“[con]artist” by Randy Adams

"[con] artist" by Randy Adams
Open “[con]artist” by Randy Adams
This hypertext multimedia work by the late master remixer Randy Adams is an homage to the World Wide Web. Adams describes his impetus “to create a hypertext[url] Web art work that pays homage to the World Wide Web and, on the other hand, pokes some fun at it” and “to utilize and interpret, exclusively, text and images found on the web.” To achieve this he embarked upon a constraint-based writing described in detail within the project, but best read after experiencing the work.

Suffice it to say that Randy Adams deftly remixes experimental artistic practices (such as several Oulipian constraints and Cut up techniques), Google Web and image searches, images, text, poetic conventions, digital image editing methods (such as layering and transparency), audio editing tools, and HTML structures, such as documents and frames). On a surface level, the work seems like a straightforward document, but when you visualize the layers of documents and images coherently interwoven you can better appreciate its complexity, as seen in the following image.

Three dimensional visualization of "[con]artist."
Three dimensional visualization of “[con]artist.”
Even more remarkable than the multiplicity of elements seamlessly incorporated is the focused artistic expression that results from his process. One might liken Adams to a traditional Japanese swordsmith folding layers upon layers of material to produce a blade sharp enough to slice through to the heart of the Web.

As you read this hypertext poem and explore its images and lexicon, keep an eye on how the words used as a navigational interface on the left change over time, approximately every five seconds, subverting any hope of linearly reading the work. One can plan a systematic reading by following each letter until it cycles through the initial 27 words, but this will not necessarily yield a more satisfying reading. Redundancy is built into this work, and recurring texts tend to amplify ideas rather than merely repeat them. One aspect you won’t be able to appreciate using a contemporary browser is the audio file which is in the now (mostly) obsolete RealPlayer format. Here’s a link to the embedded music file, which you can open with several audio and video players (including my favorite: VLC media Player). I recommend playing on a loop as you read the work.

As dated the use of frames and .rm files may seem, it is worth mentioning that the work was very timely when published in BeeHive in 2001. The now ubiquitous Google was a lean, effective search engine that was only beginning to challenge the hierarchical officious oracles that dominated Web searches at the time. To use its Web and image results gave more universally consistent results (rather than localized, personalized, customized), allowing Randy Adams to sample the Web for materials to remix.

Adams went on to create many more remixes, some as part of the hugely productive artistic collective R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX (which he started in 2006) attracting e-lit luminaries such as Chris Joseph, Christine Wilks, Andy Campbell, and others to produce over 500 works.

Randy Adams passed away at the age of 62 on Friday, April 25, 2014.

When the history of remix culture is written Randy Adams will be remembered as its Masamune.

Featured in BeeHive.