PRINT Summer 2003


Nick Crowe

IF THE INTERNET is the froth on the waves of misfortune that are sweeping across that economic/military zone we call the world, then the sites below show that the froth can sting—when the Internet originates, or makes manifest, points of cultural tension. Consider this list a reflection on just a few props within an unfolding drama, touching on geopolitics, economies, the conflicting interests of individuals and corporations, and handy, protonostalgic art resources to put it all in perspective.

Official Page of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

That’s North Korea to you. I recently made a Nokia ring tone using this country’s national anthem—it was pretty dirgy. But what the North Koreans lack in musical pep they more than fail to make up for in bleeding-edge Web design—it’s breathtakingly awful. Download and preserve the site so that one day your great-grandchildren can make kitschy T-shirts with the rollover images printed on them. Imagine it: a beaming seven-year-old with FRIENDSHIP/ACTIVITIES across his front and hammer, sickle, and spear on his back. It’s more fun to think about North Korea this way than to dwell on the process through which this visual material, via munitions and faux diplomacy, will be flung onto the flotsam of history.


The day the NASDAQ started to crumble was in fact a good day for the Internet. Those mean old dot-commers were turning a joyously lawless Wild West town into, well, Singapore—no swearin’, no spittin’, no nuthin’! So when the initial grand bet on global e-commerce went belly up, many creative types breathed a sigh of relief. I suspect artists Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead may have been in that number, as their project dot-store dances a merry jig on the grave of the dot-com revolution. Where else can you get Google tea towels in four different browser versions? But like countless virtual stores that have come and gone, this one isn’t in it for the long run: The shop will be auctioned off on eBay next year. Isn’t it fitting that the most successful slice of the global e-market is held by a secondhand stall?

Creative Commons

The enclosure of common lands at the start of Britain’s Industrial Revolution was a disaster for those without property and power. That historical precedent is reversed on this site, which promotes a mechanism by which artists can make their work available for sampling and modification without fear of cease-and-desist orders. With its Flash-animated contention that “standing on the shoulders of your peers—it’s what the Internet is all about,” Creative Commons gets right to the notion of reciprocity that makes the Net such a precious resource. If initiatives like this fail to successfully challenge the perversion of the copyright ideal (from protector of creative rights to defender of corporate interests), then we might as well just switch the machines off now.

United Nations Cartographic Section

There are loads of map resources online, but this collection has a particularly arcane appeal—as if it secretly aspired to be a great dusty archive full of scrolls and long tables and uncomfortable chairs. Maybe it’s the idiosyncratic assortment of material, a haphazardness that doesn’t square with the expected behaviors of bureaucracy and institution. You can even use the site to generate artwork: Select a map and click on the center eight times with the magnification tool. Don’t skip the “Ongoing Peacekeeping Missions”—blue helmets that define certain regions for such long periods of time that they become part of the landscape.

Historic Exchange Rates

And lastly, another great art site. (Well, I think so.) Just click on any of the links in the main window: They generate drawings of imaginary mountain ranges based on a specific subset of human desire.

Nick Crowe is an artist based in Manchester, England. His work can be seen at forthcoming exhibitions in Liverpool, Manchester, London, and Bilbao and at