artist in residence

Simon Yuill spring alpha

Artist in Residence January - June 2004

'spring_alpha' is an Artist in Residence project using open source development as a means of critical-artistic exploration of issues related to software systems and social governance.

During his period as Artist in Residence at the Netherlands Media Art Institute (12 January – 12 April, 2004), the Scottish artist Simon Yuill completed the first phase of his project ‘spring_alpha’. From 9 April to 6 June he presented his work in the Institute’s exhibition space. In addition, he presented a lecture on 13 April.

spring_alpha is a network game in a simulated environment based on the ‘Spring’ drawings and the series ‘Evolution is Not Over Yet’ by Chad McCail. ‘Spring’ tells the story of the residents of a small city who want to create their own utopia. As a result of experiences the residents had while working in the local slaughterhouse and arms factory, they entertain the idea of no longer being dependent on these industries. The story is used as a metaphor for essential problems that the project wishes to deal with, and affords an opportunity for reflection.

The software system spring_alpha is a vehicle for alternative ideas regarding social norms, in two ways: first at the narrative level, in the story it tells, and second at the ‘code’ level, working with the data and communications structures that support the game. The project combined the development of an open software system by means of workshops, and open source development that wishes to expand the Free Open Source Software principles into regions outside programming.

The intention in the game is to change the rules that govern society. The players can accomplish this for each other by hacking into and changing the social code, thus creating new sorts of conduct and manners of social interaction. The effects of these changes depend on the success of the players in the game in spreading the new ideas through the society. The project’s website offers free access to the code and the instruments that were developed for it. Furthermore, the site provides the original story and the drawings, documentation of the modules, software downloads and information for programmers.

A prototype of the game ‘demoville’ was developed in the Netherlands Media Art Institute as part of the Artist in Residence program. At this moment Simon Yuill is developing a new module for the game at the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam. This module, called the ‘Social Versions System’, works out how changes in the source code are related to the changes in the story of the game. In the Media Centre in Huddersfield, England, this project will have a follow-up through a residence. The results of this will be shown in the Netherlands Media Art Institute in 2006, accompanied by a joint publication.

Exhibition at the Netherlands Media Art Institute 6th April 2004 - 6th June 2004

Presentation/discussion 13 April
Presentatie en discussie spring_alpha

Simon Yuill (Glasgow) software kunstenaar
Matthew Fuller (Amsterdam), mediatheoreticus en kunstenaar
Francis McKee (Glasgow), mediatheoreticus en curator
Chad McCail (Edinburgh), kunstenaar