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Articles on this Page
- 06/27/13--08:35: _Performance GIFs 9:...
- 06/27/13--10:41: _(networked) every w...
- 07/01/13--05:37: _Best of Rhizome May...
- 07/02/13--08:22: _Email Before PRISM:...
- 07/02/13--13:59: _XFR STN at the New ...
- 07/03/13--06:55: _Sketching Bradley M...
- 07/05/13--06:04: _Performance GIFs 10...
- 07/09/13--06:22: _The Week Ahead: #Yo...
- 07/09/13--09:01: _Post-internet Curat...
- 07/10/13--06:00: _Software Takes Comm...
- 07/10/13--12:28: _Rhizome is Hiring
- 07/15/13--07:41: _Artist Profile: Nic...
- 07/15/13--09:36: _The Week Ahead: Cyb...
- 07/17/13--07:58: _Opening Today: XFR ...
- 07/17/13--12:45: _Growing Up Internet...
- 07/22/13--07:46: _Have a Nice Day: Ha...
- 07/23/13--07:16: _The Week Ahead: Sit...
- 07/24/13--07:42: _Announcing Rhizome ...
- 07/25/13--08:36: _Under the Dome: Arc...
- 07/26/13--07:57: _Performance GIFs 11...
- 06/27/13--08:35: Performance GIFs 9: Dwayne Strike
- 06/27/13--10:41: (networked) every whisper is an echo on my heart
- 07/01/13--05:37: Best of Rhizome May/June
- 07/02/13--08:22: Email Before PRISM: Miranda July, "We Think Alone" (2013)
- 07/02/13--13:59: XFR STN at the New Museum
- 07/03/13--06:55: Sketching Bradley Manning
- 07/05/13--06:04: Performance GIFs 10: Paul Kindersley
- 07/09/13--06:22: The Week Ahead: #YoungerThanRihanna Edition
- 07/09/13--09:01: Post-internet Curating, Denver Style: An Interview with Carson Chan
- 07/10/13--06:00: Software Takes Command: An Interview with Lev Manovich
- 07/10/13--12:28: Rhizome is Hiring
- 07/15/13--07:41: Artist Profile: Nick Briz
- 07/15/13--09:36: The Week Ahead: Cybersculpt Edition
- 07/17/13--12:45: Growing Up Internet: The Case of Chris Poole
- 07/22/13--07:46: Have a Nice Day: Hannah Perry and Bubblebyte Take Over Create London
- 07/23/13--07:16: The Week Ahead: Situationist Tubing Edition
- 07/26/13--07:57: Performance GIFs 11: Jesse Darling
This is the latest in an ongoing series of performance GIFs curated by Jesse Darling. Previously: Maja Cule, Legacy Russell, Jaakko Pallasvuo, Creighton Baxter, Genevieve Belleveau, Jennifer Chan, Marisa Olson.
Brett Ratner, director. These Boots Are Made for Walking (2005). Still from music video for song performed by Jessica Simpson.
I Know What Boys Like
Dwayne Strike, 2013
The artist's description:
I was going through ideas for this piece with a friend and I mentioned this video by Jessica Simpson where she was washing a car (These Boots Were Made for Walking). I decided to go outside to where the workers were building and stage something that would be close to that—and to other videos that incorporate the same idea of the idealized half-naked woman, washing a car that could be hers or not, under a voyeuristic gaze.
I found this move—which some might write off as "loose"—more conservative than anything; the sexual liberation of women is still finding its feet while the sexual liberation of men is strictly limited to the built man with a 6-pack. Anything that transgresses this is a minority, especially the idea of role or gender reversal.
We still live in a time in which everyone wants to compartmentalize everything – especially sexuality and gender. Through my drag persona, I try to take both sides of myself (feminine and masculine) and wear them both as badges, through my actions and dress.
Click here to view work.
Marlie Mul, XYMEMORY. Installation view, Arcadia Missa.
Appendix, Extra Extra, QT, Kunsthalle New, Courtney Blades, Preteen Gallery, American Medium. Portland, Philadelphia, Chicago, Mexico City, New York. My map of North America is dotted with these small, independent art spaces. I'm trying to sort of render this image in my mind: an oblique angle in Google Earth that captures all of these different pins scattered across the continent. It doesn’t really work. But despite the geographical distance between them, these spaces exist (or existed) in close proximity—socially, generationally and aesthetically—surviving in precarious times by pooling resources and occupying unwanted urban fringes. I haven’t visited any of them, but they seem to foster a significant proportion of new and exciting work at the moment, serving as the cached foundations to a panoply of daily art blogs reproduced across the social web.
Closer to home, London has in the same time frame experienced a ban on squatting and an exacerbation in rent of consistently 6-10% annually. If the neoliberal city is a paradigm of market-driven and socially exploitative globalization, London seems its primary apologist, the trading of inner city residents for a quick £4 million in the international market being just one of the rapidly normalized revelations breaking in the last few months.
Arcadia Missa is an art gallery, publishing house and studios opened by Rózsa Farkas and Tom Clark in February 2011 in Peckham, South London, to create a space for performative and digital art practice in that area. No one has a spare garage in London, or even a garage for that matter, and even on the urban fringes the property market is voracious—this is an area that saw an 11.8% increase in rent in the last year. Capitalism knows what it wants, and you can’t fault it in that respect: these are radically belligerent preconditions for a radical art space.
How does art respond to this? Chris Kraus, in the first chapter of Where Art Belongs, graciously and beautifully writes about the gallery Tiny Creatures, which operated out of a storefront in Echo Park, Los Angeles, between 2006 and 2009. When the gallery opened, it was located between a bootleg trailer, an ice truck and a vacant lot. Its closing party was covered in the Los Angeles Times and looked like a “portrait of the new LA,” featuring neurosurgeons, fashion designers and visiting curators. It was nonetheless still only meters away from homeless men selling oranges. Kraus eulogizes this as a space of resistance and alterity, a space if not outside of capital then momentarily unindebted to it. I enjoy the story for exactly these reasons. Yet such temporary heterotopias seem ever more fleeting. At what point does resistance become more permanent? When does the heterotopia become a safe and more sustainable space for different forms of living and discourse?
Tiny Creatures garnered art from a local scene of punk/DIY artists and musicians. In contrast, the galleries mentioned above act almost like temporary residencies for a network of artists across the global North. More than a new localism, this reflects the fact that the conditions for art’s production follow the very same fluidity that propels the spread of neoliberal finance.
Installation view, work by Hannah Perry and Clunie Reid as part of Arcadia_Missa Open-Office.
Arcadia_Missa Open-Office, featuring, amongst many others, Riyo Nemeth, Yuri Pattison, XYM, Ann Hirsch, Jennifer Chan, Clunie Reid and Hannah Perry, was a five-month program running between July and December 2012. (Following the project Arcadia Missa published a book titled Open-Office Anthology, to which I contributed.) To mark a shift away from the model of the white cube as a display space, organizers built a number of oblique office-type props—a staircase, a computer terminal, a door frame—into the gallery, emphasizing its role as a site of production. The program was intensive, featuring thirteen shows over the five months, at one point with an opening almost every week. At the heart of this was a desire to “address precarity as experienced by artists and other immaterial labourers working today.” Specifically, as Arcadia Missa told me during a recent interview, it was an attempt “to understand precarity outside fetishisation of the term,” to destabilize rather than re-perform what veers dangerously close to a lifestyle choice for the digital precariat.
A primary example of this is Harry Sanderson’s Human Resolution project, staged at the gallery in September 2012. This involved the installation of a 3D scanner within a self-constructed frame, the image of which was then projected. Visitors were invited to place part of their body in the scanner and see a carefully contorted image on a screen in front of them; a sound element echoed the frequencies of these interactions. Exploring the interface between the body and its constant mediation, the artwork created a beautifully ephemeral elegy to the self, the grayscale rendered image flickering and disappearing before you had time to fully ingest it. The work, with its images of distorted human forms, could be read as a visualization of the pressures of precarity on the body and identity, any promised recuperation of our financial or ideological sanctity within neoliberalism eternally elusive. However, to read only this into the artwork is naive and self-eulogizing, as Sanderson is surely aware. The title refers to the human currency behind our culture’s fetish for high resolution imagery, and indeed the blood cost of the majority of consumer technology. Not merely a victim of this system, the viewer is trapped within its perpetuation, if teasingly offered fleeting glimpses of the way out. To fetishize precarity is to fetishize these global networks of exploitation, although the viewer has seemingly little choice but to interact and understand.
Harry Sanderson, Human Resolution (2012). Interactive installation with 3D scanner and real-time audio and video.
As Maurizio Lazzarato has argued regarding the concept of immaterial labor: “Immaterial labour produces first of all a ‘social relationship’ (a relationship of innovation, of production, of consumption)... This activity shows immediately that which material production ‘hid:’ in other words, labour produces not only commodities, but first and foremost the capital relationship.” Although perhaps simplistic and outmoded, such analysis opens up interesting questions in relation to this work. To what extent do internationally networked, precarious sites of production such as Arcadia Missa, and the equally networked and precarious artistic practices that they foster, then replicate or rupture these processes? To what extent is the product of this artistic labor a “social relationship,” and to what extent does this produce “the capital relationship?” There are no straightforward answers, but we can at least recognize that these art practices share the same sense of interiority as the galleries themselves—whatever statement they make about their ideological or economic conditions, it will only ever come from inside the system it operates against. If it changes it, it will have done so entirely through being it.
In economies of attention, the gallery becomes as much a platform to temporarily host the artist as a physical base for their objects. This is not to underplay the physicality of the installation, which is of course hugely important, but simply to recognize that it consists of multiple kinds of materials, social as well as physical. A gallery (and Arcadia Missa particularly with its anthology, journal and ejournal) is often a brand, web presence, network and publishing house as much as it is four walls in which to house objects; what are highlighted as the fundamental materials are the relationships that unite all these aspects. Yet if the O-O program recognized this, skitting between all these different events, installations and occurrences in an attempt to sort of stretch and prise this materiality apart, it also served to underline the instability, both emotional and financial, inherent in such conditions for producing art. Precarity is groundlessness, and whilst this may be liberating, it is only liberating insomuch as we make new grounds, and more stable platforms for production.
Yet how to create more sustainable and more resistant platforms? Are there alternatives to precarity? Such questions transcend art, and enter the workplace, home and familial relationships of maybe the majority of an under-35 generation. The 20th century promised so much rebellion, rejection and rock and roll; what it eventually gave us was Bono and iPads. It feels weird to be in my early 20s and craving so much stability.
Amalia Ulman, Screenshot from Ethira (2013). Messaging application for iOS.
On June 28th Amalia Ulman’s show Ethira opens at Arcadia Missa, the first of three core exhibitions in their 2013 program (networked) every whisper is a crash on my ears. Ulman is followed by Megan Rooney and Holly White and, in October, a render farm project by Harry Sanderson. Whereas some O-O shows were open for just a few days, these will mostly be installed for a month. Around these will be a supporting program of events, publications and shows. The length of an exhibition is of course in no way correlative to depth of engagement or criticality, yet in a culture of such accelerationism it feels amazing to slow down and breathe a little and feel the muscles relax. Whispers imply breathing and they imply intimacy, and even if this is distorted and amplified in the program title, there is nonetheless at the base of it a subject and a subjectiveness that is so often missing in discussions surrounding networks and labor. To again quote Arcadia Missa directly, “as O-O drew to an end we began to realize that there is a gap in left theory that understands networks yet somehow in part negates subjectivity—ideas on cognitive capitalism for example.”
As alluring as it might be to imagine a network of bots trading thoughts and affinities with each other, and as beautiful as it might be to imagine that aesthetic, networks are ultimately permeated by human desires and subjectivities. Any sort of critique of this territory therefore has to begin at this level. It may be attractive for established male artists to fantasize over the Universal Addressability of Dumb Things, Night at the Museum style, however, as intelligent as a £500 smart fridge might be, it doesn’t really care about you if you can’t afford it—it’s completely wrapped up in the ideology of its production. Art’s not going to provide any answers, but by reconfiguring these politics to allow for agency it can create space for more interesting things to happen.
Open-Office dealt specifically with precarity as an economic condition. (networked) suggests that precarity is too singular a lens through which to view this work. Instead of focusing solely on the economic instability, perhaps there is in fact another kind of stability to be found in the strength of the social relationships have emerged around A_M, both as a venue in South London and as a node in wider, more global networks. The (networked) program, though of course yet to happen, seems bound up with this sort of subjective engagement and consequence. Arcadia Missa is not networked in the sense that bots and refrigerators are networked, but in the sense of desires and affinities, of 4am Gchat conversations and torrid love affairs, of imaginary living together in separate rented houses. If the art practice that emerges within these conditions is one best defined by its status as a practice, with multiple projects and installations given coherency through the artist’s subjectivity (Ulman, White and Rooney in different ways present an intuitive understanding of this), then maybe this sort of gallery is best defined as its own sort of practice, if not art then a similar form of embodied critique. Maybe this can be read as utopic or optimistic, in which case we can devolve, and call it something closer to living, a collaborative and embodied engagement with the personal-is-political.
Peckham has had a lot of bad press recently. Foreseeing this shift, Arcadia Missa was formed straight after Clark and Farkas left art school amidst the realization that they soon wouldn’t be able to afford the area where Farkas grew up. Clearly the current gentrification and monopolization of both artistic and social space in Peckham is anathema to any sort of self-generating sense of community or freedom. In fact, it is directly aggressive to all who can’t participate in it, and who most likely can no longer afford their own homes as a result. In many ways A_M forms the best sort opposition to this, marking itself out from the Peckham discourse vacuum by building slow, solid critique into its program, exemplified by its How To Sleep Faster journal and now also its anthology, yet tied into a careful selection of artists and collaborators. David Harvey has demonstrated the link between the shape of our cities and the shape of our social selves: “The question of what kind of city we want cannot be divorced from that of what kind of social ties, relationship to nature, lifestyles, technologies and aesthetic values we desire.” The subject networks, affinities and desires that emanate from A_M should be seen as directly relating to this, and again tied into more distributed networks. Space is better when it’s multiple, however, and I wonder what other things can emerge around it, and right out of it.
Meanwhile, over in Stoke Newington, parents with four-wheel drive prams buy designer treats from bespoke cupcake stores. It’s too easy to see London as fucked; a poster city for neoliberal policy that’s becoming increasingly hostile towards any non-privatized models of art’s funding. If Arcadia Missa is to be eulogized it’s not for existing but for remaining to exist, despite and in direct opposition to this, and for radicating outwards too. Networked hearts, networked bodies, networked selves <3.
GIF extract form Hito Steyerl, How Not To Be Seen. A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File , 2013. HD video file, single screen, 14min.
In May and June, the most viewed page on Rhizome was an artwork by Jonas Lund, We See in Every Direction. Part of ongoing series The Download, Lund's piece is an an application for anonymous, communal web browsing that has found an active user base. Whenever one opens it, there are usually several other strangers logged in, often sharing a browsing experience in multiple languages. During this time, the most commented-upon page on Rhizome was Orit Gat's examination of the political affinities attached to URLs in the cases of .art and .sy, which prompted some good responses from Tom Moody in particular.
In what could be seen as a kind of reaction against the "New Aesthetic," with its technologically sublime idea of a world increasingly shaped by the machine's point of view, several articles on Rhizome in May and June put the "anthro" back in "anthropocene," re-asserting the importance of human bodies and desires and general weirdness in technological discourse. Jacob Gaboury wrapped up his five-part history of queer computing, arguing for "the importance but broad relevance of an affective sexual archive" of technology history. In an interview about his performances for data centers, Tyler Coburn wrote, "I attempt to work against the deterministic mindset that new technologies produce and delimit new forms of subjectivity and sociability." Harry Burke framed the the forthcoming program at Arcadia Missa as an exploration of human subjectivity in a networked age. And, Jesse Darling introduced a curated series of Performance GIFs with contributions by Maja Cule, Legacy Russell, Jaakko Pallasvuo, Creighton Baxter, Genevieve Belleveau, Jennifer Chan, Marisa Olson, and Dwayne Strike.
Ceci Moss covered Il Palazzo Enciclopedico at the Venice Biennale and The Whole Earth in Berlin, asking whether images of the world can still inspire new worlds. Brendan Byrne interviewed McKenzie Wark about the legacy of the Situationists and how it applies to these technological times, after which Rhizome ran a much-discussed Guy Debord action figure giveaway.
In the wake of an event in Venice, Italy at the Palazzo Peckham with Oliver Laric and Hito Steyer, Michael Connor wrote about Steyerl's new piece How Not to be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File, which came to seem especially topical in the wake of revelations about the extent of NSA surveillance and Edward Snowden's attempt to, well, disappear.
Michael Connor investigated the Whitney Museum's restoration of The World's First Collaborative Sentence by Douglas Davis, and in an in-depth interview with Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning, excavated the technological basis for many of Jack Goldstein's paintings. Tom McCormack wrote about John Whitney's analog computer and its use for the film Vertigo.Gene McHugh argued for the reappraisal of holographic artist and avant-garde musician Peter Van Riper; Alexander Keefe delved into the sci-fi constructivism of a Colombian artist;
Prosthetic Knowledge offered a selection of works on the theme of privacy, works making use of turntables and records, works that explore the relationship between painting and video gaming and works that bridge the gap between art and gaming. Zoë Salditch offered Surf Reports on the subjects of gURLs and Millennials.
Adam Rothstein described the experience of participating in a fake TEDx conference; Giampaolo Bianconi wrote a nice reflection on Jan Robert Leegte's Remake of Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty in Minecraft; Michael Connor read a press release on e-flux about Cory Arcangel's exhibition at DHC/ART. Orit Gat previewed Eva Weinmayr's Twitter play #Downing_St, which was followed by over 9,000 users.
There is a scene in the movie Airplane! (1980) in which a young boy suddenly recognizes the real-life actor who is playing the character of co-pilot Roger Murdoch. "Wait a minute!" he exclaims. "I know you! You're Kareem Abdul-Jabbar!"
The scene breaks the "fourth wall" to comic effect. Most viewers in 1980 would have recognized Abdul-Jabbar instantly, but the conventions of performance dictate that we try to pretend that he is just an ordinary schmoe in the cockpit. By "recognizing" Abdul-Jabbar, the boy calls attention to these conventions, and breaks the tension for viewers who were probably struggling to see the six-time MVP of the NBA as an airline employee.
Such an acknowledgment is missing from a more recent project involving Abdul-Jabbar, Miranda July's We Think Alone. Many of you will have opened your inbox yesterday to find an email from July containing emails from the Sent Folder of some fairly notable people—artists, a philosopher, fashion designers, film people and, of course, the long-time Lakers center. Such emails will be sent weekly until November 11; the first week's email is on the subject of money, something rarely talked about in public. We learn that Lena Dunham considered buying the much-coveted $20,000 Liljevalch sofa, while Sheila Heti worked as a temp. We also get a glimpse into individual writing styles: Abdul-Jabbar writes in complete sentences, Danh Vo is flirtatious when talking business and Dunham uses a smiley emoticon when saying "no."
July points out that the way we use email is changing. Certainly, it is not the same as it was a few years ago. From 2000 to 2003, Eva and Franco Mattes made the contents of their computer (including their email) public as part of the project Life Sharing (included in the Rhizome Artbase). Looking back at one of the screenshots from the project, there is a hint that network connectivity was not so ubiquitous then as it is today ("we are still offline from our office"), not to mention the advertising content at the bottom of an email from a seemingly tech-savvy user ("Win a 5-star getaway to exotic Bali!)
We Think Alone is a time capsule of a moment just before the revelations of the NSA PRISM program. We often write emails that are only meant for a specific audience, a specific context. This is what gives the emails in July's project their particular charge: they allow us to see how these notable people perform their identity for the benefit of friends, collaborators and employees - not for us.
A useful concept here is contextual integrity, as defined by Helen Nissenbaum. Like the participants in July's project, we all perform multiple selves as we move through our day, staging slightly different facets of ourselves at work, at the bar, at home, on our password-protected Hentai Tumblrs; contextual integrity is the ability to keep these facets of our identities separate. This is what is shattered when a photograph from the time we danced on a table at our high school reunion is made visible to work colleagues via Facebook, or when government agencies archive our communications. In the future, it seems likely that email users will become increasingly aware that all email must be treated as public information, that it no longer has contextual integrity. The sense of intimacy attached to the emails from We Think Alone will likely be lost, or at least changed irrevocably.
In her description of the work, July writes of her interest the intimacy of email. "I’m always trying to get my friends to forward me emails they’ve sent to other people – to their mom, their boyfriend, their agent – the more mundane the better." This interest builds on a past work (in collaboration with Harrell Fletcher), Learning to Love You More (2002-2009, included in the Rhizome Artbase). For this work, July and Fletcher solicited responses to certain tasks from members of the public; the results were displayed online. Participants were asked to share mundane elements of their private lives, such as photographs of the space under their bed.
In contrast with this earlier work, We Think Alone brings together contributions from people of considerable note, and because of this, the emails published on it can hardly be said to be mundane. It's difficult to know what to make of this shift from participation by the masses to participation by an elite few, and the interesting part of the project—a consideration of how we "perform" identity on email—seems overshadowed by the less interesting premise that "Stars Are Just Like Us!" In the end, talking about We Think Alone as if it is about how we communicate over email would be like saying that Tilda Swinton's project The Maybe (in which she stretches out in a display case in a gallery and lies in repose for hours) is about how we sleep. Both projects are very much about celebrity; only the latter manages to thematize this.
So in reply to yesterday's email, I would like to say this: "I know you! You're Kareem Abdul-Jabbar!"
Rhizome's digital conservator Ben Fino-Radin has been hard at work with our New Museum colleagues in preparation for XFR STN (Transfer Station), an open-door artist-centered media archiving project that will take over the museum's Fifth Floor gallery space through September 8. Artists, if you have old media stored in the back of your closet - decaying jaz drives, defunct hard drives, or moving image formats - with long-lost art or documentation or work-in-progress, this is your chance to work with a technician armed with top-of-the-line preservation tools. Visit the XFR STN micro-site to learn more about the project and request an appointment. The project begins July 17; we'll be sure to keep you posted on any interesting finds that emerge during the course of the exhibition.
As the Bradley Manning trial presses on at Fort Meade, Maryland, artist Clark Stoeckley (of Wikileaks Truck fame) documents the proceedings in sketches. So far, the artists tells us he has compiled over 300 drawings from both sides of the gallery, the jury box, and the live video feed. The renderings are set to be published by OR Books in September as a graphic novel, which is an appropriate format for an epic conflict between good and evil. The previews of Stoeckley's graphic novel look very exciting, but what we find most compelling about the project is Stoeckley's commitment to the trial and to Manning, and the mundane details of the process that he captures through his daily practice of drawing and observation.
Day 1 of the trial
Captain Hunter Whyte, David Coombs, Bradley Manning
Courtroom observers wearing shirts that read "truth" have been mandated by officials to turn them inside-out.
Sometimes, Stoeckley's subjects respond directly.
Stoeckley updated his drawing of Milliman to include an overlooked mustache.
View of the courtroom
Sgt. Chad Madaras, former intelligence analyst alongside Manning
Cornel West (unfinished sketch)
Nathan Fuller of Bradley Manning Support Network
The Media Gallery
Beautiful blue eyes, rosy pink cheeks, plump kissable red lips. A dignified black neck, strong green brow. A black ear. A yellow Adams-apple. I am beautiful. Makeup artist to the stars. Dripping paint. War paint. The mask of the rainbow death. Lipstick on my teeth and eyeshadow on my eyeball. Melting and mushy. Mystical and marvelous. I took this picture myself. I look too beautiful to have friends. Anyway who needs friends when you have millions of fans. They will admire my painted black hairline. Super Sexy.
A few weeks ago, DISmagazine announced it would team up with 89plus and Serpentine Gallery in search of artists who are #YoungerThanRihanna. The contest officially opened yeterday and promises a cash prize in the form of two new grants; the two winners will be selected by international jury and popular vote, respectively. Artists, writers, architects, filmmakers, musicians, designers, scientists, and technologists are all welcome to submit, provided they are young enough.
Selected events, exhibitions and deadlines this week, culled from Rhizome Announce.
Thursday, July 11: ((audience)) presents their July installment of Sound Off, featuring Seattle sound artist Rob Kunz.
Friday, July 12: Eyebeam's Open(Art) exhibition and workshop series commences, showcasing projects that incite creativity at the intersection of art and the open web.
Saturday, July 13: Pace University's Digital Art and the Urban Environment is a symposium and publication seeking proposals for talks, papers, artworks, and more.
Monday, July 15: Now What #2, presented by Microscope Gallery, calls for recent film, video, new media, and performance works.
Monday, July 15: Arse Electronica 2013 is looking for talks, performances, workshops, games, and machines relating to sex, tech, and id/entities.
Saturday, July 13: The Media Arts Department at Marist College invites applications for part-time adjunct or full-time visiting professor.
Monday, July 15: The New Media program at UNC Asheville is looking for a one-year, interactive art & design lecturer to start this fall.
Draft Urbanism, the core exhibition program in the latest edition of the Denver-based Biennial of the Americas, brings together practitioners in art, architecture, and film from across the Americas to examine our evolving relationship with the physical and social fabric of our cities. The biennial features a series of newly commissioned works in various public spaces throughout Denver, from breweries to highway medians. Carson Chan, architecture writer and curator, and co-founder of architecture collective Program (Berlin), is Executive Curator of this year’s edition.
Carson Chan in Denver. Photograph: Anthony Camera.
KAREN ARCHEY: Draft Urbanism seems to be more inclusive and unique than your average biennial. Could you describe the curatorial purview and physical format of the biennial, and explain how it is a departure from the standard biennial (i.e. Lyon, Venice)? How does it relate to the biennial you organized in Marrakech last year?
CARSON CHAN: One thing that's great about making a biennial exhibition in Denver is that there is not much precedence here for this format. For many in Denver, the word "biennial" doesn't immediate recall a preset image of a large-scale exhibition like you might find in cities with long traditions of making these things. There is a tremendous amount of freedom in that we can define our goals without having to go by received assumptions of how things are done. Basically, there's no real need to follow pre-existing, European models. It's a pioneering attitude that goes down rather well in Denver. The Biennial of the Americas is separated into two main parts: lectures and workshops, and art. The art portion of the biennial is called Draft Urbanism and it's a show about seeing urbanism as a never-ending process, suggesting that the current version of the city we live in is but a draft of something else.
Marrakech taught me a lot, namely that there is no need to make an exhibition in a gallery or museum. The art projects we installed in public spaces there were seen by far more people than the exhibitions we had indoors—even though it was free. It's really hard to get people that don't have an existing interest in contemporary art to go to a museum, so why not bring the art out in the public? I think that professional often make exhibitions in museums and galleries because it's easy, not because it best serves the public. Draft Urbanism is exhibited entirely in public space in downtown Denver. All the artwork will be exhibited on billboards, posters, bus shelters and public LED screens, and four large-scale architecture installations were commissioned to directly address urban issues in Denver.
KA: What are some of these urban issues?
CC: We're addressing the excess of surface parking lots throughout the downtown area, the impediment that multi-lane streets pose to urban development, the better uses to which unactivated public spaces could be put, and perhaps the toughest one, the perception of what is desirable and not in the public. Many homeless in Denver use of the city's main outdoor shopping destination, the 16th Street Mall. Artist and architect Alex Schweder, Chilean architects Pezo von Ellrichshausen, plan:b architects from Medellín, Colombia, and June14 architects will be articulating these questions through their installations. Expect a moving hotel, a 50-foot tall wooden structure, "cloud-like" public furniture, and butterfly enclosures suspended from the tops of buildings. We're really happy to have Michael Webb here for a panel discussion as well. He's one of the founding members of the British conceptual architecture group, Archigram. They were thinking through very much the same issues that plague our cities now.
KA: This lack of precedence for the biennial format in Denver reminds me of the origins of documenta in Kassel, Germany. Kassel is a similarly small city, and the quintennial's founder, Arnold Bode, structured the exhibition around his own idiosyncratic curatorial vision rather than the typical approach to the biennial in that (pre-internet) era. I would argue that this involved culling and contextualizing the great art of the time, focusing on specific geographic locations because world travel and information gathering were both drastically more resource-consuming in the mid-20th century. You seem to be taking a less authorial approach as compared to someone like Bode, or his contemporary analogs, such as Massimiliano Gioni, who is seemingly continuing the tradition of authorial biennial curating after the dawn of widespread internet usage. You seem to have a political and ethical commitment to both the city and biennial format. Could you describe your relationship to the role of the biennial curator in the context of post-internet discourse?
CC: Great question. There's been a lot of talk about post-internet art, but not much regarding post-internet curating. In your own texts, you've mentioned the "specter of the internet" - its traces - as a key identifier of the post-internet condition, but I would simply state that post-internet is an internet state of mind. I guess we can characterize it as being dispersed, referential and bringing new attention to materiality through its very negation of it. The internet has amped up the rate at which we communicate through speech, text, images and video. Think about art announcement services like e-flux, social networks that show us images and videos from around the world like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Guy Debord famously wrote that, "everything that was directly lived has moved away into representation." This has never been more true, and it’s why I’ve invited one of the foremost observers of this condition, Douglas Coupland, as a participant. In the arts, when we say we've seen a show or know it, what we often mean is that we've seen online images of it. Draft Urbanism takes this condition, and tries to force through an exhibition experience that cannot possibly be photographed or represented—you had to be there. With more than 30 billboards, bus shelters, LED screens and posters around town, there will not be any one image that could capture the exhibition. In a sense, the city becomes one giant exhibition. In fact, we're putting museum labels throughout downtown locations where there’s a direct view of the work, and we're also working with a Denver historian to put museum labels on buildings and locations in downtown that deal directly with our theme—which is, in short, urbanism and beer.
KA: This inability to totally experience the biennial through representation reminds me a lot of Skulptur Projekte Münster, a decennial (occurring once per decade), which often feels like an Easter egg hunt when searching for various art projects. Speaking of urbanism and beer, I love that you're using the homograph "draft" to both speak to this contemporary condition you just so expertly explained in addition to referencing Denver's long tradition of beer brewing. How do these ideas connect for you beyond semantic similarity?
CC: Well, it's about understanding urbanism as a process that is simultaneously future oriented, while being historically grounded—a very basic idea, but one that is rarely heeded. Beer, let's say, is seen not only as only a beverage, but as part of a material system that organizes everything from physical infrastructure (factories and roads were constructed for production and distribution), to history (Denver's civic history is closely tied to the history of its bars and taverns), to local identity—Colorado boasts more craft breweries per capita than anywhere else in the world. This view refers to a materialist concept that Mexican philosopher Manuel de Landa has laid out in his book, A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History (1997), and continues to be influential in both art and architecture theory. In it, he weaves out a material relation between lava flows and human creativity—a great read!
KA: In an interview you conducted with Aaron Moulton, curator at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art in Salt Lake City for the current issue of SpikeArt Quarterly, you speak about issues surrounding the regional context of curating in the American Mountain West. I would pose a similar question to you: In your curatorial efforts for the Biennial of Americas, how do you create an audience when there is little pre-existing audience in a non-coastal city such as Denver? As a curator, I'd imagine it's somewhat scary to launch a biennial in such a context, which must be magnified by the exhibition being inherently "undocumentable” and therefore inaccessible to audiences elsewhere?
CC: Well, I would nuance your question by adding that in fact there is not only an existing audience for art, there is also a large population that is very curious about contemporary art. There's more than a dozen institutions of higher learning in Denver, not to mention the art programs at the University of Colorado Denver and the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. Local gallerists like Adam Gildar or curators like William Morrow and Cortney Stell (who is the biennial's associate curator) are making shows that really challenge the audiences here. Draft Urbanism is not only targeting the groups that are already interested, but as I mentioned earlier, we're also interested in engaging people that are just walking or driving around downtown Denver. What is perhaps scarier would be to make a museum show with Draft Urbanism's theme; the common perception is that an exhibition about urban development could be pretty dry. Showing work in public—artwork on billboards across town and installations in parking lots, at major intersections and down the median—the viewer doesn't necessarily need to know they are looking at art in order to engage. The trick is to produce a double take—where viewers begin to question what it is they are looking at.
KA: Urban development and beer make for an exciting combination! And your participant list seems anything but dry, but rather expansive in terms of its participants’ ages, roles in art and/or architecture, and nationalities. We see very young artists such as Amalia Ulman and more established ones such as Liam Gillick and Michael Snow, as well as architectural groups such as the Colombia-based plan:b and June14. What was your intention in bringing together such a heterogeneous group of participants?
CC: The Biennial of the Americas, an initiative that was first envisioned by former Denver Mayor, and current Colorado Governor, John Hickenlooper, began with a pretty enterprising mandate to make Denver into a biennial hub for culture and current issues of North, Central and South America, so the diversity of the participants reflect this ambition. Also, metropolitan centers are by nature heterogeneous so an exhibition about the city, held throughout the city, would logically reflect this condition. Two participants that I would like to call out are Charlie Berger and Patrick Crawford from the Denver Beer Company, who have brewed a beer specifically based on Draft Urbanism's curatorial concept. It will be served throughout the seven weeks of the exhibition; touring the exhibition, seeing all the installations and billboards around town will be like a pub-crawl.
Carson Chan is an architecture writer and curator. Last year, along with Nadim Samman, he curated the 4th Marrakech Biennale. He is editor at large at 032c, and contributing editor at Kaleidoscope Magazine. In October of this year, Chan is co-organizing a conference at Yale School of Architecture with David Andrew Tasman and Prof. Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen about both historical and contemporary practices of architecture exhibition making.
Photograph published in Alan Kay and Adele Goldberg, "Personal Dynamic Media" with the caption, "Kids learning to use the interim Dynabook."
MICHAEL CONNOR: I want to start with the question of methodology. How does one study software? In other words, what is the object of study—do you focus more on the interface, or the underlying code, or some combination of the two?
LEV MANOVICH: The goal of my book is to understand media software—its genealogy (where does it come from), its anatomy (the key features shared by all media viewing and editing software), and its effects in the world (pragmatics). Specifically, I am concerned with two kinds of effects:
1) How media design software shapes the media being created, making some design choices seem natural and easy to execute, while hiding other design possibilities;
2) How media viewing / managing / remixing software shapes our experience of media and the actions we perform on it.
I devote significant space to the analysis of After Effects, Photoshop and Google Earth—these are my primary case studies.
Photoshop Toolbox from version 0.63 (1988) to 7.0 (2002).
I also want to understand what media is today conceptually, after its "softwarization." Do the concepts of media developed to account for industrial-era technologies, from photography to video, still apply to media that is designed and experienced with software? Do they need to be updated, or completely replaced by new more appropriate concepts? For example: do we still have different media or did they merge into a single new meta-medium? Are there some structural features which motion graphics, graphic designs, web sites, product designs, buildings, and video games all share, since they are all designed with software?
In short: does "media" still exist?
For me, "software studies" is about asking such broad questions, as opposed to only focusing on code or interface. Our world, media, economy, and social relations all run on software. So any investigation of code, software architectures, or interfaces is only valuable if it helps us to understand how these technologies are reshaping societies and individuals, and our imaginations.
MC: In order to ask these questions, your book begins by delving into some early ideas from the 1960s and 1970s that had a profound influence on later developers. In looking at these historical precedents, to what extent were you able to engage with the original software or documentation thereof? And to what extent were you relying on written texts by these early figures?
Photograph published in Kay and Goldberg with the caption, "The interim Dynabook system consists of processor, disk drive, display, keyboard, and pointing devices."
LM: In my book I only discuss the ideas of a few of the most important people, and for this, I could find enough sources. I focused on the theoretical ideas from the 1960s and 1970s which led to the development of modern media authoring environment, and the common features of their interfaces. My primary documents were published articles by J. C. R. Licklider, Ivan Sutherland, Ted Nelson, Douglas Engelbart, Alan Kay, and their collaborators, and also a few surviving film clips—Sutherland demonstrating Sketchpad (the first interactive drawing system seen by the public), a tour of Xerox Alto, etc. I also consulted manuals for a few early systems which are available online.
While I was doing this research, I was shocked to realize how little visual documentation of the key systems and software (Sketchpad, Xerox Parc's Alto, first paint programs from late 1960s and 1970s) exists. We have original articles published about these systems with small black-and-white illustrations, and just a few low resolution film clips. And nothing else. None of the historically important systems exist in emulation, so you can't get a feeling of what it was like to use them.
This situation is quite different with other media technologies. You can go to a film museum and experience the real Panoroma from early 1840s, camera obscura, or another pre-cinematic technology. Painters today use the same "new media" as Impressionists in the 1870s—paints in tubes. With computer systems, most of the ideas behind contemporary media software come directly from the 1960s and 1970s—but the original systems are not accessible. Given the number of artists and programmers working today in "software art" and "creative coding," it should be possible to create emulations of at least a few most fundamental early systems. It's good to take care of your parents!
MC: One of the key early examples in your book is Alan Kay's concept of the "Dynabook," which posited the computer as "personal dynamic media" which could be used by all. These ideas were spelled out in his writing, and brought to some fruition in the Xerox Alto computer. I'd like to ask you about the documentation of these systems that does survive. What importance can we attach to these images of users, interfaces and the cultural objects produced with these systems?
Top and center: Images published in Kay and Goldberg with the captions, "An electronic circuit layout system programmed by a 15-year- old student" and "Data for this score was captured on a musical keyboard. A program then converts the data to standard musical notation." Bottom: The Alto Screen showing windows with graphics drawn using commands in Smalltalk programming language.
LM: The most informative sets of images of Alan Kay's "Dynabook" (Xerox Alto) appears in the article he wrote with his collaborator Adele Goldberg in 1977. In my book I analyze this article in detail, interpreting it as "media theory" (as opposed to just documentation of the system). Kay said that reading McLuhan convinced him that computer can be a medium for personal expression. The article presents theoretical development of this idea and reports on its practical implementation (Xerox Alto).
Alan Turing theoretically defined a computer as a machine that can simulate a very large class of other machines, and it is this simulation ability that is largely responsible for the proliferation of computers in modern society. But it was only Kay and his generation that extended the idea of simulation to media—thus turning the Universal Turing Machine into a Universal Media Machine, so to speak. Accordingly, Kay and Goldberg write in the article: "In a very real sense, simulation is the central notion of the Dynabook." However, as I suggest in the book, simulating existing media become a chance to extend and add new functions. Kay and Goldberg themselves are clear about this—here is, for example, what they say about an electronic book: "It need not be treated as a simulated paper book since this is a new medium with new properties. A dynamic search may be made for a particular context. The non-sequential nature of the file medium and the use of dynamic manipulation allow a story to have many accessible points of view."
The many images of media software developed both by Xerox team and other Alto users which appear in the article illustrate these ideas. Kay and Goldberg strategically give us examples of how their "interim 'Dynabook'" can allow users to paint, draw, animate, compose music, and compose text. This maked Alto first Universal Media Machine—the first computer offering ability to compose and create cultural experiences and artifacts for all senses.
MC: I'm a bit surprised to hear you say the words "just documentation!" In the case of Kay, his theoretical argument was perhaps more important than any single prototype. But, in general, one of the things I find compelling about your approach is your analysis of specific elements of interfaces and computer operations. So when you use the example of Ivan Sutherland's Sketchpad, wasn't it the documentation (the demo for a television show produced by MIT in 1964) that allowed you to make the argument that even this early software wasn't merely a simulation of drawing, but a partial reinvention of it?
Frames from Sketchpad demo video illustrating the program’s use of constraints. Left column: a user selects parts of a drawing. Right column: Sketchpad automatically adjusts the drawing. (The captured frames were edited in Photoshop to show the Sketchpad screen more clearly.)
LM: The reason I said "just documentation" is that normally people dont think about Sutherland, Engelbart or Kay as "media theorists," and I think it's more common to read their work as technical reports.
On to to Sutherland. Sutherland describes the new features of his system in his Ph.D. thesis and the published article, so in principle you can just read them and get these ideas. But at the same time, the short film clip which demonstrates the Sketchpad is invaluable—it helps you to better understand how these new features (such as "contraints satisfaction") actually worked, and also to "experience" them emotionally. Since I have seen the film clip years before I looked at Sutherland's PhD thesis (now available online), I can't really say what was more important. Maybe it was not even the original film clip, but its use in one of Alan Kay's lectures. In the lecture Alan Kay shows the clip, and explains how important these new features were.
MC: The Sketchpad demo does have a visceral impact. You began this interview by asking, "does media still exist?" Along these lines, the Sutherland clip raises the question of whether drawing, for one, still exists. The implications of this seem pretty enormous. Now that you have established the principle that all media are contingent on the software that produces, do we need to begin analyzing all media (film, drawing or photography) from the point of view of software studies? Where might that lead?
LM: The answer which I arrive to the question "does media still exist?" after 200 pages is relevant to all media which is designed or accessed with software tools. What we identify by conceptual inertia as "properties" of different mediums are actually the properties of media software—their interfaces, the tools, and the techniques they make possible for navigating, creating, editing, and sharing media documents. For example, the ability to automatically switch between different views of a document in Acrobat Reader or Microsoft Word is not a property of “text documents,” but as a result of software techniques whose heritage can be traced to Engelbart’s “view control.” Similarly, "zoom" or "pan" is not exclusive to digital images or texts or 3D scenes—its the properly of all modern media software.
Along with these and a number of other "media-independent" techniques (such as "search") which are build into all media software, there are also "media-specific" techniques which can only be used with particular data types. For example, we can extrude a 2-D shape to make a 3D model, but we can't extrude a text. Or, we can change contrast and saturation on a photo, but these operations do not make sense in relation to 3D models, texts, or sound.
So when we think of photography, film or any other medium, we can think of it as a combination of "media-independent" techniques which it shares with all other mediums, and also techniques which are specific to it.
MC: I'd proposed the title, "Don't Study Media, Study Software" for this article. But it sounds like you are taking a more balanced view?
LM: Your title makes me nervous, because some people are likely to misinterpret it. I prefer to study software such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Photoshop, After Effects, game engines, etc., and use this understanding in interpreting the content created with this software—tweets, messages, social media photos, professional designs, video games, etc. For example, just this morning I was looking at a presentation by one of Twitter's engineers about the service, and learned that sometimes the responses to tweets can arrive before the tweet itself. This is important to know if we are to analyze the content of Twitter communication between people, for example.
Today, all cultural forms which require a user to click even once on their device to access and/or participate run on software. We can't ignore technology any longer. In short: "software takes command."
Our long-time and wonderful Program Director, Zoë Salditch, is sadly leaving Rhizome for an exciting new opportunity (stay tuned!). Since we can't possibly replace her, we're advertising a brand new opportunity at Rhizome:
Community Manager & Program Administrator
(Full-time w/ benefits or part-time negotiable)
Deadline: Monday, July 29th at 9am
Send a cover letter and resume to: firstname.lastname@example.org
**Please note this position is only available to those already eligible to work in the US
Rhizome seeks a highly capable, communicative and organized internet native to care for and cultivate our community — through our website, social media, IRL events, cultural infrastructure, and new forms of participation that have yet to be imagined. This individual will also play an important role in supporting and enabling, through strong administration, our best work as a leader in contemporary art and technology.
About us: Rhizome is a non-profit organization based within the iconic New Museum building in SoHo, NYC. Our programs, many of which happen on the internet, support contemporary art engaged with technology, as well as critical approaches to the broader aesthetic, social and political implications of new tools and media. A dynamic organization, Rhizome has a strong profile and is seen as leader in its field.
About the role: This early-career position is dual-focused: to increase participation in Rhizome including site visitorship, memberships, mailing lists, social media and community events; and to support Rhizome’s work more broadly via proactive and thorough administration.
Additionally, like all Rhizome staff, the Community Manager & Program Administrator will be expected to feed into Rhizome’s overall institutional knowledge of internet culture, technology and contemporary art. In particular, this role should act as a ‘first line’ in monitoring emerging practices and new directions among Rhizome’s communities, and feeding them back into the organization and its programs through proactive knowledge-sharing.
Rhizome staff regularly emerge as experts in their field. The position offers great opportunity for career growth in a collaborative and passionate environment.
For a more detailed breakdown of responsibilities and requirements, download a full job description here.
Part of an ongoing series of interviews with artists who have developed a significant body of work but may not (yet) be well known to our readers. Nick Briz is an artist/educator/organizer living in Chicago, and co-founder of the conference and festival GLI.TC/H. This interview took place via Google Drive.
Nick Briz, The Glitch Codec Tutorial (2010-2011). Screenshot from YouTube video.
Daniel Rourke: You are involved in an "improvisational realtime/performance media art event" at the moment called "No Media," where participants are explicitly discouraged from preparing before they take part, or from creating documentation of any kind. I was lucky enough to see the first iteration of No-Media at GLI.TC/H 2112. I think my favourite performance involved a collaboration between Evan Kühl (of Vaudeo Signal), Curt Cloninger and yourself, scrambling to get something, anything, to work. The mania of this performance stood out because of its simplicity. At base I was watching a blindfolded anarchic poet stammering over ambient noise, but it really felt as if something important had happened. I wanted to start from this stripped-back position. Before we talk about media, why no media?
Nick Briz: NO-MEDIA was initially a performance experiment proposed by Jason Soliday for GLI.TC/H 2112 >> && Jason + Jeff + I have continued organizing 'em since. The premise is this: artists w/any kind of performative discipline (realtime A/V, jazz, dance, expanded cinema, noise, comedy, spoken word, etc) sign up. They get randomly paired w/two other performers at a random point in the evening (no one knows when or who until their names show up on the screen). They perform for 10mins. You’re not allowed to prepare any material (bring what tools/gear/props you want but there's NO time set aside for preparation) and there's NO documentation.
So far they've been a lot of fun, very messy + very inspiring. Re:my performance with Curt and Evan at the first NO-MEDIA, I'm not totally sure if this is the "something" you refer too... but for me there was a point a few mins into the performance where I realized what I was trying to do (some google chrome live coding) wasn't going to work... and I stopped... and I looked over at Evan and Curt... and totally changed my game plan... I don't want to go into detail re:what I started to project on a blindfolded Curt Cloninger... cause I don’t want to break the second rule of NO-MEDIA (no documentation ;)
DR: Your recent video essay, an open letter to Apple Computers, garnered a lot of support from glitch art / (new) media art communities. Can you talk about the politics of this work, and how it relates to glitch art methodologies?
Nick Briz, Apple Computers (2013). Single-channel video with sound.
NB: My personal relationship w/Apple is as complicated as it is b/c of glitch >> intentionally invoking glitches is usually a kind of misuse... and when you misuse Apple technology the (often invisible) politix embedded in their systems become very clear + am forced to reconcile 'em. The video is about that impossible reconciliation between my tech dependencies && my politix. I made the video for a screening organized by jonCates of remixes of work from the Phil Morton Memorial Archive + is a [re]mix/make of his 1976 video tape General Motors, where Phil, an artist and professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago at the time, addresses similar issues re:his + his community's relationship to && dependence on technology && tech-industries. As a professor at the same school + artist w/in the same community (nearly 40yrs later) dealing w/very similar problems w/similar industries... it seemed an appropriate issue to tackle && appropriate format to tackle it in.
Extract from Phil Morton, General Motors (1976). Single-channel video with sound.
DR: Many of your projects tap into the “democratizing” potential of digital art, from your work to crack open codecs, through to your recent New Media One-Liner on The New Aesthetic, where you programmed and openly distributed a heap of scripts and libraries for anyone and everyone to mess around with.
Nick Briz, theNewAesthetic.Js (2012). Screenshot from online tutorial.
DR: Now that "the glitch" has broken through into mainstream culture as a technical, aesthetic trope, does the glitch still have this political potential? Or is it merely a visual style?
NB: As far as glitch's political/social potential specifically, sometimes folks have a hard time understanding the obvious political ramifications b/c they conflate glitch (as a concept, a moment, a break) with the aesthetic its more commonly associated with; it's becoming more important to separate these two things: glitch art && glitch aesthetics (or better: the aesthetics of digital artifacts). There's obviously a venn-diagram overlap going on here, but not everything that loox "glitchy" is actually a "glitch" (or break in a system). For example, a datamoshing filter in a title sequence of a hollywood film might render the text with digital artifacts, but nothing's actually "glitching" (technically or conceptually). Likewise, not all glitch art loox 'glitchy.'
A great example is Glitchr, the online [ facebook, tumblr&& twitter ] handle of artist + social media Interventionist, Laimonas Zakas. Glitchr has made it his mission to find + exploit bugs + holes w/in social media systems. His work is often formally "glitchy" but not in the compression artifact sense, but in the "zalgo" (overlapping/spilling unicode characters) sense. Though, my favorite glitchr posts aren't formally "glitchy" at all. A couple of times he's managed to post animated images on a facebook post && folks go crazy; a barrage of comments quickly follow below along the lines of "OMG how did you do that? show me show me show me" ...and shortly after facebook will "fix" the bug/work. This leaves a frozen image the comments below now functioning as testimonials, and in that moment these [often] invisible politix embedded w/in the system are brought to the fore.
Glitchr (aka Laimonas Zakas), Twitter account (ongoing). Screenshot.
This is the kind of perspective/approach many of us involved in the GLI.TC/H are interested in. While most of us are also interested in the aesthetics of artifacts, this is different from (though it overlaps w/) our interest in the glitch as a break, a tactic, a slippage, an intervention—this is where it can become political.
DR: I can read your work as a network of attempts to intervene in the course of things (for better or worse; with aesthetic, technical and/or social results). But the role of human intent in that disruption is trickier to determine. You motivate subjects to empower themselves through instigated complexities or stumbled upon accidents”  that are by definition beyond their control. How do you deal with this contradiction? Is there a "glitch politics"? And if so, is it more about human intervention or the intervention of the glitches themselves?
NB: [ the perceived contradiction ]: can encouraging a digital practice like glitch art which compromises control still grant folks digital agency? Absolutely (we're only compromising partial control afterall). Databending101 (a la stAllio!) for example: pick the pic you wanna hack (choice) + where && by which means (choice), then see what happens (chance); while the details w/in the composition of artifacts are usually beyond our control, it's in peaking under the hood + the realizations/perspective that comes w/it that as practitioners/users/netizens we gain agency... not in the production of objects/artifacts.
I like this "network of attempts to intervene," I think definitely the majority of my better projects are nodes in an "intervention network" >> I'm thinking my artwarez, tutorialz, installations (virtual+physical), courses&& organizational efforts>> worx/efforts which require participation. Personally, I'm less interested in aesthetic functionalism—in producing an object/artifact which is itself an end meant to be "experienced" or contemplated for its own sake. I'm interested in adding nodes to a larger network >> participating in specific conversations [ internet culture, digital rights, intellectual property, media && digital literacy, human>computer interface/relationships, etc ]; I do this by contributing projects that are often literally meant to be "used," usually as a way to introduce/enable others to a convo + share my point/poke on/in/at a convo. Again, this is why I'm so interested in tutorials as a form, it can be a utility and an essay simultaneously.
in re:to "glitch politi[x]" + human/glitch: I think glitches are human artifacts more so than digital ones. Computers don't make mistakes, People do; programmers leave memory leaks, users input bad data... the computer will "bug" out in the same predictable way given the same bad data, we only call that moment a "glitch" when it catches us off guard. That moment can then become political when we leverage it as a tactic for political use: to call out the influence of predominantly invisible systems.
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How long have you been working creatively with technology? How did you start? +
Describe your experience with the tools you use. How did you start using them? +
Where did you go to school? What did you study?
I’m lucky to have a mom who as early as I was born (I was 0yrs she was 21yrs) gave me a sketch pad + pencils but also sat me down in front of her computer, which she built (she was an amatuer painter getting her BA in computer science). My mom taught me how to use Office95 when it came out (I was 9yrs) and I started making "games" with PowerPoint's presentation mode. In middle-school/high-school I got way more into traditional media (illustration, photography and video) + went to film school (at the University of Central Florida) convinced I wanted to be a filmmaker. Even though I had been working commercially in wwweb dev since high school (with my cousin Paul Briz who taught me HTML in NotePad! O__O), it wasn't till later in college that I realized... "oh shit! this is what I should be making wurk with && about" and quickly abandoned all the romantic-notions/fetishes I had for analog materials (like film). In college I found my way to Rhizome&& UbuWeb + came across rad wurk folks were making in Chicago &&thus decided that's where I needed to be >> applied to SAIC for grad-school >> moved to Chi + am wurking/living here now.
What traditional media do you use, if any? Do you think your work with traditional media relates to your work with technology?
I call myself a 'new-media artist' because I use predominantly digital technologies to make wurk about digital culture. But I guess I could just as well call myself a conceptual +/or political +/or contemporary artist. I use the media which most appro[pirate]ly gets the job done... it's 2013, so these tend to be wwweb/digital media.
Are you involved in other creative or social activities (i.e. music, writing, activism, community organizing)?
yea definitely, I usually refer to myself as an artist/educator/organizer, the lines between these are blurry (ex: I'm really interested in the 'web video tutorial' as a kinda essay-video form + makewurk in this form, but thesevideos I make are also simultaneously/literally tutorialz + I also simultaneously teach the same material atactualinstitutions). I mentioned before I make wurk with but also about digital culture + a major focus the last few years for me has been digital rights && digital literacy >> I make wurk about this + I teach courses on these subjects + I organize lots of events (shows/festivals/conferences) around these themes ...these are blurry distinctions.
Who are your key artistic influences?
...should I list 'em? I've stolen ideas from a lot of folks >> some of them are dead: Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Stan Brakhage, some of them are alive + I follow 'em online: Joshua Davis, Cory Doctorow, jodi, Evan Roth, Squarepusher, Elisa Kreisinger, Cornelius, Mary Flanagan, Olia Lialina, Alexei Shulgin + many of them are my friends/collaborators/students: jonCates, jon.satrom, Rosa Menkman, Evan Meaney... actually imma stop there and let that list feed into the next question...
Have you collaborated with anyone in the art community on a project? With whom, and on what?
Mos definitely yes!!! + my most valuable xperiences stem from these collaborations + revolve around community + this is why I moved to Chicago: to partake in these communities. For me these collaborations usually take the form of project/event-organizational ventures, the largest of which is probably the GLI.TC/H festival/conference/gathering, which I've been co-organizing (with lots of people, namely jon.satrom +Rosa Menkman) for over 3yrs now. I mentioned before the lines between artist/educator/organizer are pretty blurry >> what I mean by this is nuanced [save detailz] this is a mode of operating familiar to lots of Chicago [dirty] new-media folks which I've adopted + learned predominantly from wurking with jonCates (whose practice is much more nuanced/complex than I can get into + whose had an undeniable && guileful influence on me + many others here in Chi). I also wurk a lot w/jon.satrom [undoubtedly one of my biggest influences + one of the most brilliant artists on the planet] + currently working w/other local artists/educators/organizers like Christy LeMaster (on splitbeam) +Jason Soliday&& Jeff Kolar (on NO-MEDIA) +Joseph (yyolk) Chiocchi(on 0p3nr3p0.net) + am constantly inspired by + partaking in new-media adventures w/other presently chicago-based folks: Aaron Zarzutzki, Adam Trowbridge, Alex Halbert, Alex Inglizian, Alfredo Salazar-Caro, Andrew Rosinski, Ben Baker-Smith, Ben Syverson, Beth Capper, Bryan Peterson, Dave Musgrave, Ei Jane Janet Lin, Emily Kuehn, Entro MC, Eric Fleischauer, Evan Kühl, Grayson Bagwell, Harvey Moon, Jake Elliott, James Connolly, Jessica Westbrook, Josh Billions, Kevin Carey, Lisa Slodki, Lori Felker, Mark Beasley, Monica Panzarino, Nick Kegeyan, Patrick Lichty, Paul Hertz, Ryan T Dunn, Sam Goldstein, Shawne Holloway, Tamas Kemenczy, Theodore Darst, William Robertson...
...ok, imma stop there >> I realize this may read as an obnoxiously long list, but these are all folks w/out whom my wurk/reality would be very different, these are the folks I chat w/on a regular basis +/or collaborate w/ +/or participate w/ +/or am inspired by. I like to think the wurk I do is about larger digital issues (digital rights, digital literacy, networked culture, intellectual property, etc) accessible/applicable to a global village/community well beyond my local one... but these are folks I regularly steal all my ideas from... and happen to be local.
What do you do for a living or what occupations have you held previously? Do you think this work relates to your art practice in a significant way?
yea I think this is always a great question, my students always want to know how new-media artists (at least in the States) make their monie$ >> for me it's pretty modular: I teach new-media && digital art/literacy courses at a couple institutions here (the Marwen Foundation&& the School of the Art Institute of Chicago) + I develop miscellaneous digital projects (apps, wwweb, installations) for different clients w/ Branger_Briz(my cousin's agency, the same one who taught me HTML in high-school). I'd say it definitely relates to my practice... or rather that it is my practice in that I'd probably be doing something else entirely if I wasn't a 'new-media artist/educator/organizer' ...again, these are blurry distinctions.
[imma combine these]:
Do you actively study art history? +
Do you read art criticism, philosophy, or critical theory? If so, which authors inspire you?
yes && yes. I'm xtreamly interested in the parallel/perpendicular + complementing/contradicting + fringe && mainstream narratives that make up the histories of the conversations I'm invested in: media art histories, computer science histories, digital folk histories, Chicago histories, activist histories, piracy histories, etc. I read lots of criticism/philosophy/theory... I'm inspired by lots of folks: lots of contemporary/mainstream digital culture folks (Lessig, Shirky, Jenkins, Benkler, Stallman) + netstream new media art folks (Lialina, Galloway, the "software studies" crowd) + academix/bloggers/podcasters I follow closely (Katie Salen, Larisa Mann, Yoani Sánchez, Anita Sarkeesian) + the writings of many of my collaborators like Rosa Menkman&& jonCates. And then of course the theoretical giants that influence most of us, in particular ideas like Martin Heidegger's notion of 'enframing', that rather than looking at technologies simply as tools, we're better served by considering how they are symptomatic of our particular world view. This has been key to my understanding of technologies as indicative of prevailing ideologies >> McLuhan's perspectives too, specifically the medium-is-the-message angle, rather than getting lost in the content the media carries (and similarly the utility a technology provides) we should consider how the technology itself changes (often completely turns on its head) our relationship to each other and the world.
Are there any issues around the production of, or the display/exhibition of new media art that you are concerned about?
christ... that's a can'o'worms. I've got lots of vibez here, but I'll keep it short... one thing I think a lot about (for ex) is new-media art archives. I'm a fan of bittorrent as a technology: it's distributed/redundant && (especially for small institutions/projects) xtreamly efficient. Why don't we have more new-media art archives leveraging this technology? Where can I get the ArtBase torrent? There's precedence for it (thinking Jason Scott&& the Archive Team's GeoCities torrent) but it’s also been stigmatized + somehow branded as anti-artist-interest. Similarly, for as much as the new-media art wurldz likes to talk about "Open Source" conceptually, we've got a lot to learn (especially structurally) from that community. Why aren't more new-media art archives versioned like open-source projects? this would solve all kinds of exhibition headaches that arise when attempting to display new-media pieces that are 3+ yrs old (and thus require 'antiquated' technology)... again, this is a much larger convo, I’m being a little flippant... but I'm happy to have nuanced convos w/interested parties at more length elsewhere :)
cool! thnx for the chat Daniel ^__^
The "New Sculpt" series by LaTurbo Avedon opens Saturday at Transfer Gallery
Selected events, exhibitions and deadlines this week, culled from Rhizome Announce.
Wednesday, July 17: XFR STN opens here at the New Museum, offering media capture and migration services for artists with work stored in obsolete audiovisual and digital formats.
Thursday, July 18: Steve Turner Contemporary presents Art Baja Tijuana, the gallery's second pop-up exhibition featuring the work of Tyler Adams, Aaron Aujla, Petra Cortright, Katherine Davis, PANCA, Pablo Rasgado, Timur, and Fabiola Torres-Alzaga.
Sunday, July 21: Brooklyn international Performance Art Festival presents Hard Watching, an afternoon of performances that employ pop culture artifacts to critique and expxlore their impact on love, vulnerability, and masculinity.
Deadlines - Artists
Monday, July 15 (today!): Now What #2, presented by Microscope Gallery, calls for recent film, video, new media, and performance works.
Friday, July 18: Deadline for submissions of video work focused on the theme of space, waiting, and the moment in front of you for video exhibition The Present Tense of Space.
Sunday, July 21: Inlight Richmond, a project of 1708 Gallery, seeks light-based artworks for inclusion in a gallery exhibition.
Deadlines - Writers
Monday, July 22: Psychiana Magazine solicits contributions (both visual and written) for their forthcoming issue on the theme of humiliation.
Monday, July 22: The IEEE VIS 2013 Arts program seeks papers and artworks confronting the reciprocal relationship between art and visualization research.
Today marks the opening of XFR STN, an exhibition collaboration between Rhizome and the New Museum that takes the form of a publicly-accessible media conservation center. Artists are invited to transfer materials from a variety of media formats for conservation; appointments may be requested online.
As the New Museum website explains, the exhibition "initially arose from the need to preserve the Monday/Wednesday/Friday Video Club distribution project. MWF was a co-op 'store' of the artists' group Colab (Collaborative Projects, Inc.), directed by Alan Moore and Michael Carter from 1986–2000, which showed and sold artists' and independent films and videos on VHS at consumer prices." Moore proposed XFR STN as a project that would deal not only with the MWF archives, but with the wider problem of the obsolete media forms found in artists' archives. Thus, as exhibition curator Johanna Burton writes, he conceived of XFR STN as "an artistic project as well as a public service."
In addition to digitizing a portion of MWF Video Club’s collection (currently housed in a storage unit in Staten Island), the XFR STN will be used to preserve various materials from the New Museum’s own rich archive (including video formats such as U-matic and VHS tapes), as well as any artist-originated moving image or born-digital materials whose formats have become obsolete. The exhibition/lab will operate publicly, and material that is transferred will be exhibited informally. Materials transferred during the project—all videotapes, and born-digital materials at the artist's discretion—will be made available online through archive.org, an internet library whose mission is "free and open access to the entire world's knowledge."
Artists: request your appointment today.
XFR STN runs through September 18, 2013 at the New Museum, 235 Bowery New York. It is a project by Alan W. Moore with Taylor Moore, Alexis Bhagat, and the artists of Collaborative Projects, supported by the Solo Foundation. It is organized by Johanna Burton, Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Engagement, with Ben Fino-Radin, Digital Conservator, Rhizome; Tara Hart, Digital Archivist, New Museum; and Jen Song, Associate Director of Education, New Museum.
Chris Poole (aka moot) is many things. He is the founder of the notorious 4chan (2003—), the bulletin board that gave rise to some of the most memorable memes of past decade, and Canv.as (2010—), a website that encourages sharing and remixing media. His most recent project, DrawQuest, is an iPad app that prompts users with a new drawing challenge every day. Its latest version was launched in the iTunes store last week.
Poole embodies and understands the internet and online community in the way only a millennial who had a computer in his bedroom with no parental supervision can. He started 4chan when he was 15, and for the community that emerged around it, he belongs in the pantheon of internet gods. Their adoration went so far that in 2009, 4chan users flooded the Time 100 poll to award Poole as The World's Most Influential Person. They describe him in the satirical Internet culture wiki Encyclopedia Dramatica as "supreme overlord of the Internet." He still devotes a considerable amount of time and money to 4chan, despite the fact that he can expect nothing in return. But although he stays involved in the community he created as an adolescent, Poole has grown up. Now, he’s an entrepreneur attempting to solve the puzzle of how to cultivate and – hopefully – monetize a creative online community.
I met with Poole for bubble tea in the East Village on a hot Tuesday afternoon. After showing me the new updates in the latest version of DrawQuest, we talked about his views on art, online communities, and growing up internet.
ZS: Why did you decide to create DrawQuest as an iPad app?
CP: Part of the reason [the app] exists is because we witnessed these problems ... where people felt really uncomfortable contributing to Canv.as because they weren’t capable or at the level that they felt they needed to be, in terms of their skill as an artist or their skill as a funny person…. And that’s really first and foremost what DrawQuest was designed to address. People don't think of themselves as creative, they don't think of themselves as artists, when in fact they probably are capable and they are probably much better at it than they thought they were. So it’s like coaxing people into that by using iPad’s 10 inches of touchscreen, and finger-painting is more intuitive than mouse and keyboard ... I like having everyone be on iPad, it levels the playing field ... Theres always that spectrum of skill but at the end of the day people can use this a lot more easily and intuitively.
I think we also noticed that there are lots of really excellent drawing apps on iPad, but there didn't seem to be any drawing apps at that intersection of a tool and a community. They are all offered in the productivity category and that’s really what they were they were – productivity tools – and we really wanted to offer a community... I think having everybody on a device like iPad is really important to that.
ZS: So do you use DrawQuest every day?
CP: I don't draw every day. I guess I failed my own test. I think that’s one of the weird things with working on a product – you’re a big fan of it but you don't necessarily use it the way it’s meant to be used. I probably spent more time – like I'm really anal – Q.A.ing [Ed.—Quality Assurance] just because some things... I'll immediately notice and it will bug the shit out of me. So it’s like I can create a laundry list of problems really quickly... I feel like when you're the maker of a thing it’s like you lose some of the ability to enjoy it. I get gratification not so much from using the app, although I do, but more from seeing other people use the app. You feel like you did something right. And also when you do use the app, because it’s your thing and you can effect change, you just get like, “Oh, this is wrong, this is wrong, change that, add this...”
It’s the same with 4chan. I was just thinking about this last night; the way I use 4chan now is like I'm a weird user... like I went and read some threads last night and I very rarely read the threads. I kind of skip between board and board looking for trash to pick up basically. Maybe it's like you're a gardener or something, it's like if it’s not your garden and not your lawn then you're kind of like, alright, it’s pretty. But if it’s yours, all you're doing is looking for the weeds. You're not taking it in, appreciating it for what is is, like "This is a pretty garden. I like the smell of the garden. It's very nice to sit in." You're just like, "Motherfucking weeds, there’s not enough nitrogen in my soil. I need a fucking fence." You're only concerned with the welfare of the garden.
I think its very similar with DrawQuest and my experience with 4chan. It's like the content is still appealing but I spend more time looking for things that are broken and trying to fix them. It's like I'm walking around with a toolbox all the time. And so it's like you're always in work mode, because unlike a regular user, you can actually change those things and and they can't.
Screenshot of DrawQuest
ZS: Do you use the star ratings in the iTunes store as a metric of success?
CP: Not necessarily. I mean it’s important in terms of exposure and whatnot... We retain something like 40% of all of our users who signed up four months ago. Now, going on five months, that number is crazy, way above market. [Of the] people that download the app and register for it, an overwhelming number... have stuck with the app basically since its inception. Which I think speaks to how much people really love the app and feel like we did a good job and also like the mechanic of the daily challenge. It is reinserting itself into your daily life, you know, every day it's different... I think our average user draws nine quests, and a bunch of our users have drawn every quest, or a quest multiple times ... I think the average user drawing about five or 10 quests is pretty impressive ... the level that you need to be engaged to draw something 10 times is pretty high.
ZS: So engagement is one way to measure success, but is profitability another?
CP: Definitely not profitable. That's something we're definitely going to address within the next build... The only way to spend the coins you earn in the app, right now, is that you can buy colors. But there's only 350 coins worth of liquidity in the app. You've got seven colors you can purchase, people purchase them all and then they are just sitting on the coins because they have nothing to do with them. So we've gotten a lot of emails from people saying, "You need to add more colors, can you have more ways for me to spend my coins?" It's kind of funny, but people really enjoy earning their stars and earning their way to unlocking features or paying their way to unlock features, and then they're kind of frustrated that, like, "I spent a week or I spent a dollar and now I have nothing left to buy."
ZS: Right. They won the game!
CP: Basically. I think we learned a lot about how much of a challenge it is to really build a happy economy, and that’s something we probably could have done better, but none of us had any experience with game development. Now that we know that, we're looking actively for more ways for users to spend more of their coins within the app. So that's something that we will be changing in the future.
ZS: What are your #feels about art? Do you like art?
CP: I like art. I don’t really understand art. I’m not qualified I think… I like kind of what technology does to art, technologically enabled art. It makes art more accessible to people like me who don't really know much or really care much… You know, I'd rather go to the MoMA than the Met. I am more interested in what people are doing with technology or mixed media. I’m a lot more into contemporary than classic art. I think it's really cool that technology has enabled art to be more relevant to people like me, but also enables more types of people to make art. If you wanted to be a painter 200 years ago, you know you could pick it up on your own but it was something that people trained in. This idea that you learned about art history and learned about technique and you had a mentor and you were an apprentice. There was just this whole rigamarole that excluded people, but now it's like anyone with an iPad can be an artist. Maybe it’s more egalitarian in some sense. It's like more types of people are making art in a form that's more interesting to me.
ZS: So you’re a member of F.A.T. Lab –
CP: The least productive member but yes. Actually no, Jonah [Peretti] might hold that title.
ZS: Your title is Virtual Research Fellow?
CP: You just make them up. Anybody can pick any title.
ZS: So does that mean anybody can join F.A.T. Lab?
CP: No, not necessarily. The truth is it’s just a mailing list with a blog. I don’t know that anyone would disagree with me. I put myself on that page and picked my own title. I just copied Jamie’s profile and some other people have different little icons and titles. I think John [Johnson] is like Benefactor or something [Ed.—Johnson's title is "adviser"]. I think one person picked that [Virtual Research Assistant] and everybody just said "Oh I guess I’m one of those."
ZS: What about F.A.T. Lab brings you in? Why do you want to be associated as a member of F.A.T.?
CP: I think the mission is pretty interesting. I don’t know if you’ve seen the Venn diagram, but there’s an intersection where open source meets the art world. The spirit of like "none of this is serious" is really interesting. Everything is done with kind of a smirk. It doesn't take itself too seriously. It's done with a sense of humor. If you want to zoom out and be abstract about it, you could probably find various intelligent things to say about the projects but I think just a lot of them you could just as easily say "that’s just fuckin' funny" or "that's just fuckin' stupid." I think that's the kind of thing that makes it more palatable to somebody like me. F.A.T Gold was really interesting. It was really interesting that was actually possible. It was never a thing. It wasn't like "Oh 5 years from now we're going to have a gallery show."
I was talking to [a friend who works in a commercial art gallery] and her father and I explained this [open source] concept. They just fundamentally didn’t understand open source. To them art is all about copyright and protecting their work and showing it and selling pieces. This idea that you would make stuff and give it away for free or teach others how to do it and encourage them... she was like "Why would anybody do that? How can you make a living?" She’s probably used to artists being like "We have to protect our art because all those kids are stealing it on the internet and I need a 10 thousand dollar speaking fee." A number of them [F.A.T.] are professional artists. Some hold their day jobs but others are gainfully employed as artists. I think to show that you can do that with that sort of open nature and sharing about how you do your work and not copyrighting everything is pretty interesting.
ZS: When did you first start using the internet? How old were you?
CP: Probably 8 or 9. It was at home. I think it was my stepfather’s Mac was the first computer and we had AOL dialup. In fourth grade, I got a Dell PC in my bedroom with AOL. I benefited from living in apartments my entire life because there wasn’t like common room or a family room. My mother had no interest in computers. So when we got a computer it was defaulted into my room. I knew a lot of friends who had a computer in shared spaces or a family computer, and their parents monitored what they were doing, but I was 10 or 11 and I had a computer in my bedroom with internet. I would spend all of my waking hours on the computer.
ZS: What were you doing for hours? What was your first online community?
CP: I was always in ICQ or AOL chat rooms, and Buddy List back before it was AIM. After that, once I didn’t use AOL anymore and we had cable internet it was probably an IRC channel, and I used to play like Half-Life and Counter-Strike and stuff like that. When I was around 11 or 12 there was one of those servers that was UK based that had an IRC channel and so I used to hang out in that IRC channel. I never met anybody from it. I used to read hardware review sites all the time, I was a member of those forums and go to LAN parties. That was like the offline meets online sort of thing. Yeah, so probably IRC chat rooms around gaming and forums around computer hardware and software.
ZS: We all know the origin story of 4chan: you discovered the Japanese online bulletin board 2channel and translated it for English, and it caught fire. How did you get people on board to help grow this community?
CP: Well, it never caught fire. If you look at my traffic from February 2003 onwards, in those 5 years there hasn’t been any real inflection. Its been more slow and steady wins the race. In the early days I found people like Simon through a different IRC channel. I’m still friends with a number of the people who were the first volunteers and helpers, like Alex, one of the guys who’s been helping out for 9 years. Jon, this other guy, is still a good friend – he was actually the first person I met from the internet, at a Barnes and Noble in the city. Everything was organic at no point did we ever really promote it. It was really just word of mouth. Which is a little surprising for a site that if you link somebody to it by the time they click the link it’s gone. But then I think people get curious as to what was there and they go to the site and say, “oh what’s this?”
ZS: I have this theory that much of what we know as today’s "internet culture" kind of goes back to those kids from Something Awful and Fark, etc. I like to explain it as pre-YouTube. I feel like once YouTube happened a lot of things changed for how things went viral. I have such strong memories of Ebaum’s World and finding those GI Joe PSAs and that was life–changing, but that was before YouTube. Now I’m at a point when I’m on the internet I can’t imagine a world without YouTube and that scares me a little bit.
CP: Now I think you use Reddit, and these things become insufferable with "oh I saw this thing on the internet it was really funny!"... I used to browse Something Awful like 11 years ago, but I was definitely that kid, you know, Peanut Butter Jelly Time and NewGrounds and Flash games and Photoshop images. That was like the medium of exchange for humor, cutting-edge and current events. I was in the best position to see that stuff early... Now you don't really need a lookout tower to see things in the distance: "Oh, this is cool, I’m going to tell people about it." But now you don't really need that, because it all comes to you and your Twitter and your Facebook, it all just comes to your inbox. You don’t need this online/offline bridge in the form of a human being. I didn’t like being that guy, but it was just a byproduct of being super-obsessed with computers and the internet. I wasn't constantly seeking out things to show other people, but it was enjoyable to be riding that wave and be part of communities that were defining culture at the time. You felt like you were as far forward as you could be.
ZS: In your Reddit AMA a few years back, you said that "4chan doesn’t define me and I don’t define it." Do you still believe that?
CP: I said that, but that comes as a result of a conversation my father had with a journalist, Julian Dibbell from Technology Review. Julian followed me around for a few days and wrote this profile and had a lot of trouble reconciling me as an individual and the community and its output. He asked my father, "I spend time with your son and I see the site and it doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t see the link. It’s like fitting a square peg in a round hole. I don’t get it." My father responded, "Christopher is more interested in providing a platform and letting people do whatever they want. He doesn’t dictate the content that’s there, he just gives it a home. In that sense the content on the site is not necessarily representative of him as a person." So I think that’s where I coined that phrase. I don’t dictate what content is there, I’m just providing basic structure but really it’s in their hands. There is a mutual independence in it too.
ZS: From your teen years until today, you have been on 4chan every day, so you must have absorbed that somehow. Maybe it doesn’t define you, but it has to be a significant part of you and who you are as a person. It’s a untraditional education. Do you think because you have this 4chan spirit in you, it affects your life choices?
CP: No. It’s created opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise have had. For me ROFLCon 2008 [Ed.—the first edition of the biennial of internet memes] was a really important branching point in my life, and I realized that the thing I was working on was kind of significant and there were other people working on similar things, and that I wasn't alone. It was kind of a wakeup call in a way and made me realize I wasn’t as isolated as I would have thought. I’ve been intertiwned with this for 10 years and so I've definitely grown as a person differently than I otherwise would have but I wasn’t so young that it was so influential that it changed my destiny or who I was as a person. I think that had already settled enough. I knew how to sort of isolate it from myself. For a long time, I was anonymous: my parents, my friends, nobody knew who I was until 2008. I sort of lived two separate lives, my real life – friends, family, school – and my internet digital persona and life. I think I was old enough to separate the two. It was influential but it didn’t make me veer off course.
ZS: It seems that your path grew with the trajectory of the internet. When we first started using the internet, we were in elementary school; the internet was a distinctly different world, but it eventually blended together. Now technology is everywhere; the internet is not in a separate space, and now you’re like this embodiment of both your real self and your online self – especially since you came out as the creator of 4chan, because for so long it was a mystery.
CP: Actually that’s a really good way of putting it.
ZS: You’re like an embodiment of the internet.
CP: That’s a good way of thinking about it. There was a physical separation of spaces and now there is none. There are more internets than people at this table [Points to the pile of wifi-enabled devices]. Before, a family of five was lucky to have one computer with internet. The most technologically capable thing was in your garage it was your car or your TV. Or maybe your wristwatch. Calculator wristwatches were quite the shit back then… they’re still the shit now but for different reasons... There used to be an air gap between the two.
ZS: Are you afraid that with the recent controversies about leaking classified information online that people will be more hesitant to use 4chan?
CP: No... The anonymity it offers is meant to enable to share things you might not in your day-to-day life. It’s not to post about how you want to assassinate somebody or blow up a school... It’s not to remove repercussions from your actions. Anonymity is not there for you to break the law... I think 4chan acts as a space where the kind of speech it enables is really valuable, and we need more sites like that.
ZS: What always fascinates me about the nature of 4chan is that it's intended to forget. [Ed.—Content that expires from 4chan's bulletin board is removed from the system.] It seems that so much of technology and the internet is about archiving. If I’m not afforded space and opportunity to fuck up and say something stupid, it could lead to serious repercussions not only in a legal sense but in a mental health sense. There is a condition where people are incapable of forgetting. They are so burdened by all of their memories that they often commit suicide by the time they reach their 20’s because they cannot handle this lifelong log that they relive on a regular basis. So with 4chan you have this space where you can say something really dumb, and if nobody replies to it, it's like it never happened.
CP: Design-wise that’s the goal of the site but there are a number of third-party, external archivers that more or less scrape the site and save a record of everything. I don’t like them. I mean, I’ve made it very clear publicly that I don’t like them. But at the end of the day...there’s really very little I can do about that. But more generally, it’s one of the very few sites on the internet that forgets...
At SXSW 2011, the keynote I gave, one of the points that I made was about [wanting] to enable students to take risks and make mistakes in public. This idea of failing in public is somehow really powerful; the point I made was whether you'd rather learn to ride a bicycle in an empty cul de sac or in a crowded stadium full of people. The ability to fail in public, and not be embarrassed about it is really important. [On 4chan], you could post 100 stupid threads that no one likes, and then you hit it big, and people are like, “Holy shit, this is great." That's one of the tenets of 4chan: you’re judged by the content of what you said, and not your history as a user.
[For] 10 or 15 years... the question at the top of people's mind was, "Why doesn’t my iPod hold all of my MP3’s?" It was all about, "I need a bigger iPod! I need a bigger hard drive!" When storage was still constrained, people wanted more and more and more and more of it. And now—I have like whatever, 6 years worth of photos on my phone. You won’t need to delete anything again for the rest of your life, and now that you can store all of your MP3s on your iPod or on the cloud, now that that's a solved problem, people have reversed and switched over to the question: "Why can't I get rid of things anymore?" ... You become the guy who commits suicide at 20, because he can't forget...
In solving a problem, technology has created an entirely new problem.
This interview was conducted in person on Tuesday July 2nd at TKettle in NYC.
This week, online art mavens Bubblebyte and artist Hannah Perry launched a "takeover" of the website of Create London, made in collaboration with 25 teenagers from South East London as well as a range of contemporary artists. The takeover will only be on view until 13 September.
Bubblebyte and Hannah Perry's takeover of the website of Create London.
As takeovers go, it was of the friendly variety. A row of colored, numbered buttons appears at the bottom of the site; clicking on each button brings up a song and a visual response by an artist. The visual responses appear as transparent overlays (sometimes still, sometimes animated) on top of website content. A rotating humidifier (perhaps an oblique reference to cloud computing?) is paired with ominous industrial audio by Paul Purgas. Menna Cominetti splashes a pair of blue tinted shades over the page, set to the ethereal tones of Paul Flannery. For the most part, these works have no explicit relationship with the site's content, but some strange juxtapositions emerge, such as when Andrew Norman Wilson’s images of Martha Stewart appear on top of the words "create jobs."
With this and the other takeovers they've orchestrated, Bubblebyte have taken a decidedly non-purist approach to displaying artwork online. In their takeovers, host website and the artwork are both visible at once, rubbing elbows. In a similar vein, Bubblebyte’s new front page consists of a moving image artwork that fills the browser window, with information and navigational elements overlaid. This approach to the display of online artwork may not always be comfortable for either the artist or the host organization. On the one hand, artists may not want the experience of viewing their work to be interrupted by other content. On the other hand, organizations may worry about artists critiquing or distracting from their message. (In fact, Create London chose not to include the artist-made overlays on their “About” or sponsor pages.)
But this discomfort is part of what makes projects such as the Create London takeover interesting. Rather than making a pristine, minimal container for the artworks they display, Bubblebyte’s approach allows a productive friction to be generated between the artwork and the context in which it exists. By expanding and refining the ways in which artworks can be included in existing websites, Bubblebyte's work has opened up (if not yet fully explored) the possibilities for site specific artistic practice online.
This Saturday, artist/educator/author Curt Cloninger will give a brief lecture on the banks of the French Broad River in Asheville, NC about psychogeography, the Situationist practice of dérive, and Henri Bergson's understanding of time, memory, and the mind. After Cloninger instructs participants in the finer points of subjectively drifting through time in order to reclaim it, participants will drift downriver in floating tubes. The last person to reach the destination (a bar) will be crowned the winner.
Without further ado, here is a roundup of this week's events and deadlines, culled as always from Rhizome Announce.
27 & 28 July: Join Sam Ashby, Jesse Darling, Fabienne Hess and Jon Rafman for a special two-day open studio exhibition at The White Building. An Afterparty will be held on the 28th at 8.30pm.
27 July, 10.30am: The Media Arts Project presents "Off the MAP - DRIFT unRACE."
26 July, 7.00pm: Opening of "TALES °F TOMORROW," which proposes futuristic alternatives to sexual reproduction, at team titanic.
24 July, 11.00am: Symposium on "Surveillance, Cybersecurity, and the Future of the Internet."
San Jose, CA
24 July, 2.00pm and 26 July, 6.00pm: "A series of innovative, creative and collaborative workshops combining art, community, design, technology, and science." ZERO1 Garage, 439 S. 1st Street.
San Francisco, CA
26 July, 7.00pm: Opening of "AN EXHIBITION WHICH COMES AND GOES AS IT PLEASES" at Et al Gallery.
23 July: "Art and Art History Department at The College of New Jersey seeks Adjunct Faculty to teach AAV-255/Web 1 for the fall 2013 semester."
29 July: "Rhizome seeks a highly capable, communicative and organized internet native to care for and cultivate our community."
26 July: "ArtUP! invites artists from Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey to submit their work for the exhibition 'Home/s' that will take place in Athens and will be curated by Daphne Dragona and Katerina Gkoutziouli...Home/s' will aim to explore the notion of 'home' in times of constant connectivity"
31 July: "VIDA 15.0, Art and Artificial Life International Awards...will be looking for artistic projects that offer innovative perspectives on life by using the latest technology and cutting-edge scientific knowledge."
Promotional image for David Wightman and Jacob Ciocci, The Realm Recognize Realm Tour.
Rhizome is pleased to announce the artists and collaboratives awarded grants through our annual Commissions Program. This year, nearly 250 proposals were submitted by artists from around the world. One project was selected by Rhizome's membership, through an open vote, and four more by jury. With a focus on NYC-based artists due to the generous support of the Jerome Foundation, plus a select few national and international projects, the awardees are:
We are also pleased to announce the winners of our first Rhizome | Tumblr Internet Art award, which placed a special focus on projects from emerging artists engaged with Tumblr:
The Rhizome Commissions program is supported, in part, by funds from Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and New York State Council on the Arts. Additional support is provided by generous individuals and Rhizome members.
Rhizome Commissions 2013-2014
ClumpTV is a trans-disciplinary art and talk show hosted by Colin Self that features performances by and interviews with artists, musicians, stylists, writers, and dancers. A new episode of ClumpTV will be released quarterly on the American Medium Network (AMN), at www.americanmedium.tv
In October of 2010, the moniker Clump was given to a Brooklyn drag show and dance party, queering the concept of gathering. More than two years later, it has developed into a thriving community that integrates diverse queer sub-genres and celebrates freedom and creativity outside the frameworks of class, gender, race, and sexuality. Created to expand upon foundations of queer and feminist video content like LTTR (print) and PILOT TV (video), ClumpTV (web) digs into the sediment of queer pasts and presents to instigate a new chapter in the cultivation and documentation of artistic community.
Using the crowd-sourced fundraising platform Kickstarter, Yung Jake will create an interactive rap video into which supporters are automatically inserted. The artist describes it as "a short story that shows an artist go from the bottom 2 da top."
The project will comprise an official Kickstarter project as well as an unofficial and simulated Kickstarter. The real Kickstarter will show Yung Jake at a low point: lonely, in his bare room, requesting money to create a high budget music video. The video will be very lo-fi, since he does not have the means to bring his aspirations to life. On the SIMULATED Kickstarter page, kickstarder.com, we will see these aspirations of fame and fortune gradually coming to fruition. This video will start at the same low-budget, lo-fi point, but will end in a fantasy world where Yung Jake has everything that he sought out to gain, "some ridiculous baller shit."
When donors give money to the project on Kickstarter, they will be given the opportunity to be automatically inserted into the piece. If they donate a smaller amount of money, their name will be inserted into the beginning (where Yung Jake hasn't made much money yet) of the Kickstarder video. As Yung Jake begins to "ball out harder," as he puts it, there will be further options for supporters to insert themselves into the video.
Aaron Meyers with Lauren McCarthy—God's Eyes
God's Eyes takes online voyeurism to new extremes by giving the one user at a time the power to peer into a panoply of other users' lives.
The project takes the form of a mobile app. One user at a time will be designated as God, while all others are God's Eyes. The God user will be shown a list of currently active Eyes offering live video streams from their mobile devices. If the list is underpopulated, God can summon their Eyes through a push notification that is broadcast to all other users of the app, beckoning them to offer up their streams before God. When the God user chooses an Eye, God's screen is filled with the live video stream of the Eye's experience. God is able to talk directly to the Eye, while the host Eye can only communicate through the audio-less video stream. When the Eye fails to sustain God's attention, God can choose another Eye to enter.
The experience for an Eye is quite different. After choosing a caption or name, the app begins streaming the Eye's video feed. As long as the feed is kept open, the Eye will steadily accumulate God Points, the in-app currency of God's Eyes. If and when God chooses to occupy the Eye's stream, the rate of God Point collection increases rapidly, giving the Eye a strong incentive to keep God's interest through whatever means they can imagine. God Points allow Eyes to unlock special features, and ultimately to claim the role of God.
Upon losing their power, the outgoing God enters a debriefing screen where they are given the opportunity to describe any aspect of their experience they choose. These anonymous debriefings are serialized on the God's Eyes website as "The God Log", a public-facing communiqué of private God-Eye interaction.
Part of the motivation to create God's Eyes was to imagine mobile experiences outside of the current paradigm that places all value on growing a large user base. The structure of God's Eyes has implicit limitations on the number of user-to-user interactions and thus the size to which the app can comfortably grow. By privileging one user over thousands of others, we seek to question the most basic assumptions of app design in order to explore and enable new kinds of device-driven social dynamics.
Haley Mellin - BOT: Automated Image Production
Data is the new coal.
– Kenneth Goldsmith
This project involves the creation of a bot to automate digital image production. Using an algorithmic code, the bot produces 72 dpi, born-digital images, watermarked with a time stamp. The application generates these jpegs from “trending” digital content. These authorless images exist ontologically between computer code and documentation. The resulting production is dispersed to a series of social sites (Tumblr, Facebook, Imgur, Twitter) and archived to a dedicated stream. The bot illustrates the pressure of the contemporary to adequately keep up with the ever-escalating demands of this emergent environment. Given the digital appetite for new visual information, it proposes satiation is now only attainable with the help of automated modes of production. The application, along with the jpegs it yields, illustrates the contemporary attention economy which calls its subject to continually put out content. Eventually one runs out of time to generate enough visual material at an increased pace and relies on automated modes of production to auto-respond to content, like algorithmic, high volume stock trading, or an IFTTT. The real-time application will be a combination of web-crawler, processor and automated sharing; the bot and the resulting production images are mutually dependent works and develop within the acoustics of the internet. The beta stages of this project will be tested by Rhizome members. This project references the Gibson-appropriated track "Pattern Recognition" on Sonic Youth’s 2004 album that opens with the lyric "I'm a cool hunter making you my way."
Lauren McCarthy—Social Turkers
What if we could receive real-time feedback on our social interactions? I developed a system like this for myself using Amazon Mechanical Turk to explore in the form of a performance. During a month of continuous dates with new people I met on OkCupid, I streamed the interaction to the web using an iPhone app. MTurk workers were paid to watch the stream, interpret what was happening, and offer feedback as to what I should do or say next. These directions were communicated to me via text message.
I now want to create a mobile application that will allow anyone to have this experience. The app will make it easy for anyone to stream their interactions to the web for MTurk viewing, and receive frequent directions aiding them in social situations. Rather than limiting it to dating, the app will allow users to specify a range of situations they might find themselves in (business meeting, argument, comforting a friend, party, etc), and describe the emotional tone or background of the situation, resulting in tailored feedback from the MTurk workers that is relevant and useful.
Payment of the MTurk workers will be handled internally by the app, and paid for with in-app purchases the user makes (estimated cost $1.50/hr of social help). We are also considering the possibility of streaming only audio rather than video too, in order to make using the app more seamless and inconspicuous. Directions will be sent discreetly to the user as push notifications which they can then incorporate into their interaction.
This piece talks explores potential futures through the creation of situations that are real in the present. I question the direction we are heading with the development of augmented vision systems and networked mobile applications. However, it is not meant to be purely critical -- embedded in the performance is a suggestion of a networked humanity that uses its collective wisdom to improve people’s ability to interact and form relationships. Most importantly, the piece is meant to question how we define our identities, and what freedoms might come from clinging to these ideas a little less tightly.
Rhizome | Tumblr Internet Art Grant
Masood Kamandy—Content Visualization System
Jogging’s fifteen member team is proposing a Content Visualization System (CVS) as a Tumblr-specific artwork and community building tool for the hundreds of international participants who have contributed to the project.
Jogging occupies a unique position among Tumblr’s many art producers, having created thousands of original posts for the past four years without reblogging a single image. Jogging hosts an inclusive submission process to which hundreds of Tumblr users have contributed while also maintaining an evolving formal-conceptual language specific to the project. Jogging prides itself on accessibility; reaching new demographics of Tumblr followers and presenting work that is able to be understood in multiple ways is an intentional strategy for a project that hopes every one of its followers can one day become a contributor as well.
Jogging’s proposed CVS is comprised of both a back end statistical analyzer and a publicly available front end information visualizer that will illustrate the relationships among different Jogging posts’ content, their authors, the time they were published, the audience they reached, and the comments they inspired. Available publicly as a page within Jogging’s Tumblr domain, CVS will be a real-time map of dialogue, progression, and influence exercised among Jogging’s myriad contributors and audience.
Out of a pile of big data, CVS provides a clear way to make sense of Jogging contributors’ prodigious output by shining light on the threads of artistic conversation that exist and providing a more stable foundation for responsive works in the future.
Dina Kelberman—I'm Google
I’m Google is an ongoing tumblr blog in which batches of images and videos culled from the internet are compiled into a long stream-of-consciousness. The batches move seamlessly from one subject to the next based on similarities in form, composition, color, and theme. This results visually in a colorful grid that slowly changes as the viewer scrolls through it. Images of houses being demolished transition into images of buildings on fire, to forest fires, to billowing smoke, to geysers, to bursting fire hydrants, to fire hoses, to spools of thread. The site is constantly updated week after week, batch by batch, sometimes in bursts, sometimes very slowly.
The blog came out of what the artist describes as a "natural tendency to spend long hours obsessing over Google Image searches, collecting photos I found beautiful and storing them by theme. Often the images that interest me are of industrial or municipal materials or everyday photo snapshots. I do not select images or videos that appear to be intentionally artistic. Happily, the process of researching various themes in this way has lead to unintentionally learning about topics I might never have otherwise, including structural drying, bale feeders, B2P, VAWTs, screw turbines, the cleveland pack, and powder coating. This ability to endlessly drift from one topic to the next is the inherently fascinating quality that makes the internet so amazing."
David Wightman and Jacob Ciocci—The Realm Recognize Realm Tour
Jacob Ciocci and David Wightman (Extreme Animals) will curate, produce, and participate in the first REALM RECOGNIZE REALM TOUR – an actual 1-week tour through the United States scheduled for August 2013, with five internet artists including: Molly Soda, @TOP8FRIENDS, Lil Internet, Labanna Babalon, and Ben Aqua.
Ciocci and Wightman describe their project as follows: "The idea behind the tour stems from our interest in extremely active internet identities--people who harness the power of The Net to create a powerful personal self-image/brand. We are not inviting people who use the Web just to promote their other activities (art, music, bands, or fashion) but instead we are inviting people who use the Web synonymously with their daily life in interesting ways – the Super Users."
"Rather than clubs, the “shows” will happen in unconventional venues and spaces – suburban high school kid’s basements, pool parties, parking lots. We are interested in trying to create a physical-world performance space that is closer to the experience of Tumblr than to the experience of the Club, that embraces rather than erases all of the awkwardness, banality, and domesticity of the Tumblr or web 2.0 cam-performance. No stages, no hyper-loud sound systems, no fancy light rigs. Instead these shows will be intimate, quiet, and raw in the best way possible (like the best cam-vids).”
Photograph of Drop City dome. Courtesy: 7th Art.
“This dome feels gooood!” So proclaimed the mellow, avuncular Clark Richert on a breezy early summer evening at the MoMA PS1 Dome in Rockaway Beach, Queens. Richert is one of the world’s experts on dome vibes: he was co-founder of the Drop City community in southeastern Colorado that constructed fanciful geodesic structures out of improvised materials in the mid-to-late 1960s. He and Richard Kallweit, another Drop City founder, were on site to discuss the eponymous film about the collective, which had its NYC premiere in Rockaway on June 21 (the PS1 dome opened in March and was dismantled in late June). Directed by Joan Grossman, the feature-length documentary probed the history and legacy of the seven-year experiment in communal living in which members, in pioneering proto-environmentalist fashion, lived on their neighbor’s castoffs while hunting for car tops and construction materials in dumps and scrapyards from which to build domes of various kinds around their communally-owned property.
The documentary charts Drop City’s origins in the Lawrence, Kansas friendship of Richert and Gene and Jo Ann Bernofsky, who began an Ab Ex-inspired form of splatter art they termed “droppings.” Even in its early moments, drop art had public dimensions—at times, they threw paint and other objects out the window of their loft to startle passersby. After pranking around Kansas, the group joined forces with Kallweit to establish the community outside of rural Trinidad, Colorado, which was pretty square at the time, but (as the local sheriff notes) is now the transgender surgery capital of the world.
The impetus to create Drop City derived in large part from a speech by Buckminster Fuller that members attended at the Conference on World Affairs in Boulder. In the film, Droppers recollect the galvanic nature of Fuller’s call for college students to remake the world in their interests, and they were struck by the potential of the geodesic dome as an easy-to-erect habitation. Combining these two elements, they decamped to the country and erected a eighteen-foot diameter dome out of donated and scavenged lumber and nails, and lived in the structure collectively as an artistic community exploring new relationships with work, family, and creativity.
Photographs of Drop City. Courtesy: 7th Art.
More domes followed, and new members joined in the coming years. Yet poverty and deprivation nipped at their heels, and they were never as totally committed to egalitarianism as they hoped. As the film points out, the division of labor in the community left the women to laundry, childrearing, and kitchen work; they also had to do the psychically dirty work of filing for welfare and dealing with the negativity food stamps got them in town. The way the Droppers saw it, collecting government services diverted pennies from the Vietnam War. (An interesting comparison can be made to fundamentalist Mormon communities in the same region that “bleed the beast” of the U.S. government by drawing welfare for “single” moms—in reality the ancillary wives of polygamist relationships. The shared anti-governmental hostility of these micro-cultures aside, unlike the libertarian fundamentalists, Droppers were dedicated to challenging social hierarchies and creating an alternative democratic community to the United States, in spite of their somewhat unquestioning acceptance of traditional gender roles.)
In focusing on Drop City’s origins on an urban college campus in the thick of anti-Vietnam war protests, the film probes what was perhaps one of the greatest pressures facing 1960s utopian communities: that young boomers’ disgust with the excesses of the U.S. consumption-based economy, which they felt masked America’s virulently anti-communist and jingoistic foreign policy, spawned idealistic, microcosmic communities in which a great deal of stress was put on members to function as exemplars of a new society detached from of violence, greed, and discrimination. Yet in spite of the back-to-the-land, drop-out impulses that led to the founding of not only Drop City but the entire network of dome communes in the west and southwest (including Red Rockers, Libre, Hog Farm, and others), such experiments were subject to a paradox of geographical isolation and media over-exposure, as they saw themselves commended in counter-cultural journals and condescended to in mass-media publications.
The film’s interviews don’t stray far from the talking head format, but charming hand drawn animations illustrate the major events the film describes. The radicality of the Droppers’ quest to leave all number of traditions behind—the necessity to perform uninspiring labor in a capitalistic society, the cultural imperative to consume more, and the fixation with private property, among many—makes the film a jolting report from a region of imagination seldom explored in practice.
The MoMA PS1 VW Dome 2 at Rockaway Beach, NY, exterior and aerial views. Photographs: Charles Roussel.
Projecting the story of an historic dome community in the Rockaway dome may just be such an exploration. In recent years, a sense of the dome as exemplar of a new art of utopian public sculpture has taken root, and many contemporary artists make use of domes as elements or even defining characteristics of their practices. Just to give a few recent examples: Raumlabor Berlin, Minsuk Cho/Mass Studies, Fritz Haeg, and Plastique Fantastique, and N55, and Mary Mattingly in the Waterpod, among others, use the dome as an architecture of gathering places. The geodesic dome was prevalent too in Occupy Wall Street encampments. And the geodesic dome continues to be a popular, one could say the predictable, choice for temporary outdoor exhibitions. The past several years have seen a boom in dome construction in specifically art display contexts; for example, the use of a geodesic dome as a hub in the 8th Mercosul Biennial in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2011; a dome in Hyde Park, London at the Serpentine in 2012; as well as the large-scale “performance dome” sponsored by Volkswagen in MOMA-PS1’s garden and of course the one in Rockaway. It seems that every art institution’s getting in on it these days.
Why can’t you go far without hitting a geodesic dome in art contexts? Many use domes as sculptural structures, as temporary interventions in urban sites, as kiosk production, and as shelter/information display hybrids. Domes continue to be important to artists as a form of improvised construction using cheap or recycled materials, and in rethinking domes as multifarious structures, these urban kiosks can be seen as part of an argument against eroding the public functions of the city street in the face of neoliberalism’s tendency to privatize and limit public exchange. In these cases, the kind of information housed by the dome connects various struggles concerning the distribution of global resources, an argument that also buoyed the first wave of geodesic domes as exhibition structures in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
This emphasis on redistribution returns to Fuller’s argument that architecture can be a key element in understanding and representing the management of networked resources, and that the dome in particular could be a networked building—a site connected to real-time information feeds updated in various media. One can see this encapsulated in Fuller’s 1962 Geoscope proposal, a precursor to today’s “digital globes”). The Geoscope was envisioned as a 200-foot diameter spherical display covered with colored lights. Fuller planned to have the dome updated with networked information, data that would allow spectators to visualize, study, and possibly redesign the total human environment, including shelter, infrastructure, communication, and other interconnected systems—in order to quickly and efficiently allocate those resources globally. The enveloping space—literally, the environment—of the Geoscope was part of Fuller’s argument that architectural forms were embedded in systems that demanded to be understood holistically and as functions of society’s total needs.
It’s this idea of the dome as evocative of a networked Earth—or of networks in orbit around Earth—that helps us understand why the dome acquired its special purchase in post-war exhibition design and in political activist ventures, and why the viewing subject’s processing of complex media in such a space was deemed, and continues to be understood as, a crucial aesthetic confrontation with the psychic and physical demands of modernity. Dome venues did in the past, and continue to today, intensify the sense of human subjectivity as both enthralled and overwhelmed by the technologically-mediated networks that make advanced communication and the rapid mobility of goods and information possible.
These networks have played a significant role in the recent history of the Rockaway area. Throughout much of the second half of the twentieth century, the community was in steady decline. Its geographical isolation from New York made it a convenient hiding place for social ills of various kinds. Unscrupulous landlords rented shoddily winterized houses to the city’s welfare department at extortionate rates, giving rise to terrible slums. As recreation options dwindled, the summer crowds went elsewhere.
Fast forward to the summer of 2012. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, 3.6 million people went to the beach at Rockaway. Rockaway’s geographical isolation became less important as its internet presence grew. #Rockaway appears in thousands of Instagram photos, Facebook updates, or YouTube videos of surfers. Last summer The New York Times published nearly an article per week on “Bushwick at the beach”– Rockaway fashion, Rockaway eats, Rockaway surf camp. Unsurprisingly, a cell phone company placed ads at bus stops around the city depicting a surfer on his way to Rockaway via subway, and of course using his phone to tell everyone about it. It was all made even more surreal by whispers about Klaus Biesenbach sightings around town (he’s the director of PS1 and Chief Curator at Large of MoMA)—Klaus was at Rippers on the boardwalk, Klaus was at the Rockaway Beach Surf Club on 87th—all confirmed when it was publicized that Biesenbach bought a second home in Rockaway.
The line at Rockaway Taco in Summer 2012. Photograph: Eric Konon.
In the immediate aftermath of Sandy, one of the unsettling aspects of the situation facing Rockaway residents (and I’m only a part-year resident) was the inability to access communications networks. A cone of data silence descended on the peninsula, hampering relief efforts and efforts to contact loved ones. One friend describes writing an SMS message consisting only of the word “safe” after her harrowing night, transmitting it to her parents during a flickering moment of reception. When relief made it to Rockaway, it was not the Red Cross or FEMA who could be seen canvassing residents to assess their needs, but loosely organized knots of volunteers. Biesenbach sent out impassioned tweets calling for help, and drafted an open letter to Mayor Bloomberg for help that was signed by Lady Gaga, Madonna, James Franco, Gwyneth Paltrow and Patti Smith, among others. Social media hubs such as the Rockaway Beach Surf Club Facebook page became places where resources were pooled and efforts coordinated. In many cases, the same networks that had contributed to Rockaway’s unsettling trendiness contributed to its recovery, and this did not go unnoticed. A recent article in the New York Times on Rockaway ended with this quote from a local resident: “‘There has been a lot of localism here, which is good in some ways, only in that keeps the down for the day — what we call the D.F.D.’s — in line,…. But we had so much help from the hipsters and all people that now everyone is friends with each other. It doesn’t matter if they’re not from Rockaway now. Because they’re here. There’s a whole new level of social camaraderie that never existed. We’re all in it together. It’s a real positive thing.’”
Volunteers gather at Rockaway Beach Surf Club in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Photograph posted via 4Square by Anthony De Rosa on November 12, 2012.
Still, when Biesenbach pitched the idea of erecting a geodesic dome in Rockaway, as much as I admired his commitment to the area, I admit I was suspicious of the idea—and I wasn’t the only one. The website ArtFCity (formerly Art Fag City) questioned the motives behind the project earlier this year: “The museum will treat the area as a ‘test spot,’ according to one resident in their web video, where they will model the infrastructure that is necessary for the next generation of seaside towns. MoMA’s top curators Klaus Biesenbach, Hans Ulrich-Obrist, and Peter Eleey and its squad of architecture curators will select twenty-five proposals to be presented in the Rockaways this April. It’s moderately unsettling to see museum behemoths curating proposals for people’s towns, but, given how fucked things are in the Rockaways, who cares.”
Yet in my visits to the dome, I was been struck by how the site became a hub for locals and visitors alike, and how it created a space of gathering with public programming attuned to the community. At the dome I saw a friend’s film that was shot on our block in Rockaway, stopped in on a hacker workshop where issues of access to technology and the mobilization of communities through the Web were highlighted, and sat in on an artist talk in which a heuristic project to create barrier islands around the peninsula was proposed (and roundly criticized). In their questions, the dome audiences were keen to connect concerns of aesthetics with an engagement in the stakes of local planning and reconstruction. In this manner, in the Rockaway project, as in many dome-derived architectural works, the dome is not merely a stand-alone shelter, kiosk, or gathering space, but becomes a unique but hybrid object: a sculptural artwork cum pedagogical tool that foregrounds its connectedness to networks of various kinds: material resources, communities and communication.
In the documentary screened that June night, the founders of Drop City discussed how their remote location in Colorado soon became an obligatory pit stop for migratory hippies. Geographical remoteness mattered less and less, as their project was covered in countercultural publications and even Art in America. The social ills that Droppers tried to flee ended up following them, yet, as one admits, they still “somehow managed to have a good time.” In Rockaway, as in Drop City, the dome was less a stand-alone building than a node in a network with both positive and negative effects.
Thanks to the internet, Rockaway Beach is no longer in the city’s blind spot. What new blind spots—places isolated not by geography, but by their lack of visibility on the internet—have emerged in its stead?
"There is joy in work. There is no happiness except in the realization that we have accomplished something. " — Henry Ford