John F. Simon Jr., Every Icon, 1997 – ongoing, screenshot

John F. Simon, Jr., Every Icon

Year: 1997
Type: Internet Net Art Online Software
Media Format: Software, Java Applet
Duration: 300 trillion years
Dimension: Variable
Acquisition: Permanent loan from the Digital Art Collection, Basel (Annette Schindler and Reinhard Storz), 2017. Inv. No. S0037.
Artwork Link:
Artist Website:

John F. Simon Jr., Every Icon, 1997 – ongoing, screenshot
John F. Simon Jr., Every Icon, 1997 – ongoing, screenshot

In his work Every Icon, the US American artist John F. Simon, Jr. has programmed software that runs through all possible combinations of black and white fields in a grid of 32 x 32 squares, at a rate of 100 variants per second, from top to bottom. The project was begun on January 14, 1997 promptly at 9:00 AM. On June 8, 1998, the first cell in the second row became black. If the first row needed 1.5 years to display all 4.3 trillion possibilities, the time factor for each additional row increases exponentially. Six trillion years have already been estimated for the second row. By the time the last programmed image appears – with all 1,024 squares turning black – several hundred trillion years will have passed.  A bit earlier, in only a few trillion years, one would be able to pick out the shape of a square or an arrow.
Simon describes his work as a reaction to the post-modern prognosis of the end of the image, in the late 1980s. With his minimalist, computer-generated design, he makes a major contribution to the inexhaustible variety of image-generating artistic processes. Thus, the revealing of the visual power of his work keeps us waiting.
(Text: Bettina Back)

Artist Bio

John F. Simon, Jr. comes from Louisiana. After studying Earth and planetary science and art in St. Louis and New York, he worked as a programmer at a central Internet art project on such works as Jenny Holzer’s Please Change Beliefs, Lawrence Weiner’s Homeport, and Kolmar and Melamid’s famous project, The Most Wanted Paintings, before starting on his own projects.