Antirom (Lingo vibes while others just linger)

By Tom Flemming, 10 June 1996

Tom Flemming teamed up with multimedia sculptress Philippa Thomerson to find out how anti the memory in the boiler house can be.

Designers frequently conjure up new ways of putting it. Each evaluation of media and language carries its own incorporated charm. When you are not too sure on how to present this, the general phraseology is applied. An inherent meaning," you are buying something good here. Rest assured. Your assets have been placed well." You succumb to expertise and ponder in digital nirvana. Never has code been so sensual.

A multimedia cooperative named AntiRom

Coming into the Covent Garden work space the air of the boiler room hits us. We are here to find out what the mediators are up to. Digitalia is placed, misplaced, fed with coffee on keyboards, and sellotape on vents." Ah, here's a.... code paradigm shift..."

Coming from varied design backgrounds, the group share a fascination for multiplying media with a united devotion to sound. Andy Cameron, who divides his time between working and teaching at Westminster University's Hypermedia Research Centre and AntiRom, sets up the CD drive to reflect on the group's latest activity.

From the group's initial starting point, under the name of SASS, they have come to be known for what they do: AntiRom. With a collective disapproval of current CDROMs and the way in which these are being dealt with, the group produced their own ReadOnlyMemory with remote funding from the Arts Council. The AntiRom CD is more than read only, an exploration into the media, questioning and giving ground to answers. In about 70 rapid interactive habitats digital routines are investigated, travelling through soundbites and video fusion to dada-esque exquisite corpse. Each delivering a instantaneous experience and opening the language of mouse action to a whole new experience.

The analogy of a binary system doesn't inevitably mean that all expression is linear. You look at the index of your glossy mag, flick to the article and read all about it. The trademark of the laughing cow, from one of France's most popular cheeses, heralds a non linear, ambient narrative through AntiRom's first publication.

In the meantime Tom Roope, one of the collective's lingo crunchers, has done major work on the CDROM portfolio for the art & design associative Tomato. Then AntiRom were called in to equal the media for MTV, Creative Review and are now in preparation for the next AntiRomROM. Amongst putting the latest attempts in QuickTime VR to the rigourous read test, applying test to the VR-rooms and making Cartesian space look somewhat unappropriate for today's readers.

After initially having worked on individual projects for the Digital Nightclub and Burn:Cycle for TripMedia they now share their expertise in cross fertilisation. Whilst most of the energy is currently in support of the creative force their success has made them aware of a need for some form of management. With close connections to mediamatics Tomato it is an aim to allow for open structure ventures. Allowing the managerial side to work on equal push-pull emphasis.

When the first CDROM was published in early 1995 the group showed it in nightclubs and art shows, presenting it on large video screens as instant feedback to the the urban jungle. The way you go about looking at information is just as much dependent on the way it is presented to you. AntiRom's interactive routines are just as much an exploration into this as they are an analysis of the digital leisure lounge. AntiRom take the interface to form part of the expression.

Say Hi to the Gary Tesco Orchestra for me

Another vital aspect of their work is the use of sound. With soundbites springing into action when accessing a new area, its randomness gives an altogether live impression, rather than merely working ones way through a multiple-choice questionnaire. Working in collaboration with sound sorcerers Underworld, another link to the greatly respected Tomato umbrella company, the incorporated sound environments range from radio shack collage to aural sculptures, giving the work the attractiveness to look at it for another reading.

In the distribution of navigational devices sound throws a somewhat different angle on the perspective than visual 'click-heres' and 'drag-theres'. The acoustic space is relative in terms as opposed to the visual space. It is not immediately disseminated into a hierarchical order. Orientation works in a much looser and ambient way.

Just as much as their first CDROM is a digital journal of cyberculture, it is also a showcase for their claim to the media and a showcase of their approach to narrative in the medium. The first issue was handed out for free. It also served nicely as an introduction to commercial companies and future cooperations.

Although AntiRom's prime interests don't reside in programming, they see the necessity to come to terms with it to set their pace in mediating language, cutting code and repurposing it to meet their needs. Much as the typesetter's trade saw sophisticated roaming in lead filled draws and knowing where your e's and ligatures are, the multimedia designers have their equivalents in 'on StartMovie' and 'on MouseUp'.

While the uncomprehending corporate decorators try to come to terms with design features, AntiRom have created language patterns capable of holding more than clicking images and dragging transitions.

Dazzling vertebrae of binary nurturing

In the rush from analogue to digital most advances in recreating the word have been interrupted by the inabilities of the CDROM. As it's not exactly good at playing back video at full frame or much other things apart from dictionaries, the secret lies between the tracks. And it's here that the group around Andy Cameron, Andy Polaine, Joe Seven, Luke Pendrell, Rob le Quesne, Sophie Pendrell and Tomas Roope have based their immediate exploration - feeding the culture with the metaphor breakdown. The market is currently expanding at an incredible rate. The factory price of a CDROM title has dropped to $11. 1994 saw multimedia CDROM software titles shipped in the region of 54 million units. Triple the amount of the 1993 figures. It is not so much the amount of titles but rather the per-item-price that is making it an increasingly interesting medium. Not only for commercial endeavours. In the progress of narrative in multimedia the scale on the gauge does not have many iterations to move on when challenging the medium. Especially as few have pushed their mouse this far. It is not so much waiting for the invention of the wheel but hearing the motion of the digital boiler room soar. Does this click!

Tom Flemming <100045.1456 AT>

To contact Andy Cameron email <>