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An Artist's Impression

Background Information

An Artists Impression focuses on on-line, text-based spaces or games - the world of MUDS, MUSHES and Mu*s.

We began researching the piece in 1997/8 when we were offered a commission from the BBC2 programme 'The NET'.
We decided on a process for realising the work both on-line and in a gallery situation.
For the next stage of we developed our own Mu* (much hardier than it sounds!) - based on the geography of an island. The space contains descriptions of buildings and different landscapes, and many of the MUSH descriptions make reference to images and ideas familiar from our past work. We also programmed 'interactive objects', which can collect stories, observations or requests from the users. This content is all based on our memories of our childhood homes, giving it the status of some kind of interactive autobiography.

Regular users are encouraged not only to explore our space but also to then add to it by building their own homes and objects. These users are considered the audience for this part of the work, we are regularly present in the space acting almost as hosts.

The second stage of AAI was to try and visualize this environment, creating a physical model to be shown in a gallery context. The model follows the design often used by model railway enthusiasts allowing us to lift out the center section so as to use it as a 'set' or 'stage'. We then 'use' this as the focus of performative making, continuing to add new buildings and objects based on the changes which are occurring in the live Mu*. In this way the piece resembles something between a laboratory, a hobbiest's study and a museum exhibit. This stage of the work is clearly aimed at a gallery audience - but rather than trying to simply 'explain' the text based worlds, its interest lies more in the inevitable 'failure' of this activity - it lies for us in the problems that arise in using the model to 'illustrate' a complex, non linear, real time, interactive spatial system.

With AAI, we based the initial physical modelling on our own text descriptions - however, as other users add to the virtual space it follows a 'rational' or even 'spatial' logic less and less - and the challenge to continue representing these changes more interesting.

In order to develop an aesthetic for the model we worked initially on a small scale version based on a section of an existing Mu* that we visited for several months - PennM*U*S*H. You can read the transcripts of one journey through this space here. We have also documented the scale model which tries to interpret as accurately as possible the virtual geography and architecture of the on-line world of PennM*U*S*H.