Blue Vessel

Liliana Farber

Web-Based Award
Blue Vessel

Blue Vessel, by Liliana Farber, is a mobile web app that creates a delineated experience of browsing knowledge and writing stories of conquest and survival. Hosted on a server located on a flagless ship, drifting on international waters, the app invites users to write anonymous web messages by selecting words solely from the book "Robinson Crusoe" by Daniel Defoe. The written message then becomes a URL, to be found by chance by an unsuspecting viewer, or never found at all. Like a contemporary "message in a bottle", the words are sent with hope of being discovered; it is within this periphery that the act of submitting information becomes futile, and where questions of being seen or never seen at all lie in a state of limbo. The user can also learn survival skills from website links in a browser that decomposes with each scroll movement. Although the links are still active and accessible, the letters on the screen float and bump into each other, ultimately becoming unreadable. 

Whether our deepest confessions are influenced by machine learning algorithms' word suggestions, or adventures are postponed for endless labyrinthine research, the virtual world is reshaping our relationship to the real one. Sentiments of disconnections, even frustration among the users, are coins used by the artist to highlight the information systems, and the power of their interfaces. In this work, Farber takes the user on a voyage across the unseen spaces of digital communications. Through the redesign of the familiar features of a mobile app, Blue Vessel uses smartphone technologies as active agents in URL and IRL interactions, exploring new forms of Colonialism in the Internet era.

The site is hosted on a virtual machine. It is designed entirely by the artist. The interactive part of the work is using Ember as the framework for the frontend, and originally-coded python for backend; including machine-learned text generation, a 3-layer stateful LSTM, created with Keras over Theano
The introductory text and the 'moving letters' screens are using originally-coded javascript and HTML.

Blue Vessel was created for Arebyte Gallery. Made with support from the Dep. for Cultural Affairs - Embassy of Israel