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The Rhizome Blog and Rhizome News

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    Jeremy Bailey, Importrait Portrait of Michelle Kasprzak, 2013. Courtesy of Pari Nadimi Gallery.

    Earlier this year, "Famous New Media Artist" Jeremy Bailey ran a Kickstarter campaign in which he offered backers an augmented reality portrait of themselves, updating the time-honored tradition of creating portraits of one's patron for an era of crowd-sourced funding. New Yorkers can see 50 of the results in person from Friday, June 14 at Devotion Gallery as part Jeremy Bailey: Less Important Portraits.

    The big question: will the exhibition feature an image of Rhizome's own Heather Corcoran, who is listed as one of Bailey's backers? By writing about this event, are we inadvertently increasing the potential resale value of an artwork in Heather's collection? 

    After the jump, more of the week's events and deadlines, all culled from Rhizome Announce.

    Online

    Now through June 15: Rozendaal X You: The URL Project. Rozendaal, whose past online works have such melancholic URLs as itwillneverbethesame.com and sadforjapan.com, is inviting viewers of the MOCAtv YouTube channel to submit ideas for URLs, which he will then turn into artworks. So far, suggestions range from sort of missing the point (onfoodandcooking.com?) to snarky (lazyrozendaal.com) to  filthy but non-commercial (wetandready.org) to clever ideas that were snapped up long ago (smell.it). 

    Toronto

    June 11: Elastic Planets is an automated audiovisual machine created by artist duo Instant Places that will be generating digital paintings in concert with a multichannel soundscape.

    Sheffield

    June 14 & 15: Sheffield Fringe 2013 is a two-day exhibition dealing with the critical possibilities of film as both documentary and art.

    Santa Fe

    June 14: Opening of Currents 2013: The Santa Fe International New Media Festival, offering experimental video, interactive installations, panel discussions, workshops, multimedia performances and more through June 30.

    Deadlines

    Artists:

    June 12: Open Call: B_Tour Festival. The first-ever B_Tour festival is seeking artists to create experimental guided tours that intervene in Berlin's public spaces and challenge the participant to rethink their relationship to the urban environment.

    June 13: Call for Submissions: Siggraph Asia 2013. The Siggraph Art Gallery is looking for work from artists who are empowered and emboldened by their access to digitally-enabled means of expression.

    June 15: Call for Proposals: Re-New 2013 Media Art Conference & Festival. Artists, technologists, and scholars are invited to submit proposals outlining original research and/or artworks that explore the intersection of art and technology while fostering exchange between academia and art.


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    The forthcoming introduction of generic top-level domains (gTLDs)—which will replace the .com or .net suffix with specific words or terms, such as .food, .movies, or .microsoft—poses new speculative opportunities as dizzying as those of Zola’s 19th-century Paris.

    The new gTLDs have been avidly discussed in a specialty and popular media outlets, which stress the value of quick identification—.xxx for porn is a good example—and the limited options the 21 current top-level domains (.com, .edu, .net, and so forth) still hold. The new gTLDs will help organize websites according to affiliation, and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is currently considering applications to manage these top-level domains.

    Last year, e-flux announced that it had put in an application to manage the proposed .art gTLD. The application fee alone was $185,000, and the successful applicant will pay ICANN a further $25,000 per year. There is clearly money to be made in top-level domains, but the management of .art may be more than a business; it holds within it the power to act as gatekeeper. e-flux’s involvement with the contemporary art community makes its application to manage the .art string plausible, and it drew a lot of attention to the suggested .art gTLD, which was largely overlooked by other important contemporary art institutions. But it also presents the organization with the opportunity to wield a kind of centralized power that seems incongruous not only with the egalitarian politics advanced through e-flux’s editorial, but also with the concept of the Internet as a shared resource.

    Art, money, and politics are conflated in this Internet land grab. Arts organizations claim to wear their politics on their sleeves: conversations that celebrate the values of social utility and transparency are commonplace in the contemporary art context. As part of these conversations, we should consider the way we, as a community of individuals and institutions who create and care about and circulate around contemporary art, participate in the construction of a shared resource like the Internet, and who profits from this resource.

    Fifth Avenue May Be In Syria: Artsy

    Questions about the role of URLs in the way we use the Internet today regularly come up in the discussion over the new gTLDs. Are we paying too little attention to URLs? Are they still important? In some browsers, the location bar is no longer a command line, but a Google search, leading me to think of URLs as addresses rather than directions—which raises the question, do you get the Fifth Avenue address or the no-name one?

    In January of this year, online art startup Artsy announced that it will change its URL—and concomitantly its name and brand—from Art.sy to Artsy.net. The company registered the art.sy URL in 2009, stating that it was the shortest English language domain that began with the word “art.” .sy is the country-code top-level domain for Syria, and when the US imposed sanctions following the outbreak of civil war in 2011, questions were raised as to the legality of the company’s continued use of the domain.

    Popular demonstrations began in Syria in March of 2011; Artsy renewed its domain name registration via a Syrian company the following month, and the U.S. sanctions on Syria were put in place several months after that, in August 2011. Thus, Artsy is guilty of no illegality, merely a willingness to do business with an unsavory political regime for the sake of branding.

    The company bought the artsy.net domain name in 2012 and prepared to slowly transition over 2013. But following a 36-hour blackout due to an issue with DNS servers in Syria, they decided to shift all activity to the Artsy.net address immediately, and accordingly changed its name. Artsy’s entanglement with the Syrian government should be a cautionary tale for companies looking beyond their borders without considering the political implications of an international transaction. Top-level domains are not pure abstractions, disconnected from any underlying political reality.

    In an interview with Gallerist, Artsy’s president and COO Sebastian Cwilich said, “The world is a complex and dynamic place. A domain which makes sense one year can not make sense the year afterward. I think that, at the time we made the decision to acquire Art.sy, the current conflict in Syria was at a much different stage from where it is now, and I see no reason why we would have made a different decision.”

    The use of country-code top-level domains for creative branding often poses thorny questions for global companies. Tuvalu, for example, has successfully capitalized on its .tv domain, while its people live an increasingly precarious existence as a result of climate change. The URL-shortening website bit.ly now redirects to bitly.com, because the .ly domain belongs to Libya, where political upheaval and censorship made addresses under the .ly domain difficult to hold on to. The use of country-code TLDs, then, involves several kinds of associations with the nations who administer them: financial, symbolic, and technical. That Fifth Avenue address may be important, but its important to consider who the landlord is, too. 

    A New Kind of Investment: e-flux and .art

    While Artsy’s management act as if their Syrian URL was irrelevant to their brand, e-flux clearly understands the significance of top-level domains. Built on the timely recognition of the Internet needs of the art community, the organization used its tech savvy to become a major player in the contemporary art scene. e-flux’s application to manage the .art gTLD has met with the approval of many cultural producers and exhibitors across the world, as well as some suspicion, as some practitioners wonder what qualifies e-flux to select those who participate in the .art domain. One of the really interesting aspects of e-flux’s desire to manage the .art domain is that it drew a lot of attention to the fate of the .art gTLD from the contemporary art world, as evinced in the addendum to e-flux’s application, which includes letters from critics, artists, gallerists, curators, and museum directors. If a different entity were to win the management of the .art domain (Deviantart is one of the applicants, for example), would the art world be as involved with the fate of the domain? It’s doubtful.

    e-flux brings its know-how and its deep involvement with the contemporary art scene into this initiative, and it will dedicate a certain percentage of the revenue generated by the .art domain to support art projects. In the application for the .art domain, e-flux stresses its “understanding of the art community in its broadest sense.” And a sense of responsible authority seems important here: if the aspiration of the new gTLDs is to organize the Internet, then e-flux’s conception of the .art domain is subversive of this systematization. While the gTLD will be selective, e-flux sees the .art string—as it states in the application—as a potential leveling mechanism for a community in which resources vary quite widely.

    Nevertheless, for one organization to be placed in charge of vetting applications for .art domain names could imply quite a serious centralization of online power. The introduction of the gTLD means that someone will manage it, but e-flux’s ambition here is to for the .art domain to become a cultural asset that is not merely sold off to the first and highest bidder; e-flux suggests that the .art domain will, with time, build up to become an “encyclopedic” resource that catalogs the field of contemporary art. But it is not clear how domains will be allocated. The organization has stated that ".art would not...employ any form of gatekeeping using aesthetic standards," but it has referred to "an international team of experts" who would supervise the domain.

    In very different ways, Artsy and e-flux rely on the idea that there is money to be made in mapping visual arts online. While e-flux emphasizes its role within a very specific community of contemporary art practitioners, Artsy—with its Art Genome project—focuses its attention on making all art available on the Internet. The interest both institutions have in URLs is telling in relation to two aspects of the new .art gTLD: one, the branding possibilities it offers, and the second, the benefit it may or may not offer for the contemporary art community.

    Despite Cwilich’s comments about the variability of URLs, the top-level domain implies a kind of permanence. Subscribers to Reader’s Digest know that they can always mail their checks to an address in Pleasantville, NY, even though the company has moved its physical facility. Similarly, users of a particular website expect its domain to remain unchanged. Yet the bodies who manage domain names are subject to change—island nations flood; corrupt governments fall; arts organizations change leadership. Why should we speculate that things will stay the same? Have they ever? Time seems to be the crucial element here. Will e-flux make .art a stable, sustainable, and valuable operation? 

    The new gTLDs call for us to be more discerning. Assessing information online is an important skill in contemporary society; with the new domains, a site’s URL will be both a source of information, in terms of the affiliations of said site, and a telling aspect of its network. In the case of the .art domain, it will be important to note who is in and who is out. Not simply because it is vetted by contemporary art practitioners, but because we need to draw the right conclusions from it: the rarefication of URLs, as in the case of Art.sy, collides interestingly with highly commercial initiatives and is more revealing of an organization’s politics than we may have previously imagined. The structures that lie behind URLs have political implications, whether on the global stage or on the micropolitics of the art world itself.

    [Ed. - Disclosure note: Rhizome is on e-flux's list of clients and has contributed to Artsy.]


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    Cam Twist 
    ManyCam and webcam video
    Jennifer Chan

    Artist's statement:

    "Whenever you put your body online, in some way you are in conversation with porn," writes Ann Hirsch.

    "If you do not want your image to travel somewhere far away, do not release it to the cloud," warns Jacob Ciocci.

    Some women live from the neck up because they consider their bodies too horrifying to claim as their own. Conversely, some live only from the neck down because they have been told their faces and their minds do not deserve love.

    We see this fear and fascination between the face and the body play out in the ubiquity of careful cropped profile pics and high-angle selfies. This is the anxiety of appearing online.

    Self-portraiture is the emotional labor of young women who—through the mirrored feedback of webcam and video previews—observe themselves both as digital subject and object. They learn the accurate angles and gestures of sexy-but-not-"slutty,", bold-but-not-"bitchy" poses. At best, phone cameras and webcams provide a means to reinvent an embodied and full-bodied representation of ourselves. Yet the responses the resulting images invoke—such as online catcalls, insults and sermons—fuel an ongoing need to self-police the performance of feminine representation.

    Video may be the medium of narcissism, but a narcissist does not a performer make. I hate my body and I am ok with that. I never see myself objectively. It is through a camera I see myself become not-me, or the me I cannot be.

    Click here to view artwork.


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    As an artist, my interface with holography and laser technology is always aimed at achieving a particular art piece that communicates the concerns of all my work. They are chance, change, it-ness, attention, a concern with perception.

    -Peter Van Riper, From “On Holography” (1980)[1]


    Peter Van Riper, Room Space I (1976-78)

    In the summer of 2012, Rhizome’s partner institution, the New Museum, hosted “Pictures from the Moon” in its Lobby Gallery, an exhibition of artists’ holograms from the late 1960s to 2008. The size of the gallery necessitated a tight focus on artists who were not “holographers,” but rather produced holograms which function as novel outliers in their practices (Bruce Nauman, Louise Bourgeois and James Turrell among them). As critic Martha Schwendener noted in her New York Times review of the exhibition,[2] a broader survey of holographic art could have revisited the work of artist/tinkerers like Rudie Burkhout, Margaret Benyon and Lloyd Cross, all of whom were more actively on the ground, pioneering holograms and laser-based arts as a distinct form of visual art.[3]

    In between these poles—the artist who dabbled in holograms and the card-carrying holographer—hovers the work of the artist Peter Van Riper. Van Riper (1942-1998) split his time between the world of holography and the music and performance avant-gardes that had emerged in the wake of Fluxus and the innovations of composer John Cage. Because of the in-betweenness of his practice, and because all of his projects are best understood not on formal terms but in the context of broader concerns with human subjectivity and perception, Van Riper’s work has perhaps not yet received the full recognition he deserves within either field.


    Peter Van Riper, School of Holography print (circa 1971). 


    Peter Van Riper, Holopane 2 (circa 1970s). Van Riper picking up the pieces of a broken hologram. Filmed by Joseph Bogdanovich.

    Although he created some of the earliest pieces of holographic art, shown frequently at the Museum of Holography in SoHo, and taught holography at CalArts and the School of Holography in San Francisco, Van Riper is best remembered today not for his work in this new medium, but rather for his performance collaborations with Simone Forti (with whom he was married from 1975 to 1986) and his avant-garde music for saxophone and various custom-made instruments such as found aluminum baseball bats.

    Peter Van Riper circa 1983. Photograph by Eugenia Balcells.


    Mailer for PS1 show with Simone Forti that featured graphics and holography (1975).


    Van Riper playing saxophone with Simone Forti in the MoMA Sculpture Garden (1978).

    While much of this musical/performance work was meant to be beautiful, it was also meant to point away from itself and instead activate the listener’s/performance viewer’s awareness of their immediate space. That is, in lieu of carrying one away from reality, as is often one of music’s more romantic goals, Van Riper sought to locate the listener in the here and now, accentuating the experience of being present in the world. A representative work is Doppler Piece (1979), in which he used his saxophone and carefully placed microphones to explore the Doppler Effect (changes in pitch as the source of a sound moves toward and away from an observer). The objective here was to experiment with effects in sound but also to reorient the viewer’s attention to the world around their bodies.

    Van Riper described his intentions with music by saying, “I hope to offer something fresh as music as well as attention: attention to light and sound, to seeing and hearing in art and music.”[4]

    Although works such as Doppler Piece are formally quite different from high-tech holograms, they encourage very similar modes of awareness. In perhaps the most pointed example, Room Space (1976-78), a 360-degree hologram depicting the artist’s body in an empty room directs the viewer’s attention away from the spectacle of technological gadgetry and toward the room in which the hologram is installed: the light, the architecture and the location of one’s body in space.


    Peter Van Riper, Room Space II (1976-78).

    Van Riper played reverberating gong music in the Room Space installation to complement the hologram. In regard to the project, he wrote:

    The music for the installation has standing waves that fill the space with shimmering sound. A metal Buddhist gong produces continuous sound so that a sound wave “stands” in the space.
    Light is a wave
    Sound is a wave
    The images are about light and seeing, as the music is about sound and hearing. The holograms are about awareness of space.[5]


    Cover for Room Space, album of music composed for the installation (1978).

    Born in Detroit in 1942, Van Riper received a BA in Eastern history and Art History from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and studied Eastern philosophy and art history at Tokyo University in Japan. Upon returning to the United States in the early 1960s, he met the laser physicist Lloyd Cross and realized that the way holograms interpreted light overlapped with his Zen Buddhist-inspired aesthetic interests. Together he and Cross quickly built a small hologram company, Editions Inc., created some of the first holograms-as-artworks, and organized what may have been the first holographic art exhibition—Sound, Light, and Air (1968)—at the Cranbrook Art Museum in Ann Arbor, Michigan. As holograms are notoriously difficult to photographically document, most of what is included in the documentation of the exhibition below represents the inflatable sculptures, which were the “air” component of “Sound, Light, and Air.” But there are shorter sections (such as 1:30-1:49) where the lights are dimmed to demonstrate the 3D effect of the holograms dancing in space along, with the set-up of green laser lights and glass plates used to create the effect.



    In Room Space, Van Riper sought to spur an awareness of the viewer’s subjective sense of space. The hologram exhibited in Ann Arbor, though, has a more phenomenological aspect, visualizing for the viewer the otherwise imperceptible waveform structure of light. This is also true of two later works, Rainbow Man and Rainbow Mandala (both 1974), in which colorful holographic plates interacted with, respectively, sunlight from a window and symmetrical laser lights to create bright, psychedelic patterns. The patterns are mesmerizing, but for Van Riper, the ultimate goal was always to expand viewers’ awareness of what is occurring around their bodies.


    Peter Van Riper, Screenprint based on Rainbow Man (1974).


    Peter Van Riper, Plant in Laser Light (1982), from Laser Light Photographs.


    Peter Van Riper. Aloe Vera in Laser Light (c. 1983). Silkscreen.

    In a text on photographs made with laser light diffractions,[6] Van Riper refers to John Cage’s notion that it is the job of art to address man’s orientation to nature. Van Riper’s focus on this goal led him to experiment in whatever mode was available to him, from the saxophone, to homemade instruments, to holograms, to paintings. Because of this, he found himself untethered to a particular movement or school and, thus, difficult to place in the art historical canon. But it’s also what makes him such a fascinating artist to explore.

    At the end of his all-too-brief life, Van Riper was able to merge many of his interests—avant-garde music, laser-based imaging, and a more recent use of computer software—in a series of gestural works. The Laser Sound Scans, as he called them, were musical compositions translated to laser pulses and recorded on a rear projection screen by a digital camera. Although simple, they are among the most beautiful pieces he produced.


    Laser Sound Scan 14 (1998). Digital print.


    Laser Sound Scan 6 (1998). Digital print.


    Laser Sound Scan 17 (1998). Digital print.

    “It’s fantastic,” he wrote of producing these works. “It’s like being lost in the mountains or something, there are so many light waves. They are not images that I thought up and made drawings of, they’re really the recordings of the light, the way the light behaves. This experience is research about something mysterious in nature.”[7]

    Imparting this feeling of a mysterious vitality in light or an empty room, and asking viewers and listeners to pay attention to their subjective experience thereof; this was Van Riper’s art, and he pursued it across a lifetime through holograms, saxophones, baseball bats and anything in-between.

    For more information on the work of Peter Van Riper see petervanriper.tumblr.com
    Special thanks to Dina Helal for her help in preparing this article.

    References:

    [1] Essay included in Berner, Jeff. The Holography Book. New York: Avon Books, 1980.

    [2] “Let There Be Light, in Three Dimensions.”  The New York Times.  August 23, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/24/arts/design/holography-in-pictures-from-the-moon-at-new-museum.html

    [3] For more information on this scene see, e.g., Kallard, Thomas. Laser Art and Optical Transforms. New York: Optosonic Press, 1979.

    [4] From a previously unpublished text by Van Riper on his work Cups (1993).

    [5] From “On Holography” in Berner, Jeff. The Holography Book. New York: Avon Books, 1980.


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    Douglas Davis, "The World's First Collaborative Sentence" (1994). Detail.

    On Monday, the New York Times ran an article describing the Whitney Museum's restoration of an early online artwork by Douglas Davis, The World’s First Collaborative Sentence (1994).

    Many of the comments posted to the article offered sage advice for the conservation team, free of charge. According to Francesco of New York, “it was probably build in java or php and they need to update the server.” VJBortolot of Guildford, CT, expressed surprise “that the Whitney didn't … use an legacy browser … and run it in a Win95 environment on a vintage computer.” E.W. Chesterton of Palm Beach simply wrote, “Oh please! It’s html!”

    Expert diagnoses notwithstanding, it’s well worth delving a bit further into some of the complex issues that emerged during the Davis restoration. Rhizome’s Digital Conservator Ben Fino-Radin acted as consultant on the project, working closely with curator and art historian Christiane Paul to lead and advise on a group effort by Whitney staff from multiple departments. Their work involved not only updating servers and running legacy browsers on vintage computer systems, but also considering theoretical and ethical aspects of the conservation, conducting interviews with the original programmer to document what the lost software did, writing the new code for the work, addressing a host of thorny technical issues and documenting the results. In short, the project is an excellent case study of the issues involved with digital conservation—issues that Rhizome has been wrestling with as part of its digital conservation efforts over more than ten years.

    Douglas Davis, The Last Nine Minutes (1977). Performance in Caracas, Venezuela for German TV's first live satellite transmission as part of Documenta VI.

    First, a bit of background on the artwork. Prior to Collaborative Sentence, Douglas Davis had a long-standing interest in broadcast technology. In particular, he is remembered for co-creating a 1977 satellite broadcast from Documenta 6, along with Joseph Beuys and Nam Jun Paik. Davis was interested in television’s ability to connect people across distance; my students always laugh uncomfortably at the 70s touchy-feeliness of his video work. With the emergence of the Web, his utopian belief in the possibility of intimacy through communications networks continued.

    The huge difference between broadcast TV and the Web is the keyboard. With that people can say anything; they have full expressive capacity. This means a more intense and personal link could occur between me and the audience. So why not get the whole world together to write a sentence?[1]

    Commissioned for the Center for Long Distance Art and Culture at Lehman College Art Gallery, Davis’ project allowed visitors to add to a growing online text. Visitors could enter words and links, but they could not use the period key; the sentence would go on forever.

    The work showed as part of the first Gwangju Biennale in 1995, in a new media pavilion dedicated to Paik, where a number of visitors contributed text using a Korean character set. For many of them, this would have been their first experience of the Web, their first opportunity to write something that could potentially be read by an audience anywhere in the world. In thinking about Collaborative Sentence today, it is important to keep that sense of initial excitement about the Web—now already a distant memory—in mind.

    The experience of this work today, then, is already radically different. But beyond this contextual shift, the Whitney had to contend with several serious technical problems. In particular, the CGI script that allowed visitors to input text to the site had been lost; it had to be reconstructed based on information gleaned during the aforementioned interviews with the original programmer.

    Another problem was that none of the Hangul text entered by Korean visitors to the site was legible. At some point during the lifespan of the artwork, the Korean text sustained a form of encoding damage. It appeared as gibberish: “éÒ ‚ì¹¹ÀË Ëœ«å çÛ‚àçÛËí.”

    Ben worked on restoring the original Hangul text as part of his work for the Whitney. He reached out to Ken Lunde, a specialist in information processing for East Asian languages, who suggested the text likely originated in Windows 1252 character set, but had been translated into Mac OS Roman characters. Ben and Lunde speculate that, at some point in the work’s history, someone opened the Collaborative Sentence in a Web browser that was running the wrong character set. They copied this incorrectly rendered text, and somehow saved this flawed version, rather than the original byte values, for posterity.

    This was complicated by the fact that Hangul requires a double-byte character set (DBCS). Unlike Latin alphabets, in which each character represents a single letter and can be rendered with a single byte of data, Hangul characters can represent a combination of letters that form a syllable. Thus, the number of possible characters is far more numerous, and two bytes of data are required to display a single character.

    Western, ASCII based codepages go something like this:

    0xAB = character

    DBCS goes something like this:

    0xAB 0xCD = character

    When the Korean characters were converted, combination of bytes were changed. In his initial analysis, Lunde pointed out that the two bytes “0xBC” and “0x96” in the surviving Davis data had originally been “0xBA” and “0xF1”, which translate to the Korean character for rain: 비.

    To restore the original text, Ben constructed a correspondence table from the original character set to Mac OS Roman, then reversed it. However, some characters present in Mac OS Roman set have no equivalent in Windows-1252. Therefore, the resulting text had missing parts. (For a more full account of his process, see this Github page). 

    In the artwork's object file, the Whitney Museum had saved a small amount of the text from a two-page printout with the Hangul characters correctly rendered, which Ben was able to use as a guide. The text derived from the printout included the text, 광주비엔낱레여, which Google translates as "Gwangju Biennale open." His conversion, though, gave the same characters as 광주비엔뿯뇫여, which Google translates as "Guangzhou Biel ppwot nyokyeo."

    The results were illegible even to native Korean speakers, and the Whitney “invites contributions via GitHub to make the Korean text legible for the first time.” Ben describes this as a "sword in the stone;" restoring the original text may be impossible.

    This is really just scratching the surface of the efforts that went into the restoration of The World’s First Collaborative Sentence, but it hopefully is clear from this brief investigation that even a seemingly simple technology-based artwork can go very, very wrong when it is not properly cared for, or when parts of the work are not collected at all (an awareness of which informs all of our own collections care practices here at Rhizome).

    Despite the clear potential for conservation problems, I want to end with a reassuring note and a call to action for current and future collectors of digital art. Many of the problems that arose with Collaborative Sentence would have been avoided if best practices for digital conservation (as they are understood today) had existed at the time. Collecting technology-based artwork does have its perils, but digital conservation is no longer a dark art. Here at Rhizome, we aim to continue to let the light shine.

    References

    [1] Douglas Davis quoted in Tilman Baumgärtel, [net.art] New Materials Towards Net Art, Nürnberg, 2001. pp. 60–62.


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    Artist and erstwhile Rhizome staff writer Tyler Coburn's recent project I'm that angel includes a book and performance narrated by a fictional “content farmer,” a writer (typically freelance) who creates large amounts of text that is designed for maximum traction with search engine algorithms. The performances typically take place in data centers or spaces in which the physical infrastructure that supports "the cloud" is made manifest.  

    We corresponded about the project via e-mail.

    MC: Can you talk about the process of approaching data centers as performance venues? How do you explain the project to them, and what sort of conversations ensue?

    TC: As you might imagine, it’s fairly difficult to solicit interest—let alone a reply—from these centers. To date, I’ve e-mailed upwards of a hundred of them in various cities throughout the Western Hemisphere, framing the project as a reading that engages cloud computing and thus gains meaning from being sited in a data center. Little or nothing is said about the content of the book, as the occasionally punctuated, maddening language would probably do my performance request few favors. This, of course, breeds a new set of concerns. At a few performances attended by company members and clients, for example, I worried that my reading would be stopped short at the fourth or tenth “fuck.” Instead, I emphasize that these readings deliberately adapt to the given conditions and protocols of a center. Audience capacity will be no greater than the existing number of chairs in a conference room, for example, and I will introduce no elements other than the book and the guests. The center, in a sense, functions as a readymade.

    My readings are always followed by site tours, which facilitate access to the more secure rooms in the centers and also introduce guests to the people involved in the management of the facilities. Ethically, I see the tour as an opportunity both to allow the hosts to discuss their company’s involvement in the field of information storage and for guests to open discussion about the political, environmental and security issues at hand. Centers have generally proved receptive to conducting tours, in part for the marketing opportunities they present. I’m not sure if any have succeeded in making new clients of my guests, but on a few occasions, we have happily emerged from the windowless bunkers stuffed with phyllo, sushi and printed matter.

    MC: I'm surprised that the data centers would be open to giving site tours; somehow it seems to run counter to the image of cloud computing that we are sold—that it is somehow unmoored from the quotidian constraints of physical facilities. 

    TC: I’m as surprised as you. I’ve conducted readings and tours in six data centers throughout Europe and the United States and don’t have any more insight than when I began the project. In each case, my guests and I consent to a center’s clearance measures, which are sometimes minimal to the point of nonexistent and, in other cases, marked by biometric hand scanners, “Man Traps” and the security aesthetics of a Bond lair or set from 24. Photography is also sometimes permitted, though it’s telling that the resulting images manage to render the sites the stuff of Photoshop fancy: the server racks float above the elevated flooring, seemingly more at home in composite layers than in the actual facilities designed to house them.

    This is part and parcel of the incongruity you mentioned. The relationship between the server and the cloud is a frequent topic of discussion on the tours, largely because some audience members are unfamiliar with data centers and none have previously set foot in them (excepting a Swedish friend who went to a rave in Pionen, when the nuclear bunker was languishing in the post-Cold War years). Facilitating access is thus a means of calling attention to the physical and geopolitical conditions that underpin the metaphors of diffuseness, virtuality and immateriality that have periodically attached to science and technology—from the “luminiferous” aether to the “invisible, intangible, imponderable agent” of electricity, as characterized by a 19th Century "authority" quoted in James Gleick’s The Information. As such, tours engage the ethical aspects of data center management. Carrier-neutral data centers often choose to have no knowledge of the contents of their clients’ servers, for example, and only intervene when the injunction comes through a given country’s appropriate legal channels. Seeing as fiber network infrastructure maps discontinuously on nation-states, complications inevitably ensue. One tour guide even predicted a future of countries soliciting external cyber-attacks as grounds to “enforce” the protection of civil liberties, thereby territorializing network control following certain existing templates…

     

    MC: My understanding of your project is that it doesn't only explore the relationship between physical territories and the cloud, but also the interplay between personal subjectivity and the cloud. can you tell us a bit about the main character in your performance, the content farmer? What kind of glimpse do you give into his inner life? Or is the focus more on the material conditions of his existence?

    TC: That's right—subjectivity is at stake. I consider the book to be a confessional, which Northrop Frye has characterized as one of the four main forms of fiction: "introverted, but intellectualized in content" and necessarily, reflexively public. In the text, I attempt to work against the deterministic mindset that new technologies produce and delimit new forms of subjectivity and sociability. This is not to ignore their impact on how we work, play and affiliate, but rather to remind that we are not the first generation to meditate on the self (and the author) set amidst emergent forms of communications media—that the self is an ongoing project. The book is thus peopled with quotes by sympathetic predecessors, from Jonathan Swift and Viktor Shklovsky to William Burroughs & Brion Gysin, Nick Land and, most importantly, Samuel Richardson, whose Pamela was but the most egregious example of the demand for protagonists of early 18th Century English literature to write "to the moment."

     

    Our dual onus to be virtually present and continually "in the present tense" shares something with the conventions of this era, and while a blog or social media profile might offer the closest approximations to the found letter or diary, I'm interested in giving an extreme case study that still illuminates the norm. My content farmer is a known quantity: a member of the creative class in pursuit of the self-liberation and creative entrepreneurship promised by post-Fordist rhetoric, thereby willfully ensnaring himself in one of the many industrialized sectors of Internet work. He works "on the side" for a news conglomerate like Associated Content [Ed.—Now Yahoo! Voices], filing articles on half-hourly bases based on words peaking in Google Trends. A high quota of trending language, the wisdom goes, will trick the algorithm into awarding higher search rankings, yielding more "eyeballs" on the article—a standard metric of our online value.

    In The Practice of Everyday Life, Michel de Certeau somewhat over-romantically theorized “la perruque," or the wig, as the worker’s own work being performed under the cover of employed time. Writing from the perspective of a content farmer thus became an exercise in claiming time and space in a field of production structured by quotas of language. Given that we rarely register strict delineations of personal and waged computer work, I envisaged the spans between buzzwords as spaces to disclose the character's inner life through anecdotes, speculations, anxieties, rants and the bits and bobs of cultural matter that periodically seed our individual content farms. The method is provisional—and the cultural analysis sometimes cripplingly pessimistic—but there's also a belief in the book about the literary possibilities for the programmatic and vernacular languages of the Internet.

     

    In the coming weeks, Coburn will perform at e-shelter, Berlin, in collaboration with Archive KabinettVolta, London, in collaboration with South London Gallery; Grazer Kunstverein; CAC Vilnius; and Museo Villa Croce, Genoa, as part of Peep-Hole's The Book Society. Copies of I’m that angel are available at bookstores and institutions worldwide. 


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    This is the latest in an ongoing series of performance GIFs curated by Jesse Darling. Previously: Maja CuleLegacy RussellJaakko PallasvuoCreighton Baxter, Genevieve Belleveau, Jennifer Chan.

    Milking It 
    Marisa Olson, 2013

    The chemical therapy the artist takes to cope with the death of a parent on chemotherapy causes the child to artificially lactate like a new mother. Here she takes matters into her own hands, deliberately "crying on command" to share a milky tear as evidence of this abject paradox.

    Click here to view work (NSFW).


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    In the aftermath of a tumultuous weekend in Istanbul, artist Merve Unsal reflects on the relationship between social media and the quotidian practice of protest.

    Photograph by Ian Usher taken at Gezi Park on June 8, 2013, one week before the park was cleared by riot police backed by armored vehicles.

    I grew up listening to what cities should and/or could be—my mother teaches urban planning at a public university in Istanbul, an institution whose beginnings in the late 19th century can be traced to the effort to change, adapt and preserve what was then the Ottoman Empire, and which later came to symbolize the (dis)continuity of modern ideals between the Empire and the Republic of Turkey. I learned about the neighborhood of Pera from architectural historian Dogan Kuban in efforts to make dinner conversation with my mom as a teenager. And yet, my relationship with the city that I lived in did not become tangible until May 30, 2013, when I went to Gezi Park after dinner.

    The year 1980 is a generational point of demarcation in Turkey, a cut-off. The turmoil of the 1970s erupted in a military coup d'etat in 1980 that left an indelible mark on the generation that would become our parents; their generation was slapped—for lack of a better word—every ten years, 1960, 1971, 1980, even 1997. We—the kids born in the 80s—were raised to stay out of trouble.

    [A recent survey in Gezi Park reveals that this is the first protest for many of the occupiers.]

    Trouble found us, as the tents of peaceful protesters were burnt at dawn on May 31. Most of us watched the video of how the police treated the protestors in bed from our iPhones. The distance engendered by the media was negated by the spatial collapse—this place was a few minutes from our homes or offices. The neighborhood I was told to stay away from as a teenager, that then became a place of comfort and familiar chaos when I lived abroad and came to visit and was now a part of my day on most days.

    The next couple of weeks—including today, when I'm writing this—became a testament to a self-organized movement that none of us knew we were capable of. Our networks of young professionals became more than Linkedin or Facebook connections as information was exchanged on every possible aspect of what could be needed in a range of scenarios. In a couple of days, we all knew what to do if we were taken into custody. Allergic reactions to the tear gas brought out the long-sleeved, wrinkled linen shirts out from the backs of closets. We had identified the pharmacists who could be relied upon for information on anacids and other such quick fixes to feel better after being subjected to tear gas. Doctors were on the speed dial, hospitals were identified as for or against the protests within hours. Most importantly, we learned what each person could do and when, before the first weekend was over.

    And yes, Twitter is a pain, to crudely summarize the ramblings of our PM earlier in the process. Fact checks and verification methods were put into place before we understood how; today, on day 20 of the protests, my Twitter feed is calmer, funnier, more directed, more strategic—Tariq Ali's words echo in my mind, his exhortation to withdraw in order to resist for longer, more powerfully.

    When the camp at Taksim Square was re-established, the surprise element disappeared and (#)resistance became a part of our daily routine. Work meetings were arranged in the park as were naps and presentations on past work, to keep ourselves occupied. The pop-up library had issues of magazines I coveted. The park that I quickly paced through on my way home from Taksim had become familiar, personal and most importantly, occupied.

    That is, until Saturday, June 15th, when the police again ravaged the park and its occupiers.

    A community was produced in Gezi Park, tightly woven together less by social networks than by our practice of the daily, as well as the political agency that stemmed from the beautiful beginning of the movement, when urbanites claimed the park in the smack middle of their city square with the desire to protect it. Within hours, it became clear that the inability to stage a simple, peaceful protest to protect "a few trees" was enough to bring thousands out to the street; May 31st confirmed our worst fears. If not now, it would be never. Isolated thoughts and opinions quickly converged over Gezi Park as it is really that simple—a park cannot be demolished just like that, we needed to talk about it, and a ground for conversation was not provided until the sham of the PM's meetings with celebrities last Wednesday and Thursday.

    Today, the park is declared to be open to the public once again, with shameful headlines condoning the police's "proportional intervention," their public service. The government's public is clearly the police (after all, it does feel like they outnumber non-police civilians on the street) as nobody else can enter the park at the moment. Walking in Taksim Square is *possible*, with stare downs par excellence between the pedestrians and the police. How do we expect a PM to act in the interest of the public when he is unclear on the meaning of the word interest?[1]

    Our transformation is far from complete; at this stage, I'm just grateful to forces that may be (some extraterrestrial, some foreign intelligence agents, some political) for enabling me to engage in a way I didn't know I was capable of.

    And while we have all become farce poets and comics in the past few weeks, Orhan Pamuk, his feeble response to the protests aside, arms me with an important thought to end with. "I don’t want to be a tree, I want to be its meaning." #out.

     

     

    References:

    [1] Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to strike back at an "interest-rate lobby" that allegedly seeks to stifle Turkish growth. (Wall Street Journal). This statement is rumored to stem from a translation mishap; "interest lobby" was translated from a memo in English into Turkish to mean, "interest" as in "money paid regularly at a particular rate for the use of money lent, or for delaying the repayment of a debt."

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    Promotional video for Lovid, U R QR (2013).

    This weekend, artist duo Lovid will premiere a new project titled U R QR. If you participate, various things will happen to you, including your face being painted in black and white blocks and then photographed; when combined, the resulting images will combine to form a functioning QR code. QR codes have been waiting for a really good art project to come along for a long time, and this could be their big moment.

    Lovid seem to be using the QR code as a vehicle for exploring the uncomfortably close relationship between our bodies and our data. In U R QR, data literally transforms one's physical appearance, and one's face becomes a kind of storage medium. The results will be exhibited in a public space in Lower Manhattan on July 7.

    More of the week's events and deadlines, all culled from Rhizome Announce, below.

    Online

    June 17: Widget Art Gallery, a 3D-rendered art gallery intended to be viewed on iPad or iPhone, opens a show by Rodell Warner featuring an exploding, kaleidoscopic GIF

    June 17: The ANI-GIF online gallery launches the mesmerizing, op art-esque v2.4: STAIRWAYS by Philly-based artist Alex Bond AKA「enso」

    New York

    June 22 & 23: U R QR (see above).

    Deadlines

    Jobs

    June 19: Newcastle's AV Festival is seeking a producer for their 2014 edition, responsible for management, delivery, and documentation of all projects.

    Artists

    June 21: Public Art Residency: Art Along the Avenue of Technology. An artist's residency that intends to explore the intersection of art and technology on Market Street in Philadelphia, PA

    June 21: Call for Video Artists: The Magic Lantern Art & Short Film Festival is seeking video work that demonstates artistic practice and theoretical interest.

    June 24: Call for Submissions: Governors Island Art Fair is seeking work from independent artists working in any medium.


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    This marks the fifth and final installment in a genealogy of queer computing (Part OnePart TwoPart Three and Part Four). 

    Note from Alan Turing to Robin Gandy, March 1954.

    Born in London in 1949, Andrew Hodges attended Cambridge University from 1967 to 1971, where he trained as a mathematician. While there, he encountered the work of Alan Turing for the first time, learning of his significant contributions to the history of mathematical logic—though not of his homosexuality.

    During his last year at university, Hodges came out openly as a gay man and became an organizer for the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE), which continued the gay rights struggle after homosexuality was largely decriminalized under the Sexual Offences Act of 1967. Upon graduating he moved to London and became involved in the then-nascent Gay Liberation Front, where he met several other activists and co-authored a number of gay rights manifestos.

    The first manifesto was a polemic against the treatment of homosexuality as a psychological disorder, authored anonymously with four other activists—Geoffrey Weeks, David Hutter, James Atkins, and Nick Firbank. Hutter was the long-term partner of Atkins, who had been Alan Turing's first lover from 1933 to 1937. It was during this collaboration that Hodges learned of Turing's sexuality and the role it played in his tragic death, as well as the psychological and chemical “treatment” he endured as part of his sentence for gross indecency. The story of these final years of Turing's life informed the writing of the manifesto; as it exemplified the tragic and inhumane treatment of gay men and women by psychological institutions that the group hoped to convey.


    Self-Portrait by David Hutter ca. 1984.

    Hodges’ second book was even more ambitious. Co-authored with Hutter and written between April 1973 and April 1974 while Hodges was a graduate student in London, With Downcast Gays: Aspects of Homosexual Self-Oppression (1974) elaborated on the concept of self-oppression as a barrier to gay liberation (previously promulgated in the 1971 Gay Liberation Front Manifesto), stating that "The ultimate success of all forms of oppression is our self-oppression. Self-oppression is achieved when the gay person has adopted and internalized straight people's definition of what is good and bad."[1] Self-hatred was viewed as the means through which homosexual men and women were kept oppressed. Internalizing the idea that homosexuality is wrong, refusing to acknowledge existing oppression by heterosexual society, experiencing self-doubt at homosexual thoughts and actions and maintaining polite silence with regards to homosexual life are all means of self-oppression, which was seen as the primary barrier to forming a collective gay community capable of enacting radical change.[2]

    A large section of the text is devoted to E. M. Forster, the famed English writer and, along with other familiar figures such as Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf, member of the Bloomsbury group. Titled "A Case in Point," the chapter deals with Forster's refusal to publicly acknowledge his sexuality publicly, portraying it as a shameful betrayal of his insistence on the value of freedom, individual commitment, and above all personal honesty.

    Perhaps Forster's most famous remark was that if he were forced to choose between betraying his country and betraying his friends, he hoped he would have the courage to betray his country. Since the choice was unlikely ever to be presented, this was an easy, if startling, claim to make. The real choice for Forster lay between damaging his reputation and betraying his fellow homosexuals. Alas, it was his reputation that he guarded and gay people whom he betrayed.[3]

    This betrayal is made all the more jarring by the posthumous publication of Maurice, a novel written by Forster in 1914 with not only a homosexual theme, but a happy ending, something unheard of in most literary depictions of homosexuality at the time. The finished novel had been circulated among homosexual critics and friends of Forster for decades. The author's sexuality was an open secret, but no one would step forward to acknowledge its existence. Hodges and Hutter lament the damage that could have been prevented had he come out publicly later on in life, during that crucial, formative period for public opinion and critical legislature on gay rights. Even the earlier publication of Maurice could have done a great deal to upend the assumption that queer narratives and queer lives must ultimately end in a tragic death or suicide. "So readily does the gay community accept that homosexuality is a secret and individual matter that Forster took it for granted that his privileged status as the Grand Old (heterosexual) Man of English Letters would never be threatened by the public revelation of his homosexuality by any of those gay people who confidentially knew of it," they wrote.[4]


    E.M. Forster.

    Hodges and Hutton were writing at the height of the debate within the gay community over the importance of both coming out and of outing others, an impulse so central to the struggle of the GLF that it is the title of their first publication on November 14, 1969. It is in this moment that Hodges felt compelled to tell the story of Alan Turing, and in 1977 he began extensive research into all aspects of Turing's life. The resulting work, Alan Turing: The Enigma, was published in 1983, and it is the first public account of the full life of Alan Turing as both one of the most important figures of the 20th century and an openly gay man. It was a break from the culture of discretion that otherwise pervaded the polite society of homosexual self-oppression in the UK. For Hodges it was an attempt to move away from the compartmentalization of life, of the separation of the emotional from the technical. It was a conscious assertion that gay life, experience, and feeling should not be omitted from the writing of larger histories.

    Matmos - The Unseen World

    In March of 1954, three months before his death, Alan Turing sent four postcards to his friend and confidant, mathematician and logician Robin Gandy (discussed in Part Four of this series), labeled "Messages from the Unseen World." Cryptic and vague, they can be interpreted as coded messages regarding Turing’s thoughts toward the development of physical cosmology, the origins of the universe, science, and religion. Some remain indecipherable, referring to some phrase or concept Turing never elaborated on. Each message is also quite beautiful, even poetic:

    III. The Universe is the interior
    of the Light Cone of the Creation.

    IV. Science is a Differential
    Equation. Religion is a
    Boundary Condition.

    V. Hyperboloids of wondrous Light
    Rolling for aye through Space and Time
    Harbour there Waves which somehow Might
    Play out God's holy pantomime.[5]

    According to Hodges, "the reference to 'the unseen world' was a shared joke with Robin Gandy about the religious standpoint of the mathematical physicist and astronomer Arthur Eddington, whose book The Nature of the Physical World had started Alan Turing thinking about fundamental physical theory in 1930. It was a parody of the hymns of Sherborne School chapel, but perhaps also a serious reference back to his first wondering about mind and matter."[6] Whether intentional or not, the messages also seem to evoke the unseen world that Turing occupied and was only able to fully share in coded exchanges with close confidants such as Gandy.


    Photos of "for men only" dances in Norway, ca. 1952.

    Far from being "unseen," Turing was under constant suspicion and surveillance by the police toward the end of his life. He was viewed as something of a security risk, particularly because he frequently traveled internationally to France and Scandinavia in search of a more open and tolerant environment. He had initially been attracted to Scandinavia after hearing rumors of dances taking place there "for men only," photos of which had been published in the local press. These were events organized by Forbundet af 1948 or F-48, Denmark's first gay rights association founded on June 23, 1948. By the early 1950s the organization had expanded to over 1300 members and had chapters in Norway and Sweden.[7] Inspired, Turing became interested in learning Danish and Norwegian, and even met a young Norwegian man named Kjell, after whom he would name one of his final computer programs.

    In March of 1953, Gandy was preparing to submit his PhD thesis in Cambridge, and made arrangements with Turing for its defense some time in April. Rather than write a response by hand, Turing typed a letter on the Manchester Mark I, the same machine used by Christopher Strachey as described in Part Three of this series. He printed it out, and posted it to Gandy. In it he notes that "Your last letter arrived in the middle of a crisis about 'Den Norske Gutt' so I have not been able to give my attention yet…" While it isn't entirely clear just what this crisis may have been, it seems that Kjell had recently arrived in Newcastle from Norway, but since his conviction of Gross Indecency in 1952 (see Part One) Turing had been under police surveillance, with officers posted outside his home. In this context, the arrival of a foreign visitor was viewed as a potential security leak, and officers were deployed all over the North of England to intercept Kjell.[8] At this point in his life, Turing's accomplishments had become more of a burden than an asset, as his knowledge of the British nuclear program made him a high security risk. As such his movements and activities were closely monitored, and his relationship with the police ("the poor sweeties," as he called them) were increasingly frayed. Yet despite being deprived further access to government resources, and despite increasing surveillance and police suspicion, Turing seems to have continued working on a set of experimental ideas that, apart from a few allusions in letters to Gandy and others, are entirely lost.[9]


    Message from Turing to Gandy, printed off the Manchester Mark I, ca. 1953.

    Toward the end of his life, Turing decided to undergo Jungian analysis, writing down all his dreams in a series of three journals. Upon his death his psychiatrist Franz Greenbaum lent the books to his brother, John, as a means of clarifying Alan's mental state leading up to his suicide. John found the material deeply disturbing, particularly Alan's characterization of their mother and the descriptions of his homosexual experiences, beginning in adolescence.[10] The journals were destroyed shortly after being returned to Greenbaum.[11] Hodges describes a similar experience, of having viewed a document in 1978 in which Turing describes a number of men he met while vacationing in Corfu, Athens, and Paris in the summer of 1953, but which was subsequently destroyed by what he describes as "a censorious employee of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment."[12]

    This series is a tenuous history in no small part due to efforts to make it so through the removal of material from historical record, even when done with the presumed interests of the figures at hand. The exclusion of queer life from history often leads to its erasure and disappearance. As Ann Cvetkovich argues in An Archive of Feelings (2003), it is documents such as Turing's journals that demonstrate:

    The profoundly affective power of a useful archive, especially an archive of sexuality and gay and lesbian life, which must preserve and produce not just knowledge but feeling. Lesbian and gay history demands a radical archive of emotion in order to document intimacy, sexuality, love, and activism, all areas of experience that are difficult to chronicle through the materials of a traditional archive. Moreover, gay and lesbian archives address the traumatic loss of history that has accompanied sexual life and the formation of sexual publics, and they assert the role of memory and affect in compensating for institutional neglect.[13]

    The insistence on not only the importance but broad relevance of an affective sexual archive is fundamental to this history.[14] Thus, this is not a reinterpretation of history, or a queering of computation. Rather it is an insistence on the queer as it exists and has always existed within them.



    [1] Hodges, Andrew and David Hutter. With Downcast Gays: Aspects of Homosexual Self-Oppression. (1974) <http://www.outgay.co.uk/wdg1.html>

    [2] It is surprising just how much of the text remains relevant and true forty decades later, and it is deserving of a much deeper analysis and historical framing with regards to gay rights movements in the UK in the 1970s.

    [3] Hodges and Hutter (1974) < http://www.outgay.co.uk/wdg4.html>

    [4]Ibid. (1974)

    [5] Hodges (1992) p. 513

    [6] Hodges (2000) <http://www.turing.org.uk/turing/scrapbook/wondrous.html>

    [7] This openness would not last long, and in 1955 authorities cracked down on F-48 with arrests and show trials. Despite this the organization continued on, and in 1985 became the Danish National Association of Gays and Lesbians (Landsforeningen for Bøsser og Lesbiske, Forbundet af 1948 or LBL).

    [8] http://www.turing.org.uk/turing/scrapbook/wondrous.html

    [9] There is a great deal of speculation on what Turing may have accomplished had his life not been cut so tragically short. See: Hodges, Andrews "What would Alan Turing have done after 1954?" Lecture at the Turing Day, Lausanne, 2002 <http://www.turing.org.uk/philosophy/lausanne.html > and Jack Copeland and Diane Proudfood "On Alan Turing's anticipation of connectionism" Synthese Volume 108, Issue 3, 1996 pp 361-377.

    [10] http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/06/22/alan-turing-s-brother-he-should-be-alive-today.html

    [11] Hodges, 491.

    [12] http://www.turing.org.uk/turing/scrapbook/wondrous.html

    [13] Cvetkovich, Ann. An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures. Durham: Duke University Press (2003) p. 241.

    [14] The relevance of such an archive can be seen in the way Turing’s sexual relationships found their way into his programming work, as in the case of Kjell, and in the fact that his ideas often survive only through his correspondence with fellow queer colleagues, as in the case of Gandy. Yet in spite of the clear relevance of personal experience to broader technological developments, the archive of queer computing is often found to be troubling by its caretakers, who choose to bury, edit and destroy until this affective power is diminished.


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  • 06/19/13--07:43: Site Sprint
  • The Rhizome team are holed up in Red Hook for the rest of the week, doing some much-needed spring cleaning on the beast that is rhizome.org. If we happen to break anything, please don't be alarmed, but do email us if you find any bugs: admin{at}rhizome dot org.

    Image: Scott Meisburger, Screenshot of interface for committing changes to Rhizome.org. Created using CSS Button Generator. 2013.


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    Photo of Earth by the crew of Apollo 8. December 22, 1968

    The central theme for this year’s Venice Biennale exhibition, curated by Massimiliano Gioni, comes from an obscure patented design for an encyclopedic palace by the self-taught Italian-American artist Marino Auriti. Envisioned as a 136-story building that would take over sixteen blocks of Washington, D.C., Auriti’s palace was to house all the available knowledge in the world. Titling the show "Il Palazzo Enciclopedico" after Auriti’s unrealized model, Gioni and his team selected an eclectic group of artists, psychologists, mystics and more whose work resonates with Auriti’s desire to create a total image of the world. In many ways, the exhibition can be seen as a response to the exhaustive overabundance of information available on the internet. As Gioni pointedly asks in his essay, "…what is the point of creating an image of the world when the world itself has become increasingly like an image?"

    My experience of the Biennale was still fresh a week later when I visited "The Whole Earth: California and the Disappearance of the Outside" at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. Curated by Diedrich Diedrichsen and Anselm Franke, the show investigated the influence of NASA’s first image of Earth from space, which appeared on the cover of the inaugural issue of the groundbreaking publication The Whole Earth Catalog. Organized as an experimental essay-as-exhibition divided into small vignettes, the show was a meditation on the elimination of boundaries and the sense of a universally shared, planetary human experience encapsulated by NASA’s image of the earth, which became a catalyst for a vast array of social, cultural and political movements and output beginning in the 1960s, especially in California.

    After viewing both of these powerful and insightful exhibitions back to back, I’ve pondered the following: How can we represent the world in an image, and how can that image, in turn, inspire action? If Auriti’s fantasy of an encyclopedic palace is now a reality, where all knowledge is a click away, then what methods or strategies can we use to address the very networks that enable that exchange?

    Venice: Il Palazzo Pazzo

    Housed in the first few rooms of the Arsenale, Camille Henrot’s Grosse Fatigue (2013) is a fast-paced thirteen-minute video that speeds through the evolution of all existence. Based on research conducted during a fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the video weaves behind-the-scenes footage of the organization’s neatly catalogued collection and the scientists who oversee it with images shot within Henrot’s studio. Musician Joakim Bouaziz raps over the video, and in sync with the montage, he rhythmically recounts the evolution of all life since the beginning of the universe, as well as the scientific fields that emerged to study them. The video illuminates how all life is connected, as well as the human race’s ongoing desire to understand the world. Grosse Fatigue won this year’s Silver Lion, and it’s easy to see why. Accelerated and exhilarating, the work captured the aspiration to see everything and be everywhere, all at once.


    Camille Henrot, Grosse fatigue. Photo courtesy of the artist and Kamel Mennour Paris

    Further into the Arsenale, Mark Leckey’s The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things (2013) shared this sense of dizziness with Henrot’s piece, but spiraled in a new direction. The work, which is a snapshot of his larger exhibition of the same title, explores how our current technological capabilities have yielded inert objects—things—an eerie sense of animism. Wielding tropes of museum exhibition display in a playful and quirky manner, Leckey’s installation presents the inner lives of things. When our toasters begin to speak back to us, it moves the desire to see "everything and everywhere" expressed in Henrot’s work (and that of many other artists in the exhibition) away from an exclusively anthropocentric perspective.

    Leckey’s work foretold a strange world to come, but with a good dose of humor and lightheartedness. The future reflected in Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch’s installation Not Yet Titled (2013) in the Arsenale was even stranger and more foreboding. The work ventured deep into the American psyche, conjuring celebrity culture, narcissistic consumerism and the raw voyeurism of reality TV. Warped and bizarre, the installation felt like a time capsule sent backwards from a schizophrenic future set in the Midwest. Trecartin’s work is always an exaggeration, an amplification, of what is already existent in popular culture. I believe this quality is the central allure in his practice, and it is also what makes his work so unnerving; the madness portrayed on screen is both over the top and familiar.


    Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch, Not yet titled, 2013
    Photo by Francesco Galli
    Courtesy by la Biennale di Venezia 

    Indeed, madness was one of the strongest themes within the entire exhibition. Cataloging the world is an impossible venture, often with insanity or mystical belief as the underlying impulse, if not the result. Gioni delicately addressed mental illness and spirituality without an air of exploitation. Lesser known, often self-taught, artists such as Augustin Lesage, Hilma af Klint and Emma Kunz dotted the exhibition, especially in the Giardini section. Their personal stories were as intriguing as the art itself, such as the voices that instructed Augustin Lesage to paint while he was at work in a mineshaft or Emma Kunz’s integration of drawing into her healing rituals. These artists call on other forces to navigate and access a total that is beyond comprehension, that is unthinkable. 


    Augustin Lesage, Composition symbolique sur le monde spiritual, 1925
    Photo by Francesco Galli, Courtesy by la Biennale di Venezia

     

    "You Can Only See About Half the Earth at Any Given Time"

    The artists in "Il Palazzo Enciclopedico" point to the impossibility of producing an image of the world in all its complexity. The exhibition The Whole Earth: California and the Disappearance of the Outside" follows a related trajectory by focusing more narrowly on the effect of one image of the world, NASA’s photo of the earth from the 1968 Apollo 8 mission. The first ever photo of the planet from space allowed the ungraspable—one world—to make sense to many during the potent social and political upheaval of the 1960s. As curator Anselm Franke explains in his essay, the photo "...appears to transcend all frames, borders and preconfigured notions of order; dissolving them in an oceanic vertigo." The subtitle "Disappearance of the Outside" refers to this reconfigured perspective, which is boundless and seemingly outside history. That position sparked the countercultural experimentation and output of the late 1960s, whose ideals eventually became interwoven with the boundlessness of networked, neoliberalist capitalism. Like Adam Curtis’s documentary film All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace (2011), as well as Fred Turner’s 2006 book From Counterculture to Cyberculture, the exhibition follows the connection between the 1960s California counterculture and neoliberalism, or what others have called the Californian Ideology. Displays fanned out in various formations around the exhibition hall that examined subthemes like the environmentalist movement and LSD. Artworks from the period, such as the psychedelic abstract films of Jordan Belson, Andy Warhol’s Outer and Inner Space (1965) and Robert Rauschenberg’s poster Earth Day (1970) were paired alongside posters and ephemera. More contemporary works from 2000 onwards by artists like Sharon Lockhart, the Otolith Group, Angela Bulloch and Philipp Lachenmann were interspersed throughout the exhibition, some suspended by metal wire from the ceiling. For these works, the wall text was attached to the floor beneath them, communicating to the viewer that their function in the show was slightly different than say, a copy of Mother Earth News. I wouldn’t describe the exhibition as a historical survey exactly, rather, the show felt like an assemblage of notes towards a thesis with several nested subcategories. 


    Stewart Brand (Ed.), Whole Earth Catalog Fall 1968 (Cover) 

    Among the most compelling inclusions in the show were a number of works from Suzanne Treister’s series of drawings, HEXEN 2.0 (2009-2011). The diagrams from the series, such as HEXEN 2.0/Diagrams/From ARPANET to DARWARS via the Internet, were attempts to map out the historical connections among cybernetics, military technology, the Internet and social media. Her ornately detailed drawings looked like pages from a conspiracy theorist’s notebook, replete with bubbles and arrows and incredibly small written text.

    Treister’s attempt to visualize what she terms "new systems of societal manipulation towards a control society" reminded me of a question posed recently in Alexander Galloway’s book Interface Effect. In an essay entitled "Are Some Things Unrepresentable?" he makes the claim that an adequate visualization of a control society has not yet happened yet, and that there’s an inability to represent the power of networks, algorithms, information and data. This is attributed to the functional aspect of data itself, which he argues lacks a visual form. When it is visualized, it always looks the same: as a flow chart, a cloud, etc. (Surely, in support of this statement, Treister’s diagrams looked quite similar to the information map works by Bureau d’Etudes referenced in Galloway’s essay. Both artists strive to map a control society, with practically the same result.)

    If the network is the preeminent means by which power is wielded today, and if it remains unrepresentable, then how does one build a responsive poetics? In other words, how does one build a counter-aesthetics to the algorithmic logic of the network, with the knowledge that representation itself needs to be reconsidered within that framework? This is the dilemma presented by Galloway, and it’s an urgent question. "The Whole Earth: California and the Disappearance of the Outside" illustrated how an image of the world was instructive in radically shifting a paradigm, for better and for worse. On the other side, the works displayed in Gioni’s Il Palazzo Enciclopedico express the immensity of information overload produced by the network, without ever motioning towards an image of the network itself. So, what to do? How can we depict networks, the central driving force in our world today? Or is it even possible? Can images of worlds still inspire new worlds, or are we at a dead end? 


    Suzanne Treister, HEXEN 2.0/Diagrams/From ARPANET to DARWARS via the Internet, 2009-2011
    Copyright the artist, Courtesy Annely Juda Fine Art

     

    Disclosure note: Massimilano Gioni is Associate Director and Director of Exhibitions of the New Museum, Rhizome's affiliate organization.


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  • 06/20/13--14:44: Comments on Wark
  • Several critical comments on our recent posts about McKenzie Wark and on Marc Garrett's announcement for a talk by Wark at Furtherfield were caught in spam filtration for a time, and have now been retrieved and published. 


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  • 06/21/13--12:33: Cory Arcangel, "GAO" (2013)
  • Cory Arcangel, Clinton, 2011. Pencil on paper (produced with Mutoh XP-300 series printer), edition 1 of 3, 11 x 8.5 inches. 

    Last year, critic Alix Rule and artist David Levine suggested in a much-discussed article in Triple Canopy that the dense, quasi-theoretical writing found in contemporary art press releases should be reformatted as meter and appreciated as avant-garde poetry. This week, Cory Arcangel took the next logical step and used the email press release for his forthcoming exhibition at DHC/ART, which was circulated on the e-flux mailing list, as an opportunity for a sly text-based intervention.

    Trained initially in classical guitar and music technology at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Cory Arcangel is no_ recognized as a major exponent of a pop-tinged, computer-centred art.   

    As in the excerpt shown above, the letter "w" was omitted from the entire email. No explanation was offered, apart from this credit line: "Pictured here: Cory Arcangel, GAO, 2013. ASCII modified institutional press release." So I had to email Arcangel to ask what this was about. His reply consisted of a winky emoticon (in Comic Sans font) and a link to this article in the Daily Mail describing reported vandalism of the White House by outgoing Clinton staffers:

    President George Bush has launched an investigation into what appears to be a systematic disabling of White House equipment by outgoing members of Bill Clinton's staff, and obscene messages left for the new administration.

    [...]

    Telephone lines have been cut, voice-mail messages changed to scatological, lewd greetings. One Bush staffer's grandmother telephoned his office from the Midwest and was "horrified" by what she heard on his message machine.

    Many telephone lines were switched to the wrong offices. Desks were turned upside down and rubbish scattered everywhere.

    Filing cabinets were glued shut, pornographic pictures inserted into computer printers, together with obscene slogans. In one office hallway, lewd graffiti had been written with a Magic Marker.

    [...]

    Earlier this week it was learned that many computer keyboards in the White House are missing the letter "W" which is President Bush's middle initial. He is often known by that alone. 

    One of the questions raised by Rule and Levine's takedown of "International Art English" is whether anyone is really paying attention to the content of these press releases—whether they have an audience. Along the same lines, the missing "W" is a kind of provocation, designed to nearly fly beneath the threshhold of anyone's attention. Like many of Arcangel's works, GAO is barely anything at all, but through a slight alteration of a given set of paramaters, it illuminates the structure and conventions of the context in which it operates.


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    Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar, Nave Especial (1980). Photographed in 1990.

    The morning of April 17, 1980 dawned cold, gray and damp in Bogotá. In other words, it was like most mornings there, with a low leaden sky and the dark cordillera of the Andes looming like a wall over the bleak altiplano and moorlands. It was just like any other autumn morning in Colombia's capital, except for two things: one was the depressingly familiar month-old hostage crisis at the Dominican Embassy; the other was the spaceship. And yet there it was, right in front of the convention center downtown, twenty-five metric tons of spiky polychromatic red and orange iron, ten meters long and angled at the heavens, surrounded by tall gray buildings, fussed over by pinstriped knots of bankers and government officials and apparently awaiting liftoff. El Tiempo, the country's newspaper of record, carried the back page headline: "Hoy inauguran nave espacial de Ramírez Villamizar" ("Ramírez Villamizar's spaceship to be inaugurated today"). Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar's Nave Espacial, conceived and designed in 1977 and installed three years later in the city's Plazoleta del Centro de Convenciones, was only the latest—and most dramatic—in a series of monumental, geometrically abstract sculptures that had transfigured public spaces in Bogotá and beyond. The sculptures appeared to be at once unearthed – ancient relics from some occult pre-Columbian fantasy– and unearthly, like heavily armed spacecraft menacing some distant sun. It was a visual language that warped time, like a wormhole connecting two invisible planes of alter-reality: on one side, a prelapsarian Andean utopia, and on the other, a well-ordered future as yet no more functional than the spaceship. And it leapfrogged over a whole lot of pain.

    Modernism arrived late in Colombia, with a scream. On another April morning in Bogotá, this one in 1948, thirty-two years earlier, charismatic center-left presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán was murdered, triggering bloody riots known as the "Bogotazo" that left much of the city destroyed and several thousand of its citizens dead. The nation was launched into a state of undeclared civil war. La Violencia, or "the Violence" as the conflict came to be known, lasted eighteen years, took some 200,000 lives and sent a generation's worth of young Colombian artists, intellectuals and writers into self-imposed exile in Europe and the United States. By the late 1950s, when they started trickling back, the art of the pre-war ancien regime—with its cultural isolation andits Bolivarian imaginary of creole aristocracy and Spanish feudal romance—had lost its appeal for the returning artists, who embraced explicitly, self-consciously new ideas and aesthetics styles.

    And, at the same time, they also embraced certain old ideas: alongside the European and American avant gardes, artists were rediscovering their own pioneering pre-war Latin American modernists, especially the Uruguayan visionary Joaquín Torres-García (1874-1949). Torres-Garcià hadcrafted and disseminated a form of geometric "universal" constructivism that drew heavily from European models—he had spent the decade prior to his 1934 return to Uruguay in Europe associating with Piet Mondriaan, Theo van Doesburg and other members of the Paris-based avant-garde—but was at the same time thoroughly Latin American, affiliated with the continent's antiquity through the inclusion of pre-Columbian pictographs and symbols. While European expats and travelers of the period tended to fetishize Latin America and its antiquities as oneiric figures for the technological West's irrational Other – Breton famously described Mexico as "the most surreal country in the world" – Torres-García saw, instead, a spiritually advanced blueprint, a utopian model for the reconstruction of a fractured world. It mattered little that Torres-García's own exposure to Andean antiquity happened well before his return to the continent, in Paris, elbow-to-elbow with the surrealists at the Louvre's Les arts anciens de l'Amérique exhibition in 1928; his innovative replanting of constructivist order in the indigenous soil of pre-Columbian geometry, reason and spirituality was enormously influential, leaving its mark on subsequent generations of Latin American artists ranging from the early Argentine collectives Grupo Madí and Arte Concreto-Invención to Brazil's neo-Concrete movement. 

    Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar, Saludo al astronauta (1964).

    Ramírez Villamizar (1923-2004), who met Torres-García shortly before the artist's death in 1949for whom Torres-García was an important influence, spent much of the period of La Violencia as a young painter in Paris' large Latin American expat community. The son of a provincial goldsmith who initially trained as an architect at Bogotá's National University, Ramírez Villamizar countered the trauma of Colombia's bloody mid-century by adopting a style of cool, informal abstraction. In 1957, with his first big public commission – a golden relief mural for the Bank of Bogotá titled "El Dorado" – he became the figurehead for Colombia's emerging modern art scene. Ramírez Villamizar called himself a Colombiano al revés, a "reverse Colombian." "My paintings used to be expressionist," he wrote in 1985, "with religious themes, poetic themes, violent themes. Not the actual violence that we were suffering in Colombia, but rather violence that was dissembled and poetic. I was painting Calvary scenes, animal skulls... and all of this I was doing without thinking that right there alongside me there was a real violence coming to a head. And later on I reacted to that violence but not by describing it, rather by showing the opposite of the violence—construction, order, civilization." 

    Marta Traba discussing Nave Especial in Historia del Arte Moderna Contada Desde Bogota, Episode 10: "Otra Vez El Orden."

    It was no accident that the key reading material for Colombia's intelligentsia during the late 50s and early 60s was a literary journal called Mito, or myth – what the nation needed was no less than a new origin story, a narrative refounding. In the visual arts, guided by Argentine-born critic and Bogotá-based über-curator Marta Traba, the idiom of that new myth was to be geometric abstraction, which had already established a strong presence across post-war Latin America. Traba, an Argentine-born critic who arrived in Colombia in 1954 after an education in Europe, aggressively promoted abstraction through exhibition catalogs—including a text for the 1958 Bogotá exhibition "Abstract Painting in Colombia," with work by Ramírez Villamizar—as well asarticles in the country's major newspapers and journals, radio broadcasts and art appreciation programs on Colombia's brand-new television system. Bogotá's geography, wrote Traba, had conferred on it "the air of a sacred place... a ritual space." Indeed, the cold rain of Bogotá's nebulous highlands combined with Traba's icy blasts of modernist purism created ideal conditions for the emergence of a singularly hermetic style of abstraction known as Colombian Constructivismo. The quasi-monastic Colombian constructivists led by Ramírez Villamizar and his contemporary Edgar Negret forged a way of making art that explicitly rejected surrealist solipsism and expressionist violence in favor of a revolutionary, autochthonous avant garde, an art for the people that was in equal parts archaic and futuristic. It was a new order they abstracted from the pre-Columbian rubble, imbibed like an Amazonian hallucinogen, reassembled and resurrected like the messianic body of a modern Inkarri and put to cosmic flight under the sci-fi sign of the Millenium Falcon.

    It would be a mistake – an easy one – to buy too heavily into the parameters that critics like Traba set up for Colombian Constructivism, and for Latin American geometric abstraction more generally. Artist and historian Nicolás Gómez Echeverri has written that Traba was the "most enthusiastic advocate of abstract art as an expressive means that engaged with the assessment and appraisal of forms, colors, pictorial effects and composition elements, without referring to the objective world.” Her influence was such, he notes, that her position "led to an expansive evaluation of abstract art in Colombia as a [sic] something that is distant from the semiotics of the real world." Indeed it would be safe to say that, for Traba and her circle, a work like the Nave Espacial succeeds in direct proportion to its distance from figurative reference. But there was an irrational and unruly streak in Negret and Ramírez Villamizar's work, a taste for the space age and the occult that resisted these sorts of modernist straitjackets. This streak was evident even in early pieces like Ramírez Villamizar's white-on-white reliefs – marking his transition from painting to sculpture – or Negret's "Magic Machines" from the late 50s and 60s, when both artists were hanging out in New York with Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, Jack Youngerman, Agnes Martin and Robert Indiana, being mentored by Louise Nevelson and participating in shows at the David Herbert Gallery. In a catalog text for one of them in 1959, critic Franklin Konigsberg described the Colombians' works as "fantastic vehicles... man's means to escape this world and penetrate the mysteries beyond." Lawrence Campbell, in Art News, described them as "a kind of Neolithic art expressing the spirit of the machine age." By the late 1960s, under the influence of Latin America's burgeoning new science fiction scene and the technological sublime evoked by the very real space programs in the US and elsewhere, the previouslyembryonic references to spiritualized machinery in the new Colombian sculpture had developed into fully staged space opera, evidenced by titles from the period like Ramírez Villamizar's "Space ship," a title he gave to several works—"Construction like a space ship" and "Salute to the astronaut"—or Negret's "Space Sailor," "Gemini," "Cape Kennedy," "Navigators" and "Dockings." The sculptural style that Marta Traba once positioned as a dialectical vehicle to escape the chaos of Colombian reality had turned increasingly toward large, public depictions of, well, actual vehicles to escape the chaos of Colombian reality.

    The Nave Espacial in Bogotá was conceived upon Ramírez Villamizar's return to the city after a long productive stay in the US, where he executed several large public sculptures, most famously a 1973 geometric piece at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC titled "From Colombia to John F Kennedy." Coming back to Bogotá, this time to stay, he established his home and studio in the verdant northern suburb of Suba, in a house with a huge garden, and began collecting snail shells and pre-Columbian art – both key sources for his idiosyncratic sculptural vocabulary – and designing spaceships that drew inspiration from the skeletons of birds. But if his work from the 1970s was poised somewhere between the pre-Columbian, the biological and the astronomical, a visit to Machu Picchu in 1983 decisively tipped the scales toward the former. "Surrounded by solemnity and silence, I perceived the unity and harmony of these tremendous stones," he wrote, "transformed by the changing Peruvian sunlight." In the mid-80s Ramírez Villamizar's sculpture took on increasingly Incan overtones, as did in fact Edgar Negret's, both of them trading spiny, spiraling dynamism for something more timeless, architectonic and oxidized.

    Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar, Nave Especial (1980). Photographed in 2008.

    And with that shift, the completely imaginary Colombian space program drew to a close. These days, the Nave Espacial of Ramírez Villamizar sits in almost undisturbed solitude, access long since cut off by various building projects (even employees of the Banco del Café next door tend to use other, more convenient ways in and out of the building than the one that leads to the spaceship). Difficult to find and hard to visit, it is a public sculpture with hardly any public, a utopian dream fallen into disuse.

    The Violence has proved rather more enduring.


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    Selected events, exhibitions and deadlines this week, culled from Rhizome Announce.

    Deadlines

    Artists

    Sunday, June 30: Online exhibition MON3Y.US | *MON3Y AS AN ERROR is calling for digital works (including, but not limited to, glitch art) on the theme of "money as an error."

    Sunday, June 30: Deadline for entries for CutOut Fest International Animation Festival in Querétaro, Mexico. No entry fee! Organizers describe it as "the largest animation and digital art festival in Mexico."

    Monday, July 1: Screengrab is looking for "works that explore the theme of ambience—personal, virtual and commercial—and all its private, political and social connotations" for its $5,000 New Media Arts Award.

    Monday, July 1: Final call for Videoart Festival Cologne

    Monday, July 1: Deadline for applicants for participation in the Many Studios Graduate Residency Program in Glasgow. Open to artists who graduated in 2011, 2012 or 2013.

    Calls for Papers

    Monday, June 24: Re-New 2013, slated for this autumn in Copenhagen, is looking for research papers by scholars, technologists and artists relating to a wide range of media art-related topics. 

    Jobs

    Monday, July 1: The New Media Program at UNC Asheville invites applications for a one-year lecturer position in Interactive Art and Design, commencing Fall 2013.

    Other

    Friday, June 28: As part of a newproject for MOCAtv, artist Rafael Rozendaal is soliticiting URL suggestions. Rozendaal will make a new artwork based on the "most inspiring" entry.

     

    Exhibitions & Events

    London

    Sunday, June 30: Public Assembly, a day of "architectural installations, live demonstrations, water taxis, canal boat lectures, cinema screenings, talks and performances" that pays tribute to Cooper Union's tradition as a free university, in the wake of the decision to end said tradition. 

    New York

    Saturday, June 29 and Wednesday, July 3: Synthetic Zero at BronxArtSpace, an event featuring performance, experimental video, music, video installations, visual art and photography. 


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    Work from the series Todays Questions by Eva Weinmayr.

    NARRATOR (@Narra_DowningSt): She pushes her bike to the front door of No 10 and rings the bell. Samantha Cameron answers the door, smiling. #Downing_St

    EVA (@Artis_DowningSt): Can I leave the bike in the hallway? #Downing_St

    SAM (@Sam_DowningSt): Of course. Just lean it on the Giacometti. #Downing_St

    The above lines are from the opening scene of Downing Street, a Twitter play created by artist Eva Weinmayr (of The Piracy Project) in response to the artist’s real-life brush with the eponymous halls of power. In March 2007, Weinmayr sold two works from her Todays Questions series to the UK Government Art Collection, which were installed in the British Embassy in Paris. Later, Weinmayr was informed that Samantha Cameron had decided to hang the work in the Prime Minister’s private residence when her husband took office. The artist’s subsequent attempts to reach the Camerons were ignored; Downing Street is a playfully imagined version of what their conversation might have been like.

    In the play, after leaning her bike against the Giacometti, the character based on Weinmayr (@Artis_DowningSt) surveys the art on the wall, talks to Samantha (@Sam_DowningSt) about the national art collection, the funding structure for the arts in Britain, austerity, and life and art at 10 Downing Street. It's funnier and more illuminating than it sounds.

    Read the play as it unfolds live by following the #Downing_St hashtag on Twitter, beginining at 8PM UK time today, June 25. You can read more about the play here, and see the performance’s cast here.

     


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    "...what is art? Privacy exposed to radiant light."

    — Mu Xin, Chinese Landscape Painter

    Undef, User 632 (2013). Animated GIF documentation of real-time visualization of data collected from passersby.

    A collection of items from the Prosthetic Knowledge Tumblr archive and around the Web around the theme of privacy and surveillance. The projects listed below are tied to these themes in different ways: some take positions or raise questions on the new technological environments, some offer solutions for a world in which "just like the animals, we need to start adapting new ways to conceal ourselves from the autocratic predators" [source], while others collect and re-purpose ambient data in creative ways.

    User 632 by Undef

    Installation in a public window by Swiss design and physical computing studio Undef uses a Kinect sensor to collect data from its audience:

    User 632 is an installation that stores the behaviour of the people who look at it by monitoring them in return. It wants to know when and how a person passes by or if they stop on the way.

    All data is being tracked and displayed publicly. Passers-by are stored as an anonymous number without any hints to their identities. Whoever comes to close to the camera though will be stored with a photograph next to their id.

    The installation is made up of three Kinect depth cameras that constantly look for movements which are then reduced to a simple directional line in space. When a visitor enters a specific area, the algorithm is looking for a face. As soon as one is found a countdown appears that shows the time until a photo is taken automatically. At the same time the time a user is in the visible area is stored.

    This data (time, path and eventually image) are stored in a database, interpreted and displayed as real-time statistics.

    Link

    Inti Romero

    Online identity performance comprising a public Facebook profile with personal photographs that are censored via pixelation. The project also offers an app with which to make your own censored photographs for sharing on social networks. 

    Desire of Codes by Seiko Mikami

    Audiovisual installation by Seiko Mikami that uses robotic cameras to capture video of visitors which are then projected onto a hexagon "eye":

    The "individual" visitor in a double role as a subject of expression and observation

    This interactive installation consisting of three parts is set up in YCAM’s Studio A, a space that is normally used for theatre performances.
    A large number of devices resembling tentacles with built-in small cameras are placed across a huge wall (Part 1), while six robotic “search arms” equipped with cameras and projectors are suspended from the ceiling (Part 2). Each device senses with insect-like wriggling movements the positions and movements of visitors, and turns toward detected persons in order to observe their actions. In addition, a giant round-shaped screen that looks like an insect’s compound eye is installed in the back of the exhibition space (Part 3). Visual data transmitted from each camera, along with footage recorded by surveillance cameras installed at various places around the world, are stored in a central database, and ultimately projected in complex images mixing elements of past and present, the venue itself and points around the globe, onto the screen. The compound eye visualizes a new reality in which fragmentary aspects of space and time are recombined, while the visitor’s position as a subject of expression and surveillance at once indicates the new appearances of human corporeality and desire.

    More from the artist’s website here.

    Anti Facial Recognition Visor

     
    Interesting approach to avoid identification from cameras by lighting key areas of the face essential for recognition:

    This is the world’s first pair of glasses which prevent facial recognition by cameras. They are currently under development by Japan’s National Institute of Informatics.

    Photos taken without people’s knowledge can violate privacy. For example, photos may be posted online, along with metadata including the time and location. But by wearing this device, you can stop your privacy from being infringed in such ways.

    “You can try wearing sunglasses. But sunglasses alone can’t prevent face detection. Because face detection uses features like the eyes and nose, it’s hard to prevent just by concealing your eyes. This is the privacy visor I have developed, which uses 11 near-infrared LEDs. I’m switching it on now. It prevents face detection, like this.”

    “Light from these near-infrared LEDs can’t be seen by the human eye, but when it passes through a camera’s imaging device, it appears bright. The LEDs are installed in these locations because, a feature of face detection is, the eyes and part of the nose appear dark, while another part of the nose appears bright. So, by placing light sources mostly near dark parts of the face, we’ve succeeded in canceling face detection characteristics, making face detection fail.”

    Compared with previous ways of physically hiding the face, this technology can protect privacy without obstructing communication, as all users need to do is wear a pair of glasses.

    More here

    ZXX by Sang Mun

    A font by Sang Mun designed to be unable to be read via OCR (Optical Character Recognition), protecting printed text to be captured with machine vision:

    The name ZXX comes from the Library of Congress’ Alpha-3 ISO 639-2 — codes for the representation of names of languages. ZXX is used to declare No linguistic content; Not applicable.

    Free Open Type Font to open up governments.

    You can find out more (and download the font yourself) at the project’s page here.

    The Pirate Cinema by Nicolas Maigret

     
    An installation displays extracts of films that are currently being pirated on peer-to-peer networks:
    In the context of omnipresent telecommunications surveillance, "The Pirate Cinema" makes the hidden activity and geography of Peer-to-Peer file sharing visible. The project is presented as a monitoring room, which shows Peer-to-Peer transfers happening in real time on networks using the BitTorrent protocol. The installation produces an arbitrary cut-up of the files currently being exchanged. This immediate and fragmentary rendering of digital activity, with information concerning its source and destination, thus depicts the topology of digital media consumption and uncontrolled content dissemination in a connected world.

    Interactive Robotic Painting Machine (2011) by Benjamin Grosser

    This is interesting on so many levels - the machine paints abstractly, the sounds it makes are amplified and used by the robot to make creative decisions, plus there is a camera where the brush is, offering an intimate birds-eye point of view on the painting process:

    This machine uses artificial intelligence to paint its own body of work and to make its own decisions. While doing so, it listens to its environment and considers what it hears as input into the painting process. In the absence of someone or something else making sound in its presence, the machine, like many artists, listens to itself.

    bengrosser.com
    bengrosser.com/projects/interactive-robotic-painting-machine/

    Other mentions:

    Rhizome featured artist Adam Harvey's anti-drone clothing Stealth Wear.

    Hell Is Other People: App which uses Foursquare data to find optimum space to avoid your friends.

    Just for fun ... a spy programme name generator.


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  • 06/26/13--10:47: Magda Sawon on the High Line
  • For their group exhibition Busted, High Line Art are commissioning a new work of art honoring a person to be chosen by members of the public. Magda Sawon, founder of Postmasters Gallery, one-time board member of Rhizome, is among the finalists. Vote today! (H/T: Artfcity).


     


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  • 06/26/13--14:02: Surf Report: gURLs
  • Texas State Senator Wendy Davis's shoes during her 13-hour filibuster on June 25, 2013.

    Jennifer Steinkamp, from the seires Sexist Slides (1989). Slideshow projected on a street in Hollywood at EZTV.

    Molly Soda, Inbox Full (2012). Ten-hour reading of questions sent to the artist from her Tumblr askbox.

    Zoe Burnett, Aura Loading... (2013). Animated GIF.

    Work by Mia Goyette.

    Bunny Rogers and Filip Olszewski, Sister Unn's (2011). Storefront space in Forest Hills, Queens, converted into abandoned flower shop. 

    Micaela Durand, "In the Zone" Duane Reade (2013).

    Wendy Vanity, Manet Barscene (2013).

    Emilie Gervais, Myogenic Muscular Organ (2013).

     


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