The String Games, and the intersection of art and technology


After my last post’s introduction to art in the context of the information age, it seems appropriate to follow up with a discussion of an early example of technologically driven artwork.

Perhaps the earliest example of such artwork is Vera Frenkel’s String Games.

Practice for Vera Frenkel’s String Games, from La fondation Daniel Langlois

Vera Frenkel is a Canadian artist who pioneered the creation of art which incorporated telecommunications technologies. In 1974, Ms. Frenkel presented her performance art entitled String Games. String Games was an augmented version of the game Cat’s Cradle, and was performed by two teams – one in Toronto, and one in Montreal. The teams met in person to learn how the game worked, and to practice playing together (as shown in the images included). However, the actual performance required the teams to play apart from each other, communicating via services from the Bell Canada Teleconferencing Studios. Each team represented one hand, and consisted of five players. Each player had nine elements – such as a number or sentence – which they exchanged in order to simulate the movement of string between fingers. The Queen’s University Journal made the following comments about the recorded performance’s installation at the Agnes Etherington in 2011: “The main focus of the exhibition is the two television screens placed next to each other. Each group is seated on one side of a long table as though for a teleconference… The exhibit illustrates a link between technology and art. It’s the 70s technology that allows the art to work.” Despite the revolutionary nature of Frenkel’s work, due to lack of exposure, String Games was not publicly acknowledged until 2005.

String Games: Improvisations for Inter-City Video, from The Queen’s University Journal

Internet Art vs. Web-hosted Art

An essay by Ippolito describes several qualities featured by internet art:

  • It is distributed via the internet.
  • It may exist outside the technical structure of the Internet, such as when artists use specific social or cultural Internet traditions in a project outside it.
  • It may be interactive, participatory, and multimedia-based.
  • It can be used to spread a message about politics, social issues, or human interaction.

It is interesting to consider how String Games might have been different if it had been conducted via an internet connection. Perhaps it may have been live-streamed, and included viewer participation.

Ippolito emphasises that the term Internet art does not refer to art that has been shared on the internet.  Rather, this genre relies on the Internet’s unique qualities, such as an interactive interface and connectivity to multiple social and economic cultures and micro-cultures. It refers to the Internet as a whole, not only to web-based works.

However, web-based works are far too prolific to be ignored. One aspect of the internet’s impact on the art industry, is its uses as a platform for artists to share their work with an international audience, and potential buyers around the world. This benefit has great implications for the ways in which creators produce and sell their work.

The next blog post will bring you an expert’s opinion on how these changing trends affect  local artists in Jamaica, and in the wider world.


One Comment Add yours

  1. informative article article , can’t wait for more


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