Screenshot from Touch Me project presented at Sonic Self festival in Chelsea Art Museum, New York, 2008
The striking multitude of images that have come into existence during the last 30 years can falsely engender the sense that they have brought about great breakthroughs in multimedia art. Critical discourse has barely touched on the radically different dimensions in creativity made possible by recent technological advances, especially when compared to the rampant discussions of the alterations in social paradigms that they have brought on. This is especially true in more traditional, computer-based art. Despite significant advances in software, most artists, because of their lack of technological and programming expertise, still do not utilize it to its full creative potential. The progress of art making depends upon the artists’ thorough understanding of how new, more technologically advanced sets of tools can be utilized for creating stronger visual effects.
The TouchMe™ project, conceived by Anna Frants in 2002, is one of the first examples of a distributed creative potential realized in the unconstrained collaboration between mediums. The project is a prototype of a virtual studio where individual artists’ works interact with one another other in a manner which is both structured and non-deterministic. The result is a work of art that is open-ended and continuously evolving in time. Each new contributing artist actively changes the overall creation and the visual landscape of the project. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
In Frants’ work, artists from around the world contribute elements of their individual visual vocabularies. The elements of such vocabularies are video and sound streams that express artists’ associations with specific colors. The TouchMe™ framework dynamically blends multiple images; it then picks sound tracks, based on the color choice made by the participating viewer. The resulting video stream, while related to the chosen color, is not predictable. The randomly selected, blended images, and corresponding soundtracks create a unique sensation that cannot be achieved by a small number of works contributed by any single artist. In early 2004, internationally known video artist Alina Bliumis was the first artist to contribute her videos to the project. These were used for the initial prototype. Seven more video artists contributed their work for the exhibition at the Broadway Gallery — Vladimir Gruzdev, Elena Gubanova, Asia Nemchenok, Maria Shirofutdinova, Mihail Skorodumov, Leo Stepanov and Aliona Yurtsevich.
In the final inception of the project, contributing artists will be storing libraries of their video works on web servers in geographically distributed locations. These works will not be limited to any particular style. The TouchMe™ framework, running on a web server will load and play such distributed videos.
Typically, the Internet serves as network that hosts many individual, fully encapsulated, unconnected artistic efforts. These artistic islands, despite occasionally referencing each other, do not form an internet-based aesthetic whole. Nor has the internet been used as means of building works of art that require a high degree of artistic collaboration, one not possible in the physical world. We only now find ourselves at the onset of an age where artists are presented with the opportunity to evolve in this nearly untapped resource and venue. With TouchMe™, Ana Frants is at the forefront of visual artists embracing the greatest communication medium that has ever existed — the Internet.