Friday, May 02, 2008

This blog is my art school graduation project

Tomorrow I graduate from Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design, in Vancouver, Canada with a Bachelor of Media Arts, and I will be receiving the Governor General's Silver Medal for the best marks in the class. Our graduation project is meant to represent what we currently see as our core creative work, and after much thought, I decided that this blog best represents what I see myself doing as an artist for the near future. It gives me an opportunity to self-publish my own writing and video work, as well as to feature other videos and websites which I think are relevant to the themes I explore here.

Like any artist, I will be trying to represent my own core concerns in a way that resonates for other people. Right now, for me, that concern is about how to have a balanced response to rapid technical change. I came back to school in my mid-fifties, and this gave me a chance to see the relevance of my own work in the context of other art that is being done now. At about the mid-point of my studies I switched to a department where I could learn how to use electronic tools like digital photography and video. I also started putting my work for public view via the Internet, rather than through the more traditional gallery system. As I am about to graduate, I am glad that I have skills and experience which give me the tools and credibility to be taken seriously, as I comment upon the pros and cons of those very tools.

There is a bit of "deja vu" operating here. In my first round as an artist, in my twenties, I worked in what is now called "traditional media" - doing drawings and sculpture. But by the time I was thirty, in the early 1980's, I started to respond to what I called "the writing on the wall". I was part of a group of artists who started an artist run centre called "Toronto Community Videotex" to work together to develop skills to create content for the precursor to the Internet. I am delighted that this organization, now known as InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, has not only survived to celebrate it's 25th Anniversary this year, but is a vibrant part of Toronto's art community.

When we fast forward to 1999, and my return to electronic media, the sad reality was that I was twenty-five years older too, and had lost my position as an "early adopter". But I had become intrigued by the City of Vancouver's Millennium Project Portrait V2K, where you can find my story if you search for "Strider". I loved the concept that a website gave them the capacity to publish every story and photo that citizens would upload, and got my high-school son to help me to scan and upload my story and photo. I was lucky that I scored on my first try. My story became one of the featured ones, silkscreened on a huge banner in the project's year-long exhibition at the Vancouver Museum.

Positive experiences like that made me open to exploring new media when I returned to art school. But initially I felt a lot of shame as I sat in the computer lab, surrounded by students who seemed to have been working with computers since the day they were born. I was committing myself to spending a lot of time in a very steep learning curve, often feeling awkward and stupid. Conversations with people who were mid-life and older made me realize that I was not alone in feeling this way. So the exploration of this "shadow" is currently my central creative theme. For now, what interests me most is an examination of the impact on daily life that results from lack of skills, access -- or interest -- in electronic tools like computers, email, and cell phones. On a broader level, I hope that readers of this blog will also find positive suggestions for using the Internet itself to facilitate a zestier engagement in the face-to-face world.

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