Bytes Of ART
Critical Reviews

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Microtimes Logo
June 18, 1998

DEC's Bytes Of Art: InterNetworked Digital Experiences
Bytes Of Art was a decentralized installation that required the audience to travel from site to site for the full experience.

Three interconnected walk-in kiosks in different locations in the SF Bay Area provide a celebratory, interactive facility for networked multimedia.

In San Jose, in the Greek columned sound kiosk, visitors selected a music category or artist and changed tempo, volume, flange, and reverberation with their own heartbeat via a heart monitor, and by walking on floor sensors.

Sound Kiosk

In Oakland, the Modern metal visual kiosk allowed visitors to manipulate live camera input and artists' images to colorize, posterize and flip them by activating sensors.

Floor Sensors

In San Francisco, the richly decorated literature kiosk spoke to the "pace" of the Victorian age; visitors changed the story fonts, shading, kerning of words by stepping on any or all of the nine sensors.

Literature Kiosk

The kiosks are networked over the phone lines. Activating floor sensors in one kiosk in one city change the order or the sensors in the other kiosks. Between 9 and 27 variations per Kiosk were possible. Each kiosk was powered by a Digital Personal Workstation 600au with 4GB of disk space, a 24-plane graphics card, and Digital UNIX. WRL researchers wrote special application software to power online interaction for the entire exhibit. The kiosks were assembled with off-the-shelf electronic and mechanical components.

As DEC's first Artist-in-Residence, Barbara Lee comes heavily credential as a veteran multimedian. She has mastered most of the tools of digital design and has presented several intermedia and Internet creations. Lee designed and fabricated all three kiosks.

Project leader Annie Warren has been with DEC's WRL since 1992.

"I wanted to build an interface that moved away from keyboards, mice, and windows--an interface that could be built into any environment, not the desktop."

Her special interest is in user interfaces within intelligent rooms--"This simultaneous interaction among people, virtual people and interconnected kiosks will be used by Digital to research ways in which people will interact with computers in the future."

Talking Digital
Of the 1500 "Call For Entry" notices e-mailed, (to online arts: organizations, publications, event listings, and University departments) 10%, or approximately 150 responses, were received. The responses were divided into three categories: completely confused, intrigued, and totally supportive. Two people thought the notice was some sort of spam.

The Internet participation gained momentum after Lee's interview with Ted Warnell who published ZINEn. Approximately 15 of the 60 finalists found the project from the ZINEn link. "Some organizations became more involved than others," says Lee, "but slowly we became an e-community working together to promote the Bytes of Art project.

First, to qualify as a juried submission each had to function without an error message. Second, each needed to be compatible with Digital's WLR software interface. Third, it needed to be interesting, either on its own merits or from within the kiosk of that discipline.

"By allowing for expectations experienced in past projects," Lee continues, "I began by not controlling the aesthetics of contributing art. I feel control flattens difference in collaborations, as well as the medium. I prefer to heighten difference between artworks while maintaining a cohesive spatial envelope so I had no expectations. I must say I was very pleased with the final results from the online submissions."

Interactive Sites and Sounds
"The site selection process was first influenced by geographical location," says Lee. "I wanted the gallery audience to reenact the data gathering ritual inherent to the Internet. When you do a 'search' on the topic 'cats' from a Internet search engine, you might receive 35,012,874 hits, but in actuality you'll probably only visit three or four."

"Bytes of Art was a decentralized installation that required the audience to travel from site to site for the full experience. The second influence was the site in relation to Internet technology and contemporary online art."

Hosting the Sound kiosk, the ART-TECH in San Jose positions itself as a Tech-Mecca for Bay Area Artists creating tech-artworks. For the Literature kiosk, the Vorpal Gallery in San Francisco is a 34-year-old traditional fine art commercial gallery with a modest Internet site and no online art. The visual kiosk was installed at the Center for the Visual Arts (CVA), a community gallery in Oakland where local emerging artists can exhibit their artwork and which has no Internet site.

"In terms of performances," Lee continues, "some visitors exceed my expectations, but those have been by children. Most kids eagerly embrace discovery and they lack the self-consciousness of the adults. Their performances often push the envelope and I find that very exciting.

Some visitors do understand the work and some don't. I don't think understanding art is as important as experiencing it. Ultimately you either have a resonance with a piece of art or you don't."

Asked what would her next dream project be, Lee replies: "I'm ready to embed Internet technologies directly into the primary box from which we live and work."

Sacramento Bee Logo SACRAMENTO BEE
May 13, 1998
Section: BUSINESS Page: C1

High Tech Gets A New Look Program Pairs Artists, Engineers In Bid To Spur Innovation.
By Michael Stroh Bee Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO--At the Vorpal Gallery, A visitor Cesar Cuadra studied the (Byte of Art) structure, set amid the framed masterworks of Picasso and M.C. Escher, with puzzled fascination.

"I don't really understand it," he said, but added quickly, "Look at that." He swept his hand to a nearby abstract canvas hung on the wall. "Once nobody that kind of art and now look how much it's worth. Twenty years from now this type of art - with the computers - will be displayed in your living room."

April 12, 1998