Communication is framed by both cultural framing and cultural shock. In the first instance set standards within a community indicate how a word should be comprehended; however, in the second instance, cultural re-adoption deflects the word into a system of meaning dissociated from its original connotation and context.
In an age of digital delivery, complemented by the gathering of sub-cultural hubs communicating in online chat forums, blogs, live journaling sites, language is restructuring to accommodate the needs of those represented within these cultural frames and technologies. From teenagers to on-line bloggers to new e-communities enabled by on-line resources, all are accessing technologically driven platforms to better offer direct e-message distribution and encompass or consolidate communities with similar interests. While communication within each of these sub-cultural hubs is reflective of interests and certain media tropes new mediated structures are also being developed that reveal the specific syntaxes and interests of each of the participating parties.
The 'discrete' media platforms of a book or a poem being a collection of pages collated in a pamphlet or hardcover, or an object associated with a particular identity and/or process, are dissolving both functionality and form in relation to new content delivery systems. The push of convergent platforms, such as the emergence of personal digital assistants (PDAs) or smart phones, wherein each of these platforms can act as multifunctional object assuming qualities of a diary, scheduler, mini computer, phone, broadcast unit, audio transmitter, phone and/or digital camera, have far exceeded how users would anticipate a single media platform to function.
For instance, novels, pamphlets and poems are typically associated with printed media and paper; however, as far as new media delivery and electronically enabled societies are concerned, printed words are still 'consumable' and readable but may also be associated with other value systems.
What is being offered to today's society is a plethora of older media conventions flowing together to form a series of repeated or familiar events. The sequencing of each of these platforms/messages are transformed by their relationship and inclusion to other kind of sequences or communication, so that these sequences strung together compose a new flow or 'broadcast' wherein the user or community member has a new consciousness or comprehension of the space in question. The latter sequence is designed to create, is reflected in our experience of events, and is responsible for cultural shock being easily assumed by society. The energies required to summon the mind into realising its new conscious space dissipate; the grabbing and constant attention of the next promises possible new unfolding and revealing moments in the development of technology and/or a subcultural group's identity; thus, the promise of something next to come causes the group to linger, watch, and participate. This promise for more development creates community growth and enables individuals to grasp the ideological grammar of particular sub-systems without being aware of a change in their ideological framework(s).
The exhibition currently on display at Gallery 69, titled SCRIPTED plays on two syntaxes and promises. The term 'scripted' refers to the writing process, letters, words, and drama. The title also places emphasis on computer programming and debugging code. The metaphor of 'to script' seems almost to be taken for granted in today's society where its poetic foundations are misunderstood.
For this exhibition, artists were asked to respond to these discussions of the routines of 'everyday life' in relation to electronic and print communication. The desire to avoid straight textual semiotics on the one hand and exclusive focus on the knowledgeable of the readers on the other became a difficult balance. The show began to develop around the possibility and promise of how do various 'imagined and real communities' - produce and maintain identity through the routines of print and media use. How is art read? When does art become self reflexive, and not just an ontological label?
Using various media delivery approaches artists attempted to re-devise methods in which concepts related to personal identity, consumer habits, and online communication began to question the role of media's power in people's lives, and conversely the power of people's lives on demarking and personifying technological histories.
In responding to these approaches, participating artists attempted to balance their own experiences in relation to those shared by the audience. Whether or not each of these experiences transpires, the texts propose concepts, questions, or ideas which question how the artwork is consumed. For this proposition to succeed, works in this exhibition ask the viewer to participate by reading the titling, placement of contextual words on the picture plane and to complete or reflect on the proposed questions.
While appearing ambiguous artworks within SCRIPTED present scenes/experiences/concepts from the everyday back to the viewer to re-examine through texts. Through the juxtaposition of iconic or textual content these artworks express complex ideas. Since any visual configuration has a potentially infinite number of properties, artists within SCRIPTED have attempted to select concepts most relevant to the viewing audience’s position within a given timeframe and location. Like the representation of pictorial images derived from the real world, these textual works on display also reference space, light, time and dimensional content not through visual references but through the use of language and suggestion, and this is what may this make this exhibition so dynamic/appealing. Language is a portrait of culture, and in so reading the work, viewers are also actively engaged in locating themselves and their own culture.
Sylvia G. Borda is an Associate Researcher at the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory at the University of British Columbia, and an Instructor at Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. Her interests lie in examining the social contexts where new media art emerges and evolves.