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Bridge! Illuminating Architectures; Spanning Divides
by Sara Diamond, Editor-in-Chief, HorizonZero
The term "bridge" encapsulates the span between states—between the material and virtual, between creative architecture and technical engineering, as evidenced in the art works that both make up CODE and the back issues of HorizonZero. New media has long drawn its metaphors from architecture. Architecture organizes space in relation to the human body, its individual and social needs and behaviours over time. Architects and engineers then use materials to build underlying structures that contain systems and then layer interconnected surfaces on top of these. Software architecture manipulates code into continua of space and time, to build and describe the underlying structure of the system. The architecture provides multiple perspectives on a system, allowing its description, construction and maintenance. In software, architecture creates memory, just as a building becomes a repository for the human acts and memories contained in its spaces. In new media artworks we continually cross back and forth across the multiple and overlaid perspectives of the digital and material, between corporeality and abstraction.
Bridges overcome a gap or a divide—evoking the opening of new relationships, new forms of exchange, economies, trade, or social relations. To bridge is to create new possibilities of individual and social behavior in the hybrid movement and mix between spaces. To cross from one side to the other, to bridge, is a time-based activity, a bridge becomes a medium. In software engineering a virtual bridge is a technology that links formerly incompatible systems. And software can bridge not only technical but social states and status. Brazilian President Lula's ProInfo program "bridges Brazil's digital divide," according to Eric Ehrmann, providing free Linux, Debian and KD3 operating systems, backbone, software and educational content, "working parents who do more with less can be confident that computer literacy is now a basic element of public education."1 Bridges are transitory yet bridges are places to pause, to contemplate and to dream. They are illuminated markers of place.
CODE bridges time—the past, human and machine memory, the present and the future. CODE bridges spaces, whether geographic, dimensional, live or telepresence. CODE bridges states, from life to death, human to machine, authentic to artificial, individual to community, playful to intentional. CODE bridges many cultures and CODE bridges all of our senses.
In coalition with Heritage Canada, we (Banff New Media Institute) created HorizonZero to fill a gap—the need for a high quality unique bilingual commissioning gallery for interactive digital media, a space that could act as a think tank, provoke dialogues and debates, profile and test technologies and discoveries and build an international community. For over two years (August, 2002 to December, 2004) HorizonZero was a bridge. It sought and defined the gaps that digital media had uncovered, addressed and illuminated. HorizonZero was a means to capture the vast, dynamic history of new media art and design in Canada and place it into an international context. It was a means to present research and its dissemination and commercialization.
In 2010 the back issues of HorizonZero continue to provide signposts to generative ideas, practices and movements. Each double issue is predicated by a verb—a means of indicating the active, engaged quality of new media practice. The verb represents a theme which drives the issue's own unique aesthetic, its variant experience design, carefully placed within the overall navigation architecture of the publication. Each issue explored a form of bridge-building.
WRITE investigated the history of digital literature, the future of the book and the legacies of past practices in new forms of writing in the digital age. MIMIC mastered the history of artificial beings, including the robot in popular culture and created links between the human and the imitators of life—robots, automata and cyborgs. INVENT walked the boundaries between art-making and invention, profiling individuals and discoveries emerging from the studio as well as the laboratory. TOUCH exposed the ways that borders between private and public were blurring under the influence of new digital technologies, from mobile phones and wearable computers to tactile media and new forms of surveillance. EAT extended from East to West, featuring a culturally diverse menu created by artists in the issue, recipes and their multimedia documentation of food, its pleasures and politics. In SEE, our sights were trained on artists, designers and scientists who render the invisible world of data visible and grapple with enormous masses of information by harnessing the language of vision through visualization. FEEL linked communities and individuals by creating a social media story-sharing space—a new virtual home—where poetry and image provoked reflection on the meaning of home and the longing for home. REMIX dove into DJ/VJ cultures, Aboriginal hip hop, peer-to-peer collaboration, collage philosophy, and art remixing science are the core elements sampled and spun in this profile of Canada's hottest remix artists. WITNESS paid tribute to the Canadian documentary scene, nurturing ground for passionate opinion and unflinching points of view, demonstrating new media's potential for translating documentary engagement into digital form.
The PLAY issue crossed generations, providing a playground designed by the latest stars of Canadian interactive media for kids. The issue included games and drawing software, backyard science, anti-bullying projects, narcoleptic marmots, magic fish mobiles, and media made for girls and journeys to alternate wonderland universes. CONNECT explored technology and social interaction, asking: do new technologies create ties between people? SHINE was a panel of experts' choice of the best of Canadian new media in 2003, crossing the senses and media. PERFORM proclaimed that the stage is everywhere, offering a wired world of online and digitally-enhanced performance such as electronic poetry, Web cam dramaturges, avatar actresses, and audiences getting into the act. DREAM speculated on the nanotechnology home of the future, converging smart new materials, physical architecture and digital systems. FLOW tracked the latest developments in digital music and sound happening across Canada and internationally, leaping across cultures and styles. In WEAR clothing designers hit the actual and virtual runway with e-ink, electric plaid, soft plasma displays, barometric fibres, conductive threads and wireless chic. Starting from a foundation based on a Cree worldview (nêhiyawin), TELL explored a variety of contemporary issues related to Aboriginal new media storytelling, by profiling the ground-breaking work of Indigenous storytellers from across North America and the globe, linking place with cyberspace. From obsolete technology to decaying masterpieces, GHOST explored the archive, evolution and entropy, channeling new media's ghosts and raising a monument to digital evolution and entropy while pointing to the future.
BRIDGE, the revival issue of HorizonZero provides architecture of memory for CODE and for the vast array of bridging practices, concepts, engineered technologies that make up the exhibition. How appropriate for an issue that coincides with the intense physical individual and group play that constitutes the Olympics. Themes in CODE neatly coincide with back issues, creating a link between the fast-moving digital present and the not-so-distant past, allowing us to consider continuities and shifts, whether in technologies, ideas or applications. It is with great pleasure, as HorizonZero's Editor-in-Chief that we bring you BRIDGE!
Dr. Sara Diamond is President of the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD), Canada's "university of the imagination." She researches data visualization, wearable technology and media history. She developed www.codezebra.net, a software collaboration environment and chairs the Mobile Experience Innovation Centre. Diamond was Artistic Director of Media and Visual Art, Director of Research at the Banff Centre, and founding Director (1995-2005) of the Banff New Media Institute (BNMI).
1. Huffington News, January 17, 2010.