Network: Woman on the cutting edge of the Web

The artist Auriea Harvey is proving that the Internet can be a place of beauty.
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The Independent Culture
AURIEA HARVEY, Riea to her friends, is an artist and designer pushing the boundaries of her chosen medium. Not just as a tool to sell people more stuff, distribute dull corporate reports or rant about the Millennium Dome, but as a form of artistic expression.

Her Web site, entropy8 (http://www.entropy8.com), has won numerous awards and appeared in several books on site design (including my own), and with good reason: it is possibly the most beautiful site out there and it just gets better all the time. I talked to Auriea recently about Web art and her slant on the medium as the message.

Jason Cranford Teague: What was it that first attracted you to the Web as a viable medium for your own artistic expression?

Auriea Harvey: The Web was something that I just sort of fell into. An extension of very early experimentation with computer software as a means of creating images while I was in college. The Web took it to greater heights, though, because now I can have interaction with the people viewing my work. It seemed like a natural fit to me.

JCT: What skills did you have to develop as a Web designer and artist that were unique to this medium over more traditional media?

AH: There are a great many things about the Web that I am just beginning to understand. The main thing I have had to learn is that I cannot work alone all the time. It is definitely not an isolationist medium and I feel that it is extremely important to take advantage of the networked environment and to use that as a strength. I had to learn to think in non-static, non-linear terms.

I think that, at first, my goal was just to play with technology. Now simply to play is not enough. I have seen how the Web can be used to create really meaningful environments and experiences for people. Not necessarily through art work like mine but through communities built of people with common interests, from various backgrounds, communicating with each other

This is, I feel, the main function of the Web and what is ultimately the most beautiful thing about it.

JCT: What limitations did you have to overcome using the Web as an artistic medium?

AH: It's like anything else where there are rules: you either obey or ignore; push against or work with them. So I never consider it as something to overcome. The big problem comes with there being so many new things to learn all the time. Sorting through what one likes or does not like becomes quite a problem. Finding things you can use or deciding to just perfect what you know is always an issue.

JCT: Your site is visually rich and textured. How important is the visual side of your message compared with text - do you make a distinction?

AH: I come from a purely visual arts background and I have always preferred images to text. With text everyone feels they "know" what you are saying and are willing to take it as truth - and take you literally. With images it is left more to interpretation. The viewer must use their imagination to get some understanding, and they can really impress their own experiences and desires into your work.

In my first years on the Web I struggled with this. The textual element of the Web was immensely important, but I didn't know how I wanted to deal with it. I started out just saying the first thing that came off the top of my head and found that people were reading far too much into it. So then I worked to eradicate the text from my site, but that clearly was not the answer, either.

JCT: So how did you end up dealing with text?

AH: I believe there are ways to make textual interaction work in much the same way as imagery. Not just to be decorative but meaningful without being literal. The bottom line is, I enjoy making images and I also tend to write things down. It is up to me to figure out how these can all fit together. Since I have been doing this for a while, it seems that I would be an expert at this, but it is simply not true on a certain level.

JCT: How does your professional design work differ from your art?

AH: Professionally, I can pull off anything for a client, but artistically it's about the whole journey and the process of figuring out how to create the experience that I want the viewer to take part in.

It took years for me to learn to paint. I imagine the Web will take equally as long to become a real means of expression for me.

All I can say is that I really like it. I love all the things that being involved with the Web has lead me to. But I feel that it is no different from making a painting, sculpture, or video art work. It needs conceptual thought and time, not just the technical knowledge - and that is the journey.

JCT: One last question and I'm sure you must hear this one quite a lot: your Web site takes forever and a day to download! How do you respond to that?

AH: I know.

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