Pianographique is the interactive, multi-sensory brainchild of Jean-Luc Lamarque, and on my shortlist of most engrossing net artworks ever. It maps short audio-visual loops to various keyboard keys. As the user types, she composes an abstract video along with its score. These live "performances" may then be saved online for others to view. The core engine supports several different modules, each in its own musical genre ranging from jazz to industrial. My current favorite module is 'sudden stories,' an orchestral collage of Asian intrigue. Drama never sounded so good. - Curt Cloninger
Mediatopia is a recently launched repository of net.art and writing, curated by artists Lara Bank and Andrew Bucksbarg. The site explores the trajectory of networked technologies and address such questions as: 'Who has access to these technologies? Who are the experts or authorities? Who defines media work and how?' by drawing together disparate ideas and experiences into one cosy Mediatopia. Four diverse writers and fourteen artists are currently featured and interviewed, with artists' statements and links to their work. Make sure you set aside plenty of time for browsing this site as it's likely to send you off on a trajectory of your own. - Helen Varley Jamieson.
Net artists MTAA have departed from their usual realm of object-optional conceptual art to explore what Lev Manovich might likely call database narrative. Their piece, grandiosely titled "Random Access Mortality," chops up a 2-song garage rock single by the White Stripes and recombines the audio randomly. In 2001 Jennifer and Kevin McCoy did a similar hack to Kubrick's '2001.' However MTAA's piece seems more of a nod to Gysin and Burroughs' 60s cut-up experiments. The user has almost no control over the output, and the resultant audio is jarringly punk. (It's a good thing.) - Curt Cloninger
Agricultural and 'service' work have, so far, largely escaped automation. But what if 'cybraceros' could replace traditional braceros? Remote Labor Systems (RLS), a project of media artist Alex Rivera, is a mock company that satirically combines the utopian promise of telepresence and robotics with US/Mexican border politics. Referencing Ken Goldberg's 'Telegarden' and real robotics companies like iRobot, RLS creates a sci-fi resolution to the conflict between the desire for cheap labor/goods and xenophobic fears. Much like the projects of the Yes Men, RLS also becomes a media performance with unsuspecting participants, most recently the business section of La Opini
Have you ever wanted to try your hand at graffiti writing without having to break the law and get spray paint on your shirt? Now with Less Rain's free Graffiti Studio software, you can practice your tags and burners in the privacy of your own hard drive. The software is painstakingly realistic, even down to the rattle of the can. Once you create a masterpiece to your liking, you can upload it to the Vandal Squad website for others to rate. Are they keeping vandals off the street, or training up a whole new graf army? - Curt Cloninger
Autogenerative software wizard Ade Ward has created stand-alone Macintosh software that continuously reads and visually blends every file on your hard drive. He calls it 'Portrait of Netochka Nezvanova' in homage of the cult programmer of Nato.0+55 fame. Running Ward's software feels a bit like using Mark Napier's 'Riot' browser, except the results are continuously and speedily collaged -- more like a film than a static page. There's even an advanced version that lets you focus the churn on a specific folder. Select your digital art folder and watch your life's work flash before your eyes. - Curt Cloninger
What's cooler than making interactive software? Making the computer language that people use to make interactive software. Ben Fry and Casey Reas's Proce55ing is such a meta-language. Influenced by John Maeda at MIT's Media Lab, the pair created a free programming environment with three strengths: it's simple enough to teach to non-programmers, it's adept at controlling graphics, and it compiles in Java so that the output is web-ready. Originally conceived as a teaching tool, more advanced programmers are already using the Alpha version of Proce55ing to create some gorgeously intricate work. - Curt Cloninger
In conjunction with a recently released film of the same name, Savedbythebelles.com is an organic and artistic online expression of Montreal's nightlife. Modelled on the human mind, the site provides apparently endless navigational paths that drift along tangents and take sudden detours according to the user's choices. Every choice subtly alters the interface and mood of the site, causing different memories to bubble up. More than 50 Montreal artists are represented in a variety of digital works exploring themes around memory, amnesia, night, sex and identity. The interactive works include a confessional and flying dreams repository. On my first visit, a strong food theme was apparent and much of the site was almost unbearably slow - which I attribute to my own hunger and that it was early morning in Montreal; as the site (and the film) will tell you, night is when the action happens. - Helen Varley Jamieson.
Among artist/programmers in the world of reactive/autogenerative software, Stanza stands out as a Jedi's Jedi. His pieces not only develop gorgeously and react interestingly, but he has the painterly ability to communicate thematically in the amorphous language of abstract visuals. His 'amorphoscapes' are a meta-series of reactive Director environments, each with its own vibe. One series is warm and retro. Another series is industrial and futuristic. Each series contains multiple pieces, and each piece contains multiple variations. Kind of like a Bach fugue illustrated by Kandinsky in Lingo. - Curt Cloninger
In 1996, Korean giant Hyundai began developing a microchip plant in the Scottish town of Halbeath, which lies between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Due to various financial crises, the factory project was taken over by Motorala in 2000, and has been closed since 2001. The displaced manufacture of computer parts forms the desolate backdrop of this foreboding piece by Takuji Kogo of Candy Factory, working here in collaboration with Young Hae Chang Heavy Industries. YHCHI brings signature animation and historical music to bear on this slow-paced work. Like in much of Kogo's work, in Halbeath alienation is conjunctive with surveillance: they share an edge. There are two versions of Halbeath available -- I preferred the eponymous installment to the 'False Bride Remix.' -- Rachel Greene