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Alive 7
Preface: This article was written very shortly after Alive issue
#6 was "in press" so naturally, it is now being publishes
with a massive delay. You might consider it informative
though, even though the exhibition has long ended by now.
Also, the museum has a new director by now.

Origami Digital

An exhibition about the demo-scene in the museum for applied art Frankfurt

organized by

The Paranoid and Der Komtur have been there.

Thanks to DefJam, i learned that the Museum for applied art, short mak,
presents an exhibition about computer demos as digital art, organized by
an organisation named
Well, Frankfurt is nearby, my crewmate Der Komtur had some spare time so
we decided to go there on the very first day of the exhibition, tuesday
december 10th, and have a look what their definition of demos looks like.
The homepage that DefJam has reported to me was a rather slight one that
did not bear too much information about neither the exhibition nor demos
in general so we were both curious whether the exhibition was more detailed
or conform with our first impression of their homepage.

Walking a few meters through the cold, but very sunny tuesday afternoon,
we found the museum and entered. Entrance fee for students was a mere
2.50 EURO, but the two people at the counter had to find someone else to
find out if the exhibition had already started or not.
After all, it had started so we climbed to the second floor and had
a look. The exhibition area for this special presentation was rather small
and consisted of 2 rows of exhibition displays, a line of SUN computers
that were there for free internet surfing and a line of personal computers
to browse through PC diskmagazines. The main attraction of course were
the two rows of displays.
The backside of the first row, more or less facing the stairs where to
visitors came from, were 5 more or less classical video games, a
Nintendo Entertainment System that was playing a Mario All Stars
cartridge, an MB Vectrex playing the infamous Mine Storm, a
Super Nintendo loaded with F-Zero, a small Atari 2600, nicknamed
junior with a Ms.Pac Man cartridge in it and an Atari 7800,
displaying Mario Bros.. Joysticks were connected and small labels with
the hardware configuration of the video games were posted above the
video games. Directly on the opposite side of this row, on the wall,
were the SUN Computers for free internet surfing.
Turning around the corner lead you to the main exhibition.
That actually consisted of an Amiga 500 playing a very old-school
demo over and over again, a Commodore 64 that was a placebo actually,
the TFT-monitor positioned in front of the C64 was displaying either
a windows desktop with a C64 BASIC-background and was once in a while
playing scenes from C64-demos, such as Red Hot Chilli Peppers from
Crest or Reanimated from Hitmen - I can't tell whether they
were run on an emulator or have been recorded, they did not run very
smoothly though. Next to that were 2 TFT-displays connected to PCs,
playing PC-demos from between 1995 and 1998, about the era where
3D-scenes became complex, spiced up with lighting effects, where
alpha-layers became popular and where the resolution in demos was
still around 320x240 even on the PC.
Directly on the opposite side was the other row of displays which
housed two iMacs, one displaying graphics from demo-artists,
the other playing a slideshow of pictures taken on large demo-parties.
In between these two iMacs were two Palm Pilots with colour
displays that showed some demos and a Nokia cellphone, also showing
a few demo-effects.
Once again turning around the corner lead to the backside of the
exhibition display and to about 8 PCs of which 4 were switched on,
allowing the reader to browse through a few PC-diskmags such as for
example Hugi issue #19.
Every exhibited object was accompanied by a DIN-A3 sized poster,
shortly describing the exhibited machine, its basic hardware and the
efforts, quality and general history of demos on this machine.
Also, there were two larger posters generally describing demos
and how they can be compared to origami.
Additionally, they exhibited their file-server, a SUN-Server in
a 19" rackmount case that was lying in a glas box, an original IBM
PS/2, which was labelled old school and an old portable PC.

I admit it right here, planning an exhibition that deals with
computer demos in a museum is surely not easy. How to show someone
who has never ever seen something like a demo what the sense lies
in ? What the producer tries to achieve ? How it all developed and
where they came from ? An exhibition should neither be too technical
nor leave important details out. Then again, it should also represent
those that actually produce demos in a way as the exhibition is
definetly dedicated to those.
But does this exhibition fulfill all these requirements ?

Hard to answer.
While space was very limited, valuable space was still kind of
given to rather non-demo-related exhibitions. It's kind of brave to
label an IBM PS/2 old-school with regard to demos. Certainly, for a
PC-user, an original PS/2 is very old-school, it's also one of the
systems that most probably never any kind of demo has been written on.
And why exhibit the SUN fileserver and the portable PC - but no
Atari ST ? While i can understand to leave out systems such as the
ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, the Atari XL and even the Atari
Falcon, the real push in demo development was done on the C64,
the Amiga and definetly the Atari ST.
But the Atari ST is missing, and the Amiga is forced to play one
rather old-schooly and not very spectacular demo from disk over and
over again (nice plasma-screen though). Even worse is the choice of
emulated or recorded C64-demos that are being played in a rather
unsmooth screen - Not a very hot idea for the rather old-school
screens included that usually run in 50 Hz - like the Crest-demo.
The selection of PC Demos is however rather well chosen as it
includes demos from the dawn of the 3D-era and is also nice to watch.
Then again, the exhibited demos on the Palm and the Nokia
cellphone are also kind of nice, but having 2 Palms but no more
"classical" demo computers is - in my eyes - a bad choice.
What i also considered a bit odd was the iMac that displayed a
set of C64 and true-colour graphics (some of the C64 graphics
required interlaced display, which was of course not being used).
While the poster above this computer claimed the graphics to be
hand-drawn, most of them shouted Photoshop all over and a large
part was raytraced, leaving only a few true-colour and the C64-
graphics as really "hand-drawn".
And while the video game consoles were a nice goody, i don't see the
connection to computer demos. Also, having 6 or 8 PCs to browse PC
diskmags is kind of oversized for that purpose.

The exhibition was called Digital Origami because demos are being
produced in a classic, traditional way not using modern tools, just
like Origami, the traditional way of shaping paper without glue
or scissors.
You can like or not like this metaphor, leaving out the Atari ST
is a very bad idea then. After all, Atari ST demo-coders had to do
by hand which was - at least - supported by the Amiga hardware:
Sync-scrolling instead of hardware-scrolling,
Blitter effects (bobs) without a Blitter,
Sprites without hardware-sprites,
Copper- and Plasma-Effects without a Copper,
4-channel module replay without a 4-channel DMA soundchip,
and so forth ...
But the Atari ST is not represented there and that is the biggest
failure of this exhibition.
The rest can be argued. The posters bear some kind of basic information
that is neither really wrong nor really valid and far from complete.
Also, the selection of demos on the rare computers exhibited don't
allow to follow the development of demos through time nor their origin.
Having 8 PCs to read diskmags but only a small set of PC-centered
diskmags available also doesn't really give an overview of what's going
on in the demo-scene.
So this exhibition leaves a lot more questions than answers for the
interested but inexperienced visitor and neither the exhibitors in the
museum nor the webpage of digitalcraft can answer any of them.
In my eyes, this exhibition lacks a demo-freak, someone who has either
been involved in producing demos or has at least watched a lot of them
over a large period of time. Someone, who is less concerned with the
"art-aspect" and more interested in the technique, the background, the
restrictions of the machines and how coders, graphicians and musicians
cheat to overcome these limits.

Concludingly, this exhibition is not interesting at all for Atari-people
because Atari is totally ignored when it comes to demos. For everyone
else who is interested in demos and has absolutely no experience yet,
it might be nice to have a look.
However, the internet and a few good emulators can explain a lot more
about the history of demos than this exhibition can.

The Paranoid of Paranoia                    Think you can handle it ?!

Alive 7