[ISEA97] Artist Statement: Amy Alexander — The Multi-Cultural Recycler

Artist Statement

There has been a recent proliferation of video cameras on the World Wide Web. These cameras provide documentation, surveillance, and a very specific representation of the camera owners and their surroundings. Ordinary people and places around the world are instantly subject to becoming part of the mass culture – and are potentially also subject to cultural recycling. The Multi-Cultural Recycler, in addition to its tongue-in-cheek attempt at performing cultural recycling on ordinary situations, also examines the meetings and collisions of all of these disembodied representations out in “cyberspace”. When a visitor accesses The Multi-Cultural Recycler, s/he is presented with two options for how to “start” the Recycler:

  1. Option 1) The Random Recycler: The Recycler selects two or three camera websites from anywhere in the world at random, and captures the live or latest image from their cameras. The Recycler then performs digital image processing on these images to “recycle”them into a new image – a new object of “Web art. Since the actual process used is also selected at random, each access to the Recycler site produces a unique image.
  2. Option 2) Make Your Own Cultural Compost! If the visitor selects this option, s/he is presented with menus from which s/he can select the source cameras to be recycled. The visitor may also select, in place of a camera, the immediately previous “recycled” image, or one of the recycled images from the Gallery page. Since these previously recycled images were created by other visitors to the site, visitors have the opportunity to perform “cultural recycling” on each other’s work.

Whichever camera selection option the visitor chooses, the live or latest images will be captured from their websites, and processed through one of roughly twenty image processes. These processes vary — some combine the images through the use of mattes; others create collages through repetition and superimposition of the images. All of the processes result in both juxtaposition and merging of the original images, creating a collage which is a document of their relationship as fragments of Web culture, and of their chance meeting in cyberspace. After recycling, visitors may wish to exhibit their finished artwork in the Multi-Cultural Recycler Gallery. The Gallery is comprised of six “recycled” images posted by visitors to the site. In keeping with the idea of cultural recycling as a virtually immediate occurrence in society, the Gallery immediately updates with each posting to display the new image as an object of art. Each image is displayed along with its creator’s name and optional linked URL. Thus, the visitors become, like the web camera subjects, part of the ‘famous’ of the web — and therefore, their work becomes fair game for future visitors-cultural recycling. Visitors can also look in The Recycling Bin to see the source images that comprised their “recycled” image. From The Recycling Bin they can link to the images’ original websites to learn their actual context.


  • Amy Alexander (U.S.A.) has worked both independently and commercially in film, video, computer animation and interactive media. She has taught at California Institute of the Arts and the University of Southern California. Her personal work often explores relationships between content, spatial composition, and temporal or algorithmic structures. Amy received a B.A. from Rowan College of New Jersey in 1991 and an M.F.A. from California Institute of the Arts in 1996. She is currently active in Internet art and is interested in continuing to explore the integration of interactivity with temporally-based visual art forms. Recent exhibitions include SIGGRAPH, Prix Ars Electronica (Honorary Mention), Sinking Creek, Anima Mundi, FIV International Festival of Video and Electronic Art (Best World Wide Web Project), Festival International Du Cinema D’Animation – Annecy, and the Internet World Expo (Achievement Award, Dai Nippon Pavilion).