‘The entire plant is toxic (including the roots and seeds), although the leaves of the upper stem are particularly potent, with just a nibble, being enough to potentially cause death. There have been instances of people confusing digitalis with the relatively harmless.’
Digitalis, Wikipedia contributors, Wikipedia, retrieved 1 December 2011, from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digitalis
Animate began in 1990, commissioning artists and animators to make experimental films for television. It was one of several collaborations between the Arts Council and broadcasters as part of a strategy that aimed to lever additional financial support for ambitious projects and to enable the relatively vast television audience to readily engage with artists’ moving image. It was, crucially, about television as a primary form – not merely platform – for contemporary artists’ practice.
Nowadays, exhorted to broadcast ourselves, the idea of ‘television’ itself can seem quaint idea. ‘Digital’ is as unwieldy a subject for discussion as ‘writing’ or ‘biological’. Nevertheless, the institutions of support reduce debate to their reminders that digital media technologies are affecting every aspect of our society, economy and culture. In messages that themselves reach us by email. Interrupting our making and the delivery of online purchases or attending James Wales’ personally appealing eyes.
What this language of ‘affect’ and impact betrays is how many of us in the arts and our arts institutions are playing catch up with the world. Digital doesn’t simply affect the world. It is the world. The world is digital. And as with previous technological revolutions – the printing press, the threshing machine, penicillin – nothing is the same as it ever was.
‘Homer: Is this episode going on the air live?
June Bellamy: No, Homer. Very few cartoons are broadcast live. It’s a terrible strain on the animators’ wrists.’
The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show, The Simpsons, Season 8, Fox Network, 1997
The notion that ‘live’ is primary still prevails, with media – broadcast, and now digital – as carriers. Arts Council England asserts how ‘digital technologies enable artists to connect with audiences in new ways, bringing them into a closer relationship with the arts and creating new ways for them to take part.’
In all the hoopla around digital relay of opera and Twitter feeds in theatres it would be wrong to confuse the ‘live’ – cultural objects – with culture itself. Many of us are culturally engaged elsewhere. In places the ‘live’ do not go and cannot reach. A generation doesn’t riot because it can’t sing in a choir. And the digital does depend on our ‘re-imagining’ what an ‘arts experience’ can be – it can be an authentic ‘arts experience’ in its own right. And the challenge for that art is to counter our acquiescence; to become celebrant not supplicant.
- An extract from the essay Digitalis: algorithm of life is a powerful beat by Gary Thomas
Animate Projects has produced a newspaper catalogue for the Digitalis project that includes information about the works and artists, with commissioned essays about art and the digital space.
The newspaper includes the full version of Gary Thomas’ essay above, Digitalis: algorithm of life is a powerful beat. And essays by Nick Bradshaw, Ele Carpenter, Emma Geliot, Max Hattler, Rosemary Heather and Tim Shore.
You can order a free copy of the newspaper at animateprojects.org/shop (postage rates still apply).
We would love to hear your thoughts about the use of digital in relation to art, the Animate OPEN films, the Digitalis Commissions and any feedback on the Digitalis Dialogue essays and the themes they explore. Please comment/discuss below: