XScreenSaver is info-protoart

If you're looking for folk expressions of infoart (and who wouldn't), check out XScreenSaver. This wonderfully simple system is the standard screensaver on Linux, and it shows how the stock Windows screensavers are an insult to the genre.

Each screensaver is humbly called a hack, and each hack is a small program that displays an interesting animation on the screen. Interesting is the key word here, and probably an understatement. Most people who are in the room become mesmerized by them - my cat too! I wish I was such a hacker.

You can see screenshots there, but do come back :-)

The reason I call these hacks info-protoart is that each has a definite mood, and a discernible aesthetic. Whether a simulation of some physical phenomenon (such as fluid flowing, particles gravitating, or fire spreading), a geometric animation, or a special effect, you feel that the hacker made artistic decisions to render the animation visually appealing to the viewer, in addition to conveying a specific idea or emotion. Some of my favourite hacks are actually humourous: one of them (BSOD) displays in succession the "Blue Screen of Death" of different operating systems like Windows, the Mac, the Commodore Amiga, etc. Yes, it's a geek joke, but a good one nonetheless. Another one (XAnalogTV) simulates the defects of old analog TVs: snow, cycling, etc. I felt like hitting the monitor. In my book, such decisions belong to the artistic realm, and hence the label.

With time, I wish such works would become more focused on explicit artistic expression - or mood interaction. Current multimedia artists are of course forging the way in this direction, but the hacking aspect of this new art is yet to appear as an important tool in the artist's, um, kit.

PS. XScreenSaver is also available on the Mac, but not on Windows. Yet another reason to switch! Or just use Ubuntu LiveCD to watch it - it comes installed with it. Enjoy ;-)

PPS. Also check out Really Slick Screensavers, another dozen hacks that have been made to work with XScreenSaver. These are actually more polished than the rest and well worth the watch.