I made my debut at the Whitney Museum today. Well, in the sense that anyone could who attends the "Data Dynamics" portion of the "BitStreams" exhibition. Maciej Wisniewski's netomat (TM) wraps around three walls and projects large, floating, overlapping images (and text fragments) on a floor-to-ceiling scale. You sit down at a keyboard and type in a word or phrase, then netomat searches the web, pulls up words and pictures corresponding to what you typed, and blows them up to enormous size on the darkened gallery walls. This is real Exploratorium, Montreal Expo '70-type stuff, of limited artistic interest but fine for fifteen minutes of farting around. The brochure describes the software as "a new audio-visual language designed specifically to explore the unexplored internet," but that's just hype. Essentially netomat is a search engine, not that different from Google; instead of giving you a list of "hits" it goes directly to the sites and starts grabbing words and pictures. The program then enlarges the sampled content, colorizes it, layers it over other content, and causes the sampled snippets to creep inexorably around the walls. Also, there is another terminal nearby, so it's possible for you and another viewer to display two sets of information and have a slow-motion "image duel" (which sounds exciting, but it isn't really). When I came in, the walls were full of Jennifer Love Hewitt photos and various unrelated ad banners. I lamely typed in "Frankenstein" and about four minutes later, pictures of Boris Karloff and Gene Wilder began to surface (the program also found a really poorly-rendered boltneck that reminded me of a Jim Shaw drawing). The woman next to me didn't speak English well but quickly caught on, typing in "Wharhol." I suggested deleting the "h," and soon images of Andy appeared, superimposed over Boris. Opportunistically I typed in "'Tom Moody' +artist," hoping a choice pic might show up; instead I got the words "Op Art in the 90s by Tom Moody (originally published in VERY Magazine #3)" (which I recognized from the Abaton Book Company website), printed in purple and emblazoned across thirty feet of wall. Unfortunately the museum was closing up, so I didn't get a chance to use "katie holmes nude naked no clothes" (an actual search request from a site that logs such things) to test the kidproofing software.

- Tom Moody 5-02-2001 6:07 am

Margaret Sundell, writing in the March 2002 Artforum, agrees that Netomat is inaccurately hyped: "[W]hile Netomat organizes data differently from Netscape or Internet Explorer, it's still an interface--one way of accessing the Internet, not the revelation of its inner truth."
- tom moody 3-14-2002 6:58 pm

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