Strategic Arts Initiative 2.0 (Introduction)
Introduction to the Strategic Arts Initiative 2.0 Exhibition, by Laura Berazadi.
InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre is pleased to present Strategic Arts Initiative 2.0, a remounting of a 1986 exhibition with Doug Back, Carl Hamfelt, Laura Kikauka, David Rokeby, Graham Smith, and Norman White. This exhibition is a collaboration with V2_Institute for the Unstable Media, Rotterdam, and is presented in conjunction with McLuhan 100 and McLuhan in Europe 2011.
This event marks the 25th anniversary of the initial exhibition and coincides with the 100th anniversary of the birth of Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan, whose writings informed much of the work in the original SAI exhibition. While telepresence has become ever-present in the generation since the original exhibition, many of the works in SAI 2.0 display ideas that still appear far-reaching. Rather than just communicating visually across great distances, the works in this exhibition insist on even more intimate forms of telepresence such as communicating through touch, feats of strength, and actual physical presence across networks.
Having evolved from the erratic mode of communication that it was in the late-1980s, telepresence technology is now unquestionably part of our lives. The videophone, once a thing of fantasy, is now a part of our reality with many people using Skype on a daily basis. Communication technologies put us in touch with the world, but most of us are not yet aware of how new technologies are also transforming relationships. One of the roles of the artist in this context is to reveal these shifts.
As both an historic retrospective and a forward-looking update, Strategic Arts Initiative 2.0 is crucial to InterAccess’ mandate to expand the cultural space of technology.
The works in the exhibition perfectly capture our goal to provide “a public forum for the development and discussion of artistic practices involving interactivity, networked and remote connection, and the interface of the physical and the virtual.” Twenty-five years on, the updated works in SAI 2.0 still test the fragility of the networks that link us together and demonstrate possibilities that remain just out of reach. In this sense, SAI 2.0 represents both a technological and cultural challenge for telepresence, interactivity, and other emergent forms of communication over vast networks. Doug Back, Carl Hamfelt, Laura Kikauka, David Rokeby, Graham Smith, and Norman White are showing us a way forward; it is up to us to figure out what to do with it.
We would like to thank our exhibiting partners, V2_ Institute for the Unstable Media, McLuhan100, and McLuhan in Europe 2011. We are grateful to the artists for their work on this project and their contributions to new media in Canada, without which InterAccess would not exist.
Finally, a special thank you to Derrick de Kerckhove, curator of the original SAI, our project managers, April Steele and Joanna Sheridan, and to Graham Smith, whose incredible dedication and hard work made SAI 2.0 a reality.