Background to Triptych Tips for running Triptych Technical Details Back to Triptych

The text of Triptych and the Javascript source code are ©copyright Peter Howard, 1998.

I'd be very happy to hear your comments. Please send them via my contact form.


In June 1998 I was invited to take part in a project at Kettle's Yard Gallery, Cambridge, UK. The idea was to produce a WWW anthology of responses to the exhibition Paved with Gold on show at the gallery. I decided to base my response on the video installation Again by Dryden Goodwin, which had been commissioned for the exhibition. To produce Again, Dryden travelled around London, by bus, train, barge, and on foot, videotaping what, and particularly who he saw. The edited results are presented on three video screens, each screen simultaneously displaying different, but related images. Sometimes Dryden's subjects were aware that they were being videoed, and responded in various ways. The piece explores the natures of fleeting relationships with strangers: sometimes the viewer appears to have set up some contact with the subject; at others we appear to be intruding into their lives. Ordinary activities are made extraordinary by the fact of being captured on camera. The video is accompanied by a soundscape which colours the viewers' reaction to what is seen. The same scene viewed with different sounds changes how gestures and movements are interpreted.

Because I wanted to make use of the possibilities of hypertext, and because of the nature of the piece I was responding to, I decided to write Triptych as a set of fragments of text that relate to each other in various ways. I hope you enjoy it.

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Tips for running Triptych

The appearance of Triptych on your browser will depend on which browser you have, the display you have and the way your browser is set up. In a sense, this is part of the point of the piece (and of Dryden's installation that was its starting point): a tension or collaboration between the artist and the viewer. The demarcation between the roles becomes blurred.

However, you may wish to consider running Triptych with your browser expanded to full screen, and with the default font size on the small size of medium.

I've spent some time trying to make the realisation of the piece compatible with as many browsers as I can. It has been tested on Netscape 3 and IE3 running under Windows 3.1, Netscape 4 and IE4 under Windows 95.

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Technical details

Rather than produce a plethora of HTML files and load them as required, Triptych is implemented largely as a set of Javascript routines, located in the header of the frames definition file: tripfram.htm. Only a couple of other HTML files are needed, to start the piece off. Because Javascript is an interpreted language, the whole of the source code has to be downloaded to your computer. This makes tripfram.htm rather large - about 27kbytes at the last count. I estimate that I could reduce this, perhaps by as much as 40%, by taking out the comments, shortening the function and object names, and so on. I've not done this, because it would make the code inscrutable, and some people reading this might want to scrute it. Feel free.

Some of the code is less than optimally elegant. Often, this is to circumvent shortcomings or bugs in the Javascript implementations of some browsers. For example, I've not preloaded the GIF files into Image objects, because IE3 doesn't understand them. And Netscape 3 crashes if you try to write a single, literal '?' into a frame. Other inelegancies are, of course, down to my own limitations as a programmer.

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