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MOCA Helps as Online Art Gets Its Message Out 'All Over the Map'


The concepts of art galleries online and Web sites as art have always seemed somewhat incongruous. Seeing fine art on a computer monitor just doesn't live up to seeing it at a museum. And great Web designs are fleeting, either redesigned in the next wave of technology or mimicked by every other site.

The L.A. Freewaves Festival '98, however, has chosen artful Web sites that showcase multicultural viewpoints and imaginative design. The festival, which will run through Sunday, includes bus tours, video screenings and multimedia art installations at the Museum of Contemporary Art. But if you can't make it to any of the events, you can still learn more about the show at the Freewaves home page,

The 12 highlighted Web sites come from a broad swath of society--which dovetails nicely with the "All Over the Map" theme. Though some sites get bogged down by rambling, self-absorbed poetry, others are worth the visit.

Many artists like to use Web sites to explore their personal lives, and the best of this genre is "Body of Words" (, with the writing of E.A. Belile and design of David Brady. Belile uses her body parts metaphorically as a table of contents, with lungs leading to religious poetry, fingers linking to handwritten journal entries and heart leading to thoughts about family and lineage. Brady's haunting use of negative photos is a perfect complement to Belile's reams of remembrances.

For eye-catching design, you might try "Lair of the Marrow Monkey" ( by Erik Loyer. Though the vague sci-fi plot, with characters like Orion 17 and Grid Farmer Perry, is hard to follow, Loyer employs an interesting array of multimedia elements. In the segment titled "I Couldn't Sleep, That Night," ambient music plays as an animation lets you move an "i" around, as spheres and words bounce accordingly--with the word "sleep" always pushed away. In "Mnemonic Membrane," you drag words onto a colored block that undulates and changes colors.

Another design triumph is called "Please Stay on the Line" ( by Juliet Martin, who uses a simple interface to explore the seemingly unrelated topics of telephones and death. You click on phone number buttons and see old phones morphing into new ones; a story about a man using a phone to check his pacemaker; or the simple question: "Can you call a dead ringer?" There's no introduction or explanation and none is needed for this perfectly unaffected work.

Some sites are more worthy for their story than for design, and "Glass Houses" ( by Jacalyn Lopez Garcia is a touching look at Garcia's experience as a Latina assimilating in L.A. She uses a house metaphor, with floors, keys and a closet with secrets (her mother's poverty-stricken past). Garcia also showcases the positive aspects of her children and includes a music clip of "Strawberry Fields Forever" in Spanish, a nice touch.

Also depending more on narrative than on visual art is "Grinding Tofu" (, which explores the lives of five gay Asian Americans. The site, created by a group of UCLA students, includes provocative first-person accounts of Asian men and women "coming out" at relatively young ages. The site includes a list of support groups and suggested reading to help those feeling isolated.


Mark Glaser is a freelance writer and critic. You can reach him at

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