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August 19th 2004: 5 Faves picked by Mogens Jacobsen

[August 19th 2004]

5 Faves - picked by Mogens Jacobsen

Granted, surfing the net for nice new stuff can be quite time consuming - and often you come across the good stuff by chance.We asked a number of Nordic artist to help us surf by telling us their five favorite picks. The assignment was quite open - it could be current hits as well as all time greatests. Danish artist Mogens Jacobsen (b. 1959) chose a quite different - not less interesting - route. Enjoy the read.

My five favorite pieces of net-art? It's like if somebody asked me about my preferred color (I have none) or my favorite band (a brief look on my CD collection tells me I must have approx. 400 favorite bands).
Instead of singling out 5 works, I will extend the category to include software- and net-art related sites and my personal resource sites. And instead of writing 5 lines to 5 works, I will write a lot of lines on fewer sites.

But let me start with one true piece of net-art: The Persistent Data Confidante by Paul Vanouse. It's truly one of my personal all-time greatest (It's ancient - from '97). It's a hugely overlooked masterpiece touching a lot of internet issues: The secret dark side of humankind, privacy/anonymity, and visitor based content. The piece is a site where visitors can trade secrets. You tell a personal secret - and you will be told somebody else's secret, which you then rate. The piece even involves techniques that became "hip" years later in software art: Rating the secrets feed an evolution of secrets - the best (or darkest?) is mixed by an crossover algorithm and put into the pool of secrets. And you will never know if the secret you have been told was written by a human or constructed by the machine. Genetic algorithms in a web piece from 1997!

Text Genomics
From Text Genomics

I once blamed Macromedia Flash for all thing evil on the net (you will find the interview somewhere on this site). I still think the products from Microsoft/Apple/Macromedia/Adobe (you pick the name) is seducing the artists. I hope artists will dig deeper than the smooth surface of multimedia and start using more low-level tools. Of course this often requires investing time in learning a programming language. But suddenly the learning curve became a lot less steep in 2002, when Casey Reas and Benjamin Fry introduced the programming language "Processing". It's sort of easy Java programming for artists. It's free and it runs on Windows, Mac OSX and Linux. Download it and do some great stuff by yourself.

Now thing gets difficult: I ought to tell you about some of the organizations working hard to support and document electronic art. This category would include Electrohype ( in Sweden (guys, I wish you were Danish), Rhizome ( in New York, the software art repository of RUN_ME (, or the DAM in Berlin ( for making the history of digital art accessible. But I won't - check out the URLs yourself.

Electrohype Rhizome


Instead let me be a little more nerdish. At the moment, I tend to use the net a lot to gain inspiration by accessing theory, writing and research about software, humans and computers. If you can afford it, the digital library of the Association for Computing Machinery ( is an excellent place to read about the thoughts behind our current way to work with computers. Or you could surf around the old homepage of Aesthetics + Computation group at the MIT media laboratory ( Here you would stumble upon a lot of theses for download as PDF - some of them boring, most of them interesting and a few of them brilliant.

Association for Computing Machinery
From Association for Computing Machinery

Check out Mogens' own works at



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