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Walter Phillips Gallery

Pretty Good Access

(Banff, Alberta, Canada)

An original idea by Anthony Kiendl, the director of the Walter Phillips Gallery at the Banff Centre, Pretty Good Access is a project that will exhibit the work of a group of contemporary artists from around the world. This exhibition will explore artwork and emerging cultural forms that use or are linked to databases. The funding granted by the Foundation is earmarked for the exhibition's research and development.

The exhibition will examine such questions as: "What visual assumption, codes, and histories are present within, reinforced by and reinforcing of the database? How is the essentially non-visual form of the database taken up in visual or other media? What decisions do artists make to render information perceptible? What ethical and social impact does the database form and cultural production within or responding to that form present in contemporary western societies?" (1)

The event's organizers are drawing inspiration from Lev Manovich's writings on the language of new media and databases, while they also interpret the cultural value of works that have developed out of databases. The overall aim is to contribute to reflections on database art. In particular, the exhibition will focus on three areas: aesthetics, ethics and poetry. One of the goals of Pretty Good Access is to show how artists and activists are appropriating this medium and challenging the regulatory paradigms specific to our information society.

This multifaceted project will include an exhibition, commissions, a tour and a publication containing historical essays by such authors as Kittler, Shannon and Wiener. Pretty Good Access is also an interdisciplinary project merging different media, historical artifacts, and elements from science, economics and other aspects of daily life. The intent is to showcase works developed in a range of different mediums (computer works, installations, sculptures, paintings, photography and more).

The exhibition is being mounted in collaboration with the Dunlop Art Gallery and the Regina Public Library (Regina, Saskatchewan) and in association with the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (United States). The project is now in the research and development phase. The work, which began in December 2001, is being conducted by a special committee consisting of Anthony Kiendl, Steve Dietz (the new-media director at the Walker Art Center), Sarah Cook (an independent organizer and doctoral candidate at the University of Sunderland in England), Laura U. Marks (a professor and theorist at Carleton University) and Sheila Petty (a professor and the director of Media Studies and Production at the University of Regina).

Pretty Good Access will kick off in June 2004 during the Banff Television Festival and later travel to the Dunlop Art Gallery and elsewhere in England. The publication accompanying the exhibition will serve as an anthology on the theoretical practices associated with emerging cultural forms that rely on databases.

Dominique Fontaine © 2002 FDL

(1) This excerpt comes from the proposal submitted to the Foundation.