Parallax: Essays on Art, Culture and Technology
Interface (distributor Craftsman House), $19.95 pb, 112 pp
Cultural criticism at the end of the twentieth century, says Darren Tofts (at the end of 1999), is suffering from a kind of amnesia. Interactivity is not an invention of Playstation games or electronic mail, but has been a crucial constituent of avant-garde art throughout the century: neglect this history and risk collapsing culture into fin-de-siecle, commodified monotony. Both those who rhapsodise and those who malign the anarchic non-linearity of current hypermedia as if it is an unprecedented cultural phenomenon ought to recall, Tofts advises, Marcel Duchamp’s bewildering, ludic work of art, The Large Glass: The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even. Hypertext archives and libraries, he notes, are only now beginning to manifest the scope and complexity of James Joyce’s textual systems. Hypermedia, Derrida once observed, simulates ‘joyceware’, and Tofts adds that it has ‘a lot of catching up to do’. Indeed, hypermedia is a term that he considers far more descriptive of the radical artistic inventions of the modernist vanguard in the first half of the twentieth century than of our contemporary ‘interactive culture’.