getawayexperiment.net explores the relationship between sites and signs - both literal and virtual. Online, a web-site can be thought to exist only through its utilization of signifiers, as a virtual concept that points to perceived meaning. Signs in the physical realm may act similarly, or become sites in themselves: "Hollywood" in Los Angeles, "Give me your tired, your poor" on Ellis Island, for example. Such sites are read just as much by surroundings, ambience and participation, as they are by their purposefully constructed signage.

getawayexperiment.net aims to accent the potential in textured signage of and for the virtual space, while simultaneously creating a platform for dialogue: can we "look again" at how and where meaning is created in such virtual spaces? To ask this question, getawayexperiment.net seeks to transform several information-based web pages into collaboratively constructed communication sites.

Initially, we commissioned local sign-makers in Johannesburg to "re-mix" five websites, by painting stylized versions of each image on their main pages. We believe the hand-painted signs of South Africa connote a space where artists and crafters are finding a visual language that is contextually relevant and site-specific. This 'low-tech' tradition is in opposition to, but can still play a role in, the comparatively 'hi-tech' Internet platform, and the 'designed' language of the net.

The sites (fox news, google images, joburg.org.za, solidarity and turbulence) were chosen based on the communities that surf them, their popularity, and their relevance to our practice. After re-commissioning depictions of the graphical elements within these pages, we scanned and prepared them for the web, and uploaded.

For a limited time, participants from all over world can edit the "getaways" - they are able to upload their own replacement images, in order to "sign these sites." When not editing a given "getaway" page, each individual image is randomly pulled from the site's live database of uploaded images, thus making a sum of parts that signifies something completely new. Every time a viewer refreshes the site, a collaborative collage is born - one that creates new meaning through personal craft, irony and juxtaposition. The names of each contributing sign-writer will also "sign the site" whenever any of their graphical elements appear.

So all of the five sites can be seen in one of three ways: 1) the original site 2) the "getaway" site in edit mode; and 3) the "getaway" site in non-edit mode. The "getaways" are on the turbulence server, while the original sites are live, on their original servers. In edit mode, participants upload their own replacement images/signs. In non-edit mode each image/sign is randomly pulled from the site's continually growing archive of uploaded images.

getawayexperiment.net proposes a dialogue between the virtual and physical processes of sign and site design and perception. It uses networked media in order to comment on, and accent, potential distortions of communication; viewers can participate, the potential outcome being a dialogue with our original sign-makers in South Africa as well as online communities at large. Through web-based submissions, public calls and discussions, getawayexperiment.net engages the networked audience in an exchange; it creates spaces of ownership and empowerment, while speaking back to the limitations of a supposedly global language.

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