Ben Davis


Fellow,  MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies, 1984


"Sky Disc" – Implications


The complexity of Sky Art is well suited to interactive video disc computer technology. By creating an inventory of audio-visual images, sound, graphics, commentary, text, reference, and participatory commands the multi-layered intentions of artists working on an environmental scale can, for the first time, be documented. Previously, only fragments (objects, documents, photographs, films and tapes) could be exhibited and were oftern confused as the complete context of intricate works. Works conceived and executed as performances using objects, color, sound, the light at a particular time of day or night, a specific place, audience participation, the spoken word in different languages, changes in the weather, the transmission of electronic messages, or the playing of music - now can be represented much more comprehensively. In addition, the feelings of artists and observers at "on site" locations can now be included in an exhibition.

The development of this exhibition, from the gathering of audio-visual information, the production of the video disc, the creation of interactive programs and graphic displays, to the physical design of the display presentation, represents a shift from the intentional to extensional. The use of an "interactive" exhibition brings the viewer closer to the process of making. The simple act of choosing demands that the viewer take an active role. In bringing the computer into the service of artists, the thoughtful cooperation of art and technology is preserved while demonstrating permanent archival functions.

It is important to note that his exhibition, although seemingly mechanical, is meant to be a "poetic narrative". Each phase of its production was done by artists fully conscious of the translation of art works into the necessary "light codes" of video disc/computer technology. This spirit of investigation has led to insights for future projects. The use of interactive video disc as a performance element, moving it out its documentary form, is of special interest to us. Combining images on video disc with touch sensitive elements, speech synthesizers, and various projection devices makes the technology responsive to whole new realms of expression. The image of the computer as storehouse, filter, and interpreter as well as display creates magical possibilities for the arts. The filter shifts, the sky opens.


From Sky Art: Interactive Video Disc Travelling Exhibition Catalog, 1984.

MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies