WHAT IS THE BASIC PREMISE OF THE SINGLECELL PROJECT?Singlecell is an experimental online bestiary featuring monthly contributions from computational artists and designers from around the globe. The project has several overlapping goals. The first is simply to explore new possibilities for expressive computational art and design online. Generally speaking, people's concepts of what is possible tend to be limited to the affordances of the commercially available design tools, and to the constraints and objectives presented by commercial web design jobs. So with Singlecell, our goal is to suggest what is really possible when designers have the liberty to make something personal, and the talent or skills to invent their own means in doing so. As it happens, the theme of newly-discovered species of online interactive life-forms is an interesting and agreeable pretext for binding together our work.
But really this is just a metaphor for the second goal of Singlecell, which is to gather together and create a community for a new species of designer: those “computational” artists/designers who write their own software using languages like C, Java, Lingo and ActionScript in order to make their artworks come to life. A third goal of Singlecell is more subtle. There really aren't many computational designers out there: people who are commensurately skilled in both computer programming and visual communication, and who are interested in sharing their work online. When they do present their works online, it's often in extremely varied contexts and to varied degrees of polish. By holding its designers to a common theme, and providing each of them with only a month to do it in, the Singlecell bestiary provides a common window into these artists' individual aesthetics that allows its visitors to more clearly appreciate their similarities and differences, and the possibilities of online computational design as a whole. In sum, Singlecell’s goals are to make a statement about a new way of making things, to bring together a handful of the people who make things in this way, and to provide a view into some of their similarities and differences as individual creators.
WHY SINGLECELL?There are no major projects on Singlecell, no Gesamtkunstwerks, no career masterpieces. Singlecell is a side-project of side-projects, a compilation of small pieces executed by artists who probably had something larger and more important that they should have been working on. Nevertheless, although Singlecell is a small project with modest goals, it is also an exceptionally clear example, on multiple levels, of a wholly new mode of artistic production. Of course, its focus on the medium of “computational design” is contemporary, made possible by a new breed of designers who are skilled in both programming and the arts. To this, however, is added the way in which these people have come together. Many of the contributors have never met face-to-face. Most of them would never have even known about each other had it not been for the Internet. Quite a few of them might never have known about each other had they not independently agreed to participate in the Singlecell project. Singlecell is interesting because it precisely prohesies the new form of art product, practice, practitioner and community made possible by the Internet revolution.