New Media - December 9, 2015

Water Reeds - SVG graphic by David J. Lisle - copyright 210 David J. Lisle

What New Media is to me! - December 9, 2015


An explanatory note concerning promotion and defence of 'Digital Art'

I would like to illustrate a point here about my involvement in so called "New Media" because to me it is far from new.

I first started working in electronic art forms in the late 1960's. First with a Canada Council/Simon Fraser University sponsored organization called Intermedia. There were many young but accomplished artists in that era and all of them were running towards "New Media" as it seemed to be the wave of the future, and it was, as is evidenced today. I worked as a technical assistant to most of them and had to content myself to doing relatively small creative projects of my own, I did not qualify as a fully fledged artist at that time as the "Alfred Bueys" credo, 'everyone is an artist' would not have flown. However I did work closely with a number of artists helping them create the things they could not because they lacked the technological intelligence. Turning lights on and off and having them flash to music was relative child’s play. Making neon lamps act as diodes in charge discharge circuits output to amplifiers created sounds when the charge discharge characteristics of the resister-capacitor were vibrating at audible frequencies and these kinds of objects were being used frequently in projects pursued by artists. Using a uni-junction transistor in place of the neon lamps created sharper cut off sounds that dropped away rapidly creating a drum-like beat that could be changed in frequency of sound as well as rate of beat. An auto-drummer by any other name. Not having the status I could not get a grant and the visual people were not interested in further development, but others were and carried the ideas further.

Combinations of simple mechanical/electrical devices were used to create all kinds of movement, light and sound that baffled viewers and delighted artists. Old colour TV's hooked up with appropriate filters to their aerials could produce coloured noise on the monitors and banks of them found their way into be-ins and art shows.

And finally the use of IC chips in control mechanisms to produce movement and sound, turn lights on and off fed into the desire of artists I worked with to produce really interesting effects. Turning down the voltage and/or connecting only the live ends of wires to neon lamps and fluorescent tubes cause them to spring to light up to a finger or hand placed on the tubes. Unfortunately the high voltages were dangerous and electrical inspections closed down most of these experiments as "extremely dangerous" which they indeed were.

Subsequently in the late 70's I moved into industrial venues to work with computer automation as the first fling of digital art had it's day and died down considerably. Working with large scale processing the machines I worked with were computerized factories and were to a large extent 'Robotic,' these robots eliminated manual labour from all but the most sensitive parts of the process and reduced the labour force in some cases by as much as 90%. Some might see that as a bad thing, but at the time I did not. Most of these environments were toxic and removing people from them was not seen as a negative.

In the 1980's I moved full time into the Film Industry and acquired personal computers, as many as I could get my hands on. I realized the potential for in the box manufacturing of movies and pressed my co-workers to pursue their craft in this way as well as the manual methods. I met with little success even though I developed software to go along with my creative efforts I could not find early adopters.

Now I restrict my art activities to painting with acrylics and water colours and continue to pursue technical advantages in creating fabric design with sophisticated technologies which do not really use digital methods. I do use a computer extensively to create imagery as it helps me to work faster in evolving new work. I also use digital photography to capture nature events outside as I cannot tolerate cold or sunlight for any length of time. My computer is my first 'aide' in my work, but it is not my muse. I still make digital imagery and one day I will publish it all, however I intend to display it as "Artists Proofs" on digital monitors built for single purpose image display.

I write this to elaborate on my avid interest and ongoing participation in 'digital art' as it is not something I am putting aside.