An Exhibition Proposal
For the Reference Gallery
List Visual Arts Center at MIT
I. Context for Exhibition
Our primary concern is how to present the flux of digital culture,
particularly the networked environment of the Internet, in a temporary
physical state. There is a precedence for this in the problem of the
quantum particle where one can view traces of its existence and/or view
the activity around it but not the particle itself.
Ours is not the traditional curatorial role of surrogate for the public
or trustee of the objects in a collection. Ours is a work of mediation
with a position of facilitator both for the public and for the
artist/creators. We hope that the borders between the two will be
crossed in many ways as is happening in so many areas of the art world
under the banner of multimedia.
It is significant that we share the List center with Joseph Kosuth as it
is his work in dematerializing the art object that has provided the
theoretical groundwork for our presentation. His statement that
"the illusion of the window of belief in both painting and philosophy remains, today, as a deus ex machina holding the viewer's position in check"has inspired our title and theme. We hear this as a demand for
uncertainty in art that has now been made more feasible and
comprehensible with the rise of digital culture, creating not
undifferentiated chaos but possibilities. Rather than drawing a curtain
of irony over this window to make the illusion disappear, artists now
have the ability to create a multiplicity of windows.
II. Conduits and Bridges
The MIT Media Lab extends far beyond its physical walls. It has
influenced a generation with the objects -- physical, digital and mental
-- created there. The point of this exhibition is not competition but
reflection of those objects onto the exhibition. The physical
environment must convey this sense of how objects are being received and
used. The walls themselves become important as conduits of information
that border both the Kosuth exhibit and the Media Lab. A place between
art and science where digital culture exists.
Various mappings of the Internet will be important as will examples of
human networks that don't rely on electronic devices. One aspect will be
an actual performance of the Internet, another will be artifacts created
by these kinds of networks including artists' mappings, sketches, faxes,
journals, MOO performances and diagrams.
III. Curatorial Control
While we have resisted the traditional curatorial role for ourselves we
acknowledge the issue of quality and will invite participants who have
either a record of proven work in a networked environment or
well-developed ideas they wish to implement. We will request one-page
proposals to select from even though the projects or events may be
experimental. We will also invite artists/creators of art Web sites to
use the Virtual Places technology to provide guided tours of their sites
to the public both at the exhibition and on the Internet.
For this invitational we will provide a list of sites for the List staff to
visit and consider for inclusion.
IV. Description of the Physical Environment
The exhibition space will be set up as a theater space, except the
audience will be in the center and the stage encompasses the viewer...in
other words, a physically immersive environment. Several
levels or platforms will activate the circumference of the space,
housing the tech equipment and forming a stage for several real-life
The main focus point of the room will be a large projection wall where
Internet activities will be presented (see next section). Three
additional computer stations will be available for performing
events locally and allowing visitors to wander the web.
On another wall, an old-fashion bulletin board will be set up to post
the paper (notes, email, diagrams, scripts, proposals, faxes, ect.) that
is generated by this exhibition. The concept of "posting" popularized
The rest of the walls will be painted shades of dark gray and annotated
with chalkboard-like definitions, diagrams and quotes about the
Internet. To add to the informative nature of this exhibition, a sound
track will be created with ambient music and clips of dialogue fading in
and out, culled from ArtDirt and other Internet audio programs.
V. Projected Internet Events
The projection wall will dominate the room and create a focus on the
events programming. Some of the events will be generated locally via
the three work stations in the exhibition and viewed on the projection
wall. Other events will be generated from other parts of the world and
sent over the Internet to our projections system.
The events programs will be using a variety of technologies, some of
which are explained here:
a) Virtual Tours allows a person to conduct a virtual "bus tour" of web
pages. People arrange to meet on a certain web page at a specified
time. They hop on the tour vehicle, which controls where the passengers
go on the web. Each passenger has an avatar (a graphical embodiment of
themselves) and has the ability to talk with the tour guide and other
passenger via text chat.
This technology will be used to conduct virtual tours of significant art
content on the Web, as well as to experiment with alternative uses of
the technology by artists.
b) Metaworlds are Internet environments that you enter as an avatar (a
representation of yourself). You can talk to others in the metaworld
via text chat or voice audio, and you can effect this virtual
environment by building structures.
We will be programming events on several metaworlds such as small plays,
improvisational performances, stand-up comedy, interviews and panel
The four metaworlds that we have tested and feel are ready for prime
time are AlphWorld, Onlive, Black Sun and Virtual Places. We are still
looking for new technologies and expect to find more by the time the
c) CU-SeeMe is a widely available conferencing technology that allows
individuals from around the world to talk with each other via voice
audio and see each other via streaming video.
We anticipate programming events like interviews and debates using this
technology. Also, many artists are experimenting with alternative uses
of CU-SeeMe, which we will encourage.
d) RealAudio is a technology that allows you to listen to audio in
real-time over the Internet at 28.8 modem speeds. Then later, these
radio-like programs can be played at any time over the internet. This
technology is built into the latest version of Netscape the most popular
Artists are using this technology in many ways, of which ArtDirt is a
prime example. We anticipate inviting people form the Boston area to
participate in the New York based ArtDirt show via a hookup in this
exhibition. Again, alternative uses of real audio are encouraged.
e) VRML is a programming language that allows for 3-dimensional worlds
on the Web. The ability to view and fly through these worlds is also
built into the latest version of Netscape's browser. And most recently
(last week) two companies have release beta versions of chat/avatar
systems that work in VRML worlds...big breakthrough.
Artists all over the world are diving into this new field of Internet
world building. We intend to present some of the most innovative uses
of this new technology by artists. One of the reasons this technology
is so hot is that it will eventually become the non-proprietary
metaworld, often referred to as metaverse, a term made popular, along
with "avatar," by Neal Stephenson in his influential Science Fiction
book "Snow Crash".
VI. Who Are The Artist Participants
We see this project broken down into several components with different
people involved. Keep in mind that the physical and cyber environments
will be designed for maximum flexibility...we are designing an
infrastructure for creativity to happen.
a) The overall project will be organized by Katy Kline, Remo Campopiano
and Robbin Murphy. They will decide who does what and when, and for how
b) The design of the physical environment will be the responsibility of
Remo Campopiano, Ebon Fisher and Marek Walczak; in consultation with the
users of the space from New York and Boston.
c) Artists performing in the cyber environment will be from all over the
world and will be loosely juried by email proposals. We will be priming
the pump with performances from artists and artists groups that we have
been involved with over the past few years...for example,
Adrianne Wortzel, Heather Wagner, GH Hovagimyan, Floating Point Unit,
The Thing, Blast (Jordan Crandall), The Broome Street Players, Rhizome
Internet, Intelligent Agent, VRML/Metaworld SIG and ArtDirt. There will
be more in this list once they have been contacted about participation.
Possibilities include jodi.org, e-toy, Victoria Vesna, John F. Simon,
Jr. Vivian Selbo, The Gertrude Stein Theater, John Chris Jones, Mute,
Simon Biggs, Alan Sondheim, Joseph Nechvatal among others.
VII. Organization Strategy
This project will be organized over the Internet using a "listserv"
mailing list. Participation will require at least this level of
knowledge of Internet technology. A "listserv" allows people to
communicate in a group via email -- readers can post questions, answers
and comments, and anyone subscribed can read everyone elses posting.
This "listserv" will be set up immediately, and be maintained for the
duration of the exhibition. The listserv and an accompanying web site
will present this project, update the events calendar, explain how
artists can participate, and be an archive for material generated by
this exhibition project.
We see this as a ground-breaking exhibition and perhaps a model for
future exhibition strategies. Attempts at creating digital culture in an
institutional environment have many aspects similar to that of
presenting the artifacts of other cultures not intended for museum or
gallery display. We hope to provide a flexibility that will make
alteration possible during the exhibition period and foster an
environment of collaboration as well as self-education for the public.