Port Logo
a r t n e t w e b
CONCEPT: Present the flux of digital culture
in the networked environment of the Internet
as a two month exhibition at the List
Visual Arts Center at MIT.

February 1, 1997, Saturday
Parkbench's TOUCH was the only projection today. One screen is a live projection of server-push animation of a video from the ParchBench studio in NYC. Emily draws Nina while Nina sculpts Emily (or was it the other way around?). The other three screens have previous performances projected. The rate is something like one frame per second so it is somewhat like watching a slide show and visitors must be told that it is being access from a remote location.

Really very beautiful and addresses the subject of analog passing through to digital, the object and both it's creation and its image projected. It lacks a complexity needed to succeed as a PORT project though. Audio would be the logical choice but the silence is in some ways the most predominant aspect of the piece. Silent gazing.

The artists viewed the piece in the gallery in the first week and were happy with the presentation. Even though the one screen is a live performance I would like to see something happen that could only be done online. It wouldn't make any difference if the projections were delivered through some on-site form (slides, video), though having the specific time scheduled to perform may be important in how the piece takes form.

February 2, 1997, Sunday
Mapdance was the only projection today and I ran portions of it continuously throughout the day. The alloted time from 4:00 to 6:00 is only needed for interaction in the Black Sun section by outside visitors.

The 2d to 3d section worked well and interested gallery visitors once it was explained. Friends of one of the creators came by and knew how to work it.

Major problem was with people getting lost in the interactive section. They kept going to HELP and bringing up new screens until I had to go back and start from the beginning again. This is a flaw in the interface.

February 3, 1997, Monday
I'm back in New York and Remo is back at the helm at the List Center. He took a deserved break to visit with his five-year-old daughter before she forgot what he looks like. I understand they had a very fun time.

I'll post my reports on the events that have taken place so far in the next day or so. The reason I haven't is that there were too many people coming through the space and between being the human interface and tending the computers I didn't have the time to do it. I'm back in my dark hovel and will put my digits to the keyboard.

I will say that everything has gone extremely well and all of the projects look great. One advantage of being in the gallery for everything is the opportunity it gives to see how different each one is. Everyone who came through seemed to like the energy of the space and the whole PORT concept. We've even started to have repeats who come to check out particular pieces. The schedule and all the project descriptions are posted on the wall for visitors.

John Douglas asked for pictures of the gallery and we now have a camera so maybe we can get some images up soon. The space changes depending on what is being projected so it's difficult to reproduce it. Plus the audio is a very important element to many of the works. Cambridge SoundWorks provided us with an excellent sound system and it's pretty amazing the sound quality you get from RealAudio now. Of course the fact we have lots of bandwidth helps.

We now have a handout that also has all the participants' URLs listed on the back. I'll put that up soon here and on the web site.

I did manage to take some time and walk around the neighborhood in Cambridge where the Ingersoll family is putting us up (and putting up with us). Their home is a few blocks from the Mount Auburn cemetery, a beautiful example of nineteenth-century preocupation with death and nature. Mrs. Ingersoll lent me a book about how that cemetery influenced Lincoln's Gettysburg address and I found the grave of Francis Parkman (the historian who wrote about the Oregon Trail that I've used in my work).

February 13, 1997, Thursday
Christian Paul asked me to write a special column on PORT for the March Intelligent Agent. This will give me an opportunity to put my thoughts together on paper, which I haven't been able to do very well on the listserv. So much is happening and so many ideas are growing that it's difficult to focus on any one. But it is important that I put down what's happening in an orderly fashion so other's can understand why PORT is important.

Remo is working with Mat on the Vitual Streetcar project to see how it might be made more functional within PORT. I tried to access from my Mac but kept crashing. Remo says the problem is with how the Mac Navigator handles Java and it is promised that the problem will be fixed soon by Netscape. Another of the woes of the Mac world.

Remo has networked the four computers in the gallery together and is working on a screenshot capture that will allow people to have some idea of what is happening on the individual screens. He installed the WebSite server on computer #1. It works, sort of, but will be a very important technology once it works. We need to work out ways for the projects to work in the gallery space as well as online. We also need to figure out how to combine live performance with ongoing, but not live, presentations for future exhibitions. It would be interesting to give someone who is adept at video installation the opportunity to combine the video installations with a scheduled performance. ParkBench is doing this to a certain extent with their TOUCH project and I'm interested to see how Lawrence Weiner uses his HOMEPORT palace site in conjunction with his upcoming exhibition at Castelli Gallery in New York.

February 14, 1997, Friday
St. Valentine was beheaded in Rome under Claudius the Goth on this day around the year 269 and is buried on the Flaminian Way. Another Valentine who was bishop of Terni about sixty miles from Rome was scourged, imprisioned and there beheaded on the same day. Many scholars believe the two are the same person. The custom of sending Valentines stems from a medieval belief that birds began to pair on that day.

We have over 100 subscribers to the list (we had to upgrade our quota) and, so far, only about 10 have unsubscribed since it began.

If some of you are confused about who we are I thought I'd take some bandwidth to give a short overview:
Remo Campopiano is in residence at the MIT List Visual Arts Center keeping things running and acting as a human interface for visitors. I'm Robbin Murphy (aka Robin, Rob or murph) and am in my studio in NYC moderating this list and working on the Web site. We were both artists who became interested in what was happening online about four years ago and formed an organization called "artnetweb" to learn more and help other artists. We started with a BBS where Adrianne Wortzel and GH Hovagimyan logged on and have become intregral members of our group.

We started our Web site (artnetweb.com) as soon as the Mosaic browser was introduced and have been exploring online possibilities ever since. We have a walk-in storefront at 426 Broome Street in the SOHO district of NY where (until PORT) we hung out, offered classes and met with whomever walked through the door.

Two who did are Marek Walczak and Ebon Fisher and they, along with GH, Adrianne, Remo and me are what we call the "core participants" of PORT. That means we met, talked and argued about what PORT could be. Each brings a distinct point of view based in their own work and that has given PORT its unique shape and form (some would say non-form).

I've been promising for weeks to post reports on the individual projects since I'm in the singular position of having seen them projected at the MIT List Center, on my own computer in my studio and from several points of origin. This position, I found, is overwhelming since PORT was designed to be an exhibition that would grow and change from day to day.

Instead I'll try to post what I've learned from the participants and the project in general and what I see as valuable for future exhibitions and projects.


The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has recently announced that they plan to start "collecting" Web sites (including several from ada'web, which is participating in PORT). How they intend to do this is still under debate at the SFMOMA as well as other museums who have a mandate to preserve cultural artifacts.

We, luckily, are not a museum and so are free to focus on what we feel is the most interesting aspects of the Internet: it's tendency to change, either through updating or interaction, and to network rhizomatically (it means to grow by sending tendrils underground, like a a potato). We saw people were linking up globally in ways that weren't possible even five years ago using TELNET, IRC, MOO/MUDs, the Web, VRML 3d environments and other technologies. Some call it their art, others wail in horror at the mention of the term.

For the most part we have been side-stepping the issue of art (though the List Center, bless them, keeps reminding us they are a Visual Arts Center) in order to discover what something some might call an art-making activity (but I would call simply "making") would be on the Internet and how it can be exhibited (and collected) in traditional art institutional environments.

Why bother? Because these institutions aren't going to go away anytime soon and, to be honest, I like them. I think they can be important and many were, with all their faults, for me. They were my Internet before the Internet. And there are many other networks at work in the world. One of the purposes of PORT is to discover how they might (or if they should) be linked.

February 16, 1997, Sunday
SUNDAY (2/16/97)
Earth is threatened by a disintegrating comet tonight in a made-for-TV movie called "Asteroid: The Sky Is Falling". Lots of computer-aided special effects promised in the commercials but I learned my lesson from "Independence Day" and skip it. New York has been promised lots of snow (nature's best special effect) but as of 11:30 pm when I ran out to the deli (next to Lucky Cheng's, a restaurant with Asian drag waitresses) there were only slight flurries.

Sunday's are turning into VRML day in the List Center. "Mapdance" was a big hit with visitors today according to Remo and I found that true when I was up there.

VRML is Virtual Reality Markup Language and follows the HTML model in that is is a content-based, plain-ASCII markup language that leaves it up to the browser to make detailed presentation decisions. It goes beyond HTML (and is much more complex) in that it allows navigatable 3D environments to be created. "Mapdance" explores the possibilities of VRML while, at the same time, maps the PORT exhibition.

Marek Walczak keeps adding and changing elements and he would appreciate your comments (marek@interport.net). You need a java-aware web browser and a plug-in such as Live 3D to access the 3-d versions of the other PORT projects that have been created. The overall home for the project is http://www5.awa.com/mapdance .

The URL for the performance on Sundays (4-6 pm EST) is http://www5.awa.com/mapdance/dance/. You'll need a PC with the Black Sun Plug-in to interact in the 3D environment ( and I have a Mac so I'm left out, too). I'll try to persuade Marek to give us some more details of how the performance went.

SATURDAY (2/15/97)
ParkBench (Emily Hartzell and Nina Sobell) continued their TOUCH project, which investigates the relationship between analog and digital art-making in their NY studio using server-push animation of video. You can access archives of these performances on their site: http://www.cat.nyu.edu/parkbench/weds8.html

I ventured out of my studio down to the Leo Castelli Gallery in Soho to check out the new Lawrence Weiner exhibit that includes his HOMEPORT Palace site done with ada'web. We feature it on alternate Tuesdays from 3:00 - 4:00 pm EST. At Castelli you enter through the main gallery space converted into Weiner environment using wall text into the smaller back room where two computers show the site, one projecting it on to the wall (it may have been a local version, I couldn't tell and felt too intimidated by the gallery atmosphere to stay long). I logged on though when I was in the familiar comfort of my studio and I have to admit I'm beginning to enjoy wandering around HOMEPORT. As far as I can tell if you say certain words (specifically about gender) you are automatically thrown out of the main room into one where you are taught a lesson before you are allowed back where everyone else is. There's a certain perversity to the whole site that is eerily like the New York Art World. With all the talk of community on the Internet this is the first one that reflects that particular dangerous neighborhood.

FRIDAY (2/14/97)
There was no rDNA (imagine) performance this week. Prema Murthy will be back from Carnival in Brazil next week.

Adrianne Wortzel continued STARBOARD, (http://artnetweb.com/port/participants/starboard.html) her on-going interactive, operatic, serial broadcast drama using CU-SeeMe, RealAudio, trained actors and a saxaphone. Remo reports the visuals looked great in the gallery though there were problems with the RealAudio. I accessed the CU-SeeMe from my studio while Adrianne and her crew were in the PseudoTV studios. The fact that these are three very different "stages" for the same performance becomes the most interesting aspect of this and other projects. The performers perform for themselves and an audience they can't see while attempting to direct the form of the reception in the gallery. As the remote viewer I could watch and communicate with both "stages" via the CU-SeeMe chat window but couldn't comprehend the narrative. The "crew" become the performers and their direction and action the "script."

TURBLENCE is a live audio mix that includes voice, instruments, tapes and live audio feeds by Helen Thorington with Nick Didkovsky, Brenda Nielson, Brooks Williams and others from the elNET studios in New York. The first week we had problems with the spoken text by Nielson coming through and that has been cleared up. The text, which is flashed on opposite screens in the gallery during the performance, is now available online (http://artnetweb.com/port/participants/turbulencetext.html).

MR Z : OR I WAS A TEENAGE CYPTOLOGYST by Myth Machine (http://artnetweb.com/port/participants/mythmachine.html) uses conferencing software from Lucent Technologies to tell their story as a shared narrative across three sites (NYC theater, MIT List Center and the Internet). I had trouble this week navigating the site so can't comment but the first week when I was in the gallery the project looked very promising as it explored how we construct identity using material generated by the encryption controversy. Perhaps one of the members can give us their perspective plus some information about the technology being used.

February 19, 1997, Wednesday
One of the goals of PORT is to develop methods to make many different kinds of online projects accessible over the Internet. Since most of the technology used is freely available, or there are at least demo versions, the main variants are the hardware and level of connectivity of the viewer/participant. Not very many of us have Pentiums hooked to a T1 line (I'm using a Mac PowerPC 7100 on a 28.8 modem in my studio) and even many of those who do need help configuring the necessary software.

One thing we can do is at least give clearer instructions if you're going to take the time to have a look. Every day I post a list of the day's events on the PORT homepage (http://artnetweb.com/port) along with access information. These have not been very clear and I'm going to concentrate on making it easier to access the projects and to find the software you need to do it. It's the equivalent of providing wall labels or wall text in a gallery -- the difference being visitors aren't usually required to figure out how to physically enter the gallery in the first place (intellectually and culturally is another matter).

The following are some notes I took while accessing the events Tuesday and (today) Wednesday from my studio. Today was spring-like in New York City and my mind kept wiggling out the window. We're promised winter again tomorrow and that should put a stop to that until spring really does come along. A fierce wet wind is rattling the windows at 11:00 pm.


TUESDAY 2/18/97

1 - 3 pm EST
GH Hovagimyan and guests

GH calls this a communication hybrid and what I'm beginning to sense is an armature (the RealAudio stream of a talk show) with objects orbiting around it (CU-SeeMe, Chat as well as the view out my window). These objects sometimes referred to what was being said on the audio but often did not. I could have the CU-SeeMe windows open or the audio on but usually not both at the same time so I switched back and forth. There was a border between the two elements for me (but not in the gallery where there was sufficient bandwidth to handle both streams). Artists from Macedonia called by phone to the audio studio and were put on the audio stream and also used the CU-SeeMe so they were on both sides of this border. They talked about their "Welcome to the Empire" project where they are using the myth of Alexander the Great to colonize the world with their art.

Ricardo Dominguez and Ron Rocco presented another installment of their "Rabinal Achi / ZapatistaPortAction" (an extension of which is posted to the listserv) and talked with the Macedonians about Speed Democracy.


3 - 4 pm EST
David Bartel with ada'web

This project rotates with the "Homeport" project by Lawrence Weiner, which will be projected next week.

Even though this could very well be a CD-ROM there is a promise to make it an interactive environment more native to the Web in the future. Once you learn how to use the interface the manipulation of the sounds, colors and images becomes very pleasant and almost addictive. Very much a an enclosed game space and interesting because it is poised between two projects that seem much more open and uncontrolled. Even when it is more interactive it will still be like entering into a well-defined arena where, within certain rules apply. There is a sense of being entertained by our own creativity, mainly because the results are so readily available to us.

But the seemingly less controlled environments of Art Dirt Im-Port and emergent(c) room operate in a much larger field that, because of its complexity, demands enormously complex protocols (technologically, temporally and socially) to exist.

Arrangements leaves you feeling as if you've just played a relaxing game of chess with the rusults in front of you while the other two leave you almost exhausted and without anything tangible to show for your effort. Both are creative experiences and having them "next" to each other brings up interesting new ideas for hybrid activity.


4 - 6 pm EST
emergent(c) room
Floating Point Unit

If Art Dirt is an armature with objects orbiting, this is an eddying pool with no structure except the form it takes at any given time. Words swirl back through the images that are configured on the computer desktop and projected into the gallery.

The Look@Me technology used doesn't allow the remote viewer to see these desktop projections so Remo has devised a method of screen capture that can be viewed through a web site (http://artnetweb.com/port/screens.html).

Heidi in the gallery combines with Sanae from Japan, Noah from Providence (I grew up on a street named Providence) and me in New York on one desktop then another. Ghost ignores us all and audio from Belgrade Radio streams. This is a project you wade through picking up the links as they float by.

When Bill Gates talks about projecting art on LCD screens in his house I'm beginning to think of this, not the Mona Lisa



12 - 2 pm EST
Duane Whitehurst, Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Chris Spain, and Nathan Fruin

From "about raku writing" (http://www.cat.nyu.edu/raku/about.html) "Performance Two Shuffling of connecting words as a group is replaced by lists of different varieties of connecting words. Email is now made available as an html page (after reports that the Typewriter Applet, while fun to watch, was not always reliable). A significant amount of audience reaction to program alterations is beginning to build."

There's a sense of a "scriptorium" that I like about Raku Writing and also the fact that it is using clay as a metaphor, which ParkBench also uses in their project on Saturdays in a different way. Of course Remo and I are the only one's who've seen all the work so this relationship isn't very evident but as I watched all the projects develop over the weeks I've noticed certain circulatory patterns, a sort of collaboration between ideas without planning. I've been looking for ways this type of circulation is reflected in the individual pieces and one simple way that works is for what is being done to be somehow circulated from text to image (which Raku begins to do), image to sound and sound to text. Maybe it might be as simple as a CU-SeeMe window on one of the screens or a chat session for commentary on the text that is developing (or as a way to submit text to the piece).

This circulation is something you sense in the List Gallery space when it happens and I think it is something that happens on the Internet as well.


2 - 4 pm EST
John Hopkins and guests

John Hopkins wasn't able to access the EFNet IRC network his guest for the day, Leslee, was on. I found him on the MIT server, alone. EFNet split, he said, and Leslee was on one out of Chicago. I had no idea what that meant but I'd learned enough about IRC to find my way via Rutgers, Texas and Denver to where Leslee and Remo were chatting away in Chicago. Unfortunately John never made it to hold his dialogue. He could only access MIT, which is normally unavailable. They never managed to have that dialogue.

At the time none of this chasing people and searching IRC servers all over the US seemed odd. Now that I write it down I realize I was traveling today. Not quite as glamorous as a trip on the Orient Express, but certainly more interesting than playing phone tag. Some people hate IRC because it's so tempermental and I guess you have to find the charm in antiquated communications technology like this. CU-SeeMe or Java Chat would work as well but their use demands a certain level of hardware capability and I like the idea that there is a place in PORT for everybody. Even John, if we ever find him again.

February 20, 1997, Thursday

12 - 2 pm EST
Prosthesis To A Well
Sawad Brooks

This is what Lee Harrington said about this piece on the listserv:

"I found myself wanting to go on forever with this site. The way my mouse travelled in a clockwise manner to make the numbers appear, hypnotised me. The way the grey form travelled around the outside of the largest circle also kept me in the art piece. The way the number 119 kept showing up made me want to stay there while the numbers increased to see if they would count to 119. Then the circles started pulsating toward me, and that's when I knew I was hypnotised. I stayed and started the whole process in the counterclockwise fashion. Maybe it was the motion that caught both my hand and my eye. Maybe it was the anticipation of the numbers. Maybe it was the pleasing color scheme. Maybe all of it together made me want to stay. Talking about it makes me want to go back and do it again."

Sexual metaphors are used throughout the piece: you "screw" your way through it and "caress" the interface. It is located on the "rrose" server (a borrowing from Marcel Duchamp's "Rrose Selavy" alterego (in French "Eros C'est la Vie" or "Eros, it is Life"). Brooks leaves obscure messages like "Baudelarian memory is also quite material" and "imprinted on the surface and unable to narrate" and visitors can leave their own imprint by typing very slowly and tenderly on that surface. You sense the presence of others by their touch.

The interface can also be seen as the scope of a rifle or radar for a missle with a moving target and a count-down to launch.

Love or war, sex or death in a deceptively simple interactive space that expertly manipulates the indistinctiveness of virtual reality (and by "virtual" here I mean the available possibilities rather than a digital reconstruction of what we already know).

Though it is suggested that visitors use Windows 95 to access (because it is a Java applet) I was able to navigate with a Mac PowerPC and Netscape 3.0.

February 21, 1997, Friday

1 - 3 pm EST
rDNA (imagined)
Prema Murthy

Murthy's desire to "see more than code" creates an environment for imaginative coupling -- be they CU-SeeMe windows, participants in the chat session, DNA or binary code. It's an unformed arena that can be collaged by the director/participant into groupings that questions the physical necessity of a body or, perhaps, encoded meaning.

Sam Watson posted a message on the MESS-L listserv for the upcoming "Mixed Messages" Conference at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Oct 11-13 (http://www.uncc.edu/~mixedmsg) after he'd given his writing students an assignment to create a mixed-media collage. He noted a difference between some that were "compiled" without much controlling vision (like rDNA?) and those that were "composed" (like Prosthesis to a Well?) and tried to find what "statement" each collage was making. His conclusion was that

"Visual images are in some senses CLOSER to experience than the abstractness of written (or spoken) language, yet when a message comes to me via language I usually THINK I know pretty much exactly what it "means," what statement it is making. Maybe I do not at all! Or with no greater precision than I was able to muster, in reading those collages!"

3 - 5 pm EST
Adrianne Wortzel

"The Ship's Detective" wanders through the disrupted narrative of Starboard in the form of a low-lying surveillance robot gathering evidence and projecting it on to the screen. What the viewer sees or hears, what the director meant and the evidence the Detective finds and exhibits are altogether different views of the same event. The layers of theater are exposed and at the same time become even more theatrical, particularly with the addition of the 3d avatar that is also grabbing images and reformating them to unknown specifications.

5 - 6 pm EST
Helen Thorington

The audile environment (one where mental imagery is auditory rather than visual or motor) continues to build. I recognize passages (usually signaled by spoken text) from the week before and start visualizing the turbulence inserting objects from my own visual and auditory vocabulary.

I lost my connection near the end and couldn't get it back. One of the uncontrollable aspects of not only working live, but receiving as well.

6 - 8 pm EST
Mr Z : or I Was a Teenage Cryptologyst
Myth Machine

I haven't been able to access the project with the necessary Windows 95 machine but hope to next week. I'm interested in seeing how it's coming along particularly in comparison to the other narrative projects that are distributed over multiple applications. I like what Marah said earlier about actors using email to develop a character and think a more structured conferencing environment like Persyst would become its own character somewhat like a Mac has it's own personality that can be modified but is always identifiable as a Mac.

There is now an info page available for the Persyst interface used by this project:

February 22, 1997, Saturday

2 - 4 pm EST
Conductor #1: Getting in Touch with Chicken
Cary Peppermint

Noah Raford wrote to the listserv:

I managed to partake in the "Conductor #1: Getting in Touch with Chicken" experiment yesterday, and let me tell you, it was a trip. I sat scrutinizing the images of Kentucky Fried Chicken, a man sealed in a pine box, a chicken sealed in a box, and of the two boxes from outside, trying to discern the intention or underlying order of this event. "So wait, is he trying to talk to the chicken?" "Huh?"

And then it hit me, like deep rolling laughter. How completely absurd was this! A man, secluded from the world save a CU-SeeMe terminal and a direct phone line to the chicken's box, sealed in a pine box. And a chicken, with an answering machine and a phone, also broadcasting CU-SeeMe. Two independant spaces, independant realities. Yet seeing them both from the outside, juxtaposed with the Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the insides, was completely electric and unifying. I can see why the guy chose electricital engineering metaphors for this one. By percieving these three images, we too became part of the loop, part of the experiment! It was great! I laughed, hard, for at least 15 minutes straight. How classic was this? A man and in chicken, in two boxes, being broadcast over the internet, sharing a common reality in my (and who knows who elses) head! I tell you, it was mint.

The whole thing reminded me of some bizarre interpretation of Schrodinger's Cat. Did either of them really exist at all? Did I? Whew. Good job, CaryPeppermint.

February 28, 1997, Friday

Remo got the computers networked in the gallery and set up a screen-capture system so people can see what's on the screens through the web. There's a bug in the program that needs to be fixed so it isn't running all the time but when people found out about it this is what they said on the listserv:

Lee Harrington

This is GREAT!

I feel a lot more connected to the project with this addition.

And if I haven't said it before on the list, I have been so impressed and inspired by the group of artists associated with this project.

Thanks to everyone who has put themselves out there! I am learning so much.

brad from Minneapolis:

Dear friend and ex-Minneapolitan this is wonderful! How did you do this? I must know. This is brilliance. This is actually something which is accessible to even the computer illiterate.

Brava and kudos to you!

John Douglas:

ah. this is great! ... i just saw someone in the process of downloading cuseeme, and glimpses of mapdance and zapatista.... gotta start figuring out this tech. perhaps i'll just follow the steps on the screen, and learn this new windows machine....it's really happening out there. still would love a snap of the list gallery.... even other points of origin. but, quite a piece of work. amazing...

A curator from Carnegie Mellon was in the gallery (with about fifteen other people) when STARBOARD was on and was very impressed. There is a possibility we may take PORT to Pittsburgh sometime in the future.

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