Throwback Thursday – KCAC Forum Jan 1996

KCAC Forum Magazine January – February 1996

by Barbara Waterman-Peters

At a recent symposium for “Emerging Artists” at Washburn University in Topeka, the panelists interjected terms such as World Wide Web, CD-ROM, and the Internet into the lively discussion.

The December 1995, issue of Art in America featured a cover story by Robert Atkins entitiled “The Art World & I Go On Line.”

The Louvre produced a CD-ROM, “The Palace & Its Paintings,” that is selling well and replacing actual tours of the gallery!

In Kansas City, galleries such as Grand Arts are listing an e-mail address in their advertising. The Leedy-Voulkos Gallery has a “home page.”

This artist/writer has images on the Artist Avenue CD-ROM, Vol. 1, Summer Fall 1995,
Windows Version, published by K Street Systems.

What is going on?

In short, the last year has produced an explosion in awareness of the potential of global accessibility. It’s new and exciting and over whelming!

But what are the ramifications? Are museums destined to become warehouses whose collections are visited only on the information superhighway? Are gallery exhibitions to take place only in cyberspace? Will artists have to rush out to buy computers with every conceivable capability, or upgrade to ensure getting on the Internet and being part of the mainstream “dialogue”?

To seek answers to these and other pertinent questions, I decided to talk to Colette Bangert, who has used computers for artistic ends for thirty years. She and her husband, Jeff, have been pioneers in the development of the computer as an art-making tool. They continue to design the software necessary to produce her lyrical, delicate landscapes.

Speaking with Bangert over the phone resulted in some marvelous insights into this “new” world.

First of all, she stressed that her first experience with a computer altered her life. “You are pushed into change and newness and all you can do is respond,” she said.

According to Bangert, that response is the crux of the matter. It is dependent on who you are, on how willing you are to accept the changes, and on how much time, energy, and money you want to expend. She cautions that the technology can take over the art-making, so decisions should be informed.

Bangert also addressed a question that has been around since the invention of the camera,
“What is fine art and what is technology?”

She says “(The computer) is part of my artistic life, and has been since 1967, and that is what makes pictures. Look at photography and how it has changed the world. I felt kin to Thomas Eakins: I was using the computer like Eakins used the camera. We’re in a new world and we need to understand that world: art and science are meeting.”

She went on to say that this new world is global. “Everyone is connected, which is a cosmic way to understand (this phenomenon). The groundwork is being laid for interacting with others ‘on-line.’ Art is about the human condition and it is personal. The ‘personal’ might go away: uniqueness, ego might be lost in all of this ‘interaction.’

“There are so many ways to use a computer it’s mind-boggling; a computer has as many ways to be related to as there are people. Computers are a part of life: the world functions on them. If you want to spend your life ‘plugging in,’ you can, or you can make art.”

When asked about the effectiveness of technologies such as CD-ROM and the Internet as marketing tools for artists, Bangert replied “(It is a wonderful way for artists to show their work.”

She does not feel that copyright concerns are any more immediate than they have ever been. However, questions about clients remain. Bangert asks “Who is going to use them (CD ROMs, etc.)? Museums? Galleries?”

Finally, Bangert notes “(There has been) a change in consciousness in about the last ten months. All kinds of galleries and museums use e-mail and the World Wide Web.”