Telematic Connections: The Virtual Embrace

  • Telematic Connections: The Virtual Embrace, Installation View, Atlanta College of Art Gallery, Atlanta, 2001.

  • Telematic Connections: The Virtual Embrace, Installation View, Atlanta College of Art Gallery, Atlanta, 2001.

  • Victoria Vesna, Notime, Computer installation, 2001. Courtesy of the artist.

  • Telematic Connections: The Virtual Embrace, Installation View, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, 2001.

  • Eduardo Kac, Teleporting an Unknown State, 1998. Courtesy of the artist.

Curated by Steve Dietz

Telematic Connections, like many of the works in it, is a hybrid affair. Part history, part speculation, partly onsite, partly online, it crosses boundaries between art, communications, and popular culture. Its four sections include installation works, past and recent film clips, online projects, and a “telematics timeline.” Through these various media, the exhibition presents the ways in which artists use technology—and the Internet—to explore both the utopian desire for an expanded, global consciousness and the dystopian consequences of our collective embrace, willing or not, of computer-mediated human communications. At the same time Telematic Connections places this emergent work within a historical framework.

The eight installations that comprise the “Telereal” component of this exhibition use the Internet and computing to explore this mediated embrace between parties, whether human to human, human to machine, machine to machine, or even human to nature. Here, as well as in the ten online projects in the “Datasphere” component of the exhibition, what the visitor-participant does in the galleries affects (and is affected by) someone or something somewhere else in physical space. “The Virtual Embrace” signals this shift from the viewer as an observer to embracing us as a participant, integral to the work-process of art.

While Telematic Connections presents the possibilities for connections and affiliations, it still acknowledges a persistent question about connective new media. Artist, theorist, and teacher Roy Ascott stated it poignantly already in 1990, “Is there love in the telematic embrace?” Is there content besides technology? Engagement beyond entertainment? A message that is not only the medium?

Telematic Connections is not fundamentally about technology. Nor is it an attempt to define a new genre of art practice. It is about what MIT computer scientist Michael Dertouzos calls “the forces of the cave”—some of the eternal human traits that have never left us, including the desire to connect, even to merge with another—but in today’s world of ubiquitous computing and global networking.



Steve Dietz

Steve Dietz is a serial platform creator. He is the Founder, President, and Artistic Director of Northern He was the Founding Director of the 01SJ Biennial in 2006 and served as Artistic Director again in 2008 and 2010. He is the former Curator of New Media at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he founded the New Media Initiatives department in 1996, the online art Gallery 9 and digital art study collection. He also co-founded, with the Minneapolis Institute of Arts the award-winning educational site ArtsConnectEd, and the artist community site with the McKnight Foundation. Dietz founded one of the earliest, museum-based, independent new media programs at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 1992.

Dietz has organized and curated numerous contemporary and new media art exhibitions, including Beyond Interface: net art and Art on the Net (1998); Shock of the View: Artists, Audiences, and Museums in the Digital Age (1999); Digital Documentary: The Need to Know and the Urge to Show (1999); Cybermuseology for the Museo de Monterrey (1999); Art Entertainment Network (2000); Outsourcing Control? The Audience As Artist for the Open Source Lounge at Medi@terra (2000); Telematic Connections: The Virtual Embrace (2001-02); a nationally traveling exhibition; Open_Source_Art_Hack (2002), with Jenny Marketou, at the New Museum, New York City; Translocations (2003), part of “How Latitudes Become Forms” at the Walker Art Center; State of the Art: Maps, Games, Stories, and Algorithms from Minnesota at the Carleton Art Gallery (2003); Database Imaginary (2004), with Anthony Kiendl and Sarah Cook, Walter Philips Gallery, Banff Center for the Arts; Fair Assembly, web-based projects for Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy (2005), with Peter Weibel and Bruno Latour, ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany; The Art Formerly Known As New Media (2005), with Sarah Cook, Walter Philips Gallery, Banff Centre; Container Culture (2006), with Deborah Dormer-Lawler, Zhang Ga, Alice Ming Wei Jim, Gunalan Nadarajan, Ellen Pau, Johan Pijnappel, Soh Yeong Roh, Yukiko Shikata at the 01SJ Festival; Edge Conditions (2006), at the San Jose Museum of Art; and selected projects for the Ingenuity Festival in Cleveland, Ohio, July 19-22, 2007. Dietz was artistic director of the 2nd Biennial 01SJ Global Festival of Art on the Edge and curated its lead exhibition Superlight. Through Northern Lights he initiated the UnConvention, August 30 – September 4, 2008, a multi-organization collaboration, and he curated Spontaneous Storefronts (2008) for Forecast Public Art. In October 2009, he co-curated with Christiane Paul, FEEDFORWARD – The Angel of History at LABoral in Gijon, Spain. He was Artistic Director for the 2010 01SJ Biennial and co-curated, with Jaime Austin, the Biennial’s central exhibition Out of the Garage Into the World. In 2011, he is Artistic Director for the inaugural Twin Cities Northern Spark nuit blanche, and in the summer of 2012, he is Artistic Director for ReGeneration presented by the New York Hall of Science.

Dietz is editor of Public Address,  a forum for wide-ranging discussion of innovative artists, projects, and practices in the public realm. He speaks and writes extensively about new media and guest edited Public Art Review on the topic of “Public Art 2.0 – Media, Technology and Community in the Interactive City.” His interviews and writings have appeared in Parkett, Artforum, Flash Art, Design Quarterly, Spectra, Salmagundi, Afterimage, Art in America, Museum News, BlackFlash, Public Art Review, Else/Where and Intelligent Agent; in exhibition catalogs for Walker Art Center, LABoral, Centro Parago, Site Santa Fe, San Francisco Art Institute, and aceart; and in publications from MIT Press, University of California Press, and Princeton University Press. Many of his writings are online at

He has taught about curating and digital art at California College of the Arts, Carleton College, the University of Minnesota, and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Prior to the Walker Art Center, Dietz was founding Chief of Publications and New Media Initiatives at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and editor of the scholarly journal, American Art.


touring schedule

Oklahoma City Art Museum
Oklahoma City, OK, United States
September 5, 2002 - November 3, 2002

Atlanta College of Art and Design
Atlanta, GA, United States
October 11, 2001 - November 25, 2001

Austin Museum of Art
Austin, TX, United States
July 20, 2001 - September 18, 2001

Alyce De Roulet Williamson Gallery, Art Center College of Design
Pasadena, CA, United States
May 13, 2001 - July 1, 2001

The San Francisco Art institute
San Francisco, CA, United States
February 7, 2001 - March 24, 2001

NEW YORK, NY 10013
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