On the Upgrade – WYSIWYG


On the Upgrade – WYSIWYG is the latest publication of orbits.com, which asked nine artists to consider the book format as an interface. The result is an intriguing comparison between the holdable printed book and the online space, thinking at the tensions that might arise between the physical medium and the web interface.
or-bits.com is an online project founded and directed since 2009 by Marialaura Ghidini, which supports and promotes an exploration of the creative possibilities of the web and regularly presents online-based group show as well as publication of critical texts.


On the Upgrade WYSIWYG launch event at Banner Repeater, London – June 2013

In 2011 or-bits.com launched On the Upgrade, a publishing series featuring new configurations of works originally created to be displayed on a website. It can be intended as an investigation on publication and a way of production and dissemination across online and offline. The relationship between these two media is strong and physical interaction with the printed format invites you to browse the website for further reading of the featured works.
Published in May 2013, On the Upgrade – WYSIWYG is a POD book, also distributed as a PDF, and it includes artworks by Jamie Allen, Renee Carmichael, David Horvitz, IOCOSE, Michael Kargl, Sara Nunes Fernandes, Julia Tcharfas, Maria Theodoraki and Richard Sides.
As for WYSIWYG, Wikipedia states: WYSIWYG is an acronym for “What You See Is What You Get”. In computing, a WYSIWYG editor is a system in which content (text and graphics) displayed onscreen during editing appears in a form closely corresponding to its appearance when printed or displayed as a finished product, which might be a printed document, web page, or slide presentation.


On the Upgrade WYSIWYG (cover), published in May 2013 by or-bits.com and designed by Studio Hato, photo SM

The book is not a mere documentation of previous online activities. It is a challenge to find a new shape for works conceived and created to be shown on the internet. On the Upgrade – WYSIWYG also helps to deepen the knowledge of some of the most interesting works presented throughout the activity of or-bits.com – from the first exhibition Superposition launched in 2009 to the most recent Accordance. Every work is preceded by an introduction that highlights the relationship between the online work and its new printed counterpart. In addition, at the end of the book it is possible to find interviews with the artists, providing an interesting support to the understanding of the methods used to translate the works from one medium to another.
As stated in the introduction to the book, the reflection which came before publishing has made use of suggestions taken from 2005 Soren Pold’s Interface Realism: The Interface as Aesthetic Form, and wants to test the usual concept of interface as dynamic representation of data in constant flow. Perhaps, the most intriguing aspect is the new configuration that some works have gained. Leaving the internet – a medium comprised of all media – the duality between images and text regained a central role. It emphasises peculiarities and differences between some of the new ways to present the works – for instance, between Maria Theodoraki’s the line (2010-on-going) and Sara Nunes Fernandes’ The sideways boy and the levitating granny, the frontal man and the backside woman, the upside-down man and his wife who had her feet on the ground (2013), which is the transcript of an audio track recorded for128 kbps objects, an online radio exhibition broadcasted in October 2012 on basic.fm.


On the Upgrade WYSIWYG, detail from ‘the line’ (2010-on-going) by Maria Theodoraki, photo SM

However, it is difficult to ignore that sense of frustration coming from those several links to online contents. This is not referred only to David Horvitz’s An Informal Conversation (2012-2013) that includes multiple references to Wikipedia. It mainly comes from the always-present references to the online counterpart of the featuring works. Obviously, this aspect is inevitable if the starting point is a web platform and if On the Upgrade – WYSISYG aimed to test and stress the contact points between online and offline contents it succeeds in its intent. It also outlines strengths and weaknesses of both and at the same time connects them as complementary sites.
In the end, it becomes helpful to remember the purposes that accompanied the first release of On the Upgrade in September 2009. It was outlined the opportunity to come to physically move between two spaces – the printed publication and the website – experiencing directly the relationship established between the two conditions of the artworks that are both digital and physical as well as different and complementary.


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Simone Monsi

Simone Monsi currently lives between Italy and London, working as visual artist and contributor for art magazines. He is interested in digital culture, anime and Damien Hirst, and dislikes airports. Prior to joining Juliet Art Magazine, he worked as Press Assistant at Frieze Art Fair in London, UK. Simone holds a BA in History of Art and New Media from Università di Parma, Italy.

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