the ZKM aftermath
Die Welt der Spiele catalog, Nixdorf Forum, 1998

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engraph presentation software
presentation of prototype Engraph Webchair, Amsterdam, 1999

At the time of the ZKM’s opening in 1997, the internet was still an experimental playing field for artists, programmers, and graphic designers. A phenomenon such as Net-Art was only to come in the years after. Artists who worked with digital media were primarily concerned with the nature of interactivity and the immersive experience of the work offered through their user interfaces. Virtual Reality generated by a stand-alone supercomputer was still the non-plus ultra. At the same time, this realm of early creators focused on databases and how to address them. I wanted to know if a semantically smart visual interface could control a hybrid database of various media formats: text, pictures, CAD files, graphics, animation, audio and video files, and web links. Together with the programmers Luc Schellekens and John Hammen, we developed an interface based on the TheBrain mind mapping software. Project-specific, each mindmap would be highly contextual, and each node in the mindmap could be linked to any file in the database, regardless of its format. Referring to the notion of the engram, I named this new system ENGRAPH, and until I found out that developing such a concept required substantial capital, accelerate your thought and map your mind was our slogan and guiding principle.

interactive media machines
design and details of a transportable Webchair in a box, 1998

While developing Engraph, the architectural office Rau & Partners in Amsterdam showed interest in using the system for a mobile presentation of their work. This application triggered us to design a dual-mode object that could act as an elegant workstation and a transport case. We called the object a Webchair, a robust state-of-the-art media machine primarily made for the exhibition environment but ready for use anywhere. Frans Jansen from Jansen Art Productions constructed the Webchair prototype. And it remained a prototype, like the Engraph software, which never got further than a beta version. Inspired by all those interactive concepts of the ZKM and the sign of the times, the Engraph Webchair proved highly interesting to me. However, I did not have the appropriate capital to bring this idea to the market. Nevertheless, Rau & Partners used it in various locations, the Zurich Academy of Art and Design acquired an Engraph workstation for experimentation, and The Netherlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam featured Engraph in their exhibition De Ramp (The Disaster) in 2003.

selected projects

The Heinz Nixdorf Museumsforum exhibited the “ZKM-World of Games” in Paderborn, Germany, from 12 July until 13 September, 1998. Friedeman Schindler and I adapted the show to their spaces and published a dedicated catalog.

paper given at the SITEM 99 (Salon International de Technique de
Theatre et des Musées) at the Parc Floral in Paris, organised by
OCIM (Office de Cooperation et d’Information Museographiques) on
February 12, 1999.