stephen wilson

September 5, 2007

stephen wilson is the chair of conceptual/information arts at san francisco state university and author of the “wilson list” (under “sites you will use in this course”). i am posting this because his resources for students of digital media are outstanding and you should all check out his site. below is a copy of his artist statement-which i think of as the best one i have read by a “digital” artist.

“I am simultaneously awed and troubled about the course of scientific and technological research. Historically the arts kept watch on the cultural frontier.  I fear that in the contemporary technology-dominated world they are failing that responsibility.  Historically, the arts alerted people to emerging developments, examined the unspoken implications, and explored alternative futures. As the centers of cultural imagination and foment of our times have moved to the technology labs, the arts have not understood the challenge. It is a critical error to conceptualize research as merely some narrow, technical specialized inquiry.  Recent history has shown that the fruits of research have transformed life and opened new perspectives on basic philosophical questions such as what it is to be human and what is the nature of the world.  Merely assimilating the new gizmos to create new media is a timid response.

The arts have a much more profound calling.  They can become an independent zone of research – pursuing agendas ignored by commercial interests and scientific disciplines and integrating critical commentary with the search for new knowledge and the elaboration of new technical possibilities.  Those who believe that the arts are now up to date because they pay attention to digital technology have misunderstood the course of history because the research goes on – investigating many other fields in which the arts should be proactive pioneers rather than merely consumers of the results. Learning new technologies, taking them apart (technically and culturally), and doing the provocative and unexpected with them is at the core of my art and gives me great satisfaction

As the world becomes more fascinated with the cyber and the virtual, I have become more interested in the use of technology to celebrate and investigate real world place, physicality, and corporeality. Thus, I have started to explore several new areas of research in my art including biological experimentation, body and environmental sensing, and GPS location sensing technology.  Influenced by critical theory which questions art’s claim to isolation,  I have increased my actions to create art in non art settings and with non art audiences.”


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