Web Wizards at the Design Museum

By Tom Betts, 10 March 2002

At some points Web Wizards wears so much Net Chic that you would be forgiven for thinking that the Design Museum had re-sited across the river in Hoxton.

The displays are laced with cheap visual references to the net. Network lines are painted on the floors and angle-brackets sit happily around the wall texts. The ubiquitous display machine of the moment the i-mac, is used throughout, along with the predictable combination of Flash and Director. The work is as you would expect. Aside from a token animation from Peter Saville the exhibition mainly deals with the young pretenders of interactive web design. Daniel Brown, famous for his noodlebox site, shows a number of Director-created eyecandies. There is no pretense at functionality here or indeed at any stage during the exhibition. This is decorative art, design for design’s (or designers’) sake. James Paterson & Amit Pitaru present a more creative vision with printouts covering a whole wall. In the subsequent units we see other Macromedia driven designs by luminaries such as Yugo Nakamura (Monocrafts) and Tomato.

All the displays are visually thrilling but even Joshua Davies’ perfectly executed Flash screensavers fail to justify the wall texts peppered liberally around: ‘The reality of our century is technology… Everyone is equal before the machine, I can use it, so can you… There is no tradition in technology, no class-conciousness or status.’ László Moholy-Nagy. This quote reveals the shallow context in which the exhibition is framed. The designers are all pictured as autodidactic, working with the guts of the computer. In truth the creative work presented in this show is ultimately constrained and tinted by the tools the designers use. These applications (Flash/Photoshop/Director) are the standard for web design and employed by the Carhartt-clad-G4-owning-techno-loving-web-designing massive. Such requirements for creativity certainly prescribe a particular social route. The tradition of this technology is to some degree documented by the exhibition’s timeline and makes for interesting reading. It is all the more depressing then that the only event scheduled for occurance in 2002 is the release of Flash6.

Tom Betts <nullpointer AT> has been an aimlessly creative nothern export since 1973. []

Web Wizards // Design Museum // London // 30 November 2001–21 April 2002