Intersecting stories embedded in a patchwork body

About Gray Matters

Gray Matters was a collaboration with visual artist Michael Crumpton and writers Chris Spain and Kirstin Allio. Gray Matters used a zooming interface to create an experience of text embedded within a patchwork human body. When it was presented at the Sandra Gering Gallery in 1996 as part of blast5drama it was the first public installation of zooming user interface. Interfaces such as these — which operate at much higher levels of magnification than, for example, Macromedia's Flash — create in effect a virtual reality in 2 1/2 dimensions. Gray Matters was a document with depth, an infinite-feeling explorable space, with text that always faced the reader and many fewer (dis)orientation problems than with 3D VR. Gray Matters worked with the information density we know from our bodies — like the story of a scar nestled among the folds of my palm. The system of zooming navigation developed for Gray Matters was later used in a number of zooming interface research and development projects. Gray Matters was most recently shown at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, as part of the 2001 "Brave New Word" presentation in the "Works and Process" series. For the blast boxes Kristin Holcomb created pieces of skinlike material packaged in brown paper boxes, each printed with an image from Gray Matters. A web translation of the piece was created in collaboration with Duane Whitehurst, with assistance from Nathan Wardrip-Fruin, in 1997.