*Permission to use "Portraits in
Cyberspace" as the title of this column granted by Judith S. Donath
(MIT Media Lab), from the network event she planned and
Rengei-Za, the site where artists exhibit and interplay with art on the
WWW, was born on June 14, 1996. It is managed and coordinated by ANZAI
Toshihiro and me. We have been working together since 1992 on the Renga
project. Today, I will be discussing this new challenge with him, not as a
guest, but as my partner.
Finished artwork? How boring!
T (ANZAI Toshihiro): Let me start by saying that Rengei-Za is a theater.
Its basic concept is that everyone is free to join in. It's no fun simply
as one-way art over the net, is it?
R (NAKAMURA Rieko): Not many digital artists are involved in the network world, I'm afraid. We would like to have unique artists, expressing originality, participate in Rengei-Za, rather than the conventional. We are less concerned that they already have work on the net; more important is that they are interested in net work. I am sure we would then have something common to share.
T: True. There is a "network-oriented mind," isn't there. Suppose, for example, one sees art in books, TV, galleries, or museums, and is moved by the work. They are merely recipients. However, being involved in Renga, we view art a bit differently. The moment we confront a work, we ask ourselves how we could modify and/or manipulate it. I think this interaction is the most fun aspect of expression via the net.
R: That brings to mind the on-going Rengei-Za session called "MONO" (Object) by Gonzalez. It is very interesting in that it inspires people to physically go get the object MONO at the place indicated on the net. In "Doggie Hole," we are again not only recipients of given information but take an active role in peeping at where doggie is.
T: Talking about the different sites of Rengei-Za, the artists tend to unconsciously move out of their own URL and end up working in someone else's, don't they?
R: It matters little where a site belongs. Far more important structurally, for programs on the net, is how well you can link your site to other URL and absorb them into yours to create better programs.
T: The next site over on the WWW can be a totally different magazine. It is nonsense to keep everything on your own site.
Network Environment: Floating
R: You are not only known as a CG artist but also as a software engineer.
Artists whose talents are limited to painting and drawing will not survive
in the network era. They must have all-round talent, including discovering
and/or rearranging their tools and materials.
T: Internet is now on the edge, floating between solid, fluid, and gas. We do not know where it will go with stimuli from outside; that's what makes it exciting. On the contrary, we know how rigid other media are, painting, books, TV. They are all either solid, fluid, or gas. Macintosh made possible and stabilized the use of personal computers. Internet is reaching the level where anyone can comfortably use it. This could, however, make it mundane. I would like Rengei-Za to be a "blockade" to fixed media.
Rengei-Za: Its Future
T: We have many plans and ideas for Rengei-Za. One is to set up strings
throughtout Japan that produce sound by wind, and play an ensemble over the
net. This experiment is called "Strings on Aioros." Costly yes, but doable
with a number of volunteer servers. Another is "Touch Art," object-oriented
art exhibited over the net together with the materials used to create it,
in cooperation with JAVA. This will be the final stage of my work created
with "Paint System" software. The major plan is "Inter Actor," in which
several playwrights create interactive plays through chats and/or the BBS.
It will be the literary version of what we have been doing on
With this discussion I realized that Anzai focuses on extracting the exciting and interesting and elimitating all else. People constantly move towards the future; technology is evolving daily. Let's initiate actions using hands and mind to discover new means of expression. Stay tuned to Rengei-Za!