Saturday, November 14, 2009

It's a 'Temporary' thing

Things fall apart. The disorder of a closed system can be expected to increase. The center cannot hold.

“Temporary,” a new online artwork created by artist Zach Gage, is an up-to-the-moment, tech-savvy expression of the second law of thermodynamics and its place in every aspect of our lives. Gage’s kinetic artwork is a testament to the persistence of entropy: A Web site that deletes part of its own originating code with every successive page view.

By the time the artwork’s code is completely undone, courtesy of the people who come to the site, Gage’s work will apparently be a blank, unadorned slate of raw Web site, unadorned by HTML.

“Eventually, like tangible media, will fall apart entirely, becoming a blank white website. Its existence will be remembered only by those who saw or heard about it,” writes Gage on his archive Web site.

Gage’s idea works at different levels, more intellectual and emotional than esthetic. It’s a cheeky rejoinder to the notion of the Internet-as-forever. It’s perhaps the ultimate in environmental stewardship as an online concept, a leave-no-trace philosophy in digital action. It’s a literal validation of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle — the act of observing something changes the reality of what’s being observed.

And it eloquently speaks to the very nature of human breakdown; the hour-by-hour dissolution of the “Temporary” code is a graphic stand-in for the breakdown of our own cellular structures, our own bodies, with the passing of time.

Matthew Zuras observed Friday at AOL Tech News: “While plenty of analog art is concerned with ephemerality, and most art necessarily deteriorates over time as a condition of its exhibition, 'Temporary' decomposes as a result of the user interaction that is inseparable from its exhibition. It's probably most similar to the work of Félix González Torres, who created huge piles of candies that visitors were supposed to take with them, symbolizing the decay wrought by AIDS.”

“Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you,” Paul Simon observed on “Bookends,” in 1968. Consider “Temporary” and its colorful, poignant presence as a cry to remember, to preserve what you can of what matters … before it’s gone. You can see it for yourself, but remember what you’re seeing. Do a screengrab. It won’t be there for long. Ultimately, neither will we.

Image credits: All: Zach Gage

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