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  • matthewsoare

Electronic Superhighway


I’ve just had an interesting experience that I want to share with you. I’m currently sat on a train. Coming back from that London. I’ve been allowed out to play from work.

Part of my job involves working with partners at FACT (an arts organisation based in Liverpool) and today I got to go with them, and some young people who are involved in a project with us, to London, to see an art exhibition.

Now, those of you who know me in real life know that I am not the most arty of people and I somehow got involved in this project (Nope, I have no idea how it happened) but it would seem that I just haven’t experienced the right art…or art in the right way…or something…Claire is arty and will know what I mean and I’ll probably come back and edit this bit when I’ve spoken to her and sorted the thoughts in my head into some semblance of order.

Claire knew straight away what I meant and in her words…”you mean that art was just something that existed that some people liked.” Up until this point I hadn’t felt connected to any artwork… Excited, inspired, in awe…. Until now…

Basically, we’ve been to look at an exhibition in the Whitechapel gallery (link) that focuses on the interaction between technology and art. It was a bit risqué in places (We were warned about “sensitive material”) but was mostly *exactly* my cup of tea.

So, I kept Claire up until gone 1.30am on Thursday after this visit. Talking about art. She asked some very interesting questions to help me understand what happened and how the exhibition made me feel.

“So what kind of art was it?”

I don’t know. There were prints from plotters (which made me feel old – I can remember using a friends plotter when I was at school), films projected onto walls, websites exploring how people interact with information. There was ASCII art animated to represent classic film scenes, a giant TV screen with an eye on it that followed you as you walked past it (Which was both brilliant *and* creepy), a wrecked computer showing videos of people shouting and getting all ‘computer rage’ which was a really clever piece…and and….

“No, what *kind* of art was it?”

Oh… Well I didn’t even know what she meant. After some discussion we decided that most of it was conceptual art. (Find out more). Claire has suggested that there is a Jasper Johns quote about “what is art” but I can’t find anything that seems appropriate.. If anyone has any comments please let me know and I’ll add it in…

I see it as taking something most people know and using it in order to express an idea. Using a website in the way that does is a really interesting way of highlighting that what you see on the screen isn’t necessarily what you are getting (clue: There is some very interesting stuff in the page source that you don’t see in your browser) – as relevant today as it was in 1995.

From the broken computer endlessly playing it’s own demise, expressing our sometimes troubled relationship with technology, to the giant (and I mean easily 2/3m high) image of a backside with test message chat bubbles coming from it which made me think about my blog (Talking crap anyone? – Actually, Olaf Breuning’s Text Butt) all kinds of media are used. TV, film, canvas, photography, interactive technology, on-line websites…

I loved the displayed work by Ulla Wiggen (link) that was on display which to me was interesting because as the world is becoming more concerned with miniaturisation of technology (especially thinking of the 1960s transistor boom) and the idea of taking something that has been getting smaller and smaller and then taking that and painting it on a huge canvas creates a really interesting juxtaposition that I thought was really fun.

Inventarienr: NM 6170 Konstnärens namn: Ulla Wiggen Titel: Trask Datum: 1967

Inventarienr: NM 6170 Konstnärens namn: Ulla Wiggen Titel: Trask Datum: 1967

The young people I was there with seemed to have an awesome time and were as excited to explore the exhibition (where they were allowed – some of the exhibition was a bit “sensitive”) as they were to be in London. It is possible that they had a completely different experience to that of me (because they are digital natives, whereas I have to admit that I am totally too old for that to apply to me) but they did seem to enjoy it and every time our paths crossed they seemed to be engrossed.

We had more than enough time to wander through the exhibition and I genuinely could have spent all day there, but, alas, the train home beckoned. (Claire has not really responded to my suggestion that we go back)

I would thoroughly recommend anyone who as the opportunity, and has an even fleeting interest in technology and how it relates to our culture and society, go and check it out. Especially this.


This was my favourite piece. I couldn’t tell you exactly why, but I love it. Maybe it’s because it reminds me of my youth, or maybe it’s because it doesn’t actually look like anything until you “see” the tree. Oh, yes, it’s known as the “red tree”…

“How does this help you do your job?”

Well, it sounds silly, but until now I have known that the opportunity to work with an artist is a brilliant opportunity for the young people we are working with. This trip has almost flipped a switch in my head. I now understand *why* it is such an amazing chance for them. It’s really hard to explain the distinction between understanding that something is great and realising that it is. If we can get young people to experience what I experienced in Whitechapel then who knows how they will embrace art in the future.

Having felt something that connected with me first-hand, I know the effect that this can have. If we can help even a couple of people to experience this kind of connection then it’s worth while.

Ladies and Gentleman. The *right* art can change your point of view.

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