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Technologies: HTML.403

Keywords: Net art, conceptual, glitch

Like many Net Art projects, has gone through several incarnations. When it first appeared online in 1993, its home page (now available at was a screen of garbled green text?an unintelligible jumble of punctuation marks and numerals blinking on and off on a black screen. At first glance, the home page looked like an error, as if the person who created the page were just learning how to use HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) and hadn't quite figured it out, or perhaps the result of some kind of glitch in the browser software. But if site visitors knew to view the page's source code (an HTML document that tells the browser what to display), they were in for a surprise: between correctly constructed HTML tags, the artists had inserted a diagram, drawn in slashes and dots, of a hydrogen bomb, as if to explode expectations about the Web as a medium.

Clicking past the home page led to screen upon screen of digital detritus: fragments of pixellated images, blinking text, animations gone awry. Upon exploring the rest of the site, it quickly became clear that the first page of scrambled text was not an error, but rather an intentional display of one of the Internet's fundamental aesthetic properties: the glitch. can be seen as a formalist investigation of the intrinsic characteristics of Internet as a medium. But operates on a conceptual level as well. In addition to experiments in glitch aesthetics, there is also a bomb in the source code?a hidden message to those in the know. Artist Sol LeWitt described Conceptual art as work in which "all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art." Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans, the artists behind, did not type in their home page's slashes, colons, brackets, and numerals by hand?their idea was to put an image of a bomb in the source code of a Web page, so that the browser would try to interpret it as an HTML file, blowing it up on the screen. This idea functions as a machine that makes the work anew each time someone loads the page. became the archetypal Net Art project, and the artists themselves became celebrities within the global Net Art scene. Heemskerk and Paesmans were among the first artists to turn their attention to games, creating modified versions of popular titles such as Castle Wolfenstein, Quake, and Jet Set Willy. Like Jodi's online work, their modifications of of games enact a deconstruction of the medium, playfully exploiting bugs to produce disconcerting experiences of technology.


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