NEW YORK, NY.-
Through Conserving Computer-Based Art (CCBA), a research and treatment initiative to preserve software and computer-based artworks in the museums permanent collection, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has completed the restoration of Unfolding Object (2002) by John F. Simon Jr. (b. 1963, Shreveport, Louisiana). Originally commissioned by the Guggenheim, Unfolding Object is one of three seminal web artworks in the collection, including Brandon (199899) by Shu Lea Cheang, which was restored by the CCBA in 2017, and net.flag (2002) by Mark Napier.
Unfolding Object enables visitors from across the globe to create their own individual artwork online by unfolding the pages of a virtual objecta two-dimensional rectangular formclick by click, creating a new, multifaceted shape. Users may also see traces left by others who have previously unfolded the same facets, represented by lines or hash marks. The colors of the object and the background change depending on the time of day, so that two simultaneous users in different time zones are looking at different colors. For the composition of Unfolding Object, Simon drew inspiration from sources including work by artists Vasily Kandinsky and Paul Klee, and the writing of theoretical physicist David Bohm, explaining how Bohm talked about an unfolding universe. . . . Reality is only where your attention is. At a time when the internets potential for audience engagement and interactivity was just being realized, Simon embraced those new possibilities. But because the Java technology used to develop this early internet artworks is now obsolete, the work was no longer supported by contemporary web browsers and not easily accessible online.
Detailed documentation of the original and restored code will simplify the maintenance and study of the artwork in the future. The CCBA teams work on Simons piece restores visitor interactivity inherent in the work and allows a continued history of visits to accumulate within Unfolding Object. New audiences can now explore this pioneering web art commission by visiting the works original URL, unfoldingobject.guggenheim.org
The restoration of Unfolding Object was supervised by Joanna Phillips, Senior Conservator of Time-Based Media, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and Professor Deena Engel, Department of Computer Science at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University. The programming was executed by Karl Toby Rosenberg, former NYU computer science student (class of 2017), and supported by Jonathan Farbowitz, CCBA Fellow at the Guggenheim.