artists in sight
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Melinda Rackham
In the immersive environment of the Internet, where everyday people display the most intimate fragments of their lives on World Wide Web pages, how do we delineate public and private space?

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interview with Melinda Rackham by Kelly Okeefe

Kelly O'Keefe: How did you get involved in Was it influenced by academic inspiration or personal interest?

Melinda Rackham: I first went online when I was doing my Masters in Women's Studies in 1995 and we had to do a research project on the net. I had been a sculptor and wanted to change careers, but when I found the web and discovered HTML that was it. It was the perfect outlet for all the things I was interested in. I was totally attracted to the medium as, to me, it meant instant access to a global audience. My work could be downloaded into anyone's living room at any time of the day or night. I also like the egalitarian aspect and the cooperative nature of online communities - where I learned the vast majority of my skills base from people I have never met, or in some cases since met. In 95 it also meant more control over my work - I wasn't censored online, as I would be in a gallery, and I wasnt limited to defined time limits for showing. Working online seemed like a more organic and holistic process than working within the gallery context, as online I always retained control over my work. Then I started to integrate web theory into my web practice.

KO: What is your opinion of the development or expansion of now?

MR: The reality of net art is that e-commerce has altered the net so much in the last few years that net artist really can no longer work alone. We need to combine skills and form strong networks to have any chance of surviving in a place where and digital art organizations are under attack from corporate entities like and Leonardo magazine currently are.

KO: How did you get the vision or inspired to create 'Line'?

MR: This is the official blurb that I wrote for rhizome artbase.

In the immersive environment of the Internet, where everyday people display the most intimate fragments of their lives on World Wide Web pages, how do we delineate public and private space? When our simple electronic lines of connection become shifting nodes in a fluid network, how do we define who and where we are? How is self-identity and the recognition of others re-coded in virtual space? How do we 'reach out and touch someone' digitally?

Line questions how cultural, capital and philosophical values are mutated, warped and curved in the infinite virtual space of the cyberpolis, investigating theses sensory and spatial dilemmas through an interactive web site tracking the virtual relationship between two people whose physical locations includes the Illawarra coastline, inner city Sydney, and a business district in Tokyo; On-line their intimate communications and private images become public property, their fantasy of each other fuelled by a lack of physical reality, their personal boundaries blurred in the virtuality of the screen domain.

The original accompanying gallery installation, now documented on the site, reconstructs fragments of locality and identity through photographic architectural and landscape imagery, and illuminates the transparent lines that connect, disrupt and discipline our lives with laser light.

To answer your question, in 1996 I was living in a tiny coastal village and my most major communication was on the net, with my partner who lived in Sydney and worked regularly in Japan, I was studying cyber theory and was thinking about locality and who are your neighbors and the people you communicate with and what those lines of communication are. It was also the time when the "Homepage" phenomenon hit and people where putting all sorts of bizarre personal information about themselves online, as if it were a private space. Line sort of deals with all that, with constructed personalities, with constructed intimacy and constructed locality. It was also a leap in web design at the time to use java scripted windows and java applets in an elegant way.

KO: Is there any symbolic representation in the piece that you could detail or discuss?

MR: Basically the work is about how we relate to each other in cyberspace, about being online, about the physical, emotional and virtual architectures that both connect and contain us. Line questions who we are, and how we communicate in the virtual space.