How can digital artists not dialogue with Walter Benjamin’s concern about the impact of photography and cinema on the work of art? The ambivalence of his 1936 commentary on the mechanical reproduction of art by photography and cinema has an eerie resonance when uttered in this age of virtual reality: “The equipment free aspect of reality here has become the height of artifice; the sight of immediate reality has become an orchid in the land of technology.” The orchid in the land of technology has since morphed from the immediacy of sight to the virtuality of vision and the hyperreality of the implant. In-between remain the vestiges of a century’s work of photography and video that chart the tensions between nature and artifice, the primitive and the civilized, the mass audience and the refined connoisseur, the natural and the virtual. How to retrain vision to acknowledge what it has not wanted to see? This is the challenge faced by the observer/observed of the Ocular Work in the Digital Age. And with what result? A newfound comfort with the sight of the in-between, from ecological slippage to postcolonial miscegenation, might just approximate the essence of orchids in today’s garden of virtual technology.

CAMERWORK (Geoff COX, Ian MAKGILL, Chris RODRIGUES, Phaedra STANCER, The Work of Art..., 1998 (England)
Brian GOLDFARB, Ocular Convergence, 1999 (USA)
Takahiko IIMURA, Observer/Observed, 1998 (Japan)
MANUAL (Suzanne Bloom and Ed Hill), A Constructed Forest: An Interactive Dictionary of Persons, Terms, and Ideas from the Divergent World of Forests and Constructivism, 1995-99, (USA)
Esther PARADA, To Make All Mankind Acquaintances, 1996 (USA)
Tamas WALICZKY, Focusing, 1998 (Hungary)