Gridcosm is a collaborative art project of the online art collective SITO, in which artists from around the world contribute images to a compounding series of graphical squares. Each level of Gridcosm is made up of nine square images arranged into a 3-by-3 grid. The middle image is a one-third size version of the previous level. Artists add images around that center image until a new 3-by-3 grid is completed, then that level itself shrinks and becomes the “seed” for the next level. This process creates an ever-expanding tunnel of images, the newest level a direct result of the previous level which is a result of the previous level… and so on.

Gridcosm was started March 30, 1997 by founder of SITO, Ed Stastny. The project built upon the ideas and experiences with previous SITO collaborative projects (“Synergy” projects), many of which were grid-based.

As of March 2018, 365 artists have contributed more than 4260 levels (over 34,081 individual images) to the project.

In addition to the images in the gridcosm, there is a text element as well. When submitting a square to the grid, the user adds a text fragment which becomes associated with that square. Before submitting the text, the user can preview any text that comes before or after. This allows the user to choose words or fragments of sentences, allowing them to “blend” the text of the poem if they choose. Hyperlinks can also be added to the submitted text, although this is infrequent.

  • An example of a completed grid poem: “When you find yourself plummeting, please jump right in clawwing the age haw if sis first time with the gimp, not as smooth as pshop and it goes like this, tirelessly toiling with trumpets and fanfare.” – Level 2819 [1]

Additionally, when a new level is created, there must be some “seed” of text for users to add on to. This text is created by an algorithm. In earlier levels of the Gridcosm this “seed” of text was not as random as it is now. Various phrases such as “groblin attack” and “this should have been something better” were often used.

The structure of the project lends itself to animated traversals, called “fly-throughs”. These can take the form of a zoom-in, going into the past, or a zoom-out, moving toward the present day. Notably, Lenara Verle produced a high quality animation of the first 1000 levels of Gridcosm, which was scored with a soundtrack made by SITO artists. In 2005, this animation won an International Media Award

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