fineArt forum - past, present and future

Copyright © Paul Brown 1997
All Rights Reserved
This presentation was originally written for the Past, Present and Future of Electronic Publishing for the Arts panel at ISEA 97. The author was unable to attend and the presentation was made, on his behalf, by Amanda McDonald Crowley, CEO of ANAT (the Australian Network for Art and Technology)

"Although it is always fun to indulge in genderbending it still seems strange for me to speak though the mouth of an avatar. I would like to thank Amanda for assuming this role for me today. Amanda has autonomous intelligence and, in addition to interpreting my words, will also be able to answer your questions and contribute to your debate.

"fineArt forum was launched in April 1987 as an email newsletter and bulletin board service based at the University of Amherst in Massachusetts, USA. Many of the early issues are online and announce major historical events like the establishment of ZKM in Karlsruhre.

"fineArt forum is the newsletter of the Art, Science and Technology Network but it exists autonomously and is now produced in Brisbane, Australia in cooperation with the Department of Communication Design at the Queensland University of Technology. Our internet services are provided by Griffith University in Australia and Mississippi University in the USA.

"In 1992, soon after I became editor, we launched an interactive server-client-based Gopher version of the newsletter. In January 1994 this was superseded when our World Wide Web version came online. When the web first became popular we were one of the few arts resources available and we attracted and have maintained a large and influential readership. Upwards of 15,000 people read our Web version each month (based on our hit rate of 70-100,000 per month). In addition over 1500 professional practitioners of art and technology subscribe to the email newsletter.

"The web version expands our services for the more general reader and includes:

  • a hyperlinked version of the monthly newsletter;
  • a monthly update of new art web sites;
  • the recently relaunched "Reviews" section;
  • a permanent and substantial listing of other art resources on the internet moderated and maintained by Jeliza Patterson; and
  • a gallery section which has been undeveloped for some time but will soon be relaunched. It includes work by Hellaman Fergusson and Joseph Delappe as well as a portfolio of early work by STELARC and the independently curated Trophies of Honour indigenous art space.
"Apart from it's public success as an art & technology net 'zine fineArt forum is primarily produced on a voluntary basis by members of the art and technology community as a professional resource. It's major content is news and announcements which include: events; opportunities; resources and publications.

"fineArt forum is a clear example of the egalitarian nature of the internet. It enables a global community of interest to maintain contact and keep each other informed and to do so both inexpensively and efficiently. Since the advent of the web it has also enabled them to present their work and concerns to a much larger general audience.

"Looking to the future I hope and expect that we will see more of the same: practitioners sharing useful resource material with their colleagues worldwide.

"What will change is the bandwidth, the interface and, I hope, the paradigm. Right now the web is a metaphor driven phenomenon. We frame our publications in the context of printed "pages" and architectural "sites". Both of these focus on heritage assumptions of established media and, arguably, have little relationship to the plural geography of cyberspace.

"As readers of my earlier publication will know I believe that the move from our current heritage-based media preconceptions to a totally new and media-intrinsic mode of expression and communication will be achieved by young emergent talents who have not yet been conditioned by the current and past media paradigms.

"I am please therefor that our new relationship with the Communication Design Department at QUT offers the opportunity for young people to work on the publication. Our current student interns range in age from 16 to 30 years old and they bring a wealth of lateral skills to the project. They range from computer science undergraduates to mature students with experience in broadcast television production.

"The department itself was recently established (within the experimental ethos of QUT's Academy of the Arts) in order to specifically address the paradigm shift that will be generated by the increased assimilation of digital communication technologies within society. The Communication Design field is also refreshingly free of the pretentious avant-gardeism that still epitomises much of the fine arts.

"It is an excellent home for fineArt forum and I remain optimistic that this new relationship will enable us to remain at the leading edge of the communication revolution during our second decade.

"I remain concerned about the commercialisation of the internet. It seems likely that a few strong service providers will monopolise the new superhighway. Names like Rupert Murdoch and Times Warner spring easily to mind. I would be surprised if the owning cartels will allow the laissez-faire internet ethic to survive. It's far more likely that they will want to strictly control and licence content and, in particular, limit free access to individuals and non-profit groups who wish to publish their work.

"This is a global problem and one which I believe can only be solved by strict national regulation which should insist that superhighway facilitators offer community access. Unfortunately this kind of centralised legislated control runs contrary to the right-wing rational economic policies that are now endemic in the USA, Europe and many other parts of the world. My other hope therefore is that the current internet framework will survive and be tolerated by the superhighway builders as an "off Broadway" talent breeder. We shall see.

"I understand that this panel will finish with a party to celebrate the 3rd decade of Leonardo. I was 20 when I saw Leonardo Volume 1 No. 1 and I feel that my career has often been helped by the credibility that this important publication has created for the art & technology fringe. The history of fineArt forum has been closely linked with Leonardo and it's now a great honour for me to be a member of their editorial board.

"Through the mouth of my avatar I wish them, and you all, a successful and enjoyable party. I would like to ask you, in your celebrations, to remember that this is also the tenth birthday of a arts `zine that may not have been the first on the internet but is one which has survived to become one of the longest established.

"In closing I would like to thank all the many contributors, volunteers and organisations who's commitment and generosity has enabled fineArt forum to survive its first decade. They are far too many to mention and several will be in the audience today. To all of you my sincere thanks and my sorrow that I can't be with you today."

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