DIGITAL ART

Christiane Paul, Author
Christiane Paul, Author . Thames & Hudson $14.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-500-20367-5
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Where many of her bigger-budgeted, theoretically enthralled predecessors have failed, Whitney Museum of Art curator Paul does an impressive job of compressing the activity of a huge field, in which there are no obvious heroes and no single aesthetic line, into a readable pocket-sized book. She is especially deft at laying the groundwork for such diverse practices as "telepresence" (beaming an artist's activities or daily life via telephone to other parts of the world), "browser art" (the creation of alternative browsers to navigate and present Web data) and "hacktevism"—political art, often aimed at corporations, that can include viruses and less pointedly destructive forms of maverick programming. With its beginnings in video and sound art, digital art grew exponentially in the '90s, and all the major players are here: from the Barcelona-based Web art team jodi (Joan Hemskeerk and Dirk Paesmans) to New York's Asymptote architectural team (founded by Hani Rashid); and from Robert Lazzarini's 3D anamorphic skulls to Eduardo Kac's weird experiments with animal genetics (he once bred a glow-in-the-dark rabbit). In fact, so much art is covered that Paul is often forced to contain her discussion of an artist's (or team's) entire body of work to a few sentences; the most information is found in the capacious captions accompanying the many illustrations. Flaws include a flat prose style and recourse to abstract postmodernisms to explain the meanings of some works, but in general Paul doesn't get lost in this language (endemic to digital culture), and so her parroting of these phrases doubles as a sort of reportage of a burgeoning new art culture, one that is independent of the gallery system and infused with the spirit of innovation. (July)

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