I can't deny my sweet tooth, so when I noticed that Rhizome was
having a "Digital Dessert" on May 7th at The Kitchen, I made sure I
was there! The third and final fundraiser was for Rhizome
Communications Inc. www.rhizome.org, a New York not-for-profit
organization that fosters communication and community in new media
art and highlighted Electronic Hollywood's Jaime Levy, Miltos
Manetas of Manetas.com and Mark Napier of Potatoland.org. Coffee,
milk and "mindblowingly delicious desserts" and cookies were
tempting the 50 or so guests. On hand was Yael Kanarick, senior
designer at The Globe and of her own www.worldofawe.com. The
Desserts couldn't come close to the sensory treats we were to witness
from these artists, however.
Mark Napier's tome of impressive works includes the Digital Landfill
(ASCI Digital Art Show 98), The Distorted Barbie, and artwork in
Yahoo! Internet Life, Altoids.com and one independent film. That
night he demoed Potatoland.org, which was a visual cornucopia of
flashes, colors, movement and HTML that dazzled the eye. Napier,
waxing serious for a moment, appealed to the audience for funding,
and told us that part of the fun of the web is that you can really do
some creative promotions. Greek Miltos Manetas surprised me with
his showcase of Chelsea World, a virtual-reality world created in
Active Worlds. Miltos took us through gallery after gallery, where you
can have your own room--but if you don't use it, you lose it! Then we
went up into a blue sky with puffy clouds, a place where you have no
gravity but can free fall--once you select that action button. The
typical VR world features chats, various avatar options and actions.
My sugar high crashed during Miltos' speech and what had been
interesting quickly turned into sour leftovers.
Another uber talented creative star of the virtual reality world is Jaime
Levy with her "Malice Palace." Jaime didn't demo this site however.
Instead she took us through some of her newest creations--a game and
a cartoon. Quite proud, and rightly so, she demoed "Run, Dog, Run,"
a game that lets you know a little bit more about what it's like to be a
dog in a classic NYC dog run. Jaime's self-depreciating humor brought
us back to life and laughs burst out as she went from level to level of
the game to run around a tree, avoid a Chihuahua's poop, avoid a
horny Dalmatian humping you at any moment and avoiding a mean ol'
nasty pit bull. She explained how the creative process fluctuated
between struggles, going back to the drawing board and triumphs for
herself, Carl Rozak (artist) and Steven Warren (programmer). She
explained the challenges of coordinating little details like the people in
the background too.
EH also demonstrated a "shoot 'em up" game--"Die, Roach, Die," in
which players can spray cockroaches to death. EH has done work for
Tommy Hilfiger the Partnership for Drug Free America and a parody
of Jerry Springer's show with "Ringmaster." Jaime's real pride and
joy, however, is her new cartoon. The longest streaming animated
cartoon on the Net is based on her life as a 22-year-old who has just
moved to NYC. Jaime hopes the game will gain popularity like "South
Park" and soon go mainstream. I liked Jaime's inventiveness and
humility. When she realized that she couldn't draw the cartoon herself,
she used a digital camera to capture the images she wanted to convey
and had an artist translate them. Jaime shared the high points of
making this cartoon, like having her friends come over to record
voices, and that the greatest thing is to be so expressive in so many
ways. How true!
Rachel Green and Mark Tribe of Rhizome have a lot to be proud of
for putting together a rich, artistic (and yummy) evening. They just
might want to start it earlier!