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
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