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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Creative Resistance: Digital Art and the Critique of Globalization.

Melissa D. Milton-Smith.

‘A hybrid object attempts to incorporate into itself its own counterweight or critique – its other.’

Thomas McEvilley, 1991.

This paper will examine digital art and resistance to Globalization, as depicted in the work of British artist, Ross Mawdsley. Attention will be drawn to his website ‘Simian’ [], with key images discussed in light of Local versus Global conflicts, and the tensions operating between notions of individuality and homogeneity; resistance and conformity.

In this combined oral/visual presentation, I will question whether digital artists necessarily resist Globalization, through the defence of art’s freedom from commodification and political aggregation. If so, these actions could be aligned with the cultural objectives of post-Modernism: the support of divergent expressions of difference, resistance and dissent. Such sentiments could be anticipated by those who had rejected Globalization’s political-economic agendas: women, queer citizens, ethnic individuals and/or youth. Political projections of this kind would require the artist to critique the very culture[s] of production that had enabled their work; a process contrary to the quest for aesthetic Universalism, characteristic of Modernism.

And yet, an inherent contradiction is that digital media is borne of the Global milieu. In as far as the Internet and its ‘super-highways’, are entwined with the social, political and economic activities of Globalization. It is certain that the reach of digital art would not be possible without this Global process. This is a key opposition that I hope to reconcile through the raising of the questions: How is resistance projected across digital media? Is defiance to Globalization convincingly achieved? And, how are audiences implicated, as they engage with the [interactive] interfaces of digital art?


Melissa D. Milton-Smith  (Australia)
PhD Candidate
Department of Art History and Theory
The College of Fine Arts, UNSW

After graduating from The University of Western Australia with First Class Honours in History ['The Western Australian Art Gallery as a Microcosm of Cultural History: 1895-1915'] I began a Masters Degree in ‘Architecture and the Moving Image’ at Cambridge University, UK. This hybrid Degree addressed the critical interplay between urban theory and digital media through the production of practical and theoretical theses. Alongside my written examination of ‘cyber cities’, I directed, edited and produced a fifteen minute moving image composition that explored parallels between mind space and city space. After successfully completing my Masters at the end of 2001, I returned to Australia to begin a PhD in Art History/Theory at The University of New South Wales’ College of Fine Arts [COFA]. Currently in the second year of my candidature [and funded by an Australian Postgraduate Award] my thesis is entitled ‘Globalization and Political Resistance in Digital Art.’ I am intending to compose a digital media production to complement the written text's thematics.

  • Art
  • Digital
  • Media
  • Global
  • Globalisation
  • Resistance
Person as Subject
  • Mawdsley, Ross

(30 min Conference Paper, English)