on January 29, 2002
This book is organized in two parts: theory and name-throwing. The theory parts are at times interesting, at times obscure and redundant. They precede chapters full of names, (supposedly big names) in the "information arts". To be fair, Wilson collected a huge database of names to be included in this volume and it serves a purpose. It is a good starting point for someone to look up people and their work. Not enough descriptions of what people do unfortunately. At least the names are highlighted and indexed so you can quickly go through it and pick up names. It is a name book...and a good stroke to many people's egos, including Wilson's who doesn't omit himself and the "I...once upon a time" reference to himself and his greatness. Being that there is nothing else like it out there, it is a good addition to one's reference shelf. But don't rely on it to measure greatness and don't hold your breath for super-exciting theory you haven't read before. Quite an undertaking, and with omissions which at least Wilson admits to. Give it a try. The pictures are not that great. If anything, they take away from the "mystique" of the who-is-who rather than add to it.
on February 9, 2002
I really liked this book. I'm interested in computer art but Information Arts shows that is just the top of the iceberg -- artists dancing in zero gravity, learning how to change the patterns on butterfly wings, reclaiming toxic waste dumps, planting chips in their body, making radioactive sculptures, breeding artificial life.... You really begin to get a glimpse of what kind of art is coming down the road.
I appreciated the systematic way the book dealt with all these topics. There are chapters on art exploring biology, particle physics, space art, mathematical art, artificial life, etc. The author seemed to work hard to find artists from all over the world coming at it from different points of view. Also each section also offers a review of relevant theory, and seemed very fair in its attempt to offer a full range of opinions.
There are two kinds of artist sections in the book - multipage sections with an image and samples of the artists' writing, and shorter sections of a few lines. I wish there were more details on the less described artists but then the book would have been bigger than its already huge 1000 pages. Also, I wish the images were color. The author provides web links for all the artists. It's a great starting point, although it could have used tighter editing (still it's great exercise equipment!).