Posts for August 2002

Alphabet Authoring

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If you ever made up your own language as a kid or enjoy speaking gibberish, visit Golan Levin's _Alphabet Synthesis Machine._ Levin's online project, an Art21 commission, encourages users to create imaginary alphabets. You start by making a scribble that becomes a guide for generating a series of glyph-like forms. The end result is your very own alphabet. Name and upload it to share it with the world, or, to use, download your alphabet as a TrueType font. Even watching the machine generate letters from a line drawing is fascinating in itself.

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Room With A View (or Two)

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The web is full of tiny, unobtrusive art gems just waiting to be discovered. One is Douglas Bagnall's '12,800,000 Views of the South Island and Taranaki,' a hand-drawn landscape that is literally configurable 12,800,000 different ways. Click on the buttons below the landscape to view some prefab views (city, suburb, seascape). Click on the 'autopaint' button to generate random views. Or click parts of the image itself to modify them. No tactical media. No allusions to Duchamp. Just 12,800,000 views of the South Island and Taranaki. - Curt Cloninger

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Alarming Birds

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Deep in the jungles of Trinidad, artist Nina Katchadourian mistook a singing bird for a car alarm. On her return home to New York City, Katchadourian decided to fabricate the inverse of her jungle experience with a couple of car stereos and microprocessor chips. She has outfitted several cars with 'Natural Car Alarms' that migrate throughout Manhattan this summer. When triggered, Katchadourian's car alarms play birdcalls in the six-tone mechanized sound pattern of a typical car alarm. The sounds, provided by Cornell University's Macauley Library of Natural Sounds, feature the Three-Wattled Bellbird, the Northern Bobwhite, and the rare Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. Keep track of the tweeting online, or sign up to buy your own birdcalling car alarm.

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Core Concepts

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What do Alan Turing, Brian Epstein, Jacques Derrida, Isaac Newton, and Eve all have in common? Apples. 'A is for Apple' is a non-linear, stream-of-consciousness mini-encyclopedia in multimedia form. Starting with the concept of 'apple,' creator David Clark free-associates his way through pop culture, religion, cryptography, and linguistics -- arriving at an interactive experience much more insightful than the mere sum of its parts. Conceptual thematics aside, the gorgeous multimedia collage work alone makes this sprawling piece worth a visit. - Curt Cloninger

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These Artists are Huge!

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To protect Asian elephant habitats, the National Geographic Society is raising money by selling elephant paintings. No, these aren't paintings OF elephants; they're paintings BY elephants. These pachyderms are regular Pollocks, making art using gravity and bodily movements, without the fancy theory and high price tags. You can get your own original Ramona for only $325. The one drawback to these paintings is their corny new age titles (tacked on by two-legged art dealers, no doubt). Only via the web could such art truly find its target market -- from the heart of Asia to a bourgeois living room near you. - Curt Cloninger

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8 Bit Threats to Beach Front Property

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A collision of colors with fragments from a Japanese design notebook, the web site kalx.com has been a colorful staple of the net.art scene since 1999, even inspiring a musical cd of pure sine wave compositions by electronic artist Jos Smolders. Content ranges from interactive flash maps of dreams to formalist html explosions featuring John Ashcroft. The site has been dormant for a while, but new work has surfaced recently, and given the dynamic nature and history of this site, it's worth checking in regularly. -- Eryk Salvaggio

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Open-Source Literature

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Wired wonk Douglas Rushkoff authored 'Exit Strategy,' a Biblical parable of Joseph retold in a contemporary, net-economy setting. Then Rushkoff went a step further by making 'Exit Strategy' an open-source novel. Not only is the text free online, but anybody may annotate the online version. The idea is to pretend you are an anthropologist 200 years from now. You've just unearthed an antique novel called 'Exit Strategy.' You must add footnotes explaining its cryptic contents to the people of 2300 AD. How will future societies interpret our nascent networked era? You decide. Clever concept; interesting reading. - Curt Cloninger

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Wild Kingdom

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Grab a virtual giraffe and hurl it through the air. Handle a virtual beetle until it explodes. Make a virtual horse dance on its hind legs. Frederic Durieu's 'Experimental Zoo' is innovative Shockwave programming at its most delightful. Rather than programming standard vector objects (balls, shapes, wireframe models) to respond to simulated gravity and mouse input, Durieu maps realistic shockwave behaviors to photo-realistic animal images. Each body segment is individually programmed to move in realistic relationship to others. The results are novel, bizarre, and engrossing. - Curt Cloninger

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Museum of the Mundane

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Keith Obadike sold his blackness on Ebay. Cary Peppermint sold himself as a artistic medium on Ebay. Michael Mandiberg and later John Freyer sold their possessions on Ebay. Alas, Matthew McClintock isn't selling anything on Ebay. He's just some fastidious guy who photographed every single object in his house for display on his website. From unique (an original Chris Ware comic strip, a vintage toy printing press) to banal (extension cords and power strips), McClintock bares all. You can even search by keyword -- 'shoe' is a good one. - Curt Cloninger

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A Twist Online

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The five net art projects in the new exhibition 'Web Racket' (at the Massachusetts' DeCordova Museum) toy with conventions of storytelling like video games, or fairy tales. Donna Leishman's wickedly witty take on Little Red Riding Hood is a chic, urban nightmare inlcuding a slouching boy on a scooter (the Wolf). Sit in an armchair to view Michael Mittelman's spin on video games, which takes on their violence with no holds barred. Interupt your own daily narrative and stop by this interesting collection. --J.D. Marsching

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