Saturday Night Fever: Digitally Mastered
By Anderson Martin

Dress to fit the part, wait like all the rest, and drop $20 at the door.. Saturday night has always meant quality digital art. In fact, the most compelling digital art continues to be the club scene. The announcement cards for club events are clearly, hands down, far and away the cutting edge of design and typography.

I imagine teens and twenty-somethings cloistered away in a basement apartment somewhere, churning out these club event announcements by the dozens, working so fast and doing so many that the act of layout has become for them an unconscious act of sublimity. On Saturday nights, the DJ is the sublime designer of sound, a live performer cutting, mixing and dubbing digital tracks. The club tracks are commonly recorded, mixed, arranged and amplified through digital interface. And the lights could not give the sound it's rhythmic visual expression without MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) code.

That could be the end of the story and few would or should complain. But it doesn't end there. The club scene has refined the digital experience into a unique apparatus but in other venues, the culturally inclined are busy playing, inventing and testing the boundaries of the digital frontier. Digital media is now the backdrop for pop culture, independent digital film makers (microcinema), performance artists, architects, designers and fine artists.

Microcinema may be the least burdened of the new genres to emerge. It's easy to make digital video, it doesn't cost much to get started and the web provides an incomparable audience. Production and distribution are consequently minor concerns. And at least a dozen sites including Atom Films(, Shortbuzz(, New Venue(, iFilm(, dFilm(, Bit Screen( and Bijou Cafe( are all eager to show your craft work. It's the independent artists' dream come true where creativity is the only obstacle.

As the DJ has made evident, performance seems well suited to digital media. In the absence of the performance, digital media can be just an effect and consequently not that interesting. Performers who use new media, from sound and video DJs, to dancers using interactive triggers on stage, to live web-based interactions, all add the power of extension to the digital effect and the result is usually resonant. Performers from Laurie Anderson( to her role model Steina Vasulka( have seemingly dipped, scooped and shuffled digital media into their vision and expressive drive, quite naturally. Similarly, digital media shows up in theater and dance performances as a matter of course.

Possibly the most lucid new media performance to date has been "Moving Target", a collaboration between the choreographer F. Flamand and the architects Diller + Scofidio. A work which disrupts the focal attention of the audience through splayed reflection and projection techniques, "Moving Target" merges performance and networked media. "In structuring live, real-time mediated, delayed, and recorded events in different combinations, multiple channels of action can be offered to the audience." During the performance, a remote group of collaborators "contribute real-time interactive technologies and edical imaging to the mix." (see

Remote performances are a common form in the network environment. Take the Playgirls for instance. I am notified this morning that the Playgirls are "performing an installation game", webcast for the next 48 hrs. at this url ( Clicking on the Playgirl link I am witness, with countless others to the latest from The Axis Foundation for Art and Gender. "A character, a space and a software, mix and match a window display using visual codes from sex, domestic and retail environments. Housed in Amsterdam's red-light district, The Playgirls continually compose and inhabit various hybrid window displays to match the directions given to them by an algorithm". This digitally broadcast work seems by chance to be conducted by digital code. Maybe that's the point. But on the surface it reminds me that most webcasts are about the voyeurism that typically consumes the desirous viewer.

Image: "Playgirl", Axis Foundation for Art and Gender

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