Writer-performer Constance De Jong, artist Tony Oursler, and composer Stephen Vitiello collaborate on multimedia CD-ROM

Sep 11, 2000

Culminating a five-year collaboration by three artists to produce an experimental work of art in digital media, Dia Center for the Arts announces the release of Fantastic Prayers, an interactive CD-ROM. Created by writer-performer Constance De Jong, artist Tony Oursler, and composer Stephen Vitiello, Fantastic Prayers offers a mesmerizing series of illusory environments explored through text, image, and sound. The artists' use of CD-ROM technology allows an art-viewing experience unlike that of any other media; the artwork is ever-changing, individualized for each viewer and visit, and independent of the limits of time and location.

Fantastic Prayers features appearances by Vito Acconci, David Bowie, Kim Gordon, Mike Kelley, Tracy Leipold, Julia Scher, and many others. It was produced by Dia Center for the Arts and Prop Foundation.

Fantastic Prayers examines an urban landscape redolent with memories of people, places, and objects. As its eight magical environments open up on a viewer's personal computer, the CD-ROM provides an experience that is both intimate and gamelike. Like a game of Solitaire, Fantastic Prayers can unravel in a multitude of variations unconstrained by skill or intention.

Specifically, the CD-ROM invites the user to uncover fragmentary narratives laden with physical and psychological histories. In one environment, a virtual "Graveyard," excavation with a computer mouse reveals a screaming ghost played by Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, while an accidental click of the mouse uncovers David Bowie in a cameo appearance as the "flower director." Rolling one's mouse through the scene "Ludlow Street" exposes a series of snapshots of a New York City street where daily routines unfold as mini-dramas. In "Empathy Wheel," the viewer plays a video game with the emotions of actress Tracy Leipold. In the segment named "Jacket," a simple charcoal drawing "cuts" to vivid stories of lives past and present, including a cinematic collage narrated by a young Indian boy who loves film. Interwoven with these sections are others entitled "The Place Where Lost Things Go," "Hair," "Natatorium," and "Walls That Speak." Videos, animations, sounds, activities, words, subscreens, and links layer these immersive environments, ensuring a complex and often accidental array of opportunities and juxtapositions.

Dia and the artists will celebrate the publication of the Fantastic Prayers CD-ROM on October 5th with a party in Dia's 545 West 22nd Street gallery in New York City. The artists will present an arcade of video projections of the CD-ROM with which partygoers will be invited to play; Stephen Vitiello will accompany these scenes with music. The public is invited free of charge.

Fantastic Prayers was released in July 2000. It retails at $39.95 and may be purchased at Dia Center for the Arts or on the web at the Dia book shop.

Fantastic Prayers was first launched as a performance on Dia's rooftop, in spring 1995. At the same time, it premiered as Dia's first artists' project for the world wide web - itself a pioneering venture. Dia's financial, technical, and curatorial support sustained the construction and growth of the multiyear collaborative project. The Fantastic Prayers web project may be viewed at http://awp.diaart.org/fp/.

Fantastic Prayers was produced and published by Dia Center for the Arts and Prop Foundation; Karen Kelly, project director; and Steven Gomez Dean, design director. Programming was provided by codeHorse. Prop Foundation is dedicated to the support of new art through innovative technologies.

Fantastic Prayers is supported in part by Beck's Beer. Additional generous support has been provided by Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund; Arranged Introductions, a Project of Tyler School of Art/Temple University; and Harvestworks Inc./Studio PASS Artists-in-Residence Program. In-kind support has been provided by Intel Corporation. Dia and the artists also wish to thank Mark Taylor and the Center for Technology in the Arts and Humanities at Williams College.

Dia Center for the Arts is a tax-exempt charitable organization. Established in 1974, the organization has become one of the largest in the United States dedicated to contemporary art and culture. In fulfilling this commitment, Dia sustains diverse programming in visual arts, poetry, education, and critical discourse and debate. Exhibition hours during the 2000-2001 season are Wednesday - Sunday, 12 noon to 6 pm, beginning September 13, 2000. Admission is $6 ($3 for students and seniors and free to members).

Fantastic Prayers: Artist biographies

Constance De Jong lives and works in New York City. Since the 1970s, she has published several books, including Modern Love and I.T.I.L.O.E., and produced writing for performances and installations, which often combine sound with the spoken and written word. In addition, De Jong authored the libretto for Philip Glass's opera Satyagraha: M.K. Gandhi in South Africa (1981). De Jong has collaborated with Tony Oursler on a number of other projects, including the videotape Joyride TM (1988) and a live fifty-minute performance, Relatives (1989). In June 2000, Speaking of the River, an audio work designed for benches, was installed along the River Thames in London as part of the Thames and Hudson Rivers Project. It will appear next June along the pedestrian pathway of Battery Park City, New York.

Tony Oursler's work in the mediums of video, sculpture, installation, performance, and painting has been exhibited extensively in the United States, Europe, and Japan. Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown, Massachusetts, recently organized a major retrospective exhibition on the artist: Introjection: Tony Oursler mid-career survey, 1976-1999 (1999). The exhibition traveled to the Contemporary Art Museum in Houston and Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art, and will be on view later this fall at the Des Moines Art Center in Iowa. The Influence Machine, an installation of sound and light projections organized by Public Art Fund and sponsored by Target, will be on view in New York City's Madison Square Park from October 19 to October 30, 2000; the project will be shown in November in London's Soho Square, under the organization of Artangel and with the support of Beck's Beer.

Stephen Vitiello is an electronic musician and sound artist. Since 1988, he has entered into a number of collaborations with musicians, choreographers and visual artists, including Jem Cohen, John Jasperse, Nam June Paik, Pauline Oliveros, and Frances-Marie Uitti. Recordings of Vitiello's music include the CDs The Light of Falling Cars (JDK, 1998) and Scratchy Marimba (Sulphur, 2000). Installations of Vitiello's work have been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Lyon; Postmasters Gallery, New York; and PS 1 Contemporary Art Center, New York. On September 14, 2000, Dia Center for the Arts will launch on its website Tetrasomia, a project created for the internet by Vitiello.

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For additional information or materials contact:
Press Department, Dia Art Foundation, press@diaart.org or 212 293 5518

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