Digital art as Loe's sensual stories, without clear-cut endings

Installed on vintage hardware at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, arranged in chronological order, the first survey of the career of innovative net artist Auriea Harvey tells a story about mortality and survival.

In Harvey's treasure chest worlds, there are no heroes or villains, only people, forgiving and loving, caught in the wake of technology.

Harvey, born in 1971 in Indianapolis, helped expand the perspectives of digital art: utopias, games, accidents and everything in between. In the 1990s, he created revolutionary images with GIFs, Shockwave animations, and the HTML and Java programming languages. His lavish personal website,, restored for the show, won Webby Awards in 1997 and '98.

In recent years, Harvey has turned to sculpting fictional yet mythical-seeming artifacts that exist both as 3D-printed statues and glossy virtual models. At the museum you can rotate several on transparent screens by waving your hand. The “mixed reality” sculptures incorporate scans of ancient artwork, hand-molded clay and his own facial features: they seem cracked, weathered, immediately timeless.

With every technological change, the sparkle of new possibilities meets the pull of obsolescence.

Her story is also a cybernetic love story. As the title of the show says: “My veins are the threads. My body is your keyboard.” The wires belong to everyone, but the keyboard is just for “you” – invoking the still irreplicable intimacy of a lover's touch.

In 1999 Harvey found love on a site called, a portal for hackers, artists and digital misfits. There she met Michael Samyn, a Belgian digital artist who worked as Zuper!; he has been her romantic and creative partner ever since.

A few months after they met, Harvey moved to Belgium. (Now married, they live in Rome.) In this exhibition, organized by Regina Harsanyi, Harvey's personal projects complement the couple's collaborations. Like Entropy8Zuper!, they have undertaken public displays of affection, radical in their exhibitionism, but heightened by mystery. Their work has imbued the realm of machines, codes and terminals with an intimate poetry.

On display is a recording of a 1999 performance, “Whispering Windows,” in which lovers shared sensual words over crisp, low-bandwidth webcams while audiences watched from their screens. Another monitor shows one of the couple's erotic chat room sessions. In 1999 Harvey and Samyn compiled animated love letters they had exchanged through a secret subfolder of as the “Skinonskinonskin” website and sold subscriptions. On one page you can “stroke” an image of Harvey's face with your cursor and “she” turns her head.

Like, Harvey's work was meant to be arcane and sometimes baffling – and reward the curious. The show features influential projects from Entropy8Zuper!, such as “The Godlove Museum,” a playful, gothic digital tale that tells their love story through abstract minigames and sometimes violent animation. On one page the user has to break the screen with virtual rocks and the broken glass bleeds.

They were clearly having fun. In the same gallery, a smeared video clip shows the couple accepting a Webby in 2000; they spent their time on the podium making out. Next, they turned this image of their intertwined bodies into a 3-D model, titled “The Kiss,” that viewers can explore on a nearby screen.

In 2003, Harvey and Samyn founded an independent video game company called Tale of Tales. Like their web-based projects, their video games feature atmospheric settings, slow pacing, diverse characters, and open-ended (or endless) stories, more akin to real life than movies.

Four major titles are playable on large projections in the retrospective (with video play-throughs of two others, plus two interactive mobile games). On each of my visits, though, at least one had crashed: apparently, it's not easy to keep the creaky hardware running for hours on end.

In their cult classic “The Path,” a short 2009 horror game that harks back to the darker folklore of Little Red Riding Hood, your only instruction is to “stay on the path” that leads to Grandma, but most emotions show up when you disobey . and dive into the woods. The hallucinatory “Bientôt l'été,” from 2012, largely consists of a walk along a dreamlike, holographic beach; Closing your avatar's eyes is an essential gameplay mechanic.

Tale of Tales has many fans in the gaming community, but after the disappointing sales of the 2015 title “Sunset”, a rather boring, task-based game starring a housekeeper who maintains an attic during a civil war, they have announced their bitter exit from the sector. .

Harvey and Samyn came of age in the happy internet, when independent artists weren't creating content online, they were building worlds. Almost instantly, these worlds began to fade away.

You might wonder why you should travel to Astoria for an exhibition of art and web-based video games, many of which you can still download. The fall into digital darkness is one reason. Harvey's work – and that of many other online artists – took a big hit in 2021, when major web browsers dropped support for the Flash plugin that powers many online projects. Rhizome, an organization that preserves digital art, has restored a handful of Entropy8 and Entropy8Zuper! projects for this exhibition.

But entropy has always enhanced the beauty of Harvey's art.

Auriea Harvey

Through July 7, Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35 Avenue, Astoria; 718–777–6800,

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