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Digital Visions
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The 12hr-ISBN-JPEG Project
Owen Smith is an artist, writer and teacher. He is interested in all things, but most particularly all things related to alternative art forms. He is a producer of multiples, artists' books and net art and his work has been exhibited widely throughout the world in over 60 national and international exhibitions over the last ten years. Dr. Owen F. Smith is a professor of Art History and Digital Art in the Department of Art at the University of Maine. He received his BA in Russian Studies, his MA in Anthropology and his PhD in Art History at the University of Washington in Seattle. His most recent book Fluxus: The History of an Attitude, was published by San Diego State University Press.

The etymology of the word "Fluxus" in Latin literally means "flow" and "change." In English, "flux" - a derivative of its Latin origin - has various meanings and is often used to denote a state of continuous change or a fusion. The term Fluxus also appeared as a word denoting a certain art practice in the early 1960s. Fluxus is characterized by its strongly Dadaist attitude, but also takes elements from Zen and Bauhaus ideals, fusing various media and art forms together rather experimentally. Fluxus works emphasize the importance of the conceptual element over the visual and often have an air of spontaneous playfulness to them. By the mid sixties, Fluxus had quickly spread throughout New York, Europe and Asia, and had firmly established itself as an art movement that lasted well into the seventies and early eighties. Although the Fluxus movement is no longer as pervasive as it was in the past, its ideals and sensibilities continue to affect the conceptualization and production of art today.

Owen Smith is an artist that has been working with various forms of digital media - video, installation and digital imaging - since the late eighties. As an intellectual who is "always inspired by Fluxus and conceptual art," it is appropriate that he has elected forms from various media to incorporate into his work as these technology platforms are always in a state of continuous change. Advancements in digital processes and production in addition to the development of the web have created the ideal situation for Smith to ask questions about art practice, culture, knowledge and the development of language. His digital media use enables him to explore how technologies have contributed to a shift in how the public accesses, perceives and interacts with information spaces. What is apparent when viewing Smith's works is how his media treatment allows him to deliver the content of his piece while also subversively critiquing itself - its definitions and limitations to how society experiences technology. Smith's work questions how users interact, think and respond to art (as John Cage would say), "not as objects, but as ways of seeing"1 and experiencing.

This focus on the viewer's experience is reminiscent of concepts behind John Cage's "silent" symphony. Aptly named 4'33 (1952)2, Cage's piece lasts four minutes and thirty-three seconds whereby the performer plays absolutely nothing. The hearing of music in 4'33 is completely dependent on the audience's perception. It is up to the individual to understand that the absence of the orchestra's sound and the overwhelming presence of random background noise in its place is merely a substitution of form and can constitute "music" as well. Thus, while Cage's piece forces his audience to think about music and the nature of silence, Image Trace by Smith, asks viewers to reflect on art and digital experiences.


1Solomon, Larry J. The Sounds of Silence - John Cage and 4'33 http://www.azstarnet.com/~solo/4min33se.htm
2To listen to a sound clip of 4'33 go to http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/3401901.stm

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