An Introduction to LiveWire
It seems very fitting that 'LiveWire' has been put together as part of 'Displacements: Aspects of Change in the Late 20th Century', the forth Derby Photography Festival, at a time when photography itself seems set to be displaced by the emergence of electronic imaging.
Cheap, powerful computers capable of manipulating high quality digital images threaten to supersede traditional chemical based photography much in the same way that photography itself sounded the death knell of painting in the mid 19th century. With the rapid growth of the global information network known as the Internet, it becomes clear that the new technologies represent a potential paradigm shift for the production, dissemination, distribution and consumption of artworks.
LiveWire was conceived as an attempt to engage with this shift, inviting electronic artists world-wide to submit artworks via the internet or on computer disk to form a show that exists simultaneously on the internet and in a physical space. What is striking about LiveWire is how readily and intuitively artists are now using the new technologies to make coherent artworks which fly in the face of traditional modernist notions of knowledge, purity of technique, originality and even post-renaissance vision.
Electronic imaging has a focus, indeed an emphasis on process: an open intervention by means of electronic tools for combining, altering, and scaling that are as essential for the digital artist now as the paintbrush and easel were for the oil painter. Conversely, the fragility of chemical photography meant that the alternatives explored by the likes of John Heartfield and Jerry Uelsmann would always be the exception to the rule. With digital imaging it becomes the norm, images which seek to maintain a homogeneous photographic realism are still based upon a transformation of digits, removed from any link to indexical reality, effectively destroying all that remained of photographic authenticity.
The production of digital works which has a non-object status is becoming common for an increasing numbers of artists. Audio, graphics, images and moving images converge into the hybrid known as multi-media, breaking the traditional purity of disciplines, created to be seen in a transient electronic form. What then for notions of originality when every digital file copied is an exact replica of the first? The internet is providing an arena for artists wishing to step out of the confines of the gallery system to produce artworks that can be consumed simultaneously round the world while the artist maintains control over its dissemination. What now for issues of copyright?
Clearly new methods of production engender new methods of consumption, making former cultural values seem outdated and irrelevant. LiveWire scratches the surface of an art practice where the rules may be profoundly different, and demonstrates the potential of artists combining the computer with information technology.