Archive: Issue No. 105, May 2006

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Online homes for art
by Carine Zaayman

This month the project page highlights two online net art and digital art communities. One uniting characteristic of net active artists and the like, is that they are always forming groups to join and to showcase work and exchange ideas - in fact, inclusivity seems to be built into the ethos of these artists' production. The result is that while there is mostly a happy atmosphere enveloping the communities, sometimes there are varying levels of quality. It is therefore important to support those sites that are comprehensive and representative, and with some critical consciousness about what they do and how they position themselves. The following two sites are good examples of such communities.


This London-based site describes itself as follows: 'Furtherfield is an online platform for the creation, promotion, and criticism of adventurous digital/net artwork for public viewing, experience and interaction' ( The ArtThrob project page has featured many sites that have as their aims something very similar to this. Essentially, the meteoric rise and popularity of digital art and net art, especially in its role as a kind of 'democratised' public art, has fuelled the birth of many similar sites. Furtherfield, however, is one of the better of these, due to the sophistication of its conception, and the range of projects and resources it offers.

Highlights of the site include Splintermind - a 'nonTVTVstation', which hosts online streaming content as well as exhibitions, the mailing list Netbehaviour (licensed under Creative Commons's 'attribution' license) which they say include 'networked media artists, researchers, academics, soft groups, writers, code geeks, curators, independent thinkers, activists, net sufis, non nationalists and net mutualists' and the Furthercritic section in which well-informed critical writing about the projects can be found.

The Perpetual Art Machine (PAM)

Like Furtherfield, PAM is a community of artists (this time focusing on video art) who use the website for exchanges while mounting exhibitions and projects around the globe. More interestingly, however, is the way in which the exhibitions are assembled. The website hosts an extensive gallery of video art, which is stored and catalogued in a MySQL database. Max/MSP/Jitter (software with which those who have attended Ralph Borland and Nathaniel Stern's Physical Computing workshops will be familiar) is then used to let the Perpetual Art Machine 'auto-curate' an exhibition.

Perhaps their explanation of how the process works from this point, will be useful here: '4. When PAM is in auto-curate mode, it will group movies together based on similar keywords and associations. 5. Once PAM has collected a group of movies it displays them in a grid of up to 16 videos projected into the installation space. 6. When the current group of movies has finished playing, or if PAM decides to stop them, a new group of movies replaces the former group. 7. This new group of movies is based on associations between the keywords in the former and the new group. 8. At times, PAM may decide to highlight an individual movie (based on its relevance to the sequence of chosen keywords or another curatorial decision) by playing it in full-screen mode. 9. PAM's interactive user interface station allows users to circumvent PAM's curatorial decision-making processes through a dual touch screen display system. 10. When a user steps up into the interface station, PAM acknowledges their presence and the touch screens become active, allowing the user interact with [PAM]. 11. The first user interface controls the keywords PAM will use to choose the movies, second user interface allows the user to choose which movies to play in full-screen mode. Once chosen, the video will play in its entirety and upon completion will be replaced by another video. 12. When the user steps away from the user interface station, [PAM] thanks them for taking part and the process returns to auto-curate mode after the last fullscreen selection has finished.'

To my mind, this is one of the more interesting and comprehensive web projects to come out in a while, in that it has a strong conception of net activity as well as being technically sophisticated. For those interested in participating, visit the site to upload your videos and become part of this project.