the immaterial digital space, distance (or, the energy processed to conquer it) is a function of bandwidth, and thus a category of time. That which arrives slowly to the computer of the viewer is far away, while that which might fall at a greater distance in a geographical sense is close – if it is within reach vis-à-vis a high-bandwidth connection. Postulating “identical” bandwidth, that which does not attract great interest appears closer, since, if the same route is popular among the netizens community, then the bandwidth must be shared among many when downloading, whilst the road is clear to the uninteresting website. With the direct questioning of the nerve-course as the oft-mentioned commonplace of the trails of the network, Chatonsky attempts to think through the emerging questions in a direct line of logic, and with his witty metaphors, he truly makes a lot clear, but he also calls attention to the dangers of – perhaps striking – excessive and unfounded simplification.

Finally, leaving interpretation to the viewer, among the pages accessible from http://incident.net/ , I would like to highlight Chatonsky's work, “Third Rivens” (http://www.cicv.fr/creation_artistique/online/3rives/home/): the virtual reality of the work is based on (VRML) technology, and he capitalizes upon, in an extraordinarily inspiring mode, the surplus of the visual world as furnished by the three-dimensional space, as contrasted to the fact that he does not exploit the potentialities of spatial interactivity to their fullest. It is planned that Reynald Drouhin and Gregory Chatonsky, in the second half of this year, as guest artists-in-residence at C3, will realise a collaborative virtual reality project whose theme is precisely the investigation of interactivity as provided by VRML, and which can be considered as a further development of this work.

11. April 2000.