Internationally renowned OFFF festival convenes in Paris, France, from today until the 26th at La Grande Halle De La Villette. Born from art collective/art agency Inofffensive, the festival stakes its claim as being the “vanguard of the avant-garde” for digital culture, with a simple mission - to earn “some money by doing commercial works and then spending it on crazy, commercially suicidal art projects.” In keeping this ethos, speakers/performers range: from French artist Patrick Jean, to street art bloggers Wooster Collective to former New York Times art director Steven Heller.
Befittingly, in its tenth year of inception, OFFF looks to reflect on the zeitgeist of nostalgia. Titling this year’s show “Nostalgia for a Past Future”, the festival hits upon a key problem for any designer that John Berger lays out in Ways of Seeing: the promise of the future sold by capitalizing on the longing for the past. Yet, heightened by the speed with which trend cycles move (and even more so with the speed of digital culture), for OFFF this issue is circumvented when we forgo trying to recreate narratives of the past and approach nostalgia as a tool for communication.
So, what can we expect?
In the Processing Pixels workshop, Daniel Shiffman looks to transform the treatment of pixels by reconfiguring the relationship between the coded information and its pixelated representation.
Patrick Jean will give a talk about his work in the Openroom. Inspired by the aesthetic of late 80s/early 90s video games, Jean has made a name for himself across the Internet with the video “PIXELS”.
Bleep Labs have come to the fore with its Thingamaboop instrument. Playful from inception, Thingmaboop, embedded with Arduino programming capabilities, is modulated by movement, light sensing LEDs, and is amenable to most synthesizers. In addition to a demonstration ...
Knitoscope Testimonies is the first web based video using "Knitoscope" software, a program that translates digital video into a knitted animation. Knitoscope is a moving image offshoot of microRevolt's freeware knitPro. Knitoscope imports streaming video, lowers the resolution, and then generates a stitch that correspondes with the pixels color. The title "Knitoscope" is based on Edison's early animation technology the kinetoscope, which was a "coin operated peep show machine…watched through a magnifying lens". The "Testimonies" in this piece are from various professionals who work against sweatshop labor.
In the summer of 2009, I wrote an article here at Rhizome about the burgeoning activities of media artists creating new works or updating versions of their older interactive screen-based projects for Apple's iPhone and iTouch mobile devices. As the article made its way throughout the blogosphere, comments surfaced ranging from criticism of the "closed world of Apple's App Store and iPhone devices" to a championing of the availability of inexpensive multi-touch technology now available to artists who had been waiting for a platform that could adequately display and allow for the type of interaction their projects demanded. A year after the article came out, the draw of these devices and their potentially expansive audience has become even more irresistible to artists enough so that several more "apps" have surfaced. The following article catalogs several new iPhone works which have emerged over the past year, works that are pioneering the next generation of portable media art.
The following interviews were sourced from netpioneers 1.0, a research initiative active from 2007 to 2009 that was devoted to early net-based art, organized by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute Media.Art.Research. in Linz, Austria. All the interviews were conducted by Dr. Dieter Daniels.
In 1988, a short note - titled “THE EAST IS COMING!” -- was published in well- known German cracker zine Illegal:
Have you ever heard of groups like "H.I.C." or "F.B.I."? Well, these crews are from Hungary! There is also an eastbloc-scene like in West Europe. I got demos from POLAND and U.S.S.R.
This is one of the first documentations of something like “the scene” in Eastern Europe. The Iron Curtain separated the editors of Illegal from people that were making cracks and demos in the Soviet Bloc, but this text is evidence that this barrier was not a problem for young computer nerds.
“The scene” in Eastern Europe has its origins in so-called “computer markets” in Warsaw and Budapest, where every weekend hundreds of people would sell hardware brought from the West along with pirated software. Such markets were just big copy parties. Teens with their C-64 brought in their backpacks would copy dozens of pirated games. Back then, nobody had even heard the word “copyright”. There was no need for cracks, as most games were provided with them by German and Scandinavian groups. Obviously, every game also had a cracktro, but at the beginning it was difficult to figure out what the scrollers and greetings were about. Some people even thought that Triad, Ikari and Hotline were just decent game companies.
Later local crackers started replacing the cracktros of Western groups with their own to make ads for their small entrepreneurships. One of the first Polish cracking groups was named WFC - World Cracking Federation - quite a prestigious name for a few guys pushing warez on the Warsaw market. Because of strict border controls there were no computer markets in Czechoslovakia, “the scene” was very small there.
MSX was the first attempt to standardize software and hardware between different home computer vendors. With its 3.58 MHz processor, Microsoft BASIC, three-channel sound and modest graphics the MSX represented a very typical 8-bit home computer of the early 1980s. Several well-known companies such as Sony, Canon and Philips produced their own models, but their efforts were largely shadowed by the king of the hill, the Commodore 64. In spite of the tough competition, in some countries, such as The Netherlands, Spain and Brazil, the MSX line of computers was actually quite popular. A big factor in the success were the quality games produced by Konami, well-known for its numerous popular game series.
The MSX demoscene is a small but curious resident of the demo world. It could be roughly divided into two eras: the Dutch scene of the early nineties and the MSX renaissance of the late nineties. The Dutch demos ran on the advanced MSX2 computers that had improved graphics modes and often expansions such as additional memory or a sound cartridge. The effects seen in the first wave of demos were typical for the time: scrollers, colorbars, wobblers and even simple flat shaded vector graphics. Interestingly, in the Dutch scene it was considered perfectly normal to sell demos at fairs to other people, to get compensation for the hard work. In contrast, usually demos are distributed for free among the sceners and demo watchers. Many Dutch demogroups also went on to produce commercial games for the platform.
When the MSX started to disappear from the face of mainstream computing towards the mid-nineties, the Dutch scene also cooled down. It wasn't until 1997 that new demos started to appear, this time ...
Most demoscene music is characteristic in that it's made by hand, distributed as semi-open source, and executed in real-time. Composers adapt to the technical limitations as well as the cultural conditions, where resources were often reserved for the visual content. For these purposes, demosceners refined the tracker-software, which is essentially a text-based step-sequencer with quick access to all sound parameters.
The Amiga 500 (1987) was the first home computer that you could make chart hits with. The megamix was a popular form in the scene [see clip above] but used too much memory for demos. The so-called 'ST-01 style' used smaller samples bundled with the Soundtracker software. In 1989, 4-mat cut out snippets of these samples and looped them, to make beeps. The term chipmusic was coined for this music, which flirted with C64-aesthetics and had a file size of about 15 kb, which made intro-coders happy.
Meanwhile, several e.g. C64-musicians were striving away from 'chipmusic' towards e.g. industrial/rave, in line with the demoscene desire for transgression. Some tried to mimic older styles such as jazz and funk  and what was known in the demoscene as 'doskpop' - something inbetween Jarre and Laserdance, very popular in the early 1990s demoscene.
On the PC, demos became more similar to music videos or media art and some demoscene musicians were signed to labels (e.g. Brothomstates on Warp). Demos started to use MP3-audio, while other composers (again) preferred more restrictive settings like soundchips and tiny soft-synthesis.
The musicdisk is an emblematic artifact of demoscene music. It's an executable file that contains music, graphics and texts generated in real-time. The songs are not linear recordings from A to B, but ...