First impressions of Internet art

The visions of four artists are meeting in cyberspace. Robert Nurden reports
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Ever since the Internet raised its much-hyped head, artists have been wondering how they can use it. Its potential is obvious - it can link people round the world together, and the World Wide Web can carry rich graphics.

Now, in a publicly funded experiment, four photographic artists have been collaborating to create a publicly funded interactive work of art in cyberspace. Their subject is sexuality. They choose the sex they want to be when online and invent their own characters. The object is to create a series of images of their virtual identities - they are not aware of each other's real identities. "Artists have always investigated new ways of seeing the world," says Jane Finnis, of Lighthouse Media in Brighton. "This is just another way of doing it."

The artists are based at different digital media centres in Brighton, London, Birmingham and Batley, Yorkshire. The centres provide multimedia studios where the artists have access to image manipulation, animation, desktop publishing, video facilities, and a digital arts workstation connected to the Internet.

The project's aim is to launch Channel, a national arts network that will provide the resources for experiment, debate and information exchange about new technologies and the arts. The artists, who were each paid pounds 1,000, have now made their work available on the Internet.

Meanwhile, four writers in residence have been collaborating to produce a piece of interactive literature on the Internet. The Caribbean novelist Earl Lovelace is working at Artec in London; the deaf poet and performance artist Aaron Williamson is at Lighthouse Media, Brighton; the Brookside and EastEnders scriptwriter Alan McDonald and the poet Mike Blackburn are at Artimedia, Batley. They each receive pounds 1,600 for the two-month "cyberesidency" project.

The finished work will be presented as the literary contribution to Channel. It will remain online and also on the National Poetry Society's Internet poetry map. Public funding of the project comes to pounds 12,000.

For more information, e-mail Lighthouse at anno@lighthouse.org.uk.

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