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NET ART
ANTHOLOGY

skinonskinonskin

Entropy8Zuper!

1999

skinonskinonskin (1999) is a series of digital love letters sent between artists Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn.

The two artists met in 1999, and began a romance by exchanging interactive web pages, in Flash, audio, text, and images. Originally sharing their “letters” solely with one another, Harvey and Samyn later made them available to paid subscribers as an online artwork. skinonskinonskin is now out from behind its paywall and available on the public web for its launch as part of Net Art Anthology.

As their relationship grew, Harvey merged her web practice, Entropy8, with Samyn’s Zuper! to create the collaborative entity Entropy8Zuper!. In skinonskinonskin, artistic collaboration and love are shown to be closely related, two facets of the same fundamental question of how to relate to the other. The work is a complex portrait of an artistic and romantic relationship that shows that online intimacy is as deeply felt, embodied, and full of risk and reward as any other form.

VISIT WORK

if ( 1 + 1 == 1 ) { e8z = true; };

Read Harvey and Michaël Samyn's discussion of skinonskinonskin.

Before meeting, both Harvey and Samyn were aware of each others’ online work, and both figure into Chapter 1 of Net Art Anthology. Working under the name Entropy8, Harvey’s art and design projects had included a collaboration with Shu Lea Cheang and Beth Stryker on the Panopticon interface for the epic narrative Brandon. Samyn, who worked online as Zuper!, was previously featured for his 1997 work LOVE, which he attributes to the fictional collective Group Z.

Panopticon interface from Shu Lea Cheang, Brandon (1998-1999). Art, design, and coding by Auriea Harvey.

In 1999, Harvey and Samyn met on hell.com, a members-only website founded by Kenneth Aronson and frequented by a number of net artists.

Auriea Harvey during the chat where she and Michaël first met.

The next day, Michaël sent her an HTML page, breath.html, featuring a simple graphic of a human chest soundtracked by his heavy breathing. A mouse pointer mirrors the user’s movements across the page, as if another user is on the other side of the screen. Messages of love are hidden in the code.

breath.html, Entropy8Zuper!

Using a secret directory on the hell.com server, /NO/SUCH/PLACE/EXISTS/seasideMOTEL/, they exchanged what they describe as “interactive poems.” Some appear to be made in passionate haste, and others are finely wrought. One, “freezing,” features a scanned image of Auriea’s profile, so that it looks like she is pressed against the computer screen, trying to escape.

Read Rindon Johnson's essay "Re: skinonskinonskin".

“freezing,” from skinonskinonskin.

In 1999, Harvey and Samyn shared skinonskinonskin as a pay-per-view exhibition on hell.com. Users could access the work for a week for ten euros or buy lifetime unlimited access for one-hundred euros.

Upon logging in and navigating past a landing page that features the title skinonskinonskin carved into what looks like human flesh, visitors were offered a simple pop-up window with live links to each letter arranged chronologically like a timeline across its top.

skinonskinonskin was also shown at Postmasters gallery in April 2000 in the exhibition “Behind the Firewall,” a show of four installations that engaged the network.

Installation proposal for skinonskinonskin at Postmasters Gallery, image courtesy Postmasters Gallery, New York.

Installing skinonskinonskin at Postmasters Gallery, image courtesy of Postmasters Gallery, New York.

Installation view, “Behind the Firewall,” Postmasters Gallery, New York, April 2000, image courtesy of Postmasters Gallery, New York.

“how does one and one become one? Two net.entities roaming around through the wires unexpectedly connect in a place that turns out to be hell in so many ways. communicating in the only way they can, through visions, transmitting emotions through the files.” — Entropy8Zuper!

In total, skinonskinonskin includes twenty-five letters. As they play out, the respective work of Entropy8 and Zuper! blurs together and finally merges, and Harvey and Samyn grow closer in spite of their geographical distance. Ultimately, the work upends traditional ideas of physical intimacy. Putting the user in the role of recipient of their love letters, it allows one to feel a touch that runs through the wires, from a body that doesn’t end at its fingertips.

Timelapse GIF made while counting down to the launch of the Entropy8Zuper! website, March 14, 1999.

“To us the private is public. We aren’t making art, but making love in a way that speaks to us, and we show the artifacts.”

Auriea Harvey and Michael Samyn have been close collaborators since 1999 as Entropy8Zuper! making websites and internet artworks. They founded Tale of Tales, a games development studio, in Belgium in 2003. Their goal with Tale of Tales is to explore the potential of the videogames medium as an artistically expressive form of entertainment, exploring and expanding the use of real time 3D as an artform. Their games have been thrice selected as finalists for the Independent Games Festival, San Francisco, and their work has been a featured selection of the IndieCade International Festival of Independent Games. They have exhibited widely, including at the Laboral Centro Del Arte in Gijon, Spain; the Artefact Festival in Leuven, Belgium; the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City; and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; as well as a solo show of their games and net art at the Inmerso Cyberlounge Museo Tamayo, Mexico City. They have received grants and awards including a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, an Emerging Artists/Emergent Medium Grant from the Jerome Foundation, and the SFMoMA prize for Excellence in Online Art. They stopped making video games in 2015. Their current project is Cathedral-in-the-Clouds.