InterCommunication No.16 1996

InterCity PRAGUE

New Media in Contemporary Arts 3/4

The heritage of COMENIUS' thoughts was the direct inspiration for two rather complex projects presented here: Orbis Pictus Revised, which was produced by the Imaginary Museum projects (Tjebbe VAN TIJEN, Rolf PIXLEY and Milos VOJTECHOVSKY), and an Internet digital city network called the "Labyrinth" -- which recalls a symbolic picture of a baroque model of the world drawn by COMENIUS in his book, The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart. It is only in the last decade that contemporary philosophy, science and history have discovered the impact and importance of COMENIUS' work on European culture. In a sense, his methods and proposals remain very challenging, even today. COMENIUS is identified as one of the founders of modern pedagogy, which states that a system of theory, and logical references between things, words, pictures and meaning improves our perception and understanding of reality. He had a concept of a new global society, and a special approach to science and universal language, which he believed are the essential elements for creating such a global society. For COMENIUS, the book, printing press, reproduced pictures or text, and applied technology were important means for creating a beneficial media that would serve to correct the fictive illusion of reality and it has taken almost 400 years for people to realize the importance of his concepts.
The installation project, Orbis Pictus Revised is an attempt to rethink the old ideas of a pictorial and sensorial representation of the world and how they can be used as educational tools in this epoch of digital media and hypertext. The museum installation takes three forms of interaction tables in which written text is completely avoided. It is presented through aural text and pictures using different computer interfaces; looking and pointing (touch screens), speaking and listening (voice recognition), and touching and feeling (object recognition). A playful browsing through the history of textbooks, language and world concepts from the 16th century to the present is accompanied by a chain of 50 small assemblages that stimulate both our imagination and the as yet unprogrammed natural capacity of a child's mind, as well as developing a creative and associative way of thinking. The collection of objects from everyday life acts as a contrast and balance to a virtual memory machine containing digital information.