who’s afraid of blue, red and green?
, 2004
interactive web application, third version with public competition.
exhibition: günther selichar — who’s afraid of blue, red and green?, creativetime — the 59th minute: video art on the nbc astrovision by panasonic, times square, new york, june 24 – september 30, 2004.

in early 2004, creative time and panasonic began günther selichar’s project ‘who’s afraid of blue, red, and green?’ an online competition and public art project based on the elementary visual building blocks of digital display screens. from january 21 – march 31, 2004. selichar invited participants to design a digital animation comprised of 15 vertical compositions in blue, red, and green via his website. three winning entries were chosen by a jury, which included: günther selichar, artist peter halley, curator of digital media at the american museum of the moving image carl goodman, artist erwin redl, christoph thun-hohenstein, director of the austrian cultural forum, writer and artist barbara pollack, curator and producer yvonne force, executive director of creative time anne pasternak, curator benjamin weil, as well as justin camerlengo and sarah jacobo from panasonic.

the winning animations were created by: atomicelroy, anne wolfius and john spiff. according to selichar, “the three finalists responded to the project in a convincing and precise manner by simultaneously showing it’s complex possibilities and the beauty of simplicity.” their work was featured at the last minute of every hour on the nbc astrovision in new york’s times square. panasonic presented the conjoined animations, in cooperation with creative time as part of the series the 59th minute: video art on the times square astrovision.


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who’s afraid of blue, red and green?, 2004
interactive web application, third version with public competition.
screening of the winning entries on public screen:
animations by atomicelroy: brg; anne wolfius: what’s happiness? calling into the night and being answered …; john spiff: over-red.

exhibition: günther selichar — who’s afraid of blue, red and green?, creativetime — the 59th minute: video art on the nbc astrovision by panasonic,
times square, new york, june 24 – september 30
, 2004.

© video: atomicelroy.
© photos (from top to bottom): günther selichar; günther selichar; günther selichar.

claudia tittel

… the austrian artist günther selichar engages with the mass media in a more sublime way by aesthetically investigating the representation logic systems of media communication, their structures, image technologies, and standardizations as well as their social and political conditions. selichar, who became known for his theoretical and aesthetic engagement with mass media systems, focuses all his works on the investigation of that “apparatusdirected perception” that shapes our life and our present experience of images. 21
in 2004, from june to october, he displayed an abstract animation work with the title who’s afraid of blue, red and green? on panasonic’s large astrovision screen in times square. the work is part of a series of the same name, which selichar has been steadily developing since 1990 and which has been shown in the most different contexts, formats, and medial representation forms since then. the intervention on the oversized urban screen in times square not only represented a high point for the series, but was also one of the first participative interventions into media dispositives in the urban space through a public audience. 22
the work was preceded by an internet project of the same title, which anticipated the active inclusion and participation of users in the formation and generation of “content” in the internet. in 1995 the artist had set up an internet portal on which users of a self-programmed tool could create different designs consisting of zips (stripes) in the three basic colors of a digital display — red, blue and green. whereas in the first version only one picture could be designed, in 2001 an expanded version was produced for the wiener schule für dichtung (vienna poetry school), in which the tool could be used to create 9 individual pictures (frames) which were then animated by pressing a button. numerous users participated in this art action and saved countless animations in the “virtual gallery” set up for the purpose. for the work in times square in 2004, selichar made use of this interface, expanded the number of pictures that could be  designed to 15, and offered a competition in cooperation with creativetime in new york to develop one or several animations with this web application and place them in a publicly accessible album. a jury of several persons, consisting of well-known artists, curators, and museum professionals, … , chose three works from this “virtual gallery,” which were then shown in succession every day for three months at the 59th minute of the full hour as a one-minute loop on the electronic billboard.
it is not only through the title who’s afraid of blue, red and green? that selichar references the famous analog large-format panel painting series by color field painter barnett newman who’s afraid of red, yellow and blue I-IV (1966–70), but also through ist strictly formal organization. just as newman did, selichar uses the basic colors of the media system to which they refer. newman represents the base colors of painting — red, yellow and blue — selichar the base colors of the operative surface of the monitor, the striped mask image — the rgb colors red, green and blue — which although it forms the basis of visual representation, normally remains invisible. …
… with his series who’s afraid of red yellow and blue newman used
his ironic picture title to ask the provocative question about the core of painting; he took a position against traditional art which located itself within art history, created gestic works with figurative image contents, and revered artistic genius. selichar turns the rhetorical question about the ontology of painting around, into a question of the self-evidence of art in the age of mass media: what is art nowadays and what is its function? does art succeed in creating a space for contemplation in the midst of spectacle-producing images, referencing the core of images, their way of being and existing? for although newman used his works to oppose figurative painting, he still worked in the canonized medium of art production: painting. and even though newman was opposed to traditional art, he remained bound to the “classical” medium of the art institution. selichar, on the other hand, not only uses a medium that is foreign to art, he also transports his art into the outside world — one that is occupied by the manipulative images of the media industry.
selichar seeks answers in the media themselves, relying on the reflective power of art through ist autonomous character. the decision to display the work who’s afraid of blue, red and green? not only in the sheltered “white cube” of the gallery or at a museum but also in public space and in particular in times square, one of the places in the world most densely packed with advertising, is thoroughly consistent because it intervenes directly in the mass media dispositive and therefore references its own medium. selichar single-mindedly and actively pursued this contextual shift in order to articulate his discomfort with a supposedly heterogeneous media democracy whose self-reflective potential has become lost …
… when he uses the large urban screen in times square for nonfigurative, self-referential abstract pictures that reference the medium itself, selichar not only connects traditional means of representation with the new technological procedures of a digital world, but also re-evaluates the medium itself. selichar usurps the mass media and uncovers the stereotypical power structures of advertising, by sending only abstract color combinations rather than a statement or “message.”
in an interview, selichar explained his motivation for this artistic intervention in times square as follows: “it is important merely to clear a small space in this materialistic jungle for artistic works, a space which follows a different principle, even if the proportionality of the possibilities between artistic intervention and commercial space is like a battle between unequal partners. i hope that the work, which will be shown on one of the large screens, will contrast somewhat with the objective images and concrete textual statements, because the impression it makes is more reduced than its surroundings and is arranged in a self-referential way. it creates holes, which can be filled by the participating audience.” 39

21 günther selichar: mass media research und kunst im medialen öffentlichen raum, in: idem. and tittel, claudia (eds.): on (plein) air, jena 2009, pp. 5–10, p. 5.
22 günther selichar: who’s afraid of blue, red and green? in: medienkunstnetz, digitally accessible at: http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/works/who-s-afraid-of-bluered-and-green/. (accessed 11.27.2016).
39 birgit sonna: the mass media world is a meta-universe, in: hochleitner, martin (ed.) et al.: günther selichar. third eye, linz/salzburg 2004, pp. 14.

from: claudia tittel: the blind spot. remarks on who’s afraid of blue, red and green? in public space, in: uli bohnen, dieter buchhart, christoph doswald, ruth horak, kathy rae huffman, robert c. morgan, marc ries, dieter ronte, amy ingrid schlegel, günther selichar, franz thalmair, claudia tittel: günther selichar. who’s afraid of blue, red and green? (1990-2017). (vienna: verlag für moderne kunst, 2017).