CD-ROMs: Electronic artists' books?
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Issue 7   |   January 2000  





Hey, these are, like, art!
My two favorite pieces on CD-ROM,
ScruTiny in the Great Round and Throwing Apples at the Sun, invariably draw strong responses when I ask students to review a wide variety of interactive work. They inspire comments like the headline above.

As different as night and day, these two works have common traits: they defy the conventional wisdom about computer-based work, that to be good it must be clear, predictable and easy to use. These pieces are unpredictable, which can be confusing, yet thought-provoking. The visuals are rich. They use sound and music to great effect. And, like a lot of good new art, people either love or hate them.


Sample screen from Scrutiny in the Great Round
Scrutiny in the Great Round

Interactive art by Tennessee Rice Dixon and Jim Gasperini, music & sounds by Charlie Morrow.
ScruTiny Associates, 1995. View/download samples

Scrutiny is dark and intriguing, like a forest that you wander through with no particular goal in mind. Magical sights and sounds are hidden in the underbrush, waiting to be revealed with a click of the mouse. You have no idea where the many branching paths will take you, but you learn to look forward to each one as a treat for your eyes and ears. With ScruTiny, as with Throwing Apples, the sound is a huge part of the experience. Dense and layered like the images, it draws you into its world. What's the point? I'm not sure. It's there for you to explore and enjoy. What you take from it is up to you.


Samples screens from Throwing Apples at the Sun
Throwing Apples At The Sun

Words, music, sounds and fonts by Elliot Peter Earls/The Apollo Program
Emigre Music, 1995.

More confusing, more in-your-face than Scrutiny. The music, spoken word and random noise is faster, harsher, more dissonant. Unpredictable but interesting, Throwing Apples is definitely about the sound (the CD can also be played in an audio player). The images and graphics that pop up in variously sized windows on your screen are done in the complex graphic style of Elliot Peter Earls.

Type samplesThere's wild typography, and the CD includes 11 typefaces from Earls' Apollo Project. You can buy a set of posters showing the typefaces (also the basis for parts of the interactive piece.) A few samples are shown here.

If you like modern music & graphic design you'll have fun with this. Don't worry about the destination, just hang on for the ride. You won't arrive relaxed, but you'll be invigorated.

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