WHEN CONSUMER PRODUCTIONS, A LOS ANGELES MULTImedia company that opened in 1992, released a limited edition CD-ROM called Bar-min-ski: Consumer Product last year, it quickly won critical acclaim for its content and design in magazines like Wired and ID. Ostensibly a showcase of the work of Los Angeles artist Bill Barminski, whose paintings and original music delight in parodying ads from the '40s and '50s, the CD-ROM also steers users through a hilarious multiple choice game in which they play creatives who have to dream up campaigns ("Blatto beer, the high class beer for low class people"), replete with cheesy jingles and slogans.
Well, the company, run by Barminski, director Webster Lewin and designer/technical director Jerry Hesketh, is back, this time with a CD-ROM called Encyclopedia of Clamps, scheduled for release next year, which was sneak previewed at Siggraph last month. "A cross between a gallery and a fun house," says Barminski, the CD-ROM will feature his and other artists' work along with videos of phony "subversive" spots and games about advertising and politics. Stumble into one room and you might become an "unsuspecting liberal" on Blimp Rambo's Patriot Hour, hosted by a Newt clone. When a game show is interrupted by a commercial break, Barminski explains, you might get lost inside a mazelike commercial pod for a small eternity. "It's just to mirror the sensation and frustration that you get when you're watching a great movie and there's a commercial break that goes on forever and ever."
What's interesting about Clamps (the title satirizes the kind of arcane titles that often win awards for multimedia, like a how-to on building backyard decks that took a New York Festivals Gold this year) is its free-form architecture. After sketching out a 3-D interface, the company is adding rooms, corridors, elevators and the like to fill 500 megs of fun. It's all part of the trend of experience-based art, says Barminski, whose work "doesn't really exist unless it's mediated through the computer," he believes, adding that music and animation "are crucial components." On the other hand, he does show his stuff in "analog" galleries.
In the meantime, the Bar-min-ski: Consumer Product CD-ROM hits the stores this month (the earlier limited edition was packaged with a real can opener), and the firm is also talking to CD-ROM magazine Launch about redesigning its ad space.