Thursday Night Live! on 18 May 2017 was about screensavers, anonymous digital artefacts that began as the solution to a problem and developed in to a space for experimentation, before disappearing without a sound from our digital lives.
In conversation with co-maker of the After Dark screensaver series Bill Stewart and Dutch media artist Jan Robert Leegte, artist Rafaël Rozendaal explored one of his sources of inspiration. As well as exploring the screensaver phenomenon they discussed issues around audience reception of computer generated works, and their place within cultural heritage.
This Thursday Night tied in with one of Het Nieuwe Instituut's current exhibitions, Sleep Mode. The Art of the Screensaver. Many consider the screensaver obsolete, and the first version of the screensaver, that simply blanked one’s screen to prevent burn-in of the CRT monitor, would have served its purpose. Nevertheless, the screensaver became a space for experimenting with code and graphics, precisely because it was so banal, perhaps. It was in screensavers that programmers experimented with some of the first self-generated images. What have screensavers contributed to developments in software and graphics? In what ways has their banality been productive? What is needed to develop awareness around heritage in digital culture?
Rafaël Rozendaal is a visual artist who uses the internet as his canvas. His websites attract a large audience of over 50 million unique visits per year. His artistic practice consists of websites, installations, lenticulars, lectures and haiku. He was one of the first artists to sell websites as art objects to collectors. Rozendaal also founded Bring Your Own Beamer, an open source exhibition concept.
Bill Stewart is an inventor, user experience architect and software designer. He is best known for the screensaver After Dark and for inventing live wallpaper and desktop widgets. As the lead designer of the world’s most well-known screensavers, he oversaw the evolution of the screensaver from its origin to its zenith as an art form, product, and part of the common consciousness. His career includes award winning designs for safety systems, robots, games, and OS utilities, as well as websites, mobile apps, and a version of the Netscape browser.
Jan Robert Leegte
Jan Robert Leegte started working as an artist on the Internet in 1997. In 2002, he shifted his main focus to implementing digital materials in the context of the physical gallery space, aiming to bridge the online art world with the gallery art world. In 2008, through exchanges with the upcoming next generation of Internet artists and inspired by the dramatic shift in online culture and technologies, he began refocusing on the web. Leegte explores the position of the new materials put forward by the (networked) computer. Photoshop selection marquees, scrollbars, Google Maps, code and software are dissected for their sculptural properties. His first solo exhibition, 'Sculpting the Internet', is currently on show at the Upstream Gallery in Amsterdam (until 11 March 2017).