Keywords: algorithmic, conceptual, performance, process, time
The work of MTAA exemplifies the processual nature of most Net art. The duo, whose online identities are M. River and T. Whid (their real names are Mike Sarf and Tim Whidden), illustrates a process-based approach in Simple Net Art Diagram (1997), a basic GIF animation that shows two computers connected by a line and a flashing red lightning bolt. A text placed near the bolt reads "The art happens here," emphasizing that Net art, like Process art, Performance art, and Happenings, is less an object for contemplation than an event or action that takes place over time.
MTAA makes a direct link to their art historical predecessors in an ongoing body of work that they call "Updates." In these projects, the artists reinterpret seminal art works from the 1960s and 70s by using new technologies to perform actions that defined the original pieces. In one Update, MTAA revisited On Kawara's date paintings, in which the artist painted each day's date on a wooden panel as part of a project that continued for many years. Instead of painting block letters and numbers to form minimal compositions, as Kawara did, MTAA utilized a software program to display the current date on a Web page in Kawara's signature style, reducing countless hours of labor to a few hours of a programmer's time.
A particularly ambitious Update is MTAA's 1 year performance video (aka samHsiehUpdate), which revisits Tehching (Sam) Hsieh's One Year Performance 1978-1979 (aka Cage Piece) and adapts it in various ways to the Internet age. In the original work, Hsieh spent an entire year living within a cage, documenting his self-induced confinement with photographs. In MTAA's online version, viewers observe what appears to be live video footage of the artists, each occupying a small, cell-like room?waking up in the morning, eating and reading during the day, and sleeping at night. In fact, the footage consists of pre-recorded clips selected according to the time of day one visits the site. The clips are edited dynamically to generate streams of video that are customized for each viewer. If one watches for an entire year?a daunting task?one becomes an official "collector" and is given a unique data file that documents the performance in code. In Hsieh's original work, the burden of the process was on the artist. MTAA shifts this burden from artist to viewer. At the same time, the duo changes the stakes for collectors, who must commit time instead of monetary resources in order to acquire the work?-a clever twist on the adage "time is money."
1 year performance video (aka samHsiehUpdate) can be seen as a comment on the increasing replacement of human activities and live experiences with those executed or mediated by computer hardware and software. This project is also a deftly transparent demonstration of new media's ability to manipulate our perceptions of time, and of our increasingly skeptical relationship toward visual evidence as an index of reality.