A selection of participative art on-line by Roberta Bosco and Stefano Caldana
Internet was born to be a powerful tool of information exchange and simultaneous collaboration among people from different places in the world. Throughout its development those who have lost sight of this fundamental fact have failed or are destined to do so. This is not the case of digital artists who, from the beginnings of this new artistic expression, have focused their efforts and creativity on a participative, collaborative and interactive direction. Digital Jam is a selection of 11 projects conceived for the Internet that shows different tendencies of artistic investigation, focused on the collaborative aspect of the creative process on-line in the course of the last 7 years.
The participative experience in digital art has very deep roots going back to Nam June Paik’s experiences at the beginning of the 70’s.
However, regarding net.art, one of the first was American artist Douglas Davies with The World’s First Collaborative Sentence, a multimedia document whose development and expansion depend on the audience who, since 1994, adds text, sound, images and video. That year, the artistic community sensitive to innovative projects discovered to have a means at their disposal, which shortened distances and changed completely the concept of work of art and copyright and, of course, began to use it.
We are not in favour of encyclopaedic selections, so we’d rather risk choosing a series of projects which, in our opinion, shows the numerous tendencies in the field of artistic collaboration on-line. Within the historic ones, we have chosen Davies and Paul Vanouse and their database of secrets and excluded undoubtedly interesting works, such as The Most Wanted Painting by Komar & Melamid and Please Change Belief by Jenny Holzer. French artist Gregory Chatonsky and Americans Marek Walczak and Martin Wattenberg take sides in the discussion of digital art collections, and Eric Zimmerman explores the dynamics of the interpersonal relations on-line with an addictive and evil game. Andy Deck allows to perform a graphic jam session in real time, Hannes Niepold suggests a collaborative net.comic in constant growth and Bernd Holzhausen keeps on expanding his famous Icontown, a city made of pixel buildings by thousands of icon-addicts. Thomax Kaulmann presents its already historic Open Radio Archive Network Group and John Klima challenges the usual model of interactivity and collaboration on the Internet with Glasbead. Finally, No/E.html, a webring by Mexican artist Arcangel Costantini, links with mythical works such as Desktop IS or Refresh by Russian artist Alexey Shulgin, webrings of artists pages from all over the world, which we have excluded because they have lost several intermediate rings and they are immediately interrupted.
Digital Jam invites the observer/user to leave his/her passive role in order to take part in first person in this creative jam session on the Internet.
1. Gregory Chatonsky (Francia)
A site, a desinence, an artists' community in progress which shares a domain with Chatonsky where you can contribute all your digital designs. Brief projects, extracts of more complex thoughts, snapshots of a physical and mental state and reflections in Flash format, gathered from a common platform: ION, such as position, collaboration, repulsion and a long list of names as suggesting as the projects they give way to. The last work ... mondialisation, naturally!
2. Arcangel Costantini (México)
As the historic webrings of the first period of net.art, No/E is also a ring which shares a splash page where, as the title in Spanish points out, you are not allowed to stop. Many Spanish sites devoted to digital art take part into this project, which also examines the traffic signs' meanings and analogies on the Internet, such as the pioneer Aleph or the most recent Fiftyfifty.
3. Douglas Davies (USA)
The World’s first Collaborative Sentence
In this project Davis thinks about those changes the interactivity of digital media imply for artists.
It is a multimedia document whose development and expansion depend on the audience who - since 1994 - adds text, sound, images and video. The project, which currently belongs to the Whitney Museum in New York, included at the end of the year 2000 more than 200.000 contributions in a dozen of languages.
4. Andy Deck (USA)
Andy Deck opens his studio in New York for everyone who wants to take part in a graphic jam session. He has created a common interface for this where several users can work in real time in the same picture. This project, based on software written in 1990, is part of the open source movement, that is, open code, co-operative and free.
5. Bernd Holzhausen (Alemania)
A work in progress which proves that a project on the Internet may have a continuous evolution during several years... in this case, four! In this city made of pixel buildings carried out by thousands of netizens, there are skyscrapers and houses, igloos and shacks, churches of several denominations and public buildings, and each one has the owner's name and his/her webpage. Everyone can freely use this icons bank although, being a "donation ware" project, you are invited to donate an amount of money or time to an organization helping homeless.Icontown is a virtual city in constant evolution. Participative, multiracial, multicultural and also supportive.
6. Thomax Kaulmann (Alemania)
ORANG - "Open Radio Archive Network Group"
In 1998 Thomax Kaulmann conceived this project addressed to musicians, DJs, artists, record companies and independent labels, in order to become a dynamic platform for the distribution of sound. ORANG represents a new radio generation which is being developed on the Internet. Every netizen can access the database and hear sound files, divided in musical genres. However, you need a password, delivered after being registered as a user, to be able to add your own compositions to the project.
7. John Klima (USA)
A project belonging to the so-called Software Art trend carried out by a famous Microsoft programmer in the computer scene of Seattle, who left a brilliant and profitable career to devote himself to art. In the bohemian Lower East Side in Manhattan, Klima has developed a program that allows to create in real time an enormous variety of visual and sound scenes in a three-dimensional environment, where as many as twenty people connected via Internet may interact.
In 2000 Glasbead won an award at Siggraph to the most interesting contribution in the field of interactive art.
8. Hannes Niepold, Hans Wastlhuber (Alemania)
A non-lineal net comic in constant growth, whose name is made up of 'co' for comic, cosmic and co-operative and 'intel' for intelligence. The last vignette of the different stories which are being developed is always empty. Users are invited to fill it before being added to the story, where it
will remain with the last contributions, so that netizens can vote for the one which will become permanently part of the project. The works ruled out are not deleted, but they are changed into alternative narrative paths which channel the story into other courses, creating a democratic
narrative structure which evolves branching out in different directions.
9. Paul Vanouse (USA)
Persistent Data Confidante
This project, exploiting the guarantee of anonymity on the Internet, suggests a secrets' transaction: users must leave one secret to be able to read another, which can be scored. In this way, those secrets with the lowest score, that is the less interesting, are deleted from the list and guests, having a influence on the web content, become co-curators of this secrets' database. A project which may be considered an example of pure net.art due to its simplicity and real interactivity.
10. Marek Walczak, Martin Wattenberg (USA)
This project introduces the concept of "WunderKammer" in the digital age, the wonders room of the 17th-century aristocratic houses. Whereas these were private collections of weird and precious objects, Wonderwalker has been conceived as a website collection-archive, where everybody can take part. It is an endless project that has much more in common with interaction than with a classification interest in itself. It is something similar to a social space where collecting is used as a way of communication. The collection may be displayed in three maps: icons, collectors and timeline.
11. Eric Zimmerman (USA)
A project staging the fight between three bunches of schoolgirls, with a look which reminds a little bit to the comicbook artist Robert Crumb. In order to win you have to become the most popular girl of the playground, ruining your opponents' image and self esteem. This game, which is always very crowded, shows the dynamics governing personal, social and professional relations in Western society. As in real life, established relations are essential so, if you want to win the game, make sure to chat with the right people and reconcile strategies with them.
Text originally published in ArtFutura's 2001 catalog.