dealing with the ephemeral

From what I have experienced, the technology that I and others have used to make work that is intended to be seen on screen and sometimes interacted with can and does become outdated. The machines can simply break and no longer be manufactured or they can be victim to what I would call a ‘classic’ issue in that when operating systems are updated some programs no longer work.

For quite some time now, I have believed what had been a working hypothesis when I started programming in the 1970’s – that there is a real similarity between the algorithms used to make these works and musical compositions or plays. At The Slade, I was in the company of artists in the Systems Group and other people influenced by them. Their work and previously whilst at Bristol Polytechnic the work of artists like Yoko Ono, Sol Lewitt and others had convinced me that works of art could consist of instructions, or rely upon instructions to generate them. Some of my contemporaries at Bristol had been influenced by the work of Kenneth Martin and together, encouraged by our tutors, we explored the ideas of the Systems Group. There was a real fascination at the time with implications of minimalism and work created without making decisions during execution. Instructions, like musical compositions, can of course be reinterpreted. One way therefore of dealing with the apparent impermanence of the work is to treat it as a composition to be performed. Performance may consist of making an artefacts.

Using the basic principles of Smallworld is like taking a musical composition and playing it, possibly rearranging it and so on. I have taken various elements of the Smallworld suite and re-used them. In much the same way that musical composers, writers, poets and users of other media continue to explore how similar elements and proposals can reveal new aspects if differently combined. It is this kind of practice that led me to believe that working like I do sits very easily within established art practice.

It is worth remembering that when I was at Art College many artists had an ambiguous relationship with, if not complete antagonism towards the commercial art market. Artists were endeavouring, with varying degrees of success, to make art that could not be turned into a commodity. As a student this had also made an impression on my willingness to make ephemeral work alongside work that might last.