InterCommunication No.15 1996


The Museum of the Third Kind 5/6

There is an art which exists only in the Net, for the Net and by the Net alone. This is destined to be a part of the Museum of the Third Kind. It uses the computer not as a video terminal, through which you view objects of art, a kind of digital carousel projector, but as a screen of operations, an interface, which enables you to enter into a process of manipulation and transformation of images, texts and sound. It deals not so much with the behaviour of forms, the aesthetic of appearance, as with forms of behaviour,the aesthetic of apparition, of coming-into-being. Your interaction is with its multi-mediated form and its many layered meanings. It is about the viewer being active in the creation of art, actually with the creation of meaning. In the Net, to see is to own! Whatever arrives at your particular interface from no matter where on the Net, whether it's image, text, or soundbite, it is yours to keep. More significantly, it is yours to transform.Transformation , particularly in the hands of the viewer, is the primary functional determinant of the museum.
Virtual Reality has long been heralded as the prescription for the museum of the 21st. century. The present state of the art is arid and dry, and compares unfavourably to the wetness of nature, but there are signs of the emergence of an artificial reality, or what I prefer to call Paranatural Reality, or Nature II [*4] , which is essentially moist. It is in this moist reality, grounded in the technology of Artificial Life, and the nanotechnology of atoms and genetically engineered molecules, a post-biological reality, that life-like behaviour may emerge. We may be approaching the point of working with forces never worked with before, and sensing things which have never been sensed before. To quote again Isao Karube: "Kiko-jutsu is now in fashion (an Asian discipline which develops the inner energy called Ki) Even I could move a static piece of paper with my force, like this! This energy might possibly be measured by a sensor, perhaps a quantum wave sensor that works on a completely different theoretical basis" [*5].
This is the phase in our culture where art and science will most truly converge. Where as artists we might become partners in evolutionary change rather than simply expressive or analytical bystanders. This is a world pervaded by intelligence, as if it were leaking out of our brains and seeping into every part of the planet. Here is an art of artificial agents and algorithmic assemblies, cellular automata and digital communities which grow, expand, diversify, disperse, and reproduce within the networks, arising from that organisation which spontaneously arises from the net's chaotic connectivity, with "no global controller responsible for the behavior of everypart", and its "bottom-up, distributed, local determination of behavior" to use the phrases that Chris Langton employs in his definition of Artificial Life [*6].