Computers quickly became part of art-making. In 1972 David Rivers began using a university computer to produce the abstract patterns that became ‘Snoephlaiques and purrshienne karrpettes’ (1972–76).
A rich source of content for art, the internet also became an exhibition site, where information and global networks would become important features of art. Websites, often used as a means for promoting online art, sometimes had their information architecture turned into art. Early examples in New Zealand include Robert Hutchinson’s Spatial State of A and B (1996) and the Codec project (1997). Spatial State of A and B was New Zealand’s first online gallery, while Codec linked four existing offline galleries in commissioning significant online projects.
The revolution of accessibility, portability and rapid results provided by video was repeated in the 2000s, when phone-based cameras, laptop editing software and internet distribution became widespread.
Old technologies that anticipate the characteristics of electronic arts are sometimes referred to by media artists (just as traditional media has also begun to refer to new technologies, a common feature of ‘post-internet’ art). Stella Brennan’s ‘Tuesday 3 July 2001, 10.38am’ (2001–2), for example, used the pixelated grid of needlepoint embroidery to depict a computer’s desktop display.
With the disembodied nature of much electronic communication, the role of the body took on particular significance for many media artists. Rachael Rakena’s ‘Rerehiko’ (2003) depicts dancers from a kapa haka (traditional Māori performance) group performing underwater, layered with texts from emails, juxtaposing the weightless underwater environment with the floating realms of cyberspace.
Electronic and digital media can provide virtual or fictional spaces where the artist can explore their identity through the construction of new, hybrid or multiple personas. As a South Korean migrant to New Zealand, Hye Rim Lee used digital animation to look at cultural and gender roles in popular culture through the construction of a personal avatar, Toki.
Douglas Bagnall used computer programmes to explore different kinds of intelligence. His ‘Cloud shape classifier’ (2006–7) takes and sorts photos of clouds, offering examples to users based on preferences revealed as they are shown the images. Bagnall questions whether technology can learn human behaviours and make aesthetic decisions, while using artificial intelligence to explore the complexities of seemingly innocuous activities.