Friday, May 07, 1999

Rhizome's "Digital Dessert"

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., 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 and Mark Napier of 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 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, and one independent film. That
 night he demoed, 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!