Fuji Television host, Tetsuo Suda, interviewing
Fisher at Galapagos Artspace, Brooklyn

A Selection of Press on Ebon Fisher

Contemporary Artists
Edited by Sara and Tom Pendergast

(St. James Press, 2002, From Frank Popper's article, Ebon Fisher, p. 516)

Ebon Fisher is an artist whose "Media Organisms" -- artificial lifeforms cultivated in the plasma of popular culture -- and "Bionic Codes" -- subjective ecosystems existing over the internet -- constitute a highly original contribution to the latest developments in technological art...

Fisher's "Wigglism Manifesto"... can be seen as an effort at moving our collective gaze away from both art and science and towards the nurturing of "life" in the broadest, non-objective, and non-human sense. It is an attempt to seed a form of "subjective ecology." This leads, among other things, to a de-centered authorship where one creates with the community, with the medium, and with nature.
Die Zeit
September 19, 1997
(From Vis-à-vis Manhattan by Claudia Steinberg, p. 77)
In the long shadow of the Manhattan skyline a colony of artists and outsiders has settled who have sworn off SOHO as the seat of all culture...
Ebon Fisher, a gentle ethicist... initiated "Organism," the event that 120 artists participated in [with an audience of 2000], which has such a following that even Newsweek wrote about it. Events like these finally established Williamsburg as an artists' colony.
July 26, 1993
(From Where Do We Go After the Rave? by Melissa Rossi. p. 58)
Call it the sequel to the rave... Organism, a web jam held last month in Brooklyn... For 12 hours, more than 2,000 people pushed into an abandoned mustard factory to see the work of 120 artists, featuring everything from exploding watermelons to performers rapelling down silos. "The fine arts are dead," [Ebon Fisher] explains, "and we're taking advantage of decentralized media to create a new cultural forum."
The Village Voice
January 30, 1991
(Ben Map on Ebon Fisher's Media Compression)
A network of... media droids.
New York Magazine
November 13, 1995
(From The New York Cyber Sixty, p. 48)
Ebon Fisher...More Jenny Holzerish than Jenny Holzer.

Art Since 1940: Strategies of Being
by Prof. Jonathan Fineberg, U. of Illinois

(2nd Edition, Prentice Hall, 2000, p. 502)
Fisher focused on the immediacy of body experience and on community-based culture, organizing massive participatory art events in the neighborhood; "Organism," for example, held in an abandoned mustard seed factory near the Brooklyn waterfront in the summer of 1993, was a sensory overcharge... Fisher also began making digital art that had no fixed materiality; instead it had the flavor of contemporary Cyberpunk fiction, as in William Gibson's 1984 novel, Neuromancer, where humans fuse with computers and communicate digitally. Fisher wrote Utopian "social programs" on the computer, which he instructs his viewers to "absorb into memory" as templates for a new social (dis)order. Through community-based cultural enterprises and consumer technology, he aspired to reclaim the production of culture from the mass marketers and return it to each of us, one person at a time.

February 1998

(From Go with the Flow: Eight New York Based Artists and Architects in the Digital Era by Suzan Wines, p. 84)
In June 1993, 120 artists from the Williamsburg community created Organism: A Web Jam. Conceived by Ebon Fisher, Organism became a kind of symbolic climax to the renegade activity that had been stirring within the community since the late eighties. It exploited the notion of architecture as living event, breathing and transforming for fifteen hours in an abandoned mustard factory. Unlike a traditional gallery exhibit where each object only engages the cube of space that it occupies, the collaborators in a "web jam" create work that engages the entire space, the body and mind of the audience and through this process ultimately integrates with the community at large. A layering of system upon system whose intersections spawn unique accidental places...
When permitted to occur, this same spontaneity gives the public space of a city its character and is the experience that people crave from interactions through the internet. In virtual space an environment is invisible data. It takes on dimension when engaged by human visitors. As such, the experience of a space is more important than the material which creates it. This kind of organic flexibility and environmental efficiency is a refreshing perspective with which to approach architecture and urban design, particularly now, when the creative energy of the digital revolution is still relatively untainted by social and political restrictions...
As a "living media organism" the AlulA Dimension has a completely symbiotic relationship with its environment and inhabitants. Inspired by similarities between the flexible structures of ecological systems and the internet, Ebon Fisher began breeding the AlulA Dimension as an "organic matrix" for social interaction. From a virtual perspective, according to Ebon, all media and scales are equally valid and inhabitable. Its chambers are accessed through narrow corridors whose dimensions are governed more by the laws of communication than physical accessibility...

Wired Magazine
December 1995

(From Mr. Meme by Matt Haber, p. 44)

"I'm fascinated by the possibility of floating a code in the media," says Ebon Fisher, one of the first guerilla artists and instructors at the MIT Media Lab. Fisher's Bionic Codes project is an evolving system of images... "I'm incubating structures in billions of neurons, various databases and a slew of nightclubs and T-shirts. It's a weird undertaking. It's neither art nor science, but a form of breeding."

Wired Magazine
March 1995
(From Jim Clarage's letter on Ebon Fisher's Bionic Codes)
Breathtaking biology. Got your codes flashing inside my eyelids. Won't let me sleep... Now if I could find some scripty way to project them onto the walls of my house.
May 1997
(From Ebon Fisher Explores Subversive Play by Mike Tanner)

"I consider myself a mind artist," says Ebon Fisher, one of the original teachers at the MIT Media Lab and a cultivator of the now pervasive "meme" meme. "I take a concept and grow it interactively."

Fisher is referring to his biomorphic diagrams, which represent man-machine interactions as interlocking groups of nerve-shaped forms, accompanied by slogans about linking with others (such as "link via infant node"). These works, titled The Bionic Codes, have existed in media as varied as T-shirts, zines, nightclub projections, and now inhabit a Java-driven interactive game on the Sandbox webzine which launched on Tuesday.
This migration between media is emblematic both of the mutability inherent in Fisher's art, and of the kind of work that Sandbox has been covering as a paper zine and a performance collective for the last three years. The group has worked -- mostly with artists associated with the Williamsburg performance/installation party scene of the early '90s -- to examine the medium-specific nature of art and "explore the manifold aspects of subversive and creative play."

February 1999

(From Virtual Art, Real Conversation by Reena Jana)
Pixel, a new interactive gallery showcasing digital art, is taking interactivity to a new level... Ebon Fisher's Shockwave piece, Spitting in the AlulA Dimension, a mysterious, meditative work that presents microscopic views of the bacteria found in a woman's saliva, is featured as Pixel's inaugural exhibition...
Pixel staff curator, Yael Kanarek, analyzed existing online galleries, including the Walker Art Center's Gallery 9 and the online projects of Razorfish Studios, as well as physical exhibition spaces in New York City's SoHo arts district to help shape [her] concept of an online gallery. Ken Goldberg, an internationally recognized Internet artist and an associate professor of engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, whose work will be featured next month at Pixel, points out that "access is one of the distinctive qualities of Net art. As with public art, the work in the Pixel gallery runs the risk of being musunderstood. If it ruffles feathers in the art world, all the better."

Guggenheim Magazine
Spring 1997

(From Intelligent Life, by Laura Trippi, p. 53, an introduction to the Guggenheim Museum's online CyberAtlas which includes Ebon Fisher's Bionic Codes project)
Linking from site to site, mutating slightly from sign-on to sign-on, users flock, disperse and migrate in protean networks of information-based relations. In this way the Internet itself seems like a sprawling -- and unintentional -- simulation of a living system. Nowhere else is the shift in our understanding of what counts as intelligence, and what constitutes life, more pronounced... The map below presents an array of Web sites spotlighting hubs of activity in this expanding field, ranging from artifical life (in cyberspace) to remote sensing (of, mostly, outer space) and from the figure of global evolution to the ground of distributed intelligence.
August, 2000
(From The Web's Best Sites)
Ebon Fisher [is] dealing with the creation of a set of icons symbolic of the instability and expansion of meaning in contemporary culture.
Bionic Codes: the world's first biocybernetic ballet.
Coil Magazine
London, 1997
(From Giles Lane's review of Ebon Fisher's Bionic Codes animation)
The Bionic Codes are a theological virus attempting to "link and seek links" with a host culture becoming increasingly materialistic.
RES Magazine
July/August 2001
(From Who to Watch, What to Watch by David Alm, p. 10)
Feel a wave of calm benevolence wash over you. Link and Seek Links, you tell yourself silently. Bypass Common Madness... you transcend hostility... Zoacodes, are embedded in your subconscious after encountering them everywhere, from T-shirts to sidewalk graffiti to the Web...
Here It Is Now
University of Oxford Webzine edited by Tom Anderson
Ebon Fisher's Bionic Codes -- the mother lode.
London,September 2000
(From Gallery: Bionic Codes by Aaron Paul)
World-renowned artist and digital art academic discusses his unique world of iconography... Ebon Fisher is a media breeder -- or so he says. He is also the director of Digital Worlds at the University of Iowa in the USA.

For the best part of the last decade he has been slowly but surely infiltrating the Web with his 'bionic codes' -- a system of iconic representations evolving from initial installation pieces... into the current Web-based interactive works. In the past, visitors to the galleries where his work was exhibited would trigger heat sensors which changed the 'behavior' of the codes they were interacting with. However, it is no longer necessary to frequent the more obscure galleries in New York City to experience the simple, yet effective, language of the codes -- the Web is now a breeding ground...

Fisher has exhibited worldwide and is considered a primary figure in the evolution of the Web as a means of art exhibition as well as contemporary installation. His bionic codes have been seen in the most unlikely places, including Japanese daytime television and the Wall Street Journal.
Art History Seminar: Art of the 21st Century

(From Prof. Alison Hilton's Syllabus, Georgetown University, Spring 2000)

To grapple with the 21st Century I suggest working within three major focal areas or contexts: relationships between art and technology (or new art forms and new technologies); the contradictions between multi-culturalism and the notion of a global culture; and changing relationships between artists and audiences or between public art and private art...
Suggestions to begin looking:  ...Bill Viola, Gary Hill... Ebon Fisher, Tony Oursler, Matthew Barney, Mariko Mori, Rebecca Horn...
February 1997
(From Adnan Ashraf's review of Substation, a rave at the old Warhol Ballroom on the 10th anniversary of Warhol's passing)

After a drifting reconnaissance through the 5-story "Substation" - in and out of twin stairwells connecting 8 studios - I find myself in a banquet hall. There's a café table waiting for me and I'm happy to see Ebon Fisher's installation glowing nearby. A ceiling-mounted projector fills part of the wall with images of finely-drawn, microcosmic nodal structures, projected individually in a gracefully moving sequence… All of them connect with a tide of neuronal recognition, but this last one, Extend Languid Probe, really hits the spot, completing a narrative cycle.


(Commentary by Heath Row on Bill Joy's article in Wired Magazine)

I think Joy's article is of particular interest when read in conjunction with Vernor Vinge's writing on the Singularity -- and Stewart Brand's work The Long Now Foundation. At the SXSW Interactive earlier this week, Brand cited Joy and Vinge within beats of each other. Also of interest is Bruce Sterling's Viridian Green work -- add to that Ebon Fisher's Wigglism Manifesto -- and you've got the foundation for something.

by Jennifer Cobb

(Crown Publishers, 1998, p. 236)

Ebon Fisher, a multimedia artist and former teacher at MIT's Media Lab, has been exploring another form of cyber creativity. For the last year, Fisher's cyber manifesto, which he calls Wigglism, has been circulating on the Internet, evolving and growing as people attach comments and ideas to it. Fisher writes, "The essence of the project is to abandon the discourse of 'art' (a humanist creature) and redefine cultural activity as an act of coilings, creating vital lifeforms... We nurture that which wiggles -- of flesh or steel, sinew or circuit, mud or imagination; transmuting art into a zoology of spirit."

How to Talk American
by Jim Crotty
(From the Cyberspeech section, p. 68)
Webjam: According to media artist Ebon Fisher, a webjam is a "rhythmic event integrating humans, technology and nature." Superficially similar to "raves," "happenings," or "be-ins," a webjam is actually more ecological at its core. In other words, you have to be there to get it.

A Dictionary of the Internet Language

Bionic code: A problem-solving routine for human behaviour as it is exercised in the realm of networks and cyberspace. The first bionic codes were developed by Ebon Fisher based on a series of his theatrical experiments involving communications systems amongst audience members. Fisher's bionic codes have been formalized as a series of diagrams and statements which "float" in the infosphere in a variety of media.
Web jam: A weblike layering of music, media, performers, audience and the surrounding ecosystem into a rhythmic "jungle." The objective was to celebrate an expanded sense of nature inclusive of culture and technology. With roots in African American jazz and 1990s rave culture, the web jam takes an improvisational, 'emergent,' approach to cultural, political and ecological systems. The first web jam, known as "Organism," was instigated by Ebon Fisher in the spring of 1993 in collaboration with 120 artists, musicians and children from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Over 2,000 people attended -- jamming from 6 at night till 9 the next morning.
Tony Millionaire

(From the comic strip documenting the Brooklyn Scene, Medea's Weekend, 1991)

Unblinking, glossy Ebon eye.
MUTE Magazine
London, Winter 1997
(from Ebon Fisher's Media Organisms by Peter Boerboom, p. 13)
The bionic codes act as moral operators on biological operands. They are modules designed to hack into culture's core and rewrite some of its basic routines... In combination, the codes feed off of each other's outputs and back into each other's inputs, spontaneously tracing new patterns and encouraging reinterpretation.

Marvin Minsky, the Artificial Intelligence pioneer, has advocated 'sloppy' corrective programming when fixing bug-plagued computer code. The goal is that the program will become robust in a wider range of circumstances. This notion of improvement by accretion is characteristic of systems that grow, in contrast to those that are built. Over the years of their development, the Bionic Codes have grown to become an increasingly resilient network of meaning.

New York Press
March 6-12, 1991
(From Brooklyn Unbound by Mark Rose, p. 10)
...Ebon Fisher's latest "Media Compression," where you gather to chew on, rip through, blend and digest media -- "no information, medium or sensation is too trivial. The audience brings their own art and media to the event"... Common space is what the Williamsburg art-activist movement is all about; a heady experiment to integrate into, defend, help build and somehow connect the community at large... This involves subtle, non-confrontational shifts in how normally conflicting cultures understand each other.
Take, for instance, Ebon's "Weird Thing Zone" at last year's Grand Street Waterfront Festival... six artists were invited to contribute "physical catalysts for participatory culture," in a clearly marked area set off by orange cones and yellow tape. These Weird Things, from which "various tactile, auditory, and visual signals emanated," beckoned to be sat on, touched, stroked... Ebon, whose Weird Thing was "The Pulse Box," also states flatly, "I don't do art. My work is a media organism which protrudes into public space and exchanges unmentionable nutrients."
How do the Latinos feel about these unmentionable nutrients protruding into their public space? "Oh, the kids loved it. They crawled all over everything," says Chris Lanier of El Centro Cultural de Williamsburg, sponsors of the Grand Street Waterfront Festival. "That was a unique festival. Usually we exist in parallel worlds, the Anglos and the Latinos. Something happened at that festival. A coalition was formed."

Waterfront Week
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, March 1991

Media Compression IV tackled the subject "Sex Codes in Media." There was lots of heavy breathing throughout the crowd provoked by an example of gender stereotypes specifically relating to women and Playboy centerfolds. The usual battle between the sexes ensued. Pushing his own buttons connected to the slide projectors, video screens and audio tapes, Ebon Fisher redirectied the forum with yet another gender-coded media example. The evening was an orgy of electronic, audio, and visual sensations concluding with a media blackout. In the darkness at this point began the Media Compression's subtle climax. The voices were softer, physical gestures unseen, allowing the mind to explore an understanding of sexuality that the mass media ignores.

Waterfront Week
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Summer 1993

(From Review of Organism Web Jam by Medea de Vyse)
Must I Org? Yes, I Orged! I Orged! I was devastated! ...Really the most thoroughgoing environmental event in 'burg history. It was integrated, witty, cool... my faith in empirical, exterior theater restored.

Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette
January 29, 1993

(From Out of Town: The Williamsburg Paradigm by Gisele Atterberry, p. 20)

With motors whirring, bells sounding, an interactive video display, and electrical cords and mechanical equipment sprawling throughout the galleries, "Out of Town: The Williamsburg Paradigm" is the liveliest show in memory at the Krannert Art Museum [University of Illinois]... The exhibition, brainchild of University of Illinois art history professor Jonathan Fineberg, proposes that Williamsburg is a new model of artistic activity... Willliamsburg artists tend to take a role in the political and social health of their neighborhood and city... There is a collective awareness that art cannot shut itself off from the world...

Ebon Fisher combines his studies of the natural sciences with an attraction to high-tech media. His "System for Equalizing Heterosexuals" is an installation piece which is composed of small dark rooms connected by a narrow corridor. The innermost chamber is dominated by a 6-foot-tall painting of a heart, a realistically rendered image which seems to hover and glow within its nearly blackened chamber. A crisp computer-generated image of a cell-like unit is projected through a slide onto the floor and the room pulses with the echoes of mysterious sounds. The feeling engendered by the room is strangely quiet and meditative. The space is fully capable of rendering for its entrants the emotion which Fisher considers to be the most precious of all --awe.
Fisher noted that he wanted the Williamsburg artists to be understood in context. He brought along a variety of posters and pamphlets of the type which one normally could find posted on walls throughout the Williamsburg neighborhood. This printed matter announces art performances, discusses recycling, addresses political and health issues: the presence of this material successfully underscores a major message of the show -- that art is issued from a culture as well as an artist.
Journal of the Fellowship of Quakers in the Arts
Winter 1997-98
(From cover story, Virtual Morality: A Quaker in Cyberspace by Esther Murer)
...There will always be artists who are led to explore new paths, even to invent media for which we as yet have no words. Ebon Fisher is, among other things, a meme breeder.
Ebon prefers "media" to "art" as an umbrella word for a democratic, inclusive sphere of activity. Both the art world and pop culture take art out of its cultural context -- the former by focusing on the artistic expression of the individual, the latter by focusing on the desires of the consumer. In both cases art is divorced from its social functions. Ebon wants to find a third way which involves mutual nurturing of whole systems of social-ecological organisms...
The Des Moines Register
February 13, 1999
(Associated Press article by Greg Smith)
Fisher was an easy choice to be PIXEL's first featured artist for its interactive art gallery. "Ebon was chosen because he's very into community. He's really interested in what people have to say"... Sherer said.
Fisher says his work is every bit as intense as his childhood days when he "made maps of my toy trolls' worlds."
"You keep developing worlds and ideas," he said. "Perhaps the only difference is, in the past I worked in the medium of rocks and pine needles and plastic trolls and today I am working in the medium of computers, interviews and books and all the communications technologies that are available."
Performing Arts Journal
Johns Hopkins University Press, January 1998
(From Ebon Fisher's AlulA Dimension by Jennifer Dalton, p. 62)
Fisher has spent much of the last fifteen years breeding freefloating artistic entities that he characterizes as neither installations, nor concept art, nor happenings, but as "media organisms," artificial life forms cultivated in the plasma of popular culture...
Fisher is not as comfortable as the conceptual artists were (and are) with the restricted space and audience of the gallery. Fisher wants his ideas to infiltrate, pollute and alter popular culture at large. As he and other young artists increasingly believe, "Fine arts is not culture, the culture is Walt Disney, it's Viacom, it's MTV. If you want to be a sensitive, alert artist you have to work in and around and between the pop culture."
It's this earnest idealism that truly sets Fisher apart from most young visual artists, many of whom are characterized by a cynicism which is near-crippling...
Rather than smugly tearing down, Fisher's messages are solemnly building up. The homegrown philosophy he calls "Wigglism" buoyantly circumvents deconstruction: "Unlike art, which tends towards ruptures and dissolution, nurturing lifeforms requires an active engagement with structure. Not the numbing structures we often associated with the machine age, but rather, living structures, infinitely flexible structures, wiggling structures." Such arguments are so unique and charming...his endearing, sophisticated sincerity is terribly refreshing in the context of all the annoying, unsophisticated irony of much contemporary art.