MAID IN CYBERSPACE-ENCORE!
For a second time, Studio XX produced Maid Cyberspace-Encore!, an electronic arts festival, held November 6 to 28, 1998, at espace #401 in the Belgo Building, in Montreal. The event brought together the work of eleven women artists from Australia, England, Austria, Scotland, Estonia, Montreal, Taiwan, Toronto, Calgary and New York. The idea of this festival was not to gather electronic works around a central theme, but of simply presenting them so as to give an idea of work done in recent years by women artists in the field.
What emerges from this second festival is the quality of the Web projects selected. Indeed, the variety and originality of the projects lead the spectators to pursue their investigations further, to discover other works where sound, image and text are intermingled. The projects are all the more accessible that, for the most part, they may be browsed on the World Wide Web. Others require to be experienced in situ.
Amongthe works that grab one's attention, we mention Diagnostic Tools for the New Millennium, by Josephine Starrs and Leon Cmielewski. In a playful environment, the site invites viewers to share in discussions regarding privacy on the Net. Four tools are presented in the form of a survey: "Consumer Check" bears upon a reflection on people's consumption; "Paranoia" allows one to confide on the Internet and to compose an array of audiovisual angst; "Fuzzy Love Dating Service" invites users to transmit personal information so as to find their soul mate, and all the elements gathered from the site may be searched and viewed in interactive installations circulating in Banff, Berlin and Sydney; "Match of the Week" introduces a personality that Web surfers may contact by e-mail.
Synchronicity, by Quebec artist Pascale Trudel, consists of ten photographs animated by cursor movement. The photos come from the artist's family album and were taken between 1910 and 1940. Music is heard and characters come to life, after clicking on each photograph. All the emotions of these pictures are recreated in this virtual universe. The site initiates a reflection on notions of the real and the unreal.
Other works are well worth the viewer's attention. +Positive, by Sheila Urbanoski, brings the surfer into the world of HIV. The title is evocative, the bright red color suggestive of blood. The project follows a meeting of the artist with a person infected with AIDS. From the outset, the visitor sees a medicine cabinet with 28 compartments. Each compartment contains selectable pills. Hidden "behind" each pill are secrets, thoughts, anecdotes and poems by Ian Stephen, a friend of the artist who died of AIDS. Despite the quantity of links, the site remains accessible to those still new to the Internet. +Positive+ speaks as much about life as about death, and the site is replete with emotion and truth.
High:Rise, by Taiwanese artist Isabel Chang, is wholly disconcerting. Inspired by J. G. Ballard's novel High-Rise, the site traces the experience of a protagonist housed in a building for three months. The narrative flow and the navigation of the project are only possible by upward movements, which produces a certain confusion. The texts are a jumble and remain purposefully hidden. The experience is rather peculiar and brings the visitor to question habits of interactivity on the Internet.
Andra McCartney's Soudwalks may be a pleasant way to end the visit. The project allows the visitor to wander through the audio-environment of Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Park and the Open Ears Festival in Kitchener, Ontario.
This concludes the review of an electronic arts festival that, far from being intended for the "chosen few", is accessible to all. With its wide variety of interactive works, Maid in Cyberspace-Encore! gives the uninitiated visitor a good overview of electronic art. One can only hope to see another such festival of electronic art by women next year.