Prix Ars Electronica


ORF Oberösterreich

Statement of the World Wide Web Jury

The jury found, that we were magically attracted to what we dubbed "true" Net pages: homepages that use technology and narrative structures that are only available and only meaningful on the Net, and try to take those a step further. And we were a bit disappointed by artist's homepages that did nothing but put on the Net what would usually be on a wall. That's just moving things around, not creating "webness". That realisation strengthened our loyalty to the "true" Net pages. On the down side, these true Net pages sometimes gorge themselves on new Net-technologies, in spite of the fact that they don't yet know what to do with it. Having thus ruled out both art for art's sake and tech for tech's sake, we tried to make a selection that contained both Net and art. We ended up focusing on pages that had a special smell of self-reflectiveness, that somehow showed that they were aware of what else was happening on the Net and used that as a treasure, as a joke, or as something to dwell upon.

Golden Nica

etoy (The Hijack Project)




Imagine traveling on what everybody calls the Information Highway, looking for information about your preferred subject: for instance, Madonna, Psion, Fassbinder movies or Playboy nudies. You find an underground site that promises you the best on your favourite subject, and eagerly, you click the link. POW! A screen flashes at you: "Don't fucking move. This is a digital hijack." There's not a thing you can do, there's a script running somewhere. A new page appears: "You are hostage no. 421705 hijacked by the organisation etoy." An audio file offers some explanation. It tells you about the dire conditions of Kevin Mitnick and requests his release. A voice explains to you that you've been digitally hijacked, just as the Internet itself has already been hijacked - not by "etoy", but by Internet mogul Netscape. When you at last find the button to exit this strange and upsetting Website and press it, it turns out that there's no relief.

You're inside "etoy's" own site now. "Etoy" is a slightly anarchistic site. Its visual aesthetics rub some people the wrong way; to others, this is a sure sign of full-fledged counterculture. And indeed it is a counterculture that "etoy" promotes. No smooth linearly arranged homepages, but a merry-go-round one tends to get lost in. Sometimes clicking the down-button helps; sometimes it doesn't get you anywhere. There's a page where you can have your identity frozen, in digital ice: all you need to do is enter your name, age and your preferred last statement. The only trouble is that your profession can only be selected from a very small range of vocations, none of them too appealing, and the pre-selected one is thief. Another page offers you a short course in net-terrorism: you can enter an address that you want to have mailbombed, or you can practice shooting by clicking on a target (only trouble is that you'll always miss).

And "etoy" has indeed created havoc in various places. We've heard stories. Nasty stories. In one, they subscribed to a high security mailing list and disseminated the information found there to various news-groups, much to the distress of the other list subscribers. In another, they captured V2's server, and randomly swapped messages sitting there for mail "etoy" had received.

What "etoy" seems bent on doing is disrupting the Internet. The chances that they'll manage to do so are of course slight, although they may indeed have caused some trouble. (And, to be perfectly honest, none of the jurors would like them to succeed in their shot at net-terrorism, because we need the Net too badly). One reason of course is that their opponents are too strong: governments are currently trying to cleanse the Net; shielded, "family supporting" spaces such as those offered by AOL flourish; and Netscape has, as "etoy" states, indeed hijacked the Web years ago, and neither reasoning, arguing, pleading, mailbombing nor keeping people hostage will stop it.

Yet, ambiguously, "etoy" loves the Net even though they seem bent on disrupting it. Their pages have been carefully designed. One of their pages warns the traveller of the risks of the outside world: a desolate and grungy picture of the world as seen through a window is shown, with the caption "... and it's cold too". Instead, "etoy" offers a page where you can get a tan. A solarium flashes rays at you. Please stay inside, locked behind your computer, is their message; the Net 1st a much more fun world. And it's a real piece of Gesamtarbeit. "Etoy" is a hybrid, a multimedia-crew working in various fields and trying to tie them together in a new way. They aim at "a new way of playing the soundtrack for a new travelling generation. We play this soundtrack with different instruments like graphics, infoseek-flooding-robots, c-animation and ascii-txt as part of the show. Our stage is the web," as they put it.

What we liked, and what got to us, is that "etoy" fools around with preconceived notions about the Net and turns these upside down. Using the Internet intensively, one tends to grow familiar with a whole set of notions: that homepages contain what their indices say they contain, that mail cannot be read, that mailing lists can not be infiltrated, in short: that we are safe behind our computers. "Etoy's" irony, that is all-pervasive, is funny but also necessary. They poke fun at the Net and teach us a well-needed lesson as well. Regarding their hijack page, they state: "With this action, etoy demonstrates the 'room' behind popular interfaces of the world wide web. Weak points and twilight-zones of this medium are the place of action..." The Net can indeed be used in other ways than is expected; there is a space behind the obvious that can be used, reverted and changed into something completely different.

One of the jurors had severe doubts about "etoy". Seeing that one of their pages contained an ad for a flexi-disk, he thought they might just be a hype, an ad for a band. He hesitantly agreed to their nomination. He may be right. "Etoy" might be a hype. But it's a well-designed one, and surely on the Net that is as good as the real thing. After all, the Net excells in trolls and nobody knows that you're a dog. As long as you don't bark.



"Hygrid" is an art site: a joint venture. It offers you a starting point in the shape of a small picture. People may join in and design their own pictures that, once they are uploaded, will be fitted next to it. What evolves is not a patchwork, but a shape-shifting grid. The pictures grow from one another; the image of the original supplying ideas for the one that is to go next to it. The grids that are formed with these pictures can be selected from a variety of arrangements. Each picture is linked to the maker's homepage. In this way, this virtual artist community connects. Easy as this may sound, the software that keeps track of the position of the various pictures that reappear in a number of grids and their respective links both to each other and to related homepages, must be rather complicated. The page looks very inviting and spurs you on to submit a picture of your own.

VW - Journey as an Exile

Fitted within seperate but linked frames, four artists present their work, and their comments on each other's work. While one frame checks into AltaVista and searches their database for the phrase "Travel is useful, it exercises the imagination" (and indeed, AltaVista comes up with some 20.000 links; later on the search engine is used to retrieve instances of the phrase "All the rest is disappointment and fatigue. Our journey is entirely imaginary.") All the while, angelic music can be heard and a voice that read's from an H.G. Ballard book.

Clicking one frame brings up new images and texts in another. The frames - mind frames - are used to, as they put it, "'target' on each other and build so together a kind of parallel processing HyperMedia Tool." There's a weird dreamlike - or nightmarish -feel to the page, perhaps emphasized by the humming angels. The makers themselves state that their frames of mind relating to each other present "a kind of slow scan chat - or a other possibilty of creating mindcrap conferencing".

Honorary Mentions

Web Collider Supercollider

The "Web Collider" is another pun on the Net. Considering the Net to be an endless stream of electric particles, it attempts to find out what happens if you crash them together at high velocity. It takes random parts of homepages and fires those at each other. Sometimes beautiful things come out of this collision, sometimes it's hilarious, sometimes it's just dadaist shambles. The funny thing is that you suddenly find yourself visiting the homepages from which the collider took a particle. On the down side, many pictures it snatches from other people's homepages are not retrievable in this way, so there are too many broken gifs.

Use of VRML


"Web Earth" makes beautiful and meaningful use of VRML (which a bit too many people use just to prove that they're up to date on the technical side). "Web Earth" presents you with a globe, on which real-time satellite photographs of the earth are mapped. Various degrees of detail may be configured. Using your mouse, you can then spin the earth and zoom in or out. The notion is that this technique presents you with a real-time picture of the earth, and that you can see which parts of the world are clouded or stormy at this very moment, and it makes "Web Earth" an impressive site.

Global Clock

Just like "Web Earth", "Global Clock" presents one with a real-time world. This one shows which parts of the earth are exposed to the sun. There are a few measuring points installed for this project, but unfortunately , the project has not yet been able to install all those that it needs. Sunlight is represented by longer or shorter pillars, which are appended to the earth,

New Documentary Form

Mc Spotlight

In relation to a lawsuit McDonald's started against two people they accused of libel when they criticised McDonald's policy - a lawsuit now becoming famous as the "McLibel suit" - and in the aftermath of an extensive use of mailing lists by a group of supporting critics, a huge Website has now been created. The most interesting feature of this site is how they use technology as a new way to present criticism. Using the frames option that Netscape has, they use McDonald's own corporate Website as one of their sources. On one side of your screen you have McDonald's shiny, expensive Website, and on the other you have a detailed deconstruction and criticism from "McSpot-light". There's even an audio file that will help you along this guided tour of McDonald's. In the opposing "McLibel" pages, McDonald's carefully constructed PR is taken apart word by word. McSpotlight contains 25 Mb of detailed information about McDonald's and add links to scientific reports and witness statements.

Ron Newman's Homepage (The Scientology Conflict)

The fight between Internet and Scientology has already made it to Net-history. Scientology tried to remove the discussion group devoted to debating them (alt.religion. Scientology), has tried to kill the newsgroup with endless bouts of spams, has investigated people who use pseudonyms and posted their personalia to the Net, used a private detective to observe posters from this newsgroup, has raided anon.penet.fi, Dutch ISP XS4all and the homes of various (US) citizens. Some of these actions are inspired by what Scientology calls copyright violation. The fight between a.r.s. and Scientology is in many ways formative for what one can and cannot do on the net in the very near future: for rules and regulations, for law and netiquette. Ron Newman's homepage is devoted to this fight. Beginning in early 1995, he has kept a homepage on this Internet fight. The page has been updated nearly every day for fourteen months at a stretch, and now contains 5,5 Mb of data. It fullfills the needs of many who what to know what exactly is going on.



A major spoof. "DigiCrime" educates us on the hazards of the Net by presenting a collection of weird but true stories, and persuades us to do things we'd better not do. Also, they use Netscape's technical innovations to trick you.

They claim to offer a variety of electronic crime services with the professional attitude of a serious company. However, "DigiCrime" retains the right to be corrupt, to cheat their potential customers. Somehow they remind us of the fact, that privacy today is no more than a question of power and money.


Coded Messages: CHAINS - "Cultural Ecology from Ghana to the World Wide Web"

"Chains" is more than just a documentation of a real life performance. It aims to achieve a highly valuable goal by inventing the term "cultural ecology", integrating and contrasting different cultural systems by means of technology, the World Wide Web. The real life performance "Coded Messages" attempts to show the relationship between different semiotic systems of a language of drums in Ghana and American magazine ads. They extend that to a "respectful participation in intercultural work" by integrating technology into creative work. A new "code" !• for the World Wide Web is being developed. Finally, they cross-link documentary material with "coded messages" from industry, which suddenly reveal their "real" meaning, as do the random links from CHAINS' collages and image maps. The Graffiti Wall offers everyone an opportunity to participate, as in the drumming performance in Ghana. However, the gap, the "CHAIN" that "separates" the connected from the rest of the world remains, illustrated by a link to the Virtual Tourist map of Africa.



SUCK is a "fast" magazine. It's fast and it knows all the links. SUCK puts them together in quite a different context from where they were originally supposed to be. Thus you may find a link to Camille Paglia's site on the same page as a link to a manager's interpretation of the bible - a SUCK issue about the trend analyst Faith Popcorn. SUCK, as the idea of a Metazine, daily brings a new Web to their audience, leading from one specific topic to an open minded integration of other thoughts through the selection of their links.

Netverse. Electro Magnetic Poetry

A page that 1st very well done, simple to behold but very inviting. With a cursor, a few handful of words and an elegant Java script, poetry can be - well, what?



Variety is ...

A page which tells many stories. One of the most interesting ones is the story about "Cyberbabes", that shows you what harm the Telecommunications Decency Act might do to the Net. Hutton links to many outside places in order to let her story develop; that is a way to go about things that the jury liked.


A story presented in parts, which are retrieved by following various hyperlinks. There is, however, the possibility that the pages are retrieved according to an underlying script: when you don't click a link, the script will automatically present one to you.


Timothy Leary

Leary's page is indeed a home. Clicking your way through his house - his living room, his library, his computer - one can access much of the stuff that he has written, read stories about his friends, see some cherished possessions. A video of his death may soon be accessible via this page.

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