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October 28th 2004: 5 Faves picked by Sebastian Campion

[October 28th 2004]

5 Faves - picked by Sebastian Campion

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. Here is what the Danish Amsterdam based artist Sebastian Campion wrote.

Singling out a handful of net art pieces using 'favorite' as the selection criteria turned out to be surprisingly difficult. Generally, I like web works that are conceptually strong but I am not sure if I can claim to have 5 all-time favorites.
Nonetheless, I have picked 2 old-school works that had an impact on me long time ago plus 3 interesting works that I came across recently. Some of them probably reflect my own interest in meta-design (structures) but overall they represent my first and last encounters with net art in its broad definition. Coincidentally, the first and last one are both influenced by games.

I Confess by Michaël Samyn:
I Confess
From I Confess

I Confess by Michaël Samyn is one of the first net art piece that I recall seeing. It was created around 1996 at a time when the web was about to explode in size and interactivity was being seriously over-hyped. 'I Confess' is created in Javascript, using pop-up windows and cookies, which was really avant-garde in those days (... of course, net art was avant-garde in itself). The piece is shaped as an arcade-like confession-booth that poses a series of yes/no questions and as you start clicking it becomes evident that it is a parody of the art-world as well as the interactive medium. You are expected to answer the questions and thus to navigate in one way only!
'I Confess' is online at the classic and much celebrated äda web, which is now archived at the Walker Art Center. Unfortunately, my OS/browser (MacOS X/Safari) can not run it so I emailed Michaël Samyn and asked if it was online elsewhere or if I should downgrade my software or use a PC. Here's his reply:

You have to downgrade just about everything you've got. ;(
Our work has been 'degrading' as technology 'evolves' and we see more and more of our pieces break. It's a frustrating affair that moves so quickly that we can't keep track anymore.
'I confess' was made for Netscape on PC and Mac (pre-X). I think Netscape version 3 but it was probably updated when version 4 came out. The browser that is currently available under the name 'Netscape', however, is completely different.

I just checked and I can confirm that it works on Explorer on Windows.

And it works in Mozilla Firefox on OSX! :)
(except for one little detail, but oh well)

And it works in Opera on Windows as well.


So, there you go. Check it out on Windows or install Firefox on your Mac or downgrade it to run Netscape 3.
PS. Some people might know Michaël Samyn as the other half of

Images (larger than) 1:1 by Debra Solomon:
Images larger than
From Images (larger than)

Images (larger than) 1:1 by Debra Solomon is another artwork from the same period (~1996) that experiments with interface (images, frame borders, text) and navigation systems (space/scrollbars). It was created just as the first wave of screen aesthetics and usability consciousness made the web begin to look and feel the same (Razorfish and Jakob Nielsen respectively, being among the trendsetters). Besides being a unique artwork I think Images (larger than) 1:1 is a nice piece of documentation of how the web was once embraced by artists and designers as a new and open territory. The work is playful, energetic and free of constraints.
It is still online but the '<blink>' tag doesn't work with today's browsers so, in order to get the full experience you either have to downgrade to Netscape 3/4 or imagine that the interface is more alive - somewhat like a space station seen from above.

Eyes Only by John Holden:
Eyes Only

From Eyes Only

Eyes Only is a project by John Holden created in collaboration with the design studio Less Rain in 2001. The project consists of a book and a website that are only connected thematically ('mysteries') but are represented totally different thus taking full advantage of each medium. The website invites people to submit images of UFO's that are captured using an observation tool that can be downloaded from the site. Participants are then encouraged to add notes to their observations, which provoke some humorous responses that illustrates how people tend to react to one another within a given structure. Naturally, a list of '10 things you should do if you encounter a UFO' is also available at the site.

Communiculture by Futurefarmers:
From Communiculture

Communiculture by the design studio Futurefarmers is a project that resembles Eyes Only slightly. It also allows people to intercommunicate but focuses a lot more on the social aspect inspired by a real-life psycho-dramatic exercise. (you can read more about it here at I like web works that employ text in new and abstract ways and in my view Communiculture is a piece of poetry!

September 12 by
September 12
From September 12

Finally, September 12 by reflects an emerging trend of shaping games as political statements. The piece is self explanatory and doesn't need any introduction - check it out for yourself!

Check out Sebastian Campion's own projects at



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