_ This Concept > stream this cocept: LOWSRC -- Progressive Interlacing

Also present, is the sometimes overriding, delight-in-the-process of acquiring the data. I've often had the distinct impression that I was reading/retaining information as I was photo-copying or scanning, or downloading files -- particularly the earlier interlaced gifs. Their apprehension conceptually blends with their comprehension.
- Brad Brace (1997)


net artists have historically exploited the peculiar limitations of the net's formal protocols to their own conceptual ends. Alexei Shulgin used html forms to critique formalism with his Form Art. Eryk Salvaggio used ascii art to commemorate 9/11 with his Flight 175 (cf: Vuk Cosic's Contemporary ASCII and Yoshi Sodeoka's ASCII_BUSH). MTAA used the lossiness of jpeg compression (actually, they used vector animation software simulating the lossiness of jpeg compression) as an analogy for the lossiness of the mediated self with their Sliding Compression.

But nobody's used progessively loading web images to make a conceptual statement... yet.


Back when everybody was on a dialup modem, nobody wanted to wait for your fat image file to load into their browser page, so you could solve this problem in several ways:

1. create a thin, quick-loading low source version of your fat, hi-res image and code it (via the "lowsrc" attribute of the "img" tag) to load prior to your fat image. This gave viewers an approximation to look at while your intended image was loading.

2. create a progressive jpeg, which initially loads blurry, and then gets progressively crisper in waves, giving your viewer a blurry image that gradually comes into focus.

3. create an interlacede gif that gradually gains resolution as it loads, but without the characteristic jpeg lossiness (since gifs are a lossless compression format).

All these hacks are moot now for anyone surfing via a high speed connection. The high speed surfer simply sees your high resolution image loaded immediately, since there is no wait time, and hence no reason for the her browser to load your image gradually.


All sorts of things in the world appear one way upon first examination, and then on closer examination, our perception changes. There is often an even more dramatic difference when the first examination is mediated and the closer examination is in real life. It's not too tricky to see the conceptual correlation between this aspect of real world apprehension/comprehension and "LOWSRC / progressive jpg / interlaced gif" technology.


First, choose some before and after images that resemble each other visually.

Since the 21st century conceptual media artists is obliged to be cynical and depressed, the before image will probably be hopeful and the after image will probably be gloomy. The challenge is, there has to be some sort of visual correlation between the initial low res image and the final high res image.

For example, you could start off with a low res image of a happy poodle, and then as it gradually loads it could reveal a high res image of an abu ghraib prisoner on a dog leash. You get the idea. You may have to tweak the images a bit in photoshop to get them to align with each other in size and shape so that the transition between one and the other is seamless rather than abrupt. It should look like the same image gradually coming into focus. Remember, the concept has to do with the viewer's gradual perception, so the art is in the process of the reveal.

Since "LOWSRC / progressive jpeg / interlaced gif" technology is invisible on all but the slowest connections, you'll have to simulate it. Make your progressively loading "image" an animated gif, that way your can force it to load gradually at a speed of your choosing. You can simulate either the LOWSRC effect, the progessive jpg effect, the interlaced gif effect, or a cobination of all three. Emulate whichever technology is most visaully appropriate to the subject matter of each particular animation.

Here is one example of the tech: playdamage.org/42.html. That particular piece is merely the same image fading in and out. Of course your piece will start with a happy low res image which gradually fades into its ironic high res doppleganger.

Make a series of these gradually loading images (actually animations), and give each animation a provocative, double entendre title which will serve as the animation's caption. The caption will appear on the page below the animation before it fully "loads," serving as a king of teaser. For example, with the dog/prisoner animation, the title could be "The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals." The more smarmy and irreverent, the darker the import when the final hi-res image is revealed!

The effect should be like in the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World when you're in that room with the portraits, and then the room stretches to reveal a malevolent and heretofore hidden portion of the portraits. Or like the Edward Gorey animated introduction to Mystery on PBS.


retro low res emulation is modish (pun intended).
Brent Gustafson
Atari Flashback 2
Cory Arcangel
lust.nl's Digital Trash

With that in mind, you should really play up the "progressive jpeg emulation" angle in your press copy (aka artist statment/grant proposal). Otherwise, the piece risks being misconstrued as a series of horribly crude transformer animatics with cheeky captions.

Fortunately, angsty irony is always en vogue, so you should be good to go there.

Happy implementin'!