Andy Deck presented his work as part of the Lounge series of presentations at the ZKM in Karlsruhe on November 28th, 1999.


When I began seriously to paint, I became interested in the way my mind, in the creative process of image-making, would construct familiarity from randomness. Since the process of change in the image was what concerned me, I was not satisfied to produce still, static images. It became necessary for me to work in a time-based medium. And by chance, I encountered computer programming at that same time, so the computer became the vehicle for exploration.

The earliest works I made with computers were simple and strange music videos that could be distributed on a single Macintosh diskette. With those pieces I learned about programming and also learned that as an artist working with machines, my impulses were often quite different than the engineers who produced the majority of the software that I knew of. I began to exploit this difference of orientation, making software that corresponded to my impulses.

The products of this labor led to hybrid software that combined drawing and time-based sequences of drawn images. I show you here two examples of a series of thousands of pictures that I made during my studies at the School of Visual Arts. Each new picture developed out of the remnants of the previous one.

When I left school, I realized that I was not satisfied to distribute my work as films or videos, but I was also not wealthy enough to buy the equipment for which I had written a great deal of software. My initial response was to begin using equipment and software where I found it -- a sort of technical bricolage. At this time, 1994, I made the video, Ad Infinitum, which was a record of an evolving image. But unlike the drawn imagery, it used advertising that I found on my walks to work. This was a fairly obvious example of using inspiration that was at once randomly encountered but at the same time a reflection of advertising saturated American culture.

At this period, too, I encountered the World Wide Web for the first time. It seemed to be the logical solution to the problems of distribution and spectators. People were eager to find anything interesting on the internet. So, I began to make a game that I could distribute via the internet that would, I believed, become like a virus over the network, appearing all over through the ease of replication. One of my objectives was to make a popular art form that would be easily accessible. While making the game, which was written for the Macintosh, I became frustrated with the difficulty of developing software that would run on only one platform. It became clear that I needed to move in a new direction, and as it turned out that direction was France.

I went to use the facilities at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. I had believed that I might make some short films -- and that is what they expected -- but increasingly my interests were with the internet. It was 1995 and I discovered the Java language, which allowed me to write software that could be executed within browsers on all sorts of computers. I quickly adapted the game I had written to run over the network. And I discovered that there were possibilities for interaction that had not existed in the original game. The network version of the game, Space Invaders Act 1732, ended up incorporating the labor of dozens of other people who I do not know.

My attention soon returned to the problem of the evolving image. I wanted to make software like I had written before, only that would make my evolving, interactive drawings available over the internet. I wanted people to be able to intervene in the image, making new collaborative images. One of the obstacles that confronted me was that he French had terrible internet connectivity in 1995/96 and so my drawings had to be extremely small (in terms of data) in order to achieve any spontaneity.

The experience of making this software, together with the feedback I received from people who used it, led me to want to make a spontaneous- multi-user drawing space. Unfortunately, when I returned to New York, I was again without equipment and a studio, so it took me some time to achieve working prototypes of this software. It turned out to be somewhat difficult so I had to make several versions of these systems until I succeeded to make one that worked well. First multi-user version gave way to the thing I called the Blackboard in 1997.

I became fascinated with the way my programs encouraged and made possible interactions that were unpredictable. My conviction, as a result of these experiences, is that the most interesting virtual spaces are those that engage the imaginations and participation of real people. There are many unsuccessful ways to solicit contribution. The 1000 Points of Light Show (1997) is one example of an attempt to get people to participate and produce a series of images via the Web. As with the Space Invaders game, which asked people to contribute links and icons for new invaders, I found that participation is not automatic. My most recent work, as a result, has attempted to engage people on many different levels, including also textually.