o v e r b o a r d

John Cayley, with Giles Perring and Douglas Cape

overboard is an example of literal art in digital media that demonstrates an 'ambient' time-based poetics. There is a stable text underlying its continuously changing display and this text may occasionally rise to the surface of normal legibility in its entirety. However, overboard is installed as a dynamic linguistic 'wall-hanging,' an ever-moving 'language painting.' As time passes, the text drifts continually in and out of familiar legibility - sinking, rising, and sometimes in part, 'going under' or drowning, then rising to the surface once again. It does this by running a program of simple but carefully designed algorithms which allow letters to be replaced by other letters that are in some way similar to the those of the original text. Word shapes, for example, are largely preserved. In fact, except when 'drowning,' the text is always legible to a reader who is prepared to take time and recover its principles. A willing reader is able to preserve or 'save' the text's legibility.

Giles Perring has developed generative music for the piece that follows similar procedures, and, in a future version, Douglas Cape will create a more elaborate parallel visual channel.

overboard is still being developed. An installation version was shown at the p0es1s exhibition and colloquium in Berlin during February and March 2004. There is also a web-based version (see below).

A brief article describing the inner workings of 'overboard' is published by 'dictung-digital' - 'Overboard: An Example of Ambient Time-Based Poetics in Digital Art.' dictung-digital 32 (2004) http://www.dichtung-digital.org/2004/2-Cayley.htm.


overboard requires a recent version of QuickTime to be installed on your system. At the time of writing, the current version of QuickTime is 7.0.3. overboard may work with earlier versions of QuickTime, but given the possible permutations, this is impossible (for me) to confirm.

To hear the generative musical soundscape designed for the piece by Giles Perring, you must first download and install two 'sound font' files, following these simple instructions.

- download the archive containing the files from the Shadoof .mac download site: http://homepage.mac.com/shadoof/FileSharing9.html.

- if your browser doesn't do this for you, unpack the archive.

- depending on your system, move the files 'overboard bell.sf2' and 'overboard rolls.sf2' into the following folders:
   Mac OS 9: System/Extensions/QuickTime Extensions
   Max OS X: Library/Audio/Sounds/Banks
   Windows XP: Program Files/QuickTime/QTComponents

Please note, overboard was developed on the Macintosh and the text (in particular) looks better on this platform.

There are English and German versions of overboard. Once the sound fonts are installed, you will be able to view the GERMAN VERSION, and/or the ENGLISH VERSION, and hear the audio component as it was composed.

In fact you can view the piece without the sound fonts installed, but the midi sounds will all default to a QuickTime piano.