WEB: Ding an Sich

Ding an Sich

A man walks toward you out of black-and-white darkness, stopping before the crosshairs of your gun as a disembodied female voice shouts, "Vision!" A 10-digit number representing the world's population hangs above the man's head; a backbeat begins. You shoot, he falls, the number drops by one as a woman drags him away. He reappears. "Hope!" You repeat this episode five times, 10 times. He always falls, always reappears, and she always says some word or other: Language, Unity, Time. The optimistic message is that you can shoot a person, but you can't kill the human race.

This isn't a game exactly, but it's way more interactive than most art; in fact, it won't work if you don't shoot. It's just one of 12 sections, or "canons," in Piotr Szyhalski's new Web site, Ding an Sich, commissioned by the Walker to inaugurate "Gallery 9," their new online space. Ding an Sich isn't a pretentious load of crap, either, for all you Walker-skeptics out there. Szyhalski does something that seems so obvious but feels revolutionary: He approaches the computer screen as a unique and respectable medium--not as a canvas for imagery or a page for text, but an intersection between the senses, where vision and sound play against each other in conspiracy with your mouse, where the screen hides secrets, and where experimentation, repetition, or the simple unspooling of time can lead to surprise, delight, disgust.

This is a highly stylized space, a digital world with analog soul: techno sound-mosaics (or the crackle of an old record skipping, or a baby crying), sepia-toned images, and totalitarian symbols (farm implements, smokestacks, Mao). Samples of artists' voices (including Martha Graham, Peter Greenaway, Allen Ginsberg) provide a sense of humanity, as well as clues to Szyhalski's mysterious theme: the Ding an Sich, or the thing itself (see also Kant's Critique of Pure Reason). The question this site investigates is, how can you communicate an experience, a sensation, or a reality through any media--let alone a brand-new one? As Graham says, "The reality is different from the fact. The fact is finished. The reality is something which has eternal life."

Piotr Szyhalski will perform "On Leading and Following" on Friday at 8 p.m. at Intermedia Arts; call 871-4444.

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