fineArt forum - past, present and future
Copyright © Paul Brown 1997
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
All Rights Reserved
"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.
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
"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1994 this was superseded when our World Wide Web version came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
"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.
- 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.
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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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