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SFMOMA Unveils Redesigned Online Gallery, E.space, With Two New Commissioned Works

Released: June 10, 2002 ·

SAN FRANCISCO, CA June 10, 2002—The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) today launched the second iteration of e.space, its innovative online gallery at www.sfmoma.org/espace/. E.space was inaugurated in the spring of 2000 with a selection of the Museum’s permanent collection of Web sites—the first such collection to be assembled by a U.S. museum. With its redesign, e.space adds two new sections, “Curatorial Experiments” and “Artists Projects.” E.space is jointly organized by Benjamin Weil, SFMOMA curator of media arts and Joseph Rosa, SFMOMA Helen Hilton Raiser Curator of Architecture and Design, thereby encompassing two complementary viewpoints of the Web’s development as a forum for exploring and retooling notions of space, narrative and the networked environment.

The redesign of e.space was prompted by the need to accommodate a wider range of projects online. The new “Artists Projects” section offers direct access to commissioned artworks, permanent collection Web objects, and featured Web sites. With today’s relaunch, two recently commissioned works are featured—Agent Ruby by Lynn Hershman and World of Awe 2.0 by Yael Kanarek—in addition to the five projects commissioned for the 2001 exhibition, 010101: Art in Technological Times. “Curatorial Experiments” presents essays and other curatorial projects that investigate new models for online exhibitions, such as the collaborative sound art project Crossfade: Sound Travels on the Web. Selections from SFMOMA’s permanent collection of Web sites will continue to be available through the e.space archive.

As Weil and Rosa state in their introduction to the new e.space, “Art has always been engaged with representing our world: it is only natural that artists now incorporate this new set of tools, which is simultaneously a new venue for their work.”

Agent Ruby by Lynn Hershman

Lynn Hershman has worked in photography, video, installation and interactive and online art. Her 53 videos and seven interactive installations have won many international awards. This multimedia body of work addresses the social construction of the female identity and related issues of social conditioning, most often through the narrative construct of an alter ego or “agent.” In her second feature length film, Teknolust, 2002, for example, Hershman introduces Agent Ruby, one of several female SRA’s (self-replicating automatons) who interact with the scientist who modeled them after herself. (Please note: Hershman’s film Teknolust will be screened at SFMOMA on Thursday, June 13, 2002, as part of the monthly film series The Seventh Art: New Dimensions in Cinema.)

In Hershman’s online project, Agent Ruby returns as an Artificial Intelligent Web agent that is shaped by and reflects her encounters with users—thereby simultaneously being part of the real and virtual worlds. Ruby converses with users, remembering their questions and names, and is ultimately able to recognize their voices and have moods corresponding with whether or not she likes them. Her mood may also be affected directly by Web traffic. Agent Ruby is seeded to user servers and is downloadable to users’ desktops or Palm OS handheld computers; it is multi-platform, integrating PC, Mac and Palm operating systems.

According to Hershman, Agent Ruby is designed to have a self-perpetuating life cycle of three phases:

• The Web Site is the hub from which the entity searches and returns communication.

• Beaming/Breeding Stations allow users to replicate Agent Ruby onto their palms, shifting information directly.

• Ruby Speech Synthesis and Voice Recognition enables users to speak directly to Ruby. Users will also be able to drop information into a site that will be collaged onto a cumulative billboard revealing an overview of world concerns and the shapes of the patterns this information takes.

In this way, Agent Ruby “will challenge the legality of genetic DNA ownership by creating a virtual entity comprised of the aesthetics, experiences and interests of users. This ‘tamagochi-like’ creature will be an Internet-bred construction of identity that will flesh out through cumulative virtual use, reflecting the global choices of Internet users.”
Agent Ruby will be able to be downloaded to users’ handheld devices using beaming stations courtesy of WideRay.

World of Awe 2.0 by Yael Kanarek

A new media artist, Israel-based Yael Kanarek has been developing her interdisciplinary project, World of Awe, since 1995. In the process, Kanarek has been merging the esthetics of the desktop with those of the browser, pointing to the blurriness between that which is local and that which is remote in the realm of the network. Exploring storytelling schemes articulated with specific attention given to the design of multilayered user interfaces, Kanarek pioneers new fictional forms that are more immersive than they are participatory.

At the core of World of Awe is The Journal, an original narrative that uses the ancient genre of the traveler’s tale to explore virtuality through the connections between storytelling, travel, memory and technology. World of Awe 2.0 introduces the user to previously unpublished entries from The Journal. (The first iteration of World of Awe was included in the 2002 Whitney Biennial exhibition.) Chapter Two is loosely based on the themes of destruction and mending, establishing relationships among what the artist terms “skins”: human, interface and land. Chapter Two also begins the dissemination of The Journal over the network—by signing one’s name in the project, World of Awe 2.0 tracks the visitor’s movements through the two chapters. Thus, the relationship to travel and the imagined geography of the Internet is further enhanced.

Major support for e.space has been generously provided by the James Family Foundation.


On July 1, the essay titled Indigenous to the Net: Early Network Music Bands in the San Francisco Bay Area by Chris Brown and John Bischoff will be uploaded to a special section of e.space dedicated to sound art, CrossFade.

The article documents the work of two bands active in the San Francisco Bay Area between the mid-1970s and late 1990s. The League of Automatic Music Composers and The Hub were two of the first ensembles to investigate the unique potentials of computer networks as a medium for musical composition and performance. Both groups came about as associations of computer music composers who were also designers and builders of their own hardware and software instruments. Their approach to the computer music medium was strongly do-it-yourself, a characteristic common both to the electronic technology community of the San Francisco Bay Area, and the experimental instrument-building tradition of Harry Partch, John Cage and David Tudor. These artists approached the computer network as a large, interactive musical instrument in which the data-flow architecture linked independently programmed automatic music machines, producing a music that was noisy, surprising, often unpredictable and definitely more than the sum of its parts.

Indigenous to the Net, cowritten by two members of The Hub, provides an audiovisual tour of the music, instruments and networking designs produced by these bands. In assembling the sounds, still images, video, programs and diagrams that are the artifacts of twenty-odd years of creative work, the user is struck by the ways in which both the recording and performance technologies represented reflect the character of their times. The artists also hope to point out how many of the issues that were confronted by these bands are still relevant today to composers working on ways to make the Internet a medium for live, interactive musical performance. This article will be followed in August 2002, on this same CrossFade site, by the premiere of two new online network music pieces, by Brown and Bischoff, pointing in that direction.

CrossFade is a joint project of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Goethe-Institut, ZKM (Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe) and the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis). It is funded in part by the James Family Foundation.

Jill Lynch 415.357.4172 jilynch@sfmoma.org
Clara Hatcher Baruth 415.357.4177 chatcher@sfmoma.org
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