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Selected CD-ROM art of the 90’s on DVD

September 22 – October 27, 2012
at DVD Dead Drop, Museum of Moving Image NYC

curated by Aram Bartholl & Robert Sakrowski (

The second DVD Dead Drop volume INSERT DISC, features several classic art CD-ROMs from the mid-90s on DVD. While the web was still in its infancy, artists from a wide range of fields explored the possibilities of interactivity and multimedia on CD-ROMs, fancy new silver discs that held an unbelievable 650 megabytes of data. Today most of these pre-web multimedia works are no longer accessible because they require legacy operating systems and software to run. INSERT DISC offers the full experience of a cutting edge, mid-90s operating system packed with stunning multimedia art. Each DVD comes with a safe-to-install virtualized Ubuntu Linux operating system running an emulated Mac OS 7.6. In addition to the historic CD-ROM art, special features include historic browsers, link lists, and more, guaranteeing a true 1995 computer experience!


Anti Rom
SASS Collective: Andy Allenson, Joel Baumann, Andy Cameron, Rob LeQuesne, Luke Pendrell, Sophie Pendrell, Andy Polaine, Anthony Rogers, Nik Roope, Tom Roope, Joe Stephenson, Jason Tame
CD-Rom, 1995

Eric Lanz, CD-Rom 1994

Cyberflesh Girlmonster
Linda Dement, CD-Rom 1995

User Unfriendly Interface
Josephine Starrs & Leon Cmielewski, first shown 1994, CD-Rom 1996


Extra 90’s specials:
Browser collection, ‘Einblicke ins Internet’ offline Internet CD-Rom, Bookmark easter eggs & more

Andreas Broeckmann, Sandra Fauconnier, nbk Berlin, ZKM Karlsruhe, Transmediale archive


Anti Rom
1995, CD-Rom,
SASS Collective: Andy Allenson, Joel Baumann, Andy Cameron, Rob LeQuesne, Luke Pendrell, Sophie Pendrell, Andy Polaine, Anthony Rogers, Nik Roope, Tom Roope, Joe Stephenson, Jason Tame
self-published and funded by the Arts Council of Great Britain.

“Offering a highly interactive interface to the collected sounds and images, this work is an exploration of the limits of what the CD-ROM medium can actually handle. Andy Cameron: “Antirom offers a radical critique of the poverty of contemporary multimedia in a number of savagely ironic, absurdist and incisive satires. Antirom is specifically against the ill conceived grafting of point-and-click functions onto traditional linear forms. Antirom is for the development of a new language of representation, and new modes of spectatorship, within the new apparatus of interactivity.”


Eric Lanz, 1994,
CD-Rom, Macromedia Director Apple QuickTime
Production: ZKM | Institute for Visual Media, 1994.

“A text, displayed in a linear way but made out of visual characters of tools, is activated by a mouse-click on an icon and plays back a four second video sequence with the actual use of the tool. The title refers to the iconography of each letter as well as to the origin of language in so far as it is related to manufactured objects, i.e. here a page ‹written› by hand and set in motion by the user's hand.”
Rudolf Frieling -


Cyberflesh Girlmonster
Linda Dement, CD-Rom 1995,
Australian Network for Art and Technology, Australian Film Commission

“Donated body parts collected during Artists' Week of the Adelaide Festival 1994 have been used to construct a computer based interactive work. About 30 women participated in the original event by scanning their chosen flesh and digitally recording a sentence or sound. Conglomerate bodies were created from the information donated. These have been animated and made interactive. When a viewer clicks on one of these monsters, the words attached to that body part could be heard or seen, another monster may appear, a digital video could play, a story or medical information about the physical state described by the story, may be displayed. The user moves relatively blindly between these. There is no menu system or clear controllable interface. The work is a macabre, comic representation of monstrous femininity from a feminist perspective that encompasses revenge, desire and violence.[...]”


User Unfriendly Interface
Josephine Starrs & Leon Cmielewski, first exhibited 1994, CD-Rom published 1996.
Produced with the assistance of the Australian Film Commission

User Unfriendly Interface, CD ROM/Installation on themes of conspiracy theories, male vs female concept of space, dating services, mens issues & personality testing. 1997 Video Positive, Liverpool, UK “Since 1994 we have collaborated on a variety of new media arts projects that incorporate interactivity and play as strategies for engaging with the social and political contradictions inherent in contemporary society. Audience engagement is a vital element in our interactive artworks. We sometimes think of our work as performance art, were the artist is not physically present; the actions of the performer are programmed into the work, with the viewers’ response completing the piece. We have closely observed how viewers interact with our work, and have drawn on these observations in the creation of each subsequent piece. [...]”



I just came back from the 3rd Mediations Biennial in Poznan Poland, a truly international affair selected by 4 different curators and including 150 artists from all over the world.

WELL it was quite an ordeal installing my collaboration with video installation artist Adriana Varella Unlanguage but in the end we did it, and it looks fantastic. (picture coming soon…) We exhibited in the Zamek – a sort of pretend castle built just 100 years ago and home to Hitler’s cabinet during WWII – an artist actually made a site-specific piece for Hitler’s office that involved freezing a giant sheet of water and ash but appropriately the power went out and the ice melted and ended up destroying the room. A fitting fairwell to Hitler’s office I think although the Biennale staff were not so happy about it! More about the surprisingly interesting zamek on wikipedia.

The piece is something I am thinking of as a kind of finale to the body of work I have been experimenting with the past 9(!) years addressing language in various forms. The works in the series begin with Netlingua, my Bennington undergraduate thesis project and continue to Listening Post, Totem, Jaaga Dhvani and finally Unlanguage.

The piece is interactive. Two computer terminals encourage gallery-goers to enter the first word that comes to their mind. When a new word is entered a poem is generated using these two inputs as seeds. The poem grows and branches showing the permutations and possibilities native to the Bayesian model underpinning the program. Each time a new poem is formed the previous poem begins to mutate and eventually self-destruct and fade away.

Here is a video that gives a sense of what this looks like:

I’m sure that I will continue to work with language ( I have a dissertation to write after all!) but right now I feel ready to move on to a different frame of reference and some new ideas… more on new ideas soon!

Over 30 billion watts worldwide. New York times visits the Cloud (video), investigating power consumption and the infrastructure of massive server farms.

For long term archiving, salt mines store magnetic spools of information. 

By Jonathan Good

Digital cameras are now ubiquitous - it is estimated that 2.5 billion people in the world today have a digital camera. If the average person snaps 150 photos this year that would be a staggering 375 billion photos. That might sound implausible but this year people will upload over 70 billion photos to Facebook, suggesting around 20% of all photos this year will end up there. Already Facebook’s photo collection has a staggering 140 billion photos, that’s over 10,000 times larger than the Library of Congress.

Even accounting for population growth the exponential growth of photos is incredible (we take 4 times as many photos as 10 year ago). Today every party, birthday, sports game and concert is documented in rich detail. The combination of all these photos is a rich portrait of today, the possibilities of which are illustrated by a tool like “The Moment”. As photos keep growing we take a clearer and clearer snapshot of our lives and world today - in total we have now taken over 3.5 trillion photos. The kind of photos we are taking has changed drastically - analog photos have almost disappeared - but the growth of photos continues.

Someday millions of years from now, if not sooner, someone visiting Earth might wonder: who left these machines orbiting a cold dead planet? 

And if they were to locate the EchoStar XVI communication satellite among the cloud of debris, they would find a message left by 21st century artist Trevor Paglen. THE LAST PICTURES is an archive of 100 images depicting this moment in history, launched into geosynchronous orbit from Kazakhstan on a payload destined to become space junk. It is a troubling monument, an epitaph, a question mark, speeding across the skies to the end of time.

This is not the first time-capsule humans have launched into space, nor will it be the last.  Though in contrast to its precursors, this one anticipates an eerily silent future for humanity, when no one is around to tell our story. 

The first Golden Record, curated by Carl Sagan and Anne Druyan, launched in 1977, offers hypothetical alien recipients a peace-loving image of Earthlings joining hands in multicultural harmony, disclosing little evidence of trouble in paradise. Voyager was a message of interstellar love, an olive branch reaching to the stars. 

The Last Pictures can be seen as the reverse side of that coin, an articulation of profound uncertainty. Paglen’s archive represents a sobering amendment to the sweetly optimistic message developed by Sagan’s team. If the images on the Golden Record now look somewhat naive, with glimmers of Norman Rockwell’s America, Trevor Paglen’s tormented monochrome portraits of the 20th century are beautifully disfigured, more akin to the work of Diane Arbus and Edward Burtynksy.

As archives aspiring to convey meaning across millennia, both Last Pictures and Voyager ultimately reflect the biases of their respective cultural milieux and the personal visions of their creators; no single time capsule can speak for Earth, for all of humanity, for all time. 

It’s worth pointing out another major distinction between these projects. Voyager wants to be received, or else it wouldn’t have been set on a trajectory racing past Pluto to the nearest star. Its encoded meanings imply a non-human audience, as it puts forth an idealized image of Earth’s inhabitants as if to say “Please visit us, we’re friendly and intelligent”. Last Pictures is a message in a bottle tossed from a sinking ship. It presumes that thousands of years from now, there won’t be a soul to see them. And even if there were, Trevor Paglen seems to prefer that the images remain locked away forever. An early prototype of the plaque bore the inscription:

 Please do not disturb me. Let me stay here so that I may witness the end of time.

The Last Pictures serves as an epilogue to armageddon, providing indirect explanation for  how we annihilated ourselves; but who is the audience for such a message?What is the meaning of a monument without visitors, or images without viewers? How does one construct a time capsule for a completely unknown, and unknowable, audience? What is the point of making art, taking pictures, or writing books if one day all will be forgotten, cast into oblivion? As an artwork, the Last Pictures embodies this unfathomable mystery and will undoubtedly have a place in our dialogues about time and responsibility as long as we are around to wrestle with the meaning of the objects we leave behind.

 In conversation with Werner Herzog hosted by the New York Public Library on September 19, 2012, Paglen remarked that the future has always been uncertain, at every point in history. Our time is hardly exceptional in that respect. 

It’s 2012, but let’s not forget that the future is a process; the world has ended many times before; beyond the present apocalypse, a succession of doomsday scenarios await. As any great work of art, or prophesy, the Last Pictures should provoke reflection and remain open to interpretation. For Paglen, however, there is no question that our last words will be, “we committed suicide”

For examples of other time-capsules and messaging projects, check out Moon Arts, Earth Tapestry, and Rosetta Disk

2400 years ago, an illiterate philosopher condemned writing. It will not make the people wiser, he argued, rather—

“It will implant forgetfulness in their souls: they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remember no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks.” — The Phaedrus

Socrates had a point. Before the advent of tablets and scrolls, humans exercised a greater capacity to internalize huge volumes of information (for example, imagine reciting ~1,800 pages of scripture from memory, like these priests in Kerala, India)

As writing overtook oral tradition, and type accelerated distribution, people soon forgot what the world was like before books and newspapers. 

Today, we forget what the world was like before the Internet. As we find ourselves beyond the event horizon of another information revolution, writer Nicholas Carr laments that the Web has rewired our brains:

“Our growing dependence on the Web’s information stores may in fact be the product of a self-perpetuating, self-amplifying loop. As our use of the Web makes it harder for us to lock information into our biological memory, we’re forced to rely more and more on the Net’s capacious and easily searchable artificial memory, even if it makes us shallower thinkers.” -The Shallows

It is this very reliance on outsourced memory which makes our relationship to data increasingly intimate and vital. By keeping the most critical bits of information that we need to remember and hope not to forget on hard drives or remote servers —and not in our heads— have we set ourselves up for a persistent condition of cultural amnesia, or worse, a Digital Dark Age when those systems fail?

At one time, all recorded knowledge in the western world—all history, science and literature— was stored in a single building. Our situation might seem less precarious. Distributed information networks were originally conceived by DARPA as disaster proof. A cultural cataclysm as total as the burning of Alexandria would seem unlikely, and yet the frightening fact is that much of our data is centralized, in physical storage systems, not securely backed up. Most web sites last for an average of 18 months. Our documents exist in proprietary formats that go obsolete, stored on disposable media designed for short-term use. In the long term, for individuals and societies alike, the steady erosion information through digital obsolescence could amount to incalculably greater losses.

Map at GDFB

(800 kg!)

Internet Archive announces plans to publish all TV news since 2009 on its servers: 350,00 broadcasts from 20 channels. 

“You have to see this service to believe it – and even then, you may not. The Internet Archive has harnessed today’s extraordinary advances in computing power and storage capacity to capture virtually every national U.S. television news program and allow users to find and view short streamed clips on any subject. This easily searchable and sortable database will be a fantastic resource for journalists, researchers, librarians and news junkies alike.”
– Andrew Heyward, former president, CBS News