Net Art Project

"The elegant StarryNight interface is both a nod to van Gogh's 19th-century masterpiece and a 21st-century experiment in making the Rhizome community a generator for art."

— I.D. Magazine, June, 2001


Made in collaboration with Alex Galloway and Martin Wattenberg, StarryNight was a visualization of and interface to the text archive on the Rhizome website. Each of the stars on StarryNight corresponded to one of the texts in the archive. The brightness of each star was determined by the number of times the corresponding text had been read. Each time someone read a text, the corresponding star got a bit brighter. So the brightest stars represented the most popular texts.


As of this writing (February 2013), StarryNight is partially functional. Stars, keywords, and constellations are displayed, but texts do not appear. Click here to see StarryNight as archived on Rhizome (requires Java and may take a few minutes to start).

Clicking on a star triggered a pop-up menu. You could either click "read message," which caused the corresponding text to pop up on screen, or select a keyword associated with that text, which drew a map linking together all of the stars sharing that keyword into a constellation.

You could use these constellations to find other related texts, and in doing so, follow your interests through the vast array of ideas and information in the archive. Anyone could create a star by contributing a comment, review, interview or other text to the archive. And by using StarryNight, you increased the brightness of the stars corresponding to the texts you read, leaving a visible trace of your activity (intensities are updated daily, so results are not immediate).


StarryNight depended on two pieces of original software: a set of Perl scripts that sorted texts by keyword and record their individual hits, and a Java applet that filtered this information to draw stars and constellations.


StarryNight was both a mirror and a map. On the one hand, it offered a reflection of the community's reading habits. On the other, it acted as a navigational interface by connecting similar stars/texts into constellations regardless of their brightness.


As interface art, StarryNight explored some of the possibilities offered by the Internet: global artistic collaboration, realtime collection and filtering of information using automated software, the integration of user-generated data such as Web site hits, and the dissolution of authorial control.

Exhibitions and awards

"A Small Look at Giganticism." Gigantic Art Space, New York, NY. 2004


"Maps, Routes and Shortcuts." The Media Centre, Huddersfield, UK. 2002


"Imagine 2001." Gävle, Sweden. 2001


"seARchT Engines: des(in)formation." Video Festival of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain. 2001


"Interface Explorer." Public Netbase t0, Vienna, Austria. 2001


"I.D. Interactive Media Design Review," I.D. Magazine. Silver medal winner, Software Applications category. 2001


SIGGRAPH 2000, New Orleans, LA. 2000


"Net Condition." ZKM (Center for Art and Media), Karlsruhe, Germany. 1999