title>Source Code Source Code: 07/2005

27.7.05

Mapping the web


mapper#09 is a small piece constructed with processing, as an attempt to visually represent the structure of the world wide web and how information is organized in it. It was built to retrieve the external links of a web page and navigate through them. It works in a rather simple way: given an initial url, the external links are retrieved if they exist, one of the links is randomly chosen and the process is repeated until it finds a page without any external links.

The attitude is exploratory; the metaphor of the map is obvious. Revealing what is hidden, what is unknown, covered, that which permits for the web to exist becomes central to this artwork. The concept of the link and the action of linking as a way of structuring the web, almost as the building blocks of a cyber-architecture.

We can see this project as an online cartographer, exploring unknown, unexplored online territories, mapping them for the first time, but we can also talk of a translation tool. mapper #09 translates the specific language of the web into a visual language, simplifying, almost demystifying part of the properties and invisible processes defining the World Wide Web.


mapper #09
Vítor Silva
2004
http://www.atmosferas.net/projectos/gs/13/index.htm

23.7.05

Best Of - Mouchette


One of my first experiences with netart was back in 1999, while I was studying in France. I remember reading a small article in a contemporary art magazine (I'm pretty sure I still have it somewhere) about Mouchette.

Mouchette, a website, netart piece, artist's alter ego, intrigued me from the first time I saw it. It can be thought of a non-linear narrative, a hipertext art project. So far no reason for feeling intrigued... but as I went through its pages, getting to know the character, doing what she told me to do, I felt chills down my spine.

We are browsing through a 13 years old little girl's art project. She asks us our name. She asks us the better way to kill herself. She asks us to feel her tongue in our cheek. She asks us to kill a cat and why we did it. She keeps asking us disturbing things, things involving sex and death.

Mouchette is based on Robert Bresson's 1967 movie, called "Mouchette". Mouchette, a 14-year old girl situated in a small rural community, lives a dreadful life. Her mother is dying and her father is an alcoholic, leaving her to provide most of the care for her baby sister. Her social status at school is so low that she isn't bullied by her classmates, but simply disregarded. One night while returning from school, she encounters the poacher Arsene in the woods. Arsene is agitated because he believes he has just killed the town policeman, and takes Mouchette back to his cabin. He rapes her and uses her as an alibi for his whereabouts for the night.

This contemporary Mouchette is 13 and lives in Amsterdam. She acts very much in a Lolita fashion, provoking us, mixing sex and death, she insists in seducing us and at the same time killing herself and taking us as part of the process.

Mouchette has taken part in numerous art manifestations, exhibitions and events in the artworld, and created a new part of her website each time. Mouchette has held a very important presence within the netart community and has lectured and appeared (anonymously) extensively in online and offline events and publications. The artist responsible for the project at a certain point announced (s)he was giving it to someone who had interest in continuing it and eventually pased it to the chosen one in a ceremony at Postmasters Gallery in New York.

Mouchette
1996 - present
http://www.mouchette.org/

21.7.05

Hacking your Xbox


What is an Xbox? The answer seems pretty obvious… A game console...?

Apparently not. Those responsible for the Xbox Linux Project state that "The Xbox is a legacy-free PC by Microsoft that consists of an Intel Celeron 733 MHz CPU, an nVidia GeForce 3MX, 64 MB of RAM, a 8/10 GB hard disk, a DVD drive and 10/100 Ethernet. As on every PC, you can run Linux on it. An Xbox with Linux can be a full desktop computer with mouse and keyboard, a web/email box connected to TV, a server or router or a node in a cluster. You can either dual-boot or use Linux only; in the latter case, you can replace both IDE devices". It is possible to hack your Xbox and turn it into much more than a plain product for playing games.

What was done here, the modification of an Xbox so it can work as a personal computer running Linux operating system, is becoming more frequent. Actually it can be thought of a cultural activity within digital culture. Gameboys as musical instruments, personalized AIBOs, the list could go on forever…

Electronic products using computer technology are open to modification and such activity has become very interesting to observe. These products are now seen more as processes and thus, easily transformed into something different of their initial purpose.

This meaningful use of technology allows the development of communities and a political involvement of its members. It is stated on the Xbox Linux Project: “Welcome to your Xbox. For the first time the box you paid for can do what you want it to do. As the owner you are where you should be – in control”. This last sentence also points to another aspect of user-personalized technology: being an author as part of owning the technology.

So if you’re the proud owner of an Xbox and are tired of playing the same games over and over again, go on, visit the Xbox Linux Project and transform your console into a Linux operating computer. Own it to the limit.

The Xbox Linux Project
http://www.xbox-linux.org/wiki/Main_Page

19.7.05

Travel to Java Island


Java Island or an island in JAVA?

A minute window that is open and increases until it occupies the entire screen.

A text which informs us that “this page contains a hidden script and your browser is now partially controlled by some lines of code. For troubleshooting please contact the Museum of Modern Strategy…”.

The browser was effectively controlled by an unknown source and it is not possible to do anything else besides the self-replication of this window with this message. It’s one more strategy of power questioned by the Museum Of Modern Strategy (another project by Leal), the breaking of the omnipresence and the omnipotence of the browser. It no longer controls tyrannically the way we access and visualize the information. Actually, it doesn’t allow for us to develop that type of activity. It finds itself as a hostage among a few lines of coding and the only plausible solution is to restart the computer, which we promptly do.

The hostage is us, and voluntarily.

(text originally published for Online - Portuguese Netart 1997-2004 and translated to English by Rui Azevedo)

We can see this project as a form of resistance. The access to information is now controlled by big companies like Microsoft. Their browsers allow us to do only what they want us to do and, ultimately, find what they allow us to find. The way the information is dispayed on our screens is chosen by their interface designers. This project, by shortcircuiting our web browser, by taking it and transforming it into the artist's hostage, sheds some light into the dominance strategies working around us. No longer able to work with the browser, what does one do? What does one do when liberated from the IE6 tyranny? Fear, doubt... confusion... One restarts the computer hoping it will solve the problem... Do we like tyranny? Who is resisting after all? Didn't we all pray for IE6 to be working properly after restarting the computer?

I did.

Miguel Leal
JAVA Island
2003
www.virose.pt/moms/digital/morbidi/java_island/

18.7.05

Still an artist in the chat room

For the first edition of prog:ME, the new media festival in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Susana Mendes Silva has developed a new version of Artphone, her 2002 project. This time she is using Skype, a program for making free calls over the internet to anyone also using Skype. The software has to be downloaded and installed, her Skype name has to be added to your contacts. If she is online, you can ask her whatever you always wanted to know about art.

For more information about Artroom:

http://homepage.mac.com/susana_mendes_silva/Artphone.htm

For more information about prog:ME

http://www.progme.org/

14.7.05

Confess yourself

Who says you have to be Catholic to confess?
Why leave voyeurism to the priests?
Can a website manifest redemption?

These are three questions Stewart Smith asks in the introduction to his Confess website. In this project users are invited to confess themselves. You confess not by a religious motivation but to let go of what's troubling you. But it doesn't end here. Not only you get to confess your inner most, secret thoughts, you also get to forgive someone else for their own confessed secrets. It works pretty much as a trade. You confess. Then you are allowed to read one anonymous confession. You rate it based on a few provided categories. Then you are allowed to confess again. Each confession is only ever read by one other person. The intrest arises because the site is self-governing, meaning the confessions that are selected for you are done so based on your user rating. The better your user rating, the better the confessions you read will be.

You get redemption from an automatic system, a website, and at the same time you are browsing through other people's confessions. Do you confess because you want people to read your confessions, or because you want to read people's confessions? Or both? Or because you just feel like making up some terrible stories about yourself and let people think they're true? But since the site works in an anonymous way, what's the point? People will never know who you are.

The strenght of this project lies in the way it explores the issue of anonymity. What do people say, or do, or let other people think of them when they're protected by a system that hides their true identities? This is a frequent issue when debating how people relate in online enviroments. What are they able to do or say being protected by a computer screen? In this case, that experience is taken one step further since it deals directly with the notion of guilt. You only confess when you feel guilty, but by confessing to a machine do you feel even more liberated or by the contrary, simply careless?

Go on, try it. Confess yourself. Make the artist's day.


Stewart Smith
Confess
2004 - present
http://www.confess.cc/

13.7.05

An artist in the chat room


(portuguese version archived in July 2005)

In 2002, Susana Mendes Silva (1972) put up, for Free Manifesta, the Artphone project, a cell phone mediated performance in which everyone could contact the artist, through her personal cell phone number, and discuss contemporary art related subjects. The slogan she used when advertising the project was revealing of what her purpose was: “Don’t be afraid to ask everything you always wanted to know about contemporary art”. Everything one has always wanted to know about contemporary art was available, only one phone call away. The artist exposed herself. Not only was she completely available for anyone who called but also assumed she could answer any question addressed to her.

In 2005, three years later, the cell phone was replaced. Instead of just being available, of waiting a phone call, the artist became more dynamic, active. She replaced the cell phone by an online video chat room and created Art_room, an online performance where anyone could meet the artist and, once again, ask her everything they wanted to now about contemporary art. Besides the notorious change of environment and, consequently, the kind of relationships established, the artist also worked the engagement of those assisting or participating in the performance. It was mandatory to have an internet connection, to know the implicit rules of online chatting and to download different plug-ins that allowed the access and interaction in such an environment.

The performance was announced by email and happened in predefined schedules during the month of June. The goal was to put together, in the same place, the typical users of such chat rooms and people more familiarised with the contemporary art discourse. The development of the action taking place was let to chance and it would be completely dependent on the public and the artist’s interactions. Only one person other than the usual chatters of the chosen room showed up. The performance started and the artist introduced herself and told people to ask her questions about art. People in the chat room didn’t quite understand the objective of her behaviour and started to act aggressively towards her. As she repeatedly stated she was doing a performance and she wanted people to ask her questions about art, aggressiveness escalated and she was invited to leave the chat room, since her presence wasn’t welcome there.

The following day the artist repeated the performance in the same chat room. Everyone in the room were regular users and they were mostly present at the previous day actions. The artist continued her activity, seen as unwelcome and undesirable by some of the members of the room. Later on, the room monitor shut down her webcam and finally banned her from the monitored area, known as friends and family.

The Art_room project thus exceeded the artist’s initial expectations. Even though largely depending on the establishment of social relations, and on the contingencies that rule them, such reactions were never planned or accounted as a possibility. Yet, a closer look at the processes explored and undermined by the artist let us see how predictable the reactions obtained during the two days of performance are.

Silva, with this project, is working in two different areas, both able to induce attitudes and behaviours similar to those witnessed. The notion of community is central to Art_room. There is a group of individuals sharing the same interests and gathered in a specific online space, considered by themselves their reunion space. It’s by sharing that space with each other that they feel as part of that community. The artist, by introducing herself in that chat room has crossed the community’s border separating the outside world from that group of people. Not only has she crossed the border, thus invading that space and assuming herself as an outsider, she also acted in a way that made that difference even more visible, by showing the impossibility of conversion, of becoming part of the community and sharing a common discourse. She acted in a disruptive manner, disturbing the regular functioning of the social structure crystallized in that video chat room.

But besides assuming her otherness, and thus being irreducible to the group, Silva was questioning the group’s beliefs about what art is. Assuming her behaviour as an artistic project not only is she clashing against a traditional, objectual, almost commodified vision of the artistic object, she is also affirming that a disturbing, parasitic, undesirable activity, may be considered art. She confronts them with something they don’t see as such, and never will. The debate wasn’t centred in what were the artist’s initial plans, but in justifying and legitimizing her behaviour, inappropriate to the community as a valid artistic practice. The artist will never become a member of this community so as its elements will never share with her the same vision of the artistic phenomenon.

We have here two events, that can be thought as the ever present dichotomy between the self and the other and that, in this particular case, will inexorably result in a difference without any possibility of being resolved. There is only one possible way . The community regains the state of equilibrium, by eliminating the destabilizing element, the artist and her behaviour.

A technologically mediated performance working as a human relations laboratory. An extremely interesting exercise that happened live, in front of our eyes. What is the difference between online and offline? Is the online world a public space open to dialogue and to equal participation for all? Where is the emancipating utopia of cyberspace? The artist knows how to answer to those questions.

12.7.05

Uma artista no chat room

Em 2002, Susana Mendes Silva (1972) realizou, para a Free Manifesta, o projecto Artphone, uma performance mediada por telemóvel, na qual qualquer pessoa podia contactar a artista, que tornou público o seu número pessoal de telemóvel, e discutir temas relacionados com arte contemporânea. O slogan de divulgação da performance era bastante revelador do intuito do projecto: “Don’t be afraid to ask everything you always wanted to know about contemporary art”. Tudo o que sempre alguém quis saber sobre arte contemporânea estava ao alcance, apenas à distância de uma chamada telefónica. A artista expunha-se, colocava-se à disposição de quem lhe ligasse e assumia que podia responder a qualquer pergunta que lhe fosse colocada.

Em 2005, três anos depois, o telemóvel foi substituído. A uma atitude de disponibilidade, de espera, que caracteriza quem aguarda uma chamada telefónica, a artista contrapõe uma dimensão mais agencial, mais activa. Substitui o telemóvel por uma video chat room existente online. Surge assim Art_room, uma performance online em que qualquer pessoa se pode encontrar com a artista e, mais uma vez, perguntar tudo o que sempre quis saber sobre arte contemporânea. Para além da óbvia mudança de ambiente e, consequentemente, do tipo de relações que se estabelecem, a artista operava também ao nível de envolvimento de quem assiste ou participa na performance. Já não basta fazer uma chamada telefónica. É necessário possuir uma ligação à Internet, conhecer as regras implícitas de funcionamento dos chats e instalar um conjunto de software especifico que permite o acesso e a interacção com os outros utilizadores do chat.

A artista divulgou por e-mail a sua performance, que ocorreu em horários pré-definidos durante o mês de Junho. O intuito era juntar, num mesmo local, os frequentadores típicos destas salas de conversação online e as pessoas mais familiarizadas com um discurso artístico contemporâneo. O decorrer da performance seria deixado ao acaso, e exclusivamente dependente das interacções do público com a artista. Apenas compareceu uma pessoa para além dos frequentadores habituais da sala escolhida. A performance teve início e a artista apresentou-se pedindo que lhe dirigissem perguntas relacionadas com arte. A incompreensão do motivo de tal acção colocou quem se encontrava na sala numa postura de desconfiança generalizada, que se acentuou drasticamente após a informação repetida de que o que a artista estava a realizar era uma performance, que requeria a participação de todos e que podia ser considerada uma obra de arte. A artista foi convidada a sair daquela sala, sendo claramente explicitado que a sua presença não era desejada.

No dia seguinte, a performance repetiu-se na mesma sala de conversação. As pessoas que se encontravam presentes eram, exclusivamente, utilizadores do chat e, na sua grande maioria, as pessoas do dia anterior. Perante o prosseguimento da actividade, aparentemente incompreensível e indesejável, o responsável pela monitorização das salas desligou-lhe a webcam e, algum tempo depois, foi banida de todas as salas monitorizadas que constituíam a área friends and family.

O projecto Art_room excedeu assim as expectativas iniciais da artista. Ainda que dependendo do estabelecimento de relações sociais e, consequentemente, de todas as contingências que as definem, nunca foi esperado que as reacções atingissem tais proporções. No entanto, um olhar mais atento sobre os processos que a artista explorou e, sobretudo, minou, deixa que se entreveja a previsibilidade das reacções que ocorreram nos dois dias em que a performance teve lugar.

A artista, com a concretização deste trabalho, operou em duas áreas distintas, ambas passíveis de despoletar comportamentos como os assistidos. A noção de comunidade é central em Art_room. Existe um conjunto de indivíduos que partilham os mesmos interesses e que se encontram reunidos num determinado espaço online que consideram o seu espaço de reunião. É a partilha desse espaço que os define como comunidade. Ao introduzir-se na sala de conversações, a artista atravessou a fronteira da comunidade, que separa o exterior, o mundo, do interior, um grupo restrito de indivíduos. Não só atravessou, penetrando no seio da comunidade e assumindo-se como outsider, estranha, como também agiu de forma a salientar essa diferença, vincado a sua alteridade e a impossibilidade de conversão, de inserção na comunidade, de partilha de um discurso comum. A artista não pretende ser um membro da comunidade. Ela age portanto de forma disruptiva, perturbando o normal funcionamento da estrutura social que se constitui naquela sala de conversação.

Mas, para além de se assumir como um outro, irredutível ao grupo, ela vem questionar as próprias crenças relativamente ao conceito de arte. Assumindo o comportamento visível por todos como um projecto artístico, ela não só choca directamente com uma visão tradicionalista, objectual, do conceito de arte detido pelos membros da comunidade, como afirma que uma actividade parasita, perturbadora, indesejável, pode ser considerada arte. Confronta-os com algo que eles não encaram como tal e que não virão a considerar como tal. O debate não se centrou sobre o que era inicialmente o intuito da artista, responder a perguntas sobre arte contemporânea, mas a justificação e a legitimação do seu comportamento, desadequado aos olhos da comunidade, como uma prática artística. Tal como a artista nunca se converterá num elemento da comunidade, também os elementos da comunidade não partilharão da mesma visão do fenómeno artístico com a artista.

Temos aqui então dois acontecimentos, que podem ser sintetizados na dicotomia sempre presente do eu e o outro e que, neste caso, vai resultar inexoravelmente num diferendo sem resolução possível, que só poderá ser concluído de uma forma. A comunidade volta a restabelecer o seu equilíbrio, eliminando o elemento destabilizador, o grão na roda da engrenagem, a artista e o seu comportamento.

Uma performance mediada tecnologicamente que funciona como um laboratório sobre as relações humanas. Um exercício interessantíssimo que ocorreu diante dos nossos olhos, em tempo real. Onde está a diferença entre online e offline? O mundo online como espaço público aberto ao diálogo e à participação igualitária entre todos? Onde está a utopia libertadora, emancipatória, do ciberespaço? A artista saberá responder.

11.7.05


One possible way to start this blog is presenting my latest project, a netart show called Online - Portuguese Netart 1997-2004. The purpose of this show was to look at what has been done by Portuguese artists in the domain of netart. With this show I am not saying there is a specificity of Portuguese netart when compared to the international scene. I just selected (and being a personal selection it is highly subjective and questionable) what I thought were the best netart projects done by Portuguese (net)artists since 1997. I divided them into five different categories, adressing different subjects or ways of thinking the internet, (h)activism, interactivity, narrative, world wide web and geography.

The show is produced by Atmosferas - Digital Arts Centre and it is available at www.atmosferas.net/netart

Please feel free to visit the show and give some feedback or random opinions and thoughts.
This blog is intended to serve as a platform for debating issues related to digital art, (h)activism, tactical media, resistance, critical theory and everything related. Feel free to join or start a discussion. Everyone is invited to participate and let others know where their work and researches are leading.

9.7.05

On ne peut pas tomber amoureux d'une courbe de croissance.
Licença Creative Commons
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