Movie/video review
 ISSUE 30   March 2002|  updated 3/16/02   


A fast-paced overview of the current state of interactive art, with a glimpse of its future. Highly recommended.  A vote of confidence: my wife, a computer-hater of long standing, enjoyed the video.


Emerging Traditions title screenEvolving Traditions: Artists Working in New Media
Documentary video

Seth Thompson, Director
March 2002



For more book, software & web reviews see our
full list

What's new about new media?
If you're sometimes at a loss to answer this question, Seth Thompson's video will help expand your vision. Evolving Traditions: Artists Working in New Media shows four variations on the theme, from the almost "traditional" hypertext of Mark Amerika to the gesture-driven interactive video of Toni Dove.

Too often we see only the most obvious types of interactive "art": a website with animation, a CD-ROM with a "choose your own ending" story. Truly interactive computer-based art can be much more than that, and the four artists shown in this video each pursue a different course. All of them have backgrounds in more traditional disciplines, from bookmaking to dance. Many are women. And an interesting sidelight: all are shown using Macintosh computers. Think different, anyone?

The strength of the video is that in less than an hour it introduces us to people who combine craft with computers and collaboration to develop work that pushes the boundaries of what can happen on and off the computer screen. Two of them, Mark Amerika and Tennessee Rice Dixon, create complex stories to be viewed (and heard) on the computer screen, with a mouse for the interactive device. The others, Toni Dove and the group Troika Ranch, emphasize gesture and movement as a way of interacting. Ms. Dove's videos are controlled by the visitor's movements and speech. With Troika Ranch, the dancers create their own music, wearing sensors that feed data to computers.

The artists
Mark Amerika, Toni Dove, Tennessee Rice Dixon, Troika Ranch.

The videoTroika Ranch performance
In less than an hour, you're taken on a guided tour of the work of four artists, accompanied by their comments. Each receives enough time for you gain to an understanding of their unique approach, and just when you're starting to lose interest, it's on to a new artist with different work. Although I'm a big fan of Tennessee Rice Dixon's gorgeous imagery and sound, her work (like Scrutiny in the Great Round) is conventional in its dependence on the mouse and keyboard.

I was happy that the video devotes half its length to artists who've abandoned the cumbersome mouse/keyboard in favor of a more gestural approach to interaction. I'm pretty sure that this is the future of computer-based interaction, as game designers learned long ago.

Emerging Traditions is a video that I plan to show to all my students. It looks back (Scrutiny in the Great Round was created in 1994) as well as forward. It explores how the work gets done. Nearly all the artists talk at some length about the collaborative approach they've had to develop to work in this medium, where visual artists, sound designers, and programmers all have important roles to play. It's well photographed and edited, and a perfect length for an introductory overview. At such a reasonable price (about $25), I'm getting a copy for my personal library and another for my school.









Return to TOP









Return to TOP