Eduardo Kac

Il y a un poéme à faire sur l'oiseu qui n'a qu'une aile
Nous l'enverrons en message téléphonique
Guillaume Apollinaire [Calligrammes]

The importance of the telephone and its extensions [fax, e-mail, slow-scan TV etc] for artmaking is yet to be investigated. The social impact of the telephone sparks the idea of art as a dialogue, going beyond the notion of art as object-making. The understanding of art as inter-communication moves us away from the issue of what is it that art or the artist communicates? to question the very structure of the communication process itself. It is not so much what is being communicated in a particular situation that is at stake, but the very possibility of verbivocovisual interlocution that ultimately characterizes symbolic exchanges.

At the end of the twentieth-century we are facing a shift towards the proliferation of more interactive artforms. This is a reaction against the inter-passivity inherited from previous media and against passive use of potentially interactive media. Interactive video disc is moving video beyond its links with cinema, computer holography is pushing holography beyond the photographic frame, interactive computer installations, including Virtual Reality, are taking computer graphics beyond the Renaissance window.

We can now talk of art as seeking a dialogical structure, in which dynamic exchanges and transformations of images, sounds and texts reflect the flux of data of the information age in a way that fixed forms can not. In telematic art, the physical by-products of the visual dialogues (faxes, tapes etc) are but documents of the process. Telematic art takes on the exchange between two or more people, and finds a model in the unpredictable loop of ideas, gestures, words, gazes, sounds and reactions they perform in real time according to one's feedback to the other's utterances. Telematic art has exhibited the collapse of the sender/receiver bipolarity of Jakobson's schematic communication model, and is inventing the multilogue of networking as a collaborative art form.

Dialogues can assume different shapes. Western culture is slowly acknowledging the mental visual operations that are indissociable from the cognitive process we name "thought". We are understanding that the mental association of images is capable of articulating complex structures in itself, and we seek to investigate how visual syntaxes work, whether in thought or exteriorized in visual syntagms.

All the aforementioned implications of telematic art, in addition to the virtually unexplored domain of telepresence, have a social and political value, which can not be reduced by manichæist disputes: who is right (i.e., who speaks), who is wrong (i.e., who listens), who has the right to speak in the name of who. This observation is of special significance today, when works that claim to be "politically correct" are celebrated as if any political attitude could automatically legitimate an artwork. It is clear that if a capitalist television is replaced by a Marxist television, it is a mere substitution that takes place, and not a revolution, because the control and distribution of information would still remain centralized and unidirectional. In a smaller scale, to use a fax machine to send fragments of a picture to a gallery as an artistic activity is to disregard the real esthetic issues of two-way communication, because the picture could have been sent by mail with the same result. Only a transformation in the structure of communication ignites a real democratic change.

Works of art created with telematic media are communication events in which information flows in multiple directions. These events aim not to represent a transformation in the structure of communication, but to create the experience of it. They could be interpreted as signs of a future in which communication is free of political constraints and censorship, and in which art, liberated from the rules of the market of objects, becomes one of the possible dialogues.