LED street art and the 2007 Boston Bomb Scare

An electronic street sign designed for advertisement was the cause for a terror alarm in Boston in January 2007. The sign showed a led-lit version of a character of the animation series Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The device, which construction was similar to that of the LED throwies and the Night Writer by the Graffiti Research Lab, was misinterpreted by Boston Police Officers as an explosive mechanism.

Wikipedia article.



“Is There Love in the Telematic Embrace?” (excerpt with link to longer text)

The past decade has seen the two powerful technologies of computing and telecommunications converge into one field of operations that has drawn into its embrace other electronic media, including video, sound synthesis, remote-sensing, and a variety of cybernetic systems. These phenomena are exerting enormous influence upon society and on individual behaviour; they seem increasingly to be calling into question the very nature of what it is to be human, to be creative, to think and to perceive, and indeed our relationship to each other and to the planet as a whole. The “telematic culture” that accompanies the new developments consists of a set of behaviours, ideas, media, values, and objectives that are significantly unlike those that have shaped society since the Enlightenment. New cultural and scientific metaphors and paradigms are being generated, new models and representations of reality are being invented, new expressive means are being manufactured. 

Telematics is a term used to designate computer-mediated communications networking involving telephone, cable, and satellite links between geographically dispersed individuals and institutions that are interfaced to data-processing systems, remote sensing devices, and capacious data storage banks (1). It involves the technology of interaction among human beings and between the human mind and artificial systems of intelligence and perception. The individual user of networks is always potentially involved in a global net, and the world is always potentially in a state of interaction with the individual. Thus, across the vast spread of telematics networks worldwide, the quantity of data processed and the density of information exchanged is incalculable. The ubiquitous efficacy of the telematic medium is not in doubt, but the question in human terms, from the point of view of culture and creativity, is: What is the content?

This question, which seems to be at the heart of many critiques of art involving computers and telecommunications, suggests deep-seated fears of the machine coming to dominate the human will and of a technological formalism erasing human content and values. Apart from all the particulars of personal histories, of dreams, desires, and anxieties that inform the content of art’s rich repertoire, the question, in essence, is asking: Is there love in the telematic embrace?

NOTE:  See http://telematic.walkerart.org/overview/overview_ascott.html for a fuller version of this important text.

Aspects of Gaia (Trolly Under Brucknerhaus with networked LED messages)

Ascott’s Aspects of Gaia (1989) combined the disembodied experience of telematics and cyberspace with the corporeal experience of concrete reality in physical space.  In this regard, it formed a vital link between the “pioneer days” and subsequent forms of Telematic Art that have incorporated hybrid technological media.  Aspects of Gaia brought together a global network of telematic participators who collaborated in the creation and transformation of texts and images related to British chemist James Lovelock’s “Gaia Hypothesis.”  This holistic theory suggested that the Earth (Gaia) is a unified living organism, and that climate, atmosphere, geography, plants and animals have co-developed in a way that sustains the vitality of the planet.[1] Participators could access and contribute information to a global flow of data via several interfaces, and on three levels of the Brucknerhaus (the work’s central site at the Ars Electronica festival in Linz, Austria).  What emerged was a portrait of the Earth “seen from a multiplicity of spiritual, scientific, cultural, and mythological perspectives.”[2]

On the upper level of the Brucknerhaus, a large horizontal screen purposely conflated the conventional vertical orientation of a computer monitor, and allowed viewers to gaze down on the data-stream of images and texts contributed remotely from all over the world.  (This bird’s eye view is related to the horizontal working relationship between artist and the artwork that influenced Ascott’s cybernetic works of the 1960s and 1970s.)  On the lower level, horizontal computer screens were set into what Ascott referred to as “information bars,” metaphorical cocktail lounges in which the consumption of data was intended to result in greater clarity of mind, rather than an alcohol-induced stupor.  The networked images that appeared in the information bars could be altered by either acoustic sensors, which responded to the sounds of the users, or by a computer mouse on the counter.

In the dark, exterior space below the Brucknerhaus, viewers could ride a trolley (also in a horizontal position), which drove past LED screens that flashed messages about Gaia.  The viewer became physically engaged in an experience that conveyed ideas about the emergent quality of telematic consciousness as it relates to the Earth as a living organism.  As Ascott described in his essay, “Is There Love in the Telematic Embrace?” (1990), the elements of the work co-evolved like Gaia, such that distinctions between artist, viewer, and artwork, nature (Earth) and culture (technology), became blurred as they were united in the unfolding duration of their harmoniously negotiated, mutual self-creation.

[1] James E. Lovelock.  Gaia, a New Look at Life on Earth. Oxford:  Oxford University Press: 1979. See http://books.google.com/books?id=89GBVioWGUgC&dq=gaia+a+new+look+on+life+lovelock&printsec=frontcover&source=bn&hl=en&ei=WUVeSqyrGcyj_AarpMXrDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4

[2] Roy Ascott, “Is There Love in the Telematic Embrace” Art Journal, 1990. See http://telematic.walkerart.org/overview/overview_ascott.html

Excerpted from Edward A. Shanken, “From Cybernetics to Telematics: The Art, Pedagogy, and Theory of Roy Ascott,” in Roy Ascott, Telematic Embrace: Visionary Theories of Art, Technology, and Consciousness, Edward A. Shanken, ed.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.  See http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/8867.php


Glyphiti Sep 2003

Click on the image to participate in the interactive drawing.

“Glyphiti is an image composed of many smaller “glyphs” that can be edited easily. The qualities of the image are co-determined. As author, I have established certain characteristics. These include the size and available colors, which are black and white. But the state of every pixel can be changed by the visiting artist.”

Inserted from: <http://artcontext.net/glyphiti/docs/about.html>

“Users of Andy Deck’s Glyphiti applet are invited to engage in the collaborative editing of a mural, composed of 256 icon sized images (glyphs) by working on one 32 x 32 pixel section at a time. Black and white, zoomed in tight, Glyphiti feels like the dysfunctional amalgamation of familiar interface features from antiquated image editing software. The anonymous crowd of users are allowed to scrawl over each other’s glyphs like bored schoolchildren carving expletives into classroom desks.”

Inserted from: <http://www.metamute.org/en/glyphiti>

The source code is available at: http://artcontext.net/act/01/glyphiti/src/.

Furthermore, the website allows access to timelapse recordings of the crowd-activity on GLYPHITI. An interesting period to look at are the months July, August and September of 2003. Alternatively, there is a list of all recordings.

Deck later produced other pieces that build upon the ideas behind GLYPHITI. One example is ‘Screening Circle’, as described by TATE (http://www2.tate.org.uk/intermediaart/entry15384.shtm). The interactive version is also available on Deck’s website: http://artcontext.org/act/05/screeningCircle/.

Essays and Video Interview

Essays by Andy Deck present on his website.


Video of Andy Deck explaing about his process of work and detailing the Culture Jamming project.


Andy Deck: Screening Circle

Screening Circle was inspired by the tradition of the quilting circle: a group of people who make a quilt together, each producing small squares that are later sewn together. Screening Circle reinterprets this popular craft tradition in the context of interactive electronic media. As you draw in this circle you may notice icons changing, because other people are drawing at the same time.

The title refers to the screen because it is not a material product that people are making with this tool-like artwork. The products are composed of flickering light that can be “screened” in a variety of ways.

Screening Circle is uncensored, except in so far as the graphics are low-resolution by design. How low-resolution must a picture be before it is inoffensive? Uncopyrightable? How high-resolution must graphics be before they are expressive and valuable to protect as “free speech”?

Inserted from <http://www.tate.org.uk/intermediaart/entry15483.shtm>



Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz recall the Satellite Arts Project

Transcript of a video conference, Los Angeles-Amsterdam, November 2003

Kit (4’30): First of all, a little background on both of us… Sherrie started an early independent video production group in San Francisco, called Optic Nerve. I lived in Amsterdam, in 1971, and with a group of people, whit Jack Moore and the Videoheads, and a bunch of other people… The Melkweg was invented then, in it’s orginial conception it was supposed to be a multimedia center. It turned out to be a really good place to get loaded and listen to music…

So, we had a multimedia theatre in there, called the Videoheads Studio, and we used to do a lot of multimedia presentations, using video, film, and combining all those together… and whit that troupe we did a multimedia theatre for the Munich Olympic Games in 1972, where we had giant Eidaphor projectors, and 22 carousel slide projectors running in cync with paper-punch control…

And then, eventually, the core group of Videoheads migrated to Paris, and we did interactive window installations for the Sony Showroom in the Champs Elysées.

Sherrie (6’03): And I was invited to Paris by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the invitation of Felix Guattari (who came up with the concept of the Rhizome) and so I went to Paris, to talk about american experimental video. But where do you get american standard equipment in France…? So I said: “well, the person you need to talk to is Kit Galloway, he knows everything about the video in Paris”… and so, I went to Kit Galloway to get my equipment. That was like 28 years ago, and here we are..”

Kit (7’10): Almost to the date, somewhere in november, yeah… So we met, and when we met, we started lamenting about “where things were not going” — that artists were doing video, were dealing with various technologies, but most of the them were just continuing the tradition of being sorts of “gallery brats”, taking their art into the sacred gallery space, which seemed to be so divorced from the real world. (…)

Sherrie: My education was at Berkeley, in architecture. So I was interested in physical space, and how space influences people’s interactions. And so when Kit and I got together, and we put our video together, where we had both background in, as well as my architecture, and his visionary sense of bringing people together, virtually, there we were. And so we created Electronic Cafe, which was a real place, and a virtual space — that was the concept, and all we had to do was to raise the money.

Kit (10’49): In1975, we worked out a sort of a 5-year plan, kinda like the Soviet Union or something… It was like a series of projects and things that had not really been done, but that were possible, and we were saying to ourselves: “what’s taking so long with this stuff?” They seemed to be logical aspirations, but nobody was manifesting them.

Video art and all that kind of stuff was making pretty pictures, something that was an extension of cinema, there were interactive installations… mostly it was about, anything that was remotely utilizing realtime telecommunications was very much a television broadcast monitor — “artist as subject being transmitted to an audience”… So, we have a visual bias, I think we need to start with that: I think the underlying thing about all of our work is: it has never been about human-to-machine interaction, or machine-to-machine interaction. It’s really been looking at: “what can people who are separated by distance do together through technology?” … So we went about a sort of aesthetic inquiry, too look at the “cats and dogs” technology of that time, and to integrate it, and do our own conversions to realize those ideas.

There were a couple of things we wanted to model, and one of them was: “The image as place”. If you had multiple cameras around the world, and you were able to mix them together and then redistribute that, and use luminance-keying or chroma-keying, you could take people in other places, then create a composite image space — then you’ve created a “virtual room”, where everyone could convene. It was a model, like the mirror in a dance rehearsal studio. You know, everyone’s dancing, looking at themselves in the mirror, seing a reflection, and from that, they’re able to develop a choreography, get in cync and all that kind of stuff… So this was the electronic version of that: the creation of a virual space, in which full-bodied individuals could convene, an electronic image space — so the “image” becomes “place”…

We weren’t much informed by the art community, and during all of our research, we weren’t aware of Myron Krueger’s early work, that was computer-based, silicon-based. In a lot of ways, our work has been separated from the digital, computer-based work, and that history. We were sort of working with computer-hybrids of analog/digital.

Sherrie: I think the concept of virtual reality was important, in that we were focussed on reality AND the virtual: creating the electronic image with REAL places and REAL people was different than creating an animated avatar. It really created a larger community of people around the world.

Kit (15’33): So it began with this series of projects, which were sort of “foundation projects”:There was the Satellite Arts Project in 1977, which we will go over a little bit deeper.(…)

Article Source: http://1904.cc/timeline/tiki-index.php?page=Kit+Galloway+and+Sherrie+Rabinowitz

Video conference by Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz, Waag Society, Amsterdam, November 12 2003, Sentient Creatures #7