Posts for August 2002

Less Is More

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Now in its third year, 'The 5k' is a minimalist web design competition like no other. Entries can be on any topic, and use any browser-enabled technology, provided they weigh in under 5k. Requirements produce some seriously mindblowing projects: a scale model of the solar system, a multimedia presentation of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons," even a fully functional AI chess game. All 365 entries are online, and visible. Sign up to vote for your favorites. Official judges this year include design guru Clement Mok and Sci-Fi author Bruce Sterling. - Curt Cloninger

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Touch This Wire(fire)

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Every Thursday at midnight (Belgian time), Wirefire invites you to a seductive audiovisual feast, mixed in real-time and served via a deceptively simple web interface. Artists Auriea Harvey and Michael Samyn layer haunting samples of music, sound, voices, visuals of clouds and drifting feathers, and more into a mesmerizing collage. You're already entranced when a ball floats by with the words 'Touch Me' on it - so you do. It explodes with a cry. You're part of this performance. A text input field appears. What will you say? - Helen Varley Jamieson

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Like Absinthe

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Oculart is a nervous-looking web site. It twitches, and its music is constantly falling out of tune. Colliding poetry, Georgio de Chirico, and Flash animation (on amphetamines), it provides fascinating experiences. At times the Oculart environment feels like the haunted hallway of a seedy brothel from the 1920's -- other times like a Surrealist picnic in a suburban park. Oculart is a consistently beautiful, hallucinatory site, but just like absinthe, it uses a tremendous amount of system resources. Try closing all extraneous windows to optimize your visit. -- Eryk Salvaggio

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Shouting into the Void

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'Hello' by Yael Kanarek derives strength from its simplicity. Requiring minimal user input, Hello transforms the computer screen into an object for contemplation rather than a tool for interaction. Hello consists of one static image: a sci-fi cavernous, landscape in shades of pink that periodically emits an echoing 'hello.' Is this a commentary on the supposed detached isolation of cyberspace? Or is it proof that mouse clicking, complicated code, and hoards of links are not necessarily the only means to art-making online? The open-ended-ness of Hello allows for this kind of rumination and more.

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The Secret Swap

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Do you long to live vicariously through confessions of people you've never met? Do you feel the need to share your private side? If this sounds interesting, participate in Persistent Data Confidant, an online experiment in secret sharing and rating. First tell a secret to the Confidant. Once you submit your ear-burning tale, you are rewarded with an anonymous secret from the database that you must rate. Good ratings perpetuate the lifeline of a juicy tidbit, and bad ones kill that which is not worth repeating. One user confesses: 'I spend too much work time on the net.' The Persistent Data Confidant is one reason why.

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Bits From Behind the Iron Curtain

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Before there was Flash, there was C++. Before there was net.art, there was the demo scene. Intended as short trailers for programmers' wares, demos rapidly became respected as the means for programmers to show off their creativity and mastery of code. Zdeno Hlinka is a young programmer from Slovakia who never forgot his roots as a demo producer. His creations are a brilliant mix of net.art-inspired visuals and experimental electronic music. He has an archive of his work to download here, ranging from early rave demos from the early 90's to more avant garde recent projects. 'Metamorf' and 'Different Engine' are likely masterpieces of the medium. --Eryk Salvaggio

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Battle with Words

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Textz is not a web site but a revolution. 'We are not the dot in dot.com, neither are we the minus in e-book" it claims. Rather it is a zone of excess, access, and lots of free texts. Textz provides an assortment of essays and books for free and searchable by author, date, title, number of hits, or randomly. Textz encourages everyone to take part in the movement: all you need is a $50 scanner and a $50 printer. This is not a matter of content but discontent. Textz illustrates that file-sharing, popularized by Napster, is an ongoing battle against the corporate myth of electronic scarcity.

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No Fear of Flying

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The frigate bird flies huge distances across oceans, but is unable to land on water. Right now, frigate birds from all over the world are converging on Te Papa Museum of New Zealand, where artist Sean Kerr's 'Binney Project' is installed. Kerr lifted a bird from a work by New Zealand painter Don Binney and gave it a virtual lease on life. By using cell phones or logging onto the web site, people from all over the world can launch and fly frigate birds across a series of screens in the museum. According to simple keystrokes, birds fly in formation, circle and squawk. The concept is simple but fun - and when you get tired of flying, click 'quit' and see your bird fall dramatically into the ocean with a satisfying 'plop.' - Helen Varley Jamieson

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Walk This Way

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Artist Heath Bunting turns border hack in \_BorderXing Guide\_, the newest installment in the Tate Modern's Net Art initiative. Bunting crossed numerous international borders unfettered , and the site documents his treks. On top of its intentions to comment on how travel is restricted by politically and economically-motivated bureaucracies, the project's accessibility is itself controlled: users must submit a static IP address to function as an authorized client or log in from a preapproved terminal. Waiting for approval may seem as much fun as standing in line for a passport stamp, but what gets revealed will reward your patience.

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Keeping up With the Joneses

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The 'Doves' screen saver presents a street-level view of a big city apartment -- a view which regularly updates itself according to the time. So in the morning, garbage cans are out front and birds are chirping. At night, the sky gets dark, sirens and trains wail and whistle, and TV lights flicker behind the curtains. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes there's a delivery truck out front. The changes are subtle, but over time, you get attached to this other world within your computer. Kind of like Jimmy Stewart in 'Rear Window,' but without the violence. - Curt Cloninger

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