The Donor Party – Bizarre Computer Animation Art From 1994


It’s hard to imagine now, but in 1994, the development of the CD ROM and the burgeoning expansion of the internet – still something of a niche thing that ran on phone lines and cost a pretty penny to use even if you just wanted to read text and look at photos – was exciting artists and creatives around the world. That year, Voyager – the CD ROM precursor of Criterion – Interval Research and WIRED ran a competition called New Voices, New Visions, with the slogan “do not enter this contest if you want home shopping, encyclopedias and video games to define the information superhighway”, which had five hundred entries, pushing the envelope of what could be created as both art and entertainment at the time. The winning entries, alongside twenty one other submissions, were then issued on a Mac-only CD ROM by Voyager, as part of their remarkable collection that aimed to exploit the (at the time) massive storage capacity of shiny silver discs for artistic, experimental and creative projects. It was a fine idea, but of course, most people were entirly happy with games, encyclopedias and home shopping (not to mention porn).

Computer technology being what it is, almost all of these once cutting edge projects are now entirely redundant and unplayable unless you have a mid-Nineties era Mac running System 7 – 8. Lost, apparently forever, are hauntingly lovely works like The Dream of Time and the disturbing Typhoid Mary.

A few of the entires, by luck as much as design, have managed to survive. The Donor Party was arguably old-fashioned by the standards of the time and the contest – a non-interactive animated film. Of course, that means you can still enjoy it today.

Laurence Arcadias’ film is a bad trip nightmare of vintage art brought to life – imagine Terry Gilliam in a particularly dark place and you might have a clue as to what to expect. It was produced using Apple’s experimental animation system Inkwell – hence it qualifiying for the competition – and while computer animation projects are now ten a penny, there’s still something about this that is strange and creepy and unique.