Geert Lovink on Sat, 29 May 1999 20:31:10 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Andrej Mrackoviski: Winner of the Brower Competition 1999

Andrej Mrackoviski: Winner of the Brower Competition 1999 
Review + Interview by Geert Lovink

On May 20, the second "International Browerday" took place in Paradiso and
De Balie, organized by the Society of Old and New Media. This competition
is part of a long chain of events, all dealing with the cultural politics
of new media, the social role of interface design, and the future
architecture of the digital public domain.The browser as such may be dead,
but the question of how users will navigate information environments
remains an open one. As a seperate application for PC or Mac, the browser
no longer seems to matter. Who will remember Netscape in a few net.years,
after their sell-out to AOL and the simmering open source Godzilla
project? But that is all corporate policy. It is hard to keep up with all
the mergers these days. The Browersday is about something else. Its
assumption may be as naive as radical: design does matter. Get over the
general discontent over the primitive screens, let your imagination speak
and show the world your wildest electronic phantasies. The closing of the
American Internet and their local branches should not distract anyone from
drawing up odd looking, utopian concepts.

And so they did, the thirty or so media-design-art students. This year an
increasing amount of proposals came from outside the Netherlands (UK,
Germany, Finnland). The level had increased dramatically, while remaining
the authentic enthusiasm. The quest for navigation tools seems to open up
a wide range of models, from obvious director/flash works to performances
to interface critique. In general, one could see that the results remain
closely tied to the discipline of graphic design. The mythical motives of
flying though dark VR-tunnels, which fueled cyberculture in the late
eighties, have been replaced by hyperindividual applications for
"subnets", what David d'Heilly, within the Japanese context, describes as
the desire for "personal information autonomy". The Internet as such seems
to become so random, amorphous, undefined, that all attempts to classify
will ultimately fail. It is simply a waste of time to use generic search
engines like Altavista or Hotbot. As a result, complex knowledge is now
structured along personal narratives and metaphors; positioned within
safe, intimative, password protected Intranets. At least that is the
trend, both within the scientific research centers and the creative
dreamlands of today's info desert.

After a tough competition and a second round with five nominations, the
jury announced Enzyme by Andrej Mrackoviski as this year'swinner (prize: a
large size monitor). Mrackoviski studied informatics and architecture in
Sarajevo and continued in Zagreb. In the meanwhile he was a photographer,
videomaker and painter. In new media he found the best way to express
himself. Now Andrej is a student in the browser class of Janine Huizinga
at the Rietveld Academy for Visual Arts in Amsterdam. Andrej also
participated in last year's s competition with his "House between heaven
and earth", a folding-unfolding 3-D space, desktop and browser at the same
time. Andrej: "You were able to change the surfaces, a virtual house in
which you could replace the wallpaper, send your dog for a search, having
a ladder to climb into the sky. A fairytail space and fully functional
interface. You could go outside and stretch the form, be active on the
Internet, but also stay inside and place your files as books on a shelf,
or put the data you do not need in the cellar." During the Browserday 98
Andrej could not finish his story within the three given minutes, the
format of the show, he continued talking after the gong, operated by John
Tackera. He was viewed as an overenthusiastic, fanatical participant. A
comment which kept Andrej going.

Humans, equiped with two eyes and two brainparts prefer 3-D spaces.
According to the mnemonic tradition we place information in space in order
to store and retrieve the items. That is why, according to Andrej, we need
a spacial structure. It is the role of the enzyme to speed up these
processes. Enzyme's opening page shows a finger as cursor pointing at
clouds of data and servers. The design is meant to be light, thin in order
to break the barrier between the users and its senses. Then the clouds of
enzymes form certain groups. By moving with the finger-cursor we are
compiling the enzymes, digital DNA, as Andrej calls it, a new structure
which then can be stored and moved around through networks. Like other
browers it is a matter of zooming in and out, from overview to detail.
Files do not have a solid position, it is all very fluid. The enzymes are
easy to approach and move around. Andrej: "I am trying to reduce the
material component in order to find the best strategy for survival. The
higher you are in the data structure, the more energy you get, depending
on needs. If you are processing information, you have accesss to the
maximum processing capacity. If not, you fall back. In this system you can
be a millionaire for one second, borrow the money with a creditcard, and
give it back again in one second."

For Andrej, the design of browers is a global affair. Potentially,
millions of people share the same environment, unlike the design of a
house or painting a picture. "It gives you an idea of freedom. But in this
design I have tried to reduce the options to a minimum, not having
folders, hard disks, applications, downloading plug-ins. Just simple
plug-outs." For Enzyme, Andrej wrote his own Director 3-D engine in Lingo.
His aim was to come as close to natural structures as possible, to get as
low as possible, not to link to complex molecules or organisms. "In design
we are getting close to the heart of the matter, on the molecule level, so
to say, finding the smallest component. Is it a point? A string? How could
information vibrate, and rotate?" The years in Amsterdam, working with the
computer, have changed his view of the world. "In the Balkans the work was
more personal, focussed on one's self. You have to be real in order to
survive. Here you have more time to think in global dimensions, and what
other people are doing. Time to fantasize. I want to disperse, and not get
stuck into the design of houses, apartments, churches. My architecture
background is of great help. That is why I escaped the second dimension
and started to work in the third. It, as well, opens doors to the fifth
and sixth dimension. But the feeling for graphics and esthetics is
changing in time. Before I used gold, silver and bronze paint to express
heavy, solid statements. Now my work is more liquid, dispersed.

Within a few weeks all browers will be available at this website:

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