Countdown To Ecstasy--The Disappearance of The Interface

Countdown To Ecstasy–The Disappearance of The Interface
by Mark Amerika

10. This is not an Interface. Rather, it is part of a disappearing act
now in progress. This disappearing act isn't part some elaborate magic
show, though the magic cookies we may have just fed your hard drive with
will tell us exactly what kind of shows you like to go and see. Think of
it as a present from us to you, part of the much talked about "gift
economy." And if you're hungry for more, don't worry. There are lots of
other cookie-pushers moving into your cyberneighborhood as you read
this. They are all preparing for the final disappearance, the one where
your digital apparition does all of your work for you so that you, Dear
Reader, can find lots more time to consume! Forget that ideological
framework everyone knows as holidays. Every day is a holiday is
cyberspace. Here, take another cookie while I warm up the tea.

9. I take it all back: Why be cynical? I say it's time we embrace the
simulation of effects being transmitted by the global computer networks.
Let's make all thought "sensual" again so that our attempts to bring
meaning into this nascent online space are co-dependent on a creative
process that cancels itself as it goes along. There are multiple forms
of constructed Selves just waiting to be born, so what is holding you
back? What will it take to let yourself out of the prison-house of
official language and manners? Why not finally participate in the
potentially liberating stream of sex-blood consciousness you've always
wanted to activate yourself in? Whatever your excuse is, whether it be
Web-envy, no roles to play in relay chats, dysfunctional email
etiquette, html schizophrenia, why not accept the fact that there are no
more ultimate Truths to be found in the printed word and that the
disappearance of the print-interface is linked to a top-secret program
whose market-penetration (can you feel it?) is being manipulated by an
alien race of invisible mediators, code-crunchers, state-of-the-art
compilers, micro-managers, head-hunters, business schools, computer
science graphics labs and sexy entrepreneurs? Speaking of which: is it
possible to have an orgasm even if you cant see the lab assistants who
are busy pushing all the right buttons?

8. Is it really necessary to tear apart the idea-apparatus and see what
kind of inner workings make the time-machine tick? What will happen once
you successfully crack the code to Digital Being? Will you then start
developing your own unique interface that requires yet even more
software for others to buy-into so that they can finally participate in
your elitist construction of reality? These are important questions to
ask as there is already a kind of battle being waged by artists who work
with network technology and this fight is over the interface. Although
it's not as simple as I am about to make it, I will break up these
forces into two camps: one camp is more elitist and wants to create
their own interface while the other one is happy to develop their
projects with the more utilitarian interfaces being developed by major
corporate enterprises. The difference between these two camps became
apparent at the recent International Biennial of Film and Architecture
in Graz (also known as film+arc). The heated debate took place during a
panel discussion called Net Art and The Exhibition Context. What I see
as the elitist camp was represented most forcefully by a member of
Knowbotic Research ( while
the "Netscape or Microsoft Explorer interface is good enough for me"
approach was voiced by panel-member Alexei Shulgin (said that indeed it
was a place for people to communicate. But they couldnt communicate that
to the guy from Knowbotic Research (and the representative curators on
the panel were relatively silent during this part of the discussion).
The discussion then moved toward the subject of interfaces and whether
it was the artist's responsibility to program their own unique
interfaces or rely on the corporate whims of someone like Bill Gates.
The irony here was that voting against corporate-developed interfaces
was the corporate-sponsored Knowbotic Research while the (for the most
part) un-sponsored nyet.artist Shulgin said he was happy to play around
with the various versions of Netscape. What does this mean?

7. How do we want our artificial realities to be constructed? Do we want
to have ultimate control over the way our interface operates and thus
limit the distribution-potential of our work, or are we better off
letting the heated-up Browser Wars accelerate the development of
interface "standards" which can then be used to construct artificial
realities that, by becoming accessible to larger audiences, open up the
possibility of a more exciting interventionist strategy to employ via
the new media? Maybe some brilliant programming-artists will want to
have total control over the functionality of their
technologically-enhanced projects, but when it comes time to interacting
with them, most of us will still be left in the dark (where is the magic
light bulb when you most need it?). And besides, what is this desire to
"grasp" the detailed coding of the mechanism that delivers ones work to
the public ear and eye? To reconstruct the dream-apparatus in a more
rational way? That seems self-defeating. And what will it accomplish
anyway? The creation of a more immersive illusion that this is how the
machines really work? That's no way to artificially construct a reality.
Besides, the Modernists already tried this and we decided that, as
interesting an experiment as it was, in the end, it really wasn't worth
our time. Why? Because too many REAL people got left out of the creative
process. And besides, as my friend Ron says, "reality doesn't exist,
time doesn't exist, personality doesn't exist. We have to start from
scratch." Starting from t-zero is the way to go, getting rid of the
interface, inventing knowledge all along the way: not reproducing the
modernist mistakes of the past. Why would someone want to spend their
creative energy developing elitist interfaces? To attract corporate
attention to their aggressive technological gimmickry so that it can
then be bought as "art"? But as Jordan Crandall asked on the panel at
film+arc, "Why Art?" I just had an idea for a new bumper sticker: NO ART

6. In his just-released book "The Plague of Fantasies"
(, Slavoj
Zizek, in an essay entitled "Cyberspace, Or, The Unbearable Closure of
Being" (the pun is on Milan Kundera's "The Unbearable Lightness of
Being"), approaches this issue in the following manner:

"To take things at their interface value, involves a *phenomenological*
attitude, an attitude of 'trusting the phenomena': the modernist
programmer takes refuge in cyberspace as a transparent, clearly
structured universe which allows him to elude (momentarily, at least)
the opacity of his everyday environs, in which he is part of an a priori
unfathomable background, full of institutions whose functioning follows
unknown rules which exert domination over his life; for the
postmodernist programmer, in contrast, the fundamental features of
cyberspace coincide with those described by Heidegger as the
constitutive features of our everyday life-world (the finite individual
is thrown into a situation whose co-ordinates are not regulated by clear
universal rules, so that the individual has gradually to find his way in

5. Let's get one thing straight: reality is a fiction. A speculative
fiction ( Or, we can say: reality is a
market. A speculative market. It cancels itself as it goes along. And in
canceling itself as it goes along, it generates further disappearances
of the interface and this is where we, the people, come in. When I talk
about the people, I am talking about more than our flesh and blood, our
dismembered organs-without-bodies, our machinic desires running rampant
on the contaminated earth. I am talking about our avatar-others, our
digital apparitions, our pointillistic presence that pixellates in the
morph-world of electrospherical ambiance. We, the people, are what
populate social space, wherever this social space may distribute itself.
It could be some Moms-only chat-room, some S&M dungeon, some real-time
dance club, or under the covers with an anonymous freak. In fact, the
social spaces we populate are absolutely co-dependent on our digital
apparitions distributing themselves with such density that the people we
interact with come to see their experience with us as Real. It wasn't
always this way. But then again, never before have we been so eager to
rid ourselves of the interface.

4. Rather than serving as a mirror of ones creative practice, the
market-as-fiction model keeps supplementing the net-practitioner with an
endless supply of resources to generate new work with. As the market
itself becomes totally dependent on the creation of promotional
metafictions that use "vaporware" constructions to drive The Story of
Interface Culture further into the hyperfuture, avant-pop nyet-heads can
use both the tools and the banal "content" that is being generated
around this "new media mythology" into an innovative work/play
environment. We can see this work/play environment popping up all over
the Net, from the viral interfaces of ( to the
ghostly interfaces of another Jody, designer Jody Zellen
( Or what
about the playful yet, dare I say, emotional interfaces of Richard
Allalouf and Claire Cann's Keywords ( or
Knut Mork's Untitled java applet that emits language-poetry in rapid
morph-mode ( If we are to take things at the
their interface value, then the best place to start might be these

3. I have an idea for all of the silent curators who are trying to
figure out what to do with these roaming avant-popstars and nyet-heads
who keep attracting so much attention but whose work can't be easily
absorbed into their institutional space. Take the influence you have
accumulated over the years by preserving the past, present and
near-future value of art, and create a new, admittedly ephemeral,
interface. Yes, it will take a certain amount of missionary zeal to make
it happen as fast as the culture needs it to happen, but this ephemeral
interface is absolutely necessary and should help accelerate the
disappearing act already in progress. And in the meantime, before it all
fades away, why not focus on some of the essential ingredients this new
interface demands:

+ become responsible to future generations interested in the early
development of hypermedia work being practiced on the web and invest the
necessary time, energy and money in archiving the work, conducting
formal discussions of the work, developing web-sites that help educate
the public on the relevance of this growing *phenomena* and
commissioning new projects exclusively for the medium

+ work with the net-practitioners themselves on building the archives
and creating innovative programs to showcase the developments being made
in the field (many net-practitioners have thought out the implications
of this network-media phenomena and are in a position to offer expert
advise and consultation on how to expand your "influence" in an art
market that is in the process of canceling itself out as it goes along)

+ accept the fact that the practitioners you will be working with may
have absolutely no formal relationship with the so-called elitist
art-world you are part of and that is quietly being dismantled by the
emergence of these very same networkers who, besides actively composing
in the medium, are at once their own publisher, curator, publicist,
critic and value-generator

To some it may seem funny, but once the Documenta-X web site was pulled
off of the net, it was not lost to history. Fortunately for us, Vuk
Cosic had already downloaded the entire site and virtually republished
it at his new self-styled domain name, When we
included a "curatorial link" to the site from the Alt-X Digital Studies:
Being In Cyberspace show (, the readymade
ironies were overflowing.

2. What more is there to say? The disappearance of the interface is
first of all the disappearance of language.