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Articles on this Page
- 07/29/13--07:08: _The Book as Interfa...
- 07/29/13--12:58: _The Week Ahead: We'...
- 07/30/13--08:01: _Compression by Abst...
- 07/30/13--15:28: _Apple's Patent on t...
- 07/31/13--05:54: _And the Guy Debord ...
- 07/31/13--08:01: _Prosthetic Knowledg...
- 07/31/13--10:08: _Artists: Bring Us Y...
- 08/01/13--09:09: _Dov Jacobson: Human...
- 08/05/13--08:05: _We Made a Full-Scre...
- 08/05/13--14:01: _The Week Ahead: The...
- 08/07/13--07:52: _Best of Rhizome: Ju...
- 08/07/13--08:17: _Seeking Autumn Fell...
- 08/08/13--09:20: _Olia Lialina, 'Summ...
- 08/08/13--11:05: _Marc Ngui, Illustra...
- 08/12/13--08:57: _Don Slepian's "Sunf...
- 08/12/13--09:37: _The Week Ahead: Hon...
- 08/13/13--08:13: _What Could the Inte...
- 08/13/13--10:39: _Allan Sekula's Lett...
- 08/14/13--09:57: _The Rhizome ArtBase...
- 08/15/13--10:13: _Art & Technology Ac...
- 07/29/13--07:08: The Book as Interface: WYSIWYG
- 07/29/13--12:58: The Week Ahead: We'll Miss You Zoë Salditch Edition
- 07/30/13--08:01: Compression by Abstraction: A Conversation About Vectors
- 07/30/13--15:28: Apple's Patent on the Pinch-and-Zoom Falls
- 07/31/13--05:54: And the Guy Debord Action Figure Goes To...
- 07/31/13--08:01: Prosthetic Knowledge Picks: Dance and Technology
- 07/31/13--10:08: Artists: Bring Us Your Obsolete Digital Media
- 08/01/13--09:09: Dov Jacobson: Human Vectors (1982)
- 08/05/13--14:01: The Week Ahead: The Uncanny Edition
- 08/07/13--07:52: Best of Rhizome: July 2013
- 08/07/13--08:17: Seeking Autumn Fellows and Intern
- 08/08/13--09:20: Olia Lialina, 'Summer' (2013)
- 08/08/13--11:05: Marc Ngui, Illustration for 'A Thousand Plateaus'
- 08/12/13--08:57: Don Slepian's "Sunflower Geranium" (1983)
- 08/12/13--09:37: The Week Ahead: Honk-Tweet Edition
- 08/13/13--08:13: What Could the Internet Be? Dia’s Online Projects
- 08/13/13--10:39: Allan Sekula's Letter to Bill Gates
- 08/14/13--09:57: The Rhizome ArtBase As Seen Through Vince McKelvie's 3dGif
- 08/15/13--10:13: Art & Technology According to Powhida and Townsend
Marialaura Ghidini, ed. On the Upgrade: WYSIWYG (or-bits.com, 2013).
One of the most intriguing things about On the Upgrade, a series of publications resulting from the activities on online exhibition platform or-bits.com, is the way it considers shifts in formats. At first look, the book series seems like a kind of flexible archive. The web-based projects of or-bits.com are reflected in printed form in the books: artists who contribute to the publication are those who participated in the various online projects of or-bits.com. And the book is used as a way to disseminate, document, or expand the work within a different scheme.
But the transition from online to print is not always seamless. In the introduction to WYSIWYG, the latest On the Upgrade publication which came out in May, the book is described as "a new configuration of the works." While some of the online pieces are more amenable to the book format (Julia Tcharfas’s research, presented in typewriter typeface, looks natural in print in a way that would always look precious online), others are distant cousins of their online iterations (a transcription of a live online radio piece by Sara Nunes Fernandes).
A book is a more stable format than a webpage, for sure, which is one of the reasons why a lot of online publications publish physical books as well. But if considered purely as an archive—and especially as a way of archiving, or even simply documenting artworks—a book also introduces a number of new problems in relation to other iterations of any given project online. For example, in WYSIWYG, the footnotes to artist David Horvitz's contribution include multiple references to Wikipedia—content that is subject to change over time in a way that a book is not. In comparison with online publishing, the book format is not just stable, it is also rigid, unable to reflect shifts in circumstances or any other development.
The real contribution of or-bits.com’s publishing initiative is the way in which it considers the book as an interface. In the case of WYSIWYG, this concept led to a series of guidelines sent to the artists (the book will be an A5 size bound book, the work should be presented linearly across five pages, etc.) in preparation for their contribution. Thinking about the physical form of the book and referring to it as an interface seems pretty radical, especially for an organization that publishes online. The transition from the internet to the offline, printed book shouldn’t be seamless and mindless, it should be considered—and it so rarely is.
The materiality of the interface is a great guideline. WYSIWYG needs to be held vertically and horizontally, which would be a problematic exercise on a device that automatically rotates the page to keep it upright at all times. It has certain contributions (like Renee Carmichael’s and Maria Theodoraki’s pieces) that extend across the width of a two-page spread. These don’t translate well in a PDF format, but look natural and graphically enticing on the page.
Excerpt of Maria Theodoraki, the line (2010-) as published in On the Upgrade: WYSIWYG.
The more we use the internet for experiments with ways of displaying and disseminating art, the more discussions will be generated about how contemporary art is communicated online. WYSIWYG is conceived as a book exhibition (or an exhibition bound in a book) and it’s a good example of an offline translation of or-bits.com’s particular exhibition structure. We should support such structures that work beyond the binary division between offline and online presentation, because bringing these spheres into dialogue reveals new possibilities and impediments for artists and publishers.
These questions are relevant to Rhizome’s own activities. Could The Download program, which offered digital artworks to be downloaded and experienced on individual users’ computers, somehow be translated to an offline publication? Would that be valuable? Why should we want to move it offline? On the Upgrade doesn’t provide an answer to these questions, only one good example as to why we should be thinking in these terms—because the result can be an inventive, yet still self-reflexive space in which to consider formats of presentation and dissemination of work.
This week, there are many deadlines that are relevant to the Rhizome community. You can submit your work to VIDA 15.0, or to Transmediale, or to the Celeste Prize. Someone out there is looking for videos made during the last Manhattanhenge, and someone else wants self-portraits made using a cameraphone and a mirror. Here at Rhizome, we also have an important deadline: today is the last day to apply for the post of Community Manager and Program Administrator at Rhizome. Which means, sadly, that Zoë Salditch is moving on to pastures new.
While at Rhizome, Zoë curated The Download, which offered artworks for users to download and experience on their own computer. She fostered the Tumblr Internet Art Grant, and she organized events ranging from New Silent Series talks and panels to a workshop hosted by The Reanimator Lab where visitors could make hand-drawn animated GIFs, like the Rhizome logo shown above. She leaves quite a legacy, and we can't wait to see what she does next.
Now, without further ado, here are selected events, exhibitions and deadlines this week, all culled from Rhizome Announce.
Wednesday, July 31: Espace [IM] Media is a media art & digital culture biennial event showing the work of more than 30 international artists.
Thursday, August 1: The Videoholica International Video Art Festival begins, screening 147 video works over 6 days.
Friday, August 2: Rock Paper Scissors Collective presents Limited Connectivity, and exhibition where artists Brian Hicks, Larissa Kaul, Rachel Lewallen, and Peter Pendergrass join with collaborators David Broadway and Stephanie Russ to confront identity, persona, desire, sexuality, and spirituality in the digital world.
Saturday, August 3: Echolocation invites the public to take a sound art audio tour of Wychwood Barns Saturday morning Farmers' Market.
Monday, July 29:
29 July: "Rhizome seeks a highly capable, communicative and organized internet native to care for and cultivate our community."
Wednesday, July 31:
VIDA 15.0 offers awards for recent or envisioned art projects that offer innovative perspectives on artificial life.
MON3Y.US has extended the deadline for MON3Y as an 3RRR0R, calling for artworks that deal with the concept of Glitch/Error.
The Celeste Prize is looking for talented artists around the world, regarldless of age, profession or gender, to submit to their board of international cutrators.
Espacio Enter is seeking works in all sectors related to art & digital culture for their international art festival in November.
Anders Weberg and the Stian Gallery asks artists to submit a creative self portrait using a mirror and a cameraphone. All submissions that meet the requirement will be included.
S/N Coalition has an open call for videos taken during the last Manhattanhenge. Videos must have been captured between 7:30 and 9PM in Manhattan on July 12, 2013.
The Lumen Prize seeks 50 artists with digitally-created work for an exhibition set to tour the UK, USA and Asia, along with cash prizes.
Artfetch has put out an open call for work from undergraduate, graduate, and recent art school alumni for an upcoming online exhibition.
Transmediale 2014 asks contributors to reflect on the 'afterglow of digital culture' through trashed technologies, ideas, and narratives.
Thursday, August 1:
PixelPops 2013 is seeking works confronting the idea, act, or process of regeneration, or replacing what was lost in an environmental sense.
The following conversation was re-published with permission from the brand-new publication Spheres by Swiss graphic designer Philippe Karrer. Rafaël Rozendaal and Jürg Lehni discuss their shared interest in vector graphics, which are based on mathematically-defined geometrical entities such as lines, circles, and points, in contrast with more commonly used bitmap graphics, in which values are assigned to grids of pixels.
Rafaël Rozendaal: Vectors are based on mathematical equations. The equations are perfect. No matter how we try, we can never render a perfect circle in any medium. And even if we did, our imperfect eyes would not be able to register its perfection. Do we have to accept that such shapes can only exist in our mind?
Jürg Lehni: What a start of a conversation! This distinction between the abstract mathematical formulation of geometric shapes, and their realization into concrete, physical forms is pretty much at the core of my fascination (or shall I say obsession?) with vector graphics. The shift is always there, whether it is illuminated pixels being turned on or off, a mark-making tool being moved by motors, or a laser beam being guided by electronically-moved mirrors, burning a line permanently into a physical surface. What it boils down to is the difference between the abstract idea behind something on one hand, and its concrete form when it becomes reality. Plato’s theory of forms comes to mind, with its ideal or archetypal forms that stand behind and define the concrete, physical things.
What’s funny about the example you mention is that vector graphics and bezier curves are actually not even able to describe a circle perfectly. Four cubic bezier curves can be used to approximate a circle pretty accurately, but mathematically this is not a perfect circle either. It is close enough for most human purposes, though.
RR: Have you ever tried to explain what vectors are to your mother?
JL: Not really! I have tried to explain vector graphics and the mathematics behind bezier curves to graphic design students though on multiple occasions, when teaching scripting workshops based on Scriptographer and Paper.js, together with Jonathan Puckey. What I like about that is that the students often already have an intuitive understanding of the nature of such curves, since they are used to working with them by hand in graphic design softwares such as Adobe Illustrator. They know how to use the tangential control points to manipulate the velocity, tension and curvature to achieve the desired curves. I think they are able feel the mathematical nature of these curves.
But since you asked, did you ever explain vectors to your mother?
RR: No, I never tried. I think it’s something that is hard to explain to someone who doesn’t really use computers to make images.
JL: I wonder how you ended up more or less limiting yourself to this format. Was there first a fascination with the idea of pure form and its abstract mathematical representation, or was it more a question of what tools were available at the time?
RR: As long as I can remember, I’ve been drawing. I enjoy converting thoughts into lines. I have an affinity for "abstraction in service of reproduction." What I mean is that in order to make images that are easily copied/transmitted, artists have invented different ways of simplifying. Think of Egyptian reliefs, Japanese woodblock prints, early Mickey Mouse, early video games. In all these cases the medium forced artists to simplify. Vectors are honest about the fact that they are computer imagery. It is clear that they are made on a computer, they’re not trying to be real. I would describe my work as "lossless image compression by making human decisions." I don’t let a digital camera decide how to compress an image, it is my choice how I convert thoughts and perceptions and feelings into lines. Isn’t lossless a beautiful idea?
I always felt that using a computer, we should not try to depict the world in ways that were possible before, like photography and video. We should find new ways of depicting. I always felt like pixels are an approximation of reality, and vectors are a reconstruction. It is the job of artists to reverse engineer reality into their medium of choice. I chose the computer screen as my medium because I like that these screens are everywhere. Vectors felt like the best solution for bringing impressions from “the real world” to the screen. I’m trying very hard to explain why I think it is better. I just feel like bitmaps and Photoshop filters and pixel displacements and mpeg compressions are trying to be something they are not. But that doesn’t really make sense, you can use them in a way that is truthful. But when I see textures in 3D renderings I just feel like they are trying to be something they are not. Does that make any sense?
Vectors do have their limitations. It is really difficult to make something look dirty. Everything always looks clean.
JL: While I never was good at drawing, I can totally relate to this interest in the limitations enforced by the technique/technology of choice. A lot of my work deals with that and attempts to make it visible. Computer companies like to pretend that there are boundless possibilities, that our softwares do not dictate the way we work, that our devices are magical and always there for us. As an attempt to change the role of technology in our lives, and our relationship to it, talking of limitations and celebrating them seemed like an important step.
The observed lack of dirt in vector graphics was also what motivated me to start making drawing machines that would convey the abstract information behind these drawings in imprecise, sometimes clumsy, almost human ways. A machine that struggles with gravity is more approachable than one that impresses with seemingly endless precision, and when working with such a machine, one has to draw for it, with these limitations in mind. My biggest beef with Macromedia Flash was that everything looked so clean, and sort of cheap at the same time. It was almost like a graphic designer who would print everything with a color laser printer on glossy paper.
RR: Did you find Flash rendering vectors noticeably different from other vector software?
JL: Flash as a piece of software has a very interesting history. It was originally called FutureSplash Animator, and was released by FutureWave Software in 1996. The company found a really interesting way of dealing with vector graphics that was very different to what we are used to from Adobe’s prevailing PostScript model, which is what most other applications and standards are using. Since the file format was designed for vector graphics animations on the web, it had to be rendered as fast as possible, and consume as little memory as possible when stored.
Their solution was to use only quadratic curves rather than the cubic bezier curves that we know for example from Adobe Illustrator. These are mathematically less complex and easier to render. And instead of having these curves describe shapes that are to be filled and/or stroked with colors, they decided that each curve (not shape) can describe a stroke, a fill color to its "left" and one to its "right." It is hard to explain what this meant mathematically, but I am sure you know how this felt like when working with these curves in the application, as they found a really clever way to embed this into the user interface: you could treat vector graphics almost like pixels, fill any interior shape, cut through existing drawings with a simple line or curve, and move segments that were divided this way around independently. If you did not want this to happen, you could move things to a different layer, or group them.
All these technical differences behind the scenes also means that the way these curves are rendered differs quite a bit from other approaches. I am not quite sure why, but I believe it is due to speed optimizations that were introduced in these early days, that Flash’s antialiasing never looked quite as good as it should have. There was weird rounding going on, coordinates were not stored as floating point numbers, but the less precise fixed point arithmetics were used, which seemed like a good way of optimizing things back then, but nowadays makes little difference and leads to imprecision.
Also, the initially really creative and powerful concept behind these curves unfortunately then got watered down through a series of acquisitions, first by Macromedia, and later by Adobe. Now it’s just a mess of many different models that are layered, like any software that Adobe acquired and merged into their Creative Suite.
JL: When you started working with Flash, were you attracted by this aesthetic? I think you have found a really good way to master it while avoiding all the pitfalls that come with the territory.
RR: What is interesting is that most people need a level of irony or nostalgia to appreciate the beauty of something. It has to go through a number of years where something becomes safer. Think of early video games, it took 20 to 30 years for those images to be appropriated/used in art. Perhaps it’s the same with Flash, in 30 years Flash movies will have the same nostalgia (and warmth) as VHS tapes do now.
I chose Flash because it was the best tool for me. The choice was quite practical. small files, reliable, cross platform... Other options like JPEGs, Quicktimes, Shockwave, Java applets, were all bitmap based and did not scale well. Browser windows are never fixed size. I see the entire web page as my canvas, not part of it. So I needed an image format that can adapt to the wishes of the user.
RR: Is antialiasing a more truthful rendering of a vector shape on a pixel screen, or is it a lie?
JL: I can see how you could think of it as a lie, because it is using different shades of a color at the border of a shape to trick the eye into thinking there is more definition to the image. But at the same time, if you would print the shape at really high resolution on a paper, and then take a digital photograph of the printout at lower resolution, you would get very similar "blurred" borders. In that sense, I would call antialiasing (and even more so, subpixel rendering) a very convincing trick. One can also argue that any rendering of such pure information into a grid will be a lie, since it will be imprecise. An antialiased version of the same shape would then just be a more convincing lie. In that logic, I can see how an aliased version is then so obviously a "lie" that it is more approachable, likable.
JL: This might be a rhetorical question, but which aesthetic do you prefer? Did you ever experiment with pixelized styles and aliased graphics? Do you see a risk of things looking nostalgic when going down that route?
RR: Yes, I felt like antialiased vectors are closer to what the vectors are. Ed Halter wrote that pixelated graphics are a form of "digital materialism," they acknowledge that there are physical building blocks. But now those pixels are becoming so small that to show pixel art you have to use 4 or 9 or 16 pixels to show 1 pixel of a pixelated image. We are moving to post-pixel displays.
JL: I agree. Eventually, the two will become the same, and the artifacts will disappear. I feel the same about any kind of digital artifact, be it the blotchy JPEG compression, its animated twin with MPEGs, or the phonetic qualities of badly compressed MP3s. One could argue that’s the cathode ray tubes and the VHS of our times. The younger generation probably will hold similar nostalgic feelings for them once they are replaced with a new reality that is so intensely digital that it will overwhelm us with its perfection.
JL: Are you looking forward to this moment where all these artifacts eventually will disappear? A sort of singularity where all media merge into one and become indistinguishable? The lack of any kind of artifact as the final artifact?
RR: I think the future is very uncertain. That is exciting and scary at the same time. I imagine at some point the idea of a display will be old. Why do we need displays? We will just inject ideas into our brains. Maybe we won’t even need ideas, we’ll just inject feelings…
RR: Do you find your audience to be mostly geeks?
JL: I hope not! I am not really trying to speak to the geeks with my work, but I appreciate their interest in it. One of my aims is to demystify technology and make it seem approachable, transparent, humble. I try not to impress with complexity, magic and opaque glossy touch surfaces. In that way, the work should really speak to anybody, not just the technically inclined.
What about you? Who would say is the main audience of your web-based pieces? Is there a clear demographic across the people who buy/collect your works?
RR: My web audience is huge. It’s almost 50 million visits per year. I don’t know who these people are. Some are accidental visits, who happen to find my work when they Google the word "Toilet Paper." Others follow my work for years.
As far as my collectors, they are not geeky at all, they just respond to my work and they like the challenge of owning a website as part of their art collection. I’m hoping at some point the startup/software/tech community will be into the idea of collecting art websites. They would be really good at preserving the works in the long run.
JL: It is interesting you mention these new communities of wealth. I recently had multiple discussions about that, and from all I hear it seems these people are not at all into collecting art yet, even art that relates to their own work, although they would have the financial situation to become collectors. Do you have a theory as to why that is? I have a feeling that the person who will crack that mystery will become rather rich in the process.
RR: I consider the tech community as people facilitating a cultural revolution, enabling everyone to be an artist and to speak to their audience directly. Image software, browsers, social media, they made a whole new way of creating art possible. If you are creating a system where anyone can create and share, why would you be interested in the old centralized gallery-collector system?
I’m hoping we can live a less material life, not needing too many things, just some good screens.
RR: Has your relationship with vectors changed over the years?
JL: Not really! But I do recently get a refreshing new sense of emancipation from the preexisting tools thanks to Paper.js, which in one sentence is the effort to free ourselves from corporate constraints that Scriptographer.org was suffering from as an Adobe Illustrator plugin. It feels a bit like the buddhist exercise where you take the temple apart into the smallest pieces, and rebuild it again, with the added challenge of moving all the pieces to a new location, and adding all the missing pieces, which do not exist outside the host. In this process I had to learn a lot about the mathematics behind bezier curves, in order to be able to calculate their lengths, bounding boxes, intersections, unions, etc. It is a very interesting project that is still ongoing, and a whole lot of fun to work on!
JL: Do you program yourself? Or do you collaborate with people in order to build your works?
RR: No, I don’t program myself. I met Reinier Feijen when I was in art school. He was studying A.I. and he helped me out with some small issues. It turned out it was fun & easy for him. I had some more ideas and he helped me realize them. It’s a great collaboration… He’s very relaxed and practical and we don’t have creative conflicts, our roles are clear. I’m happy I worked with him from the beginning because if I had been programming myself I would not have been able to produce as much as I do now. I would love to work with more people at some point and realize as many ideas as possible. I love love love the process of coming up with something and creating it. That’s why I always loved the web, you can make something and publish it immediately. A direct connection between artist and audience.
RR: Were you always into the web? Or did you do a lot of offline computing before you discovered the WWW?
JL: I did work on offline projects before the web, for example a 3D game engine and design software around 1996, and a modular software synthesizer, coupled with the concepts of a mod tracker in 1998. But after that, I started focusing on applications online, since the possibilities of reaching many instantaneously, and working with online communities seemed way more interesting. But after a series of online design apps, toys and playgrounds (Lego Font Creator, Rubik Maker, Vectorama.org), I soon became interested into moving beyond the limits of the screen, and started exploring physical drawing devices as another way of working with the same information, as a sort of extension of the software back into the physical world.
RR: Have you experimented with vector displays/monitors?
JL: I mean to do so, and during my residence in New York in 2007, I even bought a Vectrex with a couple of games on Ebay. I was really fascinated by the aesthetic that results from a directly controlled ray in a cathode tube, with a complete absence of pixels. The idea was to write custom software in assembler for the device. But given its enclose and appearance, I felt that such a work would always feel nostalgic, and I could not find a good purpose for the work yet. I still feel that there is a piece in there somewhere. In a way the project Moving Picture Show in Chaumont last year was going back to that interest, where I transformed a 35mm film laser subtitling machine into an animation machine. The setup normally burns subtitles into the emulsion layer of the film, frame by frame, by using a galvanometer which consists of two mirrors deflecting a laser beam. The system was changed to instead draw vectors on the whole surface of the film, from a folder of pdf files, 25 per second. This became a slightly insane undertaking, where the production of 20 minutes of film would consume 10 hours of burning and cleaning film.
RR: You like to develop your own software, and you teach others to do this. How has this developed over the years? Are you hopeful that artists will develop their own digital tools? Or are most people content with mainstream software?
JL: I already explained some of the reasons as to why I prefer open software in my various answers. In the end it really has to do with freedom and control. I don’t like being tied into an ecosystem that is provided by one private company. Technology should be our friend, it should be available to all of us, and it should be dynamic like our languages are. I see technology as a core component of our culture, and just like how we all use language and participate in its constant change, we should get to a point where we see technology not as something that controls us and that we are afraid of, but as a liberator, a means of expression, and a catalyst of change.
Yesterday, Engadget and other outlets reported that the USPTO made its final decision to nix a patent filed by Apple in 2007 in an attempt to claim intellectual ownership of a number of touch-screen gestures, including the two-finger "pinch-to-zoom." Melissa Grey reported that "According to documents filed by Samsung in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on Sunday, [the patent] was found wanting by the USPTO due to it being anticipated by other patents and declared otherwise non-patentable."
Patent number 7,844,915 has the unusual distinction of earning coverage in Artforum, in an article written by Alex Provan this past March. Provan drew a chilling picture of a world in which interaction with images took place according to a strictly programmed repertoire of movements:
Apple has filed patents for Pinch-to-Zoom, Slide-to-Unlock, Multifinger Twisting, Double-Tap-to-Zoom, and Over-Scroll Bounce, aka Rubber-Banding, among other functional finger gestures. The company is indisputably striving to corner the market on how we move our fingers across screens, how we scan and massage images. This was evident in August, when Apple won a major copyright-infringement lawsuit against Samsung and was awarded one billion dollars in damages, bringing us closer to the apocalypse Steve Jobs augured a few years ago in his Herman Kahn–inspired attack on Google’s Android OS: “I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”
Perhaps we're a step further from that apocalypse today (although it's worth noting that the denial of the pinch-to-zoom patent was first floated in December, well before Provan's article). Nevertheless, the US ruling does not challenge the underlying principle that gestural movements may be patented. Apple still has a number of patents in place relating to touch-screen gestures. Some of these can be seen in the following diagram published by the website Patently Apple as a summary of Apple's applications:
It's unclear when we'll be seeing these particular multi-touch gestures roll out. So far, they remind me of JODI's Untitled (mobile app), in which iPhone users must follow an absurd choreography of gestures dictated by their handheld device. When they complete a meaningless task correctly, they are rewarded with the ringing of an alarm. It looks like this:
Like JODI, Provan takes a dim view of the regulation of user behavior by technical devices, arguing that "Apple’s patented finger routines risk unsettling the delicate balance between managing the body and promising users unparalleled freedom and expressivity." In other words: are you programmed, or are you being programmed, by your devices?
In his article, Provan cites recently-departed computer pioneer Douglas Engelbart as an important precursor to today's gestural interface wars. He wrote, "Engelbart argued that computers should 'augment human intellect' and conceal their own complexity in order to help us solve 'the big problems'; here, finally, was a machine [the Apple Mac] that did just that." In fact, Engelbart was no great advocate of making computers overly user-friendly; saying that he intended to conceal the complexity of computers is a bit unfair. Moreover, he was "mildly appalled" by the Apple Mac. As Bret Victor points out in this article, the technologies pioneered by Engelbart have all been implemented in ways that did not reflect his intent, and in the wake of his passing, in the midst of patent imbroglios over human-computer interaction, it's well worth revisiting Engelbart's ideas, and the 1968 demo.
During that demo, Engelbart presented one innovation that never quite took off: a chorded keyboard. The keyboard was an input device which, with only five keys, replaced all of the functions of a QWERTY keyboard. It's essentially a multi-touch interface; users type particular characters by pressing certain combinations of keys, or chords. Essentially, it is asking the user to replace the one-key-at-a-time model with a multi-touch typing system. Interestingly, studies have shown chorded keyboards to be superior to QWERTY keyboards in a number of ways, but the complexity of using them kept people away. The 1983 article "The QWERTY Keyboard: A Review" described the situation as follows:
Rearranging the letters of the QWERTY layout has shown to be a fruitless pastime, but it has demonstrated two important points: first, the amount of hostile feeling that the standard keyboard has generated and second, the supremacy of this keyboard in retaining its universal position...The design and the layout of the QWERTY keyboard are not optimal for efficent operation...
I can't help but think about this when reading Apple's rationale for the Star and the Crossbar and all that:
But existing methods for real-time user interface input gesture alterations and modifications are cumbersome and inefficient. For example, using a non-contiguous sequence of gesture inputs, with at least one gesture to serve as a behavior modifier, is tedious and creates a significant cognitive burden on a user. In addition, existing methods take longer than necessary, thereby wasting energy.
The complicated gestures outlined in Apple's multi-touch patent perhaps share something in common with Engelbart's chorded keyboard; they may have a difficult time convincing users to adopt any gesture more complicated than the three-fingered swipe. Perhaps the gestural patents that are the most troubling are not those that attempt to manage users, asking them to learn complex behaviors in order to use their devices more efficently; the most troubling are those that attempt to stake a claim over our existing repertoire of movements.
After months of jury deliberation, we have a winner in the limited edition Guy Debord action figure giveaway that we offered on behalf of Verso Books to mark the launch of McKenzie Wark's new book on the Situationists and their legacy. Lisa Temple-Cox of Colchester, UK was the first to answer all twelve questions correctly; Stevphen Shukaitis and Morgan Faulkner were the runners-up. Lisa will win a limited-edition 3D-printed Guy Debord figurine made by Wark; Stevphen and Morgan will win complimentary copies of Wark's book The Spectacle of Disintegration: Situationist Passages out of the Twentieth Century.
Anyone can 3D print their own #3Debord Action Figure. The .stl file, available here, is free and Creative Commons-licensed. Wark reports that of the handful of #3Debords that he personally fabricated, all have now been given away as gifts, mostly to people who knew Debord personally; now the last one goes to Lisa.
Lisa's correct answers are re-printed below.
1.The Critique of Everyday Life is a seminal book that opened up a whole line of critical thinking about the small, everyday situations outside of the factory walls and beyond the official political sphere. Who wrote it, and in what year was it first published?
Henri Lefebvre, 1947 for Volume 1 in French
2. McKenzie Wark calls the experience of the everyday in our time the disintegrating spectacle. He is adding a fourth kind of spectacle to the three described by Guy Debord. Writing in the 60s, Debord thought both sides of the cold war were just variants of spectacle. Later, he thought that states such as France and Italy had combined elements of both into a third kind. What were the names Debord gave to these three variants?
diffuse, concentrated, integrated spectacle
3. The Surrealist leader André Breton wrote a poem, published after World War II, dedicated to the famous utopian writer Charles Fourier. Breton’s poem starts out with the narrator noticing a flower placed beneath his statue. During the Occupation, the Germans melted it down to use the copper for munitions. On which Paris street was that statue?
Boulevard de Clichy
4. Debord’s comrade Raoul Vaneigem was rather more influenced by Surrealism, and via Surrealism by Charles Fourier, than some other Situationists. He even edited a paperback edition of Fourier’s ‘queer theory’ manuscript, The New Amorous World.What was the name of the Fourier-inspired utopia Vaneigem wrote about in 2005?
5. The great art historian T. J. Clark, who was briefly a member of the Situationist International, once recalled a demonstration in London which found him on the steps of the National Gallery in London. He and his friend debated there which painting within they would feel obliged to consign to the flames should the people ever storm through those illustrious portals. The masterpiece that Clark would have chosen was painted by whom?
Nicolas Poussin (Landscape with a Man killed by a Snake)
6. The Situationist Gianfranco Sanguinetti pulled off a stunning prank in Italy, by publishing The Real Report on the Last Chance to Save Capitalism in Italy. Purporting to be from some insider to ruling circles or someone cognizant of ruling opinion, it argued that there was no harm in admitting Communists into government, as the Communists were not a revolutionary party, but were already acting in the interests of power in keeping workers in line. Under what name was the Real Report issued?
7. Next to Guy Debord, René Viénet is the best known Situationist film maker. His détourned films have a lightness and charm all of their own. His film Can Dialectics Break Bricks? uses a martial arts film as its raw material, and by gently moving a few minutes of film around and dubbing the actor’s voices into French, Viénet turns it into a critique of the Stalinization of the left during ’68. Who directed the film on which Can Dialectics Break Bricks? is based?
8. Debord’s ‘70s films Society of the Spectacle and Refutation of All Judgments were a quantum leap forward in complexity over his earlier cinema work, in part due to the resources of his new patron, Gerard Lebovici. Who was the film editor with whom Debord worked on these films, and who was the other famous French director with whom she worked?
9. Besides being Guy Debord’s second wife, Alice Becker-Ho wrote some very interesting books on the influence of Romani language on the ‘jargon’ of the dangerous classes, and as an important source for words not only in French but in other European languages. According to her glossary of jargon, what is the meaning of the word ‘baron’?
Trick question. She gives two slightly different versions:
From "The Princes of Jargon"
"accomplice playing the part of a well-to-do character in any swindle" (Simonin); rich pimp
baro: chief, big, important bra (caló): grande, superior, excelente;
barolacró: mayordomo, procurador baranda (Sp. sl.): jefe, director baròn
(gerg. Ven.): birbone, canaglia bari (furb.): compagnoni baron (Am. sl.):
accomplice, prisoner who has money, tycoon, big shot
From "The Essence of Jargon:"
"accomplice playing the part of a well-to-do character in any swindle" (Simonin), rich pimp bar, barn (Goth.): man, free man, man's children the
Frankish baro passed into the Latin world with the meaning of free man, warrior (see my note on baragouin on pages 64-5). We come across it again
in baron and the Spanish varon
10. Besides his many accomplishments in the arts of writing, editing, cinema, and revolution, Guy Debord was also a game designer. On the writings of which military theorist did he claim to have based The Game of War?
Carl von Clausewitz
11. Who was the member of the Situationist International who thought the SI should attempt détournements of porn and comics? Who praised Latin American militants for taking over an electronic BBS system? Who advocated fake issues of well-known periodicals? Who thought any militant thinker should be as capable of making a film as writing an article?
12. The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale had the holograph manuscript of Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle on display for a while. Did that manuscript and other items from Debord’s papers end up being sold by Alice Becker-Ho to the Beinecke, or somewhere else?
to the Bibliothèque national
Anarchy Dance Theatre
A collection of items from the Prosthetic Knowledge Tumblr archive and around the web around the subject of dance and the creative employment of contemporary technology.
Anarchy Dance Theatre
Taiwanese dance group perform in specially designed interactive projected space created by UltraCombo to great effect - video below:
From the project description:
The collaboration project between Anarchy Dance Theatre and Ultra Combos focused on building up a new viewer centered performance venue. In this space all movements including the dancers’ and audience’s can be detected and interact with each other through visual effect. The audience is not merely watching the show but actively participating in it.
More about the group and their project can be found here
A monochromatic real-time reactive dance performance where computer visuals are as important to the movements themselves - video embedded below:
Trinity is a dance performance with high levels of real time interaction and close relationship between: dance, sound and visuals.
The interactive link is done through a videocamera installed above the stage and under infrared lighting. Besides positional tracking the project is focus in measuring movement qualities as: forces and directions, accelerations, stage position, velocity and body area.
The performance has been created and executed in live using the environment MAX/MSP/JITTER by Cycling74 and the computer vision library CV.JIT by Jean-Marc Pelletier.
More can be found at the Electric Performers website here
Dance and Projection Mapping from Daito Manabe
Stunning examples which demonstrate the incorporation of projection mapping onto the moving body - videos of projects one and two below:
More of Daito's work can be found at his website here http://www.daito.ws/
Prosthetic digital musical instruments create sounds based on movement and touch, designed for dance performances. Created at IDMIL, 15 minute video embedded below talks and demonstrates the project:
From the project description:
Researchers at the Input Devices and Music Interaction Lab at McGill University recently released a video documentary on the design and fabrication of “prosthetic digital instruments” for music and dance. These instruments are the culmination of a three-year long project in which the designers worked closely with dancers, musicians, composers and a choreographer. The goal of the project was to develop instruments that are visually striking, utilize advanced sensing technologies, and are rugged enough for extensive use in performance.
The complex, transparent shapes are lit from within, and include articulated spines, curved visors and ribcages. Unlike most computer music control interfaces, they function both as hand-held, manipulable controllers and as wearable, movement-tracking extensions to the body. Further, since the performers can smoothly attach and detach the objects, these new instruments deliberately blur the line between the performers’ bodies and the instrument being played.
Unlike most of the videos collected in this post, which document technology-based dance in its finished form, this video from Mehdi Tayoubi documents the behind-the-scenes process, showing how a dance piece that uses projection and real-time processing is put together.
A different type of dance and technology, project, Cadence by Baden Pailthorpe uses machinima and video processing.
The artist's description:
Cadence I - IV, (2013)
HD video, colour, stereo sound, 6 mins / 4 mins.
Edition of 5 + 2 AP.
The institution of the military is steeped in performative traditions, rituals and practices. Indeed the collective military body can be thought of as being characterised by a carefully calibrated choreography of movement.
Cadence (2013) is a series of four new-media artworks whose subject sits between war and performance. In these new video works, the figure of the Australian, US and Taliban soldier is placed within formal landscapes appropriated from pro-military cinema and military training simulators.
Rather than enacting standard military gestures or postures, the simulated soldier performs a slow and poetic dance. The usual politics of movement, discipline and posture of the military body are subverted, and instead rendered soft and expressive.
The seductive visual rhythm of cadence, camouflage and natural mimicry in these works gesture towards the dark mysticism of military history, where soldiers and psychedelics have often combined to disrupt landscapes and produce mystic escapes.
Baden Pailthorpe’s website can be found here.
Between now and September 8, Rhizome and the New Museum are inviting artists to make free-of-charge appointments at the XFR STN exhibition to transfer their obsolete digital media and videotape to more stable formats. Here are five salient facts about this project and the conservation of born-digital materials:
1. Many digital media formats will become nearly impossible to access in the coming years, because the hardware used to access this media is no longer manufactured, and will not last forever. As a result, your digital files will be lost to you, and to posterity.
2. After transfering your digital files to more stable formats, you are under no obligation to share them with us; you will be given the option to transfer them to the Internet Archive, if desired.
3. We are accepting the following digital formats: 3.5” and 5.25" Floppy Disk, Zip Disk, JAZ Disk, Compact Disc, and IDE/PATA hard drives.
4. If you do not want to send your materials to the Internet Archive, you must bring your own storage media.
5. You can schedule an appointment here.
See you soon!
Material that has been brought to the XFR STN open-access media conservation project is now beginning to appear online at the Internet Archive, and there are some real treasures. One of these is Human Vectors by Dov Jacobson, included on a 3/4" videotape brought to the XFR STN by Phil Sanders. The tape included a compilation of works itled EVTV2, originally shown at Sanders' art-and-technology focused East Village RYO Gallery in the early 1980s. The piece caught our eye because of its apparent use of a vector-based computer animation system (for more on vector graphics, see this recently published interview). Jacobson gave us some background on the piece via email. — Ed.
Human Vectors was created principally using the Vectrex—an absolutely unique home game machine that had a built-in calligraphic display. Calligraphic ('vector') display is a cathode-ray tube (CRT) technology that predates the traditional TV or monitor. In standard TVs, the ray methodically paints the full surface of the tube like a man mowing the lawn. It gets brighter and darker as pixels are lit up or not. In a calligraphic display, the ray traces the image out. It is great for line drawings, and terrible for fills. It has cute artifacts at the corners as it changes direction... By 1984, the Vectrex was a market failure and I bought a few for $50 each.
Other shots used the beautiful monochrome character display of the first IBM PC...
and the final shot employed an experimental color graphics card (TrueVision) with a 640 x 400 resolution and 8 bit pixels. Hot stuff at the time.
The video was recorded on VHS by pointing cheap video cameras at the displays. My favorite cameras had laggy, smeary sensors. These were black-and-white security cameras bought from bins on Canal Street.
The music in the video was by Soma Holiday, art-punk musicians who lived in what was then the disregarded neighborhood of Williamsburg in the ignored borough of Brooklyn. How disregarded? How ignored? Soma Holiday (A great French guy and his fine american girlfriend) squatted in the marble lobby of an abandoned bank.
In the days before YouTube, the only backdoor path to pop media was (forget community-access television) MTV's Basement Tapes. Homemade music videos (now we'd say Indie) were selected by Viacom and voted on by the the audience (using "900 number" technology.)
Human Vectors was selected for Basement Tapes. We told all our friends to watch and call, but few had cable TV. We watched from an apartment in Brooklyn where somebody had cable. The other contestants were all standard rock music and 80's Music Videos (fog machines, cars, babes). We won 5th place. Out of 5.
The video did get heavy rotation at the Palladium (not yet an NYU dorm) and the cokey club that was a converted church—Limelight? But it was principally shown at Phil & Joanna's seminal RYO gallery in the then-quite-dangerous East Village.
The video was made during the pioneering days of 3D computer imaging, and it references typical C code as well as seminal researchers such as James Foley and Andreis Van Dam. At the time, I was living in Staten Island with wife and baby, and working in the Time-Life Building on a completely different computer display system, as a game developer. (About this time, Mike Smith and I made what the New York Times declared "the first videogame as fine art," Mike Builds a Shelter, which also showed at the New Museum).
Michael Smith and Dov Jacobson, Mike Builds a Shelter (1983). 2008 re-creation.
Bill Ferster (partner) and I provided the 3D software (coded in the video) to pioneering animators and artists; in 1987, we sold our company to a big software company. With the new resources available (five programming teams and seven figure budgets) I launched a project to reproduce the brilliant Vectrex AnimAction system. The happy result, "Nimble," was sold in France and Japan but very bad business deals and Japanese/American rivalry killed it dead (except in France and in my studio in Washington DC). The Vectrex interface, which Nimble imitated, was more immediate and usable than standard computer animation paradigms.
Still image from Human Vectors showing Dov tech stack used in its making. Clockwise-ish from top: monochrome display 80 characters x 40 lines, IBM PC weighing 20 lbs with fully loaded memory (640K), aftermarket hard drive (another 30 lbs and $10,000, for 10 Megabytes), color display 640 x 400 pixels, 8 bit color, fat keyboard. No mouse yet. Not shown:Vectrex, Vectrex lightpen, AnimAction game cartridge, video gear.
Since making Human Vectors, Dov Jacobson has made a large number of games: art, commercial, experimental, propaganda and learning, as well as a couple of videos. Now, he lives in Atlanta and is currently Managing Director for GamesThatWork. He can be reached at Dov [at] BigFun dot net.
The inToAsia Festival opens this week.
Without further ado, here are more selected events, exhibitions, and deadlines this week, all culled from Rhizome Announce.
Sunday, August 11:
The AND 2013 Fair in Liverpool, UK, inspired by the World's Fair of old, calls for submissions from artists, hackers, technologists, and makers all over the world. A £500 bursary will be offered to emerging practitioners to support their participation.
The Hungarian Multicultural Center seeks emerging artists to apply for their 2013 Artist Residencies in Budapest.
Culturia invites aritsts interested in researching the artistic process to apply for a six-week residency in Berlin, beginning in November 2013.
Friday, August 9: opening of Uncanny Visions 4, featuring a range of performance and video works which address the elusive medium of poetry. Performers include such luminaries as Bunny Rogers and Ann Hirsch. Organizers describe it as follows:
Uncanny Visions IV tackles that most persistent and elusive medium “poetry.” Specifically, we will feature a range of performance and video artists who function as self-styled "poets" in the most open mic sense of the word, but not.
Specific, but not. We are intrigued.
Thursday, August 8: inToAsia begins, a new festival focused on time-based works by new media artists based in Asia. (Pictured)
Saturday, August 10: NAISA launches (E)scapes, an exhibiton of two interactive sound pieces intended to explore the sonic relationship between body and space.
Saturday, August 10: EMPAC at RPI seeks applicants for the position of Graphic Designer.
Thursday, August 15: SAIC seeks a part-time faculty member in advanced 3D modeling for animation.
Saturday, August 24: The New Media program in the School of Film & Media Studies at Purchase College seeks candidates for a full-time, Assistant Professor beginning in the fall of 2014.
Frames from television program (1964) featuring a demo of Ivan Sutherland's Sketchpad, edited in Photoshop to show the onscreen graphics more clearly.
Here at Rhizome, the big news of July 2013 was the launch of the open-access media conservation project XFR STN, a collaboration with the New Museum. We asked artists to Bring Us Your Obsolete Digital Media. Treasures are now beginning to emerge, and can be seen on the Internet Archive. The press is taking note.
In Editorial, the most-read article on Rhizome was Software Takes Command: An Interview with Lev Manovich, followed by the announcement of the commissioned artists for 2013-2014. The comment of the month goes to Curt Cloninger, who shared his detailed notes on the proper approach to Situationist Tubing. (If you plan to tube this summer, make sure to read this first.)
Prosthetic Knowledge assembled a much-Liked collection of works on dance and technology. Orit Gat explored the idea of The Book as Interface in her review of the new publication from or-bits.com, WYSIWYG. Michael Connor explored the emerging language of the website takeover in the most recent effort by Hannah Perry and Bubblebyte. Rafaël Rozendaal and Jürg Lehni appreciated the finer points of Vectors. Daniel Rourke profiled artist Nick Briz about the politics of the glitch, Karen Archey interviewed Biennial of the Americas curator Carson Chan about post-internet curating, and Zoë Salditch interviewed 4Chan founder and creator of DrawQuest Chris Poole. Eva Díaz discussed the geodesic dome as a networked structure from Drop City to Rockaway Beach.
With stories of data gathering in the news constantly this month, we featured Clark Stoeckley's graphic novel-in-progress about Bradley Manning and asked pointed questions about Miranda July's ongoing series of emails from the Sent Folders of notable people, We Think Alone. We also marked the fall of Apple's Patent on the Pinch-and-Zoom (summary: your gestures can still be patented as Alex Provan warned).
Finally, our series of Performance GIFs came to an end with #10: Paul Kindersley and #11: Jesse Darling. It's been fun seeing the contributions come in over the past few months, and we want to offer our thanks to Jesse and to all of the participating artists. We look forward to revisiting this series in the future.
Former interns have participated in Rhizome-commissioned projects such as DISimages.
Rhizome is offering a range of professional development opportunities for the fall semester: an Editorial Fellowship, an ArtBase Curatorial Fellowship, and a Program Internship. Each of these individuals will join a small team and play a central role in shaping the organization and its core program as it deepens its collections and expands its program internationally.
Through its internship and fellowship programs, Rhizome has a track record in cultivating individuals who have gone on to play an important role in the fields of art and technology.
1) EDITORIAL FELLOWSHIP
The Editorial Fellowship is a unique opportunity for a developing writer with a dedication to the fields of contemporary art and technology to further develop professional skills and build up a portfolio seen by a large audience.
The Fellow will spend 50% of their time researching and writing articles, and 50% working on related editorial tasks. They may edit and fact-check other writers’ contributions, contribute to art direction decisions, help manage the posting process, and help with ongoing administrative tasks such as maintaining the editorial calendar and producing Rhizome’s weekly newsletter.
QUALIFICATIONS: The Editorial Fellow may work remotely, but must commit to 16 hours of work per week, for 3-4 months, beginning in fall 2013. This position is unpaid, but academic credit may be arranged and is highly encouraged. The candidate must have very strong writing, editing, and analytical skills, and very high internet literacy. They must also have a high level of familiarity with contemporary art and technology. Education or advanced experience beyond the undergraduate level is preferred.
2) ARTBASE CURATORIAL FELLOWSHIP
The ArtBase Curatorial Fellowship is an ideal opportunity for a graduate-level researcher in a field such as curatorial studies or contemporary art history to shape the development of an important archive of new media art. The Fellow will conduct research, including artist interviews by email and in-person, in order to enrich the public understanding of works in the ArtBase. They will write new descriptions based on primary-source research, as well as identifying gaps and make recommendations about artists to approach for future inclusion.
QUALIFICATIONS: The Curatorial Fellow must be based in New York and must be able to commit to 16 hours of work per week, for 3-4 months, beginning September 15, 2013. This position is unpaid, but academic credit may be arranged and is highly encouraged. The Curatorial Fellow will work directly with artists and be overseen by senior Rhizome staff. Education or advanced experience beyond the undergraduate level is preferred. Experience with CollectiveAccess is a plus.
3) PROGRAM INTERNSHIP
Rhizome seeks a highly organized, responsible and mature Program Intern. Responsibilities will vary and engage with all areas of the organization: assisting with the daily administrative upkeep; research and production support of the Rhizome website; coordination of organizational projects; correspondence with artists, members, and press; management of various social media platforms and more. Interns must be familiar with contemporary art and savvy with the web and new technologies.
QUALIFICATIONS: The Program Intern must be based in New York and must be able to commit to 16 hours of work per week, for 3-4 months, beginning September 15, 2013. This position is unpaid, but academic credit may be arranged. Candidates must be possess strong administration and organization skills, and a confident, proactive and problem-solving nature. As this position will provide a broad entry point into the workings of a non-profit, a positive disposition and willingness to undertake any task with a positive attitude is key. Self-starting candidates who can spot areas to be improved in the organization, and set about improving them, will thrive. Knowledge of Microsoft Office software is required, and other creative software (Adobe CS i.e.) is a benefit.
TO APPLY: Please email a cover letter (written in the body of the email) and resume to jobs(at)rhizome.org, making reference to the position in the subject line.
Fellowship applications must include 2-3 short writing samples as PDF attachment. Deadline for all positions is August 22, 2013, and will start at a negotiated date in September or early October. Review of applications will begin immediately.
Summer (2013). Olia Lialina. Screenshot of animation comprising individual GIF images displayed across multiple websites.
In a 2006 interview with Valeska Buehrer, artist Olia Lialina observed that her early web-based works, particularly My Boyfriend Came Back from the War, have been irrevocably changed by the accelerating speed of the internet.
Though the work is still as it was: same files, same address, links -- it is now more like a documentation of itself. Because everything else changed. First of all connection speed. I could now click through my work in one minute. Probably, I could do it even faster...if there is no delay in between phrases, no waiting for images, no Jpeg "progressive scan" loading -- the tenseness of the conversation is lost.
It wasn't that Lialina was inspired at the time by the creative possibilities of the slow-to-load early web (she recalls being as frustrated as any user); it was that the work functioned within a specific technological context. As the context has changed, so has the experience of the work.
Lialina's increasing awareness of the interplay between technological context and artwork is at the forefront of her latest work, Summer (2013). The piece is a short animated loop of the artist swinging from a playground swing that is seemingly fixed to the top of the browser window. When I loaded the animation, it played back quite jerkily, before finally freezing. This lack of smooth movement is a part of the piece: each frame of the animation is played back from a different website. The browser is re-directed from one server to the next, the speed and smoothness of the animation dependent on the functioning of the internet infrastructure that supports it. There are 21 frames in the piece, distributed across 21 different websites; at the time of writing, one of the host servers is not working. As Lialina told Jillian Steinhauer of Hyperallergic, "I like to swing on the location bar of the browser, and I like to know that the speed of swinging depends on the connection speed, and that you can’t watch this GIF offline."
In contrast with My Boyfriend Came Back from the War, in which changing technologies introduced unwanted changes in users' experience of the work, Summer foregrounds and thematizes the deeply intertwined relationship between artwork and technology. It reminds us that each time we view the work, we will experience it in a slightly different way, reflecting the shifting conditions of the network and our position within it.
In other words:
MTAA, Simple Net Art Diagram, c. 1997.
Artist Marc Ngui recently returned to his A Thousand Plateaus drawing project, in which he visually interpretats the famous text by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Ngui had previously only illustrated the first two chapters, but he is now working his way through the rest of the book and uploading his work to a Tumblr.
The above image is from the original series, created as an illustration of chapter 1, paragraph 6, which includes some rather key statements: "Any point of a rhizome can be connected to anything other, and must be;" and, "A rhizome ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences, and social struggles."
[H/T: Kenyatta Cheese]
Recently, Rhizome featured vector animations by Dov Jacobson that had surfaced at the XFR STN open-access media conservation project. Another standout work from the same videotape (RYO Gallery’s 1986 EVTV2 compilation) is the sensorially intense Sunflower Geranium (1983) by Don Slepian. The eight-minute 40-second video documents a live performance by the artist in which he used a custom array of specialized hardware and software to mix synthesized video imagery and original electronic music for a live audience. As Slepian, who is now a performing classical keyboardist, told Rhizome via e-mail, “I was a live performing VJ twenty years before the term existed." While the nature of performance of course doesn’t allow us to replicate the live experience, we’re thrilled that this video record of Sunflower Geranium can now find a new audience. After thirty years of advancements in technology, it’s difficult to imagine what went into Slepian creating these performances. Luckily, he was kind enough to answer some questions about performing with the system he created.
GM: Can you talk about the technology you used to create Sunflower Geranium?
DS: I gathered and developed a Live Performance Theatrical Visual Instrument in the early 1980s in a tiny apartment in Edison, NJ, as a continuation of a life-long fascination with the tools and techniques of electronic performance art.
I raised the money to create this studio from a private investor in 1983. I produced a series of shows featuring "Live Theatrical Image Processing" both in the USA and in France that anticipated the emergence of video VJ's twenty years later. Despite the best efforts of myself and two dedicated co-workers I failed to find a market for either the video stills or live video animation services. By 1986 I had to close the business and move on to other work. This was one of many financial failures in my life, but at the same time it represented a series of technical triumphs. At age 30 I had perhaps the most advanced and sophisticated privately-owned live-performance visual instrument in the world. I managed to develop and sustain it for several years of theatrical performances.
GM: What sort of programming went into producing the different effects?
DS: The opening visual motif is a pair of moving dot fields in contrary motion generated by a custom-modified Chromaton analog video synthesizer, with colorized analog video feedback giving the rippling 3D effect. The colorization was done with a special effects keyer; the video feedback was generated with an enclosed rescanning camera-monitor chain of my own design, a high definition monochrome camera with a good zoom lens facing an analog video monitor in a light-proof box, designed for controllable live-performance optically-modulated video feedback.
Behind this crude "star field" is an Apple II+ animation, really a score that I performed live.The computer that I used was specially souped up: not only did it have an accelerator board that made the graphics run much faster, it also had extensive modification that allowed the computer to produce video that could be mixed with other sources and recorded. This changed everything.
The score, which was called "Many Roads to L," comprised spiraling enlarging color-shifting visual echos of the text character "L". It was created in Brooke Boering’s wonderful CEEMAC graphical language, which was used to create very fast and highly responsive animations that could be instantly switched to music. I would use the CEEMAC fire organ animation demonstration disc to pre-load up to 27 scripts, then put the Apple keyboard on a remote tethered floor mount. I would control and switch CEEMAC animations with both of my big toes while simultaneously switching, mixing and colorizing synchronized layers of analog video with my hands.
At 1:24 is an example of live image processing, my blue colorized hand on a synthesizer keyboard with a negative luminance-keyed background generated by the Chromascope, an English-made analog video synthesizer that I specially modified to produce NTSC video.
At 3:00 is a short segment produced with Ross Hipley’s “Microflix” animation software for Commodore C64, rescanned with blue colorized video feedback trails. Most of the C64 graphics did not record well, causing the sections of apparently black screen. The layer of colorized feedback, like a cloud chamber tracing of the motion of radioacitve subatomic particles, reveals the beauty of the moving little "microflix" dots.
At 3:19 I launched a series of pure CEEMAC fire organ animations performed live to the music:
At 6:05 is another example of live image processing, this time colorizing a monochrome video image of the trees outside my bedroom window with synthetic patterns from the Chromascope:
At 7:22 is the output of one of my original CEEMAC scores in which I attempt to create texture and dimension using diffraction patterns and chroma shifting. In Apple II "Hi-Res" mode I was working with a 280px by 192px screen, 57 thousand pixels in all. A far cry from the 2.0736 million pixels we take for granted in standard 1080p video frames.
At 7:53, a doubly-mirrored color-shifted microcomputer graphic abstraction:
GM: Was it all mixed together live? Can you talk about the performance element of this?
DS: Yes, this is an edited collage of segments performed live to prerecorded music. The other element of the instrument that I didn’t discuss above was ¾” video editing deck with fast, responsive buttons that let me perform live insert and assembly edits. I developed a stochastic layered video editing technique inspired by early videos on MTV.
The performance elements are better illustrated by two shows using this visual instrument. The first is Synthetic Pleasure (Plaisir Synthetique), a live performance at the Festival de La Rochelle in the south of France.
The second is Formula, my attempt to bring this dance/video art form to the USA.
In both cases I had taken pains to make my visual instrument portable, ergonomic, and rugged. In the second dance piece, "Formula", I have my assistant performing the visuals as I musically accompanied the dancers live on stage. It was important to make the instrument simple enough so that other people could quickly learn it and play it artistically.
GM: Did you produce the music?
DS: Yes. I've produced the music in all of my video art. "Sunflower Geranium" was a live 1983 electronic music performance with keyboardist Lauri Paisley, who played an ARP Omni. I'm playing the rhythmic chordal progression on a KORG PS-3100 feeding a tape-based stereo echo device. I play occasional melody lines with a Yamaha CS-60.
Today I am first and foremost a musician, an original classical keyboard concert soloist using electronic instruments. I have chosen to concentrate on music performance and have currently passed on my visual tools to other fine artists.
GM: So much of the power of the piece is the rhythm between the music and the visuals. It becomes almost overpowering. Can you talk about some of the objectives you had in combining the music and video?
DS: I was influenced by the emergence of music videos on MTV, which had just started. I was looking to capture the power of some of the pop and rock music videos I was watching using instrumental electronic music and a hybrid melding of analog and digital techniques. I was interested in taking it to the stage, live. I wasn't trying to produce the sophisticated polished work that I saw on TV. I wanted to squirt electrons with a hose, I wanted to feedback colorized video smoke the way Jimi Hendrix would feedback tones on his guitar.
GM: How much overlap was there between the electronic music scene and the scene around computer generated video art?
DS: They were always together, but very few people produced quality work in both art forms. I was rather isolated from other visual artists, and was mostly known as a musician.
GM: Who or what are some of your inspirations?
DS: I was influenced by Daniel Sandin's Image Processor and by Steve Rutt of the Rutt-Etra machine. They both influenced my designs and art. Ric Hornor always inspired me with his amazing video stills, and Carol Chiani kindly brought me into the community of NY SIGGRAPH.
GM: Where did you show your work?
As a video artist I was honored with a paid week-long residency at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, France sponsored by the French Ministry of Culture. I was encouraged by Jean-Claude Risset at IRCAM and Max Mathews at Bell Telephone Labs. In the mid-80s I did several live music video concerts at the New York Open Center that incorporated live theatrical image processing. Later I did a number of electronic music and computer graphic performances at NY SIGGRAPH. Through the good graces of Phillip Sanders I was included in the Internet Archive project which led to this interview.
GM: As technology has progressed, what would you like to see?
DS: I am looking to revive analog video synthesis. I believe that we could build analog video synthesizers at full 1080p resolution that would give unmatched live responsive HD animation power in the theater.
I would like to extend the aesthetics of current VJ practice. So much of the imagery projected on large screens in concert today seem psychedelic, druggy, intoxicating, and suitable only for rock, pop, or electronica. How could current VJ tools accompany classical, folk, world, or acoustic music? The art form needs to grow and mature.
 Chromaton 14 analog video synthesizer from BJA Systems. I was deeply involved with the Chromaton from 1977, when I first started working with the instrument, until 2001 when I placed it under the care of the talented visual artist Mr. David Egan of Audiovisualizers. I got to know the Chromaton 14 designer, Mr. Ralph Wenger, worked with the circuitry, and made hundreds of video stills (photographs).
 The Adwar Special Effects Keyer combined a bidirectional luminance keyer with a powerful colorizer, all done with analog circuitry. I used it with the Chromaton synthesizer for processing camera imagery.
 I used a Number Nine accelerator board that replaced the 1Mh 6502 processor with a 3.6Mhz processor. This made the Apple graphics, already quite fast, run 3.6 times faster. To put this in modern terms, imagine if you could add a board to your PC and run a 10Ghz processor to replace your 3Ghz processor.
 In 1981 the late Sam Adwar, maker of the Special Effects Keyer, made an NTSC genlock board for the Apple II+. There were only a few of these made, they were very expensive, and they completely replaced the standard Apple graphics with an output that could be genlocked to a standard NTSC sync signal.
 I used I used a the CEEMAC fire organ animation demonstration disc while doing this, which allowed me to pre-load 27 assembly language scripts and switch between them rapidly.
 Sony VO-2610 3/4" U-matic deck
Labrynthitis by Jacob Kirkegaard is presented at Eyebeam on Friday
This week, New York is awash with sound art, led by MoMA's exhibition Soundings: A Contemporary Score (which features work by Rhizome-commissioned artist Tristan Perich). One event organized in conjunction with the MoMA exhibition looks particularly interesting: Jacob Kirkegaard's Labyrinthitis, in which the artist "sparks audible emissions within the audience's own ears" inside a "floating cube" at Eyebeam. The piece uses the listener's ear as an instrument, and it sounds like the best $11 night out we've heard of in a long time, except… it's sold out. More performances, please?
Since we're on the subject of sound art: last week the New York Times ran an article that included this passage contrasting more cerebral, "art-trained" figures in sound art with the "honk-tweet" school, described as follows:
Aligned with experimental music rather than visual art, the honk-tweeters are interested in strange beeps and buzzings for their own sakes. They craft what the sound artist, theorist and blogger Seth Kim-Cohen refers to as purely cochlear, rather than fully mindful, sound art.
In June, Mr. Kim-Cohen chided the survey at the Modern for including such work, which he described as the sonic equivalent of Op Art, a movement in painting “that does not demand (or merit) serious critical response,” as he has written.
This summary doesn't do justice to Kim-Cohen's ideas, but for the record: Op Art absolutely demands serious critical response, as does sound art that you actually have to, you know, listen to.
We take it as a good sign that the listing for Labyrinthitis includes a diagram of a cochlea. Prepare to put that organ to good use.
So without further ado, here are more selected events, exhibitions, and deadlines for the near future, all culled from Rhizome Announce.
Saturday, August 17: Sam Ashby, Jesse Darling, Fabienne Hess and Jon Rafman open up their studios for a rare two-day showing, followed by an evening of Daniel Rourke and Kyoung Kim's hot collaborative mess GLTI.CH Karaoke on Sunday.
Ongoing until Sunday, September 1: The Algorithm of Manfred Mohr - Mohr's retrospective at ZKM Center for Art & Media showcases his algorithmically generated work.
Friday, August 16: Et al. Gallery opens a solo show of new works by Aaron Finnis.
Sunday, August 18: Brooklyn Fire Proof opens their (new) doors for a night of mingling and refreshments complete with a multi-projection performance by the artist-collective Optipus.
Tuesday, August 20: SVA presents The Pond, the Mirror, the Kaleidoscope, an exhibition of more than 30 paintings from graduates working in the Symbolist tradition.
Thursday, August 15:
CultureHub has released an open call for multimedia or interactive installations and performances that explore the term 'regeneration.'
Piksel13, an international festival focused on free and open source technologies in artistic practice, invites submissions to a varied selection of catagories.
Residency for Artists on Hiatus, a virtual residency for artists not currently making or presenting art, seeks applicants for its 2013-14 reesidency period.
Friday, August 16:
MINA 2013 has put out a call for smartphone, mobile, or pocket camera films for their International Mobile Innovation Screening in New Zealand.
Sunday August 18:
The Simultan Festival 2013 calls for video works that use technology in a creative way or are based on an unusual story.
Tuesday, August 20:
Stereocure is looking for artists interested in displaying work during their takeover of Top Tomato Gallery in Los Angeles.
Thursday, August 15: Dave Miller seeks new Robin Hood stories for a printed book that will be 'extended' by augmented reality software on a mobile device.
Friday, August 16: MINA 2013 invites proposals for papers and presentations relating to different sorts of mobile innovation.
Thursday, August 15: SAIC has put out a call for Instructors in advanced 3D modeling for animation
Saturday, August 24: Purchase College seeks a full-time Assistant New Media Professor to begin in the fall semester of 2014.
Laylah Ali, John Brown Song! (2013). Cropped screenshot of website with Quicktime videos.
Laylah Ali’s project, John Brown Song!, was launched in June as part of Dia Art Foundation’s artist web projects. It includes the videos of a number of people singing the song "John Brown’s Body," a Civil War–era marching song about a radical abolitionist who was executed in Virginia in 1859. The videos are arranged in twos, but a viewer could also choose to view all, in a grid of videos that can be played together, generating a multitude of voices, all singing different versions of the somewhat gruesome song ("John Brown's body lies a-moldering in the grave…")
Ali doesn’t give you much. A viewer is left to make sense of it alone—nine pages, each with two videos of different people singing, then an "endnotes" page which includes James Baldwin talking about the American dream coming at the expense of the African American, Whitney Houston and Johnny Cash singing the John Brown Song, a rap version thereof, as well as a series of 19th-century drawings of John Brown. Finally, if one clicks on "Thanks/Credits," one might find this line: "If you have arrived at this point and are still wondering 'Who was John Brown?' then please click here." I learned more about John Brown from this link than from the work itself.
Is a web project the best way to experience this archive that Ali builds? One would presume that another way of presenting these vignettes would be in an edited video or multi-channel installation, which would also generate a similar score of voices but would not leave the viewer with the same sense of assembling the story. And the somewhat vague tone of it (the introduction to the project tells very little of the backstory) induces the user to go to the natural surrounding of this project—Google, that is—to learn more, and more actively, than they could from any wall text in a museum.
Dia commissions very few of these web projects—only one or two a year—but it began doing them astonishingly early, in 1995, and has not missed a year since. The organization states that artist are chosen "for their interest in exploring the aesthetic and conceptual potentials of the medium, rather than their fluency or proficiency with technology." The result is that the Dia project is oftentimes the first web-based project these artists worked on. For some, it seems like a natural extension of their practice. But "natural" can be a little complex here, as in the case of Rosa Barba's 2008 web project Vertiginous Mapping. Barba's work generally considers the medium she uses quite intensely, mainly by focusing on the physical properties of said medium—usually 16mm film and projectors, in works that transform the film itself or its presentation in the space in a way that forces the viewer to think about the materiality of the medium rather than its illusion. For Dia, she created an archive of text and film that reads like a story. In a way, Vertiginous Mapping combines Barba's interest in film with the layered structure of the online project, veering closer to narrativity than most of her work in celluloid. Similarly, Francis Alÿs’s 1999 contribution The Thief (a screensaver that considers the futile role of the screensaver as a solely aesthetic tool, accompanied by a witty text laid in links providing insight into Alÿs’s thinking of the project, which includes conflating Windows95 with Alberti’s Window, the Renaissance-era system of understanding perspective in painting) examines a format that is new to the artist’s work in a manner that is consistent with his broader project of identifying small inconsistencies that society has grown used to and drawing our attention to them.
Amid the constant overhaul of museum websites to include research material, archival content, and web 2.0–like features, a number of art institutions have recently been rethinking their websites as sites for exhibition. What makes Dia's program particularly intriguing is the foundation's commitment to supporting new projects, and especially works by artists who aren't necessarily comfortable in the online space. Ali is a painter. Dia facilitated an opportunity for her to think about what an online project could mean in the context of her larger practice, opening up a new way to approach subjects she has dealt with in other media. Dia have considered the question, "What could the internet be for an art institution?" by thinking about what the internet could be for artists.
Dia’s mission is "to extend the boundaries of the traditional museum to respond to the needs of the generation of artists whose work matured and became prominent during the 1960s and 1970s ... to commission, support, and present site-specific long-term installations and single-artists exhibitions to the public." I wonder if we can think of the space of Dia’s web projects as similar to one of the projects the foundation maintains like Walter De Maria’s Lightning Field in New Mexico or Smithson’s Spiral Jetty in Salt Lake. Even if the web projects the foundation maintains may not live on in history to be as giant as the two land art examples cited, they do exemplify that any art institution’s mission statement should be read with new technologies in mind.
Allan Sekula, artist and author of such indispensable texts as "The Body and the Archive," passed away over the weekend. While Sekula's primary medium was photography, his work had no small relevance to questions that surround art and technology, and is well worth revisiting in the wake of this sad news. Among his works that have been circulating on Tumblr over the past couple of days are his 1999 work Dear Bill Gates. The work involved a photographed action in which the artist swam as close as he could to the Microsoft founder's house.
Sekula described the work as follows:
Recently I wrote a letter to a man who embodies the new paradigm of the global archivist, the facilitator of the new virtual and disembodied family of man. He's no Steichen, since he refuses the role of the grand paternalistic editor, preferring in a more veiled manner to manage the global archive and retrieval system from which any number of pictorial statements might be constructed. In effect, he allows his clients to play in the privacy of their homes the role of mini-Steichen, perusing vast quantities of images from around the world, culling freely-but for a price-with meaning in mind.
I made a point of typing the letter on an old manual typewriter, and of sending it anonymously: both neo-Luddite gestures of sorts. The first gesture befits a world of slower communications. In the old days, messages contended with the weather, with "rain and snow and heat" as the old slogan of the U.S. Post Office would have it. As you can see, my old-fashioned letter is appended to a documented action that pushes to an extreme this idea of meteorological resistance to communication
The date of the letter, possibly suspect in light of evidence yet to be introduced, underscores the neo-Luddite resort to the manual typewriter, since it marks the very day of show-stopping mass protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle, the hometown and current residence of Mr. Bill Gates.
And the text of the letter:
November 30, 1999
Dear Bill Gates,
I swam past your dream house the other day, but didn't stop to knock. Frankly, your underwater sensors had me worried. I would have liked to take a look at Winslow Homer's Lost on the Grand Banks. It's a great painting, but, speaking as a friend and fellow citizen, at $30 million you paid too much.
HIGHEST PRICE EVER PAID FOR AN AMERICAN PAINTING!!!
So why are you so interested in a picture of two poor lost dory fishermen, momentarily high on a swell, peering into a wall of fog? They are about as high as they're ever going to be, unless the sea gets uglier. They are going to die, you know, and it won't be a pretty death.
And as for you, Bill, when you're on the Net, are you lost? Or found ?
And the rest of us—lost or found—are we on it, or in it?
Throughout his life, Sekula was always on the side of those who struggled through the waters both literal and figurative, rather than those who stayed high and dry. He will be missed.
Source: Allan Sekula, "Between the Net and the Deep Blue Sea (Rethinking the Traffic in Photographs)" October, Vol. 102 (Autumn, 2002), pp. 3-34.
GIF by Vince McKelvie. (The artbase GIFs can be found below).
Perhaps slightly mis-named, 3dGif is actually a WebGL-based website that allows users to create 3D animations from any image, still or moving. The image is mapped onto the inside of a cube, and onto the outside of an undulating form within said cube, to create the sense of an immersive environment. Not only does McKelvie have a perfect Tumblr, populated with eye-popping GIFs like the one above, he also releases all of his source material (3d files, .movs, and image sequences) for each GIF on Dropbox, opening the door for possible re-use by other artists. He also recently developed a desktop application that pulls recent content from a user's preferred Tumblr feeds, creating an ambient, animated collage.
Here are the results of our own experiments with 3DGif, which we screen captured and turned into actual animated GIFs.
This one is based on a still from Takeshi Murata's Melter 2 (2003).
This one is based on a screenshot of Scroll Bar (1998) by Maciej Wisniewski:
And, finally, the Rhizome color splash logo:
H/T: Prosthetic Knowledge.
William Powhida and Jade Townsend's drawing Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes (2012). Detail.
William Powhida and Jade Townsend's drawing Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes is a depiction of the art world as a medieval battlefield populated by warring factions, complete with a legend identifying each faction in language that is part literary epic, part incoherent rant. It's an excellent time-waster, both funny and irritating. For example, one part of the drawing depicts a suburban hinterland where burghers gather outside the church of Thomas Kinkade (above). Steve Lambert can be seen rolling by with his "Capitalism works for me!" sign, one of only a few artists found in these uncharted middlebrow realms. (Lambert toured the large sign across the US, asking people to vote on whether the sign is true or false for them.)
The drawing includes its share of art world notables, but it pulls no punches when it comes to the kinds of artistic practices that Rhizome supports. The detail below shows the new media factions within this Boschean Where's Waldo? (there is a separate Tower of the Moving Image as well). The computer on the left represents the "Virtual New Media Universe," in which "internal factions resist any efforts to be drawn out into the desert of the real." The robot factory represents the "New Aesthetic Maker-Bot Army," which is called out for its "tenuous alliance" of different discourses "that aims to destroy the problem of subjectivity and seize the Dark Tower." Then there's the "Pseudo-Science Observatory" that is devoted to "the appearance of scientific inquiry as practice;" the "8-bit Gamer Artists led by their General Corey [sic] Arcangel harness the great power of nostalgia."
William Powhida and Jade Townsend's drawing Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes (2012). Detail.
Despite the vitriolic generalizations of...well, basically all of us, the drawing does make it look like some cool things are going on there in new media world. (A huge telescope! An old Macintosh! Robots!) Keep it up, people.