G R A V I T Y
Since January 2003 Dragan Espenschied was the Art.Teleportacia artist in residence.
He was really involved in gallery life and participated a lot in intensive discussions we usually have here about starry night and outer space backgrounds, horizontal and vertical scrolling, modern linking strategies. He literally brought new colors to Art.Teleportacia windows and scrollbars and forced us to rethink and remake the structure of the gallery. And it was a great pleasure to collaborate with him on Zombie & Mummy episodes which were warming our networked community through the winter.
Today I am happy to present Dragan's new work GRAVITY. It is made at our gallery, and also for it.
And my first question is: Why Art.Teleportacia?
I thought that scrolling and space, the main topics of my new work, had always been among the main fields of competence and activity of this gallery.
How could it happen that in the year 2003 you made such a simple project that is just using HTML rendering as introduced by Internet Explorer version 3?
Due to the fact that i didn't have to write a proposal and to enumerate advanced technologies i would be using to make this piece I was completely free to make what i think is meaningful and beautiful.
The pressure to be up to date with technology appears insane to me. It doesn't bring any more beauty or pleasure. Instead it creates things that are hard to understand and impossible to handle. So nobody can actually experience them beyond reading the artist's concept.
You are right. Net art works become groundless complicated nowadays. It looks more and more that net artists are here not to explore the net, but to invade it with new products. Not to entertain online people, but to make them feel that their computers are not fast enough, software is not new enough and education they got was wrong.
In case of GRAVITY, the user is not asked to install anything, no need to start it with "about", "how it works", "register here", "Version 6 and higher" ... one should only follow links, or better to say, to follow the logic of the page, which will bring you to the link.
But what do you think, how far can you go with scrolling?
Scrolling is an important part of nowadays graphical user interface and at the same time a powerful means of expression and involvement.
It can for instance be used to tell stories, create the impression of space and movement, to change not only the position of the scrolled object but also of the spectator. I consider the diverse resolutions of monitors, scrolling and resizing windows a natural environment of computer and internet usage.
But scrolling is slowly vanishing. Software like Flash erases the need for scrolling by its possibility of arbitrarily scaling and fixing the size of any graphical object ... it evokes the lust of designers and artists to produce fitting formats, like on paper or video.
And the Open Source HTML rendering engine Gecko ignores width and height definitions relative to the window size that are higher than 100%.
Search engine culture is also very much against scrolling. Only the things at the top of a web page are considered to be important, people that scroll down are already considered to be computer nerds.
When in 1996 I was making If you want me to clean your screen scroll up and down, scrollbar and scrolling was the main content for me. In Some Universe I wanted the audience to scroll instead of clicking, to make them stay long on a long page. In Art.Teleportacia itself, scrolling is the basis for the whole design. In their new work 000 TEXT JODI use scrolling because it won't help you anyway. Scrolling in When I Am King tells the story. What is the dramaturgy of the scrolling in GRAVITY?
It is about lifting things, traveling space and revealing connections that will lead to the next part of the piece. The midi music encourages the user to adopt a stylish navigation practise: If you do it right, by moving scrollbars in a certain speed, clicking links in time and using back and forward buttons, it becomes an HTML music video.
What kind of material you used to make GRAVITY spectacular?
I used images i found on the web, a large part of them i had to manipulate quite a lot so they work as objects in the piece. For example NASA offers many pictures of rockets and astronauts, so do private pages of people interested in space travel. These sometimes huge photographs have to be sized down and cutted correctly to work on top of background images. Classical image collection sites are also still useful. They have all kinds of flags, lines, fire.
The music is an amateur adaption of Rozalla's 1992 UK hit single "Everybody's free to feel good" which can be found on many midi file collection sites.
Who exactly made all these files i composed GRAVITY of is not traceable. Most of these files have already been copied and used a thousand times on the web.
All together, the piece is 242832 bytes. With a special frameset construction i have all images preloaded so switching pages becomes smooth. The music is also put into this frame that stays there all the time, so it keeps on playing.
I tried to keep out any form of scripting from the code, but couldn't avoid it completely because of compatibility issues.
Do you believe that online art projects should work in any browser on any platform?
It's not about the market, but about the artistic challenge. I tried to include a little reward for each of the different browsers i was testing the project on. For example Internet Explorer on Windows gets a transition effect, Mozilla some nice page icons.
A year ago I devoted to you Some Universe - The Most Beautiful Webpage made of star backgrounds - because i thought you share my passion for them. Half a year ago you answered to it with quite a critical Letter of the Cosmonaut. Now you make GRAVITY where you work with outer space thematic and aesthetic again. So, what outer space means for you?
In the early days of the amateur WWW you could see space backgrounds everywhere. They served as illustrations for the vastness of the new medium and the fascination its users had with it. This sort of page design is not widely spread anymore, instead the clear white color of business dominates. But i am still fascinated by the vastness.
Why is there no email link in GRAVITY?
From our own experience with Zombie & Mummy we know that in general the audience doesn't seem to be interested in communication with the creators a website, even if it is popular.
Perhaps people are not writing in general because they think that artists are sort of professionals. Kind of Pro web culture. And you can't simply drop a short note: "Thank you, nice page!" Another explanation can be that to write an email to somebody you don't know personally can turn back on you as a flood of newsletters.
Additionally i have the impression that the communities around weblogs are building borders in the net. Weblog readers would rather write something about a web site they have seen in the discussion facilities of their favorite weblog instead of writing a message to the author. And the poor authors have to wade through all the referrers in their access statistics to find out what people actually think about their work.
And the last question. Your plans for the future?
Future? Why future? I thought I could stay and work here.