Canada Research Chair to study artists’ role in digital media and globalization


TORONTO, March 17, 2003 -- Artists and their commitment to experimenting with new forms of expression have been crucial to shaping our use of new technologies. To examine this process, a new Canada Research Chair in Art, Digital Media and Globalization was announced today at York University. It will document how artists have been shaping the visual culture of global media, while changing their own practice and exhibition of art.

Dr. Rey Pagtakhan, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Science, Research and Development), and Industry Minister Allan Rock today announced funding for new Canada Research Chairs at universities across the country. "The Canada Research Chairs Program is one we can be proud of. It will serve three generations of scholars and scientists: the senior researchers, the younger ones, and the graduate students who will benefit greatly by being able to work with world-class researchers in a high-profile environment," said Rock. He congratulated all new Chair recipients.

Prof. Janine Marchessault, recipient of the new Chair in Art, Digital Media and Globalization (Tier II), is Chair of the film and video department in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts. "Artists are conceptualizing and designing the new information society, from the Disney animator and the Internet artist to the designer of new multimedia parks," said Marchessault. "This process is redefining urban social dynamics and cultural practices globally."

While global communications technologies have conquered time and space, it is their intimate connection to local everyday life that makes artists the most innovative users of new digital environments. Marchessault says artists are employing digital design and media to both resist and take advantage of new global economies. The growth of large-scale media labs around the world, such as Hexagram in Montreal, the European Media Lab in Dublin, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, are evidence of new relationships between scientific research, artistic experimentation and industry spawned by digital technologies.

Marchessault points to the work of local artists Nell Tenhaaf and David Rokeby as examples of these new collaborations. Tenhaaf, a professor in the department of visual arts at York, works with concepts of Artificial Life to create self-evolving forms that mimic biology. Rokeby has worked with doctors at Toronto General Hospital to create interactive sound sculptures that reprogram neurological brain paths. His artwork, ‘Very Nervous System,’ is being used around the world for medical research on degenerative diseases.

Marchessault is a leading scholar in the work of Marshall McLuhan and his aesthetic approach to media, and has already conducted extensive research on the digital cultures of North America and Europe. She will now extend her study of the digital arts to urban centres in Mexico, Senegal and Japan to understand how global networks are transforming urban space and culture. She will produce a series of detailed case studies of research collaborations involving artists. Her research will address important questions concerning intellectual property and help to inform national research policies on digital technologies and art.

The Canada Research Chairs Program supports cutting-edge research at Canadian universities and is intended to help secure Canada’s competitive edge in the 21st century. The Canada Foundation for Innovation provides infrastructure funding for the research.


For further information, please contact:

Prof. Janine Marchessault Susan Bigelow
Dept. of Film and Video Media Relations
Faculty of Fine Arts, York University York University
416-736-2100, ext. 22174 416-736-2100, ext. 22091