is a Shockwave project by Futurefarmers for Tirana
Biennale Internet section.]
: Amy Franceschini and Sascha Merg]
is playful and deceitful - because it pretends to be more innocent,
more simple, and more light than it actually is. At first glance
it can be taken for something made for children - or for adults
whose references are not Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Rem Koolhaas,
and Philip Stark, but text messaging, gnuttela, retro Atari graphics,
the new generation that emerged in the 1990s. In contrast to visual
and media artists of the 1960s-1980s, whose main target was media
- ads, cinema, television - the new generation does not waste its
energy on media critique. Instead of bashing commercial media environment,
it creates its own: Web sites, mixes, software tools, furniture,
cloves, digital video, Flash / Shockwave animations and interactives.
sensibility, which Utopia exemplifies so well, is soft, elegant,
restrained, and smart. This is the new software intelligentsia.
Look at the thin low-contrast lines of UTOPIA, praystation.com,
and so many Flash projects included in Tirana Biennale.
of the previous generations of media artists, from Nam June Paik
to Barbara Kruger, were screaming, trying to compete with the intensity
of the commercial media, the new data artists such as Franceschini/Merg
whisper in our ears. In contrast to media's arrogance, they offer
us intelligence. In contrast to media stream of endless repeated
icons and sound bytes, they offer us small and economical systems:
stylized nature, ecology, or the game / music generator / Lego-like
parade in UTOPIA.
are among the few Flash/Shockwave masters who use their skills for
social rather than simply a formal end. Their project theyrule.net
is a great example of how smart programming and smart graphics can
be used politically. Instead of presenting a packaged political
message, it gives us data and the tools to analyze it. It knows
that we are intelligent enough to draw the right conclusion.
the new rhetoric of interactivity: we get convinced not by listening
/ watching a prepared message but by actively working with the data:
reorganizing it, uncovering the connections, becoming aware of correlations.
does not have explicit political content; instead it presents its
message through a visual allegory. Like SimCity and similar sims,
the program presents us with a whole miniature world which runs
according to its own system of rules. (All the animation in UTOPIA
is result of code execution – nothing is hand animated. )
of this world reflects our new understanding of our own planet -
post Cold War, Internet, ecology, Gaia, and globalization. Notice
the thin barely visible lines that connect the actors and the blocks.
(This is the same device used in theyrule.net.)
universe of UTOPIA, everything is interconnected, and each action
of an individual actor affects the system as a whole. Intellectually,
we know that this is how our Earth functions ecologically and economically
- but UTOPIA represents this on a scale we can grasp perceptually.
also serve another purpose. Despite CNN, Greenpeace, the glass roof
of Berlin’s Reistag and other institutions and devices working
to make the functioning of modern societies transparent to their
citizens, most of it is not visible. This is is not only because
we don't know the motives behind this or that Government policy
or because advertising and PR constantly work to make things appear
differently from what they really are – the societies’
functioning is not visible in a literal sense.
we don't know where are the cells which make our cell phones work;
we don’t know the layout of private financial network that
circle the Earth; we don’t know what companies are located
in a building we pass everyday on a way to work; and so on.
UTOPIA, we do know – because the links are made visible. UTOPIA
is Utopia because it is a society where cause and effect connection
are rendered visible and comprehensible. The program rewrites Marxism
as vector graphics; it substitutes the figure of “connections”
for the old figure of “unweilling.”
is serious business behind its playful façade – but
it is not all business. Drawing on our current fascination with
computer games and interactive image-sound software, UTOPIA is a
visual and intellectual delight, UTOPIA draws on the current fascination
with computer games and interactive image-sound software.
It is Tetris
that meets Marx that meets data mining that meets the club dance
floor. It is a game for the new generation that know that the world
is a network, that the media is not worth taking very seriously,
and that programming can be used as a political tool.