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Yes, Java. The word usually brings to mind the relatively innocuous -- applets running on browsers, enterprise software applications, bean components, that cool programmable ring you've been hearing so much about lately.
Of course, those of us in dire need of a caffeine fix or a trip to an exotic land may conjure more elaborate notions, but it's safe to say that images of flames, destruction, and mechanical warfare tend not to enter the mind upon hearing the word Java. Unless, of course, you're thinking of the Sun/Microsoft legal battles.
The use of Java in SRL's creations represents the latest development in the nonprofit organization's 20-year history of pushing the boundaries of humankind's relationship to technology. Indeed, over the past year, Java has been the enabling force behind the newest projects from SRL, which as you'll soon see, involve the remote operation of potentially dangerous machines. To gain insight into the ideas behind these Java-enabled works, first, let's look at the creative force behind them.
Survival Research Laboratories was founded in November 1978 by Mark Pauline. With a background in visual arts and mechanical engineering, Pauline's vision was to merge the two disciplines in a form of pseudo performance art never attempted before. Pauline says that the process of arriving at his machinistic shows was deliberate and efficient; it took two weeks of concentrated thinking to devise their basic form. SRL's work to date involves looking at the possibilities of human and machine interaction in ways unlike those found in military and scientific endeavors. (For links to SRL's Web site see the Resources section.)
Pauline uses the imagery and machines of war (quite literally, some are weapons) in his performances, which he describes as "nearly life-threatening but not quite," to push his audiences to their sensory limits. Incorporating fire, noise, mechanical movement, and speed, SRL shows present a kind of technological nightmare, providing the audience, according to Pauline, with a "genuinely exciting experience" that we don't find in our everyday lives. The result is cathartic.
The Arm has appeared in many SRL performances. It's controlled remotely by an apparatus that attaches to the arm and hand.
When SRL initially registered its Web site in 1993, its intention was to use the Internet as a means of self-promotion. But, Pauline notes, it soon became clear that the Web could be used "as a good tool for making something extreme." Java is one of the technologies that has allowed SRL to realize this vision.