Written by Benny Wicaksono, media artist, independent media researcher in www.waft-lab.com.

Translated by Avika Dwi .C.

The nation with weak art will have difficulties to produce design forms that combine Science- Technology- Art to produce useful works.
-Primadi Tabrani-

For an artist, the problem of choosing a medium of choice is something imporant, even strategic, in order to enter the working area of ​​endless creativity. Parallel to the chosen medium, the artists are also required to develop techniques, concepts, style, language and others as an area to explore ideas to present symbols and metaphors in their works. Beside various techniques and styles, in this medium of choice, the artists are also able to bring their distinctive characters, and of course, through this medium experimentation we can see how the figure of artists become creators and adventurers in the process and reconstruction the medium in such a manner deemed to represent their artistic process. The question is  how far down do these new era artists explore their artistic media?

First, let us see the general understanding in the society especially amongst the people of Indonesia, what is an art work in its outward form? Simply put, this question gave more or less the same answer: that is art made on a flat surface (canvas), commonly called a painting. Or, the statue is a reference for the three-dimensional art form. This understanding is ingrained in our society. Beyond that, works of art using another medium will cause a lot of questions, even a lack of understanding. For example, video art is still widely debated and not well understood by most people as a branch of new and progressive art. This may be because in the historical aspects of art, a “third world” community inevitably will look to the West. In art, the media are the material matters that are used in creating works of art, may be the case with regard to the material or materials, techniques and tools. And works of art like painting exterior can easily be traced to the medium in such a way. In two-dimensional works of visual art (paintings) the most common material used is paint. It could be water-based painting materials (watercolor, acrylic paint, gouache, etc.) or oil paint. Paintinsg material that we know today certainly does have a long history until now. From the first man who began to draw the animals they hunted in caves thousands of years ago by using of powdered red sandstone they encountered, until the 14th century Italian painter, Giotto, which is believed to be the first to successfully conquer the massive two-dimensional form becomes three-dimensional shape of the living and real (realist) (2). An achievement and ability that shook civilization at that era. By using materials and a simple paint materials at that time, such as black ash obtained from burning, grinding kind of white limestone, blue and yellow colors of the results of certain plants and adhesive from egg whites and tree sap. Along with the discovery of these materials, it also lay in the medium as well as techniques and tools. With the technique of light dark (chiaroscuro) and brush from the Siberian fox fur neck, painter of the time trying to catch the reality that at the time identical with precision. The paintings about God and Christian theology in the classical age is believed to be the glories of painting. In line with contemporary sculpture also incised its own excellent. The medium of sculpture that is a stone, carved with such tools become everlasting figures until now. Names like Michael Angelo, Raphael, Leonardo Da Vinci, filling human civilization with gold ink. Between the next two untill three decade, when the painting turned to other realities such as Impressionism, Cubism, Expressionism, Surrealism, and many else, an artists are also working to expand the medium. Same as that, the oil paint medium has evolved from its first emersion. Art mediums such as oil paints can be obtained easily. The artist does not have to mix their own material and material from this oil paint. An Oil paint with different colors packed in such container (tube). This is also one of the reasons the reveal of expressionism in painting. A first true modernists such as Vincent van Gogh became controversial because of directly painting with oil paint tubes onto the canvas surface. A technique that very unusual in this day. The same is done also by maestro Affandi that well-knowned with his expresionism paintings with characters that clumping glare directly on canvas. From its first reveal , oil paint takes several decades until now. In which there are historical and technological aspects of processing that does not necessarily appear out of nowhere. From the color pigment content of the material until the material change along with changing times and the discovery of new technologies in the processing. The Birth of Graffiti and street art such as the emergence of Stencil Art followed inevitably supported by the discovery of paint that are packed in such a way with gas cans which injected with pressurized aerosol. With its practical and efficient at the same time instant spray paint is easy to carry anywhere to practice the art in the streets that are identified with counter culture. The characteristic of instant spray paint in cans, the result of mass fabrication production, does not have the long life cycle (not strong or durable) basis as well as the character’s right of street art itself. This is then make realized that the evolution of the medium also gives an important aspect of culture and the emersion of a new style and new approaches in creating works of art. As the times, the artists of this era also went at once to explore further in exploring the medium that exist around them.


The new medium, the new paradigm.
Entering the new millennium, the world people are worrying about a bad dream. A dream that might be come true. A global catastrophe as a result of computer calculation error, a ‘millennium bug’. A condition where the computer will perform the calculation errors that resulted in chaos in its system control. A clutter conditions, such as navigational calculations disorder condition of the aircraft, loss of data on banking, even computers are predicted to launch its own intercontinental nuclear missile feared mankind will become a reality over the coming new millennium. Although then it was not really happening, this is the first time in human history, human technological inventions as if to strike back like a creator of science fiction films. Computer technology in fact is not really precise and perfect in every operation. As a human creation technology, humans are still very involved there. Although human or computer errors may also occur. The term ‘bug’ is one of how computer technology has primarily itself the Problem (3).

This century also known as the information century or by Alvin Toffler said as the Third Wave. A period of human history where information technology and transportation have made progress that will encourage people towards the so-called information society, one that became his characterization is deurbanization and globalization. This third wave is the continuation of the second wave is suggested as a rational economic community characteristics are strongly believed to be ‘natural selection’, or the survival of the fittest Charles Darwin. While the first wave is a characteristic that suggests the integration of traditional people and nature. This third wave of technology and information together in the midst of present humans as a result of human trust and confidence in the ability of thinking and creativity of its culture. The evolution of existing science in human history is very long, but it has always been this trademark is the technological creation of this man possessed two sides of a coin. A traits that lead to positive and its opposite. Especially after the discovery of electronic technology, many analysts have already written and predicted that the cultural giants of technology will prey on local cultures throughout the world. Form of tension and turmoil that often occurs is the result of penetration of the bombarding media such traditional values ​​and the inclusion of modern values ​​are destructive. Cultural diversity have been urged disseminated by cultural standardization of information technology in the most recent pack of industrialism. This thing has also been there all the time and continues as a crisis of representation is echoed by Walter Benjamin to the fore. For Benjamin, the artwork in this day and age appear in his form accompanied by a new radical changes. The artwork is believed to die as a result of mechanical reproduction. Mechanical reproduction that has ruined the art structure has long existed and essentially change the foundation, the aura of art. Because of it can be reproduced indefinitely, artwork lose their magical power. The rise of reproduction artworks is no doubt in line with the rise of mass culture in which science, technology and industrialism role there as well (4). Although art is not essentially different from the science, instead of a specific activity of the two as if the same. The difference, in art expressed the desire and action directly whereas in the science desire articulated in certain actions. This is always also utilized by an artists and scientists to upload their work. Pessimism and also optimism comes of science and technology is of course cannot escape from a critical view of an artist. As a member of the community and learn the life of society, the artist himself had always played the role of the independent existence of the values ​​embraced by society. Because the artists therein may also be a critic of society, or provide an alternative to the life of its people. Moreover, the arrival of a digital new era technology increasingly confirmed the arrival of a new medium that is still ‘pure’. The presence of this new medium could not be separated from of a long and full passion of historical aspect in it and even fight in an attempt to make it happen. Influence of technology is also perceived by the real change in society. These aspects is encouraging an artists to be always been critical in looking at technology and its influence on culture.

The shadows of the new medium
In the last decade we are in the acceleration and the discovery of new technologies. Since that continued with the discovery of various electronic devices, it also gives a fundamental change to the people and cultures. Often, each emergence of a  new technology is accompanied by shock and even distrust. As in the history of the telegraph discovery and the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell. When the first prototype of the direct  long distance shows to the general public, many of them who do not believe even frightened by the sounds that appear on the tool (5). The big change did take place in human culture when the technology, mainly technology that born from the continuation of electricity discovery. The discovery of IC (integrated circuit) is increasingly convinced many people that distributing the images and sound will become a reality. A dream to bring ‘live image’ in the midst of real life is a dream many people at that time. Although cinema has been found and brought the reality from freezing event and was able to bring reality spectacle moving images, dreams about live pictures distribution through radio waves and electrical technology still remain a dream of many people. And efforts to realize this dream about television came true in 1939, a live broadcast and of course still caused people felt shock and surprise at that time. Although basically the people at that time had been dreaming and waiting for decades a live broadcast that carries news about sports, entertainment, and political speeches. The development of television in fact much longer than was ever imagined at this time. Pioneering effort and the development characteristics could be traced to the 1830’s and on the discoveries and exploration in photography and the electric telegraph was born almost in the same time. For nearly half a century these two technologies is growing in its each tracks. Along with a dream to create ‘live broadcasting technology’ continues to look for  by the scientists, as the time pass by this technology met. When both of the technology becomes cheaper and then create television technology, it quickly spread into all aspects of community and personal life.

As television technology has become an inevitable part and a new culture that is television culture (in America, every family that has furnished must have a television) and television is an arm of big corporations that will emerged the counter culture of this television culture. Especially when a cheap and practical recording technology revealed, as portapak sony camera which sold freely in the era of the 60’s. Which gives public the possibility to have the awareness to use a video camera outside the influence of corporate and independent. Nam June Paik, a Korean-born American artist who started and mostly love to use the television medium as a tool to criticize the culture of television itself. With his spectacular action in his time as television intervened by attaching a magnet to create a new visual reality, piling and construct such a way as television has become a new meaning. A way to express resistance in art while infiltrate in the media itself. One media expert who saw the great influence of the culture media from electronic culture is Marshall McLuhan. With a controversial perspective about technology and modern life. McLuhan saw pictures of the television’s mosaic as an antithesis to the tipographic age which he believed that the printed media  separate people from the world and from each other while the electronic media create and recreate the interdependent world in the ‘global village’. An overview of the telecommunications world that makes the whole world as an one unity. This is an era where information becomes the main thing. Era which is called as an era before the industrialization era, so often referred to post-industrial era. Immediacy of the electronic medium in conveying any information at the speed of light is the basis of the assumption that the human in the future can not avoid information that flooded the world. And the implication is that the nature of the dependence on this technology that would keep people with each other. A criticism made by artists in those days to make corrections on culture media continue to the fore the relevant untill now. Especially in video art, which is believed to be the embryo of art or technology-based new media arts (new media art).

Criticized, as well as celebrate
When television technology entered Indonesia in 1962, the Indonesian people are faced with new realities of information technology. Television installed in various public places such as village office. Television first came by imports from Japan to broadcasted sports events. A prestigious government project to support the SEA Games which hold in Jakarta. Because of political influence and power, Televisi Republik Indonesia (TVRI) was transformed into an extension of the Suharto regime which in power at that time to smooth political jargons. Although in the end, TVRI would broadcasted and reviewed the destruction and dilapidation of this regime. The presence of information technology in Indonesia was not free from political tensions that existed. The collapse of Suharto regime is believed to be caused of technology and internet access did by students who do coordinate a joint action (7). They coordinate through the internet by used ‘warnet’ scattered throughout the major cities in Indonesia (the interesting thing is the population of many cafes located around the campuses). College student awareness to use internet technology  of course driven by the technology that is fast and efficient. As well as new media that independent and have the power of democracy and  far away from government control and supervision. This is what drives how the internet world and then used as a network in collecting as well as mobilizing the people at that time.

Information technology and media technology basically have two groups of users or consumers. According to John Walker (in his book, Design history and the History of Design), two groups of users who are generally known in the western perspective is the ‘consumer’, a group that buy and use a product with great attention to its meaning, consumers want to buy this type of anything in order to follow trends and fads that always has its own recycling period. The second group is ‘users’ (users), groups that buy and use a product by looking for the most important functions, this type of group consumes only by looking at aspects of its function only. In this last group of consumers is how electronic technology used in such a way rationally and have a clear purpose. A groups which aware that technology and electronic devices should give benefit for humans. They prefer to be critical in responding the arrival of new technologies and electronic devices. In contrast to the second group, the first group see the symbols and social status that is brought in electronic devices. In Indonesia, electronic technology was transformed into the demands of today’s lifestyles and become a standard that can not be negotiable. Contemporary lifestyle identical with the power consumption of electronic goods, rather than force mastery of knowledge in it. The result we can see things that are not rational in practice. For example, (the events happened not long before this writing) a smartphone vendors that sold their products for half price which resulted in an overflow queue buyer and could not be controlled anymore. A riot happened among the prospective buyers with the police who dissolving the queue and the event. Emotional faces shown by the people who disappointed as implying a very, very lost in his life. A was not ‘smart’ behavior when they try to acquire a technology which is claimed as the ‘smart’ technologyThe illustration above shows an interesting phenomenon from a social class who want to boost their social status through the ‘artifacts’ electronic objects. It is indisputable that the human need for information technology that simplify life’s inevitable. As we know, technology is the result of human creations that become part of daily life as a creature that can liberate themselves from dependence on instinct or basic drives. Information technology and media technologies accumulated in digital technology perfected it all. In this digital technology human dream of presence and the folding time and space and reality now-here and now find their way. As a new media expert Lev Manovich, man in the digital age bond with sort of contract between himself and the machine or individual in an interactivity. Digital technologies make it all come true (8).

Seeing and observing arising phenomena, of course an artists are responsive to cultural and factual environment community. The artist, of course react to the phenomenon and peculiarities felt. Although the difference in the outlook remains in the history of art, and this does not determine whether the purpose of art is for art or art for the community into an artist’s own purpose. Clearly, the art was intended and thus have utility for the people. And this view is further clarified by the presence of new media art. Despite the fact that new media is not art, although he is an art that was born from the development of the visual culture of information technology and media technology in which elements of interactivity, and imaterialitas virtualitas have role there. New media art formed of various kinds of tendencies (9). As a newly emerging art in historical art in Indonesia, new media art has a root of the problem itself. As in the Indonesian language in terms of ‘new media’ or new media have the question itself, what’s so new? What’s that old media? But all these questions to be melting when looking at the fact how information and communication technology is consciously celebrated by various levels of society in Indonesia. Just look at how the phenomenon of social networks like FaceBook, Twitter and blogspot are spreaded in Indonesia, which puts Indonesia as the largest owner of the account up to the second largest in the world after the United States. This celebration is not only gave the pride and optimism but also gave the intersection of positive and negative in social reality. Technological aspects controlled by the financier as a producer at odds with society because of their own interests and this voltage can not be interpreted simply. State, corporations, and communities have their own interests (see the case of blackberries in Indonesia). And it is true that new media artists work creatively between the two tendencies and the two poles of tension earlier. Because the new media art, the techne concept becomes clear that is an reincarnation and the revitalization of the paradigm of art and technology. Especially in the ideology of modernism which prioritizes novelty, art and technology merge and complement each other. And clearly and concisely Krisna Murti answered questions about the discussion regarding this new media art and the position of the artist, that new media artists are no different from the others, it means that other people have the ability to access information technology and media technologies, as well as media artists. The difference is media artists more ‘beyond’ (10). Cool, right?

(1). The title above is the author’s answer of the frequent questions about the reasons why choosing a new media art (new media art) as the basis of art as well as the post title for the DIY (designing yourself) held by the c2o library Surabaya.

(2). Frederick Hartt. (Art: A History of Painting, Sculpture, Architecture) Prentice Hall, 1992

(3). This term appears when the computer is having problems because of the presence of insects (bugs). Computers in the early period is a set of machines with giant size, the computer recorded the first measuring nearly 33 meters by 3 meters high and weighed nearly 30 tons. Machines that still rely on manual calculations by utilizing the thousands of cards. Grace Hopper was a computer scientist who first documented the existence of a moth or insect problems (bugs) are squeezed among relay from earlier generation machines. Since then the term ‘bug’ is used by engineers and computer scientists to refer to disorders or problems found in the system.

(4). Greg Soetomo, artistic crisis, a crisis of consciousness, Canisius, 2003, pp. 18-19

(5). Roger Fidler, Mediamorfosis: understanding new media, Landscape 2003

(6). See post, Ronny Augustine, Video: Not All Correct .., OK Video Post event catalog, 2004

(7). See the article, Roundtable on New Media Art in South and Southeast Asia, Amanda McDonald Crowley, Art Asia Pacific, July / August 2009

(8). View the Krisna Murti, New Media Culture, an Essay on video art and new media, IVAA 2009

(9). Krisna Murti, an Essay on video art and new media, IVAA, 2009, p. 52

(10). Discussion of media art is organized by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism Directorate General of Culture Value, Arts and Film Arts held at the Directorate of Cultural Park West Nusa Tenggara Province within the framework of Media-Art Exhibition of contemporary Indonesia initiated in media arts (June 2011). The author was invited as an invited artist at the event.

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