<< preface

this blog is nina wenhart's collection of resources on the various histories of new media art. it consists mainly of non or very little edited material i found flaneuring on the net, sometimes with my own annotations and comments, sometimes it's also textparts i retyped from books that are out of print.

it is also meant to be an additional resource of information and recommended reading for my students of the prehystories of new media class that i teach at the school of the art institute of chicago in fall 2008.

the focus is on the time period from the beginning of the 20th century up to today.

>> search this blog


>> Critical Art Ensemble

Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) is a collective of five tactical media practitioners of various specializations including computer graphics and web design, film/video, photography, text art, book art, and performance.

Formed in 1987, CAE's focus has been on the exploration of the intersections between art, critical theory, technology, and political activism. The original members are Steve Barnes, Dorian Burr, Steve Kurtz, Hope Kurtz and Beverly Schlee. Their book projects include: The Electronic Disturbance (1997), Electronic Civil Disobedience & Other Unpopular Ideas (1998), Flesh Machine; Cyborgs, Designer Babies, Eugenic Consciousness (1998), Digital Resistance: Explorations in Tactical Media (2001), Molecular Invasion (2002), and Marching Plague (2006).


Washington Post:
"The FBI's Art Attack
Offbeat Materials at Professor's Home Set Off Bioterror Alarm

By Lynne Duke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 2, 2004; Page C01

NEW YORK -- "A forensic investigation of FBI trash." On the telephone, Beatriz da Costa says it wryly. Her humor sounds bitter. She's talking about the detritus of a terror probe at the Buffalo home of her good friends, the Kurtzes.

She's talking about the pizza boxes, Gatorade jugs, the gloves, the gas mask filters, the biohazard suits: the stuff left by police, FBI, hazmat and health investigators after they descended on the Kurtz home and quarantined the place.

The garbage tells a story of personal tragedy, a death in the Kurtz household, that sparked suspicions (later proved unfounded) of a biohazard in the neighborhood. And it tells a story of the times in which we live, with almost daily warnings about terror, and with law enforcement primed to pounce.

Steve Kurtz, a Buffalo art professor, discovered on the morning of May 11 that his wife of 20 years, Hope Kurtz, had stopped breathing. He called 911. Police and emergency personnel responded, and what they saw in the Kurtz home has triggered a full-blown probe -- into the vials and bacterial cultures and strange contraptions and laboratory equipment.

The FBI is investigating. A federal grand jury has been impaneled. Witnesses have been subpoenaed, including da Costa.

Kurtz and his late wife were founders of the Critical Art Ensemble, an internationally renowned collective of "tactical media" protest and performance artists. Steve Kurtz, 48, has focused on the problems of the emergence of biotechnology, such as genetically modified food. He and the art ensemble, which also includes da Costa, have authored several books including "Digital Resistance: Explorations in Tactical Media" and "Electronic Civil Disobedience and Other Unpopular Ideas," both published by Autonomedia/Semiotext(e).

The day of his wife's death, Kurtz told the authorities who he is and what he does.

"He explained to them that he uses [the equipment] in connection with his art, and the next thing you know they call the FBI and a full hazmat team is deposited there from Quantico -- that's what they told me," says Paul Cambria, the lawyer who is representing Kurtz. "And they all showed up in their suits and they're hosing each other down and closing the street off, and all the news cameras were there and the head of the [Buffalo] FBI is granting interviews. It was a complete circus."

Cambria, the bicoastal Buffalo and Los Angeles lawyer best known for representing pornographer Larry Flynt, calls the Kurtz episode a "colossal overreaction."

FBI agents put Kurtz in a hotel, where they continued to question him. Cambria says Kurtz felt like a detainee over the two days he was at the hotel. Paul Moskal, spokesman for the Buffalo office of the FBI, says the bureau put Kurtz in a hotel because his home had been declared off limits. The probe, Moskal says, was a by-the-books affair from the very beginning.

"Post-9/11 protocol is such that first-responders have all been given training about unusual things and unusual situations," Moskal says.

And obviously, says Lt. Jake Ulewski, spokesman for the Buffalo police, what the cops eyeballed raised some alarms. "He's making cultures? That's a little off the wall."

Erie County health officials declared the Kurtz home a potential health risk and sealed it for two days while a state lab examined the bacterial cultures found inside. Officials won't divulge what precisely was examined, but it turned out not to be a danger to public health. And the house was reopened for use.

Still, federal authorities think something in that house might have been illegal, Cambria surmises. But Cambria denies there was anything illegal in the house. William Hochul Jr., chief of the anti-terrorism unit for the U.S. attorney's office in the Western District of New York, would not comment on the investigation.

Kurtz, on Cambria's advice, isn't speaking to the press either.

Da Costa, a professor at the University of California at Irvine who has flown to Buffalo to help out, says Kurtz is "depressed" and dealing with the loss of his wife, who died of a heart attack. Today the Buffalo arts community will memorialize her.

Adele Henderson, chair of the art department of the State University of New York at Buffalo, where Kurtz has tenure, is among the people who've been questioned by the FBI.

On May 21, she says, the FBI asked her about Kurtz's art, his writings, his books; why his organization (the art ensemble) is listed as a collective rather than by its individual members; how it is funded.

"They asked me if I'd be surprised if I found out he was found to be involved in bioterrorism," she says.

Her response? "I am absolutely certain that Steve would not be involved."

They also asked about "his personal life," Henderson says, but she would not describe the questions or her responses.

The investigation, she says, will have no bearing on Kurtz's standing at the university, where he is an associate professor. (Prior to Buffalo, he taught at Carnegie Mellon University.)

"This is a free speech issue, and some people at the university remember a time during the McCarthy period when some university professors were harassed quite badly," she says.

Nonetheless, considering the kind of art Kurtz practices and the kind of supplies he uses, "I could see how they would think it was really strange."

For instance: the mobile DNA extracting machine used for testing food products for genetic contamination. Such a machine was in Kurtz's home. His focus, in recent years, has been on projects that highlight the trouble with genetically modified seeds.

In November 2002, in an installation called "Molecular Invasion," Kurtz grew genetically modified seeds in small pots beneath growth lamps at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, then engineered them in reverse with herbicide, meaning he killed them.

"We thought it was very important to have Critical Art Ensemble here because we try to have our visiting artist's program present work that takes our curriculum to the next step," says Denise Mullen, vice dean of the Corcoran College of Art and Design, whose Hemicycle Gallery hosted Kurtz's molecular exhibit.

Beyond the cutting edge of art, she says, "we want work that is really bleeding edge."

In Buffalo, in the aftermath of the bioterror probe that has found no terror, activist artists have scooped up the refuse from the Kurtz front yard and taken it away, perhaps, says da Costa, to create an art installation."

In 2007, Lynn Hershman made a film, "Strange Culture", about ths trial and the life of Steve Kurtz.

>> Joe Davis, "Microvenus"


"Art as a Form of Life
More copies exist of one of his works than of all previous artworks by all prior artists. Yet his self-replicating creations have never been exhibited in the United States.

Joe Davis: Genestheticist

Photograph by Kathleen Dooher
Davis with one of his more conventional artworks.
  • Expelled from three high schools and two colleges: for writing about atheism, refusing a haircut, making a still (which exploded), being elected student body president on a "free marijuana" platform and working on an underground anti-war newspaper.
  • Walked into the M.I.T. Center for Advanced Visual Studies uninvited in 1982. Secretary called the cops. Forty-five minutes later, Davis walked out with an appointment as a research fellow.
  • Latest project is to build a biomechanical ornithopter powered by electrically stimulated frog legs and to fly it across the Charles River.
  • Uses hollow steel peg leg to open beer bottles, to accompany the band (bugle-style) at his local bar, and to charm curious women at parties.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.--Either Joe Davis is late or I am lost. I check my watch and look for the third time at the address he gave me for the studio where he creates his avant-garde art: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, building 68, sixth floor, room 604D. Here it is, locked and looking nothing like an artist's workshop. "SEVERE EYE DAMAGE" cautions a sign on the door, referring to a laser (not the artworks) inside. There are trash bins marked "WARNING: RADIOACTIVE WASTE," walk-in refrigerated vaults containing cells in stasis, ultracentrifuges the size of washing machines. But no paints, no cameras, no sculpting tools.

I wander downstairs to the office of Alexander Rich, the biophysicist who famously discovered left-handed DNA (the normal stuff twists to the right), who worked out the structure of transfer RNA, who last year won the $250,000 Bower award, and who invited Davis into his lab in 1992 as a "research affiliate," which grants Davis a space to work and access to the lab's expensive tools but no financial support. There is still no sign of Davis, until I press my nose against the window of a door into a small white room.

The room is warm: 98.6 Fahrenheit, the temperature of the human bowel. There, on wire shelves next to flasks in which swim various strains of gastrointestinal bacteria, sit five mason jars marked "Self-Assembling Clock." In each jar rest the jumbled parts of a disassembled timepiece. I recognize this as Davis's work, part of his six-year-old "experiment" to test whether, given the right conditions and enough time, the components of machines can self-assemble into working devices, just as life supposedly arose spontaneously from colliding precursory biochemicals billions of years ago. That theory, still unproved despite almost 40 years of research, suddenly strikes me as less plausible and yet more profound.

Tick tick. I turn to see Davis walking down the hall, his selfmade peg leg clacking, steel on tile. The test tube stopper plugging its end has worn down. Ask him how he lost the limb, as someone does at his fiftieth birthday party the following night, and he raises an eyebrow, inhales deeply and recites one of his poems, a dark, frightening, erotic poem of slithering asps, black waters and an embrace with the long, luscious lips of an alligator.

Ask his friends, and they say he lost the leg in a motorcycle crash 20 years ago, when he was still a sculptor and bike mechanic in Mississippi. That is where he grew up with his chemist father and five siblings, until problems at school got him sent up to the grandparents in Delaware and to a psychiatric evaluation at age 13. In his report, Dr. Jastak suggested that young Joe should "apply his artistic abilities to his scientific ventures," maybe even pursue a career as a scientific artist. Quite a prescient forecast for 1964, although Jastak probably imagined Davis drawing pictures of atomic airplanes for a living.

Courtesy Ars Electronica Festival 2000. Copyright Joe Davis.
Design for a microbial fishhook.

Davis himself had altogether different ideas about how science and art could be coaxed or forced together, ideas that have often made both professions uncomfortable. For seven years he championed a space shuttle experiment that would have shot a 100,000-watt electron gun into the magnetosphere to create the first artificial aurora. After selling his Harley to fund the design and touring the lecture circuit as the default spokesman for art in space, Davis finally persuaded the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to accept the payload, only to see it scuttled when the Challenger exploded.

No matter; he was already plotting other ways to make artistic use of high-voltage electricity and spacebound signals. In the early 1980s, he drew up plans for channeling lightning bolts into a pulsed laser of almost unparalleled energy and into towering sculptures that would change the bolts' color and emit incredibly loud tones—designs that also remain unbuilt, awaiting a sponsor. Later that decade, Davis led a quasi-covert operation that recorded the vaginal contractions of ballerinas with the Boston Ballet and other women, then translated this impetus of human conception into text, music, phonetic speech and ultimately into radio signals, which were beamed from M.I.T.'s Millstone radar to Epsilon Eridani, Tau Ceti and two other nearby star systems.

The Air Force soon found out about the million-watt Poetica Vaginal broadcast, as Davis calls it, and shut it down. But the 20-minute message was many times longer than the the first deliberate attempt to say hello to extraterrestrial ham radio operators, a string of 1,679 bits that Carl Sagan and Frank Drake beamed from the giant dish in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, 26 years ago. That message, like every engraved plaque and recorded video disk that NASA allowed on the Pioneer and Voyager space probes, made no attempt to convey what aliens would probably be most curious to know about humans: how we reproduce.

"The images of humans placed aboard the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft show impeccably groomed men that lack any facial and body hair," Davis hoots, "and women with no external genitalia." Poetica Vaginal was in part a response to this curious censorship. "By making this attempt to communicate with the other," he explains, "we're really communicating with ourselves."

Courtesy Ars Electronica Festival 2000. Copyright Joe Davis.
Kepler's nested polyhedra; blueprint for a supervirus?

"This is probably one of the strangest art collections on earth," Davis says, as he opens the door to a refrigerated room. I enter and follow his gesture to a rack of urine-colored liquids in bottles. "This is sort of the ski resort of the farm," he says—the "farm" being Davis's term for the menagerie of paramecia, stentors, rotifers and other assorted protozoans that he cultivates as artistic and scientific media. Back in his lab, Davis sits down next to a jury-rigged assemblage of borrowed lasers, optics and stereo equipment and shows me the movies he made of these microanimals. They are mildly interesting to look at, but extraordinary to hear. His documentaries of the lives of cells have soundtracks, recorded from a scanning laser as the protozoans squirm beneath it. On the shelf above Davis's head are more pens in the farm, mason jars labeled either with scientific names or with pet names such as scary finbacks and green scudders. Davis says the he has spent enough time listening to their behavior that he can now distinguish many species from their microacoustic signatures alone.

"The audio microscope originated from a conversation with a medical student who had just returned from fieldwork in Ecuador," Davis says. "She told me she heard a story from a magician, a witch doctor, about a certain plant in the mountains that sings a different song than plants of the same species in the valley. She asked whether there any way she could listen to this singing. A lot of things are inspired by questions people ask me."

Watching and hearing microorganisms dance about made Davis wonder what it would be like to feel them move. What if he could somehow set up a rod and tackle to fish for stentors? On the face of it, this is a crazy idea: stentors are trumpet-shaped animals just a couple hundred microns long. Davis found a fellow in the micromachine lab who was willing to etch 25-micron fishhooks in the margin of his microchip design, but after the first two attempts failed Davis has decided to make his own photolithographic templates. The two have worked out a way to thread microfibers through the eyes of the hooks and melt them in place. David Gessel, an engineer with Nebucon who has aided Davis on several projects, has sketched out a scheme for making a fishing rod. Sensors connected to the fiber would control servos to make the miniscule tug of stentor feel like the jerking head of a marlin.

As Davis describes his plans, his eyes squint with intensity, giving the grizzled 50-year-old man an almost boyish expression of awe at the weirdness of nature and the power of technology to poke at it. His enthusiasm is contagious; it makes me wonder whether I could watch a protozoan take my hook, listen to it thrash, break a sweat as I fight it to a draw, and yet not come away with a new perspective on the ocean of microscopic life in which we are immersed, usually imperceptibly.

Courtesy Ars Electronica Festival 2000. Copyright Joe Davis.
The Microvenus icon.

It was about 15 years ago that Davis first realized that genetic engineering was creating a rich new medium for art—life itself. He convinced molecular biologists at Harvard Medical School and the University of California at Berkeley to teach him how to synthesize DNA and insert it into the genomes of living bacteria. That took some persistence: "In the beginning scientists were not comfortable talking to me," Davis recalls. "It took a while for them to trust me with their secrets." That is probably a good thing, he admits. "I still come up with ideas that are dangerous and don't realize that they are dangerous. For example there is a 200-mer [a sequence of 200 amino acids] that folds into a highly geometric capsule. I had this idea of creating Kepler's nested polyhedra [once thought to define the planetary orbits] in these viral capsids." Fortunately, Davis ran the idea by one of his genetics mentors first. "He pointed out that I could inadvertently create a supervirus."

Instead Davis set about creating what he calls "an infogene, a gene to be translated by the machinery of human beings into meaning, and not by the machinery of cells into protein." His idea was to send a message in a bottle to extraterrestrials: to genetically engineer a sign of human intelligence into the genome of bacteria, grow them up by the trillions and fling them out across the heavens, to land where they may. Like Poetica Vaginal, the real message was of course aimed not at aliens but at a public that has yet to digest the fact that DNA can encode any information, not just genetic sequences.

For his bottle, Davis chose E. coli, a bacterium on which humans depend for proper digestion and one that, in NASA experiments, has survived more than five years of exposure to the intense cold and radiation of deep space. For his message, he selected Microvenus, a simple symbol—like a Y and an I superimposed—that is both a Germanic rune representing life and an outline of the external female genitalia.

Courtesy Ars Electronica Festival 2000. Copyright Joe Davis.
Palmtop gallery: billions of E. coli with Microvenus encoded in their genomes.

Digitized and translated into a string of 28 DNA nucleotides, Microvenus first slipped between the genes of E. coli in 1990. The bacteria quickly multiplied in its beakers into billions of cells, each carrying a separate instance of the icon. "I'm probably the most successful publisher in history," Davis says with a laugh. "There are more copies of my work than of Salvador Dali's, Escher's and all the rest of them put together."

Without a doubt, Microvenus was the most highly reproduced graphic that almost no one had ever seen, because no gallery has been willing to risk the public display of genetically engineered bacteria in the U.S. It was not until last September that Microvenus was finally put on public display in a positive-pressure biological containment facility erected at the Ars Electronica exhibition in Linz, Austria. Visitors could see cultures of the transgenic bacteria along with posters of the icon and explanations of how and why the image was encoded into the E. coli genome.

And it was at Linz that Davis was also able for the first time to exhibit Riddle of Life, a second genetic artwork he created in the mid-1990s. That project began when he learned about a classic rivalry in the history of genetics, between physicist Max Delbruck and biologist George W. Beadle. "This was back before they had worked out the code that matches 20 distinct triplets of DNA nucleotides to the 20 amino acids," Davis explains. "They didn't even know whether there were 'spaces' that separated each triplet." Delbruck believed DNA must contain spaces between its "words;" Beadle disagreed.

In 1958 Beadle was awarded the Nobel Prize (as was Joshua Lederberg). On learning the news, Delbruck and his co-workers dashed off a telegram encoded as a continuous string of 229 As, Bs, Cs, and Ds. Beadle quickly surmised that the four letters symbolized the four bases of DNA, broke the telegram into triplets and decoded the message: "BREAK THIS CODE OR GIVE BACK THE NOBEL PRIZE LEDERBERG GO HOME MAX MARKO STERLING".

Courtesy Ars Electronica Festival 2000. Copyright Joe Davis.
The Riddle of Life, in toothpicks.

The next day, Beadle sent Delbruck a telegram written in a different four-letter code—one that lacked a space character. Delbruck soon solved the puzzle and read the note: "GWBTOMDIMSUREITSAFINEMESSAGEIFICOULDDOTHEFINALSTEP".

Not one to be gainsayed, Delbruck conspired to get the final word. "As Beadle stepped up to the podium in Stockholm to receive his award from the king, a courier walked in," Davis narrates, his eyes widening. "He handed Beadle a ladderlike toothpick model, each rung stained in one of four colors. Beadle decoded the message on the spot," Davis says, his voice trailing to a whisper. "I AM THE RIDDLE OF LIFE. KNOW ME AND YOU WILL KNOW YOURSELF," read the toothpicks. "I found that so moving, so moving," Davis says.

Inspired by the story, Davis worked out a logical code for translating the language of English into the language of life. (Delbruck's and Beadle's codes were arbitrary.) He cloned the DNA sequence representing the "Riddle of Life" quotation and sequestered it safely in a noncoding part of the E. coli genome. Then he sequestered the E. coli in a safe part of the Rich lab, where it has remained ever since. (The Riddle of Life organisms shown in Linz were created from scratch in Europe.)

In a keynote lecture at the Ars Electronica exhibition, Davis described his most ambitious transgenic artwork yet: putting an image of the Milky Way into a mouse's ear, an idea inspired by a children's story written 30 years ago by a girlfriend. In order to encode such a large amount of binary information in DNA, he spent years figuring out a general method for archiving computer databases in biological form, a "supercode" that guarantees the infogene will be biochemically stable and yet prevents the host from translating it into protein.

Courtesy Ars Electronica Festival 2000. Copyright Joe Davis.
Davis at Ars Electronica 2000.

Despite his professional success—widely acknowledged as a pioneer of transgenic art, he gave 14 invited lectures last year at universities and conferences—Davis still remains utterly dependent on donations of equipment and expertise from scientists. "They are increasingly skittish about getting too close for fear of the wrong kind of publicity," he says. "Fortunately, Joe's always been a good Tom Sawyer of people," Gessel observes. "It helps that he is consistently rigorous in his intellectual approach," and that he isn't in it for money. Indeed, because he sells his conventional sculptures to friends at cost and cannot sell his transgenic art at all, even now Davis flirts on the verge of homelessness, with no fixed address. He returned from Europe last fall to find an eviction notice on his door. Much of what he rescued from the sheriff's auction is now jammed into a decrepit Volvo station wagon that he obtained in trade for a self-assembling clock. Davis keeps Mississippi plates on the car, even though he hasn't lived there in decades, to squeeze through a loophole that exempts it from property taxes.

As I leave Davis's office and walk past the M.I.T. Media Lab, where so many millions of corporate dollars have chased so many abortive attempts to weave technology into a cultural fabric, it strikes me as unwise and even perverse that the same society offers so little support for art that does not merely comment passively on the transformations and ethical dilemmas that science forces on society but rather actively enacts and illustrates them, coopting the tools and media of science itself.

--W. Wayt Gibbs"

>> Blast Theory, "Can You See Me Now?", 2004


Can You See Me Now? is a game that happens simultaneously online and on the streets. Players from anywhere in the world can play online in a virtual city against members of Blast Theory. Tracked by satellites, Blast Theory's runners appear online next to your player on a map of the city. On the streets, handheld computers showing the positions of online players guide the runners in tracking you down.

With up to 20 people playing online at a time, players can exchange tactics and send messages to Blast Theory. An audio stream from Blast Theory's walkie talkies allowed you to eavesdrop on your pursuers: getting lost, cold and out of breath on the streets of the city.


The work was premiered in Sheffield at the b.tv festival. Other venues include the Dutch Electronic Arts Festival in Rotterdam; the Edith Russ Site for Media Art in Oldenburg; the International Festival for Dance, Media and Performance in Köln; Gardner Arts Centre in Brighton; ArtFutura in Barcelona; the InterCommunication Center (ICC), Tokyo; Interactive Screen at the Banff Center, Canada; Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago; We Are Here 2.0 in Dublin; Donau Festival in Austria and as part of In Certain Places in Preston.

Conceptual Background

Can You See Me Now? draws upon the near ubiquity of handheld electronic devices in many developed countries. Blast Theory are fascinated by the penetration of the mobile phone into the hands of poorer users, rural users, teenagers and other demographics usually excluded from new technologies.

Some research has suggested that there is a higher usage of mobile phones among the homeless than among the general population. The advent of 3G (third generation mobile telephony) brings constant internet access, location based services and massive bandwidth into this equation. Can You See Me Now? is a part of a sequence of works (Uncle Roy All Around You and I Like Frank have followed) that attempt to establish a cultural space on these devices. While the telecoms industry remains focused on revenue streams in order to repay the huge debts incurred by buying 3G licenses and rolling out the networks, Blast Theory in collaboration with the Mixed Reality Lab are looking to identify the wider repercussions of this communication infrastructure. When games, the internet and mobile phones converge what new possibilities arise?

These social forces have dramatic repercussions for the city. As the previously discrete zones of private and public space (the home, the office etc.) have become blurred, it has become commonplace to hear intimate conversations on the bus, in the park, in the workplace. And these conversations are altered by the audience that accompanies them: we are conscious of being overheard and our private conversations become three way: the speaker, the listener and the inadvertent audience.

Can You See Me Now? takes the fabric of the city and makes our location within it central to the game play. The piece uses the overlay of a real city and a virtual city to explore ideas of absence and presence. By sharing the same 'space', the players online and runners on the street enter into a relationship that is adversarial, playful and, ultimately, filled with pathos.

As soon as a player registers they must answer the question: "Is there someone you haven't seen for a long time that you still think of?". From that moment issues of presence and absence run through Can You See Me Now?. This person - absent in place and time - seems irrelevant to the subsequent game play; only at the point that the player is caught or 'seen' by a runner do they hear the name mentioned again as part of the live audio feed from the streets. The last words they hear are "Runner 1 has seen ______ _______".

Proximity and distance exist at five levels within Can You See Me Now? Firstly, any game of chase is predicated on staying distant from your pursuer. Secondly, the virtual city (which correlates closely to the real city) has an elastic relationship to the real city. At times the two cities seem identical; the virtual pavement and the real pavement match exactly and behave in the same way. At other times the two cities diverge and appear very remote from one another. For example, traffic is always absent from the virtual city. Thirdly, the internet itself brings geographically distant players into the same virtual space. It also enables those players to run alongside the runners as it streams their walkie talkie chat. Fourthly, the name of someone you haven't seen for a long time but you still think of brings someone from the player's past into the present: their name is spoken aloud by a runner on the distant streets of the city and exists for a seconds before fading into the ether. Finally, the photos taken by runners of the empty terrain where each player is seen are uploaded to the site and persist as a record of the events of each game. Each player is forever linked to this anonymous square of the cityscape.

With the advent of virtual spaces and, more recently, hybrid spaces in which virtual and real worlds are overlapping, the emotional tenor of these worlds has become an important question. In what ways can we talk about intimacy in the electronic realm? In Britain the internet is regularly characterised in the media as a space in which paedophiles 'groom' unsuspecting children and teenagers. Against this back drop can we establish a more subtle understanding of the nuances of online relationships. When two players who know one another place their avatars together and wait for the camera view to zoom down to head height so that the two players regard one another, what is going on? Is this mute tenderness manifest to anyone else and should it be?

And alongside these small moments, there is a louder and more forceful set of interactions between runners and players based on insults, teasing, goading and humour. These public declarations seem to happily coexist with the private moments that appear marginal to the casual observer. Yet, this demotic discourse also can surprise: the online players understanding that the runners are tired, cold, struggling with the environment on the street can become a powerful emotion.

A player from Seattle wrote: "I had a definite heart stopping moment when my concerns suddenly switched from desperately trying to escape, to desperately hoping that the runner chasing me had not been run over by a reversing truck (that's what it sounded like had happened)."

>> Jens Brand, "Global Player", 2004

"the earth is a disc"

"Jens Brand’s GP4 (Global Player) functions basically like a regular

Compact Disc or record player. However, sound is not reproduced by a
stylus from the grooves of a record player that are picked up. Instead
the earth is scanned virtually via satellite travelling routes.
Topographical data are interpreted by the G-Player and reproduced in an
exact acoustic equivalent as audio files.

>From the outset Brand conceived the GP4 as a commercial product and,
therefore, staged his installations as a trade fair stall stand.
Mobility and availability are the buzzwords of the new product placement
strategies, thus the G-Player, the G-Pod and G-Turns have been developed
in reference to the newest phenomenon that has seen at the global music

The newest version, G-Turns, makes the GP4 available in an online
version from which users can ‘download and play’ the earth on their
home computers. The earth as sound experience is available on the market
in three price brackets, depending on the distance of the satellite
routes between two co-ordinates that can be chosen by the user: five
minutes are available for only 4.95 euros. For fifteen minutes the user
has to pay only 14.95 euros. This further development of the project as
an online-store is presented to the public for the first time at the
exhibition SOUND//BYTES and is, therefore, premièring worldwide as
Oldenburg Branch: www.g-turns.com."

the project's website:

video of the G-Pod:

video of the G-Player:

>> Art+Com, "Terravision",

"TerraVision is a self-contained, virtual reality, 1-to-1 representation of our Earth. By means of a stylised globe users can zoom in on any location in the world and obtain minutely detailed pictures. (virtual earth)

The system offers not only satellite images and aerial photos but also geographically referenced data of all types – e.g. topographical or architectural schematic representations.

TerraVision was the first system to provide visualisation and unlimited freedom of navigation within an infinitely large spatial data environment. Providing visuals ranging from overviews of the Earth to extremely detailed movements in buildings, TerraVision provides smooth, real time pictures in a single, comprehensive, virtual reality system."

>> Michael Naimark, "Be Now Here",

from: http://www.naimark.net/projects/benowhere.html

"Be Now Here is an installation about landscape and public places. Visitors gain a strong sense of place by wearing 3-D glasses and stepping into an immersive virtual environment. The imagery is of public plazas on the UNESCO World Heritage Centre's list of endangered places - Jerusalem, Dubrovnik, Timbuktu, and Angkor, Cambodia – places both exotic and disturbing. The style is ambient, as if the imagery is live.

For production, a unique recording system was built consisting of two 35mm motion-picture cameras (for 3D, one for each eye) mounted on a rotating tripod. The installation consists of an input pedestal for interactively choosing place and time, a stereoscopic projection screen, four-channel audio, and a 16-foot rotating floor on which the viewers stand.

Be Now Here is an extension of several media trajectories. One is of enhanced cinematic representation, such as the Imax-sized projections of the Lumiere brothers in 1900 and the 3-screen triptychs of Abel Gance’s Napoleon in 1927. Another is of non-narrative cultural activism, such as the films of Godfrey Reggio and Tony Gatlif. But Be Now Here also points forward: as a simulation of what net cinema can be, it is both a regard and a provocation."

>> Jeffrey Shaw, "The Legible City", 1989

from: http://www.jeffrey-shaw.net/html_main/show_work.php3?record_id=83#

"In The Legible City the visitor is able to ride a stationary bicycle through a simulated representation of a city that is constituted by computer-generated three-dimensional letters that form words and sentences along the sides of the streets. Using the ground plans of actual cities - Manhattan, Amsterdam and Karlsruhe - the existing architecture of these cities is completely replaced by textual formations written and compiled by Dirk Groeneveld. Travelling through these cities of words is consequently a journey of reading; choosing the path one takes is a choice of texts as well as their spontaneous juxtapositions and conjunctions of meaning.

The handlebar and pedals of the interface bicycle give the viewer interactive control over direction and speed of travel. The physical effort of cycling in the real world is gratuitously transposed into the virtual environment, affirming a conjunction of the active body in the virtual domain. A video projector is used to project the computer-generated image onto a large screen. Another small monitor screen in front of the bicycle shows a simple ground plan of each city, with an indicator showing the momentary position of the cyclist.

The Manhattan version (1989) of this work comprises eight separate fictional story lines in the form of monologues by ex-Mayor Koch, Frank Lloyd Wright, Donald Trump, a tour guide, a confidence trickster, an ambassador and a taxi-driver. Each story line has a specific letter colour so that the bicyclist can choose one or another to follow the path of a particular narration. In the Amsterdam (1990) and Karlsruhe (1991) versions all the letters are scaled so that they have the same proportion and location as the actual buildings which they replace, resulting in a transformed but exact representation of the actual architectural appearance of these cities. The texts for these two cities are largely derived from archive documents that describe mundane historical events there."

from Ars Electronica (Award of Distinction, interactive Art, 1990):

"In "The Legible City" by Jeffrey Shaw the visitor is able to ride a stationary bicycle through a simulated representation of a city that is constituted by computer-generated three-dimensional letters that form words and sentences along the sides of the streets.

The research and development of various mechanisms and codes of spatial representation has been a major preoccupation throughout the history of Western Art. The application of three dimensional computer imaging technologies in this context has a revolutionary meaning. Instead ofthe traditional activity of art as a representation of reality, the artwork can now become itself a simulation of reality within which the viewer's point of view is located. "The Legible City" is a first example of the possibility of the digital image to evoke a three dimensional virtual space which the spectator can enter and explore.

The spectator is able to use a bicycle to interactively travel in a video projected three dimensional virtual image space. In the first realized version of this work the image space in which the bicyclist can travel is based on the ground plan of part of Manhattan, New York - the area boundaried by 34th and 66thStreet, and Park and 11th Avenue. Using real-time computer graphic technology, the city visualised by solid three dimensional letters that form words and sentences along the sides of the streets. These words and sentences conform tothe actual plan and scale of this city - its particular organisation of streets, avenues, intersections, parks, etc. Thus the actual Manhattan architecture of buildings is completely replaced by a new architecture of text.

Travelling through this city of words is consequently a journey of reading. Choosing direction, choosing where to turn, is a choice of the story lines and the user's position. In this way this city of words is a kind of three dimensional book which can be read in any direction, and where the spectators construct their own conjunction of texts and meanings as they bicycle their chosen path there.

The image of the city is video projected onto a large video screen in front of the bicyclist. The bicycle is fixed on a platform in the installation, but the spectator controls his / her speed and direction of movement in the projected image space by pedalling faster or slower, and by turning the handle bars. The virtual world where the bicyclist is travelling simulates faithfully the experience of bicycling in the real world.

In this work the city is constituted physically by the three dimensional arrangement of words into streets, and the city is constituted psychologically by the meanings these words carry as they are read by the bicyclist travelling through these streets. The texts have been written as eight separate storylines that have a particular relationship to Manhattan - for instance monologues spoken by Mayor Koch, Frank Lloyd Wright, Donald Trump, Noah Webster, a cab driver, a tour guide, an ambassador, etc. Each storyline has a specific location in the city, and each is visually identifiable by the particular colour of its letters.Thus the bicyclist / reader can follow one story line by following its colour, andalso recognise higher shifts from one storyline to another because of the colour changes.

Directly in front of the bicyclist, a small video screen shows a plan of Manhattan, and the actual location of the bicyclist there by means of a flashing dot that represents the position and direction of movement. Electronic devices attached to the steering wheel and pedals of the bicycle measure the rotation of the steering wheel and speed of pedalling. Responding to this formation, the Manhattan database is interactively calculated and displayed by a Silicon Graphics Personal IRIS graphics computer. Video output from this computer goes to a video projector which shows the image on the large screen in front of the bicyclist. Another personal computer handles the small video display of the plan of Manhattan and the indication of the bicyclist's position there.

The authors of this work intend to realise more versions based on the ground plans of other major cities. What is felt to be interesting are the different formal geometries of these cities' plans, which will strongly effect the character of their lettered visualisation. Furthermore, each city's plan and historical identity asks for a different approach to the content and writing of the text.

"The Legible City", as it now has been created, is in a fundamental way determined by the capabilities of state-of-the-art computer graphic visualisation technologies. The ongoing and rapid evolution of these technologies generates new capabilities that are significant to future developments of this work. For instance utilizing NASA's stereoscopic head-mounted display, the bicyclist would experience the work as a totally surrounding three dimensional space of imagery."

from medienkunstnetz:

"Visitors to ‘The Legible City', created at the Institut für Neue Medien in Frankfurt/M., are seated on a stationary bicycle and ‘move' through streets projected onto the surface in front of them. In contrast to those of a normal city, the streets here are literally legible, lined not by buildings but by letters. On their passage through the city, cyclist-visitors can pursue various narrative threads, accumulating their own history of the city. On a small display on the handlebars is a map of the city on which the cyclists can plot their position. Between 1988 and 1991 Jeffrey Shaw created three versions of ‘The Legible City': Manhattan, Amsterdam and Karlsruhe. The Manhattan variant was one of the very first interactive installations, today regarded as a key work of the genre."

>> Siggraph Artshow Archive


Here you can access all of the old Siggraph galleries, including artits' statements, work descriptions and critical texts

>> Noah Wardip-Fruin, "Hypermedia, eternal life, and the impermanence agent", 1999


Impermanence AgentThe story of hypermedia, in which the Web is a recent chapter, begins with a vision of transforming the brain's associative connections into media - media that can be infinitely duplicated and easily shared - creating pathways of thought in a form that will not fade with memory. In recent years, hypermedia has begun to permeate our lives. But it is not as we dreamed: constantly growing, with nothing lost, only showing what we wish to see. Instead we find 'Not Found' a nearly daily message.

The story of software agents begins with the idea of a 'soft robot' - capable of carrying out tasks toward a goal, while requesting and receiving advice in human terms. In recent years, a much narrower marketing fantasy of the agent has emerged (with a relationship to actual agent technologies as tenuous as Robbie the Robot's relationship to factory robots) and it grows despite failures such as Microsoft Bob. Now we often see agents as anthropomorphized, self-customizing virtual servants designed for a single task: to be a pleasing interface to a world of information that does not please us.

The Web disappoints us with its too-perfect reflection of our ambivalent relationships with impermanence and openness: dynamic and unstable, diverse and overwhelming. In response, some Web businesses are marketing fantasies of agents that will find for us only the information we desire, sheltering us from chance encounters with unpleasant content and broken links. The Impermanence Agent is a different response.

The Impermanence Agent, developed over the last year, interacts with users as a web browser window. The Agent is a storyteller, telling a personal story, a story of impermanence. The Agent is meant to be experienced peripherally, over time - not 'visited.' It tracks the user's web browsing, makes copies of the texts and images the user views, and then customizes its story by incorporating this material into it. The Agent customizes until none of its original story is left.

a box of letters

1. Ikkyu, the Zen master, was very clever even as a boy. His teacher had a precious teacup, a rare antique. Ikkyu happened to break this cup and was very perplexed. Hearing the footsteps of his teacher, he held the pieces of the cup behind him. When the master appeared Ikkyu asked: "Why do people have to die?"

"This is natural," explained the older man. "Everything has to die and has just so long to live." Ikkyu, producing the shattered cup, added: "It was time for your cup to die." - "Time to Die" from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones [Reps61]

...infinite reproducibility
....lossless archiving
.....continual versioning

Whatever we may say about digital culture, it is always time for something to die.

2. When I was nine months old, still in a walker, on a day that I do not remember, my mother was sitting in our living room. From where she sat she could see down our hallway, past the front door, to the place where the hallway turned in the direction of my bedroom.

From the bedroom came a crashing sound. But perhaps this was not so unusual, and it did not sound to her mother's ear as if I was hurt, so she waited. In time, I came clumsily down the hallway, dragging a small overnight suitcase. That hallway I do remember, with white plaster walls and a brass chime that the doorbell made ring (and a closet with stairs beneath it that led to a basement that may only exist in my imagination). I made my way to the front door, put my small hand on the knob, turned to look at my mother and waved (I couldn't speak): Bye-bye. Bye-bye.

My mother tells me that she cried.

3. There is a loss of memory. I was probably trying to visit Nana, my mother;s mother. By the time of my first self-aware, narrative memories Nana was already losing many of hers. I have only hints of what she was like from my own experience, a sense of her difference, and memories of moments in the kitchen when she named my puppet monkey Minkey and made chocolate milkshakes.

I remember going to visit her in the nursing home, where she was once she could no longer walk. On this visit she thought I was her son Wally, or so I imagine. She told me how she couldn't wait to get out of there, and back on her feet again. We took her to the house for Christmas. She looked at one of her great-grandsons, too young to be walking, and said, "He's coming and I'm going. But I can't get a seat." That summer she got a seat.

4. After she died we were left with a box of her letters. Not letters she had written, but letters that belonged to her. These seemed like poor materials for reconstituting a woman - but they, the paper trail, seemed to be all that was left.

At the same time, she seemed more alive after her death than in years. While she was alive, but after she was no longer herself, we had continued to leave her to carry the burden of being her. Once she was dead we took it upon ourselves. At the memorial service we treated each other with the care that she had given.

The paper trail is no dodge for impermanence. But here I sit, inscribing Nana's existence again, attempting another addition to the collective box of letters.

eternal life

5. Mark Bernstein wrote about web shrines for HypertextNow, pointing to memorial inscriptions on the Web "by sons and daughters, by grieving parents, by academic institutions, by an army medic who cannot forget the ravaged body of a child whose name she never learned" [Bernstein97]. He suggests that those of us who think about media should approach web shrines with profound humility - in recognition of suffering, and in recognition of the fact that none of us predicted, none of us directed, and none of us profited from this emergence in the docuverse. Now many links in Bernstein's article are broken. Yahoo! has sprouted the category Society_and_Culture / Death / Obituaries / Memorials.

Bernstein later added a link to an article from The New York Times Online, which tells the story of "a not-for-profit group named Afterlife, dedicated to preserving the Web sites of deceased surfers" [Dunn98]. Afterlife (http://www.afterlife.org) consists of "a few volunteers who have been slowly gathering information on the legal, financial and technical issues of maintaining thousands or maybe hundreds of thousands of Web sites for all 'eternity.'"

At a site called "Dearly Departed" I find the simple sentence, "We miss you Gama" and decide to include it in my essay about Nana.

6. The Internet Archive Project (http://www.archive.org) is more famous than Afterlife, and has more hubris in its aims [Kahle97], but I believe its impetus is the same.1 We find in the Internet that which expresses and creates, reflects and shapes, our complicated relationship with impermanence. The paper trail is changing, we are changing it, and with it we are changing our contact with immutability. There is a loss of memory, not only in broken links and missing sites and that which becomes outdated - but also in that which is updated, and those threads of newsgroup and email conversations with starting points lost and potentially infinite bifurcations. At the same time, a growing amount of our culture takes a form that allows identical, degradation-proof, multiply-viewable copies.

Consider the dream of hypermedia, put forth by Ted Nelson and others over the last three decades: That, in a not-so-distant future, we read and write (view and draw, hear and compose) most everything from and to a world-spanning computer network. That everyone have the ability to produce their own documents, and connect them with any other public documents. That the author may constantly create new versions of her or his own document, and individuals may create their own versions of any public document, and that public connections made between one version of one document and another version of another will usually automatically place themselves in all the extant versions. That historical backtrack and degradation-proof storage allows us to visit any version, any moment in the network's history [Nelson93a]. To have the ultimate archive, and yet have each element of this archive constantly in process. Dynamism without loss. Impermanence enfolded within permanence.

Afterlife, and the Internet Archive, and the dream of hypermedia aren't about embalming; they're about eternal life.

1. More focused, but perhaps equally Quixotic, is the work of librarians hoping to preserve traditional scholarly permanence. Consider this, from "Books to Bytes: The Electronic Archive" (New York Times Online, April 8): "If we increasingly as scholars rely on various digital resources and those aren't preserved, we won't have that kind of accountability and trail of how research develops," said Margaret Hedstrom, an associate professor at the School of Information at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. "It's both the loss of the information and the whole validation of scholarship. Those are the implications of not solving this problem." [Hafner99] Remember the analogy between text and water. Water flows freely, ice does not. The free-flowing live documents on the network are subject to constant new use and linkage, and those new links continually become interactively available. Any detached copy someone keeps is frozen and dead, lacking access to the new linkage (and, if there were any substantial body of in-links at the time the copy was made, probably most of those as well).
- Ted Nelson [Nelson93b] |back|

7. Even the origins of hypermedia contain traces of the quest for eternal life. In 1945, Vannevar Bush published "As We May Think" - an article now widely considered the genesis of hypermedia [Bush45]. In it Bush writes of the memex, a "future device for individual use... a sort of mechanized private file and library" in the shape of a desk. The memex, as described, uses methods such as microfilm storage, dry photography, and analog computing to give post-war scholars access to a huge, indexed repository of knowledge - any section of which can be called up with a few keystrokes.

The field of information retrieval has been inspired by Bush's vision of simple, elegant information access. Hypertext and hypermedia, however, have been inspired by Bush's description of the scholar creating links and pathways through this information - associative connections that attempt to partially reflect the "intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain." The trails envisioned freely interconnect all the contents of the memex, which include both public documents and personal notes, diagrams, and photographs. Bush describes a great thinker's disciples not simply inheriting that person's "additions to the world's record," but also the connections, the structure, the tools by which that work was created.

In this vision, we are not only immortalized by our additions to the paper trail (which are stored identically in innumerable memexes), but can preserve and pass on our very pathways of thought. These pathways will not break or fade. Those who follow us can keep these connections in use, expanding and updating them, tending to our virtual immortality in both word and connection. The volunteers of Afterlife may be seen, perhaps, as the progeny of this vision, half a century later.

the internet and the agent

8. Like grains of rice on a chessboard, Internet traffic doubles and redoubles within a single year.2 404 Not Founds notwithstanding. 503 Forbiddens notwithstanding. Broken images notwithstanding. It seems we can live without eternal life.

Or can we? In "Weaving a Better Web" Byte writes, "HTML isn't dead, but it is suffering from its own success - and every time you get a '404 URL not found' error message, you¹re suffering, too" [Mace98].

Did Byte write this to remind us, lest we forget suffering in our embrace of an impermanent

2. This redoubling was widely publicized after an April 15, 1998 report from the US Commerce Department ("The Emerging Digital Economy"(http://www.ecommerce.gov/emerging.htm) stated that Internet traffic was doubling every 100 days. URL verified: May 1999. . (The http://www.ecommerce.gov site also contains information on the May 25-26, 1999 conference, "Understanding the Digital Economy - Data, Tools and Research.")

"Grains of rice on a chessboard" refers to the various stories of a king who agrees to pay a subject 1 grain of rice for the first square of the chessboard, 2 for the second, 4 for the third, and so on through the progression. The stories end either with a bankrupt king or a headless subject. Web? In this formulation, is it the loss that is our suffering - or the message, the reminder, the error? Is HTML, the stuff of our newly-woven paper trail, a life of itself, suffering, perhaps to die - while we pull silk from our abdomens in overtime, doubling an already-massive body every few months? |back|

What can we do, except get rid of the message, the offending 404? We can't stop back-end filtration - we can't stop impermanence in the system.3 Byte itself is now a thing of memory. We may write "Web Pages Must Live Forever" [Nielsen98] but we must also know that they cannot.

9. The idea of an agent originated with John McCarthy in the mid-1950's, and the term was coined by Oliver G. Selfridge a few years later, when they were both at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They had in view a system that, when given a goal, could carry out the details of the appropriate computer operations and could ask for and receive advice, offered in human terms, when it was stuck. An agent would be a 'soft robot' living and doing its business within the computer's world.
- Alan Kay [Kay84]

The concept of a soft robot, or agent, is a very broad one. As is the concept of a mechanical robot. But each, in contact with our pervasive fantasies of human servitude, has spawned very narrow, anthropomorphic visions in entertainment and marketing.

From a muddling of these visions with ongoing agent research, the image has arisen of a perfect information servant - an agent with a singular task: to be a pleasing interface to a world of information that doesn't please us. Despite the disaster of Microsoft Bob, this image has continued to gain momentum. Now the Web, in its too-perfect reflection of our ambivalent relationships with impermanence and openness, is found displeasing by many. It is wonderfully dynamic, but unstable. Its openness is exciting, but we complain of information overload and find ourselves embroiled in censorship battles. We suffer, apparently, with each 404. There is continual talk of the Web being undigestible, uninteresting, uncomfortable, and difficult to understand. Yet we do not wish to abandon it, for all our talk of its faults.

Across the Web, many are attempting to sell fantasy images of an agent/servant as the key to mapping cyberspace into a comfortable coherence. Sometimes a fantasy agent image is used to market a much less sophisticated agent. Sometimes the fantasy of the agent is used to market something that isn't an agent at all. The signs of these fantasies can be read in the language of sites from NewsBot ("With NewsBot at your service, you¹ll always know...")

3. "front end (n.), front-end (adj.) - whatever stands between you and a system. A front end can be the terminal in your office, for example. A front-end program is one which mediates between a user and some other system or program, perhaps collecting data for it by quizzing you." (Ted Nelson, Dream Machines, p.9)

The back end is the system with which the front end interfaces. It is where all the data in the above data collection example is stored, along with the information about how it relates to other data.

In hypermedia systems, what one sees of the network, and how one sees it, is determined by the configuration of the front end (e.g., the client, the browser). The network one is looking at (what is available to see - e.g., the Internet) is what the back end contains.

Questions of filtration, particularly those of how we use back-end filtration to determine what is available to see (and to whom), are of great importance at this point in Internet history - a topic I address at greater length in "Reading and Writing, Linking and Filtering" in Intelligent Agent 2/2 [Wardrip-Fruin98]. |back|

to The Mining Company ("Guides Do The Hard Work, So You Don't Have To"), and are brought nearly to the level of parody at Ask Jeeves ("Jeeves here, at your service. I'm your host and I'm here to help you find what you're looking for, whatever that might be. I've spent years perusing the internet (so you don't have to), and I have found wonderful sites that will help simplify your life...").

10. During the last year, I have been working with a.c. chapman and Brion Moss to create the Impermanence Agent.

Like the fantasy agents, which are expected to give advice rather than receive it, the Impermanence Agent tells stories before listening to them.

The Impermanence Agent doesn't separate good information from bad, but combines family history with other fictions to tell stories of impermanence. They are Nana's stories, and mine, and each user's.

They are the user's not simply as audience, but also because the Impermanence Agent is always looking over the edge of the Netscape windows on each user's desktop, and using the information it gathers, the information users show it, in its storytelling to that user. It is a personal agent, a customizing agent, an illusion of an agent.

The Impermanence Agent appears, itself, as a Netscape window. It is a combination of server and client-side applications written in PERL and JavaScript, making liberal use of existing software such as WordNet (http://www.cogsci.princeton.edu/~wn/) and ImageMagick (http://www.wizards.dupont.com/cristy/ ), and benefiting much from the willingness of Duane Whitehurst to modify some existing code and create some new.

The Impermanence Agent is our addition to the box of letters. We have created the stories with which it begins, stories like Nana's, stories like this one. We have created the means by which it selects texts and images from the user's browsing and combines them with its own, customizing the story. We have set in motion the impermanence in which these pieces drawn from the user's Web browsing eventually entirely replace the stories we have created. And, because we can't help ourselves, we have also saved these stories. All of this will work until the next version of Netscape replaces the current one. Perhaps even longer. And it will last longer than it works, like the boxes of disks we each have, formatted for filesystems not read by any current operating system. Like the pictures of people, four generations back, that none of us ever met.

The Impermanence Agent is art meant to be experienced peripherally, to be left open on the desktop for a week. In its stories, children are born, letters are burned, we are duplicated and saved and lost. The texts and images of our daily browsing are incorporated into, then wear away, then become something new within the space that held the Agent's stories. Then the story has been told.


[Bernstein97] Bernstein, Mark. 1997. HypertextNow: Web Shrines. Eastgate Systems. URL verified: May 1999. http://www.eastgate.com/HypertextNow/archives/Shrines.html

[Bush45] Bush, Vannevar. 1945. As We May Think. Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 176, No. 1. URL verified: May 1999. http://www.theatlantic.com/unbound/flashbks/computer/bushf.htm

[Dunn98] Dunn, Ashley. 1998. Web's Evanescence Creates Challenge for Archivists. The New York Times on the Web: Cybertimes, Jan 21, 1998. URL verified: May 1999. http://www.nytimes.com/library/cyber/surf/012198mind.html [registration process required]

[Hafner99] Hafner, Katie. 1999. Books to Bytes: The Electronic Archive. The New York Times on the Web: Technology | Circuits, April 8, 1999. URL verified: May 1999. http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/04/circuits/articles/08arch.html [registration process required]

[Kahle97] Kahle, Brewster. 1997. Preserving the Internet. Scientific American, Mar 1997. URLs verified: May 1999. http://www.archive.org/sciam_article.html, http://www.sciam.com/0397issue/0397kahle.html

[Kay84] Kay, Alan. 1984. Computer Software. Scientific American, Sep 1984.

[Mace98] Mace, Scott, Udo Flohr, Rick Dobson, and Tony Graham. 1998. Weaving a Better Web. Byte, Mar 1998. p. 68. URL verified May 1999. http://www.byte.com/art/9803/sec5/art1.htm

[Nelson93a] Nelson, Ted. 1993. Literary Machines 93.1. Mindful Press, Sausalito, CA.

[Nelson93b] ibid, page 2/48.

[Nielsen98] Nielsen, Jakob. 1998. Alertbox: Web Pages Must Live Forever. Nov. 29, 1998. URL verified: May 1999. http://www.useit.com/alertbox/981129.html

[Reps61] Reps, Paul (ed). 1961. Time To Die. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. Anchor Doubleday, New York.

[Wardrip-Fruin98] Wardrip-Fruin, Noah. 1998. Reading and Writing, Linking and Filtering: the library, the web, Ted Nelson, and what's wrong with micropayment. Intelligent Agent 2/2. p. 32.

design by ADM's Design Machine www.theadm.com

>> Myron Krueger, "Videoplace", 1970

from: http://www.artmuseum.net/w2vr/timeline/Krueger.html

"Originally trained as a computer scientist, Myron Krueger, under the influence of John Cage's experiments in indeterminacy and audience participation, pioneered human-computer interaction in the context of physical environments. Beginning in 1969, he collaborated with artist and engineer colleagues to create artworks that responded to the movement and gesture of the viewer through an elaborate system of sensing floors, graphic tables, and video cameras.

At the heart of Krueger's contribution to interactive computer art was the notion of the artist as a "composer" of intelligent, real-time computer-mediated spaces, or "responsive environments," as he called them. Krueger "composed" environments, such as Videoplace from 1970, in which the computer responded to the gestures of the audience by interpreting, and even anticipating, their actions. Audience members could "touch" each other's video-generated silhouettes, as well as manipulate the odd, playful assortment of graphical objects and animated organisms that appeared on the screen, imbued with the presence of artificial life."

from medienkunstnetz:
"Two people in different rooms, each containing a projection screen and a video camera, were able to communicate through their projected images in a «shared space» on the screen. No computer was involved in the first Environment in 1975.
In order to realize his ideas of an «artificial reality» he [Krueger] started to develop his own computer system in the years up to 1984, mastering the technical problems of image recognition, image analysis and response in real time. This system meant that he could now combine live video images of visitors with graphic images, using various programs to modify them.
When «Videoplace» is shown today, visitors can interact with 25 different programs or interaction patterns. A switch from one program to another usually takes place when a new person steps in front of the camera. But the «Videoplace» team has still not achieved its ultimate aim of developing a program capable of learning independently."

Myron Krueger:
"Since 1969, I have been trying to raise interactivity to the level of an art form as opposed to making art work that happened to be interactive.

From the beginning, I reasoned that interactivity would be limited by what the computer knew about the participant's behavior, and I developed specialized computers for perceiving the human body. I have also incorporated the image of the person's body into the computer graphic images.

In general, I have stuck to the premise that everything that happens should be a direct response to the participant's actions. However, within that discipline a number of different kinds of pieces can be developed. One family of interactions I think of as two- or three-dimensional "mini-media," which visitors can use to create their own dynamic artistic expressions. Others involve two or more participants in different locations who interact with each other in the same virtual space either as a spontaneous interaction or as a live performance.

Although 30 years have passed, interactivity is still beginning. Many of the preliminary ideas I started out with are still unrealized, and more advanced concepts are waiting to be invented. "

>> Bob Adrian X, "The World in 24 Hours", 1982


This is a "low-technology" project using simple, cheap and readily available "off-the-shelf" equipment that operates via normal telephone or amateur (ham) radio networks.

There are three proven media (see other side) that have been successfully used in previous artist's telecommunications projects and there are probably others as yet untried. Artists or groups wishing to participate in this project may propose any medium providing that it operates via telephone, amateur radio or other freely accessible network, and that compatible hardware and access is available in Linz, Austria.

The budget provided by the ARS ELECTRONICA sponsors for this project is intended to provide for central organisation and telephone costs for one hour between Linz and each participating location. Each location will be called from
Linz at 12 noon local time (this will vary somewhat in Europe).

Each call will last for about one hour.

Locations working together with amateur radio operators are of course NOT restricted by telephone costs or availability of phone lines during the event.

MEDIA INFORMATION (see attached sheets for detailed information)

from: http://alien.mur.at/rax/24_HOURS/index.html

27-28 SEPTEMBER 1982

A world-wide 24 hour telecommunications project organised by Robert Adrian for the Ars Electronica, Linz.

Artists and groups in Vienna, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Bath, Wellfleet, Pittsburgh, Toronto, San Francisco, Vancouver, Honolulu, Tokyo, Sydney, Istanbul and Athens participated using any or all of Slow-scan TV, Fax, Computer Mailbox or telephone sound. Each location was called from Linz at 12:00 local time - so the project ran from 12:00 noon Central European Time on Sept.27 and followed the midday sun around the world, ending at 12:00 noon on Sept.28."

This telecommunications program by artists is, like other such events in the past, intended to develop techniques for individual, personal, use of existing telecommunications technology.

It is often claimed that modern electronic systems and networks are not accessible to private individuals but actually access is a relatively easy matter, the real problems only arise when one seeks ways in which these systems can be used. One soon discovers that, with the exception of the games and entertainment sector, all this technology is designed for the corporate user. Individual users are isolated from the design of new technology because, having no precise need, it is assumed that their interests are met by firms interested in marketing high-tech by-products, in serving existing demand rather than assisting in the development of possible alternative directions in electronic technology.
If any sort of chance arises to develop new techniques by means of which private individuals can make meaningful use of these electronic media -- to assert their right to genuine participation in the development of this new electronic world -- then it will have to be very soon. It is probably too late even now to really change the direction of design development but we can try at least to discover ways to insert human content into commercial/military world floating in this electronic space.
And this is where artists are traditionally strong ... in discovering new ways to use media and materials, in inventing new and contradictory meanings for existing organisations and systems, in subverting self-serving power-structures in the interests of nearly everyone.

Artists using electronic telecommunications are trying to find human meaning in an electronic space.
Robert Adrian X

The World In 24 Hours
A project connecting artists around the world in a non-stop series of dialogues beginning at 12 noon on September 27 and ending at 12 noon on September 28, 1982 (Central European Time).

14 artists or groups around the world will be in communication with Linz, Austria, during the 24 hour project. Each of the participating locations will be called on the telephone from the central location in Linz at 12 noon local time (i. e. 18.00 in Linz = 12 noon in Toronto). Each contact will last about one hour, permitting the exchange of visual material via telephone by means of either Slow-scan Television or Telefacsimile transceiving equipment. In addition the I. P. Sharp computer timesharing network will be available for computer graphic exchange and/or coordination of the projects. Participants have been offered the opportunity of choosing any telecommunications medium for their contribution providing that it operates via normal telephone and is also available in Linz. However the present state of development makes only the 3 media mentioned above - and described below - feasible for use by artists or other private individuals.
1. Computer timesharing: (I. P. Sharp APL Network) Equipment: Computer Terminal. Medium: Local Telephone to nearest IPSA office. The I. p, Sharp office in Vienna will provide computer time and technical assistance to participants wishing to use I. p, Sharp software for computer graphic exchange. The ARTBOX and CONFER programs will also be available for coordination of the project and for computer communications exchanges.
2. Slow-scan television (SSTV): Equipment: SSTV Transceiver (e.g.. robot 530) Medium: Direct long-distance telephone connection. Signals from a video camera are converted by the transceiver into audio signals and transmitted via telephone, The received signal is reconverted to a video signal and displayed on a monitor. Each image takes 8.5 seconds to be completed.
3. Telefacsimile (Telefax): Equipment: Telefax transceiver (e.g., 3 M "9136", group III (transceiver) Medium: Direct long-distance telephone connection. Telefax transceivers convert images on paper into audio signals and transmit them via telephone. A compatible machine then converts the signal back into an image on paper, There are 3 different types of machine available. Groups I, II and 111. The latest of these are the group III machines which can transmit an A 4 page in under a minute. Machines like the 3 M "9136" are also compatible with the slower group I and II machines.

The 24 hour program will begin with an extensive European section lasting about 6 hours, from 12 noon until 18.00 (Central European Time). The European section will include contributions from FLORENCE, FRANKFURT, GENEVA, VIENNA and, concluding the European section, DUBLIN. There will also be an experiment called "PI- NETWORKING" (using the I. P. Sharp Timesharing Network) initiated by Roy Ascott in Bath, U. K, going on during the whole European section.

The overseas program will comprise at least 4 North American locations, (there may also be a New York City participant), Hawaii, Sydney/Australia and Tokyo, The final contact will be from Turkey at 11:00 on September 28 (Linz time).

The schedule
(All times Central European Time)
12:00-18.00 Exchanges with Frankfurt, Florence, Geneva, Amsterdam, Vienna and Dublin.
18:00 - 21:00 Toronto and Pittsburgh (New York?).
21:00 - 23:00 San Francisco and Vancouver.
23:00 - 03:00 Hawaii (with Pacific region conference)
03:00-04:00 Sydney
04:00 - 05:00 Tokyo
05:00 -09:00 open for conferencing, discussion, preparation of documentation, rest etc.
09:00-11:00 Summing up and discussion of project with European participants.
11:00 -12:00 Telex exchange with minus-delta-t in Turkey, en route to Bangkok.


This project was begun in January 1982 when a series of workshops was arranged at the HOCHSCHULE FÜR KÜNSTLERISCHE UND INDUSTRIELLE GESTALTUNG, Linz. These workshops by Robert Adrian X (funded by the Österreichische Kulturservice) were intended to create a team of artists and students able to prepare and transmit original work and to man the equipment during the 24 hour event. The workshops were coordinated by Waltraud Cooper, lecturer at the Hochschule under Professor Laurids Ortner, Waltraud Cooper will also be coordinating participation by the Linz group during the program.
The workshop participants were: Bruno Aichinger, Helmut Guntner, Gerald Hackenberg, Josel Horvat, Elisabeth Juan, Moidi Kretschmann, Michael Langanger, Jörg Mikesch, Otto Mittmannsgruber, Sonja Reischi.

Coordination: Thomas Bayrle
Location: Städelschule, Hochschule für Kunst, Frankfurt/Main
Participants: Thomas Bayrle, Ernst Caramelle, Jochen Fey, Jürgen Riehm and Monika Schwitte.
Media: Telefacsimile
Thomas Bayrle is an artist working with photography, traditional media and artists books and is Dozent at the Städelschule.

Coordination: Maurizio Nannucci
Location: Zona, Florence Participants: Fabrizio Corneli, Albert Mayr, Paolo Nasi, Massimo Nannucci, Maurizio Nannucci, Gianni Pettena, Marino Vismara
Media: Telefacsimile
ZONA is an independent group of artists working together in all media - including music, performance, radio, video etc., ZONA is also an artist-run space in the center of Florence.

Coordination: Helmut Mark
Location: Österreichische Kulturservice "Studio"
Participants: Markus Geiger, Ruth Labak, Helmut Mark, Alice Weber, Heimo Zobernig Project: SPUTNIK MACHT'S MÖGLICH The 5 artists will meet at the Kulturservice "Studio" (Grunangergasse 6) from 10 am to 6 PM every day from Sept. 24 to 29. On Sept. 25 and 26 they will hold workshops on telecommunications media in preparation for the 24 hour event on Sept. 27 and 28. On Sept. 29 a discussion of the entire project is planned.
Media: Computer Timesharing and Telefacsimile
Helmut Mark is an artist working in many media, mainly in public space. He lives in Vienna.

Coordination: Annie Wright and David Garcia
Location: Mazzo, Amsterdam
Project: LATE TIMES EXTRA ". , ,one of a number of works we have made based on the insertion of 'fictions' into everyday formats. We have previously used shop windows, street posters, publications and television and now telecommunications." The project will treat the computer terminal as a news agency teleprinter, developing a plot trough the mixture of "real" news and fiction.
Media: Computer Timesharing
Annie Wright and David Garcia are English artist/ writers living in Amsterdam,

Coordination: Roy Ascott.
Location: Art Access/Networking, Bath, England.
Project: PSI-BERNETIC NETWORKING (2 projects proposed). 1. "To identify nine people with terminal access around the planet, each to choose a card in sequence to make up the Celtic spread (with my card). We shall then participate and interact trough the network to generate meanings trough the spread."
2, "A second project will involve a kind of round table seance, automatic writing at the ASCII keyboard, This use of chance coupled with our individual/group intuitions and intimations will likely also generate some unexpected material."
"Both proposals attempt to generate a kind of group consciousness of planetary dimensions through the network to get at new ideas, texts or images. The second project may include, as input, trance utterances by clairvoyants if we can involve enough individuals in sufficient countries to make it global."
Media: Computer Timesharing.
Roy Ascott is an artist and theoretician presently Head of the School of Fine Art, Gwent College of Higher Education, Newport, Wales, member of the advisory board, International Network for the Arts, New York, member of the Editorial Advisory Board of "LEONARDO", Pergamon Press, Oxford and Director of Art Access/Networking.

Coordination: Derek Dowden (Artculture Resource Center) and Dieter Hastenteufel.
Location: COMMUNITEX: Community Videotex,
Participants: Dieter Hastenteufel, Derek Dowden, Peeter Sepp, Nancy Paterson, and others,
project: in preparation.
Media: Computer Timesharing, Slow-Scan and/or Telefacsimile.
Derek Dowden works with Artculture Resource Center, a non-profit organising facility for cultural projects.
COMMUNITEX is a non-profit organisation to promote and facilitate artistic, cultural and community use of new telecommunications technology.

Coordination: Tom Klinkowstein.
Location: Audio Visual Center, the San Francisco State University.
Participants: Staff and students at the Audio Visual Center and at the Broadcast Communications Art Department (S.F.S.U.),
Project: "THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT" Advertising or advertising-related images will be broadcast live via the (interactive) Cable Television station in San Francisco and via Slow-Scan Television to Linz. Similar material will be displayed as slides or video tapes to the audience at the ORF center in Linz and transmitted to San Francisco via Slow-Scan Television. Responses to the transmitted images will be exchanged via the I.P. Sharp Computer Timesharing network.
Media: Computer Timesharing and Slow-Scan Television.
Tom Klinkowstein is an artist, designer and teacher specialising in electronic media, audio-visual techniques and telecommunications, He divides his time between San Francisco and Amsterdam, Holland.

Coordination: Bruce Breland.
Location: Department of Fine Arts, Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh.
Participants: GEKKO (Generative Energy /Kinetic Knowledge/Order), Bruce Breland, Herb Coshak, James Kocher, Harry Holland, Diane Samuels and Cindy Snodgrass.
Project: GEKKO'S WINDOW. 1. Bruce Breland - CASTING COLOR ON THE CONEMAUGH (SSTV) 2. James Kocher - X/O (SSTV) 3. Diane Samuels - FINGER PERFORMANCE (SSTV) 4. Herb Coshak - ALETH (SSTV) 5. Cindy Snodgrass -WINDRAYS, AIRWAVES, HIGHWAYS (SSTV) 6. Harry Holland - STRATA VARIANTS (Computer Timesharing).
Media: Slow-Scan Television and Computer Timesharing.

Coordination: Henry Bull and BilI Bartlett.
Location: Western Front Society, Vancouver.
Participants: Henry Bull, Bill Bartlett, Kate Craig, Gien Lewis and members of the Western Front Society.
Media: Slow-Scan Television and Computer Timesharing.
Henry Bull is an artist, musician and curator working in practically every medium from photography to radio. He lives in Vancouver and is responsible for the gallery program at the Western Front.
Bill Bartlett is a pioneer of artists use of telecommunications, especially with Slow-Scan Television and Computer Communications. He lives on Pender ISiand, British Columbia.
Western Front is an artist-run center (founded in 1972) that offers programmes in visual arts, music, dance and video as well as an ambitious "artist-in-residence" program.

Coordination: John Southworth.
Location: University of Hawaii, Honolulu.
Participants: John Southworth, Joseph Tanton and staff and students of the University.
Media: Computer Timesharing and Slow-Scan Television.
John Southworth is an educator and specialist for integrated electronic learning systems. He lives and works in Hawaii.

Coordination: Eric Gidney.
Location: City Art Institute, Sydney, Australia,
Participants: Eric Gidney, lan Howard and students of the City Art Institute.
Media: Computer Timesharing and/or Telefacsimile,
Eric Gidney and lan Howard are lecturers at the City Art Institute.

Coordination: Kazue Kobata,
Location: Body Weather Laboratory,
Participants: Min Tanaka, Yoshi Nobu, Kazue Kobata
Project: In preparation.
Kazue Kobata is an artist and dancer working in Japan and America.

Coordination: Minus Delta t
Location: Turkey (en route to Bangkok)
Participants: Karel Dudesek, Mike Henz, Bernard Müller
Media: Telex?
Minus Delta t is a group of artists who been, since 1980, on the expedition "Project Bangkok".
The project encompasses the ARCHIVE EUROPA, A FESTIVAL, the transportation and erection of a large and heavy monument, and working in the countries through which they are traveling until the end of December 1982. Apparently a classic expedition, but Minus Delta t are making art as field research.

DUBLIN [did NOT participate!]

GENEVA [did NOT participate!]


Vienna, December 9, 1982

It is now just over 2 months since "THE WORLD IN 24 HOURS" project took place and this report completes, finally, the documentation. The enclosed material, including copies of telefax pages, photos of SSTV images, descriptions and photos of the activities in Linz during the project, and a nearly complete copy of "ARS CONFERENCE" on the I.P.Sharp network, is a selection from all the material we received during the 24 hours. We also have over 2 hours of U-Mativ Video tape which will be edited to about 20 minutes. Dubs of this tape are available to anyone interested for the cost of tape and dubbing time.

The strain of 24 hours of non-stop activity on people and equipment is obvious in the uneven quality (and quantity) of the enclosed material ... some things didn't get recorded or photographed ... the sound recording equipment broke down ... the person with the camera went home to bed, with the camera! ... we ran out of video tape in the middle of the night when everything was locked ... one telephone died and another got very neurotic in the early morning ... we all forgot and lost things, including telephone numbers.

But on the whole it was a successfull experiment. We learned a lot ... for one thing, we learned that most things, including people are not designed for non-stop, 24 hour, activity. But we also learned that such a project is possible and that the next one will be even better given the experience we now have.

There are, of course, many things we would do differently if we had to do it all again but three things stand out:
  1. More time for preparation. We had 9 months but it needed at least a year.
  2. Better audio recording equipment. The ORF (Austrian Radio/TV) supplied excellent sound equipment but the wrong tape deck. We should have paid a lot more attention on this point.
  3. More telephones. We had 3 lines but needed 5. For a total telecommunications experience you need all the media working at once ... plus a communication line for emergencies.
Telecommunications, by artists or anybody, only gets really exciting when carried out on a global scale. But the price of global scale telecommunications projects is all the pain and problems of language and cultural differences, time zones, networking and night-working. On balance I think it is worth it ... looking through the material we received one can feel a new kind of art developing, a new medium. Its a very exciting feeling.

Lets do it again soon!

Robert Adrian X

This documentation has been made possible by the cooperation of the 3M company and the Österreichische Kultur Service.

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... is a Media Art historian and independent researcher. She is currently writing on "speculative archiving && experimental preservation of Media Art" and graduated from Prof. Oliver Grau's Media Art Histories program at the Danube University in Krems, Austria with a Master Thesis on Descriptive Metadata for Media Arts. For many years, she has been working in the field of archiving/documenting Media Art, recently at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Media.Art.Research and before as the head of the Ars Electronica Futurelab's videostudio, where she created their archives and primarily worked with the archival material. She was teaching the Prehystories of New Media Class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and in the Media Art Histories program at the Danube University Krems.