This article was written for 'Content-Type' in 2001, which I conceived of as an idea virus, later as the site evolved, I was to think of these texts as symptomatic of the Media/Art Identity Crisis in style of delivery.
"...Both, in the artistic and commercial realm we can only look forward while still doing some damage assessment. We hope that what can be seen as the end of an era has also cleared the air and gives us the chance for a fresh start in 2001..." [Armin Medosch]*1
'Shopping Windows Part 1' is the first of two online exhibitions of works, newly commissioned by Telepolis. Curated by Armin Medosch, Part 1 is composed of three works: Content=No Cache, by Giselle Beiguelman, BallPool by Matthew Fuller and Waste_Words Their Weight & Frequency in London's Municipal Rubbish by Harwood/Scotoma.org. Medosch writes that Shopping Windows is looking at net art 'after e-commerce', after the dot.com bubble burst in 2000, and several disillusioned net artists announced the death of net art. He wants to look at 'damage assessment' and 'stay optimistic' which is encouraging.
It is a quiet exhibition, cautious in feel with a certain fallout mood. The three works are deceptively simple and they contrast well with each other. Content=No Cache, is browser art, clearly referring to the framing and presentation device of this generic software. The code: Content=No Cache effects the automatic updating of a webpage, "erasing what was written before. It announces a new condition of writing. From now on it does not inscribe anymore. It just describes." *2 This is the theme of Shopping Windows Part 1, disposable words which can be programmed, quantified, replicated and lost.
By programming those words, as in BallPool, where '308 different words' are manipulated by a program to create links in relation to their frequency of selection by the user, more than a straightforward narrative is generated. In BallPool a story evolves which attempts to give a sense of "a figure... trapped inside a children's softplay structure. No door, no window - vinyl and foam." *3 It has that effect as both the story and the figure don't go anywhere, but instead explore a sense of space and containment in a coded environment. Definitely not 'where do you want to go today?'. As in Content=No Cache, where on one screen the letters WYSIWYG move around of their own 'free will', the experience of "the relation between what is seen and what is read"*4 is inverted and questioned. Is this 'cyberliteracy'? There is a sense of how the anima of text can be called upon within this space, and it can sometimes be a malign force as well as a playful one.
Harwood/Scotoma.org's Waste_Words Their Weight & Frequency in London's Municipal Rubbish is related to BallPool in its use of word frequency table mapping technique. This time apparently real matter is included in the equation: "A street waste basket was cleaned at 8:00am on 8th February 2001 (the 414th Anniversary of the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots) 24 hours later the cleaner collected all the items left. Each item was weighed and photographed. All of the words occurring on every item of rubbish were then transcribed. From this table of information the frequency and weight of words disposed of per day in London has been calculated." *5 This work combines a sense of documented place, with the practices of detritus art. But it goes on to mix this approach with both the conceptual part of a program, where an algorithm is effectively described, as well as the data input aspect of programming. The frequency and weight of the words, connects the site specific to the abstract processing powers of the machine.
The exhibition is clever in moving from the more apocalyptic feeling of the work Content=No Cache, to the slightly disorienting BallPool through to the almost reassuring Waste_Words.
Sarah Thompson 6.4.01
*1, *2, *3, *4, *5 Armin Medosch, RHIZOME_RARE, invitation/private view +++ shopping windows, 4.4.01
Shopping Windows Part 1 is at: