Currently in the Gallery:
February 17 - March 24, 2001

"Go Fish" 
an exhibition of three interactive multimedia installations


press release:

"Go Fish"

Postmasters Gallery is pleased to announce John Klima's first solo exhibition. Titled "Go Fish," the show will consist of interactive media installations connecting computer gaming and real life consequences.  John Klima will also be exhibiting at the Whitney Museum exhibition "Bitstreams" (March 01) and recently received the "Golden Lasso Award for Art," Web3d RoundUp SIGGRAPH 2000 for his project "Glasbead".

Circa 1980, Brooklyn-based Klima (b. 1965) attempted to code a 3D maze on a TRS-80 with 4k RAM and failed miserably. He has been obsessed with 3D ever since. Fascinated by the first primitive flight simulators and CAD programs, he began to build 3D graphics environments, and to write source code.

By drawing upon gaming and the various possibilities of manipulating and transliterating data, John Klima's exhibition occupies completely virgin ground in new media art. Although there is an obvious connection between gaming and interactive digital art, and the gaming industry has played an important role in the development of multi-user environments, the parameters of this connection are almost never subjected to serious, aesthetic investigation.

One of the pragmatic aspects of digital practice is that information can be reified in various forms and modalities - - be they physical objects, 3D representations or an interactive, networked installations. "Go Fish"  traces the various manifestations of data in its migration from sound files to 3D objects and the impact of gaming on actual and virtual life forms.  The question of "remote responsibility" raised by the results of players' actions so far has been the domain of critical writing rather than art, yet what was purely theoretical is here rendered utterly concrete.

Machine Age: 
Carly Berwick 
"Predator and Prey:Tech Artist Puts Viewers in Ultimate Game"
The Village Voice, March  14 - 20, 2001

The robotic counterpart to Jackson Pollock spins in circles, dragging an attached 
Magic Marker. Part of 'Go Fish,' an exhibit by the Brooklyn-based artist John Klima 
now showing at Postmasters Gallery in Chelsea, the robot and three more like it are 
busy making splotches and swirls across a paper map of the world on the floor. These 
are simple analog machines, rotating from one square of paper to the next by internal 
voltage currents rather than digital instructions. But the entire installation is 
complicated enough that the artist is on hand to help visitors navigate his piece, since 
they must actively participate for the works to run. 

Viewers can direct the "bugs," as Klima calls them, with a joystick linked to an 
enormous clear weather balloon floating overhead. On the balloon appears an image 
of the earth, complete with satellites. Four red circles in this three-dimensional map 
correspond to the home countries of four charging stations sitting on the paper world 
below. To re-energize the robots when they run low, visitors must drag one of the 
whirling satellites into a circle, which then illuminates a charging station. 

These tiny machines do more than scramble our vision of the world. Each circle 
reflects real-time currency fluctuations for the charging stations' home countries. 
"The more volatile the currency, the larger the red disk," explains Klima. "That 
makes it more likely that the charging station is on and the bug goes there more and 
it'll be darker from the marker. You'll notice Mexico is really dark." 

The squares of paper can be bought one by one, becoming progressively more 
expensive as more are sold, from $1 to $10,000. The many layers, of paper and 
meaning, point to a vision of a world governed by fabricated systems, like the 
currency or art markets, which often create scarcity to drive up value. "Half the 
time," says Klima of his techniques, "it's just practicality. I wanted the more volatile 
countries to be represented as larger simply because in the currency field that's what 
one pays attention to." 

A former programmer for financial consultants like Dun & Bradstreet, Klima will
also be contributing a piece called ecosystm to BitStreams, the Whitney Museum of 
Art's exhibition opening March 22. Ecosystm transforms streaming market data into 
projections of flocks in flight; visitors navigate the work with joysticks. "The 
combination of the graphic interface, the beauty of it, the imagery, with the real-time 
information and confluence of economic and ecosystems information is terrific," 
says curator Lawrence Rinder. "It's compelling, and disturbing." 

Klima says his work attempts to "make real something considered virtual, like a Star 
Trek holodeck." By using the look and feel of video games, the pieces encourage 
users to consider other kinds of games played in life. A second installation at 
Postmasters, Fish, examines the mini-world of a fishbowl. Visitors play a video game 
in which the outcome affects the fate of a real goldfish. A freestanding arcade cabinet 
is flanked by an elaborate configuration of fish tanks that, with long plastic tubes and 
tiers of bowls, looks as if it could be from the set of a 1950s science fiction movie. In 
the game, rendered with the 3-D animation software WorldUp and Klima's own 
self-taught programming skills, the player is a fish swimming through dangerous 
waters. Lose, and a goldfish is shot from a bowl into a tank with menacing oscar 
fish, which will eat it later at night. Win, and the goldfish heads toward less 
carnivorous company. 

Players might pity the victim, but the goldfish must lose out sometimes, or the oscars 
will die of starvation. "It's the moral dilemma any pet owner faces when they feed 
animals to their pets," says Klima. More than that, it may be the reigning moral 
dilemma in a zero-sum system, where saving one creature means killing another and 
where one person's calm blue water is another's path to power.

images and descriptions of artworks in the exhibition:


Go consists of corresponding virtual and physical gaming 
environments. Loosely based on the Japanese game Go, the goal of the 
game is to capture robots and buy drawings. The physical game board is a 
16 x 24 foot map of the earth, made from 16 x 20 inch drawing pads 
arranged in a grid on the floor. Each page in the drawing pad equates to a 
monetary denomination. The drawings on the pads are created by 4 fully 
autonomous robot bugs that run on batteries and have pens attached to them. 
Individual game board drawings can be purchased "cash and carry." 
When a robot's battery is low, it seeks light and moves into one of 8 illuminated 
robot recharging stations, which are positioned on 8 countries on the game/drawing 
board. Suspended above the game board is an 8 foot balloon. The virtual gaming 
environment, a spinning image of the earth, is projected onto this balloon. 
In the virtual game, each country (and its corresponding charging station) on the
physical game board is represented by a disk. Visitors to the gallery manipulate 
the projection interface and turn the charging stations on and off by moving little 
communication satellites into the proximity of the disks. This way, they determine 
the path of the robots and resulting drawings.

 spherical projection of the game which allows for the charging stations to be turned on and off, affecting the drawing on the ground

 floor drawing continuously created by the robugs

 30 feet long drawing created by one robug, with the charging station moved along the bottom

 full view of "Go" installation

robug close up


  Implementing the classic paradigm of the "first person 3D shooter", 
  Fish  ups the ante by placing the life of a real goldfish at stake.  The
  piece consists of a virtual gaming environment and its analog
  physical installation. The game is played from an arcade cabinet,
  requiring players to deposit a quarter. The player's goal is to get their 
  virtual goldfish avatar to the safety of the "hero tank" by traveling 
  through treacherous, predator infested waters. If the game-goldfish
  makes it to safety, a live goldfish is automatically released from a
  holding area into a large bowl with other "saved" goldfish. If it doesn't, 
  the live goldfish is released into a tank with a live oscar fish, and is 
  subsequently devoured.

 cabinet graphic from "Fish" game

 "Fish" arcade

 "Fish" installation

"Fish" arcade



 screen shot from "Fish" game

 screen shot from "Fish" game


  Using the artist's original 20-year-old TRS-80 computer as the gallery
  guestbook,  the visitor is asked to sign not with their name but with a
  valid credit card number.  The "mass storage device" on the TRS-80 is a
  standard audio cassette recorder, but instead of being stored to tape,
  the card number is played as a datasound (similar to modem noise)
  through a speaker. A microphone connected to a contemporary computer
  records this sound, and translates the sound data into an unique 3D
  geometrical object. The visitor may then preview the object, and (if it
  meets their approval) purchase the object as an actual, physical "3D
  print", known as a stereolithograph, that can be held in the hands or
  displayed on a shelf.


 projection of a credit card object

 "Guestbook" installation

"Guestbook" installation closeup

also in the gallery:

"Optimus"(analog glasbead v1)

Consisting of 16 modified radios attached to a ring and 8 small
joysticks mounted to a sphere, optimus is an analog equivalent to the
artist's popular "glasbead" digital sound object ( 
Similarly to glasbead, the viewer is invited to "make it sound good" by
manipulating the joysticks. The viewer may tune the radios to any 
stations and dynamically play the volumes of each radio.  A wide 
variety of soundscapes can be achieved through tuning to talk radio or 
the white noise "between channels."  The 16 radios mounted on a ring
create an intriguing sound spatialization. versions 2 and 3 of "analog 
glasbead" will actualize the same concept but with greater numbers of 
radios and joysticks,  and a variety of radio sources such as weather, 
air traffic control, police scanners, CB's etc...

"Optimus" analog glasbead sculpture

459 West 19th Street  (corner of 10th Avenue)
New York, NY 10011
Telephone 212 727 3323
Facsimile 212 229 2829