reading blast5drama

Posted by Rhizome | Mon Jan 20th 1997 1 a.m.

I'll have to admit, when I dialed up the X-Art Foundation
(http://interport.net/~xaf) to see the current online x-travaganza known
as blast5drama I sorta lost my head. The start up page is perfect:
elegant, good layout, sharp graphics, smart animation, great menu items.
I expected no less from the rest of the site.

And I can't say I was completely disappointed. Blast5drama, staged
concurrently with events at Sandra Gering Gallery [NYC] and two MOOs,
is a broad amalgamation of material including visuals, theory bytes,
verse, calls for participation, and documentation of off/on-line events.
Filled with such different material, the site turns out to be a big hit
or a big miss. I got lost a bunch--as is often the case with hypertext.
I felt that familiar "I'm not making any progress through this piece"
sensation. Each day I leave it less than satisfied, pledging to devote
more energy to it the next.

Blast5 opens with a set of line drawings of multidemensional spaces.
They are white on black, architecturally rendered and annotated with
diagramatic texts and arrows. They scroll by as frames of an animated
gif. They are quite beautiful, and remind us that the constellation of
architecture/space/structure is still crucial for today's online work. A
clear statement of purpose, this veneer betrays its contents.

Some pages in blast show internet work at its slickest, some are bad
html rehash. There is a beautifully crafted propaganda poster (complete
with customized, nearly legible font). Yet there are pages upon pages of
poorly rendered text that one must navigate, all the while avoiding the
dead links that seem to permeate this site. Visiting blast5drama
requires a lot of *attention*.

So, apprehensively, I was forced to dive into the theory of it... and--at
the risk of reading the same theme into everything these days--I found
that blast5drama is about coding. It's about social coding. It's about
scripting, or what we used to call ideology (before computers took
culture-based political economy out of the dialogue). Go to "backstage"
first. It gives good background theory for the project. Glance at the
nicely rendered but impenetrable (and dead-linked) "poster," then take a
gander at the "call for manifestoes." You will find blast dealing with
the coding of "the political" in rather transparent ways: text is text
and it speaks, while the image mainly serves to mystify, to obscure.
Got a problem with that?

One of the interior hubs of the blast5 site is called "parkbench." Here
are displayed video-like clips: a traumatized Tipper
Gore...alien-abduction fantasies...affected household spaces. Fast
connectivity helps here. The parkbench gives the hyperlink weary
traveller a solid space from which to sample blast content.

In the end I guess I want focus from this piece. I love to explore new
online art projects, but I hate to feel lost in them. The producers of
this piece need to show a stronger thematic core, and they need to state
it more clearly. They need to ditch the background image HTML tag and
more heavily scrutinize page design throughout the site rather than on a
few choice pages. Blast5drama needs more effective filtering. Perhaps it
needs a clearer plot.

In the meantime I am still pushing my way out to its corners, trying to
get a solid grip on this piece. For me the jury's still out. Check it
out and tell me what you think.
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