interview with Melinda Rackham
by Kelly Okeefe
Kelly O'Keefe: How did you get involved in net.art? 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
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 net.art and digital art organizations
are under attack from corporate entities like toy.com 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
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.