Among the common themes that emerged from this year's submissions were preoccupations with technology's impact on travel and on time, privacy and surveillance, and biological conception. As often happens, a quirky formal similarity emerged as well: a surprising number of Flash and Director movies opened in their own horizontal windows without toolbars or location fields. For some reason, all of the horizontal windows seemed to be about the same size. I can only guess that the current generation of online artists has just discovered the window.open command, but still hasn't figured out how to resize the default Shockwave stage!
My six choices follow in alphabetical order by type. Each fits into a familiar category of online art, but with an interesting twist on its genre:
Devoted to compiling and correlating information about contemporary artists, artandculture.com eschews experimentation in favor of function. Maybe such third-party expert sites will eventually be eclipsed by the bastions of culture like Tate/MoMA, but in the meantime, Davids like artandculture.com have got the jump on the Goliaths.
Like such artist-made browsers as I/O/D's Web Stalker and Maciej Wisniewski's Netomat, Mary Flanagan's _Phage_ offers an alternative visualization of electronic information--but instead of browsing the Internet, it browses your hard drive. A downloadable Director program that thinks it's a
psychoanalyst, _Phage_ dredges up random images, texts, and sounds from the nooks and crannies on your C drive. You'll be surprised what's lurking in the depths of your computer's unconscious.
With mainstream browsers now supporting DHTML and Java, numerous artists have experimented with new ways to click, drop, and drag your way around a Web site. Few, however, have found an innovative use for that other "peripheral," the keyboard. By translating the placement and cadence of
keystrokes into percussive patterns, Golan Levin's work reminds us that whenever we are typing, we are also drumming.
Flash animations are definitely the technology-du-jour of the Web, but most artists and designers misuse these scalable movies by clogging them with memory-hogging bitmaps or absurdly long submovies within submovies. Flash fits David Crawford like a glove; he knows how to wring a lot of conceptual and visual punch out of a simple motif combined with a simple tween. With their generic icons and yellow-grey-black palette, these minimovies feel like international road signs for the information superhighway.
Most online narratives follow the "illustrated hypertext" model, in which lexias of text accented by static or moving images offer links to other lexias with similar formats. Judd Morrissey offers a welcome alternative: a navigation system in which rolling over a highlit word subtly changes the entire narrative on the page. Finally, online fiction that reads like Alain Robbe-Grillet instead of Vannevar Bush.
Although most online networks revolve around shared interests (or more opportunistically, on things to buy and sell), Kazushi Mukaiyama reduces a community of online visitors to a swarm of colored spheres. Since it is largely determined by the artificial life algorithm "Boids," user interaction is limited--but the chance meetings of cyberspace have never portrayed by a more evocative visual metaphor.
artist, Curator Media Arts
Guggenheim Museum, NYC