Filmed on Friday December 14, 02007

Joline Blais, Jon Ippolito

At the Edge of Art

Joline Blais

Joline Blais and Jon Ippolito teach New Media at the University of Maine, co-run a Web-culture research lab called Still Water, and are co-authors of At the Edge of Art (2006).

Jon Ippolito

Jon Ippolito and Joline Blais teach New Media at the University of Maine, co-run a Web-culture research lab called Still Water, and are co-authors of At the Edge of Art (2006).

Art is humanity's long-term unconscious memory.  Artists work by creative misuse, and thanks to the Internet there have never been so many tools for so many artists (and multitudes who don't know they're artists) to creatively misuse.  Take a cruise through how strange and meaningful it is getting with the authors of At the Edge of Art .


Art, like the antibodies in our immune system, creates alien forces in service of the whole. It anticipates threats and models them. It is a diversity agent.

Two forms of that process were explained and shown by Ippolito and Blais: perversion, and execution.

One example of the perverse is the software called “Shredder” that takes any Web page and turns it inside out, making obvious what is hidden (the code) and small what is large (the surface images). You can try it here - give it a web page URL.

Another example is works of the Yes Men, a group of culture jammers whose art consists of what they call “identity correction.” One successful hoax was taking the guise of a Dow Chemical spokesman and announcing on BBC World that Dow was going to liquidate Union Carbide and use the 12 billion dollars to compensate everyone who had been harmed by the Bhopal disaster in India 20 years before. Dow’s stock plummeted, and the company had to announce it had no apology or payment to offer for Bhopal.

With the coming of code and the Web, art moves beyond being representational to something that can execute, can make things happen. For example, when the algorithm protecting DVDs was reverse engineered and offered publicly, the magazine 2600 was sued by the film industry. The defense that code was a form of speech protected by the First Amendment was unsuccessful in court. But on the Web the descrambling code was distributed in a variety of speech-like forms that may be seen on the “Gallery of CSS Descramblers” site including a dramatic reading, a haiku, a T-shirt, a tie, a movie, and a version of the DVD logo containing the descrambling code.

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