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Announcement: Art Installations

Where appropriate and useful, some art works related to the issues of the Transliteracies Project are also placed in other categories of “Objects for Study.” For example, a work might contribute equally to art and to research in text visualization or data mining. But cross-categorization is the exception rather than rule. Art works that seem intended primarily for an art context or are difficult to generalize are not placed in multiple categories. (Categories would otherwise become less useful, since contemporary art works may have a simultaneously mimetic, parodic, subversive, and/or transformative character that allows them in principle to be placed alongside any and all other objects for study.)

agoraXchange-Make the Game Change the World

“agoraXchange is an online community for designing a massive multi-player global politics game challenging the violence and inequality of our present political system. Phase I was launched as a commission for the Tate Online on 15 March 2004 and now contains a database of ideas for the rules, game environment, and site look-and-feel.”


Following is a quote from the game manifesto:

“Our present political institutions are not natural or inevitable, but an experiment gone awry, a utopia for the paranoid. We seek collaborators for bringing an end to the system of nation-states, the demise of rules rendering us passive objects tied to identities and locations given at birth. We call on all communities of and for the imagination, for creative thinkers and visionaries, including citizens, activists, artists, scholars, political leaders, and the stateless, to eliminate those laws requiring us to live and be seen largely as vessels for ancestral identities. We seek to develop in agoraXchange and elsewhere laws that will privilege creativity, empathy, and freedom.”

Moving Canvas Transliteracies Research Report

Designed by Frédéric Eyl, Gunnar Green and Richard The, “Moving Canvas” is a system that projects words and images on the inside of subway tunnels. The project was conceived and designed in 2005 as part of a digital media class at the University of the Arts Berlin.

“Affordable mobile video-projections will offer a vast range of different forms of use and abuse of this technology soon. While this will certainly be of great interest to the advertising industry it could also extend the idea of re-conquest of public space often only reduced to graffiti and streetart.

Our contribution to this is the idea of a parasite. Parasite is an independant projection-system that can be attached to subways and other trains with suction pads. Using the speed of the train as parameter for the projected content, the projection starts with the train moving inside a tunnel” (Project page at University of the Arts Berlin).

Starter Links:
Project page at the University of the Arts Berlin | High Resolution video | Frédéric Eyl’s website

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Kate Marshall


SnOil was conceived and designed in 2005 by Martin Frey, a student in a digital media class entitled “Sensitive Skins” at the Berlin University of the Arts.

SnOil uses electromagnets and ferrofluid to present viewers with with a liquid reading surface upon which words appear and disappear, leaving no trace behind. In addition to to being a reading interface, SnOil can also be programmed for simple interactive games.

Starter Links: Project page at the Berlin University of the Arts | A video demo of SnOil

Giselle, Beiguelman, “esc for escape” (2004) Transliteracies Research Report

Online art exhibition that archives error messages from users around the globe.

“esc for escape begun in 2000. It was part of <Content = No Cache>. By that time I invited people to submit error messages asking them: Have you ever read something scary on your screen? Do you understand why programmers suppose they are programming for programmers? Do you fear error messages? I collected these messages for one year. Nevertheless, new operating systems and new forms of connection, inspired me to redesign the project and to update it to Windows Xtra Problems, OS X bugs and to give it a different format (a teleintervention + a DVD documentary).” (from the project’s “Book of Errors” page.)

Starter Links: “esc for escape” | the artist’s home page

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Lisa Swanstrom

We Feel Fine

Online exhibit and resource that mines web-logs for emotional phrases and adds them to a navigable database.

“Since August 2005, We Feel Fine has been harvesting human feelings from a large number of weblogs. Every few minutes, the system searches the world’s newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases “I feel” and “I am feeling”. When it finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence, up to the period, and identifies the “feeling” expressed in that sentence (e.g. sad, happy, depressed, etc.). Because blogs are structured in largely standard ways, the age, gender, and geographical location of the author can often be extracted and saved along with the sentence, as can the local weather conditions at the time the sentence was written. All of this information is saved.

The result is a database of several million human feelings, increasing by 15,000 – 20,000 new feelings per day.” (From the web site.)

Starter Links: wefeelfine.org


Online exhibit that presents 100 snapshots from leading news sources in a grid updated every hour.

“Every hour, 10×10 scans the RSS feeds of several leading international news sources, and performs an elaborate process of weighted linguistic analysis on the text contained in their top news stories. After this process, conclusions are automatically drawn about the hour’s most important words. The top 100 words are chosen, along with 100 corresponding images, culled from the source news stories. At the end of each day, month, and year, 10×10 looks back through its archives to conclude the top 100 words for the given time period. In this way, a constantly evolving record of our world is formed, based on prominent world events, without any human input.” (From the web site.)

Starter Links: tenbyten.org | number27.org (the work of Jonathan Harris)

The Temporary Printing Machine

“The Temporary Printing Machine, one of the latest works by Random International, highlights the ephemeral quality of digital data. The installation functions as a big canvas onto which any kind of digital content can be “printed” out as a monochrome image. Images and text are not printed with ink, but with UV light onto a light reactive surface which allows the content to stay visible for about 45 seconds to 1 minute. The painting then fades away, leaving space for a new one immediately and creating an infinite stream of disappearing data” (we make money not art).

Starter Links: we make money not art post | rAndom International site (includes video)

El MuroTransliteracies Research Report

“El Muro” was developed by Willy Sengewald and Richard The as part of the Digital Media class at the Berlin University of the Arts. The project literally invokes “the writing on the wall” (specifically the Berlin Wall) as a statement about political communication and ephemera.

“”El Muro” is situated in the middle of a room, like a monolith from another planet (the appearance reminds of the alien monolith in 2001 Space Odyssey), and repeats the statements over and over again. These diminish immediately after they’ve been written, just like the political statements (ideas/utopias/protest) in the real world appear and diminish after some time, and just like the way these political graffitos work: people write them to adress the cityzens of their city without even reaching them” (Berlin University of the Arts).

Starter Links: “El Muro” page at Berlin University of the Arts | we make money not art post | Video of “El Muro”

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Kate Marshall

Aegis Hyposurface

Developed by the Spatial Information Architecture Lab (SIAL) at RMIT University in Melbourne, Aegis explores interactive, indeterminate space.

“The Aegis Hyposurface is an art/architecture device that effectively links information systems with physical form to produce dynamically variable, tactile ‘informatic’ surfaces. Aegis is perhaps the world’s first such dynamic screen…. We therefore think of the Aegis Hyposurface as a giant sketchpad for a new age, a now 3-dimensional absorptive medium that allows all manner of graphic and glyphic sketching.”

Starter Links: SIAL’s Aegis Hyposurface project page | The Junction Hypospace proposal

Living Book of the Sense

Diane Gromala’s experimental book project (2000-present; a semi-finalist for Discover’s award in technological innovation).

“*The Living Book of Senses* is a new media form that extends the traditional book into a radically new sensorially interactive experience.

Users are able to see their physical surroundings while dynamically engaging with three-dimensional mixed realities which appear on their headsets. Users can interact with the book in dynamic ways that go beyond mere clicking and pointing. They can ask the book questions (via voice recognition), and can influence the book through their sensory (bio) feedback. Thus, the book becomes a powerful new sensory experience.

Users wear a headset/head-tracker/color camera system that enables them to see physical reality enhanced with a virtual reality overlay. The camera inputs images/patterns and feeds them back into the ARToolkit software which then displays digital information associated with the physical markers onto the headset. The ARToolkit can calculate camera position and orientation relative to physical markers in real time for video-mediated reality.

Each reader can view AR scenes from their own visual perspective. Users can fly into the immersive world and see each other represented as avatars in the same virtual scene. Readers remaining in the AR scene have a birds’-eye view of other readers as miniature avatars in the virtual scene displayed through their headset. User-controlled dialog with the book elicits responses/answers from the book (expressed in digital data: visual, textual, auditory). As the users simultaneously interact with the book in the physical and virtual realms, the book responds to individual and multiple physical states (via biofeedback) to express resulting changes in narrative. The narrative is a cultural history of the senses. The Living Book is an enhanced learning tool that enables users to become aware of their sensorial experience and bodily states. Collaborations using this book enable distance learning with multiple user interactions. The living book can be used in any narrative-based media to create dynamic communication between any number of people.â€? (From the web site).

Starter Links: Living Book of the Sense

BioMorphic Typeâ„¢ Transliteracies Research Report

Diane Gromala’s responsive font types (2000-present).

“BioMorphic Typography is Gromala’s term for a family of fonts that respond, in real-time, to a user’s changing physical states, as measured by a biofeedback device. Rather than one typeface, it is a postmodern pastiche of many different fonts that are continually morphing. So, for example, the font “throbs” as the user’s/writer’s heart beats. In this way, users become aware of their autonomic states. This project is part of a larger initiative, Design for the Senses. The goal is to develop new approaches to experiential design that focus on the senses and the history of the body” (From the web site).

Starter Links: BioMorphic Typeâ„¢

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Nathan Blake

The World Generator / The Engine of Desire

Bill Seaman’s 1996 interactive and computer-mediated reading environment/ art exhibit.

“The World Generator / The Engine of Desire is an interactive computer-mediated environment which enables viewers to construct and navigate poetic worlds in real time based on an interactive template of potential choices. The system is facilitated through a new interface metaphor. At the bottom of the screen is a rotating set of container-wheels. These container-wheels house a variety of selections. One mode allows the viewer to observe a full screen blow-up of this menu. The menu system contains the following set of wheels: 3d models; poetic text fragments; texture maps – both still and video; location sensitive audio objects (musical loops); behaviours; and function menus which enable the viewer to center themselves in the world; to scale objects and texture maps; to make objects and texture maps transparent; to construct random worlds; to make a series of different “random” choices including random text, random sound, random object, random texture map, random movie, random world, random behaviours; as well as to clear the world. The still and moving texture maps can either be applied to objects with an “aura” or be placed in the space as pictures and/or movies on flat screens.

The work functions in a two stage process: The viewer first constructs a “poetic” environment based on selections from the template of variables. When the viewer chooses the “objects wheel” from the main menu, a set of container-wheels housing pre-rendered 3D objects, rotates. The actual storage is in the form of long “virtual” rotating belts which can have great length (based on available memory) although the viewer only sees the curved front edge of the belt. The following manipulations can be made: Layout – placement of the object on the site; Scale – scale of object on the site; Texture Map – attach still or video texture map to an object with an aura, as well as place “screens” of stills and video into the space, when the aura is toggled off; Behaviours – attach behaviours to selected objects, texture map screens, and/or sounds. Once this process has been completed (or anytime during the construction process) the viewer can enter the space and navigate. An elaborate object-based text is included in The World Generator. A viewer can choose any single line from the text and place it in the space as a visual object with a “location sensitive” audio text triggering mechanism.

Recombinant Music -The sounds included in the system are made up of hundreds of techno ambient loops, composed by the author, consisting of synthetic rhythms, drones and tonal loops. Specific tonal sax loops have been played by Tony Wheeler. These sound object loops are placed by the viewer on the site. As the viewer navigates, a location sensitive audio mix is generated.

The work can be interacted with from multiple locations. Two or more users can be involved with poetic construction and/or navigation in the space at the same time, currently via modem, and in the near future via the WWW. I have coined the term “RE-I” (pronounced RAY or Re—I) short for Re-embodied Intelligence, as the term to describe the visual representation of these alternate, multiple users. A “RE-I” is potentially visible in the space, showing the location of the alternate userâ€? (from the Project Description).

Starter Links: Project description | “Recombinant Poetics” | bio | links to the artist’s work| exhibition notes | about the artist

As Much as You Love Me

Orit Kruglanski’s 2000 art installation.

“an interface which allows words to manipulate the user physically as well as emotionally.â€? (Utterback 2004: 225) The interactive poem uses a specially designed force-feedback mouse; the more the “nonapologiesâ€? (“don’t forgive me for…â€?) collect, the stronger the magnetic force on the mouse becomes. “In Kruglanski’s piece the symbolic or emotional weight of words is brought to bear on one’s physical freedom of motionâ€? (Utterback 2004: 225).

Starter Links and References: artists’s web site | Camille Utterback’s “Unusual Positions–Embodied Interaction with Symbolic Spaces.” First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game. Ed. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 2004.

Text RainTransliteracies Research Report

Camille Utterback and Romy Achituv’s 1999 art installation.

“Text Rain is an interactive installation in which participants use the familiar instrument of their bodies, to do what seems magical–to lift and play with falling letters that do not really exist. In the Text Rain installation participants stand or move in front of a large projection screen. On the screen they see a mirrored video projection of themselves in black and white, combined with a color animation of falling letters. Like rain or snow, the letters appears to land on participants’ heads and arms. The letters respond to the participants’ motions and can be caught, lifted, and then let fall again. The falling text will ‘land’ on anything darker than a certain threshold, and ‘fall’ whenever that obstacle is removed. If a participant accumulates enough letters along their outstretched arms, or along the silhouette of any dark object, they can sometimes catch an entire word, or even a phrase. The falling letters are not random, but form lines of a poem about bodies and language. ‘Reading’ the phrases in the Text Rain installation becomes a physical as well as a cerebral endeavor.” (From the web site.)

Text takes on the behaviors of objects that respond to forces in the real world and also to the physical gestures of viewers. (220) “Similarly to the text in the Poetic Garden, the text here continues to serve its symbolic function as an decipherable code, but also as an ‘object’ viewers can engage with as if it were a real physical entity […] the physical act of catching letters is necessary in order to read the text at all […] Because most of one’s body is visible in the virtual space of the screen as well as in the physical space in front of the screen, a pleasurable confusion results between the screen space and the real space.” (Utterback 2004: 221)

Starter Links and resources: Text Rain | Camille Utterback’s “Unusual Positions–Embodied Interaction with Symbolic Spaces.” First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game. Ed. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 2004.

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Nathan Blake


Interactive typing tool that allows the user to type letters into a field and create text art with them.

“I feel a great interest in application or software to communicate and represent one’s mind and thougth through internet. Board(bbs) is very easy and useful thing for communicating and board is evolving day by day such as blog. but why we have to type words in the same way such as typing from left to right. that is typical and easy to recognize but not interesting, sometimes boring. This is one of the easy and exquisite way of showing one’s word. You can say anything with your letters by drawing them.” from the typedrawing web site.)

Starter Links: typedrawing | storyabout.net

Josh Nimoy, Textension

Interactive writing/art project that makes use of the user’s keyboard input.

“Textension is a series of ten interactive typing expressions. Its goal is to explore metaphors and aesthetics used for designing automated typesetting process on the personal computer beyond the traditional convention of typewriting. Each of the ten pieces is a typing experience, a text entry context into which the viewer types characters.” (from the Textension web site.)

Starter Links: Textension | Artist’s Home Page

David Link, Poetry Machine 1.0

An interactive installation that generates texts through a combination of user input and autonomous web crawlers (web bots).

“The interactive installation operates with a keyboard as interface, an Internet connection and two video displays. Poetry Machine is a word processor that extracts associations. The sources of information for this self-composing poetry machine are the gigantic pools of information on the Internet. When a word is typed that is as yet unknown to the poetry machine, the program will send out autonomous “bots” to the Internet to collect texts in which the word in question occurs. This action of the bots, searching sites and documents, can be watched on a plasma screen by the side of the installation. In this interaction of machine words and human text, Poetry Machine creates a new écriture automatique, where language is no longer the exclusive domain of human thought but also that of the internal logic of computers.” (from the project description page on the Media Art Net web site).

Starter Links: Poetry Machine 1.0 | Median Kunst Netz / Media Art Net | Poetry Machine 1.5

David Small, Illuminated Manuscript

Interactive, motion-sensitive manuscript in which text responds to the movements of the reader’s hand.

“Combining physical interfaces with purely typographical information in a virtual environment, this piece explored new types of reading in tune with human perceptual abilities.

“A handbound book is set in a spartan room. Projected typography is virtually printed into the blank pages with a video projector. Sensors embedded in the pages tell the computer as the pages are turned. In addition, sonar sensors allow visitors to run their hands over and to disrupt, combine and manipulate the text on each page. The book begins with an essay on the four freedoms – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from fear and freedom from want. Each page explores a different text on the topic of freedom. ” (from the Illuminated Manuscript description page on the Small Design Firm web site.)

Starter Links: Illuminated Manuscript| Small Design Firm

Jeffrey Shaw, Legible City Transliteracies Research Report

Art installation in which the viewer/participant rides a stationary bicycle in order to navigate through a “city” made of letters and text.

“In The Legible City the visitor is able to ride a stationary bicycle through a simulated representation of a city that is constituted by computer-generated three-dimensional letters that form words and sentences along the sides of the streets. Using the ground plans of actual cities – Manhattan, Amsterdam and Karlsruhe – the existing architecture of these cities is completely replaced by textual formations written and compiled by Dirk Groeneveld. Travelling through these cities of words is consequently a journey of reading; choosing the path one takes is a choice of texts as well as their spontaneous juxtapositions and conjunctions of meaning.

“The handlebar and pedals of the interface bicycle give the viewer interactive control over direction and speed of travel. The physical effort of cycling in the real world is gratuitously transposed into the virtual environment, affirming a conjunction of the active body in the virtual domain. A video projector is used to project the computer-generated image onto a large screen. Another small monitor screen in front of the bicycle shows a simple ground plan of each city, with an indicator showing the momentary position of the cyclist.” (from the project description on the artist’s web site.)

Starter Links: List of Projects| Jeffrey Shaw’s Web Page

Transliteracies Research ReportTransliteracies Research Report By Lisa Swanstrom

Masaki Fujihata, Beyond Pages

A virtual “book,” enabled by data projection and a light pen, which conjures simulations of its content.

“The data projector loads images of a leather bound tome onto a tablet which a light pen activates, animating the objects named in it – stone, apple, door, light, writing. The soundscore immaculately emulates the motion of each against paper, save for the syllabic glyphs of Japanese script, for which a voice pronounces the selected syllable. Stone and apple roll and drag across the page, light illuminates a paper-shaded desklamp; door opens a video door in front of where you read, a naked infant romping, lifesize and laughing, in.

“In the middle pages, kanji letters scroll breakneck under the nib of your pen. Lifting it selects a word. We ask the Japanese of our random selection, ‘Does it mean anything?’ and they say, ‘Well, it says something, but it doesn’t mean anything’. And it says, oh, I don’t know: fish, walk, watch, and the ideographs sit in disarray where they tumble on the page. Something of the accident of language, its random illumination of the world, shines up from the page. An illuminating illuminated manuscript (like Simon Biggs’ 1991 alchemical book) opens and leafs through with a gesture, more direct than metaphor, more subtle than allegory, of the digital text, book as light source.” (from Beyond Pages.)

Starter Links:Beyond Pages| Interaction ‘97 | Artist’s Bio on Media Art Net

Simon Biggs, Alchemy: An Installation

A digitally illuminated and interactive Book of Hours.

Alchemy: An Installation is a digitally illuminated Book of Hours, twenty-four pages in length. It is designed to be played on two video monitors, turned on their sides and arranged in a book format, each screen becoming a page of the “book.” The playback technology used is Laser Disc with interactive hardware and software, allowing the “reader” to turn the pages back or forth, as they desire, with a simple wave of the hand.

“Unlike a traditional book, but not too dissimilar to an illuminated medieval manuscript, the light by which one reads emanates from the pages, illuminating not only the text and images contained therein but the immediate environment. Also the miniatures that illustrate the text are in constant motion, the detailed images of demons, angels and beasts, interiors and exteriors dancing before the reader’s eyes in mesmeric rhythms. ” (from the Alchemy web site.)

Starter Links: Alchemy: An Installation

Medien Kunst Netz/Media Art Net