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Caroline Langill, Shifting Polarities


Laura Kikauka, Trailer Trash (Funny Farm), 2006
Had curators and collectors broached early electronic media art in such a way as to contextualize it within the broader history, perhaps there would have been more exposure for this work. Had they foreseen the importance of this work to the emergence and history of new media art, this project would be unnecessary. According to Paul Lauter, canons of art play a central role, for “a canon is, to put it simply, a construct, like a history text, expressing what a society reads back into the past as important to its future.” (1) How can we imagine which art objects will be critical to future concerns about the past? The works I have proposed here function as a possible basis for a canon of early new media art in Canada. They are evidence of a distinctly Canadian approach to new media art utilizing physical computing techniques often presented with a touch of whimsy and humour. We witnessed this in the work of Doug Back, Roland Brener, Murray Favro, Laura Kikauka, Norman White, and even Michael Snow. If these artists had been recognized for their pioneering techniques and aesthetics, Canadian art history might read very differently today.

Caroline Langill © 2009 FDL

(1) Paul Lauter, Canons and Contexts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991): 58.