Summer 2007

Conclave Obscurum

‘You wouldn’t want to have
to book a train ticket from here’

A private artistic project (online since 6 April 2005) by Russian artist Oleg Paschenko, ‘which is neither a commercial portfolio nor a collective art exhibition. I do no freelance job.’

Design, illustration, programming: Oleg Paschenko. Programming: Ivan Dembicki. Music: Alexei Bazunov.

John O’Reilly: The medieval unconscious spills over into east European metaphysical unease: think Portishead as a folk group from Minsk. Not only can you change the sound (‘sonick magnitudo’) but you can also change the ‘poltergeist anxiete’ level, which creates random visual and sonic agitation. There’s some hidden alchemy going on, only the elect perhaps can put together the meaning of the graphic squall, the screen plague, the scratchy echoes.

Adrian Shaughnessy: This site restores the sense of excitement and wonder often felt in the early days of experimental websites. You wouldn’t want to have to book a train ticket from Paschenko’s site, but as a piece of unsettling, occasionally spooky online art it is compelling. Conclave Obscurum’s meta tags include the words: ‘graphics, design, art, illustration, typography, calligraphy, flash, animation, actionscript, eerie, scary, horror, occult, hidden, sefiroth, sephiroth, cabala, qbl, cabbala, mineralis, sulfur, nigredo, albedo, citrinitas, rubedo and alchemy’. Getting hopelessly lost is one of this site’s many attractions. Here is the Web as artform; as visual experience: functionality be blowed.

Brendan Dawes: The subtle details of this site are just breathtaking. The experience of using the site feels very organic. Sometimes things happen and you have no idea why, and often can’t replicate the behaviour. At one point the whole site was upside down for second. Some of it is just plain bizarre. Click on ‘modifique’ and you get strange sliders cut into the ‘flesh’ of the website – one of which controls volume and the other ‘poltergeist anxiete’, which makes weird things, like the text turning upside-down, happen more frequently. A special mention should go to the sound design. I’d imagine if you could crawl into H. R. Giger’s head you might hear something like the sounds on this site. Weird, unsettling and scary.

Erik Spiekermann: Great Flash programming, scary imagery. That’s a gallery I would never go to in real life, so I have no standards to judge this by, except the technical one. If you want to show the world your work and you can write code like this artist, good for you. But not for me.

Anne Burdick: This creepy and tantalising ‘artist’s project’ demonstrates how a stylistic sensibility can be translated into the behaviour and personality of an interface. Paschenko’s design and illustration style is a direct descendent of Heironymous Bosch, Joel-Peter Witkin and the Brothers Quay. Like those before him, it is his attention to detail – which is manifest in the twitchy, idiosyncratic interface – that makes one want to spend hours examining the work as if it were a bug (insect or virus) under a looking glass.