Splash art originated in the 1940s in comics, where the term referred to a full page of visuals at the front of a book. Pages were designed to engage the reader's imagination along the lines of the comic's broader concept, while standing independent from the narrative. In the late 1990s, when the widespread use of the application Flash opened up new possibilities for animation and interactive media, the idea of the splash page migrated to web design. Online splash art brought visual excitement to a webpage when low modem speeds made it impractical to post large or moving images amid a site's textual content.

Rhizome introduced splash pages to its web site in 1998 in order to display artwork with greater immediacy....

Launch Project

Wallpaper, 1997/1998
The popularization of networked technologies came just a few years after the publication of Judith Butler's Gender Trouble, which made the internet's opportunities for performing alternate identities a major concern of artists and theorists. Shu Lea Chang's Brandon was an interactive exploration of the gender constructs based on the story of Brandon Teena, a transgender man from Falls City, Nebraska, who was raped and murdered in 1993 by two local men who discovered that "he" was a "she." (The project predated Boys Don't Cry, a film about the same events.) Wallpaper, a grid of drawn nipples on a pale gray background with a black-painted fingernail pointing at the link to Rhizome's home page, is an excerpt from Brandon adapted for the splash project.