At this edge, programmers are cooking up mischievous recipes that tap into the tremendous computational power of the silicon chip. Some craft a single line of code that generates an endless universe of shapes and colors; others write a single line that crashes your computer instead. Creators featured in this chapter include:
- Benoit Mandelbrot
- John Simon
Click to learn more about Code As Muse
Shown: Martin Wattenberg's contribution to CODeDOC.
At this edge, game designers fashion 3D worlds where the ethics and laws of physics are as malleable as the code they wield. What can we learn from the violence in most computer games--and from the independent designers who break the shoot-em-up mold? Games featured include:
- Grand Theft Auto and Three Hour Donut
- America's Army and Hezbollah's Special Force
- The Longest Journey and Three-Player Chess
Click for more about Deep Play
Shown: Final Fantasy X © Square Enix, all rights reserved.
At this edge, online authors avail themselves of automated forms of biography, from blogs to Webcams to Flash narratives, to refigure the self for the digital age. Works featured in this chapter include:
- Heavy Industries
Click to learn more about Autobotography
Shown: the (blogged) birth of Ada T. Norton.
At this edge, political designers develop software that sends overlords to jail, create galleries that confound judges ruling on copyright, build games to bankrupt belligerent ecommerce companies, or pay operatives to switch Barbie's and GI Joe's voiceboxes. Works in this chapter include:
- The Simcopter Hack
- Gallery of CSS Descramblers
- Toy War
Click to learn more about Designing Politics
Shown: Carnivore client by area3.
At this edge, creators chart flame wars on message boards, conjure apartment blueprints from words typed by visitors, weave love poems from anonymous contributors or musical compositions from search engine results. Works in this chapter include:
- Visual Who
- Listening Post
Click to learn more about Reweaving Community
Shown: Turns, by Margot Lovejoy with Hal Eagar, Marak Walczak, Jon Legere, and Charles Bae.
At this edge, biologists are fishing for paramecia, drawing pictures with rat brains, and unleashing evolving viruses on a computer network. Creators featured in this chapter include:
- Joe Davis
- Tom Ray
Click to learn more about Preserving Artificial Life
Shown: Joe Davis' modified e. coli specimens.
- ARCO, Madrid, 15 February 2009
- Berkman Center, Harvard, 29 July 2008
- CRASSH, University of Cambridge, 24-26 April 2008
"Get hold of this fascinating and cogently written book and explore the far edges of art"
Once dusty storehouses of antique patrimony, today museums are forced to re-imagine themselves for an age where culture is shared from smartphone to smartphone. Recent Still Water publications on reinventing museums for the 21st century are cropping up in anthologies like the International Handbook ...
A Still Water project by Jon Ippolito aimed at linking thematically similar academic essays across the Web has been awarded an initial grant of $10,000 by the Thoma Foundation. Founding philanthropists Carl and Marilynn Thoma also hosted a presentation at New York’s School of Visual Arts last ...
The July discussion on the Yasmin email list focuses on MIT Press’s publication last month of Re-Collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory by Richard Rinehart and Jon Ippolito, which has been called the first academic book on new media preservation. Re-collection examines the challenge pos...
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but in this case a single line of code is worth 300 pages and 70 illustrations. Still Water Senior Researcher John Bell is one of the authors of a new MIT Press book that scrutinizes a single line of code from the Commodore 64. The line in […]...
Drawing on the forthcoming book New Media and Social Memory co-authored with Richard Rinehart, Jon Ippolito speaks on “Wind, Rain, and Ambient Preservation” at ISEA 2011 in Istanbul. “If you take the Christian bible and put it out in the wind and rain, soon the paper on which...
Waterfall Arts presents Still Water Co-Director Joline Blais talking about her work in ecology, the New Commons, and cross-cultural networking on Monday 26 April at 7pm. Artist Lecture Series: Joline Blais Waterfall Arts 256 High Street, Belfast 207-338-2222 More information at Waterfall Arts...
Still Water is pleased to announce the publication of 60: Innovators Shaping Our Creative Future, a landmark book on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of renowned art and design publishing house Thames & Hudson. Still Water co-directors Joline Blais and Jon Ippolito penned the new media secti...
A new University of Maine class in Life Art (NMD430/520) explores the boundaries of artistic collaboration by encouraging students to co-create with entire ecosystems of humans and other critters. Life artists may : Crowd-source their artmaking with 10,000 earthworms. Get frogs to do their drawings ...
From 24-26 September 2009, Espacio Enter brought artists, performers, technologists, and theorists to Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. Organized by Montse Arbelo and Joseba Franco, directors and founders of ART TECH MEDIA, the conference explored possible scenarios for th...
“Out of the Hothouse and into the Wild,” a presentation by Joline Blais and Jon Ippolito at the ARCO Madrid Experts Forum on 15 February 2009, aimed to remind visitors to this international art fair that new media are the norm outside the artworld, even if they are ghettoized within it. ...
Far from the studios and galleries that sheltered art in past centuries, creative people sitting at computer keyboards are tearing apart and rebuilding their society's vision of itself. Though they may call themselves scientists, activists, or hackers rather than poets or performers, today's electronic visionaries are redefining art for the Internet age.
Art's recent eruption in fields as diverse as artificial life, computer games, and community activism reveals a seismic shift in the role it plays in society. No longer content to sit on a pedestal or auction block, these works infiltrate stock markets, sway court cases, and network bedrooms, reaching across the globe to expand the edge of art.
But is every instance of creativity, from shrewd e-commerce ventures to clever toy designs, equally valid as art? Has the distinction between art and non-art become irrelevant in an age when art and science, commerce and fashion are all whipped together in the global culture blender we call the Internet?
The answer is no, though the reason has little to do with the traditional rationales for defining art, be they to distinguish high and low culture or to validate creative programs in academic settings. Art may be temporarily out of place, but society needs to make a place for it. Because society needs art to survive.
This is a time of tumultuous technological change. On any given day, a news outlet like Wired.com is likely to report on the outbreak of a new computer virus, the development of a new surveillance technology, and a new technique for growing bodily organs. Science has always offered us a future, and sometimes even a promise to repair the dangers it has unleashed on us in previous generations. But in an age when technology seems increasingly to have a mind of its own--even if that "mind" is actually the product of global economic forces--art offers an important check on technology's relentless proliferation.
How might this be done? What functions can art deploy to help us defend ourselves against technology's assault? The biological body defends itself from foreign invasion via the immune system, more specifically through the action of antibodies. Perhaps the kind of art we need in such an age is one that can support the social body as antibodies support the individual one.
If we look at how digital art functions in our society, we can discern remarkable parallels to the actions of antibodies. Like antibodies, digital art often perverts
normal operations, reveals
latent information or meaning, executes
instructions, triggers mechanisms to recognize
its activity, and perseveres
These six functions are as critical to the social body as they are to the biological one, for they reassert our individual and collective agency in a world where the deck seems increasingly to have been stacked against us. Only by expanding art's definition to encompass the sweeping powers accorded media in the digital age can art rise to the new challenges society faces in the 21st century.
At the Edge of Art
makes the case for art that is empowered rather than emasculated, seditious rather than sedate. Yet as important as art's new functions may be, the Internet--that global lifeblood through which so much of this new art circulates and is recognized--offers no wall labels or a gallery shingles to tell us whether a work is art.
To remedy this, At the Edge of Art
looks at six genres--code art
, computer games
, online autobiography
, political activism
, online communities
, and artificial life
--asking in each case where the edge lies between art and software, politics, or science.
The answers are surprising--as the authors argue that many creators working in today's scientific laboratories and street politics are more deserving of support as artists than artworld insiders with international reputations and studios full of paintings or sculpture.
Another of the book's novel propositions is a spectrum of art practice ranging from individual moments of awe to culturally sanctioned cases of recognition. Artistry
occurs during fleeting moments of individual perception, and thus cannot be accountable to any larger social group. Research
, an intuitive and original investigation at the boundary of intelligibility, is accountable to a limited community with specialized knowledge. Genre
, creative work within an established set of expectations, is accountable to the art-viewing public that has internalized those expectations.
The creative spectrum moves from individual glimpse to community recognition, from inarticulate bewilderment to practiced appreciation. Each stage performs some artistic functions better than others. Art has new and varied roles to play in today's global culture; uncovering them is the job of this book.
"Get hold of this fascinating and cogently written book and explore the far edges of art while you can. It may help you to redefine what art is."
--Michael Gibbs, Art Monthly (London).
"A brilliantly designed, authoritative, and open-minded attempt to ground the slippery terrain of digital art, Jon Ippolito and Joline Blais's new book traces the changing nature of 21st-century artistic practice and reception....insightful single-page missives on dozens of genre-busting artists....Cleverly dividing the book into six parts describing new creative fields, the authors tackle computer code-based art, games, online autobiography, hacktivism, computer virus making and preservation, and community building. The authors are most successful at describing how art's expanding frontiers are stretched not only by familiar net denizens such as JODI and Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, but by unexpected sources such as zoologist Tom Ray, who studies digital communities for insights on evolution, and political pranksters like the Yes Men."
"An impressive survey of digital and internet art...offers a way to grasp this elusive and fluid art form...an indispensable guide to digital art in the last decade, coming from a new, different perspective compared to previous titles on digital art."
--State of the Art (London).
"A net art and culture book that goes well beyond the net art stereotypes....the authors place many net / digital art classics in a broader social and cultural datascape analyzing them along with creative products, various software, different art practices and hard-to-classify websites. After selecting, cataloguing, categorizing and historicizing net artworks, the time has come to contextualize them for the people outside of the usual circles. This rich discourse, in the end bearing on technology, art and their mutual understanding, is useful also for digital art habitué, opening their minds to more connections than the usual...and finally to build a bridge between one of the most crucial 'avant gardes' ever expressed and those who still write the official art history."
"Truly an artists' book....The authors identify where art is being made in strange places by established artists who refuse to be called artists any more and by technologists, architects, and entrepreneurs who claim to be artists; hence 'The Edge'....This book is generative, in that it encourages artists (and now we know this could mean anyone) to continue with their work, to trust their instincts and follow their intuition rather than hemming them in with authoritarian critiques that make action impossible, or describing an art-world with established protocols and values so rigid that no artist could possibly identify with them."
--Alessandro Ludovico, Neural magazine
"Fills a void for me in the theory and contemporary history of digital, networked practices and approaches that are going on right now....It is ethical in its approach and communicates an obvious care and concern toward there being a space for vital, cultural works and workers who 'hack' at the accelerating technological spectacle...A bold book worthy of its name."
--Ruth Catlow, Furtherfield.org
"Plenty of images and a good description of each art work turns the book into an excellent document for research and reference."
"At the Edge of Art provides focused, in-depth readings of projects as they relate to specific themes that characterize the medium. As far as I know, there is no other book that really does this."
--Cary Peppermint, Colgate University
"A significant addition to the canon, as well as a damn nice read."
--Christiane Paul, author of Digital Art
and media curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art
--Matthew Mirapaul, former digital art critic for The New York Times.
"A glorious piece of work."
"Loads of colour illustrations...a very fascinating read."
--Stewart Brand, co-founder of the WELL
and Long Now Foundation
"It's just great! Best net-art book I've ever seen. This definitive tome is every bit as authentically bonkers as actual net-art."
--Bruce Sterling, Wired News blog
--Alexander Galloway, NYU professor of Media Ecology and author of Protocol
Each of the six main chapters in At the Edge of Art
charts a different edge of creative expression that has emerged during the Internet age.
Choose among the edges at left or begin with Code As Muse
Apart from examining a new genre of creative expression, each of the six main chapters in At the Edge of Art
also examines a different function performed by art of that genre. The book's central metaphor suggests that these functions are analogous to those performed by the antibodies in the human bloodstream, leading to the provocative conclusion that art is an immune system for the collective unconscious.
To learn more about the details of this metaphor--and why it invests art of the Internet age with a power it has never before wielded--choose among the functions at left or begin with the function of Perversion
At the Edge of Art
features a dizzying array of works by artists, designers, scientists, programmers, activists, and other creators.
Many of these important projects are online or have online documentation. You can find an alphabetical index of all the major works--with links you can click to visit them--at the Edge Jumplist
The book's authors are speaking about themes from At the Edge of Art at the following events:
Authors Joline Blais and Jon Ippolito
could not have produced this unusual volume without the extraordinary assistance of a wide range of creators
and an innovative production team
The authors are grateful to the 50+ artists, activists, designers, and scientists who generously lent their images and information to this project. Some, such as mathematician A. Michael Noll
, consented to in-depth interviews and contributed valuable historical documentation. Others, such as designer Josh On
, created images of their works expressly for the book. Still others, including artists Phil Galanter
, Harold Cohen
, and Entropy8Zuper!
, as well as physicist Eric Heller
, contributed to lengthy email exchanges about the aesthetic and philosophical underpinning of their work and its relation to this book.
This volume can only hope to represent one perspective on the works of these extraordinary researchers--one that we hope will advance a critical dialogue about and awareness of and dialogue about their work. Please visit online documentation of their work in the featured works
list for more in-depth information on each creator.
This book would not have seen the light of day without the unflagging enthusiasm of Thames&Hudson's Lucas Dietrich, the lucid design sense of SMITH's Victoria Forrest, and the keen eye and light touch of editor Andrea Belloli.
The authors are also grateful to the researchers who helped track down the images for this book: Starr McCaleb, Kristen Murphy, Suhjung Hur, and Josep Arimany-Piella.
At the Edge of Art
is already used as a text book in the Department of Digital Arts
at New York's Pratt Institute, Colgate University's Department of Art and Art History
, and the University of Maine's New Media Department
The authors have designed At the Edge of Art
for possible use as a textbook in classes at the undergraduate or graduate level in the following subjects:
- new media
- digital art
- media studies
- creativity and culture
- network studies (law, politics, and sociology)
The book's modular structure makes it easy to study a subset of chapters or read them in a different order. An index of works and comprehensive glossary of terms enhance the value of this critical reference on contemporary digital culture.
As co-developers of the New Media curriculum
at the University of Maine, Joline Blais and Jon Ippolito have integrated this book into their curriculum's second and third year. At the Edge of Art
is the primary text for the courses at left, which include bibliographies, extensive online resources, and detailed day-by-day lesson plans. The authors invite you to download, modify, and use these syllabi free of charge.
Joline Blais, syllabus for Digital Project Design Lab
Jon Ippolito, syllabus for Community and Collaboration
NMD 206 (Project Design Lab I): The Practice of New Media
Professor and course designer: Joline Blais
Taught at the University of Maine's New Media program
NMD 306 (Project Design Lab II): Community and Collaboration
Professor and course designer: Jon Ippolito
Taught at the University of Maine's New Media program
For more information
...about Still Water co-founders Joline Blais and Jon Ippolito, or for a press kit and images about the Still Water itself, please visit the Still Water press page
Or feel free to contact us directly
ABOVE: Jon Ippolito and Joline Blais at the Mediateca Caixaforum Art and Multimedia conference, Barcelona, 2002. Photo courtesy Fundacion La Caixa.