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EVO1: Mark Napier

P-SOUP by Mark Napier

The 'p' in p-Soup stands for primitive, primordial, participatory, people. The artwork is a creative event animated by the participation of visitors. A virtual 'fluid' that participants stir with their clicks, p-Soup is a meditation on the Web, the digital 'soup' from which new and creative forms are constantly emerging. Both organic and architectural, the shapes created by this work suggest a moving, growing, living thing. By clicking, the visitor starts the chain of events that will make the screen come alive. While the participants can initiate the action, they cannot control it. The design that unfolds is a product of the algorithms of the artwork, and the participation of other visitors. A central server connects all participants together so that the pool is literally a shared space. Each visitor sees the actions of other visitors as they happen.

Visitors to p-Soup are greeted by a blank screen. They choose one of the nine colored shapes on the program’s toolbar and then click away. Each click creates a shape that expands and contracts on the screen. The shapes intersect and overlap, blending and intensifying their colors and creating a tonal composition as they pulsate. This simple geometry generates complex and surprising designs as the user clicks.

p-Soup is a hypothetical medium through which visitors communicate. It may be as dense and chaotic as its real-world namesake, "pea soup", or it may be tranquil, minimalistic, and serene. It is not a design but is the potential for design, and what finally appears on the screen evolves from the creative act, the click, that triggers action.

p-Soup is about the human creative impulse, the desire to touch and affect the world. The idea of touch plays a large part in the work. When humans communicate through electronic media like the Web, they lose the sense of touch; there is nothing for us to get our hands on. Similarly, when we view art (another medium of communication), we are not allowed to touch the artwork; the object could be altered by the visitor's hand. p-Soup is about creating a touchable artwork in a world where there is no physical object to touch. In p-Soup, a virtual surface is disturbed by the click of the visitors mouse, as if they are touching a surface of water, creating pulsing ripples that spread and decay over time.

Visitors create a design that grows and then fades away. They do not own this design, as it will fade in minutes, and may be altered by other visitors that are using the piece at the same time. p-Soup creates a place where artwork can exist for a fleeting moment, created between people as they touch a shared virtual surface. The work is blank when people arrive to it, and is activated, turned into 'art' by their touch. When the people leave, the artwork returns to a still quiet blue, and waits.


Mark Napier, a painter turned visual artist, packed up his paints in 1995 and began to create art work exclusively for the Web. He has produced a wide range of Internet projects, including The Shredder (1998), an alternative browser that dematerializes the Web; Digital Landfill (1998), an endless archive of digital debris; and Bots (2000), a tool for building unique pop-culture icons from parts. Napier is noted for his innovative use of the Web as an art medium and for his open-ended evolving projects. His work has been shown at ZKM (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie), Karlsruhe, Germany, was awarded honorable mention by Ars Electronica 99, Linz, Austria, and was chosen for the "Art Entertainment Network" exhibition at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Napier lives and works in New York City. His artwork is available on-line at


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