On the occasion of Academie Minerva's 200th anniversary the Media-GN MFA program has been invited to make a presentation in the Groninger Museum. This presentation will consist of short black and white 'stick figure' animations running on ten new iMac computers arranged in the exhibition space.

As past or present MFA student or instructor you are invited to submit one or more animations for this exhibition. The exhibition will take place in the Groninger Museum from Saturday 31 October to Sunday 29 November 1998. The deadline for submissions is Sunday 25 October 1998. The final selection and installation of the accepted work will be done by Mark Wilson (curator Groninger Museum), Mark Madel and Paul Perry.

The subject of the presentation is 'Death by Media'. The concept is in part derived from Matt Calvert's 'Stick Figure Death Theatre' ( ) and Bruce Sterling's 'Dead Media Project' ( ). Please make sure to check out these sites and read the information provided below for the background and rules of the exhibition.

Media Defined

In his 1964 book 'Understanding Media' Marshall McLuhan defines media as 'the extensions of man'. His survey of media includes technologies such as speech, writing and roads through horse harnesses, wheels and sails to modern forms such as advertising, typewriters and telephones. Thus defined, man alone, without these extensions, without 'media', is unthinkable. Yet we consider media and technology as being separate from man, separate from the human condition.

Media are assumed to be our products--helping us as our tools--doing our bidding. However it is easy to turn the assumption around and ask: To what extent are we the products and tools of our media? Clearly media and technology change us. Can we think of media as replicating patterns--similar to organic viruses--that attack us, change us, and use us to replicate themselves?

Media as a threat? Today neo-luddite advocates see technology and modern media as a threat to humanity. Sven Birkerts for example, writes in 'The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age':

Our various improvements not only mark a diminution of the function improved upon... but they also work to dissolve some of the fundamental authority of the human itself. We are experiencing the gradual but steady erosion... of the species itself.

Can we think of our media and technology as being alive? Are we simply the environment in which media and technology lives and evolves?

Dead Media

Media live. Media die.

Media (as technologies) are born, evolve and die--making way for new (usually faster and more efficient) media life forms. Once upon a time smoke signals evaporated and were replaced by telegraph poles. Semaphores (signalling with flags) disappeared and were replaced by radio transmissions. Villages evolved into cities. Cities in turn became real estate in the global village at the same time as the technology of tourism reincarnated the historical villages as tourist attractions.

It looks like our life spans are lengthening while the life spans of media are getting shorter. We are seeing the death of more and more media. Media artists should be aware of this. As Bruce Sterling warns:

Suppose you compose an electronic artwork for an operating system that subsequently dies. It doesn't matter how much creative effort you invested it that program. It does not matter how cleverly you wrote the code. The number of manhours invested is of no relevance. Your artistic theories and your sense of conviction are profoundly beside the point. If you chose to include a political message, that message will never again reach a human ear. Your chance to influence the artists who come after you is reduced drastically, almost to nil. You are inside a dead operating system. Unless someone deliberately translates you into a new one -- with heaven only knows what liberties of translation -- you are nailed and sealed inside a glamorous sarcophagus. You have become dead media.

The museum is a media life form created to preserve dead media (endangered and extinct media life forms).

Death by Media

Not only do media die, media kill. Media kill other media and media kill their human hosts.

Like the virus a medium or technology can be malignant. Some viruses use all their host's energy to replicate themselves and by doing so, literally 'burn their host out'. As Manuel de Landa illustrates in his machine histories, ('War in the Age of Intelligent Machines' and 'A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History') war media prosper by killing people. Such viruses need not kill directly, it is enough to precipitate the movement of attention and materials from old forms to new forms:

The gradual abandonment of armor as a part of the equipment of soldiers during the seventeeth century freed some metal supplies for the manufacture of firearms and missiles. --John U. Nef, War and Human Progress

The fact that war media kill is obvious. But what about other media? Can we think of examples of:

DEATH BY COMMUNICATION MEDIA: language, writing, maps, the printing press, telephones, journalism, advertising, computers etc.

DEATH BY ART MEDIA: painting, sculpture, fashion, photographs, performance, literature, film, television etc.

DEATH BY SHELTER AND HEALTH MEDIA: clothing, housing, plumbing, medicine etc.

DEATH BY TRANSPORTION MEDIA: roads, wheels, bicycles, skates, trains, cars, planes etc.

DEATH BY SOCIAL MEDIA: numbers, money, division of labor, schools, politics, networks etc.


Matt Calvert's 'Stick Figure Death Theatre' represents a new media genre or style. We believe that within the constraints of this genre there exist enormous creative possibilities. For the exhibition in the museum we invite you to create one or more stick figure animations exploring the subject of 'Death by Media'.

Here are the rules:

  • The exhibition will consist of short black and white stick figure animations running on ten new iMac computers arranged in the exhibition space.

  • Animations should be submitted as director movies.

  • Do not use sound. The animations should be silent.

  • Each animation should be no longer than 30 seconds.

  • Each animation should be made for a screen resolution of 640 x 480 pixels (animations do not need to take up the whole screen).

  • Animations should feature SIMPLE stick figures. For examples of SIMPLE stick figures please see 'The Car', 'The Axe', and 'The Gun' at Note that most of the animations on the fan pages at this site lose their impact by being too complex.

  • Animations should be black and white. A very small amount of one other color (red or yellow) is allowed if its effect is justified by the content.

  • The deadline for submissions is Sunday 25 October 1998. Please mail submissions to

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