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The Rhizome Blog and Rhizome News

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    A collection of items from the Prosthetic Knowledge Tumblr and around the web that involve constructive distortions and creative error in 3D computer graphics.

    The glitch aesthetic is now mainstream, appearing in Wreck-It Ralph, Adventure Time, Man of Steel and even Skyfall, and when we see it we immediately recognize it. What constitutes a glitch can be contradictory—some can be genuine errors, others merely noise. What they all have in common is a broken appearance interrupting, for a moment, the seamless design of human media consumption, an embrace of encryption entropism.

    The pop-cultural examples listed above mostly involve two-dimentional signal errors, but the polygon glitch, in contrast with these, is more sculptural. Polygons are used to model 3D graphical environments in real time (particularly for video games), resulting in a carefully constructed realism that often breaks down momentarily, which means that polygon glitches are familiar to players and developers alike. Processing power and software availability has brought such glitches into further dimensions of visual complexity, with richer palettes and lighting. Tools that were originally designed for 3D construction and online game environments have now become interactive canvases for creative or accidental sculpture, a pseudo-Vorticism.
    Below is a collection of examples which highlight this aesthetic. 
    Halo 3 On A Broken XBox
    A gamer who goes by the pseudonym Thos submitted these 3D distortion errors captured while playing the video game Halo 3:
    More images with commentary can be found here.
    Circuit Bending The Sega Saturn

    Many of those interested in glitch aesthetics are familiar with the act of circuit bending—while running an electronic device (such as an old games console), apply contact to the circuitry to affect the data output (which could be audio or visual).

    This has usually been put into practice with old 8-bit or 16-bit gaming consoles such as the NES and the Sega Megadrive / Genesis. Due to the technical limitations of these machines, the output comprised 2D graphics and a limited range of sounds. Up to this point, it is hard to think of an example of circuit-bending that made use of subsequent generations of gaming hardware, which were designed for 3D graphics. (Ed. — if you know of examples of 3D circuit bending, please leave them in the comments below.) 

    Big Pauper (Panzah Zandahz) of found an old SEGA Saturn, one of the first consoles to specialize in 3D gaming and sophisticated audio. With this, he started experimenting and documented the results. He writes:

    Had no plans of getting in to the gaming mods.  I figured it was a pretty well charted and explored field.  It wasn't until I found my beloved model one Sega Saturn in grannie’s attic that I thought, "my old friend, i wonder what secrets you keep."  A little internet research (not the end all be all, I know) led me to realize that there isn't much next generation gaming bends being explored out there.  If there is then people aren’t posting it.  Even the Playstation, seen in Goodwill stacks the world over, seems to have eluded the recent wave of electronic curiosity.

    Upon opening the Saturn I found out why.  It's a very complex machine with very tiny components.  One would need tweezers and a microscope to get anywhere with this thing (sound familiar? hehe).  That’s the problem with modern circuitry, it’s all so goddamn mini.  Mini, yes, but I would argue that it's mythic there has been an increase in stability.  Electronics that generate graphics will freak the f**k out if you hit 'em just right regardless of whether they are from 2011 or 1991.

    There are some great audio and video examples - here is my favourite, a glitchy Virtua Fighters example with crazy Ganz Graf-like reactive and unpredicatble polygons:

    Also, here is another which is like a crazy polygon collage:

    There is more to examine; you can find out more about this project at the circuitbentvideo website here.


    A collection of databent 3D interactive glitch models put together by Jeff Donaldson aka notendo, exploiting Z-plane rendering errors commonly known as "Z-fighting." (Z-fighting is most often seen when two planes occupy the same level in space, with neither in front of each other, causing them to flicker and interfere with one another.)

    Above are Gun and Try, which you can play around with yourself here and here.

    Club Rothko— LaTurbo Avedon

    These abstract polygon representations in 3D sculptural form by artist LaTurbo Avedon are part of a series of portraits of creatives and their followers based on the subjects' Facebook profile photos.


    You can view the entire series of portraits at Gallery Online
    Artist's website

    46f by Mitch Posada

    Posada, an artist who works with 3D modelling software, creates works with beautiful distortions and textures:


    More of Posada's work can be found at his Facebook profile


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    Analog Sunset at Ludlow 38.

    In 2009, I went to an amazing event at 38 Ludlow called Analog Sunset, which took place on the night that analog television was due to be turned off in the US forever, giving way to the digital broadcast future. Three artists going by the moniker Off the Record (Ethan Breckenridge, Liz Linden and Phil Vanderhyden) had piled up a stack of old TVs in the space. As the appointed hour approached, more and more urgent warnings began flashing at the bottom of the screen; the announcers on Univision grew particularly animated. And then, not at the same time, but—with true analog precision—one by one, over the course of several minutes, the televisions faded away to static. (Auspiciously, Liza Béar of Send/Receive was in attendance.)

    Later this year, the analog sunset will hit Australia, as that country moves to solely digital broadcast. To mark the transition, Emma Ramsay and Alex White are organizing a series of events and broadcasts under the name Tele Visions. They're looking for new and existing works that engage with TV as a medium; the deadline is next week.

    Now, without further ado, here is our weekly roundup of Events, Opportunities and Deadlines, culled from Rhizome Announce.


    August 19: Project Launch: HIJACKED EBOOK BESTSELLERS AS LITERARY TROJAN HORSES. A project in which pirated books are "contaminated" by Google Ad Sense, then re-distributed with advertising included. A visit to their torrent from Rhizome HQ gives one the text, "Releases are currently disabled in the US." 


    August 19-21: Sound Curating at ZKM. An international seminar at the ZKM that focuses on the methodologies, histories, theories and practices of sound art curating.

    New York

    Through September 26: Jacolby Satterwhite will be creating a 3D animated video while in residence at Recess. For the project, Satterwhite will record visitors performing a series of actions based on his drawings in a green screen studio at Recess and on the street.



    City College of New York seeks a College Laboratory Technician - Digital Media Art. Deadline: 9/13.

    SUNY Purchase seeks an Assistant Professor of New Media. Deadline: 8/24.

    SUNY Purchase also seeks Adjunct Faculty in Printmaking who can think "across disciplines" and whose interests and experience "encompass broader approaches to art practice and human knowledge." Deadline: 9/1.

    The University at Buffalo, Department of Media Study, invites applications for an Assistant/Associate Professor position in Media Theory. Deadline: 10/12.

    Film and Digital Media Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) invites applications for a faculty position in social documentary production at the Assistant Professor (tenure-track) level. Deadline: 10/14.



    August 20: Artists working in new media, film, neon, installation, performance, animation, interactive and kinetic art are invited to submit proposals for Activate: Market Street, a public art initiative to occupy storefront windows in Newark.

    August 25: A new festival of art of the moving image, Transient Visions which will be held on October 18 - 19, 2013 in Johnson City, New York seeks submissions of short films and videos (less than 20 min.) from emerging and established artists/filmmakers across the globe.

    August 29: Tele Visions is seeking submissions for screen based works to be presented in conjunction with the final shutdown of analog television in Australia in November / December 2013.

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    With its blocky, low-res graphics and clunky interaction, the television-based information retrieval system known as teletext seems out of place in today's world of touchscreens and flatscreen TVs. But in an excellent blog post on the history of teletext art posted Friday, Goto80 (aka Anders Carlsson) pointed out that the medium is still very much in use in several European countries. In fact, the iPhone and iPad app for Swedish teletext was one of the most popular iTunes downloads in that country 2011. And as Carlson writes, among the latter-day fans of the medium are numerous artists, from JODI to the participants in the 2006 Microtel project that inspired the title of this article to the second annual International Teletext Art Festival, on now through September 15.

    The inherent limitations of teletext may be a part of what makes it appealing to artists. These constraints are described by festival organizers as follows:

    A teletext page can be perceived as a grid of 24 rows and 40 columns. To change the colours of the graphics, text and background or to add a blink effect, a control character needs to be inserted. Each time a control character is placed it uses up one space in the grid, which then appears black. 

    With the seemingly limitless creative software available today, it can be difficult to understand how complex technological tools shape one's creative output. With teletext, the constraints imposed by the tool are entirely out in the open, making the relationship between the artist and the technology that much more transparent. In the case of this year's festival, the artists have used this limited tool to widely varying ends. Some of the works are displayed here as gif images, but as the festival organizers note, "the true forum for teletext art is of course teletext itself."

    For The Journey of the Sun, Raquel Meyers used the multiple-page function of teletext to create a five-panel narrative sequence:

    In one of three works, Lucky Cat, Dragan Espenschied explores the potential of the medium for the display of images of cats, using teletext's support for blinking graphics to suggest movement:

     Juha van Ingen's The Tale of Tomorrow drew inspiration from J.M.W. Turner's Sunset (c. 1830-1835):


    Lia reflects on the formal qualities of teletext, stripping the image down to its basic elements:

    While Marc Lee riffs on the medium's status as a public source of information:

    The International Teletext Art Festival is on now through 15 September. See the full selection of works on the festival website, or via ARD Text (Germany) from page 850, ORF TELETEXT (Austria) from page 470, and SWISS TELETEXT pages 750-764. (We downloaded the Swiss Teletext app for Android, but the blinking function does not seem to work for us). It is also on view in Berlin at the ARD Hauptstadtstudio exhibition space and will be in the program of the 2013 Ars Electronica Festival.


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    Tim Ivison, Julia Tcharfas, George Moustakas and Rachel Pimm. View of Recent Work by Artists (2013).

    Auto Italia South East is no stranger to precarity. The inaugural event for this artist-run project’s new space located on York Way in King’s Cross was a conference titled "Immaterial Labour Isn't Working" (20th April—12th May 2013, organized in collaboration with Huw Lemmey), which built on and extended a growing international discourse surrounding art and labor. The title was suggestively open-ended. It could be taken to mean that immaterial labor—the post-Fordist condition in which work is based on knowledge, and may not even be recognizable as work in a traditional sense—leads to untenable and precarious situations for workers. Or, it could be taken to mean that immaterial labor isn't work at all, because it is so close to leisure.

    Contextually speaking, Auto Italia's new space was perfect for such discussions. It is right in the middle of a major urban redevelopment program that has transformed what was once a down-and-out neighbourhood into a gentrified paradise (or paradigm), set to include the largest new street in London since Kingsway was completed in 1904, and a public square that will surpass the scale of Trafalgar. The relocation marks a new beginning for a project founded in South East London, where, in 2007, Auto Italia established its first space in a disused warehouse in Peckham. As the story goes, the founding artists (who were initially squatting) brokered a deal with the owners to inhabit the space almost rent-free until it was demolished (they only took care of the utilities bills). It flourished as a 21st century creative agency with a desire for autonomy despite its precarious existence: a collective that worked towards producing ideas and projects through collaborations, conferences, artist happenings and all-out productions.

    Although Auto Italia is perhaps best known for its online video series, AUTO ITALIA LIVE!, many of the contradictions that the group wrestles with stem from their use of physical space. Independent initiatives such as this one are always subject to the realities of rents and the need for funding. And while this was somewhat relieved when Auto Italia became an Arts Council England's National Portfolio Organisation in 2011, the practical considerations of simply surviving are a central component of Auto Italia's project. For example, their 2011 event "We Have Our Own Concept of Time and Motion" (in collaboration with Federico Campagna, Huw Lemmey, Michael Oswell and Charlie Woolley) examined the concept of self-organizing—a concept embraced, in differing ways, by the leftist Italian Autonomist movement as well as the neoliberal capitalist movement—while focusing discussion specifically on Auto Italia's own position and practices, and the contradictions therein.

    Auto Italia in collaboration with Federico Campagna, Huw Lemmey, Michael Oswell and Charlie Woolley. We have our own concept of Time and Motion (2011).

    Auto Italia inhabits its new space in King's Cross as part of an agreement with King's Cross Central Limited Partnership, the private company developing the 65 acres of former railway lands in North London into business, residential and leisure complexes. They don't know how long they will have this place, and are acutely aware of how they have been implanted in the development to add a certain "hip factor" to the area. Almost by default of location and context, the project's presence in King's Cross performs an encounter with the market forces that are defining and shaping not only how independent practices today survive (or not) but also how societies and, indeed art practices, operate. (Central St. Martins' new campus is only a short walk away.)

    Perhaps this encounter with the market is what prompted Auto Italia’s second project, Recent Work by Artists, which not only riffs on the trend for galleries to present group shows during the summer lull (this is not a Chelsea gallery, after all), but also references (through the production of a literal island installation) John Donne's well-known observation that no man is an island since each is part of a whole (or a main). Designed and constructed with the collective efforts of Tim Ivison, Julia Tcharfas, George Moustakas and Rachel Pimm, the space is almost entirely taken up by an "island"—a curvilinear, multi-level structure that rises up from a bright blue sea of carpet, providing a platform for a range of indoor houseplants and for Auto Italia's office, which somehow becomes the "artwork." It feels like a themed crèche, or maybe even a Google workspace. The edges of an internal column have been padded with gym mat; there is another, smaller island (a gym mat cut into shape) with a coffee table. Dotted around are books, photocopies, mugs with holiday themed photos printed onto them and a screen presenting a screensaver-like image of a waterfall. Events and talks have been scheduled, including a reading group for the book Experiences in Groups by R.W Bion (1961) and a site-specific conversation featuring Anthony Iles in conversation with Tim Ivison titled “The Real Estate Show: A Discussion on Art and Urban Development."

    Tim Ivison, Julia Tcharfas, George Moustakas and Rachel Pimm. View of Recent Work By Artists (2013).

    Recent Work by Artists is a performance of immaterial labor; visitors to the space can see and interact with artists at work—on the phone and the computer, rather than on paper or canvas—on a daily basis. Like "Immaterial Labour Isn't Working," the project is an attempt at foregrounding and working through the contradictions faced by artists in a neoliberal economy. In keeping with Autonomist thinking, it does not seek to burden individual artists with the need to resolve all of these structural contradictions. Rather, it showcases an attempt at maintaining a viable, working and thriving creative space embedded within the claustrophobic (and changeable) flows of neoliberalism. A productive island, so to speak—"cut off" perhaps, but networked all the same.

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    Artist duo UBERMORGEN are participating in the International Teletext Art Festival, which was recently profiled here on Rhizome. The following interview by Raffaela Kolb with UBERMORGEN's Hans Bernhard was originally conducted for RCKSTR Magazineviewable here—and has been translated and reprinted with permission.

    UBERMORGEN, My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic (2013), Youtube comments translated to teletext, 24 text rows of 40 characters each.

    RK: How did you and your partner get invited to the ITAF 2013?

    UM: I have no idea. Somewhere, somehow, sometime, a person unknown to me, from Finland I believe, sent an email to one of the hundreds of UBERMORGEN email addresses. I also did not read the email, but just saw the words teletext, Finland, Switzerland (SRF), Austria (ORF), Germany (ARD) and art, and intuitively replied with "YES WE CAN"... It wasn't until much later that I read about all the bans: no pornography (although that is the best part of teletext), no advertising (shit! that would be the second best) and they can censor everything, if it doesn't suit them, i.e the organizers. Shit! I thought to myself, but then it was already too late... I then pinged my friend, Dragan Espenschied, of Bodenständig2000, who happens to be a big fan of [German synthpop duo] Modern Talking and has wanted to feature Thomas Anders with his Nora Ketterl on teletext for quite a while now... I then integrated a small reference into our piece... A fitting tribute to a great artist (DRX) and a great German band (Modern Talking).

    RK: Have you guys done any works using teletext art before?

    UM: Yes, we have wanted to to do something using teletext art for years, but it never came to fruition. Then in 2008, lizvlx and I carried out the project Sound of eBay as a conclusion of the EKMRZ trilogy (GWEI—Google Will Eat Itself and Amazon Noir—The Big Book Crime)

    —> Simply put: We converted eBay user data into techno music... Then we thought, brilliant, there is no context to teletext, neither in form nor in content, and for this reason, we thus made the visual components in teletext-style, teletext-porn, ...we repeatedly got our butts kicked and received hate e-mails, death threats and "unfriendings" because of it. But... fuck it... Sex sells and the project was a blockbuster success in the field of art, people are hysterical, because the sound coder, Stefan Nussbaumer, tinkered with the super-complex black box—which just converted the raw data into music—for over a year, and in the end, all the songs still sounded exactly the same. Brilliant! We couldn't have planned it any better.
    —-> check it out: …

    RK: What do you understand by teletext art?

    UM: Art using the teletext medium or with teletext aesthetics... I don't care where it is shown, it is so unambiguous in form and so beautiful in its minimalism, from the rough edges and angles and the minimalistic color palette. Here again every artist should have done at least one teletext project in his career, otherwise, his/her entire work is simply not complete and certainly loses a couple of percentage points on the art market in the long run.

    RK: How did you transform the few possibilities offered by teletext?

    UM: I certainly did not get this damned software anyway and am also not interested. Since I rather develop the concepts at UBERMORGEN and not the aesthetics and the graphics derived from it. But I had to do these five pages all by myself, because we were then engaged in a vicious quarrel and I was confronted internally with sabotage and blackmail.

    Due to lack of funds, I also couldn't simply outsource the production, which I otherwise would have gladly done. Therefore I had to sit down and suck up something from the Google-universe.

    After already being fascinated for a couple of years by Monster High, Winx, My Little Pony (MLP) and Littlest Pet Shop (LPS)—and I am not alone, my daughters watch MLP for hours and I gladly watch with them. It is the nearest I can get to an LSD high and since I sadly can't take drugs anymore, I must take my fix of MLP and LPS like it's methadone, in order to create weird hallucinations and synapse connections... 

    UBERMORGEN, Monster High TM, Invasion of the Ghoul Snatchers (2013), Youtube comments translated to teletext, 24 text rows of 40 characters each.

    In any case I sit in front of the computer in my studio and notice that it will definitely not work with graphics, the shit is too complicated. I therefore copy the best YouTube comments in 5 different episodes of the mentioned series—I also added School for Vampires to it, since the kids watch it 10 hours a day, it's the summer holidays you know—and paste them into the antiquated teletext editor, which is compatible with absolutely nothing, with the possible exception of a still more faulty teletext editor at some crappy TV station.

    Since I however find the colors super cool and have already found the best of the best in html1, I therefore took this combined magenta, cyan, and white blinking font. It was also beautiful afterwards, you can figure out the rest by yourself...

    RK: In your opinion, are the limited possibilities of the medium more of an advantage than a disadvantage?

    UM: The decreased colors are an advantage.

    Actually everything is an advantage, because I am of the opinion that Ideas and concepts and the stories generated from them can be most effectively produced and communicated with the simplest media, because they do not cause distraction in production or reception. We thus remain at the heart of the matter with teletext, and the biggest challenge is to fascinate and captivate a user with 10KB. I actually come from text (from literature). It is certainly therefore standard, quasi, minimum data usage alternative expression... 

    UBERMORGEN, 2013

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  • 08/26/13--08:37: Red Burns, 1925-2013
  • We were deeply saddened to learn this weekend of the passing of Red Burns. On Saturday, NYU's ITP department announced her passing with a statement. "After living several full lives, one of which we were a part of at ITP, she died peacefully at home surrounded by her children. Red lives on strongly in the thousands of lives that she redirected at ITP." 

    We offer our deepest condolences to those in our community who were close to Burns. ITP has set up a site for messages of remembrance and donations to their Red Burns Fund. For those who didn't know her, it is difficult to explain just how far-reaching Burns' influence has been, how many lives she has changed, and how much of an impact she has had on the field of creative technology. In a word: immeasurable. ITP was no small part of her legacy; past alums of the department include Nick Hasty, now of Giphy, who wrote most of the software that runs this website as Rhizome's developer, Dennis Crowley, founder of Foursquare, and Igal Nassima, founder of the alternative artspace 319 Scholes. 

    Part of Burns' tremendous impact can be attributed to her philosophy. She thought of technology not as a black box that is inflicted on defenseless users, but as something that should be accessible and socially useful. For a 2011 article for Rhizome, Jason Huff wrote about an early articulation of this philosophy:

    After my interview with Burns, she gave me an archive of her reports and articles spanning from 1977 to 1998. Reading through them, I uncovered a presentation she gave at the American Council on Education in Washington D.C., on October 16, 1981, titled “Technology is Not Enough”. For a presentation in 1981, the title still holds certain relevance. I discovered what might have been the guiding principles of the earliest days of the ITP program. She laid out two points in working with technology: 1) "consider the technology as a tool which, in itself, could do nothing," and 2) "treat the technology as something that everyone on the team could learn, understand, and explore freely." This was a similar formula she had developed in her research projects with the AMC and she has iterated and relied on it ever since.

    In addition to her ideas, an equally important part of Burns' impact was her no-bullshit personality. I met Burns prior to teaching a class at ITP several years ago. Despite her petite stature, she had incredible force of personality and, I seem to recall, laser beams for eyes. Perspiration gathered on my upper lip as she fired off questions about what role capital-A art should play in the ITP curriculum. I survived, barely, but I was impressed by her desire to confront, rather than gloss over, such important and thorny questions.

    This willingness to get right to the heart of the matter also came across in Huff's aforementioned article. When, during an in-person interview, he asked her if she thought ITP would last, she said with the utmost directness, "If it has any value it will, if it doesn't, it won't." For the near future, at least, the answer to that question seems clear. 

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    Participants in JAPIC's 2012-2013 Animation Artist in Residency Program engaging directly with Japanese animation culture.

    A notable opportunity came through the wire this week from Tokyo, where the Japan Image Council are offering a 70-day residency in early 2014 for young animators interested in engaging directly with Japanese animation culture (in other words, all young animators). Applicants must be between the ages of 20 and 35, and have had their work screened previously at an international film festival. More information can be found on JAPIC's website.

    Now, without further ado, here are this week's opportunities, events and job openings, all culled from Rhizome Announce:



    Through August 31, Public Assembly presents Penthouse 4C, a half-size replica of the most exclusive apartment in the Barbican Housing Estate in London. During the Hack the Barbican festival in August, the installation will host Public Assembly, a nomadic platform for collective works of art.


    "New Pennants" by Matthew Williamson is on view at the Widget Art gallery (available by clicking here from your smartphone) through September 20.


    #404 Not Foundopens Friday, August 30 at Co-Prosperity Sphere in Chicago, featuring work by artists including Patrick Lichty and Emilie Gervais.


    Mills College Art Museum will host a closing reception for West of Center: Art and the Countercultural Experiment in America, 1965-1977 on August 28.

    Washington, DC

    The exhibition Manifest: AR is on view at the Corcoran College of Art + Design through September 1, featuring (among other works) "Shades of Absence: Governing Bodies," an intervention by Tamiko Thiel that makes histories of censorship visible within the gallery space.


    Opportunities for Artists

    August 29: Tele Visions seeks submissions for screen based works to be presented in conjunction with the final shutdown of analog television in Australia in November / December 2013.

    September 1: Deadline for proposals for new artworks and installations engaged with the internet for the 2013 Mobile Awards, run by Transcultures MediaArt Center in Brussels. 

    September 1: Deadline for artists (including those interested in digital printmaking) to apply for residencies at Lower East Side Printshop in NYC. 

    September 2: HERE performing arts venue in NYC is offering rehearsal and performance facilities for "sublet" at a partially subsidized rate for week-long runs in the fall season. 

    September 9: The Agency for Cultural Affairs (Government of Japan) is looking for three outstanding young animation artists from around the world with an opportunity to come to Tokyo and create new works while directly interacting with Japanese animation culture.



    August 31: ZERO1: The Art and Technology Network is seeking a part-time Curatorial Coordinator. (San Jose, CA).

    SUNY Purchase seeks Adjunct Faculty in Printmaking who can think "across disciplines" and whose interests and experience "encompass broader approaches to art practice and human knowledge." Deadline: 9/1.

    City College of New York seeks a College Laboratory Technician - Digital Media Art. Deadline: 9/13.

    The University at Buffalo, Department of Media Study, invites applications for an Assistant/Associate Professor position in Media Theory. Deadline: 10/12.

    Film and Digital Media Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) invites applications for a faculty position in social documentary production at the Assistant Professor (tenure-track) level. Deadline: 10/14.

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    Still image from Cardboard Computer (Tamas Kemenczy and Jake Elliott), Kentucky Route Zero (video game). Act I, Scene I: Equus Oils.

    "I've got a delivery on Dogwood Drive, but I'd rather watch the sunset." –Conway, Act I, Scene I

    Kentucky Route Zero, created by indie developer Cardboard Computer (Tamas Kemenczy and Jake Elliott) is, so far, a well-polished crystal that shimmers out of the otherwise looming darkness of the video game industry.

    So far, that is, because the game is intended to be released episodically in five "Acts," of which only the first two are currently available. Acts I and II are written superbly, with simple yet often deeply poetic tenor. Their art direction is first rate, blending Brechtian staging with De Stijl modernism. The game play is also a unique hybrid of familiar point-and-click adventure interface and engrossing interactive dialog. In the initial episodes, Kentucky Route Zero is a tranquil fantasy, a beautiful, haunting, and contemplative experience—adjectives one gets to use all too rarely when talking about video games. 

    The game revolves around a cast of characters who collectively are trying to find a place that feels like home. Players primarily navigate the game as Conway, a soon-to-be-retired delivery truck driver on his last delivery to a seemingly unknown address on Dogwood Drive tucked within the rolling "hollers" of the Kentucky Blue Ridge Mountains. Upon arriving at a non-operational Equus Oils gas station, we're informed that the address that we're looking for must be somewhere along the mythical Kentucky Route Zero. This highway lies beneath the soil, within the famous caverns of the Bluegrass State. Above ground, players navigate a map along Route 65, attempting to find clues to help Conway find his final destination. As players encounter other lost souls similarly seeking a permanent resting place, they come to understand that the Zero also serves as a kind of junction between this life and the next.

    Still images from Cardboard Computer (Tamas Kemenczy and Jake Elliott), Kentucky Route Zero (video game). Act I, Scene II: Marquéz Farmhouse.

    In the second act, for example, when players finally get a chance to take a tour of the subterranean highway, driving directions require activating waypoints and crystals to change the road. It becomes clear that this highway was not engineered by mortal hands, but rather by supernatural forces. A full explanation of this phenomenon is never directly given, and players are left with trying to decipher and interpret the mysteries of this phantom road.

    It is in these unexplained, yet intuitive, moments that KR0 points towards a hopeful future of independent game development in that it posits a style of play that asks player not to merely solve puzzles, or to race through dialog, or to admire its realistic rendering of 3D space. Instead, this game asks players to reflect on what lies underneath the surface of appearances and gameplay. This nuanced experience invites players to develop the kind of rich relationships with characters that rarely occur in contemporary gaming.

    In some moments of KR0, this invitation is next to impossible to avoid. During late stages of the first act, players have to travel through an abandoned mine on an almost unbearably slow electric trolley cart. During this sluggish ride, we learn significant backstory about the leading female character, Shannon, through interactive dialog. As Conway lays injured in the cart, Shannon divulges information about her relationship with her sister – whose ghostly presence players have encountered previously in another scene. This information is imparted to players only intermittently through long stretches of claustrophobic and quiet repose.

    All too often when playing games released in the past two years – even in the most well-crafted blockbuster titles – moments of character development only occur amidst havoc and/or destructive violence. Bioshock Infinite seems one of the more fitting examples of this, as players learn the story of Booker and Elizabeth amidst brutal hand-to-hand decapitations. As a result, the potential for contemplative character-building is couched within advancing the player through some type of bullet-hell. KR0 co-creator Kemenczy suggests that this problem is not only one of content, but also of design. In a recorded interview over Skype, he commented on a central contrast between what he and Elliott have made and product from the mainstream industry, saying that in the latter "these moments … are still like a B-Side. They're just like an upgraded cinematic cut scene. [They] are not a primary concern."

    In other words, within "AAA" games – or titles with enormous budgets and markets – the potential for dynamic character development manifests in the form of an apology rather than an epiphany. It is as if those brief interstitials act only as a kind of "mild interruption" in order to make a half-hearted argument that games are becoming more mature. This is only employed in order to counter-balance a more familiar, and marketable, hack-and-slash death match.

    This is not to say that KR0 is unique merely because it is non-violent—many other games share this quality. What makes it unique is that Elliot and Kemenczy have created an experience where the player never quite becomes a commanding authority in shaping the way the world works. We advance with Conrad and friends far into the thicket of a metaphysical wonderland, but we never feel as though we've mastered it. This dynamic of uncertain mastery over the game becomes a central device in determining the relationship players have with their characters.

    Still image from Cardboard Computer (Tamas Kemenczy and Jake Elliott), Kentucky Route Zero (video game). Act II Scene III - Museum of Inhabited Spaces.

    When players engage in dialog with characters within KR0, the player is presented with a series of responses and/or prompts to initiate further conversation, a familiar technique within contemporary games like the Mass Effect series developed by BioWare. However, players quickly discover in KR0 that these decisions actually don't create any specific or noticeable circumstance within the game, and that these choices are more about establishing tone then they are about dictating gameplay. A powerful example of this from KR0 can be found in the conversations  – if that's what one can call it – a player conducts with his/her companion dog. In these exchanges, the resulting choices end up reading more like haikus than a scripted dialog logic-tree: "There are some horses out there behind the house. I guess they don't sleep in the barn. It's too spooky for a horse."

    This kind of non-evaluative decision-making is a common trait of what game researcher Jesper Juul would describe as an "expressive game." In this micro-genre, which he largely identifies with sandbox-style titles, the player makes choices among a variety of options that don't dictate any specific outcome for the overall gameplay. When comparing "expressive games" to typical first-person shooters, he claims that "these games let players make decisions based on other criteria." These criteria are not based on utility and optimization, Juul argues, but instead based on a desire to make the game an expressive space.

    In this way, the choosing of different dialog responses within KR0 allows the player to shape the characters in nuanced ways, and to develop an equally nuanced relationship with them. At times this relationship is uncertain, positioning the player in a space where he/she might not fully grasp the unfolding events of their interaction. This uncertainty, however, is not alienating; on the contrary, it allows players to develop an understanding of the characters and to sympathize with their desire to find a place to call home. The comfort found in these types of exchanges is a central part of what separates KR0 from other indie titles that have emerged in the past couple of years.

    This is to say that playing KR0 feels like you're actually helping create a profound and insightful story – finally fulfilling a promise proposed by next-gen console developers since the introduction of the XBOX 360 in 2005. This positions KR0 at the forefront of establishing computer games as an expressive medium, one in which players are offered choices that do not relate to the completion of a mission, but drive the development of character and narrative. As such, the game offers a glimpse into possibilities for the medium that larger titles rarely explore.

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    The latest in an ongoing series of themed collections of creative projects assembled by Prosthetic Knowledge. This edition brings together music videos by artists for whom the internet is a primary medium.

    Rosa Menkman, ‪03: Karate aka ☵ ☲ // 010 101 // kǎn lí‬. GIF extract from music video for Little Scale. 

    The terms "net art" and "music video" are, while useful, close to becoming retronyms. With electronic technology becoming more easily available and ubiquitous, we are in a time where "new media" is not necessarily "new". As McLuhan famously punned his own phrase, "The Medium Is The Massage:" "All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive...that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered." This applies to the internet, which is becoming more and more familiar and available, making the boundaries and definition of Net Art less and less clear. 

    Music videos (or at least, how music is promoted and delivered) are also changing—we are seeing more and more examples which are not necessarily traditional viewing experiences. For example: Machine Stop by Duologue, which uses WebGL to display Kinect-gathered performances which the participant can edit; Skrillex Quest, an online interactive game; works by Aaron Koblin. Maybe the word "video" is returning to one of its possible etymological origins, in which it was linked to the word "idea," and away from its more familiar definition...

    Despite these shifts, though, both are still enjoyable cultural forms with plenty of creative possibilities still to be explored. In this short playlist, I bring together several works by unique creatives most often associated with Net Art applying their talents to the music video. Enjoy.

    Rosa Menkman, ‪03: Karate aka ☵ ☲ // 010 101 // kǎn lí‬

    Rosa Menkman is very much a familiar name within the circles of Glitch Art, a key voice and contemporary practitioner (plus a regretful omission from my last post). Here, Menkman has produced a music video for Chiptune act Little Scale, starting with a video recorded scene of nature degrading into monochrome patterns:


    Lorna Mills, Money 2


    Lorna Mills is a Canadian media artist who has been working with the GIF format since 2005. Having an extensive archive of online animations, Mills produces animated collages combining the humorous, the weird, and the downright WTF...her work could be described by redefining the acronym of her media of choice: Gratuitous Internet Filth.

    Money 2 is a collaboration with Yoshi Sodeoka who created the music. It's part of an online collaborative project called "Plink Flojd," an artist collective posing as a band. Its members were originally inspired by the music of a certain well-known band, but now take " ... homage to the next level and make a new art form ..."

    More about Plink Flojd at their Vimeo.


    V5MT, S H /\ /\/\ /\ I X

    V5MT is a Polish artist with a finely-tuned intuition for identifying visual trends and taking them in creative directions. An interest in sculptural form and unique palettes has set her apart from her contemporaries. Despite the fact that her work often circulates on Tumblr without attribution, it could be argued that her efforts have matched her peers and influenced a great number of others.
    Here is her submission for the SPAMM Safari net art exhibition, providing visuals to the track 'Perseus' by Sofia Reta.


    Sara Ludy, House On Fire

    Sara Ludy is a multimedia artist working with both real and virtual environments, particularly living spaces. A favorite of Rhizome, you can read her profile here.

    She has produced a piece for Plink Flojd (see above), but her latest video is for the band "Outfit":


    Raquel Meyers, Dansa In


    Raquel Meyers is a Spanish artist familiar in the field of audiovisual art, with a preference for older lo-fi technology. She has produced many videos related to Chiptune music, but her current medium of choice appears to be animated PETSCII, the Commodore text protocol. She has produced many visuals with her longtime collaborator GOTO80 (who produces the music), and a recent example is this pirate themed work entitled Dansa in, which in itself is a C64 executable program. The code that generates this demo, written by Johan Kotlinski, occupies only 44 kilobytes, and for "full pleasure" the makers recommend watching on a C64 and a CRT screen. THe software is available here, and a video preview below:

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    Carsten Nicolai, Wellenwanne lfo (2012). Water tank, water, mirror, audio equipment, stroboscope, display screen.

    "Careful listening is more important than making sounds happen."

    — Alvin Lucier

    Considering the vital role American artists of all media have played in the emergence of sound art, one is inclined to speculate as to why MoMA is just now mounting its first major exhibition dedicated to the subject.

    Certainly, there are inherent difficulties with showing these works in a museum setting. Practically, sound works may either be played via headphones, requiring viewers to listen in solitude, or rendered aloud but carefully isolated, often demanding peculiar exhibition layouts. Perhaps the persistent tradition of the nobility of sight over other senses plays a role; a show devoid of visual work may leave an empty impression in audiences accustomed to a predominantly visual culture. The principal impediment may, however, be the culture of sound art itself. Sound artists have long gravitated toward esoteric and reflexive discourse, as well as experiences that probe the extrema of perception, endurance, even existence. In a word, they—and their medium—can be "difficult." MoMA's first significant foray into sound art, Soundings: a Contemporary Score, comes at a time when, out of this impossibly dense non-field, forms of practice are coming to prominence that allow the museum to sidestep many of the aforementioned issues for a show more in keeping with their conception of contemporary art. 

    Curated by Barbara London, Soundings presents a sampling of contemporary sound art and its bordering media, piecing together a coherent exhibition from an ill-defined and exceedingly diverse mixture of practices that constitute today's sonic media landscape. Though Soundings leaves wide gaps in its representation of the field, what it does offer are several exceptional pieces that fit neatly into what viewers have come to expect from a MoMA exhibition, that is, thoughtfully-conceived and widely-accessible works, most of which have at least some visual component serving as a point of entry. Soundings orients itself curatorially toward the proposition that "how we listen determines what we hear," referring both to the artist's differing approaches toward sound art praxis, as well as a common thread among their work which takes up the dialectics of subjectivity. The thesis is given further resonance when viewers are asked to consider works vicariously or reflect subjective inquiries internally, subtle variations on "If a tree falls in the forest..." that tease out important features regarding our conception of sound.

    Though far from comprehensive, Soundings does explore several artistic positionings, including essential nods to canonical sound artists such as Xenakis and Lucier, explorations by experimental music practitioners, and occasional postures drawing from distant disciplines. Hong-Kai Wang, for instance, employs an ethnographic sensibility in her piece Music While We Work where she teaches factory workers from a Taiwanese sugarcane refinery to perform field recordings, thus opening an aural window into the daily lives of individuals driving our globalized infrastructure. The work serves both as subdued exposition of the spaces of contemporary labor and cultural intervention into these spaces, in that it enables workers to reappropriate them through sound.

    Ultrafield by Jana Winderen also makes use of field recordings. Here, listeners sit in darkness as a sixteen-channel ambisonic soundscape submerges them into the exotic ultrasonic universe of insect and aquatic species, an alien acoustic environment where the only instrument within grasp is metaphor. Winderen falls within a contingent of artists whose practices center around the discovery and exploration of entirely new sonic territory, a group which today is exemplified by artists that focus on computer-based production techniques such as Robert Henke or Carsten Nicolai but can be traced back through noise projects, experiments by pioneering sound artists such as Cage, and the inception of modern jazz, if not further. In privileging aural experience over its cultural context, Ultrafield differs markedly from Music While We Work, with its emphasis on the social use of sound. Thus, these two works exemplify how divergent the aims of sound works can be, even where similar production techniques are involved.

    Jana Winderen, Ultrafield (2013). Sixteen-channel ambisonic sound installation.

    In keeping with sound art custom, a series of pensive existential works are also included in the exhibition, here in the form of ink and pastel drawings by Christine Sun Kim. Deaf since birth, Kim gathers from American Sign Language, English, and body language, and musical notation to find fragments of representational unity or conflict with which she creates her artworks. In All. Day., an arc is pictured coming from the phrase of same name in American Sign Language, below it, the musical notation for a rest bar and the approximate number of rests that have passed during Kim's 32 years of life. The painting elegantly presents viewers with a subjective and entirely contradictory interpretation of auditory experience and its representation, thereby staging a meditation on a world of imagined sound.

    Christine Sun Kim, All. Day. (2012). Score, ink, pastel, and charcoal on paper, 38.5 x 50" (97.8 x 127 cm). Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Erica Leone.

    The intricate connection between sound and language is further examined in Florian Hecker's three-channel electroacoustic work Affordance. Tucked away in an adjacent stairwell, Hecker's contribution, though seemingly modest, proves an eminently rewarding conceptual object. A three-channel modulating arrangement of bright, textured computer tones is carefully positioned so as to separate the three speakers and preclude listeners from hearing all sources at once. Affordance thus simultaneously invokes movement and memory as essential players in our comprehension of sound by asking listeners to carry with them the sounds from one speaker to the next. It follows from Hecker's background in computational linguistics that Affordance challenges viewers to substantiate their interpretation of the listening experience as more than mere conversion of waves, but instead a process of mapping ideas. From the wall text: "Hecker takes as a starting point the fact that listening is often driven by a desire for understanding―it is an attempt to make associations, to recognize sounds as familiar, to slot what we hear into known categories." Affordance boldly confronts how we perceive by placing the act of listening within a greater regime of communication, thus allowing listeners to arrive at a unique moment of clarity through an almost topological maneuvering of concepts.

    In contrast to academic works such as Hecker's, or Carsten Nicolai's beautifully crafted subsonic water table (pictured a top), that expertly interrogate perception and question the very nature of sound, Study for Strings, originally conceived for dOCUMENTA (13) by 2010 Turner Prize winner Susan Philipsz, stands alone in its emotive potential. The original 1943 composition by Pavel Haas, which he wrote for a Nazi propaganda film while imprisoned in a concentration camp, was once played by the prisoner's orchestra and recorded for the film. Shortly thereafter Haas and most of the orchestra members were killed, save the conductor, who survived the Holocaust and helped reconstruct the piece in its current form. The composition subtly discloses an internal struggle between the facade of wartime propaganda and a deep sorrow brought on by life in a concentration camp. The spare rendition features only the viola and cello parts, acknowledging the absence of its missing members with tragic moments of silence that they are unable to fill.

    Susan Philipsz, Study for Strings (2012). 8-channel Sound Installation. 

    While Soundings features an assortment of exceptional works, distilling a medium which encompases such a multiplicity of attitudes and modalities into a modestly scaled gallery necessarily leaves holes, so, much as an exhibition on contemporary painting or film would doubtless seem incomplete, expectations conjured by the show's billing as "MoMA's first major exhibition of sound art" may mislead those expecting inclusion of specific practices. Soundings instead provides a short, but largely rewarding, dip into a vast ocean of sonic media, tracing some of its origins and highlighting one possible trajectory.

    But if Soundings is unsuccessful as a representation of the field of sound art, it is more successful as a collection of artworks, in various media, that inquire into the cultural and subjective framing of sound. And this raises an important proposition about contemporary media practices more generally: that there is a growing tension between specialization within the media arts, resulting in disciplinization of those subjects, and an opposing impulse to incorporate multiple media, tailoring expressive output to the ideas one is trying to communicate. As much of the richest conceptual territory currently lies between media practices or draws upon ideas from wildly differing disciplines, it seems likely that these struggles will begin to typify emerging media practices, sonic or otherwise.

    Soundings: a Contemporary Score is up through November 3rd and accompanied by several highly recommended performances.

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  • 08/30/13--08:28: Best of Rhizome: August 2013
  • Sara Ludy, GIF extract from House on Fire (2013). Music video for Outfit. 

    This month, the most-read article on Rhizome was by our regular contributor Prosthetic Knowledge, who put together a set of artworks on the theme of polygon graphics glitches. The article was one of our most-commented upon of the month as well, with several users chiming in to add their own suggestions. It was a big month all around for Prosthetic Knowledge, who also published a nice collection of Net Artist Music Videos, and was listed in Wired's 101 Signals as an indispensable source for information about high-tech art projects.

    Our open-access media conservation project XFR STN continues to roll on through September 7. Artists have brought in all sorts of media for preservation; we profiled two mind-blowing treasures to turn up as part of the process, a videorecording of a partly computer-generated VJ performance from the 1980s, and a digital vector-based animation from 1982. 

    In August, we mourned the loss of the great Red Burns, and revisited Jason Huff's 2011 article about her ITP Department at NYU. We also said farewell to Allan Sekula, and remembered the time he swam past Bill Gates' house and wrote him a letter about it.

    Nicholas O'Brien wrote an article about video games and their artistic possibilities, and we expect to see more from him on that over the next few months. Stephanie Bailey wrote about London artist-run project Auto Italia South East and their latest take on precarity and immaterial labor. Orit Gat discussed Dia's ongoing series of web-based commissions and Laylah Ali's latest effort, and Sam Hart wrote about MoMA’s first major exhibition dedicated to sound art.

    We looked through works from the International Teletext Art Festival, and we republished an interview with participating artist Hans Bernhard of Ubermogen about his love for 'My Little Pony. We also ran a number of posts drawing attention to recent indivual projects of note: Vince McKelvie's 3dGif, Marc Ngui's illustrations for A Thousand Plateaus, and Olia Lialina's Summer.

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    Europeans: one of Rhizome's flagship programs, Seven on Seven, is on the move. We're pleased to announce that the first international edition of the event is to be held at the Barbican Centre, London, on October 27, 2013.

    Seven on Seven brings together luminaries from the fields of art and technology to work together for one day, in pairs, to create new projects – be they applications, concepts, artworks, products, or whatever they imagine. The results are unveiled the following day at the public conference.

    Previously hosted with Rhizome's affiliate the New Museum, Seven on Seven has drawn sell-out crowds for the past four years, serving as an important meeting point between disciplines. Previous participants have included Dennis Crowley (Foursquare co-founder), David Karp (Tumblr founder) and the late internet activist Aaron Swartz, along with artists Jill Magid, Ryan Trecartin and Taryn Simon.

    The participants in the London edition of Seven on Seven will be announced on October 1st, with early bird tickets on sale for £25 until then.

    More information is available on the Seven on Seven website. Tickets are available directly from the Barbican Centre's website.

    Rhizome's Seven On Seven, an event organized by Rhizome at the Barbican. Supported by betaworks, Wieden+Kennedy and South Place Hotel.


    Seven on Seven 2012's keynote from Douglas Rushkoff provides a powerful introduction to the event

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    Apple 1 replica, Franklin Ace 1000 (Apple II clone), Apple ///, Apple IIe. Media Archaeology Lab early Apple Computer collection.

    A roundup of opportunities and goings-on from Rhizome's community.
    Technoromanticism, curated by Alfredo Salazar-Caro, opens on September 6th at Jean Albano Gallery. The exhibition investigates online culture and image making through an In Real Life experience. The exhibition is to include works by Theodore Darst, Paul Hertz and Kim Asendorf.
    Mathematical Rhymes is a group show produced by Leonardo Electronic Almanac, Operational and Curatorial Research and Boston Cyberarts. The opening reception will take place at Boston Cyberarts Gallery in Jamaica Plain on Spetember 5th. Exhibiting artists include Manfred Moher and Casey Reas. 
    New York 
    Sept 7: The New School will host Something in the Air: Artist talk about interventionist strategies in Augmented Reality Art. In addition to a screening of artworks, there will be a discussion including founding members of the augmented reality group Manifest.AR.
    Sept 7: Opening of a two person exhibition of new works by Clara Gannis and Justin Petropoulos at Transfer Gallery.
    Sept 7: For a symposium marking the conclusion of the open-access media conservation project XFR STN, Rhizome has organized a panel titled "Born Digital: Conservation in the Computer Age" to take place on Saturday at the New Museum. The panel features digital humanities scholars Matthew Kirschenbaum and Lori Emerson as well as a special appearance by computer arts pioneer Lillian Schwartz.
    Sept 9: Opening reception at The White Building for artists Cornford & Cross' new installation The White Bear Effect, examining the relationship between sports and large-scale LED screens. The exhibition is commissioned as part of the exhibition Everything Flows.
    Sept 14: 2014 Animation Artist in Residence: Open Call for non-Japanese citizens. Deadline is September 9th. Organized by the Japanese governmental institution Agency for Cultural Affairs.

    City College of New York seeks a College Laboratory Technician - Digital Media Art. Deadline: 9/13.

    The University at Buffalo, Department of Media Study, invites applications for an Assistant/Associate Professor position in Media Theory. Deadline: 10/12.

    Film and Digital Media Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) invites applications for a faculty position in social documentary production at the Assistant Professor (tenure-track) level. Deadline: 10/14.

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  • 09/05/13--06:30: A Letter to Jennifer Knoll
  • Constant Dullaart, Jennifer_in_Paradise (2013). Restored digital image re-distributed online with stenographically encrypted message.

    Dear Jennifer,

    Sometime in 1987, you were sitting on a beach in Bora Bora, looking at To'opua island, enjoying a holiday with a very serious boyfriend. The serious boyfriend, John, took a photograph of you sitting on the beach, not wearing your bikini top. John later became your husband and father to your children Sarah, Lisa, Alex and Jane.

    This photograph of a beautiful moment in your personal history has also become a part of my history, and that of many other people; it has even shaped our outlooks on the world at large. John's image of you became the first image to be publicly altered by the most influential image manipulation program ever. Of course, this is why I know the names of your children, and this is also why I know about the cool things you do trying to get a .green top level domain name to promote environmental sustainability. (Although, personally, I believe that the importance of the domain name has been reduced to a nostalgic, poetic value).

    I still wonder if you felt the world change there on that beach. The fact that reality would be more moldable, that normal people could change their history, brighten up their past, and put twirl effects on their faces? That holiday image was distributed with the first demo editions of Photoshop, and your intimate beach moment became the reality for many people to play with. Two Jennifers, no Jennifer, less clouds, etc. In essence, it was the very first photoshop meme—but now the image is nowhere to be found online.

    Did John ask you if he could use the image? Did you enjoy seeing yourself on the screen as much as he did? Did you think you would be the muse that would inspire so much contemporary image making? Did you ever print out the image? Would you be willing to share it with me, and so, the other people for whom it took on such an unexpected significance? Shouldn’t the Smithsonian have the negative of that image, not to mention digital backups of its endless variations?

    All these questions have made me decide to redistribute the image ‘jennifer in paradise’ as well as I can, somewhat as an artist, somewhat as a digital archeologist, restoring what few traces of it I could find. It was sad to realize this blurry screen grab was the closest I could get to the image, but beautiful at the same time. How often do you find an important image that is not online in several different sizes already?

    I have twoexhibitions opening this coming Saturday in Berlin, Germany. Both of them are called Jennifer in Paradise. And you, or at least your depiction, play a central part in these exhibitions. A faint, blurry, pixelated focal point. To celebrate the time that you were young, and the world was young, as it still naïvely believed in the authenticity of the photograph.

    Sometimes, when I am anxious about the future of our surveilled, computer-mediated world, when I worry about cultural imperialism and the politics behind software design, I imagine myself traveling back in time. just like the Terminator, to that important moment in technological world history, there on the beach in Bora Bora. And just sit there with you, watching the tide roll away.



    Constant Dullaart

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  • 09/05/13--09:00: Thomas M. Disch's "Endzone"
  • Ariel Hameon, Science fiction author Thomas M. Disch at South Street Seaport (2008). Via Flickr. June 3, 2008. Some rights reserved.

    "This Journal is a memorial. New entries cannot be posted to it." So reads the banner above Thomas M. Disch's Endzone, a LiveJournal kept from April 26, 2006 until July 2, 2008, two days before Disch's death. Disch left behind a prolific output of poetry, criticism, libretti, plays, film treatments, and text for computer games, but it is a series of highly-stylized and vicious fictions presenting a hopeless America as stand-in for mankind for which he is primarily remembered. His novels Camp Concentration (1968) and 334 (1972) are twin high points of New Wave science fiction. The former prefigures David Markson's Wittgenstein's Mistress in its referential narrative; the latter is a scabrous satire of the social novel circa 2025. Endzone does not live up to the stylistic mastery of its precursors; as its author's first encounter with what may be considered a bastard form, it is at times near amateur in composition. It is also xenophobic, vindictive, full of doggerel and despair, and altogether difficult to endure. Despite its shortcomings, though, Endzone should be considered Disch's final work, if only for its brinksmanship with his career-long obsession with death.

    As fellow author and critic John Clute has observed, Disch treated death "as a game, deadly of course, but beauteous" throughout his entire career. His first novel The Genocides (1965) ends with the extinction of the human race. 334's (1972) final monologue is in the form of a verbal application for euthanasia. Death is explicitly referenced in the titles of Endzone and his 1973 story collection Getting Into Death. In The M.D.: A Horror Story (1991), a god strikes a bargain with a preteen unable to grasp its grave consequences. Here is Disch's worldview in miniature: we are doomed by forces we have no conception of, forces which invariably bring out the worst in us. The M.D. is part of Disch's Supernatural Minnesota quartet which takes place in a mid-American landscape where supernatural forces manipulate humans via desire, hate, and despair, and God is understood only through his absence. The best thing that can happen when you're in a Tom Disch book is to die and die fast.

    Disch died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on July 4, 2008, and, if one so desires, Endzone can be read as a suicide letter. But then, so could his entire body of work; the reduction of any writer's output, whether it be that of Sarah Kane, David Foster Wallace or Hunter S. Thompson, to an explanation of his or her suicide divests it of intention and frisson. It reduces the novelist to a patient of post-mortem psychotherapy. Clute, reversing this impulse, wrote that Disch took his own life "to demonstrate that he really had meant what he had been saying over [his] career."

    Disch had a wealth of travails: sciatica, diabetes, the recent death of Charles Naylor, his partner of some thirty years, the flooding and subsequent uninhabitable nature of their house in upstate New York, difficulty in walking, near-obesity, the constant threat of eviction, arthritis, and the not entirely unfounded conception that his place in the publishing world had, and would continue, to diminish. Endzone seldom deals with these sufferings explicitly, but the few glimpses Disch offers of life in his apartment off Union Square are more terrifying than his more morbid poetry ("I love dead men, and I will engulf/ every pound you can push into me.") An excursion of a few blocks begins with "I actually managed to get out of the house." An offhand mention is made of how he can longer eat candy bars. The final post imagines starving to death after being priced out of Manhattan grocery stores. A rare journal-like entry, improperly indented and sandwiched between two poems, reads, "April 4. Another gray day. Can't find the energy to get the laundry down to the laundry room. The sciatica just won't go away."

    At times, Endzone seems like a different kind of memorial, one to Naylor, eulogized by Disch in a series of poems tentatively titled the Winter Poems (many would eventually be published as Winter Journey in 2010). The six-line tantrum of "Eat Your Vegetables" shows Naylor "waiting to die with the schooled patience/ of a civilized person accustomed/ to standing in line". In "The Deaccessioning IV: Bookmarks," the dead lover is evoked through a ticket stub found in an old volume and suddenly "it was though he were there in the park,/ age 25, dying in my arms." Others are less successful. Disch makes clear that what appears in Endzone is not quite poetry but rather "[j]ournal entries or musings in an elevated language." Several almost-poems have different typefaces, suggesting they've been pasted from a word processing program, but most feel as if they were composed on the LiveJournal platform, then posted hot and fresh and reeking. In one, Disch references a typo in the post's title, leaving it uncorrected.

    Comments offer edits and praise for the almost-poetry, and sympathy for Disch's personal trails. Responses to Disch's xenophobic rants are overwhelmingly disapproving yet muted, perhaps best represented by, "I'm hesitant to say anything, but..." Referencing his extensive travels, Disch states "[a]ny xenophobia you may discern in me has been earned." Yet his tirades seem to reflect the insular viewpoints of The Rush Limbaugh Show or The Drudge Report, the latter of which Disch often references. While Disch was a (very) vocal atheist, he singles out Islam routinely for its supposed barbarism. He suggests the international community should "[l]et everyone in Darfur kill everyone else" and that Muslims should be made to take segregated flights. It is difficult to tell how much of this is merely provocation. Instead of the then-embryonic wall between Mexico and America, Disch proposes to "kill [immigrants] as they enter"; it is hard to take this as anything but Swiftian. His hatred of George W. Bush is expressed loudly, and his short stories "The White Man" (2004) and "The Asian Shore" (1970)—in which a visiting American author gradually transforms into a Turk—reveal a far more complex portrait of xenophobia than Endzone would suggest him capable of.

    Most industry professionals knew better at this point than to engage with Disch, especially on his home turf.  As Patrick Nielsen Hayden, one of the many who stopped reading Endzone in disgust, noted in his obituary, Disch "played the game of literary politics hard, and sometimes lost badly." Disch started referring to himself as God in late 2006, a conceit from his final novel The Word of God in which the authorial voice declares, "All my justice shall be poetic." In Endzone, Disch gloats over the death of the critic Algis Budrys and mocks his former editor Linda Rosenberg in verse. Philip K. Dick is encouraged to "rot in hell," ostensibly for Dick's 1972 letter to the FBI claiming Camp Concentration contained coded "anti-American" material. Disch crows that he will never allow the republication of The American Shore, Samuel L. Delany's book length exegesis on a single story from 334, due to perceived attacks on Disch's career as SF critic.

    One of the few who never gave up on Disch was John Crowley, author of Little, Big and The AEgypt Cycle, whose blogging on LiveJournal directly led to Endzone. In the comments Crowley constantly challenges Disch's belief in his own bile ("What's sweet about your gall is how evenly it is sprayed about.") and in doing so raises questions about whether he is interacting with Tom Disch the man, or tomsdisch the authorial voice of Endzone. On one of the rare occasions when Crowley blows his top, he cuts through the layers of performance and irony: "I suspect it's YOU who enjoy the spectacle of ruination and abomination..." Either way, it is Crowley and his arguments for compassion and kindness which offer what little succor there is in the proceedings.

    As Giovanni Tiso has written, "...a blog doesn't become a text until somebody puts an end to it." Since a blog can always be modified, it is never "quite fully in existence." (Disch cleared away posts and poems "if not exactly deadwood not really deserving posterity's attention.") Ended blogs are thus like dead authors; they are ready to be explained. Tiso posits destruction as an antidote. Disch, however, left Endzone undeleted; this is not a case of Max Brod refusing to burn Kafka's papers.

    The central impulse behind the rapidly growing use of social media memorials may be to offer survivors an ongoing connection with the dead. Facebook encourages users to post on the memorialized pages of the dead. The post-mortem Twitter service LivesOn adapts "to the living users' habits and preferences, eventually becoming their digital twin" so as to perpetuate their "digital legacy." Both approaches ensure that the deceased continue to pop up in the timelines of the living. Disch's penultimate post imagines an anthology composed of missives to authors "safely dead." Post-mortem, the comments began to fill with letters to Disch, mostly expressing the frustration that their authors will never meet Disch. The gulf between writer and audience presented is vast. Any sense of connection Endzone offers has to be gleaned from its static texts; Disch is indeed safely dead.  

    The rhetoric of social-media afterlife agencies can sound downright Kurzweilian; their proposed replication of human consciousness in the digital is certainly more basic "than a frozen head," but the same impulse is there. Endzone did not prefigure this trend but rather allowed its author to engage with a literary form he did not quite understand, one just as flawed and imprecise as more traditional forms. In this, Crowley’s suspicions are correct: the tomsdisch of Endzone, the miniature icon with its blank humanoid face, is no more Thomas M. Disch than the authorial voice of The Waves is Virginia Woolf. We would do well to remember this when viewing the memorial Facebook pages of our loved ones or imaging the analyzation, by humans or bots, of our Twitter timelines after our own deaths.


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    Still images from computer graphics reel by Mechthild Schmidt Feist (1985).

    This summer, the New Museum's exhibition XFR STN (organized with Rhizome's collaboration) has been functioning as an open-access media conservation station; the material conserved as part of this project are steadily being made available on (The project concludes this weekend, with a symposium tomorrow featuring luminaries from the world of conservation as well as computer arts pioneer Lillian Schwartz.)

    The latest XFR STN treasure to catch our eye is from Mechthild Schmidt Feist. Feist brought in a number of works from the 1980s and 1990s, including this charming reel of graphics experiments from 1985. The description she provided mentions that at least some of these were created with the Vidifont, a digital video graphics system initially developed by CBS to display onscreen text during the 1968 elections and subsequently developed as hardware capabilities improved. 

    While you're at it, also check out the rather hypnotic Stochastic Dance (1992-4), a video of a dance sequence choreographed by RUSH dance according to stochastic principles, with effects added using the Quantel Paintbox (the tool David Hockney used to make his first digital painting).

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    Video of this weekend's panel discussion, Born Digital: Conservation in the Computer Age, is now online, featuring computer arts pioneer Lillian Schwartz, and digital humanities scholars Matthew Kirschenbaum and Lori Emerson, with Ben Fino-Radin chairing. Some highlights: Lillian's opening remarks at 28:00, Lori discussing Ralph Ellison's use of an enormous portable Osborne 1 computer in his writing of Juneteenth (54:21), and Matthew sharing slides of his summer vacation to an underground nitrate film vault.

    At 1:05:53, Ben also recounts one of the heroic moments of the recent XFR STN media conservation project: the recovery of artwork by Phil Sanders from an obsolete 10 Megabyte hard drive. It was a Herculean effort, ultimately successful thanks to computer historian Jason Scott's knowledge of the Apple II system and Doron Ben-Avraham's understanding of magnetism.



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    From the series Artificiata II by Manfred Mohr.

    Last week, Rhizome received a rather exciting donation from Ryder Ripps and Sean John, and we want to start off this week by saying a big, heartfelt thank you - to everyone who has donated to us this year, not only the rappers.

    And now, without further ado, here are the latest opportunities and goings-on from Rhizome Announce.

    Events - Berlin 

    Opening Fri: DAM Gallery presents Artificata II, a solo show by artist Manfred Mohr (pictured). The artworks on display are a sequel to the series Artificiata I that was published as a visual artist's book in 1969 by AGENTZIA in Paris. With Artificiata II, the artist visualizes in real-time highly complex algorithms for computer animation on a monitor screen.

    Events - New York

    Through Sept 28: Transfer Gallery in Brooklyn present <legend></legend>, an exhibition by Carla Gannis and Justin Petropoulos.

    Thurs - Sun: A meditative multimedia dance project involving 6-channel real-time video at BAM: Becoming – Corpus, staged by LEIMAY. 

    Sat evening: Flushing's ginormous Knockdown Center hosts SOUNDCORRIDORS, an event exploring the link between sound and architecture. 

    Mon & Tues: Learn to scrape political data at Eyebeam with Paolo Cirio.

    Events - Online

    The Realm Recognize Realm Tour Kickstarter is in full swing. You can buy an online Skype date with Molly Soda, and help make online art happen IRL.



    Sept 12: Deadline for entries for the 17th Japan Media Arts Festival, taking place in February 2014. The festival honors outstanding works from a diverse range of media - from Animation and comics to media art and games. 

    Sept 13: Deadline for written texts (in both academic and non-academic styles) for a section of .DPI Feminist Journal of Art and Culture titled "Gendered Cultures on the Internet," Guest Edited by Jennifer Chan. >An honorarium is offered depending on the length and complexity of the contribution.

    Sept 13: Last day to apply for an exciting joint residency program hosted by The White Building and Eyebeam, open to artists, engineers, designers, and creative technologists. Residents will spend part of the time in NYC, and part in London; the program includes a stipend as well as travel and housing in London.

    Sept 15: Submissions due for to the 17th International Video Festival VideoMedeja in Novi Sad, Serbia.

    Sept 15: Deadline for the TASML | Carroll Fletcher Chinese Artist Residence Award, which involves a 4-6 week residence at Eyebeam. All Chinese artists are eligible to apply.

    Sept 16: Extended deadline for Nordic artists to apply to develop new light art projects for the public realm in Reykjavik, Torshavn and Manchester. 



    City College of New York seeks a College Laboratory Technician - Digital Media Art. Deadline: Sept 13.

    The University at Buffalo, Department of Media Study, invites applications for an Assistant/Associate Professor position in Media Theory. Deadline: Oct 12.

    Film and Digital Media Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) invites applications for a faculty position in social documentary production at the Assistant Professor (tenure-track) level. Deadline: Oct 14.

    NEW! The School of Communication at American University, Washington, D.C., invites applications for a tenure-track assistant professor of Emerging/Digital Media to begin in fall 2014. Application review begins Oct 1.

    College of Staten Island invites applications for a tenure-track position in Design and Digital Media at the rank of Assistant Professor beginning Fall 2014. Deadline: December 15.



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  • 09/10/13--08:00: The Phantom Zone
  • The boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion.

    Donna Haraway, A Cyborg Manifesto (1991) [1]

    This is no fantasy... no careless product of wild imagination. No, my good friends.

    The opening lines of Richard Donner's Superman (1978) [2]

    In a 1950 film serial entitled Atom Man vs Superman [3] television executive and evil genius Lex Luthor sends Superman into a ghostly limbo he calls "The Empty Doom." Trapped in this phantom void, Superman's infinite powers are rendered useless, for although he can still see and hear the "real" world his ability to interact with it has all but disappeared. Over the following decades this paraspace [4]—to use Samuel Delany's term for a fictional space, accessed via technology, that is neither within nor entirely separate from the 'real' world—would reappear in the Superman mythos in various forms, beginning in 1961. Eventually dubbed "The Phantom Zone," its back story was reworked substantially, until by the mid 60s it had become a parallel dimension discovered by Superman's father, Jor El. Once used to incarcerate Krypton's most unsavory characters, The Phantom Zone had outlasted its doomed home world and eventually burst at the seams, sending legions of super-evil denizens raining down onto Earth. Beginning its life as an empty doom, The Phantom Zone was soon filled with terrors prolific enough to make even The Man of Steel fear its existence.

    Overseen by story editor Mortimer Weisinger, and the unfortunately named artist Wayne Boring, the late 50s and early 60s were a strange time in the Superman universe. The comics suddenly became filled with mutated variants of kryptonite that gave Superman the head of an ant or the ability to read thoughts; with miniature Supermen arriving seconds before their namesake to save the day and steal his thunder; with vast universes of time caught fast in single comic book panels. It was an era of narrative excess wrapped by a tighter, more meticulous and, many would say, repressed aesthetic:

    Centuries of epic time could pass in a single caption. Synasties fell between balloons, and the sun could grow old and die on the turn of a page. It was a toy world, too, observed through the wrong end of a telescope. Boring made eternity tiny, capable of being held in two small hands. He reduced the infinite to fit in a cameo... [5]

    The Phantom Zone is one of the least bizarre narrative concepts from what is now known as the Silver Age of D.C. Comics (following on from the more widely celebrated Golden Age). It could be readily understood on a narrative level, and it had a metaphorical dimension as well, one that made conceivable the depths contained in Superman's vast, but ultimately manipulable universe. The Phantom Zone was usually portrayed on a television screen kept safe in one of the many rooms of the League of Justice headquarters. It could also be used as a weapon and fired from a portable projection device—the cold, harsh infinity of the Empty Doom blazing into Superman's world long enough to ensnare any character foolish enough to stand in its rays. Whether glimpsed on screen or via projection, then, The Phantom Zone could be interpreted as a metaphor for the moving image. 

    In comic books, as in the moving image, the frame is the constituent element of narrative. Each page of a comic book is a frame which itself frames a series of frames, so that by altering each panel's size, bleed or aesthetic variety, time and space can be made elastic. Weisinger and Boring's Phantom Zone took this mechanism further, behaving like a weaponized frame free to roam within the comic book world. Rather than manipulating three-dimensional space or the fourth dimension of time, as the comic book frame does, The Phantom Zone opened out onto the existence of other dimensions. It was a comic book device that bled beyond the edge of the page, out into a world in which comic book narratives were experienced not in isolation, but in parallel with the onscreen narratives of the cinema and the television. As such, the device heralded televisual modes of attention.

    For his 1978 big-budget movie version of Superman[6] director Richard Donner cunningly translated The Phantom Zone into something resembling the cinema screen itself. In the film's opening sequence, a crystal surface swoops down from the immense backdrop of space, rendering the despicable General Zod and his cronies two-dimensional as it imprisons them. In the documentary The Magic Behind the Cape[7] bundled with the DVD release of Superman in 2001, we are given an insight into the technical prowess behind Donner's The Phantom Zone. The actors are made to simulate existential terror against the black void of the studio, pressed up against translucent, flesh-like membranes and physically rotated out of sync with the gaze of the camera. Rendering the faux two-dimensional surface of Donner's Phantom Zone believable required all manner of human dimensions to be framed out of the final production. The actors react to causes generated beyond the studio space, the director's commands, or the camera's gaze. They twist and recoil from transformations still to occur in post-production. In a sense, the actors behave as bodies that are already images. With its reliance on post-produced visual effects, the Phantom Zone sequence represents an intermediary stage in the gradual removal of sets, locations, and any 'actual' spatial depths from the film production process. Today, actors must address their humanity to green voids post-produced with CGI, and the indexical relationship between the film image and the events unfolding in front of the lens have been almost entirely shattered. In this Phantom cinema produced after the event, ever-deeper layers of special effects seal actors into a cinematic paraspace. Just as The Phantom Zone of the comic book heralded televisual modes of attention, The Phantom Zone of the 1970s marked a perceptual regime in which the cinematic image was increasingly sealed off from reality by synthetic visual effects.


    For Walter Benjamin, writing during cinema's first “Golden Era,", the ability of the cinema screen to frame discontinuous times and spaces represented its most profound "truth." Delivered by cinema, Benjamin argued, mechanically disseminated images were actually fracturing the limits of our perceptions, training "human beings in the apperceptions and reactions needed to deal with a vast apparatus whose role in their lives is expanding almost daily." [8]  The cinema screen offered audiences who were confined to finite bodies that had never before experienced such juxtapositions an apparently shared experience of illuminated consciousness. Far from inventing this new mode of perception through the "shock-character" of montage, Benjamin believed that cinema spoke of the 'truths' which awaited us beneath the mirage of proletarian experience. Truths which would guide us—with utopian fervor—towards an awareness, and eventual control, of what Benjamin called the "new nature":

    Not just industrial technology, but the entire world of matter (including human beings) as it has been transformed by that technology. [9]

    In short, cinema was less a technology than a new and evolving mode of machinic thought, both generated by and generating the post-industrial subject. Observing the relation between representation and visibility, Jens Andermann notes:

    Truth, the truth of representation, crucially depends on the clear-cut separation between the visible and the invisible, the non-objectness of the latter. Truth is the effect of what we could call the catachretic nature of visuality, the way in which the world of visual objects can point to the invisible domain of pure being only by obsessively pointing to itself. [10]

    As from the Greek root aisthanesthai – "to perceive"—the aesthetic conditions through which The Phantom Zone have been translated frame far more than a supposed fictional void. Called upon to indicate an absolute outside — the unfathomable infinity of another, ghostly, parallel universe — The Phantom Zone instead reiterates the medium of its delivery, whether comic book, television, or cinema, with mirror-like insistency. Such is the power of new technical modes of thought, that very often, they cause us to rethink the outmoded media that we are so used to as to be unaware.

    The Phantom Zone hides the cinematographic image in plain view. Its reappearance and reimagining over the last 60 odd years, in ever newer forms and aesthetic modes, can be read paradigmatically, that is, as a figure that stands in place of, and points towards, shifts, mutations and absolute overturnings in our perceptual apparatus. Its most recent iteration is in the 2013 Superman reboot, Man of Steel[11] and in particular in a 'viral' trailer distributed on YouTube a few weeks before the film was released. [12] Coming towards us soars a new mode of machinic thought; a Phantom Zone of unparalleled depth and aesthetic complexity that opens onto a new new - digital - nature.

    The General Zod trailer for Man of Steel begins with a static rift that breaks into a visual and audial disarrangement of the phrase, “You are not alone". General Zod's masked face materializes, blended with the digital miasma: a painterly 3D effect that highlights the inherent ‘otherness' of where his message originates. The aesthetic is unsettling in as much as it is recognizable. We have no doubt as viewers of this 'viral' dispatch as to the narrative meaning of what we are witnessing, namely, a datastream compressed and distributed from a paraspace by an entity very much unlike us. The uncanny significance of the trailer stems more from how very normal the digital miasma feels; from how apprehensible this barrage of noise is to us. Indeed, it is ‘other', but its otherness is also somehow routine, foreseeable. The pathogen here is not Zod's message, it is digital technology itself. The glitched aesthetic of the trailer has become so habitual as to herald the passing of digital materiality into the background of awareness. Its mode of dissemination, via the Trojan Horse of YouTube, just as unvisible to us during the regular shifts we make between online/offline modes of communication. The surface of this Phantom Zone very much interfaces with our material world, even if the message it impresses upon us aches to be composed of an alien substance.


    Digital video does the work of representation via a series of very clever algorithms called codecs that compress the amount of information needed to produce a moving image. Rather than the individual frames of film, each as visually rich and total as the last, in a codec only the difference between frames need be encoded, making each frame “more like a set of movement instructions than an image." [13] The painterly technique used in the General Zod trailer is normally derived from a collapse between key (image) and reference (difference) frames at the status of encoding. The process is called ‘datamoshing', and has its origins in glitch art, a form of media manipulation predicated on those minute moments when the surface of an image or sound cracks open to reveal some aspect of the process that produced it. By a method of cutting, repeating or glitching of key and reference frames visual representations are made to blend into one another, space becomes difference and time becomes image. The General Zod trailer homages/copies/steals the datamoshing technique, marking digital video's final move from convenient means of dissemination, to palpable aesthetic and cultural influence. 

    In the actual movie, Man of Steel (2013), Zod's video message is transposed in its entirety to the fictional Planet Earth. The viral component of its movement around the web is entirely absent: its apparent digitality, therefore, remains somewhat intact, but only as a mere surface appearance. This time around the message shattering through The Phantom Zone is completely devoid of affective power: it frames nothing but its existence as a narrative device. The filmmakers rely on a series of “taking over the world" tropes to set the stage for General Zod's Earth-shaking proclamation. TV sets in stereotypical, exotic, locales flicker into life, all broadcasting the same thing. Electronic billboards light up, loudspeakers blare, mobile phones rumble in pockets, indeed, all imaging technologies suddenly take on the role of prostheses for a single, datamoshed, stream. In one—particularly sincere—moment of the montage a faceless character clutches a Nokia brand smartphone in the centre of shot and exclaims, “It's coming through the RSS feeds!" This surface, this Phantom Zone, frames an apparatus far vaster than a datamoshed image codec: an apparatus apparently impossible to represent through the medium of cinema. The surface appearance of the original viral trailer is only a small component of what constitutes the image it conveys, and thus, of the image it frames of our time. Digital materiality shows itself via poorly compressed video clips arriving through streams of overburdened bandwidth. Our understanding of what constitutes a digital image must then, according to Mark Hansen, “be extended to encompass the entire process by which information is made perceivable." [14]

    In its cinematic and comic book guises, The Phantom Zone was depicted as “a kind of membrane dividing yet connecting two worlds that are alien to and also dependent upon each other".[15] The success of the datamoshed trailer comes from the way it broke through that interface, its visual surface bubbling with a new kind of viral, digital, potential that encompasses and exposes the material engaged in its delivery. As cinematographic subjects we have an integral understanding of the materiality of film. Although we know that the frames of cinema are separate we crave the illusion of movement, and the image of time, they create. The ‘viral' datamoshed message corrupts this separation between image and movement, the viewer and the viewed. Not only does General Zod seem to push out, from inside the numerical image, it is as if we, the viewing subject enraptured by the digital event, have been consumed by its flow. The datamoshed Phantom Zone trailer takes the one last, brave, step beyond the apparatus of image production. Not only is the studio, the actor, and even the slick appeal of CGI framed out of its mode of delivery, arriving through a network that holds us complicit, this Phantom Zone frames the 'real' world in its entirety, making even the fictional world it appeals to devoid of affective impact. To take liberty with the words of Jean Baudrillard:

    [Jorge Luis] Borges wrote: they are slaves to resemblance and representation; a day will come when they will try to stop resembling. They will go to the other side of the mirror and destroy the empire. But here, you cannot come back from the other side. The empire is on both sides. [16]

    Once again, The Phantom Zone highlights the material mode of its delivery with uncanny exactness. We are now surrounded by images that supersede mere visual appearance: they generate and are generated by everything the digital touches, including we, the most important component of General Zod's 'viral' diffusion. The digital Phantom Zone extends to both sides of the flickering screen.



    [1] Donna Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs and Women : The Reinvention of Nature. (London: Free Association Books Ltd, 1991), 149–181.

    [2] Richard Donner, Superman, Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, 1978.

    [3] Spencer Gordon Bennet, Atom Man Vs. Superman, Sci-Fi, 1950.

    [4] Scott Bukatman, Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993), 164.

    [5] Grant Morrison, Supergods: Our World in the Age of the Superhero (London: Vintage Books, 2012), 62.

    [6] Donner, Superman.

    [7] Michael Thau, The Magic Behind the Cape, Documentary, Short, 2001. See :

    [8] Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility," in The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media (Cambridge  Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008), 26.

    [9] Susan Buck-Morss, The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (MIT Press, 1991), 70.

    [10] Jens Andermann, The Optic of the State: Visuality and Power in Argentina and Brazil (University of Pittsburgh Pre, 2007), 5.

    [11] Zack Snyder, Man of Steel, Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, 2013.

    [12] Man of Steel Viral - General Zod's Warning (2013) Superman Movie HD, 2013,

    [13] BackStarCreativeMedia, “Datamoshing—the Beauty of Glitch," April 9, 2009,

    [14] Mark B. Hansen, “Cinema Beyond Cybernetics, or How to Frame the Digital Image," Configurations 10, no. 1 (2002): 54, doi:10.1353/con.2003.0005.

    [15] Mark Poster, The Second Media Age (Wiley, 1995), 20.

    [16] Jean Baudrillard, “The Murder of the Sign," in Consumption in an Age of Information, ed. Sande Cohen and R. L. Rutsky (Berg, 2005), 11.


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    Today, as we look back at a few of the reflections of 9/11 and its complex legacy that can be found in our archives and elsewhere, our thoughts are with all those in Rhizome's community who have lost loved ones to political violence. 

    Still image from Wolfgang Staehle, Untitled (September 6-October 6, 2001). Still frame from two-channel live video projection based on still images recorded every four seconds from an apartment window in Brooklyn.

    August 29, 2001 on Rhizome's Net Art News:

    Wolfgang Staehle, a pioneer in the field of Net art, will have his first solo exhibition in New York in a decade at Postmasters Gallery, a venue that specializes in new media art... Stay tuned to see what Staehle will present to the offline public at Postmasters.

    Sept 12, 2001 on the Rhizome Raw email list:

    New York City is in a state of shock today, after Tuesday's disastrous attacks on the World Trade Center. Concerned emails poured in, asking about the status of Rhizome and our community. The Rhizome office, located in the SoHo neighborhood of Lower Manhattan, was not physically affected by the attack. All Rhizome staffers have been accounted for and are safe... The Rhizome web server went down on Tuesday morning, blocking Rhizome Raw and staff email for approximately four hours... The World Views artist residencies, a program of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, were housed inside the World Trade Center, and have been lost. It has not yet been reported if any World Views artists or administrators have been injured in the attack. 

    [Addendum--Later reports unfortunately confirmed that Michael Richards, an artist in the World Trade Center, was killed in the attack. He will be greatly missed.]

    Sept 17, 2001 on Net Art News:

    Like Staehle's previous work "Empire 24/7"--a webcam version of Andy Warhol's realtime documentation film "Empire"--this new exhibition features three webcams, each trained on a different urban landscape. One of those landscapes is Lower Manhattan. In grim coincidence Staehle's webcam captured the terrorist attack of September 11, streaming it onto the gallery wall just as CNN streamed images of the attack onto televisions around the world. Staehle's show is not viewable via the Web, however New Yorkers may visit the gallery exhibition, which closes on October 6.

    Sept 24, 2001. Rhizome launches a 9/11 resource page, "911--The September 11 Project," including links to artworks that reflect on the tragedy, community support resources, and documentation by artists such as T. Whid.

    Sept 13, 2004. Staehle tells Karen Rosenberg of New York Magazine: 

    I went to the gallery that day, and two of my friends came by, and one said, "Oh, Wolfgang, this is a really important piece now." I said, "What do you mean—it wasn’t before?" The other friend said, "No, it’s ruined now, its whole meaning is changed." I said, "You’re both nuts." I just set up a camera, and of course things can happen.

    Sept 11, 2006. Patrick Lichty on the Rhizome Raw email list:

    I was sitting here watching the 9/11 service and when they rung the bell at 9:03, I had to turn it off...the problem is that it will undoubtedly be used by the Bush Administration and American Media Culture once again as a justification for its own irresponsibility, and for that, I feel that perhaps some other form of commemoration would be in order. One that would maintain the gravitas of the event without the maudlin faux patriotism that actually reduces it to an ad for little silver coins with pop-up WTC effigies.

    I guess I'd like to make my simple and possibly naive plea--Less bombs and guns, more education, outreach, health care, food and housing here and abroad. Either way, some people will lose their lives at this point, but would it be better to have it happen while giving someone a meal, or by detaining someone at a checkpoint? I'll support 115,000 Peace Corps in Iraq...

    Agnes Denes, Wheatfield - A Confrontation, Battery Park Landfill, NY, 1982.

    Mar 21, 2012. The Freedom Tower nears completion, and John Powers writes in Rhizome Editorial:

     ...Architecture isn’t a symbol (that was the hideous confusion the attackers made), it is an expression; a concrete expression of an idea, an ethic, a desire. Modernists plazas are often characterized as "fascist" — the idea being that they are symbolic projections of power. Architects seldom, if ever, discuss lawns, park benches, or flower arrangements as expressions of power. Looked at as concrete ethical expressions, rather than symbols, we can begin to see these things for what they are: impediments, barriers, place holders, and dividers.


    The bomb-proof base, the part of One World Trade Center that I find most offensive, is so offensive not only because it was entirely the product of the worst fear mongering impulses of the Bush years, but because it is also the worst reflection of our contemporary moment. During his talk at Cooper Union, [Freedom Tower architect David] Childs explained that because the WTC had twice been a target of terrorist attacks, security experts had insisted that the design for the building incorporate withstanding a hypothetical 18-wheeler tractor-trailer packed full of C4 explosives being driven up to the base of the tower and detonated.

    I don’t dismiss the need to protect the site, I am however, totally disgusted by the politics that made it possible to drive a semi alongside the tower’s base. As Childs explained, the residents of Battery Park City fought the efforts to bury the West Side Highway alongside the WTC site. Had the highway been buried as part of the rebuilding effort, any truck-laden bomb blast would have been easily contained underground and no bomb-proofing would have been required. The problem is that that would have united Battery Park City with the rest of Manhattan, and that is not what the developers of Battery Park want.



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