Randall Packer - Course Information

Advanced Network Art

Syllabus - Spring, 2002
Maryland Institute College of Art

Tuesday, 9:00 AM - 3:00 PM
M222, Main Building

Randall Packer, Instructor
[email protected]
office hours: Bank Building, by appointment
Website: http://www.zakros.com/

On-line Course Information: http://www.zakros.com/mica

Course Description

Advanced Network Art focuses on the technical, aesthetic, and critical skills integral to the creation and interpretation of internet art. Through the writings of artists, scientists, and theorists, and the work of contemporary net artists, we will examine issues surrounding Internet culture: its history, evolution, and impact on art, society, and the human condition. Central to this study will be the identification of trends, issues, and key concepts critical to our understanding of the emerging contemporary net culture. The course will also focus on design strategies, tools and applications used in website production. We will apply this technique to the creation of new forms that are net-specific, as well as those that bridge virtual and physical space. Students are expected to produce net projects, a home page/on-line portfolio, independently research and critique net artworks, engage in class discussion (including on-line), and maintain a web notebook in which they will record and synthesize their reflections on net issues. A final project will consist of a site that will be exhibited on-line at MAP (Maryland Art Space).

01.22.02 - Introduction


Review of basic principles of Web production in Dreamweaver: layout, site and file management, and importing graphics. Network issues will also be discussed including: Web accounts, ftp / uploading, and file transfer in the lab.

Server specs:
host - digital.mica.edu
directory - ea332_sp
web access - http://digital.mica.edu/ea332_sp_public

Assigned Reading for 1.29.02

  • "Art as Interactive Communications: Networking a Global Culture," Postmodern Currents: Art and Artists in the Age of Electronic Media; Margot Lovejoy, 1998


Begin Web notebook: weekly (or more often) on-line entries recording your thoughts, observations, impressions on readings and class discussion.

Personal site. Initial design is to be done on paper including: site layout, description of content, design sketch, navigation + buttons, etc. Requirements for the site includes: home page that links to all of the following pages, portfolio of on-line and off-line projects, projects page with links to all Web projects done this semester, bio page with photo and information about yourself, and anything else you want to include.

01. 29.02 - Telematic Art

History and evolution of communications technologies, the Internet, and the World Wide Web as an emerging artistic medium. Discussion of the history of telematic art as viewed from the Walker Art Center timeline.

Works: Paul Sermon, "Telematic Dreaming" (1992); Douglas Davis, "World's Longest Collaborative Sentence" (1994); Eduardo Kac, "Essay Concerning Human Understanding" (1994); Jenny Holzer, "Please Change Beliefs" (1995); and Jodi.org (1996)


Review of additional techniques in Web production in Dreamweaver: cascading style sheets, frames, behaviors, rollovers.


Review design specification for sites. Begin work on site.

Assigned Reading for 03.12.01

  • "Collective Intelligence" Pierre Lévy, (1997)
  • "Virtual: Reality in the Digital Age" Pierre Lévy, (1999)
  • A History of the Internet

02.05.02 - Transmediale 2002 : "To Go Public"

I will be in Berlin. Students will observe the Web simulcast of my performance as Secretary of the US Department of Art & Technology. On this day, I will be giving a "speech" for the opening of the Transmediale.02 Festival of Media. This event takes place at 2:00 PM EST during class time.


Write a critique of the performance for your Web notebook. Work on site.

02. 12.02 - Transmediale 2002 : "To Go Public"

Discussion of the performance at Transmediale in Berlin, as well as other works featured at the Festival, where the theme was "to go public." According to the Festival description:

"To go public! in the context of the new economy, means a company's stock market flotation. Originally, however, this meant the publicizing of information, the step into the public arena. In the digital era, progressive media practice and the commercialization of public space are becoming more pervasive. The mass media are multiplying their channels and are homogenizing their contents. Democratic online forums, the creative development of new technologies, and the expansion of the public surveillance apparatus via video and data surveillance, are all leading to the development of a global info-sphere with both new borders and new room for maneuver. Go public! is an exhortation to artists and visitors to the transmediale, to create publicity, to go into the public arena, and to develop new ideas for the design and the use of the public space in the digital era."

We will explore the implications of this theme through the work of the artist, engaged with media, and his or her desire to explore forms where ideas become real action in the social sphere.

Blitz Review of my speech and the signing ceremony
Crank The Web by Jonah Bruker-Cohen
Field Work by Masaki Fujihata
Empire 24/7 by Wolfgang Staehle (live cam)
Net Flag by Mark Napier
Bits & Pieces by Peter Traub
Blinkin Lights by Berlin's Chaos Computer Club

Lab + Assignment

Work on site.

Assigned Reading for 02.19.01

02. 19.02 - Appropriation & Transformation

The Web has extended the opportunities for copying, appropriating, sampling, and synthesizing material. Much satirical and political work on the Web has taken advantage of this, such as the Department of Art & Technology, or other projects that explore the possibilities for social commentary in the on-line environment.

Work: Rtmark and Mongrel


Gif animation in ImageReady. Construct an animated fictitious banner or corporate logo using a combination of appropriated and self-generated material.


Presentation of site projects.

2nd Project: Everyone will create a project that explores social commentary in the form of parody and satire through Net-based appropriation and transformation.

Assigned Reading for 3.9

02. 26.02 - Telepresence

Definition: Extending our physical and mental being into a remote space by means of telecommunications technologies.

In preparation for Eduardo Kac's lecture on March 8th (7PM, Station Auditorium) we will discuss the implications of telepresence on networked art. Eduardo Kac is one of the pioneers in this area, along with Ken Goldberg and Musaki Fujihata.

Work: "The Ornitorrinco Project," Eduardo Kac; "Telegarden," Ken Goldberg; "Light on the Net," Musaki Fujihata

Assigned Reading for 3.5


Work on appropriation project.

03. 05.02 - Transgenic Art

Definition: the use of genetic engineering to create unique living beings and to address the social and philosophical issues raised in this work.

Eduardo Kac has also pioneered this controversial genre, in which the artist explores emerging biogenetic technologies, raising questions as to their impact on society and other ethical issues.

Work: Several projects located on Kac's Website.

Discussion of Eduardo Kac and his work in telepresence and transgenic art:

Transgenic Art : A new art form based on the use of genetic engineering to transfer natural or synthetic genes to an organism, to create unique living beings. This must be done with great care, with acknowledgment of the complex issues thus raised and, above all, with a commitment to respect, nurture, and love the life thus created.
As a transgenic artist, Kac is not interested in the creation of genetic objects, but on the invention of transgenic social subjects

GFP Bunny - "Alba", the green fluorescent bunny, is an albino rabbit. This means that, since she has no skin pigment, under ordinary environmental conditions she is completely white with pink eyes. Alba is not green all the time. She only glows when illuminated with the correct light. When (and only when) illuminated with blue light (maximum excitation at 488 nm), she glows with a bright green light (maximum emission at 509 nm). She was created with EGFP, an enhanced version (i.e., a synthetic mutation) of the original wild-type green fluorescent gene found in the jellyfish Aequorea Victoria. EGFP gives about two orders of magnitude greater fluorescence in mammalian cells (including human cells) than the original jellyfish gene.

Genesis is a transgenic artwork that explores the intricate relationship between biology, belief systems, information technology, dialogical interaction, ethics, and the Internet. The key element of the work is an "artist's gene", a synthetic gene that was created by Kac by translating a sentence from the biblical book of Genesis into Morse Code, and converting the Morse Code into DNA base pairs according to a conversion principle specially developed by the artist for this work. The sentence reads: "Let man have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." It was chosen for what it implies about the dubious notion of divinely sanctioned humanity's supremacy over nature. The Genesis gene was incorporated into bacteria, which were shown in the gallery. Participants on the Web could turn on an ultraviolet light in the gallery, causing real, biological mutations in the bacteria. This changed the biblical sentence in the bacteria. The ability to change the sentence is a symbolic gesture: it means that we do not accept its meaning in the form we inherited it, and that new meanings emerge as we seek to change it.

The strain of bacteria employed in Genesis is JM101. Normal mutation in this strain occurs 1 in 10^6 base pairs. Along the mutation process, the precise information originally encoded in the ECFP bacteria is altered. The mutation of the synthetic gene will occur as a result of three factors: 1) the natural bacterial multiplication process; 2) bacterial dialogical interaction; 3) human-activated UV radiation. The selected bacteria are safe to use in public and are displayed in the gallery with the UV source in a protective transparent enclosure.

Teleporting an Unknown State is a biotelematic interactive installation. In other words: it is a computer-based telecommunications piece in which a biological process is an integral part of the work. The installation creates the experience of the Internet as a life-supporting system. In a very dark room a pedestal with earth serves as a nursery for a single seed. Through a video projector suspended above and facing the pedestal, remote individuals send light via the Internet to enable this seed to photosynthesize and grow in total darkness.

The installation takes the idea of teleportation of particles (and not of matter) out of its scientific context and transposes it to the domain of social interaction enabled by the Internet. Following my previous work with telematic interactive installation and my exploration of non-semiological forms of communication with electronic media, this installation uses the remote transmission of video images not for their representational content but for their optical phenomenon as wavefronts of light. Internet videoconferencing is used to teleport light particles from several countries with the sole purpose of enabling biological (and not artificial) life and growth in the installation site. A new sense of community and collective responsibility emerges out of this context without the exchange of a single verbal message.
Through the collaborative action of anonymous individuals around the world, photons from distant countries and cities are teleported into
the gallery and are used to give birth to a fragile and small plant. It is the participants' shared responsibility that ensures that the plant
grows as long as the show is open.

Essay Concerning Human Understanding, a live, bi-directional, interactive, telematic, inter species sonic installation created by Kac with Ikuo Nakamura between Lexington (KY), and New York. This piece, promotes dialogue between a bird and plant. In the gallery, a yellow canary was given a very large and comfortable cylindrical white cage, on top of which circuit-boards, a speaker, and a microphone were located. A clear Plexiglas disc separated the canary from this equipment, which was wired to the phone system. In New York, an electrode was placed on the plant's leaf to sense its response to the singing of the bird. The voltage fluctuation of the plant was monitored through a Macintosh running a software called Interactive Brain-Wave Analyzer (IBVA). This information was fed into another Macintosh running MAX, which controlled a MIDI sequencer. The electronic sounds themselves were pre-recorded, but the order and the duration were determined in real time by the plant's response to the singing of the bird.

Scientists sighted with a mixture of curiosity and appreciation once we explained that we were not concerned with any kind of measurement, and that the work was meant in fact to be regarded as a metaphor for human communication. By enabling an isolated and caged animal to have a telematic conversation with a member of another species, this installation dramatized the role of telecommunications in our own lives. The inter-species communicative experience observed in the gallery reflects our own longing for interaction, our desire to reach out and stay in touch. This interactive installation is ultimately about human isolation and loneliness, and about the very possibility of communication. As this piece projects the complexities of electronically mediated human communication over nature, it surprisingly reveals aspects of our own communicative experience. This interaction is as dynamic and unpredictable as a human dialogue.


Recording and editing sound for Web playback.


Complete appropriation project.

03.12.02 - Blurring the Real and the Virtual

In conjuction with the final project, we will look at the construuction of narrative strategies that superimpose fictionalized events on real places using live networked media.

Work: "Refresh," by Diller and Scofido


Streaming media (Flash).


Complete and present appropriation project.

Discussion of final project: in collaboration with MAP (Maryland Art Place), the advanced network art class will create new works and on-line critique for an exhibition appropriately titled, "Mapping the Unseen." This is the first time MAP has hosted a Net exhibition, changing the way they think about and present exhibition space. For this show we will explore the implications of how the network is transforming, in the larger sense, the way we think about mappings, geographies, distance, time, etc. The map is changing. Rather than simply being used to chart physical space, works are being constructed to visualize and map virtual space.

Project description.

Each student will create an artwork as well as a hyperessay that critiques the work in the context of the Web. The hyperessay is a piece of critical writing that is designed for the Web, in which graphics, audio, animation, etc. can be included. Both projects will be featured in the MAP exhibition.

Yahoo Map of MAP

03.19.02 - Data Mapping

Internet methodologies and tools such as data analysis, intelligent agents and database technologies are being adopted for artistic purpose.

Work: "16 Sessions," C5 and Joel Slayton (1998); 1:1, C5 and Lisa Jevbratt (1999); "Desktop IS," Alexei Shulgin

Whitney Biennial Internet Exhibition.

Wireless networks:


Bay Area Wireless Users Group


Sound & Flash

Assigned Reading for 4.4


Continue final projects.

04.02.02 - The Telematic Embrace

The Internet has brought about the dissolution of space and time. How does Net art transcend geographical and temporal boundaries?

Work: "JennyCam," Jenny; "Breathing Earth," Sensorium;

Telematic Connections exhibition:

Mori: Randall Packer; Telematic Vision, Paul Sermon

Discussion of Roy Ascott essay:

i. Definite Telematics, “Telematics is a term used to designate computer-mediated communications networking involving telephone, cable, and satellite links between geographically dispersed individuals and institutions that are interfaced to data-processing systems, remote sensing devices, and capacious data-storage banks.”
ii. “Telematics… involves the technology of interactions among human beings and between the human mind and artificial systems of intelligence and perception. The individual user of networks is always potentially involved in a global net, and the world is always potentially in a state of interaction with the individual.”
iii. The “Integrated Data Work” or “Gesamtdatenwerk,” derives its meaning from a “many-to-many” type of interaction, this collective interaction between viewers is similar to the Happening.
iv. Rather than an object of art, the interface constitutes a process in which the viewer is involved in the creation of “content,” opening up opportunities for participatory narrative and personal expression. He asks: “Thus, across the vast spread of telematic networks worldwide, the quantity of data processed and the density of information exchanged is incalculable. The ubiquitous efficacy of the telematic medium is not in doubt, but the question in human terms, from the point of view of culture and creativity, is What is the content?”
v. “The content of telematic art … will be determined by the freedoms and fluidity available at the interface.”
vi. The transition from real to virtual and virtual to real is becoming seamless and “social behavior brought about by human-computer symbiosis and telematics is flowing unnoticed into our consciousness.”
vii. “It will be the role of the artist, in collaboration with scientists, to establish not only new creative praxes but also new value systems, new ordinances of human interaction and social communicability.”

Critique of projects-in-progress for MAP

Individual critiques of home page projects.

Assigned Reading for 4.09

  • tba


Work on final projects.

04.09.02 - Mapping the Unseen


We will review projects and discuss the overall concept of the exhibition, as well as the wireless infrastructure of the exhibition "space."

Exhibition Press Release

Phyllis Hecht, Web Manager and Art Director of the National Gallery of Art will come in to discuss her work. She will also work with the class to help design and produce the interface for "Mapping the Unseen."


Work on final projects.

04.16.02 - Mapping the Unseen


Planning the exhibition, discussion of projects, designing the Web interface.

  • Test or demonstrate prototype of your project in class
  • Work on project narrative and bio for site
  • Suggestions for exhibition interface design (we will finalize design concept, architetecture and content for the site)
  • Go over scheduling for final three weeks, until opening
    • 4/23 - critique of works-in-progress, project narrative and bio complete
    • 4/30 -critique of works-in-progress, beta version of exhibition site with all content, graphics, text, etc.
    • 5/7 - projects complete and tested and ready for setup at MAP, exhibition site is finished
    • 5/8 - opening 5pm to 7 pm


Dan Halka - Freedom Technologies and Demographics

Dan Forsythe - CU Hear Me

Tae Lee - Key to Captivity

James Kafader - Take One

Molly Maguire - Anxiety and Isolation

Jack Tai - Vote Your Art

Randy Devost and Ilya Mayzus - Art & Entertainment Network

MAP Postcard (draft)

Original Graphics: front and back.


Work on final projects.

04.23.02 - Mapping the Unseen


Planning the exhibition, discussion of projects, designing the Web interface.

  • Critique of works-in-progress (all)
  • Critique of site design, continue work (Molly)
  • Create display sign for gallery (Dan H. and Jack)
  • Create, copy, distribute flyer (Tae)
  • Create business card (James)
  • Test Mac and PC on MICA network/write documentation (Dan F.)
  • Go over scheduling for final two weeks, until opening
    • 4/25 - test network at MAP (DSL, cable run, settings, outside coverage) (Dan F.)
    • 4/30 -critique of works-in-progress, beta version of exhibition site with all content, graphics, text, etc.
    • 5/7 - installation: projects complete and tested and ready for setup at MAP, exhibition site is finished and tested
    • 5/8 - opening 5pm to 7 pm


  • Hand in project narrative and bio for site (all)

04.30.02 - Exhibition wrap-up


Final discussion of exhibition interface and projects

  • Critique of site design, continue work (James)
  • Create display sign for gallery (Dan H.)
  • Create business card (Randall)
  • Go over scheduling for final week, until opening
    • 5/7 - installation: projects complete and tested and ready for setup at MAP, exhibition site is finished and tested
    • 5/8 - opening 5pm to 7 pm


Exhibition Site

Exhibition Statement

Related Links

Credits and Thanks

Exhibition Link Logo

05.07.02 - Setup at Map

05.08.02 - Opening @ Map, 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm