Yesterday I came across Watercouleur Park, a new work by French artists group Qubo Gas, - the 11th commission by Tate for its Net Art Programme.
From the Tate website: "Watercouleur Park is an interactive graphic composition made of layers of drawings. The order in which the drawn landscapes appear is random. The vegetation contained in each of the landscapes is also a random element. There are 14 landscapes in total, drawn dynamically from an updatable database of drawings... the new work references previous works in collage and fresco. One step further from the tactility of the frescos, Watercouleur Park induces a virtual, sensorial experience of spatial immersion."
An article by BÃ©nÃ©dicte Ramade explains the work. Referring to the look of the pictures, he says of Qubo Gas's art "its multiple, unbridled, imaginative facets make one think of a sedge garden with running roots painted by a master of kakemono". True, the forms do remind me of old Japanese prints, but also mixed in there I see a lot of Yellow Submarine/ 60's psyschedelia/ pop art, which is all very contemporary.
Ramade tells us the work is deeper than this: "In Qubo Gas's cracked landscapes, the beautiful animated or floating images hide a violence that breaks with a probable indulgent visual confrontation. Luxuriance becomes an aggressive, inexorable invasion, acidulous, irritating colours are striking, naÃ¯ve forms conceal real dexterity. Like a carnivorous plant or its clever synthetic version, the drawn landscape or botanical worlds are always very close to being pretty, without yielding to prettiness, consciously ironical."
He sounds desperate to convince us, yet it seems to me the work is really about random poetic arrangements. Through experience I've found that trying to make something meaningful and coherent, yet constructed at random is really hard to do. Poetry is manageable - the vagueness and ambiguity of random forms seem to be more suited.
As far as I understand, the work pulls hand-made graphic style scanned drawings in at random, and places them at random to construct the pictures. This is a nice idea (but also not original) - marrying the traditional hand-made with computer algorithms - so a traditional style picture is formed by a computer program. The objects themselves - the scanned sketches are given properties - as far as I understand - so they interact with each other. I like this idea - Don Relyea is doing similar things, though in different ways.
Wikipedia states that: "Internet art projects are art projects for which the Net is both a sufficient and necessary condition of viewing/expressing/participating. " As far as I understand, this work could exist on CDROM, and doesn't require to be on or connected to the Internet. So how is this work 'net art'? Maybe I'm missing something...
I'm also disappointed in the use of Flash for the work, as my personal view is that net artists should be using open source software, and not proprietary.