Sylvie Parent: How did you become interested in the Web as a medium of creation and dissemination?
Daniel Dion: I was immediately won over by the vehicle of the Web. Structurally and conceptually, it represented a convergence of the subjects and approaches I was interested in—the human being, time and space, video, and even my work as co-director at Oboro. It captures fluidity, mobility. On the Web, nothing is permanent; there's no beginning or end as such. We put something online and we take it off. We can include video, text, and sound. It is also a medium that leads to reflection on the notion of time. These aspects have always interested me to the highest degree, in an iconographical and an aesthetic sense. When the Web arrived, it seemed to correspond to what I had been searching for.
When I started working with video in the 1970s, it was precisely with this interest in its fluidity and mobility, its impermanence. However, video has lost this specificity since being integrated into the contexts of installation, performance, and multimedia. It is used for anything and everything, and, in a logical continuum, has been integrated into the digital domain. Before that happened, a few years before the Web arrived, I had really started to grasp the transcendant possibilities of the medium.
S.P.: The move from video to the integration of video files on the Web seems logical in an approach like yours. What stands out in your Web art is the use of Quicktime VR: you seem to have brought a particular interest to it, whereas very few artists have adopted this technology yet. QTVR is used mostly for commercial purposes, for example, in travel and real estate sites that offer panoramas as part of their advertising. How did you come to choose QTVR in your Web art work? What new expressive and creative possibilities does it open up?
D.D.: It's true that not many artists are using this technology, which is pretty recent. Again, I was completely taken by it. I had always been interested in the environment, in cyclical concepts, both in my installations and my tapes. With QTVR, these interests converge while allowing me to explore the role of the individual, of matter, and of frequency in space. Also, unlike other VR technologies which begin by building a model from equations and vectors, with QTVR, we can compose directly, using images of the reality around us to create virtual works.
S.P.: QTVR is not a true virtual reality technology: it could be qualified as documentary. In most cases, the panoramas or objects represented in QTVR are the product of a construction based on photographs.
D.D.: These multidimensional environments allow us to stay very close to our familiar, perception of everyday life. Of course, we can alter the images and sounds taken from the real environment. For example, we can model the environment, incorporate other visual or sound elements, integrate video, or create hyperlinks. With QTVR, we can also manipulate familiar objects and observe them in different ways and from different angles. This technology corresponds to aesthetic, even philosophical or spiritual preoccupations that already exist in my work. I have always been fascinated by numbers, by mathematical formulae, by the concept of transformation, of infinity, of karma...
S.P.:On one hand, your works refer to larger concepts, the great symbols of humanity, and to universal principles. On the other hand, there is a playful aspect to them. An unexpected humour emerges on top of deeper, more serious themes. The ludic quality of QTVR encourages this approach. In fact, the technology invites us to stroll through the environment, looking for something—a link, a word, or an object—a bit like in a treasure-hunt.
D.D.: They do provoke a smile, which is sometimes the desired result. The playful side of my work is unconscious and deliberate at the same time; it comes out in spite of myself. I think it reflects my inner feelings.
S.P.: QTVR also allows the possibility of exploring the relationship between human beings and their environment, a theme that is strongly present in your work.
D.D.: You're quite right. References to the physical as well as the psychic dimensions of the human body continually resurface in my work. Within these panoramas, we truly have the impression of moving around. Also, the fluidity, the directional sound, the interactive elements, and the "hotspots" set off particular cognitve mechanisms. What I appreciate in QTVR as opposed to the "real" VR tools on the Web is the consciousness of an environment that allows us to establish an immediate relationship with reality.
S.P.: What is your view on the evolution of the Web and of these technologies, and their impact on users?
D.D.: With the rapid evolution of these technologies, we can foresee various interesting possibilities. For example, streaming, 3-D QTVR, which allows us to rotate and move on all spatial axes, with the integration of panoramic video. The environment is moving around us in real time and we can move inside it. The first systems are already available on the market. This type of innovation will certainly have an effect on our perception of time and on our relations with other people.
S.P.: The introduction of every new technology results in a profound change in our way of viewing ourselves and others, time and space, and shakes us out of our settled attitudes.
D.D.: I've been doing teleconferencing for the past ten years, with CU-See-Me, videophones, and more advanced systems like Picture-Tel, in diverse contexts, public and private. Soon, people will be able to see each other and talk to each other wherever they are. We'll be be able to interact in events that happened in the past. All this might seem a bit strange, but I think it answers a human need to communicate, to be reflected through the eyes of others, and to reinvent ourselves.
S.P.: I'd also like to underline the importance of collaboration and communication in your work—in your Web projects and in your activites as a whole.
D.D.: Today, in the domain of multimedia and new technologies, one almost inevitably has to work with other people, but that is actually my usual way of proceeding, no matter what the context or the medium. I have worked with Su Schnee on a several projects, particularly the World Tea Party — an event which is continually changing in form and involves a number of individuals and communities at every presentation; bryan mulvihill also participates in it. I've worked with Brad Todd, Claude-Marie Caron, and Philippe Poloni in my video and Web projects. My activities as co-director of the Oboro Gallery constantly bring me to collaborate with other people. I'm an arithmetical, mathematical person; I love order and structures, and I enjoy working alone in my studio. However, I find that discussion, dialogue and communication oblige me to readjust my sights in a creative way.
S.P.: Your avowed stance in favour of collaboration and communication is also a part of your philosophical, spiritual approach.
D.D.: Everything around us is continually changing, and collaboration is an active element of the principle of transformation. Also, the processes of change, the evolution of thought, of human beings, and of the planet are all part of my field of inquiry. They are questions akin to global consciousness, insofar as that is attainable.
Translation: Darcey Dunton