Fred Forest : art and Internet
by Vinton G. Cerf
I have known Fred Forest for more than ten years. I first met him in Autrans, France, at an annual symposium on the Internet and network. That year, the event offered a wealth of exchanges at a time when the Internet was developing rapidly. The event was attended by many researchers, politicians, managers and institutions. Among the interested parties in attendance, Fred Forest was the only artist. We bumped into each other in the heavily congested corridors typical of this type of conference, and started chatting. I was quite surprised to meet a fellow artist in a place where communication technologies enjoyed pride of place! Since we were in France, I would have rather thought of running into him in The Louvre, rue de Seine or the Latin Quarter where art galleries abound, or even the Centre Georges Pompidou. I had become used to only meeting engineers, managers or corporate leaders during my professional engagements.
In a few words, Forest convinced me, with his characteristic passion, that his presence was as legitimate as all those people who mulled around is during our coffee break, generously granted to us between two lectures. Thereafter, I got the opportunity to get to know his work better, to understand how and why this unique approach was closely linked to the medium of the Internet and its relationship with art. I understood that Fred Forest had always been exploring and searching for meaning. I realized how much he had already, in his head and his work, used the Internet even before the Internet existed! He was perfectly familiar with the notions of remote presence, ubiquity, real-time interactivity, network and hypertext. As a pioneer in the field of art, with artists such as Name June Paik, Roy Ascott and others, he had, from the 1970s, experienced the new aesthetic of a moving and changing society. That is why, in 1999, when he showed me his project of a wedding on the Internet with the digital artist Sophie Lavaud, I immediately accepted to stand as their witness. This worldwide event took place against the backdrop of Issy-les-Moulineaux in France and the minister, André Santini, known for his support to new technologies in the city, acted as the mayor, The interest of this wedding lay in the fact that it anticipated what is taking place today in terms of augmented reality, and that it introduced us, in advance, to the fact that a civic ceremony in cyberspace could also become a standard social ritual. .
I will not here expand on the many uses and experiments the artist has undertaken since 1995 on the web. For his exhibition at the White Box, he currently uses Second Life as a medium, offering a laboratory of ideas for the future. The artist, often perceived as an agitator, uses Second Life as a collaborative and critical tool to examine a society in crisis, a society in which, with tools like the Internet, he is becoming player in his own right, promoting reason and solidarity for all and for a better world.
Vinton G. Cerf
Vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google. Widely known as one of the "Fathers of the Internet," Cerf is the co-designer of the TCP/IP protocols and the architecture of the Internet.