April 21, 2009

Krannert Art Museum Grand Text Auto Exhibit

by Nick Montfort · , 9:48 am

Yesterday a group of us from the HASTAC III conference toured the Grand Text Auto exhibit here at UIUC’s Krannert Art Museum, which was curated by Damon Baker. The exhibit is great! Although many of the same pieces appear from the UCI Grand Text Auto exhibit, it’s different in several ways and has several new pieces. Update: Thanks to HASTAC scholar Veronica Paredes, there’s now a video and text about the exhibit up on the HASTAC blog. Check it out!

The presentation of pieces is very nice; Damon has put up helpful curatorial texts and presented both interactive and non-interactive pieces very thoughtfully. Mary’s [giantJoystick] hasn’t made it to campus yet, although there’s a 16′ tall space here right at the center of the NSCA building waiting for it. The elaborate augmented reality incarnation of Façade couldn’t be mounted again. However, the desktop Façade is exhibited very nicely; it shares center stage with Noah et al.’s Screen on the CANVAS in the Krannert Art Museum’s Intermedia Gallery. Scott et al.’s The Unknown is presented as a browsable hypertext, an open book, photos and texts, audio that plays continually, and a hotel bell. Scott’s Frequency appears on a computer and his and my collaboration, Implementation, is on display in manuscript and photographs. And, I have many small pieces throughout the exhibit: ppg256-1 and ppg256-2, Winchester’s Nightmare, and Taroko Gorge.

A nice thing about the exhibit is that the underlying works are almost all available for free online; in every case, there’s documentation of them. Here are the links:

I will add photos here when I have them. I hope some readers will happen to be at UIUC and will be able to visit!

5 Responses to “Krannert Art Museum Grand Text Auto Exhibit”


  1. Nick Montfort Says:

    Thanks to HASTAC scholar Veronica Paredes, there’s now a video and text about the exhibit up on the HASTAC blog. Check it out! (I’ve updated the post about this, too.)

  2. michael Says:

    Nice videos. Great job pimping GTXA Nick!

  3. Nick Montfort Says:

    I found the first blog post about the Grand Text Auto exhibit – by someone other than me. This one’s by Philip Graham, a professor of creative writing at UIUC, on the blog FAA 199: Art | Creativity | Diversity : Discovery course at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Spring 2009. That’s the good news – the other news is that he didn’t think much of the exhibit:

    After taking in the exhibit “Grand Text Auto” at the Krannert Museum, I was struck by how old-fashioned it all seemed, though these artists/writers apparently consider themselves avant-garde. Much of this–narrative interactivity, randomly-generated texts, etc–has been done since the 1950s, as can be seen by this video of William S. Burroughs describing “cut-up” writing.

    The interactive computer game also seemed extremely old hat, the graphics primitive even by late 1990s standards, while the narrative was basically a soap opera that couldn’t get going unless you assumed the role of an avatar and nudged it along. Lots of work, little reward.

    The work in this exhibit appeared more like ancient artifacts than anything cutting edge–quaint examples of a by-gone age, in the face of the vast resources of (and audience for) interactivity on the web.

    I wrote this in reply and sent it two days ago, around 8:30pm Eastern Time Saturday. It still hasn’t appeared on the blog, so I’m posting here so that there will be some opportunity to continue the discussion:

    Philip, it’s amazing to see how this exhibit broke against you like a wave against a rock. I’m glad you were exposed to this work — this is only the second time that the word “computer” appears on your blog, so I’m glad that the exhibit showed something related to computational media to you.

    Who would have known that William S. Burroughs (actually Brion Gysin, originally) knew about cut-ups? Maybe Noah Wardrip-Fruin and me, two of the Grand Text Auto bloggers, who included one of Burroughs’ article about cut-ups in our New Media Reader in 2003. As it happens, we’re aware of and building on the traditions of randomized and combinatory writing.

    Façade did win several awards and resulted in more than 15 peer-reviewed academic publications. It has transformed the way people think about interactive drama, and if you’re willing to play it, it can be exhilarating and amazing. But it’s not for everyone.

    A lot of our work is trying to show that while “interactivity on the web” is all well and good, there is something to be said for computation, an often overlooked capability of the networked computer these days. We’re trying to show that computers (whether they use combinatory methods, or AI, or are just displaying collaborative and constrained writing) can be interesting cultural artifacts even if they aren’t Web 2.0.

    I do appreciate your visiting the exhibit and writing honestly about your reaction. Perhaps we can continue the discussion?

  4. Scott Rettberg Says:

    I was going to post something on his blog, but it disappeared. On the one hand, I’m glad he went to the show and felt compelled to write about it. On the other hand, I would expect him to base his commentary on reading. The guy is a poet, right? The fact that the graphics didn’t impress him or that the exhibit could have had more Web 2.0 interactivity doesn’t interest me. I would have preferred to have more hard-hitting commentary about how the poems didn’t move him, or could have been more descriptive. I wouldn’t throw one of his books out the window because he didn’t manage to completely rethink the codex.

  5. Noah Wardrip-Fruin Says:

    I also just happened upon Margaret Carrigan’s article in the217. Sometimes I forget how unusual an exhibit like GTxA’s still remains inside traditional museums. Her writing did a good job of reminding me: “As you near a computer that is not only displaying pictures and text but also has a voice attached to it, you notice a mouse begging for your hand; that’s when you realize — you can tinker with them.”

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