Introduction to Fantastic Prayers
by Michael Govan
Fantastic Prayers, Dia's first artists' project for the Web, is something of a story that plays out as a multimedia performance. The artists--writer/performer Constance DeJong, artist Tony Oursler, and musician/composer Stephen Vitiello --conceived the project independently of the Web. The work, in fact, began as plans for a performance for the rooftop of Dia's West Chelsea exhibition galleries.
The work is conceived in fragments of text, sound, and images. It describes a place called Arcadia and its young residents living in a kind of idyllic Arcadian suspension that only becomes interrupted by the intrusion of another figure, another voice, that represents something of what is outside Arcadia--that is, time, memory, and death. This fantastical encounter is filled with playful exchanges and discoveries.
While the performance was designed specifically for Dia's rooftop, around a glass and steel sculptural pavilion by Dan Graham, the artists reconfigured the piece to inhabit the electronic space of the Web. Similarly it will be adapted for other spaces--real and digital.
Fantastic Prayers slid perfectly onto the electronic field of the Web because, perhaps like the amorphous body of fragments on the Web, the piece itself is conceived as fragments rather than a whole. And, although structured as a narrative, it has little of a beginning, middle, or end--like the experience of the Web. Instead, it moves around ideas and encounters, suggesting not only the content of the artists' intentions, but also an extraordinary approach to making an artwork that sheds the boundaries of time and space, exists in real and digital environments, and shifts with every new circumstance.
This project was commissioned by the Dia Center for the Arts, with funding and support from Harvestworks Inc./Studio PASS, The Electronic Arts Grants Program of the Experimental Television Center, and The Bohen Foundation.