Archive: Issue No. 80, April 2004

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Ars Electronica

Ars Electronica

Nathaniel Stern

Nathaniel Stern



The web as indexicon
by Carine Zaayman

I have often said that the internet is a radical space because it provides a platform for projects that cannot be contained within the spatial-temporal restrictions of traditional media. But another remarkable aspect of the web is, of course, the way in which difference sets up a tangible (virtually speaking) network of information and exchange. This aspect of the web is what I refer to as its 'indexicon' function. This month's project focuses on some sites that provide opportunities for new media practitioners, by way of participation in online projects, competitions and the like.

In this sense, the web fulfils (to varying degrees, it can be argued) its role as public space and sustains the dynamic communities that are unique to cyber culture. Such sites often generate their own content, but function as a nexus for information exchange, collection and re-organisation.

   Ars Electronica

Ars Electronica has been at the forefront of developing new media knowledge, projects and discussion around digital culture for a very long time. To mark its 25th anniversary, Ars Electronica has expanded its annual cyberarts competition Prix with a new category entitled 'Digital Communities'.

This is a significant development, because it indicates the importance of the site's own function as a digital community and the significance of such communities in the cyber world. Information on the Ars Electronica festival in September is also to be found on their extensive site. It is, however, not only through its competitions and conferences that Ars Electronica has been a pioneering presence in the field of new media. The site provides an invaluable map of other projects and information on new media related activities.

For more information on Ars Electronica and its wide spectrum of interests, do the Panorama tour of the website. While on the virtual tour, the info collector allows you to keep track of all the links and data to which you might want to return. Highlights include information on the Museum of the Future at the Ars Electronica Centre in Linz, which itself hosts a number of fascinating projects, as well as information on the centre for Interactive media design,

   Nathaniel Stern

Since his arrival in South Africa in 2002, Nathaniel Stern has been making waves in South African new media circles. As well as being an active participant in indexicons such as, his own website also functions as a useful resource. Stern's 'blog' provides interesting news and links to South African art events of varying importance, while updating us on his concern with the politics of his home country.

One of his latest projects is the Serial Joywar' work, which is a response to the predicament of artist Joy Garnett. The soundbite that has been doing the rounds on the web this month states: "The American artist Joy Garnett, whose paintings are derived from news images, is faced with a legal action for thousands of dollars over this one. This has nothing to do with the protection of livelihood and everything to do with the suppression of free speech and free artistic practice. Don't let the schoolyard bullies win! Show your solidarity with Joy by grabbing this image and posting it on your website or by making your own artwork derived from it."

Significantly, this kind of resistance jamming on the net is made possible largely by the web's function as indexicon. For more links and information, visit

Together with Ralph Borland, Stern is presenting a workshop in Physical computing at Wits, from April 3 - 5. If the term 'physical computing' confuses you, here is how Stern describes it: "Physical computing makes use of sensors, mechanical and electronic devices, and computers to activate objects or environments in the physical world, making interactive artworks, installations and performance devices". Technical know-how in this field is quite rare in South Africa and the workshop should be well worth it.

If you are looking for ways of funding new media related work, presents competitions and commissions. The Juried International Net.Art Competition, for one, offers $5000 for new media projects.

As the site states, funding goes to projects that "� experiment with new forms of interdisciplinary collaboration and creativity and engage the user as an active participant. Collaborations may be between visual artists, sound artists, programmers, scientists, and others. Proposed works may include the use of wireless devices such as cell phones and palm pilots to access and add to the experience of the work."

An interesting archive of past commissions and online artists' studios is also kept on the site.


Ubuweb is, in many senses, a quintessential indexicon. An e-zine/ resource of sorts, it indexes textual, academic, visual and audio material with breathtaking depth and scope, taking in anything from Patti Smith to Samuel Beckett, Salvador Dali and more.

Of interest in the Spring 2004 edition are articles on Robert Whitman's cellphone works, a Fluxus anthology, audio art employing radio as platform, and an overview of sound artist Jack Goldstein. Other material hosted on the site include Jacques Lacan's Radiophone, in which he responds to questions posed in a radio interview of 1970, soundbites of Guy Debord on Situationism, as well as computer-generated texts, which have been written by the application Racter.

Ubuweb takes up the radical positions of 'ripping', or sourcing material from various sources and posting them online. This is perhaps a problematic thing to do, but Ubuweb sees its role as liberating - and important for sustaining the free exchange of information online.

"Essentially a gift economy, poetry is the perfect space to practice utopian politics. Freed from profit-making constraints or cumbersome fabrication considerations, information can literally 'be free': on UbuWeb, we give it away and have been doing so since 1996. We publish in full colour for pennies. We receive submissions Monday morning and publish them Monday afternoon. UbuWeb's work never goes 'out of print'. UbuWeb is a never-ending work in progress: many hands are continually building it on many platforms."

A beautiful and extensive site, Ubuweb stands out for its commitment to libertarianism and quality content, both of which are increasingly difficult to access online.