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<nettime> Collabyrinth
Artcontext on Fri, 29 Aug 2003 01:34:05 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Collabyrinth

Recalling the surprises of public space online.
By Andy Deck

At first the software resembles many free online services.  Indeed, the
main function of this site for many will be its ability to produce files
of a particular type ("favicon.ico"  Windows ICO files).  Styled after
Photoshop and promoted as "ICO LAB", the initial interface invites
confidence and goal-directed behavior.  In its conventional service
capacity it works well enough.  And it's free.

But by blending tool, expression, and online experience, Collabyrinth
examines the sea change that public space undergoes when it is
reconstructed in cyberspace.  What has gone missing from contemporary
experience of the Web is that one seldom comes upon the unexpected.  
Predictable commercialism and the marginalization of independent media
offerings has meant that people are more likely to be startled by viruses
than by artists.

Like the rabbit hole in Lewis Carroll's Alice, the sensible facade of the
tool gives way to a curious labyrinth of images that were left behind by
the site's previous visitors. Confronted with these unanticipated
corridors, disorientation ensues.  This harmless entrapment calls for
aesthetic interpretations that are typically absent from encounters with

Though the carceral qualities of the labyrinth resemble some popular
"shooter" video games, the guns are missing.  Confinement, creativity, and
a striving for freedom are set against one another.  Adopting the
high-tech idioms of mass-culture (3D-computer game, paint program),
Collabyrinth is intended to be thought-provoking but not elitist.  
Conventional wisdom may find it too fanciful to be useful, and too useful
to be art, as well.  But in the moment of doubt, when goal-orientation
appears to be at odds with the functioning of the software, beauty and
fascination may intervene to invite exploration of alternative goals,
perhaps even aesthetic goals.

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