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An Ornithology of Net Art: On Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries' The Art of Sleep

Tate Online

Mark Tribe:

Commissioned by Tate Online: http://www.tate.org.uk/netart/artofsleep

One night in the spring of 2000, after a long day of studio visits at an art school, I opened my laptop and found a mysterious email in my in box. I clicked on a link, a browser window opened, and gigantic black numbers flashed on screen, counting down from ten, as an explosive percussion track began to play. What followed was Bust Down the Doors! <http://www.yhchang.com/BUST_DOWN_THE_DOORS!.html>, a 55-second text movie telling the story of a late-night domestic raid by an unnamed authoritarian force. I was stunned—never before had I experienced such a dynamic, emotionally powerful work of art on a computer screen, let alone one that had reached me in a hotel room via a 56.6K modem.

Since then, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries—a collaboration between Young-Hae Chang, a Korean woman, and Marc Voge, an American man, who live and work in Seoul—have produced some 35 works, all in more-or-less the same vein: text--usually black, sometimes red or blue--flashes on screen, synched to the rhythm of a jazz soundtrack. The technology is Flash, a tool for, among other things, creating and delivering images and animations via the web. Using some fancy math (known as vectors), Flash enables artists and designers to pack a lot of graphic punch into tiny packages that can be delivered quickly over slow Internet connections. Although Flash can be used to do some very complex things (see, for example, the work of Joshua Davis), Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries barely scratch the surface of the application’s capabilities. Instead of exploiting Flash extensively, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries delve intensively into a small set of the application’s features. Much as Barnett Newman explored the virtually limitless formal and expressive possibilities of vertical stripes of color on canvas, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries play with the narrative possibilities of animated text accompanied by instrumental music.

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