Magic: August 21 to September 25, 2009

Aug 30th, 2009 by vanessa | 1
Magic starting image prototype
Screengrab of installation center image, presented at Without Borders, August, 2009. (Left: Nicole Starosielski; Right: Erik Loyer)

Presently in production, Magic looks at the increasingly varied ways in which artists — or, perhaps more generally, makers — collaborate to bring disparate pieces of a project together to form a coherent whole. The project itself is also a product of these same collaborative forces.

Craig Dietrich, John Bell, and myself, in collaboration with Vectors staff, this summer’s NEH Vectors fellows, and many more have contributed to Magic.  As often happens, the nature of the partnership is dictated as much by the personalities and backgrounds of the collaborators as by the specific technical or production needs of the project. Magic is presently installed at Without Borders VI: Conjunction, a gallery show on the University of Maine campus, through September, 2009. The public opening is September 10th, at Lord Hall. We’ve placed up a Web-based version of the installation interface, and stay tuned for the release of the prototype Web-only project.

From the proposal: What “Makes” Interactive Media and Who Makes It?

When producing Spiral Jetty (1970), Robert Smithson asked a local Utah construction worker to grab his dump truck and tractor for the project. Bob Phillips used his machinery to move six tons of rock needed to create the work in Salt Lake.

Looking around, one can find reference to Phillips but credit for the idea to build the obtuse lake intrusion is given rightfully to Smithson. Less important in art history is the means of execution provided by the more ambiguous skill of operating a tractor.

These hidden collaborators often suffer in history for the ubiquity of their skill. Though, a line exists where the number of qualified technicians is small enough that their skills constitute art itself. More importantly, creators are realizing that formally including the Bob Phillips’ of the World in the creation process leads to unexpected and new results in art and scholarship.

Credit may lie with the creator of an idea. But with unique technical innovation required to reach completion in the digital humanities, collaborations have become commonplace. Magic is a look at the contributions made by a diverse group of team members in an effort to demonstrate the changing notions of authorship and provide examples of successful collaborations.

Magic’s long-term goals

Software and data innovations are routinely present in projects that examine culture.  Magic will showcase these advances on the process, design, and implementation by which they are created.  Specifically, Magic is comprised of three core intents: 1) To provide a platform for discussion of software “data layer” innovations in interactive media.  2) To create a resource for culturally-sensitive interactive media projects, as this project genre often requires a rethinking of approaches in both content and software. 3) To act as documentation for open source projects.  With many projects hoping to open up their code for reuse by others, but whose development team lacks the resources to document their code and tactics, Magic will be the documentation.