As a matter of fact, they were encouraged to touch, copy and change what they saw.
In what organizers believe is the largest such event to date, 110 artists from 19 countries on five continents submitted entries, as "Enter the Electronic River (F'AXis '94)" kicked off Oct. 5 at Linfield College's Renshaw Gallery.
The show that ran through Oct. 28 is one of about seven held in the U.S. this year focusing on interactive, electronic art, said Lilian A. Bell a local artist who coordinated the event.
"Fax art, like the Internet, is totally decentralized," Ms. Bell said.
Ms. Bell estimated there have been about 100 such shows worldwide since the first was held in 1980.
At the show, guests were encouraged to remove artworks-faxed by participating artists-from the wall, photocopy them, make their own additions or deletions to the copy, fax the art to others and then return the original to the exhibit walls.
"Fax art shows are a conversation rather than a monologue," Ms. Bell said. "It is an exercise in collective imagination. I was surprised by the broad interpretation of the theme of the river."
Ms. Bell worked with Renshaw Gallery Director Nils Lou to set up the show. Each also was inspired to add their own work to the river of art.
Using the slogan, "If you don't turn on your fax machine, I can't fax you any art!" Ms. Bell prodded the interactive projects along, keeping them moving through the electronic passageways.
Themes for the interactive projects include "Create Your Own River," intended to be a 100-page river, and "River of Time," which is to be faxed throughout all the world's time zones.
"The interesting thing about fax art is that it doesn't belong to them [the artists] after they fax it," Mr. Lou said. "It would be attributable but not owned. It is owned by whoever gets them [the pieces of paper]."
But he did say royalties might be involved if he and Ms. Bell put together a book of the art from the project.
One of the participants was Bruce Breland, professor emeritus at Carnegie-Mellon University and the founder of the Digital Art Exchange.