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julian baker: on michael atavar

Michael Atavar is a British performance artist, musician and writer whose web site is my personal recommendation. It is something rare and beautiful amongst web art, a place where every word has been carefully considered before uploading, where function is dictated by content, and where amongst the noise of the the internet you can find yourself quietly moved.

Behind the few simple interfaces there lies a deceptively large body of work, Atavar has published six web pieces, each one uncluttered, moving and complete. His rigour and discipline shows through in there being no menu listing of his CV, previous works and exhibitions, no mention of his book and no animated gifs urging you to purchase a copy, only that rare thing - content.

His forte is words and so he is able to use the medium of html to great advantage, and is rare in that his understanding of web dynamics matches his writing, never applying technology for gratuitous effect he instead re-deploys a protocol or javascript to further tell his story.

One word I think best describes his approach, and it is without coincidence that it also the title of one his pieces - "intimacy". Sitting in front of his website becomes a personal engagement between the artist and yourself. At times you have to physically work to encourage him, like in parts of " * * * * (fours stars)" where each statement is one long single sentence and you have to horizontally scroll the browser window to keep up with the narrative, the link to the next line reachable only at the very end, like a pause for breath.

In other places just moving the cursor over the final letter in each sentence causes you to flit to the next page, not even a finger press required, just a simple gentle gesture. The digital equivalent of a slight raising of the eyebrow or change in eye contact to acknowledge your digestion of the orator’s narrative so far. What is remarkable is that within a couple of pages you become unaware of the unconventionality of the navigation and find yourself leaning forward, rapt, hearing only the flow of his words.

The prose too is blended effortlessly between emotion and technology. Atavar has a great understanding of how people exist inside cyberspace, how web pages and sites are equivalent to windows and cities. Reflective and anonymous sometimes, personal and moving at others. His essays talk about love, porn, code, thought, simplicity, but somewhere along the way they veer from their initial purpose and become ruminations of our place in the modern world, where we want technology to take us, and a quiet celebration of life.

Spare yourself an hour, with no distractions, to let him show you there is beauty, sadness, hope and life even in the noughts and ones of digital media. It is ironic that that an artist who so understands and excels in producing computer work ends up causing us to want to lie down on the grass in a park, with our eyes shut and the sounds of the city washing over us, or to pin a memory on each star in the night time sky.

Julian Baker's website

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