Production: An artist introduces the work of ITAC, the Information Technology Association of Canada.
Hi. I don’t have a talk prepared so I’m going to just address some of the process I’ve been through over the last two years in nurturing the relationship with the Information Technology Association of Canada. Two years ago I attended an ISEA event, which was called “Cartographies” in Montreal and at that point I was making the transition from material-based art to working online. It was a very interesting place for me to start. It just happened that that same week as the cartographies symposium in Montreal, I met Lynda Leonard who is the vice president of communications for ITAC and that week she had invited me to address the symposium for the Wired Women Society, which ultimately ended up not taking place. So it was an interesting coincidence that these two relationships in my life came at the same time.
So at the end of the Cartographies conference, I think one of the conclusions and recommendations was that we would increase collaboration and increase interaction with industry – industry knowledge and industry tools and industry support – and that there were no participants in the Cartographies Symposium from the science or industry sector or certainly none that people were aware of. So after Cartographies I began to grow the relationship with ITAC and Lynda Leonard.
A year ago Lynda found a small amount of money in their ITAC budget and proposed that I start addressing some of my ideas on their website – or would I make a web-gallery for their ITAC website which is www.itac.ca/itandart.
So this is a big success for me that I convinced very large industry players to give up some real estate space on their website to our agenda of developing new audiences for IT based artwork and new opportunities for creative cross-disciplinary collaboration.
The website itself features three artists and one business – three artists who work with information technologies across the border of art and industry – Nancy Paterson from Toronto, Martin Rudolf from Montreal and JIM Andrews from Victoria, and Bitforms, a Toronto-based production company who are collaborating with V-tape in Toronto to internet video develop distribution technology. The website also features a list of funding – support and incentives – including the Langlois Foundation, the Canada Council for the Arts and also Industry Canada programs of support and so on. ITAC IT and Art also features a bibliography, and as historical context, an article about Nam June Paik’s video synthesiser and a description of artistic IT processes.
One of the first things that I noticed when I started talking about artists working in collaboration with industry is that for the larger part, people don’t really know what an artist is necessarily – artists do a lot of things and most people just think of them as a painter. And many people just aren’t aware that artists are also on the web and working in new media. Many people in industry who have the power to lend tools and to develop projects and programmes and relationships were very supportive once they sort of understood the reality of new media art and the arts community. So it actually hasn’t been very difficult to convince people in the IT industry or the ITAC membership that collaboration is a good thing. The difficult thing is to convince the people who manage the bottom line that this is valuable investment and that is an investment in the long term and not just an investment in the next product or some recent IT stuff that will get on to the consumer market and make a profit.
So last night’s event was basically the culmination of the recommendation that followed the Cartographies Symposium to try and bring industry people into the community of new media art’s production and dissemination.
I really need to thank David Poole and Shirley Thomson for helping me all the way through and have been terrific support, and so has Marilyn Burgess. And certainly last night’s event would not have taken place without the rapid generosity of Canada Council. Technically, last night was supported by Bell Canada and Apple Computers and their generosity was activated very quickly and certainly we could not have done it without their help.
The interesting thing about last night was that I started with a vision of having a T1 connection so that we could look at Nancy Paterson’s “The Library” as it should – as it could – be seen on-line. A T1 line can actually cost $6000 and they don’t have a package at Bell to provide any connectivity, not even necessarily a T1, for anything less than three months, so the fact that we only wanted a connection for two days was somewhat of a surprise to everybody on that side of things. However, the way Bell’s sponsorship programme works is that they don’t give away service. So what they initially did was they gave us the money in order to buy the connection. So in order to get the money from Bell in order to buy that service, that takes a little bit of time to go through all the various bureaucratic channels. Susanna Cluff-Clyburne the person that we dealt with at Bell and she was wonderful so if anyone wants to work with Bell I’ll forward you her contact. We ended up with an ADSL line, which was just fine for the event. I think the value of the ADSL line is $1600. I don’t know the value of the computer equipment that we got on loan from Apple (3 G4s and 5 Imacs). That was Romy Randev who took care of the technical installation and coordination of the IT for last night. I can also forward you contact details for Apple. Apple is increasingly supportive of artists programs and media art programs. They supported the Independent Video Arts Alliance annual general meeting “Out of Control” with computers this summer and I think it is part of their mandate to actively participate in their community.
It is very generous of these companies to help us get our message out. But one of the things that concerns me is that the support that they give artists or arts organisations in general comes out of their ‘charity’ or ‘marketing’ portfolios. I think it should be coming out of R&D. There doesn’t seem to be enough of a connection back to companies for feedback for how their products are working and what kind of challenges they are being put through as a result of being used and developed by the art community. I think that the Daniel Langlois foundation is a wonderful example for Canada to have that demonstrates the commitment by industry to being supportive of the production, dissemination and collection of media arts. There needs to be more of this in Canada and I think the way to get there is to get art out of the portfolio of charity in companies and have more dialogue back and forth. I think that some of the conversations that were able to take place last night – there were a number of CEO’s and CTO’s of local high tech companies there – suggests that they get it and this in combination with the work that Canada Council is doing with the National Research Council to develop artists in residence programs there is starting a really great wave that is just building day by day.
The technical installation of last night was somewhat challenging because we were working in a 19th century building. We had a problem at one point that we blew the fuses in almost the whole gallery building and it took us about half an hour to get everything back up again. But I don’t think anyone noticed as they were having such a good time talking to each other! I think that if we all, in our conversations with people in industry, ask them who to approach for sponsorship for programs of collaboration and we also have conversations which would support the Canada Council program for artists in residence, and all of us go out to seek potential host organisations, and have conversations with companies that will at least enlighten them to the program and supports that are out there for artists to interface with them, that would be a good thing. Because there is really a lot of support that could empower and contribute to the development of the exciting new media scene in Canada, they just don’t know that the possibilities are there, and in my experience a lot of engineers really do want to work with artists they just don’t know how to negotiate that community. So I think it is up to us all to go out there and build this up and find that it is not as difficult as we might have thought.
Thank you very much. Please visit www.itac.ca/itandart. One more comment, the art gallery page of the ITAC site receives 29% of the hits to ITAC, and ITAC hosts a membership 74% of the IT companies in Canada. So I think that’s a good and interesting new audience and shows the potential audience that we can reach. Thank you.