“If blues was money man I’d be a millionaire.” “If wishes were horses then beggars would ride.” “A little bit drunk and a whole lot high.” “What do you want to be?” Are these lyrics or empty ramblings, poetry or the latest Internet chat? Yes, exactly. And every 10 seconds, now through Feb. 15, a new anonymously-authored message will light up the LED hanging in Goatsilk Gallery. Judging by the crowd at Goatsilk’s interactive LED Sign opening last Friday, no matter your age, language or Internet preconceptions, the Sign will engage you.
Goatsilk curators Ben Bloch and Caroline Peters first stumbled across the Sign the same way as did the millions who have typed in their messages worldwide since 2000—by surfing the Web. In fact, LED Sign creators Ian McGhie, Chris Scott and Dave Voorhis, from Manitoba, Canada, did no advertising when they first hooked up the Sign in McGhie’s living room. McGhie, who owns a computer store, was given the Sign back in 1999 and spent six months, along with Scott and Voorhis, writing source code that enables anyone, via the LED Sign’s website (and now at Goatsilk, too), to post their own 10-second message. Then the three programmers kicked back in McGhie’s living room, stared at the grid of 6,144 lights, and (magically or methodically?) messages started to appear.
“Makes you wonder who is out here doesn’t it?” asked one message on opening night. And sure, the Sign raises that question. But among participants at Goatsilk, it triggered other discussion, too, about the organic expansion of the Web; about the distance a single thought can travel; about the precision of computer language in contrast to the inadequacy of human communication. It was ideas such as these that led Bloch and Peters to contact McGhie about driving his Sign 16 hours to Missoula.
“I love it,” cheered Domenic ViFiorentino, a Goatsilk visitor who retired to Missoula in 1987 and doesn’t use computers. “I’d watch this instead of lousy TV.” Observing people reading his source code posted on the gallery’s wall, programmer McGhie said, “I won’t deny that’s art.” Art or science or just plain fun, the LED Sign can be viewed 24/7 through a new window in the door of Goatsilk Gallery, at 1909 Wyoming St., #5, where Bloch and Peters will be adding interactive twists to the Sign in coming weeks. Or go to www.goatsilk.com, where you can type in your own message for what one visitor to McGhie’s website called “10 seconds of feeling good.”