Deck @ Dana

Google for "Andy Deck" and you will get hundreds (probably thousands) of websites, which rather ironically, define him in the same way: "Andy Deck makes public art for the Internet that resists generic categorization". Other keywords you are likely to find commonly associated with the artist Andy Deck are “net art”, “software art”, “screen-based interfaces”, “anti-corporatism”, and "anti-militarism".

I would classify his work as largely, falling into 2 main (and sometimes overlapping) categories: collaborative and informative art. It would seem obvious that this strong collaborative methodology made Andy an ideal showcase for the Node London organisers.

Deck's lecture at the Dana centre last week gave an interesting insight to himself as man, artist and teacher.

Discarding the wireless earpiece microphone, which he is given, Andy tells us he felt too much like a cyborg. His cynicism about the implications which technology has on our lives is quickly evident.

His ideas continue to be manifest in a number of short musings “vaguely resembling poetry” which he opens his lecture with. In 'Tone Deaf' he compares the mobile to a bar of soap, always shrinking and which he says has no tone. In 'Open Vice/Virtue' he laments 'the disembodied cyber police take all my time'; and 'Palm Pilot' in which the palm pilot becomes the centre of attention at dinner parties. "Fear yourself", he warns.

Deck then takes us through a random catalogue of his work going back to 1997. Altbrowser (2001), Collaboration (2002), Commission Control (1999), Culture Map (2000), Glyphitti (2001), Context (1999), Imprimatur (2005), Lexicon (2003), Open Studio (1997-9). His current work is Screening Circle (2006). He apologises about the gallery space not being an ideal place to interact with his work, which is intended to be experienced in the home. All these projects are to some extent based around his central idea: giving an online community creative opportunity by using simple 'pixel pushing' drawing tools. The process of creating therefore seems more important to Deck than the product. Nevertheless, the results are often quite astonishing.

In a Q&A session at the end of the lecture we return to the age-old debate of whether “net art” is dead. Deck reinforces the idea that far from being dead he suggests that the notion of net art may have just moved on since the nineties and that it is now harder to do more surprising things with the web browser. He has a number of theories of why interest in net art may have waned. One plausible explanation could be related to the general decrease in interest of the Internet after the bubble burst.

He also suggests that the first generation of interest in net art was based around the relatively easy to learn hypertext mark-up language. When scripting became more complex some artists decided that this medium wasn’t for them.

Although Deck has taught young people on the possibilities of mobile phone/small screen technology, he is not really interested in developing these kinds of projects because the technology are very much closed and controlled systems. Over the years Deck has become an advocate of an open source infrastructure and protocols, which are not controlled by large corporations.

As for funding Deck admits he doesn't have a viable financial model for what he does. Teaching is one way he is able to continue experimenting in this field. However students continue to want to learn new technologies that he doesn't want to use in his own work and this creates new problems, driving him away from teaching.

Establishing an audience is perhaps the most essential aspect of Deck’s work due to the nature of people forming the content of his site. But, as he explains marketing isn’t something, which he relishes as an artist, particularly given the contempt of marketing and corporate culture in his work. So how does anybody find his websites?

In the early days of search engines such as Alta Vista he was able to play around with some keywords on his site so that he had a higher search ranking which was an important viral technique for creating an audience.

These days his strategy is more focused on finding new ways to bring people into the site without having to think about marketing, a large portion of which comes through institutional connections, like museums and galleries.

Ultimately Deck feels we still have a lot to explore in terms of engaging people in collaborative experience. It will be interesting to see how his current project ‘Screen Circle’ attempts to find new ways of doing this.

My personal response to this would be that I get the impression that his work in progress will be no different to the other 50 pieces showcased on his website: either a simple pixel drawing tool which encourages online collaboration and or some political tomfoolery which has heavy political comment. And while I appreciate the unapologetic political voice in Deck’s work (an important aspect of contemporary and digital arts), I would probably not return to his sites after initial viewing. Am I alone here, or do other people feel that his net art experiments are worth returning for? Maybe this is not important?

Considering that this kind of art form is still very much in its infancy maybe his work is significant in just being part of the experimentation, which seeks to explore the digital terrain???

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