Anyone interested in understanding the political, artistic and ethical
situation in the world today could start by looking at the Web.Art of Serbian
artist Andrej Tisma. He offers an insight into complex issues with intelligence
and creativity particular to his local situation but with international
relevance. After experiencing his work you will feel compelled to consider
your own circumstance and role in global society. Here I will begin to
explain some background concerning the history and context of Tisma’s art
followed by examples. His work however is vast and would need more space
than is available here for a substantial representation that it deserves.
Tisma has a history of involvement in networked, communications-based art as seen in his mail art from the 70’s and 80’s to his early inclusion and participation in Internet Art projects and histories. He is therefore on these terms a respected producer and commentator on both movements. Tisma’s work follows the tradition of mail art and is part of a strand of Internet Art based on communication, collaboration and democracy rather than another formal and media-installation orientated variety of Internet Art that is also practiced. He is responsive to global events, producing art works reacting to situations concerning international politics, globalisation and the separation of individuals from the political process. The net as a medium allows for alternative opinion to spread as quickly as the media spin so typical of contemporary politics.
Ecology: geopolitics, society and the Internet
Ecology has been important to Tisma's work dating back to his mail art
project 'Nature Gives...' in 1992 which served as a homage to nature and
brought attention to catastrophic situations in the world. Since then he
has expressed an extended interest in 'ecology', that is, relationships
between living things and their environment or as Tisma puts it, “ecology
is not only about clean air, water and healthy food but also about clean
social relations and ethically clean deeds”.
Globalisation is an example of how these relationships are upset. Vast differences between rich and poor countries result in manipulation and corrupt use of national powers to further increase corporate expansion. This hovers above all and with it comes massive opposition in the form of demonstrations degenerating into riots by extremists and heavy-handed security forces. The enclosed and secret situations whereby ministers and corporate bosses discuss the future composition of the global economy, which in turn effects the lives and well being of many in exploited nations, causes distress amongst citizens excluded from the political process who turn to the streets. Tisma's work acts as a constructive protest, a creative healing process to both the lives of individuals and the sour relations cultivated between rulers and the ruled. His work sets a positive example of how communication and creativity provide the means to comment on ones position in the world.
The role of Art Institutions is also an important issue when considering Web.Art. Their privilege as brokers on art presentation and production is an authority the avant-garde has sought to dismantle. Internet Art, and Mail Art before it, seeks in the tradition of the avant-garde to operate independently of such institutions by producing a direct and immediate art form experienced between the creator and viewer without mediation or censorship. Tisma’s work exploits this situation enabling a critique easily communicated and digested. A networked community exists on the Internet and serves to lubricate artistic practices by providing a context for production and consumption of works.
Tisma adopts a particular language suitable for the Internet sometimes appropriated
from the targets of his critique or constructed as a game or puzzle imbued with
humour and irony, often simple but direct. 'New
World Odour' and 'Adult
censored Pics' are both works imitating commercial web sites with a difference.
The former presents a series of perfumes with cleverly worded marketing slogans
and strategic names. For example a scent called IMF is accompanied with the
description, “When you are in poor spirits and a bad mood this scent will give
you the needed illusion of happiness.” The same goes for U.S.A., “it smells
a little bit strange, in big amounts even disgusting. So use it very carefully
or it could drive away your best friends.” These examples act as a snide but
apt remark concerning their practices. Other varieties of perfume are included
each with a name mimicking an institution of the New World Order complete with
an adequate message. This piece acts as a light-hearted but serious comment
on the forces of globalisation.
'General Vision' heads Tisma’s 'American Nightmare' series on the web site. The page is divided into images showing the NATO General Clarke’s head and his military badges. Firstly users are instructed to test his senses by clicking on parts of his eyes, nose and ears. Images below the face change to depict devastating incidents, artillery and bombers from the military campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999. This symbolically replaces Clarke’s badges of achievement and status with gross acts committed during the war. In ‘testing’ his eyes, nose and hearing, the user is made aware of the senselessness of the acts committed. One is encouraged to imagine what generals actually see and hear and at what level they experience wars conducted at their command.
Within these web works the user is an active component reading and untangling the web specific languages whilst watching Tisma's ideas and beliefs unfold. Questions are raised concerning the users own opinions, confronting and challenging their position. In combining language with structure and ideas Tisma has ensured a successful artwork whereby the viewer leaves the piece but retains the message and purpose of it. In this case the ethical principles, an awareness of ones circumstances and the ability to engage with ones social and political environment. This is marked by Tisma’s personal experience as an individual in a society suffering as a result of the current geopolitical situation. Only by confronting such difficult issues will it be possible to repair and heal the damaged social ecology. That is the position held by Tisma as understood through his works all of which must be experienced for a complete understanding of his concerns, wit and creativity.