Zombie and Mummy Zombie & Mummy, part of Dia's series of Artists' Projects for the Web, launched November 1, 2002. Funding for this series has been provided by the New York State Council on the Arts. Instructions for the project can be read in the status bar of the browser.

Interview with the Artists

A filmcritic by training, Olia Lialina has been making net-based art since her influential 1996 work My Boyfriend Came Back from the War. This and her other early works, including Agatha Appears and Will-n-Testament, make singular use of the formal qualities of html and the network to construct poetic narratives. For example, in Agatha Appears, all of the dialogue is constructed by unconventional methods (alt tags, popup windows and status bar) and the story ends with the main character traveling the world from server to server, her journey evidenced only by watching the URL change. After gaining wealth with the "First Real Net Art Gallery" she spends most of her time in her house at river Neckar -- only from time to time typing a tag or two and sharing her wisdom with students of Merz Akademie.

Lialina convinced Dragan Espenschied to collaborate for Zombie & Mummy. Espenschied is a musician and programmer who gained worldwide fame by releasing the influential record "Maxi German Rave Blast Hits 3" with his home computer band Bodenstandig 2000 and winning the 2001 Media Art Award from the Zentrum für Kunst und Medien in Karlsruhe.

For Zombie & Mummy, Lialina and Espenschied are creating weekly episodes of a comic strip featuring the two title characters. Each episode is embedded in a colorful environment. Drawn on a Palm pilot, the cartoons themselves have a low-tech look, with no shades of gray and only 160x146 pixels per frame. They can be viewed online or downloaded for a palm device.

You have tagged Zombie & Mummy "Fresh entertainment for our networked society" in links from your many existing projects. Is there something about a networked society that is a prerequisite to their existence, and how did you develop the characters?

Our networked society is not so networked. Things in the net have totally settled, there are fixed places for everything. The technological advancements that have been made move the net away from people and into the hands of professionals. They dictate how it looks, what to put where, how and where to make links, and that star backgrounds on web pages are bad taste, etc.

A lot of the material on the site seems to be collected from different web pages. What determines your choices?

We collect some things that we cannot make better ourselves and that serve as representations of the web culture we are interested in. Other things, like the burning letters or the episodes themselves we make with amateur software. All of the code and the music is original. For people who still know the art of surfing the web (and not just looking at what Google spits out) it is easy to recognize what we have taken and what we made ourselves. And we hope that what we created will be used by others.

The midi music theme for Z&M makes me feel a bit like I'm in a melancholic amusement park, is that what you were going for?

Yes, probably.

Why do Palm devices play such a large role in the project, both in its creation and distribution?

The Palm III is the ideal device for computer drawing. The Tealpaint program features all important fill patterns. Of course many information technologies managers buy a Palm pretending to keep their important addresses and dates inside. But in fact they only doodle during meetings.

To distribute the drawings on the very device on which they were made seems natural. And wireless devices are such a big trend right now that it is just impossible to ignore. (for important information on fill patterns see http://a-blast.org/~drx/lo-tech/bodenstandig/patterns/index.en.html)

How long does it take to draw one episodes on the Palm?

It depends on the complexity of the scenario, for example detailed background settings are very hard to draw in this low resolution. So roughly one to three days is normal.

How many episodes are you planning to publish and why do they appear always on Monday?

Monday was chosen to brighten the first working day of the week. To bring a short moment of happiness, as Jakob Nielsen wrote in his article "Celebrating Holidays and Special Occasions on Websites" (http://useit.com/alertbox/20021028.html)

At the moment we have facilities to entertain the global community until the end of March 2003.

What were the reactions of people seeing Zombie & Mummy for the first time?

As always we have had enthusiastic responses from the WIDOW OF LATE PRESIDENT MOBUTU SESE-SEKO OF ZAIRE. And also we received several offers to promote our page with TrafficMagnet.com. But the reception is best summed up by Gareth William Morris (age 23): "I think it's great that hundreds of years old undead beings, such as yourselves, can exist in the modern hi-tech age -- and even embrace internet technologies." (Gareth's home page: http://www.preromanbritain.com/gwem/)

Olia & Dragan