NET.SWAP: In Praise of Shadows: Glass Rondo (2004)

BY: Ruth Catlow


The NonTVTV archive documenting works in their programme of real-time live Internet broadcasts. This clip can only be viewed in Windows Media Player (sorry!)

The Internet offers artists and audiences the potential to communicate, engage and activate, directly across social, political and cultural borders. So we connect with each other and shine the torch lights of our intertwining consciousnesses on the concerns of the day. Unlike the corporately owned and controlled, entertainment networks, the network of the Internet still functions as a free platform for distributed creativity.
‘ Glass Rondo’ was made and broadcast in 2003 by the Stockholm-based artist collective, Beeoff, who has dedicated the last few years to developing the software, infrastructure and arts content for NonTVTV. The web does have its limitations as a platform for creativity; its narrow bandwidth and the dearth of opportunity for kinesthetic engagement can make it worse than the telly for eyestrain, with concurrent deprivation of all other senses. Whether working on our own projects or exploring what other artists have wrought from the varied net-based media at their disposal, this medium can create a kind of morbidity in our bodies. NonTVTV has worked with the multicast-protocol to raise the bandwidth and therefore the potential richness of the medium whilst preserving the benefits of lateral production and distribution. By establishing nodes in international public art venues it has also asserted and promoted the medium as a valid extension of formal artistic expression.

To create Glass Rondo, Beeoff placed a glass or a metal vessel on a table betwixt 3 monitors, each emitting a different coloured light to a pulse of sound. Video cameras placed at each monitor recorded what they saw to software which recombined and edited the 3 data streams live to be broadcast at high bandwidth across the Internet and projected once again into geographically and so, culturally dispersed physical spaces. This is Internet Cubism; in its expression of the artists’ relationship to the object, its exploration of the relationship and interchange between bits and atoms and its simultaneous transmission, live to its multifarious audience.

Glass Rondo is also very much a celebration of the poetics of shadows. In 1933 a Japanese novelist, Jun’ichiru Tanizaki wrote an essay on aesthetics called ‘In Praise of Shadows’. He writes ‘Lacquerware decorated in gold is not something to be seen in a brilliant light to be taken in at a single glance; it should be left in the dark a part here and a part there picked up by a faint light. It’s florid patterns recede into the darkness, conjuring in their stead an inexpressible aura of depth and mystery of overtones but partly suggested’ pg21

Out of the darkness Glass Rondo conjures a fluid, synaesthetic music of the spheres. Beeoff has synthesized a new kind of composite temporal object ‘in which wavelength, topology and rhythm become one’. The rare deliciousness of the experience affected by the Glass Rondo is connected to its translation of material form, its insinuations of dust and irregularities in the object’s surface. Rather than using special effects to illuminate an imagined event unfolding to reveal every detail of its appearance, it constructs a meticulously crafted set of aesthetic relationships between sound, time and matter as a reflecting surface for the play of light, all wound together in a new, poetic interpretation of real-time object oriented programming. - May 2004


Originally written for Furtherfield.org, May 2004.

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