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What were your criteria in selecting screensavers?

What fascinates me is that so many people saw screensavers on a daily basis, without really looking at them carefully. I found it interesting that the images could lodge themselves subconsciously in our brains. It was a matter of recognising something you were never fully conscious of. You never wondered where it came from or who made it, or what their intention was. That is why I didn’t search for obscure examples, but stuck to familiar screensavers.

For me the idea of staring is very important. When you are tired and just gazing blankly at what is in front of you. Most of the things we do on the computer are done with a purpose in mind, but screensavers relate to a very different part of your brain. That is why I like the title Sleep Mode. Most art is best experienced by just looking at it without thinking too much.

Most screensavers existed for just a brief period, with new versions installed with every software update. Was it difficult to find them all?

No, that was quite easy. My theory is that software continues to exist as long as people think it is interesting. Enthusiasts preserved various versions of the screensavers. You can download them from the internet. What is more, the creators are still alive, so I was able to interview them. Perhaps it will be more difficult a hundred years from now, but by then this exhibition might provide a point of reference. Screensavers are an interesting phenomena. That is why they survive.

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What exactly is the difference between an animation and a generative image?

An animation is composed of twenty-five to thirty frames per second. If you look at these images in quick succession, they suggest the movement of a short film. A film always contains images arranged in the same sequence, while a generative image is recomposed again and again by the computer, and so appears in infinite variations. Each image differs from the others, which is why it cannot burn into the screen, and that is the reason for the very existence of the screensaver.

How are the screensavers presented in the exhibition?

On a computer you can only look at screensavers one after another. In the exhibition, however, I can arrange them side by side. The screensavers are shown on huge screens, taller than a person. Presented like this, they create a totally new experience. Visitors move through the history of screensavers, almost disappearing into them. The result is a more interactive way of looking.


Interview: Lotte Haagsma

Sleep Mode was made possible thanks to the generous support of: