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The Rhizome Blog and Rhizome News

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    The Museum of Modern Art is making headlines in the wake of its recently opened exhibition, Soundings: A Contemporary Score (recently reviewed for Rhizome by Sam Hart). Organized by Barbara London, associate curator in the department of media and performance, and Leora Morinis, curatorial assistant, the exhibition stands as the museum's first major presentation of sound art.

    Soundings thus marks a pivotal moment in the history of sound in the arts, as one of the world's most influential art institutions converges with a longstanding tradition of sound-based artistic practice for the first time. I met with London after seeing the show to discuss the exhibition and her curatorial process. The following is an extract from the full transcript of our conversation. 

    Camille Norment, Triplight (2008). Microphone cage, stand, light, electronics. Courtesy the artist.

    CE: How did the Soundings exhibition first come about? The exhibition has opened in 2013, so you must have started planning around 2010?

    BL: Something like that. But, you know, I did the series Looking at Music, and was interested in the influence of music on contemporary art practice. That was very different than this show. I had done three of them—we looked at the 1960s/1970s, the 1970s/1980s, and the 1980s/1990s—and afterward I thought, well, should there be a fourth? I thought that it would be more interesting to really explore what is going on with sound, in general, and to not do another history; other people have done that, and they have done it very well. I am sure there will be more historical shows. So, in keeping with what I have done in the past, including the Projects series and other kinds of things, I wanted to think of a younger generation.

    I started thinking about this exhibition somewhere around 2010 or 2011. We had three large binders, and we did a lot of research—printing things out, ear-to-the-ground listening, downloading—and I had a couple of modest travel grants. I was fascinated by what was coming out of Scandinavia in particular, thinking that there was, you know, a lot of noise coming from that area. Why was that something coming out of Scandinavia? I don't know—I don't have the answers to that question, but it was on that research trip that I met Camille Norment, Jana Winderen, and Jacob Kirkegaard.

    CE: When walking through the show and reading about these artists, it becomes clear that this is a decidedly international exhibition. Do you think that sound, or maybe the history of sound art, has in some way lent itself to becoming the global art practice that it is today, or does its international presence relate to a broader movement within contemporary art in general?

    BL: I think that it is more related to a movement in general. But I am very aware that in Australia, during the 1970s, there was sound activity, and that in India there has been twenty years of sound activity. Maybe these activities did not get lots of nurturing, but people were working with sound. The same for Japan, as you well know, where there are many, many musicians, noise musicians, and some of them have done sound installation. People of your generation are now looking back to people like Yasone Tone, and just revere him for what he did, so it is indeed very international.

    CE: Do you think that the rise of sound art, as a global practice, is in part related to new communications technologies?

    BL: I think it is partly technology. We are able to communicate faster now, and we also have faster access. Maybe we are unable to bodily experience an installation by someone that is present, now, in Tokyo, but we will do everything possible to read a floor plan or a diagram, and, you know, we can imagine. I have also thought about—and this would be for another conversation—how my parent's generation, or your grandparent's generation, would have listened to Bing Crosby, and heard some sounds through writers, or maybe The Ed Sullivan Show, or whatever, and it was either this group or that group. Then with The Beatles and David Bowie, my generation had more sounds available to us, and now through the internet you can send your friend a playlist with all kinds of weird stuff—it builds and builds.

    CE: The first time that we met you had just returned from the Venice Biennale. Have you found that sound is being given more consideration at these massive international exhibitions and art fairs in recent years?

    BL I think it is. As you know, the wide-open terrain is always interesting to experiment with, and although you have galleries like Gagosian or Hauser & Wirth, where you expect to see certain things, you also have galleries like Tanya Bonakdar, which has Susan Phillipsz, and Luhring Augustine, which has Janet Cardiff and George Bures-Miller. And then other people are presenting their work in Bushwick.

    CE: More people are listening?

    BL: Yeah.

    CE: I would like to take a moment and dissect the title of the exhibition. Where did the "Soundings" moniker come from?

    BL: Well, I was really toiling with a title, and thinking, you know, the term "soundings" can bring to mind a sort of movement, a reaching into the deep to find out what is going on, an exploration—actually, that is very much what Jana Winderen has done. And of course I knew and had actually seen Suzanne Delehanty's exhibition, Soundings, at the Neuberger Museum in 1981. I am very sorry that I did not do a tip of the hat to Suzanne in the catalogue, because I was out of my head by the end of putting that together, but the title comes from this notion of exploration. The rest of the title is a sort of word play. It does not really refer to a score in itself, but rather a reading of what is going on. However, this exhibition is not the be-all and end-all, because I was limited by space—but it is a view.


    Liz Phillips, Sunspots I & II, (1979-1981). Sound installation with stereo amplifier, two-ohm F loudspeakers, electronic sound-synthesis system, two capacitance fields, copper tubing, brass screen, copper ribbon, plexiglass, light sensors, and solar panels. Installation view from the exhibition Soundings at the Neuberger Museum, Purchase NY.

    CE: The score is a very prominent theme throughout the exhibition. The term is in the title, but there are also several works that directly reference what we might call the musical rhetoric a score—that is, the types of practices, gestures, and materials that a score encompasses. This notion of the score, as a conceptual framework, has been a recurring theme in contemporary art for decades, and, in regards to sound art, calls to mind things like the event score. It also refers to a more general opening up of musical language in the 1960s, an investigation into the components and parameters of musical practice. This expanded history of the score bears its presence on the charcoal and ink works by Christine Sun Kim, which almost read like a text by George Brecht. What is the significance of the musical score for this exhibition? 

    BL: I was lucky to visit Marco Fusinato in his studio, but I knew that if I put in one of his installations, such as Aetheric Plexus (2009), which has these rock event spotlights that blind you like a deer in headlights, and an incredibly loud noise, that it would dominate the entire floor. He showed me the series, Mass Black Implosion (2012), which references noise but is conceptual, and I thought that it would be a great way to include him in the exhibition. In this work, you are looking at an Iannis Xenakis score that is reproduced one to one, but Marco is pushing it somewhere else. Indeed, it is a score, and you can find all kinds of musical connections behind it, but it came out of this concept of taking the scores of major twentieth century composers, maybe forty of them for that series, who have a history, an impact, and then choosing a central point, drawing a line from every note to it, and really pushing it somewhere else. You look at the score, and you know that you will never hear it played, so it is conceptual and it is in your head. You have to look at it, and contemplate it—and that is what you do with any score, unless you are such an opera maven that you go and have the libretto and a score that is being performed. The opera allows you do that. These are beautiful drawings, and they are conceptual works that allow you to think about, as you mention, what a score is and what ideas are. 

    Top: Marco Fusinato, Aetheric Plexus (2009). Installation view, Artspace, Sydney. Bottom: Marco Fusinato. Mass Black Implosion (Shaar, Iannis Xenakis). 2012. Ink on archival facsimile of score, Part 1 of 5 parts, 32.3 x 43.1" framed. Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne & Sydney. 

    I think this is related to what Christine Sun Kim does. I often think of Hugo von Hofmannsthal's The Lord Chandos Letter (1902), in which he is writing about an author who decides never to write again because he can never achieve what is in his head. What is in his head is so much more profound than anything that he can get on paper. I think that Christine, in a way, is also thinking about these concepts—musical concepts, sound concepts, and language (which is the voice and a sound)—and I think that what she has combined on the page is just so beautifully poetic.

    CE: Those drawings are very gestural as well, and call to mind the markings of, say, a painter like Jasper Johns—the objects, rulers, that he would pin down and drag across the surface. You can feel the movement of the hand, and, in a sense, the viewer replicates those gestures in their own mind. What is the role of the viewer, or listener, when encountering the works in this exhibition?

    BL: Well, I think that it is experiential. You have to move around. You could say that sculpture is three-dimensional, and that, if you really want to understand it, you have to walk around and see it from all of the different angles. For example, the Luke Fowler and Toshiya Tsunoda piece, Ridges on the Horizontal Plane (2011), is durational because the slide and the film projectors are time-based, but the curtain also flutters in relation to the fans in the corner, and the work very much exists in real time. The audience can be observers, or listeners, but they really have to move around in order to fully experience the work. I think that you have to engage most of these works by spending time with them, and for many of them this means moving around, standing in front, and thinking about the experience. I have always felt, in all the years that I have been at the museum, that you will not be able to nail someone's feet to the ground. It is going to be a cumulative experience. In the moment, they might think, "Holy moly, yuck," but then they might go home and think, "Oh, maybe," or even see something at another museum and then come back to the exhibition. You will not get them to do anything against their will, but we can make the experience as commodious as possible. There is a bench, a soft seat, or a rug, and if you want to sit down on the floor, then you can go ahead and do that. 

    CE: I did notice that there are plenty of seating arrangements throughout the exhibition, and, in fact, some of the works explicitly invite you to sit down. I also noted that many of the works raise issue with the body, illustrating how sound affects the body and can define an experience, or even space itself. To that end, one of the things that first stood out to me was the relation of Tristan Perich's Microtonal Wall (2011) to the work of Robert Rauschenberg. Like Rauschenberg, Perich really plays with ideas about space and the body, and, using technology, calls attention to modes of spectatorship. The work specifically brought to mind a relatively unknown work by Rauschenberg, incidentally titled Soundings (1968). The two pieces are similar in that each is a large, elongated panel, hung on a wall, which engages the viewer through sound. However, Rauschenberg's panel is voice-activated, and, when the viewer speaks, the sounds of their voice triggers lights embedded inside, in turn illuminating an otherwise opaque work. In other words, the former invites you to make sound, and forces you to speak, while the latter forces you to be silent, and invites you to listen. Yet both are investigating the capacity of sound to construct experience. 

    Robert Rauschenberg, Soundings (1968). Produced in residence at Bell Labs under the auspices of Experiments in Art & Technology.

    BL: I believe that Tristan is certainly aware of that Rauschenberg work, but his practice, and the materials he used to make that piece—the electronics, the very simple 1-bit microprocessors, and the tiny, cheap speakers, fifteen-hundred of them placed in a grid—actually tips the hat to the Minimalists. The piece is there, front and center, as a way to get people to slow down, and to get people to listen, so we really did think about where to place the work. We could have put it in other places, but it is right there at the entrance of the show. People have to stand high, and they have to kneel low, in order to hear the four-octave range of the piece.

    CE: Right. In order to really experience the work, you have to walk back and forth, and move up and down, so it is very performative. I suppose that you could just walk right by the piece, but then it would become white noise, which is probably fine.

    BL. Well, I think that in his exploration and in his experiments, Rauschenberg was celebrating, in a way, art and technology. He was one of the founders of Experiments in Art and Technology, and he was close to Billy Klüver, and Merce Cunningham, and this interest in performance makes for a sort of celebratory work.

    CE: As a curator, sometimes you have to remove yourself from each individual piece, in order to realize an overarching or more general point of view. This can be a rather methodical, even dry process. Have you categorized the works in this exhibition in any particular way that would accommodate this type of curatorial labor?

    BL: Sure, but I wouldn't call it labor. In thinking about the show, I wanted it to have texture. I did not want it to look like a Sony or Bose trade-room, or whatever, so I knew that it was not going to just be speakers and subwoofers. I thought about the whole conceptual side of it, the object side of it. Actually, before Sergei Tcherepnin did the Murray Guy show [Ed. - Ear Tone Box, 2013], he told me that he really wanted to make this piece, Motor-Matter Bench (2013), and we sat right in this room, went online, and found that you can buy a subway bench. So, the process was more like facilitating, or thinking of textures.


    Sergei Tcherepnin, Motor-Matter Bench (2013). Wood subway bench, transducers, amplifier, HD media player. 28.5 x 20.5 x 126.5 in / 72 x 52 x 321 cm. Unique. Image courtesy of Murray Guy, New York. Photographer: Fabiana Viso.

    CE: Do you find that sound lends itself to the sort of curatorial framing that other mediums have received in the past?

    BL: Yeah. I feel that when we all think of art history, we think of contemporary practice, and we think of boundaries breaking down. There is structure, and there is content, and it can all be analyzed in different ways.

    CE: I will play the devil's advocate: How can sound have content?

    BL: I think that sound can have content because we all have lived with abstraction. All of these works have content in some way, whether it is Tristan Perich and his Microtonal Wall with its rhythms and patterns, or Florian Hecker, who also uses patterns, rhythms, and plays with this idea of repetition. 

    CE: In a recent New York Times article, art critic Blake Gopnik posited two strains of contemporary sound-practice. The first is aligned with representation, language, and cultural analysis; the second is aligned with abstraction, materiality, and the continuation of a Cagean tradition of experimental music. Gopnik also identifies works that represent each strain—the linguistic and the materialist—within the Soundings exhibition. How do you feel about these distinctions? Do these boundaries have any merit?

    BL: Well, I think that all of these distinctions, definitions—and, you know, he is writing for the New York Times—I think that they are fine. But all of these terms are handles, and they are good for a moment. They are not the be-all and end-all, but it is rather a way of talking now. We know that the field is enormous and diverse, so, for him, he is not trying to make a Manichean distinction: it is this or that. I think that we can try to define sound art one day and it will be thrown out the next. If you are talking to a group that is unfamiliar with this type of work, then you try to help them along. But you also have to say, you know, this is a particular moment.

    CE: Do you feel that sound has the capacity to become a critical practice? What would a critical sound art actually sound like?

    BL: I do not know if it would be a sound at all. It might be a concept. I think that criticality can come in many different shapes and forms, and there is a lot of criticality out in the world. Maybe some of this work is obscure. You really have to work at it.

    CE: I would like to end our conversation with some open-ended questions, which can be left for pondering. It is clear that, for the moment, sound has thoroughly suffused contemporary art. Increasingly, one is hard-pressed to visit an installation or performance and find a silent space. However, it also seems that many artists who use sound are simultaneously veering away from "sound art" as a discipline, and do not necessarily identify with its historical lineage. What do you see in the future for sound art as an artistic practice? Will sound become a long-term concern for the art world? Does sound belong in a museum? Will we ever see a department of sound and music at MoMA?

    BL: Well, I have to say that this institution is moving away from those categories for exhibiting contemporary art. For housekeeping, you have to take care of a drawing or photograph in a particular way, but if you come after we do the next expansion, or even before, it is really just going to be contemporary. You might have, as you can see now on our second and fourth floors, a combination of different mediums together. There will probably not be a department for sound, but there will be people with expertise.

    CE: Sound is here to stay?

    BL: Yes, I think so. What do you think?

    CE: Well, I think that sound has been here. It will continue to be here.

    BL: Yes. Sound is here. 

    Charles Eppley is a PhD candidate in art history at Stony Brook University, where he researches the history of sound in modern and contemporary art. He currently teaches at Pratt Institute and Stony Brook University.

    Barbara London is an associate curator in the department of media and performance at The Museum of Modern Art. Her recently opened exhibition, Soundings: A Contemporary Score, is open through November 3, 2013.

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    Ann Hirsch stood fully nude at the head of the gallery, solidly on both feet. "I guess a lot of people are 'over' nudity in performance art," she said.  "Like it's been done before... so we should stop doing it or something."

    "I'm able to do this…" she continued. "Because we're all girls, er, women here. So there can be no misconception that I'm like doing this for attention or something. When there are men in the room, that is what we all think."

    It wasn't that I had forgotten that this event at Transfer Gallery in Brooklyn was for women—open only to those who identify on a feminine spectrum—but in that moment it was tangible, the room held a weight. 

    The audience at gURLs. Photo by Marina Galperina.

    Ann continued the monologue, as she began to get dressed at the end of the performance: "I'm always hungry for female intimacy. The kind that is platonic but bordering on sexual is my favorite."  

    Afterward the room was a wall of applause and I realized I had been waiting for ironic "wolf whistles," but there were none. There was little irony at all.

    gURLs, a night of performances and readings at Transfer Gallery, took place on August 30th, and was curated by Zoë Salditch. It was, as previously noted, a female spectrum-only event, and, shifting through the audience, I swear I heard someone say that this night had captured something "in the air." I performed at gURLs and assisted Zoë with curating, so I am biased, but honestly this is what i had been thinking too: that here is a space for women who are creating work expressly, or especially, for other women. It is something that is happening, or maybe has always happened, and I want to be a part of it.

    Zoë's original conception for the night was a slumber party for Weird Twitter; a Weird girl Twitter slumber party. Which immediately made me think of a specific Twitter trend: this wave of tweets about girl culture that are funny, self-aware, experimental, and often teenage-nostalgic. I am thinking of poet Melissa Broder tweeting things like "walk in the club, lay on the floor," and "fuck me like the government." Or the account @knifesex: "missed connection - you: real worked up over some issue you're never going to do anything about anyway. me: lost in a corn maze forever." (Weird Girl Twitter closely related to the teenage-populated Sad Girl twitterers. Example: @sosadtoday: "sext: have sex with me" and @moonhumor: "i want to die.")

    What gURLs blossomed into was a night of pieces that fell somewhere in between performance art and readings, but the tone of "slumber party" remained, as the event was by invite only. This made it a happening among a small set of women who publish work online and are interconnected through the New York City art and lit scenes, with Weird Girl Twitter vibes. I want to talk a little about each piece, and the performers: Ann Hirsch, Bunny Rogers, Angela Washko, Martine Syms, Kate Durbin, Jenny Zhang, Gabby Bess, and Genevieve Belleveau, and myself, Rachel Rabbit White.

    Rachel Rabbit White at gURLs. Styling by by Danielle Meder.

    As people arrived at the gallery, they were invited to "let go" of some negative aspect of their online self, putting it in writing near a shrine-like sculpture of fake flowers, cell phones, and crystals. This was my piece: I wanted to consecrate the "safe space" of gURLs in a sort of cleansing ritual, and (in character, in costume) I sat with each person and burned what they wrote. There was also a video component, and a tub of water where all of the ashes (and my body) later went.

    I thought the idea of "cleansing" our online selves was funny, but I took my role here totally seriously. The concept was adapted from a ritual I do IRL in private (at each new moon) and it was something that don't think I could have done—or would have come up with—for an audience that included men. Realizing this, I think of that Marie Calloway story where she talks about wanting to write just for a women, wanting to write a story so directed at women that only women could read it.

    Martine Syms' piece is what I want to talk about next. It was a letter addressed to Sheryl Sandberg (of Lean In fame.) Standing in front of a camera, Martine described being at a party, trapped in a kitchen conversation with a man who wanted to give her advice. "After 24 the party is over,'" the man said. "All of your success is already expected."

    "I'm twenty-five," Martine said to the camera.

    Still frame from Martine Syms' video for gURLs (2013).

    She continued:

    Like every American, I grew up middle-class… I'm also black. I bring this up as a purely economic dimension. On average, the wealthiest blacks live in neighborhoods that are worse than the neighborhoods of the poorest whites.

    America has a brutal tradition of punishing black ambition. I don't care, Sheryl. I'm ready to sit at the table. I just want to know what it's all for. Is it worth it to you?

    Bunny Rogers' piece was also a letter of sorts. She entered the gallery in a black Amish-style dress with an apron and sang Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Memories" from the musical Cats in Russian, память in Russian, a beautiful and eerie dedication to her Grandfather who recently died.


    Jenny Zhang's piece was all I wanted to talk about afterward, bumming American Spirits from the girls outside and gesticulating loudly with my plastic wine glass.


    Performance by Jenny Zhang at gURLs (2013).

    Jenny walked to the center of the gallery in baby blue tulle prom dress and unloaded a massive suitcase, holding her book collection. She proceeded to pass out the books from female authors like Chris Kraus, Ariana Reines, Lidia Yuknavitch, and Lydia Davis, encouraging people to borrow them.

    She then sat in front of a small pink plastic mirror, and began applying make-up and holographic butterfly stickers (which she also passed out to the crowd ) while reading a poem. It started, "I would have no pubes if I were truly in love/ This I know/This I am sure of." It was powerful in its raw breeziness.

    This was one of my favorite parts:

    every once in a while

    my mom is all like, say sorry

    and I'm all like, say sorry

    and she's all like, say sorry without the say

    and I'm all like, say sorry without the say!

    I bet if she could

    she'd stuff me right back up her lil cunt

    and we would fulfill each other

    in ways we cannot dream of now.


    The intermission, at a show like this, is almost as important as the event itself. Here, the women mingle outside of the gallery, complimenting each other on outfits (and there were so many great looks: turquoise hair, metallic boots.) I kept hearing women exclaim that it was so good to finally meet each other.

    "I've been following you forever, it feels like," said the girl who edits Rookie magazine to Gabby Bess, a performer.

    "I know, it's so good to finally meet you IRL," Gabby exclaimed.

    "I'm upset my friend went to the 'sad boys' reading instead," someone said.,

    "Wait what?" I asked.

    "Yeah it's like some alt-lit reading tonight. The things to go to tonight are either gURLs or this 'sad boys' reading." (Alt-Lit, quickly, is a form of internet-based poetry and prose. It is often published on Twitter or Tumblr where it feels ephemeral, quickly lost in the stream, giving the work an off-the-cuff vibe.)

    I had also been thinking all night that what was happening here seemed almost like a response to alt-lit, which is dude heavy. But now to say it aloud would be too obvious.


    I had missed Angela Waskko's piece, because I was "backstage,"  but I heard the audience laughing through the door. She skyped in wearing workout shorts and a push-up bra, and began discussing how she is an advocate for Millionaire Matchmaker's Patty Stanger. She then started doing a workout tape while listing the 100 most requested characteristics the millionaires ask for in a mate. It ranged from "has career goals," to "ages 21-28," to "big boobs."

    Kate Durbin and Gabby Bess both did video pieces for the show, which are available online.

    In hers, Kate reads from the Tumblrs of teenage girls, while costumed in the Tumblr Girl aesthetic in her bathroom. Gabby spoke about the compulsion to photograph and record herself with a touching intimacy and poignance. 


    Genevieve Belleveau had the closing piece. In it, a performer (Mikey Coyte, who is male identified) performed a lip sync to a haunting meditative chant Genevieve had recorded in freestyle. He wore a long red wig belonging to Genevieve, red lipstick, and underwear.

    "Love that knows no control," he lip synced. "Just love. Love that knows no ownership. Love that knows no greed. Love love. Love love. Love love. Love."

    Performance by Genevieve Belleveau featuring Mikey Coyte.

    It was also at this moment that a few men showed up at the door, standing awkwardly for a few minutes, then leaving.

    There was some worry about making the event female-exclusive. And Genevieve told me later she was initially turned off by the idea. "It struck me as a binary gender codified way of addressing this oppression of the female voice. Part of having a male-bodied performer stand as my avatar was a response. I felt the question needed to be raised; what do we mean by female?"

    I nod. Yes.

    We talk about how Ann Hirsch's performance brilliantly questioned this, asking what would the naked female form mean if there were men in the room?

    After the show, everyone poured into an outdoor back area, to finish the wine. At some point a man pulled up on his bike, saying he saw a "buncha chicks dancing." Talking to Genevieve, he started grabbing her belt loops. "Woah, woah," she said, stumbling to pull herself back.

    "It contrasted so sharply with the warmth and safety of the prior three hours," she told me later… "It occurred to me, this sacred space is really necessary."


    I keep trying to circle back to what it is gURLs had captured about right now. It seems to me that feminist art of the past has often been about feminism, about social justice, has been inherently political.  There exists this idea that an artist should strive to be universal (it's even part of Marina Abramovic's artist manifesto, which has so many likes and re-blogs on Tumblr) but what gURLs was about to me, truly, was working with the urge to create work that connects with other women, rather than against it, without reverting to assumptions of a universal definition of women or women's experience.

    Adrienne Rich wrote that no male writer has written largely to a female audience but that every female writer has written to men. But arriving at a moment when this balance begins to change is an extraordinary one for the female writer and reader. Artist and viewer. But the "connection" part of this also seems especially important to women who are creating work online. Since I was a teenager, the internet has been a space where I find women who share my interests in feminism, in art, music, writing. (And it is interesting that we have so much more access to feminist theory, yet the IRL spaces feminists formed seem long gone.) Yet increasingly, being online (putting your work online) means being on social media sites, relying on likes and re-blogs, which are engineered to be addicting. Right now I am scrolling through Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook looking for people or things to connect with (which is what I do whenever I am lonely, even though it only leaves me feeling more empty) and this is where it sinks in: that gURLs satiated a need for something real IRL.


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    A roundup of opportunities and goings-on from Rhizome's community.


    Opening Friday at the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon is Alien She, the "first exhibition to examine the lasting impact that Riot Grrrl, a pioneering global punk feminist movement, has had on artists and cultural producers working today." Curated by Astria Suparak and Ceci Moss, the exhibition features work by Tammy Rae Carland, founder of Mr Lady Records and Video and my undergraduate thesis advisor and all around art hero, as well as Miranda July. This photograph is published on the Miller Gallery website, which tantalizingly suggests that July may be presenting the hugely influential but still underrecognized multimedia performance work The Swan Tool as part of the exhibition. Either way, the show looks like it's well worth a road trip.

    New York

    Ongoing: Paolo Cirio has brought his Street Ghosts--life-sized pictures of people found on Google's Street View printed and posted at the same spots where they were taken--back to Brooklyn on the one year anniversary of the project, accompanied by a new video about the project on VICE's Motherboard. Various locations in Brooklyn.

    Opening Thursday: Splice: At the Intersection of Art and Medicine (curated by artist Nina Czegledy) brings together scientific and artistic means of representing the human body. Pratt Manhattan Gallery.

    Saturday: Learn to create your own Subnode--a wireless access point used particularly to share content and digital experience locally--at the workshop Creating Your Own Subnode: Networking with the Raspberry PI +  NODE.JS. Eyebeam.

    Monday, Sept 23. FUTURE OF BIO-ADAPTIVE GAMES is a talk that creatively explores how games and multi-media art practices can "re-activate the peripheral nervous system to enhance our social-emotional attunement." 


    Artist Anita Bacic presents Mobile Obscura--a moving camera obscura on wheels--as part of Persembe Pazari Projects, an Istanbul Biennial Parallel event. 


    Sept 25: Deadline for papers for international symposium "The digital subject: In-scription, Ex-scription, Tele-scription" at University of Paris 8 Vincennes Saint-Denis & Archives nationales, November 18-21, 2013.


    Interested in the "fun of maintaining IT at high-functioning-chaos creative organization?" Eyebeam need an IT specialist. Deadline: Sept 27.

    Pixel Palace & Tyneside Cinema are looking for an Inaugural Curator to set the curatorial vision and artistic programme for a brand new gallery and cinema space opening in 2014. Deadline: Sept 30.

    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.

    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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    Andy Warhol, Sleep (1963). 

    Labor Day is supposed to be a day that honors those of us who work for a living with an extra day of rest. I'm writing this on Labor Day, at home on my own laptop, avoiding a long list of other tasks I need to attend to in order to keep my work, and my life, manageable. That work happens all the time and increasingly also at the worker's own expense isn't news, but it helps bring into sharp, urgent focus the arguments in Jonathan Crary's terse, polemical new book, 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep.

    Instead of focusing on labor, Crary takes sleep as a lens through which to consider economic and social transformations wrought by late 20th and early 21st century techno-global capitalism. Offering a genealogical account of the reformatting of time from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution to the present, 24/7 is relentlessly negative: sleep is the last unleveraged form of human activity and it is violently threatened by a world in which the divisions between night and day, between rest and work, are disappearing due to mutations in the experience of time produced by unceasing digital networks, new metrics for productivity, and ever-expanding forms of control and surveillance.

    Opening with chilling descriptions of contemporary military-industrial research on how soldiers might function without sleep and torture techniques based on sleep deprivation, the book quickly establishes sleep as an activity that is constitutive of human life at a basic level.[i] That sleep is threatened not just in extreme situations but in the realm of everyday existence has to do with what Crary describes as "a generalized inscription of human life into duration without breaks, defined by a principle of continuous functioning. It is a time that no longer passes, beyond clock time." As he elaborates the specific textures (or lack thereof) of this new temporality, signaled with the shorthand 24/7, Crary ties the disruption of sleep to an emerging and intensifying set of demands around our productivity as workers. More than simply an elaboration of Marxist theories of modernity that hinge on new concepts of space and time (think of the work of Fredric Jameson, Ernst Mandel, E.P. Thompson, among others), 24/7 seeks to specify how an increasingly homogenous construction of time reorients human activities and experience, and is thus transforming us from the inside out.

    GIF by Zoe Burnett.  

    In part, this new uninflected temporality is tied to the constant illumination of screens through which we are connected, regardless of what we are actually doing, to mechanisms of surveillance and algorithms that continually serve us more of what we have revealed that we "like." For anyone familiar with Crary's work on vision and attention in modern culture, this argument comes as no surprise. But 24/7 has a broader scope, arguing that visual experience and its function within digital culture are far overshadowed by other kinds of sensations and activities. Key concepts here are self-management—the way that we willingly, even eagerly participate in producing profits for multinational corporations and in state surveillance via products like Facebook and Gmail—and a continual cycle of consumption as production—in which our productivity as workers relies on our consumption of commodities from smartphones to streaming movies to (mostly useless) information itself.

    The smartphone in particular exemplifies Crary's understanding of the economic and social reorganization that has taken place over the past three decades, often referred to as neoliberalism. It represents two seemingly opposed tendencies: on the one hand, there is the standardization of experience and mass synchronization, and on the other, "the parcellization and fragmentation of shared zones of experience into fabricated microworlds of affects and symbols." This apparent contradiction is key for understanding the particular impossibility of the current state of technological experience: we might all be doing the same thing (looking at our own individual screens, typing and swiping), but the effect is increasing separation and irreversible damage to any kind of collective experience.

    Zoe Burnett, Life. Animated GIF.

    It is worth attending to how carefully Crary demarcates this contemporary regime of experience. Nearly twenty-five years ago, in his first book Techniques of the Observer, he argued that with industrial reorganization and scientific studies of perception in the middle of the 19th century, the camera obscura, which had functioned as a model for human vision for centuries, was surpassed by a new regime of vision based on the perceptual apparatus of the human body itself. Now he eschews such epistemic breaks based in scientific and technological discourse, positing instead that we need to focus on paradigms of experience and perception.

    [I]t must be emphasized that we are not… simply passing from one dominant arrangement of machinic and discursive systems to another. That books and essays written on ‘new media’ only five years ago are already outdated is particularly telling, and anything written with the same goal today will become dated in far less time. At present, the particular operation and effects of specific new machines or networks are less important than how the rhythms, speeds, and formats of accelerated and intensified consumption are reshaping experience and perception."

    There is a challenge here (of no small relevance to Rhizome itself) to theories of "new media" that focus on technical or aesthetic mutations rather than addressing the modes of attention and cognition demanded by digital devices and formats in general. By turning exclusively to a theory of the user and leaving behind a certain materialist inquiry, Crary never explicitly considers those affected by contemporary technology who aren’t its intended consumers, such as victims of drone strikes, soldiers fighting to control the supply of coltan, or workers in smartphone sweatshops, implying simply that indifference and lack of attention to these positions is yet another effect of the dull sameness of 24/7 time. Still, Crary’s provocation is certainly a useful reminder of the fact that perceptual paradigms extend well beyond any specific technology.

    In particular, this argument is useful in articulating the possibilities of resistance for those embedded in the 24/7 experiential regime. As in his other work as art historian, Crary develops such arguments through a rigorous mix of Marxist analysis, Foucauldian histories of power and institutions, and a commitment to a Situationist tactics and aesthetics. A kernel of 24/7 appears in Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture (1999), where he argues that in the late 19th century,

    …spectacular culture is not founded on the necessity of making a subject see, but rather on strategies in which individuals are isolated, separated, and inhabit time as disempowered. Likewise, counter-forms of attention are neither exclusively nor essentially visual but rather constituted as other temporalities and cognitive states, such as those in trance or reverie.  

    Now, more than a decade later, Crary laments the disappearance of many of these "counter-strategies" found in seemingly non-attentive states (i.e. dreams and sleep) with the intensification of spectacular culture wrought by digital technologies, such as the personal computer and the Internet.

    Cory Arcangel and Paul B. Davis (Beige). Naptime (2003). GIF extract of bootleg YouTube video. Credit information via New Museum.

    Although Crary concludes with sleep as a site of potential collective resistance (one that, it should be said, may have already become impossible) his initial interest in sleep as a basic requirement of human life is suggestive of other potential political and social connections. By focusing his concerns in 24/7 not only on new modes of production (i.e. new technologies and the kinds of labor they solicit from users), but also on reproduction (i.e. sleep as a necessary rest and resetting of the body), Crary approaches a particular strain of Marxist feminist thinking that emerged in the 1970s and has recently become celebrated in the theoretical discussions surrounding Occupy Wall Street and activist challenges to contemporary capitalism. The economics of social reproduction have been a central concern of thinkers like the Italian Silvia Federici and the American Nancy Fraser, among others. Although he does not cite or acknowledge these thinkers or their arguments, Crary’s concern with the obliteration of affective dimensions of human life – not just sleep and reverie, but also questions of care and empathy that once grounded collective social welfare – by techno-capitalism has everything to with the fact that, as Federici articulates, affective labor has been generally excluded from the market because it has been feminized and thus undervalued or simply appropriated. The dream states championed by Crary should be considered part of this broader category of affective labor. This categorization is partly biological—while one sleeps and dreams, the body and mind are recharged—but it is also social—think of the sleepless state of new parents as they adjust their own cycles of waking to care for an infant before soothing the child back to sleep.

    Seen in this light, the penetration of capitalism into the realm of sleep is one aspect of a broader issue. Just as there is no longer a separation between work and leisure and between night and day, there is no longer a separation between wage-earning work (traditionally marked as male) and work traditionally coded as female, such as caring for loved ones. Nancy Fraser characterizes this as a new emphasis on the "family wage," in which women’s paid and unpaid labor are both necessary to basic survival in post-welfare state economies. Crary is right to be anxious about the rise of 24/7 culture and the loss of sleeping and dream life, but his exclusive emphasis on individualized forms of perception and experience can too easily exclude other new mutations in capitalism’s ongoing colonization of human life.

    Drop City.

    It is perhaps telling that Crary devotes a great deal of space in 24/7 to the argument that 1960s counterculture posed such a significant threat to capitalism that 1980s neoliberalism was an aggressive and successful attempt to quash it. The experience of living in utopian countercultural communities, such as Drop City, was not liberatory for many women, who found themselves tasked with the work of cooking and childcare, to say nothing of dealing with the welfare office, while their male counterparts made art.  Instead of continuing to mourn the losses of the 1960s, isn’t it time for new strategies? How might we think about living through this period of capitalism such that the value of all forms of affective labor is not only understood, but preserved (or salvaged) from the assignment of a dollar value by the market? In part, this requires that we attend more carefully to how neoliberalism has been exploiting differences, not simply making us all more the same.


    [i] In a more banal example of the contemporary state of sleep, the Well blog on the New York Times recently published an article about new studies showing that people have less self control and tended to eat more and unhealthier foods when they are sleep deprived. "The relationship between sleep loss and weight gain is a strong one, borne out in a variety of studies over the years," the author announces, citing statistics and experts, but particularly the most recent research in which the effects of sleep deprivation were measured through brain activity. The conclusion: sleep "[is] the single most effective thing people can do every day to reset their brain and body health." This conclusion is hardly shocking, but it becomes interesting in contrast to the Times recent attention to the increasingly brutal schedules of the working poor and its rather banal coverage of middle class families learning to turn off their smartphones before dinner. All of which begs an important question: How are our biological rhythms being disrupted and reset by new economic and social imperatives for increasing productivity and the technologies that aid and abet these demands? And how might the correlation between sleep deprivation and mindless consumption play out in other areas of contemporary life?

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    This text is re-printed with permission from a publication released in conjunction with the exhibition The Politics of Friendship (Anicka Yi / Carissa Rodriguez / Jordan Lord / Lise Soskolne) at Studiolo in Zurich. 

    Jordan Lord, Carissa Rodriguez, Lise Soskolne, Anicka Yi, Man-Child, Young-Girl, Girl-Child, Man-Girl (2013).

    Not having read Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl —or, to be honest, any texts by the French collective Tiqqun—I am hesitant to comment on the figure of the "Man-Child," which was developed in response to that of Tiqqun's "Young-Girl." Instead, pleading lack of time and putting a little faith in contingency, I offer up some thoughts from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's final book, Touching Feeling, which I just happened to be reading at the time a friend sent me a link to Moira Weigel and Mal Ahern's essay, "Further Materials Toward a Theory of the Man-Child." 

    Discussing what she calls "paranoid reading" and comparing it with a process of "reparative reading," Sedgwick describes Sylvan Tomkins' concepts of strong and weak affect theories—the "ideo-affective organizations" through which we interpret and predict our own and others' emotions. Tomkins writes that:

    Any theory of wide generality is capable of accounting for a wide spectrum of phenomena which appear to be very remote, one from the other, and from a common source. This is commonly accepted criterion by which the explanatory power of any scientific theory can be evaluated. To the extent to which the theory can account only for "near" phenomena, it is a weak theory, little better than a description of the phenomena which it purports to explain. As it orders more and more remote phenomena to a single formation, its power grows…. A humiliation theory is strong to the extent to which it enables more and more experience to be accounted for as instances of humiliating experience on the one hand, or the extent to which it enables more and more anticipation of such contingencies before they actually happen.

    Tomkins' example of a weak theory is looking both ways before you cross the street, a procedure for traversing a busy street without being paralyzed by fear. A weak theory, paradoxically, remains weak because it is successful—because in minimizing the experience of a negative affect, it reduces the domain in which this emotion might be anticipated. But, "if the individual cannot find the rules whereby he can cross the street without feeling anxious [because of a series of unfortunate accidents, say], then his avoidance strategies will necessarily become more and more diffuse. Under these conditions the individual might be forced, first, to avoid all busy streets and then to go out only late at night when traffic was light; finally, he would remain inside, and if his house were to be hit by a car, he would have to seek refuge in a deeper shelter." The domain of the theory grows; it becomes stronger precisely as more and more things come to resemble streets.

    A weak humiliation theory might consist of a simple, discrete procedure that averts shame in a particular instance (i.e. "don't post a revealing photo on Facebook"), or, if shame or humiliation has already been triggered, a weak theory might consist of an account or re-telling that recognizes the situation as less-than-threatening to the individual. A strong theory, in contrast, flags many different situations in advance as potentially humiliating, and often calls upon a wide variety of strategies and behaviors to avoid or attenuate the negative experience, e.g. not showing up, concealing oneself, withdrawing interest, diverting attention elsewhere. But if the subject continues to find himself in situations that induce humiliation, rather than what logically would follow—the conclusion that the explanatory structure isn't working, and a search for different ways to account for and predict one's experience—the strong theory only grows in strength. As a result of its continuing failures, the individual becomes more and more attuned to potential humiliation. Tomkins again:

    The entire cognitive apparatus is [then] in a constant state of alert for possibilities [of humiliation], imminent or remote, ambiguous or clear... [and] as little as possible is left to chance. The radar antennae are placed wherever it seems possible the enemy may attack. Intelligence officers may monitor even unlikely conversations if there is an outside chance something relevant may be detected or if there is a chance that two independent bits of information taken together may give indication of the enemy's intentions…. But above all there is a highly organized way of interpreting information so that what is possibly relevant can be quickly abstracted and magnified, and the rest discarded.

    As the strong theory becomes monopolistic, humiliation stalks every relationship, every need to show oneself, every injunction to produce something, every situation which involves even the slightest risk of failure or rejection. "This is how it happens," concludes Sedgwick, "that an explanatory structure that a reader may see as tautological, in that it can't help or can't stop or can't do anything other than prove the very same assumptions with which it began, may be experienced by the practitioner as a triumphant advance toward truth and vindication."

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    Rhizome's Artist Profiles are interviews with artists that have developed a significant body of work engaged (in its process, or in the issues it raises) with technology. See the full list of Artist Profiles here. Rachel Reupke's solo exhibition Wine & Spirits is on view at Cell Project Space in London through 27 October.

    Rachel Reupke, Wine & Spirits (2013). 20 minutes, HD video

    LMF: For several years now you have been working within the aesthetics of advertising imagery and the style of stock image photography. In Wine & Spirits (2013), your new film, the two characters (who are in a variety of situations involving the consumption of alcohol) are posed stock-still for long, drawn-out moments. Occasionally, I wondered if I was watching a freeze frame, until I saw a twitch or a flicker of a tendon. As with your previous work, there is a feeling of epic flatness and the constant suggestion that the gestures of the actors will be used to sell something. Yet it is partly we as viewers who are transforming the film into advertising—and imagining the context in which these bodies or objects might be used, such as in a brochure for a pub or hotel. How did you arrive at the particular choices that you made here in terms of the romantically-framed couple, the date-like drinking context?

    RR: Each of the five scenes is based on a still image, some from print advertising and some photojournalism. The still reference is used quite literally in that the actors rarely move out of a posture and the camera rarely moves. Each scene has a slightly different aesthetic, in part dictated by the reference (art direction and lighting) and in part by the nature of the relationship between the couple. Initially, I was going to use different actors to play each scene, but in the end I decided to use the same actors throughout, opening up the possibility for the viewer to attempt to follow a thread. Ultimately, though, as we are actually watching five different couples rather than one, the relationship fails to develop. The drinking contexts are all English (except for one which is pretty much a dream sequence), so it is grounded in pub culture and pint after pint.

    LMF: I find alcohol a really interesting choice of subject matter in the way that drinks somehow infect the cleanliness of imagery in the same way that they might have an effect on the brain and the bloodstream, or on perception. In your earlier film Ten Seconds or Greater (2010), characters appear to move around an apartment using items as though they were continually advertising the space or the objects that they interact with, most of the objects—vegetables, technological products—are very clean, while the alcoholic beverages seem less sterile. The wine or beer sits somewhat awkwardly within the idealized, almost airbrushed aesthetic of the commercial imagery, as it looks tainted or tinted, brown, maroon, dirty. It's difficult to find a context in which drinking looks perfectly wholesome. Upscale supermarkets have found ways to effectively deal with images of people holding alcoholic drinks, but I often notice with cheaper shops that there is some difficulty in pulling this off.

    RR: You write about this very well, although I think I was probably thinking less about visual representations of alcohol, as the way its very presence affects how you read a scene. Placing it within any scenario suggests the potential for change, unpredictable change—it could go many ways—heightened emotional states, loosened inhibitions, gaiety, argument, moroseness and worse. And this drinking is such an ancient ritual. Here I represent it in a contemporary context, but these situations are as old as the hills. Coming back to your point about the visual qualities of drink, in both 10 Seconds or Greater and Wine & Spirits, the drinks are styled in opposition to a commercial aesthetic. The beer tends to look flat, as if its been standing for a long time, or wine glasses are half filled, something slightly sad, inadequate. In Wine & Spirits the drinks also, largely, remain untouched—no one gets drunk, so there is this agent for change, this catalyst on screen, but the characters remain unaffected by it. Paralysis.

    LMF: I was aware that there was something "off" about the drinks, but couldn't quite place it. So it relates to the styling. How exactly did you develop this piece—was there a particular image or idea that you started with?

    RR: Before I made Wine & Spirits, I made a short video called Deportment (2011), based on an old advert I had seen in Lisbon. It was an amateurishly painted scene of a couple drinking champagne, at a table, dressed with a candelabra, in an advert for a neighborhood cafe. It was very old fashioned, a long-dead advertising cliché, and it was exactly this quality that made it a surprising image. I used this scenario (man, woman, champagne, and candelabra) to retell a conversation I had had once (well, actually it's one line only), in an attempt to resuscitate the cliché, a bit like Dr. Frankenstein and his monster. In other words: it doesn't quite make it back to life! So, with Wine & Spirits I followed a similar process, using remembered conversations as the script, very banal man/woman type situations, and retelling them within the world of advertising and editorial photography. What this does exactly is hard for me to define, but I do know it is a lot to do with using structure and art direction to spark some sort of emotional response.

    LMF: That's interesting that you employ this commercial language as vehicle for emotional content response. I always think of stock imagery as being just empty enough—waiting for emotional content—but there is something different in your work in that one faintly glimpses something a bit rawer or idiosyncratically personal. Could you say a bit more about the potential that you see in cliché and commercial photography?

    RR: I suppose it might sound a bit strange to talk about emotional response when, as you say, the images are so flat, but it is exactly this flatness that allows me to talk about some things that would otherwise be too biographical, too embarrassing, or perhaps too banal. I use the veneer of a commercial aesthetic as a smokescreen for saying things that, rendered otherwise, would be some sort of horrific confessional kitchen sink drama. Likewise with cliché, using a "romantic" image of a man and a woman actually allows me the freedom to say anything I want, a bit like the inappropriate outbursts of a ventriloquist's dummy. I am passing the buck.

    Stock footage has a particular fascination (or is particularly useful) for the nature of its content. Because it is often used to sell products that have no material substance: health insurance, pensions, mortgages for example, there is a huge array of glossy flat images of people being ill, witnessing traffic accidents, attending funerals and worrying about bills. There is happy stuff too of course, but that's not so remarkable. I find these clips moving, and more so for their matter-of-factness and lack of context. These subjects aren't very visible in the entertainment industry and rarely in visual art. It's quite unique. 

    LMF: So it's kind of a very straightforward visual poetics—abstract concepts, emotions or experiences played out almost like a game of charades, yet touching on awkward, dull or painful subjects. Why do you think that the smooth aesthetics of commercial photography have become a dominant aesthetic among artists that has recently come to signify that we are talking about "the Internet," when our experiences of browsers and such is usually, in fact, rather cluttered and messy?

    RR: Good question. Is it because commercial material such as stock footage has become so much easier to access through the internet? Or is it because advertisers have sought to occupy the very same spaces originally conceived of as platforms for publishing non-commercial or personal material such as YouTube and Facebook, so there is a kind of day-to-day contamination?

    Age: 42 

    Location: London

    How/when did you begin working creatively with technology?

    I didn't start using digital technology within my art work until I began making videos around the year 2000. It was then that I got heavily into post-production and started using AfterEffects to collage video and still images together, using old-fashioned special effects methods, but rendering them digitally rather than photographically. Since then, I go in phases of using animation and very visible post-production, in my quicker, more experimental work, to a much more traditional style of studio filmmaking, where I would say the technology is simply a means to an end, rather than integral to the aesthetic.

    Where did you go to school? What did you study?

    Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University and later an MA in photography in the media department at Goldsmiths in London. This was an attempt to become better employable. In contradiction to my own life plan however, I spent the year making experimental videos and any serious idea of a career in the commercial sector evaporated! 

    What do you do for a living or what occupations have you held previously?

    Now I make art and teach, Fine Art and Filmmaking. Previously I have been a prop maker, scenic artist, graphic designer, window dresser, personal assistant, office manager and other. 

    What does your desktop or workspace look like?

    An array of images, highlights include a picture of a running tap with the words "YOU TURN ME ON;" a postcard of a high class fishing outfit by Barbour from the V&A; an illustration of a slovenly Walter Mattheau in The Odd Couple, lazing in a chair surrounded by bachelor detritus; a watercolour titled The Evil Genius by mystic artist Austin Osman Spare; a C16th altar piece by Jorg Breu with Christ being beaten with wooden poles.

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    The machine on which Conlon Nancarrow created his player piano rolls. Photo by Carol Law, 1977. Collection: C Amirkhanian.

    In 1947, the composer Conlon Nancarrow—frustrated with human pianists and their limited ability to play his rhythmically complex music—purchased a device which allowed him to punch holes in player piano rolls. This technology allowed him to create incredibly complex musical compositions, unplayable by human hands, which later came to be widely recognized by electronic musicians as an important precursor to their work.

    A similar interest in seemingly impossible music can be found today in a group of musicians who use MIDI files (which store musical notes and timings, not unlike player piano rolls) to create compositions that feature staggering numbers of notes. They're calling this kind of music "black MIDI," which basically means that when you look at the music in the form of standard notation, it looks like almost solid black:


    Blackers take these MIDI files and run them through software such as Synesthesia, which is kind of an educational version of Guitar Hero for the piano, and bills itself as "piano for everyone." It's kind of brilliant to imagine a novice piano player looking for some online tutorials and stumbling across, say, this video of the song Bad Apple, which reportedly includes 8.49 million separate notes. 

    That version of Bad Apple is by a notable blacker who goes by the name TheSuperMarioBros2; as you might infer from the name and the choice of song, video game music plays a big role in the black MIDI scene. 

    And so do note counts - the more notes, the better. The queen of the note count seems to be a blacker from China named Xinyu Qian AKA ICEwiimaker. Here is one of her videos, a 21 million-note version of a track from the video game Touhou Project.

    There's a nascent wiki for the black MIDI community, where you can find links to more of these videos, if you'd like to continue on down the rabbit hole...

    H/T: David Nolen.

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    Ming Wong, Making Chinatown (II & III) (2012). On view as part of "Cross-Strait Relations" at Parsons.

    A roundup of opportunities and goings-on from Rhizome's community.


    Right now: Reading Club proposes a text and an interpretive arena to 4 readers. These readers write together their reading of a text inside the text itself. 

    Bubblebyte currently has two ongoing website takeovers (projects in which they introduce artworks into existing institutional websites). Through October 20, every few days, one moving image artwork from 16 international artists will be added to Art Licks Weekend website, slowly revealing a larger collaborative collage. Through November 10, Nuovo Nuovo Vecchio introduces work by 8 of the artists in this year's Bloomberg New Contemporaries exhibition into the website of Spike Island Gallery in the UK.

    Thurs: The exhibition INSTALLATION VIEWS V by artist Sherwin Rivera Tibayan will open at, featuring abstract animations that reference the architecture of the "white cube" gallery. 

    Through Saturday: The Artlympics is a new way to enjoy museums, with a pinch of competition.


    Cloud Banks, the new exhibition by Mark Amerika at Kasa Gallery, "will explore the way artists, political and economic theorists, metaphysical philosophers, and businessmen use language…to construct their vision of the world".

    New York

    Tues: NYTimes journalist Liam Stack will discuss the state of journalism in Syria and share his multimedia project, Watching Syria's War at TEMP Art Space.

    Fri: "Cross-Strait Relations" | "两岸关系," curated by Arthur Ou, explores the pluralism of Chinese identity through diverse contemporary artworks.

    Deadlines for Artists

    Weds: Deadline for papers for international symposium "The digital subject: In-scription, Ex-scription, Tele-scription" at University of Paris 8 Vincennes Saint-Denis & Archives nationales, November 18-21, 2013.

    Fri: Proposals due for gallery projects, demonstrations and performance works as part of Digital Latin America, an international exhibition with a weekend symposium and Downtown Block Party at 516Arts in Albuquerque.

    Sept 30: Deadline to enter the SZPILMAN AWARD, which is awarded to works that exist only for a moment or a short period of time. 

    Oct 4: Deadline for applications for a new collaborative residency programme based at LUX and the new SPACE-run cultural venue, The White Building.


    Sept 25: Deadline for papers for international symposium "The digital subject: In-scription, Ex-scription, Tele-scription" at University of Paris 8 Vincennes Saint-Denis & Archives nationales, November 18-21, 2013.

    Sept 30: Peer-reviewed Romanian journal Ekphrasis is seeking papers that address the theme of recycling in the larger context of the digital age.


    Interested in the "fun of maintaining IT at high-functioning-chaos creative organization?" Eyebeam need an IT specialist. Deadline: Sept 27.

    Pixel Palace & Tyneside Cinema are looking for an Inaugural Curator to set the curatorial vision and artistic programme for a brand new gallery and cinema space opening in 2014. Deadline: Sept 30.

    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.

    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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    Filmmaker Hito Steyerl has described the aesthetically-coded power dynamics at play between the "poor" and the "rich" image that infiltrate all aspects of contemporary video production. Beyond the dialecticism of her argument, which encourages deeper engagement with "degraded" pictures and a sort of abstract suffering through circulation (at least in terms of pixels), there remains a wide spectrum of mediocre to fair digital images for artists and filmmakers to deal with, and a host of issues concerning the resolution of visual matter, both new and appropriated. Just as collage and photomontage were once essential techniques for tinkering Dadaists, today the manipulation of picture quality has become a distinct strategy. I spoke to Berlin-based artist James Richards (UK) about his particular practice of presenting still and moving images of all registers in the space of the gallery exhibition, and the point at which an image breaks down into a feeling.

    erKR: In 2012 you programmed a screening for the Serpentine Gallery Memory Marathon. Surface Tension had some incredible films in it, including Paul Wong's Bruise (1976), which records the skin-level effects, in real-time, of transferring 60 units of blood between friends. That program really seemed to develop a metaphor between skin and screen—a form of intimacy that visually explodes the technological concept of a "touch screen"—something that I think also comes through in the composition of your own work, including Rosebud (2013), which premiered at Artists Space in New York in January.


    Stills from Kenneth Fletcher/Paul Wong, 60 Unit; Bruise (1976, Digitally Re-Mastered 2008). 5.25 min., stereo, colour, English, single-channel.

    JR: The censored images in Rosebud were shot in a library in Tokyo. I came across them by accident while researching there in the spring of 2012. The books—monographs on Mapplethorpe, Tillmans, Man Ray—were being imported into Japan from Europe when they were stopped by customs officials. Local law in Japan forbids a library from having books with any images that might induce arousal in a viewer, so after negotiations with the director, it was agreed that customs workers would go through the shipment and sandpaper away the genitals from any contested images. As you say, the video somehow is focused on the violence of the action of sandpapering—the point where glossy black printer ink gives way to the scuffed and bruised paper stock underneath. There's something intense but also futile in these marks. The video is a study of rubbing against and along different surfaces: the meniscus of water over the print, the elderflower rubbed along a boy's body.

    James Richards, Rosebud, 2013. HD Video, 12 minutes 57 seconds. Courtesy the artist; Cabinet, London; and Rodeo, Istanbul. installation view, "Frozen Lakes," Artists Space, New York.

    KR: To me, Rosebud is explicitly charged and has both a quiet violence (the censored photographs) and a very playful sensuality (the soft-core passages) that makes it the most erotic of your recent work. It seems to mark a visceral shift that is perhaps less reliant on the aesthetic and atmospheric "aura" of the earlier collage works.

    JR: Well it's less reliant on the auratic properties of low-resolution online video, or VHS, though of course the exploitation of the vertigo one experiences when looking at moving images of such super crispness and high definition is itself a fetish, and one I was interested in exploring. Rosebud really pushes and pulls around a restricted set of image sensations: the long claustrophobic takes of the sandpapered book pages, the erratic searching shots of puddles and streams shot with an underwater camera, and then the sensual, lightly erotic or arty images. My previous work kind of drifts around more, returning less to the same place, whereas this piece feels like a study.

    Stills from James Richards, Rosebud, 2013. HD Video, 12 minutes 57 seconds. Courtesy the artist; Cabinet, London; and Rodeo, Istanbul. 

    KR: Your previous work, from 2009 and earlier (Active/Negative Programme, 2008; The Misty Suite, 2009), often collaged together film clips from archives like the LUX collection along with video ripped from discarded VHS tapes. I'm curious about the way you choose and process media; or, as you've described it "work out your feelings about material." Can you speak a little bit about these feelings, and your response to "the image," as a viewer?

    JR: My working process has always begun with the idea of collage; of bringing disparate things together in such a way as to make something new, but also to keep hold of the sense of those fragments being very different—or from very different sources—each with a life of its own.


    Three stills from James Richards, The Misty Suite (2009). Video, colour, sound, 6:47 min. Courtesy of James Richards, Rodeo Gallery, Istanbul.

    Really early influences were mostly musical, or sonic; albums like Lifeforms by The Future Sound of London, Chill Out by The KLF, On Land by Brian Eno, the exquisite, ecstatic early tape work of Steve Reich and the revelatory creation of place that's suggested in the electroacoustic compositions of Luc Ferarri.

    I was drawn to the idea of gathering and "de-familiarizing" material. I saved up and bought a sampler and started mixing long passages: late night radio, whole songs passed through filters, sessions of my own improvisations on piano or with some crude lo-fi electronics like Dictaphones and guitar pedals. So it started in sound—when I worked on a number of video projects that incorporated work from the LUX archive along with found and self-shot footage, I was interested in a sort of absent—or raw—authorship; the holding up of information. In more recent years the videos have shifted; they are more focused, and I feel they are more about a way of looking than about re-presenting or appropriating.

    KR: That's an interesting way of putting it—"a way of looking rather than representing." Do you think the endless production of visual material (not necessarily in art, but in all modes of branding, advertising and cultural dissemination these days) makes "looking" a more artistic task? And how does curating relate to this, if at all?

    JR: In terms of curating, I've been interested in submerging work by friends and other artists into pools or compilations of more anonymous or readymade material from online or secondhand video sources, but this year I found myself really wanting to make the kind of group shows that I would like to see, rather than testing authorship. "If Not Always Permanently, Memorably" (Spike Island, 6 July–1 September 2013) included seven works; films by Su Friedrich and Cerith Wyn Evans, videos by Stephen Sutciffe, Steve Reinke, Stuart Marshall, and Paul Wong, and a slide work by Christodoulos Panayiotou.

    "If Not Always Permanently, Memorably" (2013). Installation view. Photograph by Stuart Whipps.

    For me, curating is the luxury to engage an artwork in a deeper and more extended way than usual. It's a way of learning about how the artworks work on me. The works in "If Not Always Permanently, Memorably" all share a kind of delicacy, and a sense of the cryptic in the use of language and poetry. Something beautiful that also has a sense of trauma, or a sense of something memorialized. It was a real pleasure to bring them all together. This project coalesced over about a year—very much in parallel with Rosebud. Thinking about all these works that I admire gave me a certain confidence when it came to making Rosebud. There's a sparseness I wanted to bring into that piece; a focus via the intense gaze of the camera and a much tighter palette of footage.

    Su Friedrich, But No One (1982). Installation view at "If Not Always Permanently, Memorably" (2013). Photograph by Stuart Whipps.

    KR: A lot of young artists now produce video and other work strictly for online distribution, for more or less "personal viewing," even if mediated by social networking sites, YouTube or Vine. But a lot of the found footage in your previous work actually comes from UK public television—after-school specials or other instructional programs that teach drawing or elocution. Do you feel any sense of nostalgia for the public consumption of imagery, specifically video? 

    JR: Not really. There was a period in about 2008 or 2009 where I was gathering a lot of VHS tapes from charity shops in London; you could buy about 10 for a pound. So I would scoop them up and sit in my studio to watch through them, going kind of numb, watching on fast forward—waiting for moments or odd glimpses of things that would snap out at me. The sort of things that work outside of narrative or logical forms of communication, and instead hold a kind of atmospheric, hypnotic or affective resonance. Over the years, I've had phases of looking in different places for content. I'll mine a source for a while and then get interested in something else. At different times I'll look to a different technology or equipment. You always want to keep on your toes and not get too settled.

    KR: We've talked before about how your editing method is more rhythmic or emotional, which stems from your work with sound—building suspense through transitions, repetition, layering—a practice that involves particular choices, such that the end result is neither overly determined nor entirely random.

    JR: I think a lot of the work in editing or composing a piece is in feeling out the internal rhythms of the footage that I'm using, and letting that guide the sound of a particular section and how I work it into the next. One of the things I try to do in my work is rein in or curb randomness to just the right degree; to produce something that is perfectly illogical or somehow off. So it's a matter of finding the right balance to this, the right disruption. A few years back I was introduced to a wonderful and succinct term at a talk by Cerith Wyn Evans and John Stezaker. Cerith said that John, who taught him at Central Saint Martins in the late 1970s, described "spot off-ness" rather than the spot-on. This term captures the perfectly jarring cut or shift that makes an artwork linger in the mind of the viewer.

    KR: Would you say there is a vernacular visual imagery that is particularly dominant today, now that mobile devices have fractured the experience of mass television broadcast? Has this prompted you to use more of your own footage?

    JR: I'm not sure about this. I think the desire to work with my own footage comes out of a desire to make the work more direct. I don't know what this directness really is—I don't know how to make an artwork really honest and open—but I have had a sense that I would like to bring more of my lived experience into the work. And maybe this is where the TV thing comes into it; I think my early videos really spoke of a kind of late-night hazy trawling. Drifting through this kind of marginal or "off-peak" material. Now I think that atmosphere or tone is still present, but I feel I've also been bringing in more of myself: the natural world, friends, and diaristic material. By continually carrying around a camera and sound recorder, I can tape little visual or sonic moments as I encounter them. Then, rather than searching for footage as I used to, I can dip into this growing mass of material and extract things for use. The sensibility is still that of a gleaner rather than a filmmaker, but now I'm appropriating more from myself.

    Though my work deals a lot with the disjointed, the fragmented and the random, I feel I'm very much trying to make something expressive. Something where I'm present, or at least the viewer senses a singular personal subjectivity at the heart of it somehow.

    KR: Staging is an important part of your video installations, and you've even helped design some video exhibitions ("A Detour Around Infermental," Focal Point Gallery, 2011). Isla Leaver-Yap has commented that there's a certain set of actions a viewing body must perform in order to "enter into" one of your works. Yet seating wasn't provided for the installation of Rosebud (2013) at either Artists Space ("Frozen Lakes," 2013) or in the version currently on view at the Arsenale for the Venice Biennale. How do you approach the manifestation of your work?

    Installation views of "Infermental" curated by George Clark, Dan Kidner and James Richards. Focal Point Gallery, Southend On Sea. 

    JR: I really like working in physical space. Probably I would be a sculptor if I could. I'm always finding reasons and ways to work with the space of exhibitions; but always tentatively, always going back to the comfortable production space of the computer where I can work constantly—doing and undoing, adding or removing material, saving multiple versions for later sifting and editing.

    For me, the staging of a video has often been a device to hold the viewer and the really disparate video source materials together. In Not Blacking Out, Just Turning The Lights Off  (2011), the mint carpet and sinister lobby walls are a way to narrativize the otherwise fragmented material.

    James Richards, Not Blacking Out, Just Turning The Lights Off (2011). Commissioned by Chisenhale Gallery. Photo: Andy Keate.

    Rosebud is different in the sense that it works from a much tighter selection of images unified by black-and-white post-production and a very stark, rasping and airless soundtrack. It didn't really need any other devices. I've shown it now twice on a large flatscreen (80") and this seems to emphasize one of the main formal themes—the play of light and friction on a skin or liquid surface.

    KR: In a recent e-flux journal article, Jon Russell wrote: "Real rhythm . . . according to Deleuze and Guattari [is] what 'renders duration sonic.' Duration is the détournement of linear, logical time, the rendering pre-posterous of time . . . the nonsense of lived time." It's a seductive description, particularly in regard to the implied potential for restructuring - or undoing - both (industrial) cinematic time and the seeming perpetuity of online time (only limited by battery-driven devices). It makes me curious about the sonic aspect, and your pairing of aural and visual rhythms.

    JR: In Not Blacking Out…there are really distinct periods of suspense where I'm trying to stretch time. For example, there's a stuck loop of a cigarette dropping to the floor. It's a heady, atmospheric moment that cuts back on itself over and over, and as your mind wanders you find yourself focusing on different part of the passage: image, sound, lighting, or the instance of the cut. These tight loops can really create a situation where a fragment feels like it is being turned over in the light and inspected from different angles.

    Two stills from James Richards, Not Blacking Out, Just Turning The Lights Off (2011). Digital video with sound. 

    For me, duration is about playing with the experience of time for the viewer. Silence (both sound and image) is important for this. The light bulb at the beginning of Not Blacking Out…. makes you wonder if there's anything happening, or if anything is going to happen. It's really just a kind of dumb one-liner: an unplugged bulb rocking back and forth and illuminating itself. But as time goes on it becomes sinister; you're suddenly more aware of the person sitting on the bench next to you. Drama can be conjured through duration.

    KR: What will you be working on next?

    JR: Continuing my interest in working with still images by means of time-based formats, I recently finished The Screens (2013), a row of four slide projectors that present a sequence of 35mm slides, all found images, scanned from a Dutch book on how to apply theatrical make up. Shot against these really beautiful soft backdrops, they oscillate between the hammy, the kitschy and the violent in a focused sequence on fake wounds and bruises. The half-tone of the image mingles together with the photographic surface of flesh; they're mannered, mysterious and elegant. Several show a hand entering the frame, which lends a strange sense of tenderness to the images. Slide projection is a limited and highly specific analog format, but it felt exciting and also possible to work with such retro, even reactionary equipment in this context. There's a certain theatricality in the sound of the shutter and the appearance and mechanics of the projector. So it's all about finding the right format for the images that I work with; I wanted to present The Screens in a way that is deadpan but also playful and rhythmic.

    Images used in The Screens (2013). 35mm slide installation. 

    I'm starting to build up a new bank of footage from classic and underground cinema. And I'm working with a cameraman to shoot a bunch of 16mm in the studio, which I'll transfer to digital to work with. I'm hoping to amass an archive that slips between self-generated and appropriated material that somehow feels cinematic: close-ups, tracking shots, details. A curtain blowing in the wind, a cup of coffee being put back onto its saucer; stylized and studio-produced, controlled looking. I don't know yet what I'll do with this material, but I'm interested in the ambiguity between the sampled moments and my expanded own passages.

    I'm also finding new ways to work with sound. This winter I will be spending two months at the Electroacoustic music studio of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, to develop a multi-channel sound work that will be shown in Beijing in 2014. Sound was my entry point into digital media and has always been at the core of my work with video, so it feels great to be returning to it in earnest—in a way that is structutal to the exhibition, rather than merely infecting the visual. The show will be very simple—some architectural modifications to the room, some speakers and amplification hardware, some light. A lot of the sonic material I'm experimenting with for this originates in my voice. Utterances, bits of songs or humming to myself—I'm trying to take the close mic's intimate lo-fi sound and really sculpt it out into something architectural.

    James Richards's solo exhibition, "The Screens" is currently on view at RODEO, Istanbul  (7 September – 27 October). His work is also featured in "The Encyclopedic Palace," 55th Venice Biennale (1 June – 24 November); "Meanwhile… Suddenly, and Then," 12th Lyon Biennial (12 September – 29 December); and "Speculations On Anonymous Materials," Fridericianum, Kassel (29 Septemeber 2013 – 26 January 2014). 

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    In the summer of 2013, Studio for Propositional Cinema (SPC) launched itself during the Kunstverein Düsseldorf's congress "Proposals and Propositions" with a talk by Hans-Jürgen Hafner, the director of the Kunstverein, which was theatrically disrupted by an audience member planted by SPC. The project with the Kunstverein continued with regular presentations and events throughout a three month period, which included an exhibition, a performance, a reading, a screening, a poster project, and so on, each taking place at a different type of venue. The project included collaborations with a range of cultural producers, including Henning Fehr & Philipp Rühr, Aaron Peck, Calla Henkel & Max Pitegoff, Pablo Larios, Dena Yago, and Rachel Rose.

    This interview seeks to understand the intentions the SPC have for cinema in the 21st Century, taking into account cinema’s contemporary and historical modes of production and dissemination.

    SB: What is the SPC's form and function?

    SPC: We are a structure for generating images and language, and act as a functionary of that structure. One of our primary functions is to ensure that the structure remains formless.

    We exist in order to find new ways to research, to produce, to disseminate. Within our cultural context, all forms of cultural production come with a set of traditions and accepted orthodoxies that function as models for the territory or language in which it is considered viable to function. We formed out of dissatisfaction with these impositions. We attempt to function just enough outside of the model to see which and how many aspects of the model we can remove, destroy, or rearrange while still viably, or at least arguably, working within the form of cinema, since it is our purported form of cultural engagement at the moment. Since our primary starting point comes from a notion of a disassembled cinema, we consider every element within the cinematic apparatus as simultaneously expendable and expandable.

    Rachel Rose, Sitting Feeding Sleeping (2013).

    SB: What considerations do you keep in mind when producing events and exhibitions? In particular, can you talk a little bit about the events that concluded your inaugural exhibition project, which was a screening of a video by Rachel Rose and a live theatre performance?

    SPC: Rachel Rose's video Sitting Feeding Sleeping (2013) uses the form of a video essay to touch on the nature of being and humanness in our contemporary technological condition. It wavers between voices, from the scientific to the personal, between tenses, between positions, between politics and poetry. It doesn't have to claim an agenda, but a territory, a site of inquiry. We wanted to present this work because, like Rose, we are more interested in occupying a territory than a position.

    Concurrently, Dena Yago, Calla Henkel & Max Pitegoff, and Pablo Larios worked on writing the script for their upcoming play Farming in Europe, which will premiere at New Theater in Berlin, a similarly provisional project with which we feel much affinity. We are interested in the impetus to lay the production stage bare, and to present things in a provisional state, open to change from the outside—something that live theatre has built into its nature. 

    We consider our exhibitions and events not only as modes for our distribution and reception, but also as a form of research. Rather than only study existent cultural occurrences and positions, we can also study cultural propositions in the moment they are happening by facilitating them. This is, very simply, a way of presenting something within the culture with a potential to change it so that it looks closer to a culture that you want to exist in. As Lawrence Weiner taught us, "unhappiness leads you to build a structure that will lead you to something closer to what you want." 

    We are not an exhibition space, we are not a screening series, we are not a dry-cleaner. We are for an art that comes out of a chimney like black hair and scatters in the sky. We want to move through culture, ungraspable, like oxygen or bird flu.  

    SB: How do you feel the project will expand? 

    SPC: We are currently developing many new projects: Death & Montage, a film which uses Javier Marias' short story "While The Women Are Sleeping" to consider Pier Paolo Pasolini's essay "Observations on the Long Take;" Action/Direction, a feature film about power and gender relations and scopohilia, which uses an anonymously written film treatment that we found in a film theory book containing the essay Acinema by Jean-François Lyotard, which is based on a form of prostitution called "posering" in which a subject is hired to be directed by the client without the allowance of nudity or physical content; a documentary about the Costa Concordia, which will follow the ship from before to after its existence as a physical object, from an idea to a memory; importing and distributing the works of Cape Verdian film collagist Vanda Villeneuve; Single, a film about Alexander Wissel's project Single Club, along with many other projects that we are not at liberty to discuss. 

    Our studio, while not a static, physical space, is open for engagement from the outside. We believe that art is by definition dialogical, and in order for cultural production to be critical (or: effective, relevant, contributional) it in fact must engage with an outside. We do not have specific intentions regarding how we engage with and produce culture. Rather, it is of primary importance that we have absolutely no idea what we are going to do next, what form it will take, what it will look like. In this way, we are completely open to new possibilities, and completely uninterested in definitions or distinctions that are invented and imposed by external sources. We can never know what we are or what we do, since each engagement expands or explodes the programme. What is our project? What is our programme? We have no idea. 

    There are some statements that seem a little too absolute. Let us think about it, let us look them over. And give us some time to come up with a concluding remark. We have something in mind for your question. We find it easier to write than to talk. We'll give you the notes that we'll add tomorrow morning. 

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    A major international show of post-internet, virtual, digital (or however you want to # it) art is opening this weekend at the Fridericianum in Kassel. To those who have experienced the long journey to the banks of the Fulda for Documenta and feel that it is best undertaken just once every five years, we shall say only this: Speculations on Anonymous Materials promises to be worth devoting some long hours to Deutsche Bahn. With a press release introduced by a sublime block of hashtags and a roster that includes some of Rhizome's favorite artists, the exhibition tackles the #processbased #visuallyreflective #corporeal and #de-subjectified positions navigated by artists as they respond to technological change.

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    Playground, a two-person performance by Ann Hirsch and commissioned by Rhizome, premieres at the New Museum this Friday, October 4.  


    When a stranger wrote me out of the blue asking me to write about Ann Hirsch, I felt intrigued. I had never heard of her, but a Google search turned up a slew of hits describing an output that seemed impressively extensive for someone so young. Hirsch, her website said, was born in 1985. She is a video and performance artist, based in New York, interested in portrayals of women in the media. But what pulled me in were the links to her videos.

    While a graduate student at Syracuse University, Hirsch started a YouTube channel under the persona of a SUNY freshman named Caroline, username "Scandalishious." In more than one hundred videos that she uploaded over nearly two years, a pale, petite young woman appears, her often-disheveled brown bangs barely softening the intensity of her eyes when she stares into the camera. Caroline confides about boys, other classmates, clothes, and feelings of depression, in a high-pitched drawl that dips to gravelly lows when she slows to stress a point. Then she puts on music and dances and dances.

    To Girl Talk, MGMT et al., Caroline leaps around, blurring some line between the erotic and the epileptic. She slaps and jiggles her ass inches from the screen, flops facedown on a sofa and spins her arms like a whirligig swimming crawl-stroke. Somehow, it works. Tens and tens of thousands of viewers have watched each of these videos. The documentary that Hirsch posted about Scandlishious on her website includes talking-head professions of love and selfie dance clips that all kinds of fans have sent back.

    In her monologues, Caroline catches a number of contemporary speech tics perfectly. Not just her filler words like "like," but her adverbs—"honestly," "basically"—are basically parodies of themselves. And yet, Hirsch never seems to be laughing at Caroline. (I will not get into her stint as "Annie," a contestant on a VH1 dating show, also documented on her website. But there, too, Hirsch comes across as sincere.)

    Hirsch's performances do not strike me as performative—exaggerated, in order to make clear the nature of the stereotypes or power relations that they depict. Rather, Hirsch uses performance as a research tool for investigating states of desire, loneliness, excitement, and obsessionin which television and the internet let us spend so much of our time.

    Suddenly, I realize that I have been clicking through Hirsch videos for over two hours. I wonder: is the maze into which I just stumbled the most effective kind of public art for an era after publics—when the idea of not only the public sphere but of any public sphere sounds quaint? While multiplying the kinds of encounters and exchanges that strangers can have, the internet has also freed imagined communities from the geographic bases to which print or broadcast media bound them. The web that weaves outward from feels like an installation in a virtual town square.

    At the same time, of course, the very notion of a "counterpublic" (such as the community I imagine converging around Hirsch's website) relies on an idea of the private that the internet has transformed. Hirsch's work specifically highlights how the collapse of the distinction between public and private—historically gendered as male and female—affects women. Perhaps it is because the idea of the public no longer holds much sway that confessional, even self-consciously trivial, modes of self-expression have proven so successful online. Phenomena like Caroline/Scandalishious seem to prove that we are good at the internet. And yet no woman writer—no woman anything—needs to be reminded that the half-light of micro-fame is perilous.

    By the time I head to the New Museum to attend a rehearsal of the new work that the institution has commissioned from Hirsch, a few days after receiving that first email, I am regretting having agreed to write this piece. Playground has been billed as a "cybersex adventure" based on a relationship that Hirsch developed with an older man whom she met in a chatroom when she was twelve. But the prudish quiver of nerves that I feel has less to do with my Catholic upbringing than with my training as an academic. What do I know about performance art?

    To my relief, the rehearsal that I see is different from what I expected. It turns out to be a play, and not an extraordinarily explicit one, either. The setup is simple. It consists of two desks angled together, at which the two actors sit at keyboards: "Anni," a girl who appears to be in her mid-teens, and "Jobe," a man who looks around thirty. Behind them, there is a screen onto which a computer desktop is projected. It shows an old-fashioned AOL chat window in which we read what the two characters are typing to each other. In a departure from her prior work, the real Ann Hirsch does not appear.

    Anni and Jobe begin with abbreviated banalities, then move into more intimate confessions and questions. As the actors begin to speak out loud and even follow and touch each other, the mood the piece puts me in is curiously mixed. An undertow of illicit possibility pulls me through long spells of aimlessness. Jokes and moments of tenderness regularly break up stretches of what verges on boredom.

    Hirsch's present boyfriend, who is also in the audience at the rehearsal, tells me that she has been re-watching Yvonne Rainer's <em">Film About a Woman Who (1974) while writing Playground. In that film, Rainer projects lines of texts over, and inserts them between, the images of her main characters, ironically highlighting the gaps between what they think and what they say. Formally, it is easy to recognize what Hirsch has learned. But the scrolling text in Playground serves less to emphasize the split between self and surroundings than to create an intensely shared hallucination—the ground that holds the girl and man and both of them and their audience together.

    The projection reminds us that the love story that we are watching is, ultimately, a ghost story. Each character here is only a fantasy of the other, as Hirsch has conjured them from memory, for us. Is desire always like this? Is creativity? The piece gives a 1990s spin to a theme that is at least as old as the myths of Narcissus and Pygmalion: that love, like art, involves projection, that images we invent of others are both something human beings need and a risk we run.

    In Playground, personal nostalgia for girlhood desire dovetails with nostalgia for a medium, which also inspired dreams of sharing consciousness: the internet in its early years. As the characters become closer, they start to talk about "cybering," that is, having “cybersex.” The term, like "cyberspace," fell out of use as the parallel universe that it evoked became integrated into everyday life—put in service of government, business, and surveillance. Like all sites of sentimental and sexual education, cyberspace held out promises of both discovery and danger.

    I am too young to remember much. And I am not interested, or not now, in talking about the corporate colonization of that utopian nowhere that turned it into the contemporary internet threading through my iPad and iPhone. But suffice to say that in Playground, the era when one could disappear into the virtuality of chatrooms stands, in relation to the present, roughly as childhood stands to adulthood in the sentimental novel. That is, it evokes a cherished time before imperatives to grow up and become practical and profitable took hold.

    In their book on Remediation, Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin famously argued that digital media incorporate and refashion forms that preceded them. But it has also proven true that, as new media eat old media, their more reflective practitioners have gone to even older institutions and used those as a means to reframe things and reflect. As a student of cinema, I think of how, in the 1990s, as celluloid film lost out to digital and even diehard cinéphiles started watching "films" online, moving images migrated en masse into galleries and museums. Playground uses perhaps the oldest medium, theater, to ask us what the old new media meant. Perhaps it is the sense of inventing an origin myth that gives this cybersex adventure its startling sweetness.

    Ann Hirsch's installation The Scandalishious Project: Caca Phony is on view at Abrons Art Center as part of the exhibition Hymns for Mr. Suzuki curated by Karen Archey.

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    Ed. — was supported by Rhizome as part of its 2012 Commissions program, and also received a commission from Triple Canopy in 2013. The project's new website launched yesterday.

    Regardless of your feelings about Occupy Wall Street, we can all agree that its genesis was unlikely, to say the least. It appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, in New York's Financial District (of all places). And it continued to exist only because of a lucky break: basing the protests in Zuccotti Park, formerly Liberty Plaza Park, was a fallback plan, following a failed attempt to protest in front of the New York Stock Exchange. It was the unusual rules for Zuccotti—as a Privately Owned Public Space (POPS), it is not bound by the normal city parks curfew, and is required by charter to stay open 24 hours a day—that enabled the encampments to get a foothold. This may have been a lucky break, but one that was earned through years of organizing, cultivating the expertise and tools and networks that allow a movement to grow and sustain itself. began two years ago as an experiment for the encampment at Zuccotti Park. It was a wifi router hacked to run OpenWrt Linux (an operating system mostly used for computer networking) and a small "captive portal" website. When users joined the wifi network and attempted to load any URL, they were redirected to The web software offered up a simple BBS-style message board providing its users with a space to share messages and files.

    Unlike most wifi connections, this one wouldn't let you check your Facebook. It was designed to run entirely disconnected from the internet. Only people physically close enough to the router can could reach the local web forum with their mobile phone or laptop. I imagined it becoming a kind of intranet for Occupiers, filtering users by proximity to specifically support the people at the park.

    During the Occupation, I was getting up extra early to visit the park on weekdays before work. I'd chat with whoever was awake and hear what was going on with the upcoming General Assembly, or who'd been making a ruckus the night before. When I described my strange wifi project, I was surprised at the encouraging reactions I got. "That's awesome, you should do it!" or "we were talking about building something like that—does it handle video?"

    So I showed up one morning and left my first prototype with the volunteers at the Info desk. Just keeping the router powered consistently was a big challenge; I'd plug it into whichever diesel generator I could find running in the park. After the park was cleared, I refocused my thinking about how best to support a decentralized movement. Since then has become my zen garden, a tiny self-contained internet I've been developing slowly and methodically.

    This past Spring, I began stashing wifi routers wherever I could find an electrical plug near a freely accessible space. For a few months, a friend hosted an router from his studio at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council residency in the One Liberty Plaza building. His 12th floor window looked down right onto Zuccotti Park, close enough to get two out of three bars of wifi coverage in the park.

    In this second, decentralized phase, I've seen a modest volume of use by internet standards, perhaps a handful of posts per week. There are patterns in how it gets used according to where the router is situated. The Zuccotti Park router was a popular venue for middle-aged men to upload selfies. Another one, hidden in the lobby of the Museum of Modern Art (installed without permission), mostly receives multi-lingual variations on "hello world" or "why doesn't the wifi work?" A handful of users have written more substantially, but it amounts to a message in a bottle, floating in the 2.4 Ghz spectrum.

    It's been exciting to see used "in the wild," but it also has some shortcomings—its lack of visibility makes discovering the network difficult, and the slim likelihood that a user will return makes conversations difficult to achieve. As a growing digital library, the project can surely offer an alternative to "junk food media," but building a slow web movement is not enough. I'd like for the project to be fun to use, but ultimately I'm interested in fostering conditions that might credibly challenge the status quo.

    I need to destroy the zen garden and replace it with something more like a town square. Less tidy, more communal. I would like to create something you would want to use every day to share with people whose opinions matter to you. I'm interested in finding collaborators who have a stake in its development. It's becoming clear that, collectively, we all need online spaces that aren't undermined by the surveillance state.

    Whether or not the big tent incarnation of Occupy has a future, the 99% are just as dissatisfied as we were in 2011. Much like Napster gave us a taste of what a digital commons could be, Occupy showed us how massively distributed activism can materialize seemingly overnight. It's time to put in the hard work organizing for the next Occupy, to create the right conditions for a lucky break.

    On Sunday October 6th I'll be participating in the PRISM Breakup event at Eyebeam. I'll be conducting a hands-on workshop as 12:30pm, followed by a talk later in the afternoon. Please come with radical ideas, and bring a laptop!

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  • 10/02/13--09:59: Generation Worked
  • Generation Works, an artist-run space in Tacoma, Washington, recently staged its last-ever project as part of the Upcoming Exhibitions program at abc art berlin contemporary, an art fair founded in 2008. Harry Burke reflects on their last exhibition, and on the project as a whole.

    Generation Works' beginnings as a foreclosed condo in Tacoma, Washington. 

    Generation Works is responsible, progressive, made of stone, its website says to you, with a touch of imagination, patience, openness. The website header, lifted from the online home of another company with the same name, appears against a background that fades from white to baby blue. In the bottom left is the emblem of its sister organisation, Open Shape, its logo like a better version of its DIS counterpart. DIS were at the fair too, in fact, in a real booth, on the Saturday presenting a talk declaring Mainstream as the truest Avant Garde.

    Generation Works is the name of an artist-run space in a condo in downtown Tacoma, Washington. Since 2012 it has played host to exhibitions by three American artists: Alex Mackin Dolan, Bunny Rogers, and Jasper Spicero. It is Jasper who curated the space, which runs through three rooms, and which admitted no visitors for any of its exhibitions. On September 19 of this year, between 5:00pm and 7:00pm CET, the project space staged its last-ever exhibition in an impromptu two-walled gallery construction in the foyer of Art Berlin Contemporary, an art fair. The condo in Tacoma has been foreclosed.

    Foreclosure is the process in which the property of a borrower is repossessed by a lender after the borrower is no longer able to make payments on a loan. Following the 2008 financial crash, the U.S. Congress attempted to rescue the economy with a $700 billion bailout for the financial industry. In the same timeframe, foreclosures increased dramatically across the United States, as the housing bubble remained burst and the economy stagnant. In 2010 alone, one in forty-five properties received a foreclosure filing, often in areas with low income and high unemployment. Default trends have levelled in the last twelve months, however there still exist (according to 1,283,408 properties in the U.S. that are in some stage of this process. Economic downturn is manifest as the loss of a stable right to housing.

    Located at the doorway to a broadly disappointing fair, the Upcoming Exhibitions gallery space (appearing, with its two walls, halfway between a large plinth and a halfpipe, and sponsored by Red Bull) had maybe the most dynamic of the art on offer, a dynamism accentuated by its quickly rotating lineup. Programmed by Shanaynay, an art space located in the top right corner of Paris, Upcoming Exhibitions featured projects by an international cast of fourteen small galleries and project spaces, including Gasconade (Milan), Auto Italia South East (London) and New Theater (Berlin); a geographically-dispersed if not entirely global exposition. Each space was given a two hour slot: the Upcoming Exhibitions program took the form of a hyper-accelerated project space with an imagined two-year, fourteen-show lifespan condensed into four days of an art fair. Whereas a repossessed condo might be returned sparse, bare and clinically unfurnished, by the end of the weekend the gallery-stage was warmly and playfully tarnished, like a well worn shoe, the site dutifully host to cowboy-esque whippings and a bar installation as well as the more prosaic art currency of video screenings and sculpture.

    It was at this more prosaic end of the spectrum that Generation Works positioned itself, placing works in mechanical spacing along the two gallery walls. If resulting in an eery and waiting room-like presentation, this was done specifically to manufacture the most perfect install shots, with no visitors in the background save for a pair of small toddlers who wandered innocently onto the set. These images, the two hours of which might have been bordering on performance were it not for the perfunctory nature of their execution, will be diligently sifted through and photoshopped, the most accurate of them uploaded online. They play faithful to the art process in an age of perpetual postproduction, yet somehow seem never to capitulate to it. The exhibition was a three-person group show, with no indication of which works belonged to Bunny, Alex, or Jasper. However, the documentation will be published on Jasper'’s personal website. is closed.

    Generation Works is a deeply psychological project. Its three protagonists grew up as artists together; Jasper lived in the condo during his last two years of high school. Its most intimate photo album on its Facebook page is from 2006, when it was still a family home. Its objects are often consumer items, rearranged and then untouched by the artists with whom they have relationships. In one corner is a mop, oblique against the wall, ribbons tied on it like pendants to recognize it by. In the other is an ice sculpture, slowly returning to water under the heavy stage spotlights. Across from this are a pair of ceramic cat socks. The narratives uniting these are sparse but precisely woven. Foreclosure is the imminent and forced repossession of the assets with which you have the most immediate memories. It is in memory of this that these objects become most powerful.

    The arrival of Generation Works at an international art fair is timely, particularly for the Shanaynay Upcoming Exhibitions framework being so explicitly engaged with time. Debt is time monetised, manifest in the young artist as residue from education and in the increasing pressure to respond to ever-accelerating economies of attention. It is a bold move for Generation Works to exit stage as soon as a degree of hype and critical attention are paid to them, and not try and recuperate more from it. Sometimes debt's better left unpaid. Meanwhile, as Pae White's commissioned bells echoed through the hall and the works were duly taken away, the rest of the fair carried on as usual. It was fine that no one really noticed.

     Top: Bunny Rogers, Lady Amalthea (mourning mop) at Art Berlin Contemporary 2013. Bottom: Jasper Spicero, Melting Person at Art Berlin Contemporary 2013.


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    The latest in an ongoing series of themed collections of creative projects assembled by Prosthetic Knowledge. This edition brings together works dealing with computational photography, featuring new technologies which may alter the experience, relationship, and even definition of "the image."
    The digital eye is an ubiquitous feature of current portable technology—webcams, DSLRs, mobile phones, tablets, even MP3 players. The Black Mirror-like ability to capture a moment and share it on social networks has shifted image recording from the creation of discrete analog mementos to an ongoing process of self-identification.

    There are, however, new possibilities opening up around the next generation of mediated experiences. Of course, the artistic possibilities are tremendous, but the implications are far greater for many fields which may be struggling with their digital upkeep. From advertising to fashion, art to pornography, the photograph will not be "flat" anymore. The image can be seen from any angle, from the swipe of a touchscreen or drag from a mouse, or explored step-by-step with a headset and motion detector. "Photoshopping" will be 3D. It is not only industry-class endeavours that will change, as depth-sensing is now smaller and portable, and could give the (word-of-the-year contender) selfie an added dimension. Will the Facebooks or Flickrs support this new format? Or will another contender arise to facilitate a new process of creative self-identification?

    Admittedly, the field of computational photography has grown tremendously over the past ten years (and many academic projects in this time are nowhere near mass-market availability); it would be impossible to cover the entire range of projects in a single submission. The focus on this piece, however, is to bring attention to examples that point to some of the artistic possibilities for these emerging technologies.

    A downloadable demo by Infinite Realities put together in the Unity 3D engine features high resolution 3D scans of people in a virtual environment. Incredibly realistic, and can be viewed through an Occulus Rift headset.

    Below are two videos which demonstrate the demo - the first showing the demo in normal view:


    You can find out more about the demo (and download it) from Infinite Realities here. It is 300Mb, and there are some server issues which could prove to be slow.

    The demo can be viewed normally on your desktop or with the headset, but either way, the high resolution detail demonstrated here is amazing.

    Related: Infinite Realities demo creating Muybridge-style stop motion animations of the human body in 3D.

    Structure Sensor  

    A Kinect-like 3D sensor for mobile devices (which, incidently, successfully reached its Kickstarter target in a day):

    From the product description:

    Capture models of rooms, 3D scan objects, play augmented reality games, and develop mobile applications with 3D sensing.

    The Structure Sensor gives mobile devices the ability to capture and understand the world in three dimensions.

    With the Structure Sensor attached to your mobile device, you can walk around the world and instantly capture it in a digital form. This means you can capture 3D maps of indoor spaces and have every measurement in your pocket. You can instantly capture 3D models of objects and people for import into CAD and for 3D printing. You can play mind blowing augmented reality games where the real world is your game world. 

    If you’re a developer, Structure gives you the ability to build mobile applications that interact with the three dimensional geometry of the real world for the very first time. You can even launch your app on the App Store!

    Here is a brief demonstration of the utility with the latest iPhone 5: 

    More can be found out about the product at its Kickstarter page here and at the project's website here.

    STEM System - Virtual Camera Demo

    Proof-of-concept demo of tech that can turn your handheld device into a camera for virtual spaces with accurate motion detection. It potentially inspires interesting possibilities with augmented real and recreated virtual spaces (such as a gallery space?)

    From the project description:

    We created this demo of virtual camera functionality using our STEM System prototype wireless motion tracker with an iPod Touch as the display. When we add Android and iOS support for the Sixense SDK, applications like the virtual camera will be able to run natively on mobile devices, with motion tracking provided by the STEM System.

    More here.

    3D Scanning and Printing Classic Art

    PhD Student Tim Zaman takes a look at his and other projects reproducing classic fine art with contemporary 3D technology.

    Here is a stop-motion video demonstrating Tim’s method of 3D capture using cameras which are commercially available:

    He writes,
    We used a hybrid system using stereo vision (2 camera’s) and fringe projection (using a projector). This system gives us unrivaled detail and capture speed, capturing 40 million points per capture, each point in 3-D space (XYZ) and in full color (RGB). Multiple captures allows us to capture the Jewish Bride for instance, a work that spans 160×120 cm; giving us more than a billion XYZ/RGB points. This is all done with proprietary camera’s that anyone can buy off-the shelf.
    Here we can see a slightly yet purposely exaggerated 3D relief of a Van Gogh painting taken with this technology:

    Tim also introduces a system put together by Canon called Océ which, using Tim’s data, can physically reproduce a scanned painting including physical relief. Essentially a 3D printer for impasto:

    You can read more about Tim’s work and the technology at his blog here

    Total Cinema 360 Oculus Rift Player

    And finally, returning to the Oculus Rift. This demo allows you to watch panoramic 360-degree videos captured through an Oculus Rift headset:

    From the product description: ""The Total Cinema 360 Oculus Player allows users to watch live action omni-directional video content specifically designed for the Oculus Rift."

    You can download the demo here (Mac only for now. Windows version coming October 15, 2013.), and you can try an interactive 3D video in your browser here.

    Other Picks

    3-SweepImpressive demonstration of turning 2D objects in photographs into manipulable 3D objects, using a simple 3-point method at key areas.

    Autodesk 123D. Around for over a year, but still a tool which is useful as an introduction to computational photography, turning several photos of an object into a 3D model.

    Salted Perception. What happens when you combine an Oculus Rift headset with a Kinect? Something trippy...


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  • 10/04/13--08:03: The Silk Road

    Image from the exhibition Concealed Carry, 2012 at Oliver Francis Gallery

    Described as a black market eBay, the Silk Road was a website where anything—and we do mean anything—could be purchased with bitcoin and other tools allowing anonymous transactions. Products on offer on the site included drugs, weapons, fake IDs, and hacking services. This underground economy was accessed via the encrypted Tor network, which routes data through circuitous, encrypted routes to make users' activities difficult to trace.

    As of Wednesday, the Silk Road is no more, and its founder Ross William Ulbricht (previously known as Dread Pirate Roberts) has been arrested, which will have an effect on an ongoing series of works by artist Brad Troemel. For the 2011 exhibition The Social Life of Things at Showroom MAMA in Rotterdam, Brad Troemel (with Ben Schumacher, Artie Vierkant and Jon Vingiano) acquired a number of services and objects from the marketplace that were presented in an installation. The installation included such objects as a fake ID that has Troemel's real details and picture on it (juxtaposed with his real driver's licence), bump keys for lock-picking, and seeds to grow plants that can be processed into psychedelic drugs. These objects were intended to be further used by visitors, continuing to circulate in the world after their movement through the Silk Road market network:

    I started thinking about movement and the different types of movement that objects undergo. The name of the exhibition, The Social Life of Things, is stolen from a book by a teacher of mine; Arjun Appadurai, where he talks about the role objects play in our lives and ways in, which we move objects but, they also have some agency in moving us. I talk about this in regards to the Silk Road in that these are objects that I can hold in my hand and move around but, also these are objects that allow me to move. Especially in the case of this ID piece. It is something that literally grants me access to movement.

    In the case of the bump keys, it was most interesting to me that people could take them and they could go home and potentially break into whatever they wanted to.

    In subsequent iterations of this project, such as his exhibitions at Tomorrow Gallery in Toronto and Oliver Francis Gallery in Dallas, Troemel began to use not only on the objects purchased through the site, but also the surrounding detritus (such as encrypted invoices and packaging), as his raw material. For Vice Versa at Tomorrow, for example, he created a series of 2D works in which the Silk Road materials are partly obscured through a technique known as "bubbling." In its vernacular use, bubbling involves erasing a circular section of a pornographic digital image to conceal the naughty bits, creating a kind of accidental Baldessari.

    While Silk Road has been shut down, there is an expectation that it will be very quickly replaced with copycat sites, of which several are already in existence: Atlantis, Blackmarket Reloaded and Sheep Marketplace, for example. In his book Peer Pressure, Troemel wrote that "there is an energy emitted from this contraband that no plaster mold or stretched canvas could ever project—the possibility of real risk, as opposed to the simulated risk of offending art history." Given that Troemel's interest seems to lie in contraband in general, rather than the Silk Road website in particular, one might expect this body of work to continue, if in a slightly different form.

    Note: an earlier version of this story incorrectly noted the location of Oliver Francis Gallery as Houston, stated that the closure of The Silk Road "would put an end to" the series, which is not the case for the moment, and included an allegation that the Silk Road included "contract killers."

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    Performance by Genevieve Belleveau featuring Mikey Coyte at "gURLs."

    In September, as we prepared for Ann Hirsch's play in early October, feminism was very much on our minds. We published a report by Rachel Rabbit White from a girls-only event at Transfer Gallery in Brooklyn (pictured); we urged you to go see Alien She at the Miller Gallery in Pittsburgh; we re-printed an article by Jacob King that used Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's writing as a way of thinking about last summer's online debate about the "Man-Child;" we commissioned a preview of Hirsch's work by Moira Weigel (a co-author of the original "Man-Child" article). Megan Heuer brought a feminist slant to Jonathan Crary's 24/7, arguing that sleep is merely one "affective" dimension of human life that is undervalued by neolibaral capitalism, along with things like care and empathy that have historically been coded as female.

    On the internet literature front, Brendan C. Byrne wrote an excellent analysis of Tom Disch's "Endzone," a Livejournal kept by the sci-fi author for two years before his death, now serving as a virtual memorial. That piece garnered the most intriguing comment of the month, from someone going by "Donovan's Brain," who described "Endzone" as "a treasure chest full of gems, sticky with blood...still taking comments like a ghost ship grows barnacles." Daniel Rourke, meanwhile, looked to popular cinema, where the summer blockbuster Man of Steel made use of glitch aesthetics to represent a space known as "The Phantom Zone."

    We ran an Artist Profile of Rachel Reupke, a long-form interview with James Richards, and another interview with Studio for Propositional Cinema, which could be an artist collective or maybe a curatorial collective, but, as they say, "We have no idea." 

    We published a letter by Constant Dullaart to Jennifer Knoll, who appeared in a early Photoshop meme. She hasn't yet responded, but we'll be doing more first-person writing by artists in the future. We decided to shelve "The Week Ahead," our weekly roundup of listings, and replaced it with occasional short-form preview posts about specific, promising-looking things in the world of art and technology, like this one about Speculations on Anonymous Materials at Fridericianum

    Finally, we wrote a short post about an emerging genre of music known as Black Midi, which came to our attention via the inimitable Goto80.

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    We’ve been spotting them more and more in the wild, at galleries, house parties, restaurants, parks, various Bloomberg protectorates. Puffs of white and circular neon flickers; brushed aluminum spires or hyper-real stage props. We are, of course, speaking of e-cigarettes and personal vaporizers, from branded and capitalized (NJOYs and Blus) to bespoke and forum-fussed. What are these disagreeable objects? Are they all use or artifice, nicotine delivery à la Rube Goldberg or Richard Prince simulacra?

    In February, Rhizome will present a one-day symposium in New York dedicated to vaping technologies, reading the e-cigarette socially, politically, aesthetically, economically, against its outmoded grain, as it were. On the topic, we're noobs, so we’re casting a wide net for histories, essays, artworks, workshops, and polymorphous contributions to shape this inquiry to be held online and off. Be in touch...

    Deadline for Proposals: November 12, to zachary[dot]kaplan[at]

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    The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have developed a significant body of work engaged (in its process, or in the issues it raises) with technology. See the full list of Artist Profiles here.


    Daniel Rourke: Your recent work, You Could've Said, is described as "a Google keyword confessional for radio." I've often considered your work as having elements of the confession, partly because of the deeply personal stance you perform—addressing we, the viewer or listener, in a one-on-one confluence, but also through the way your work hijacks and exposes the unseen, often algorithmic, functions of social and network media. You allow Google keywords to parasitize your identity and in turn you apparently "confess" on Google's behalf. Are you in search of redemption for your social-media self? Or is it the soul of the algorithm you wish to save?

    Erica Scourti: Or maybe the algorithm and social media soul is now so intertwined and interdependent that it makes little sense to even separate the two, in a unlikely fulfillment of Donna Haraway's cyborg? Instead of having machines built into/onto us (Google glasses notwithstanding), the algorithms which parse our email content, Facebook behaviours, Amazon spending habits, and so on, don't just read us, but shape us.

    I'm interested in where agency resides when our desires, intentions and behaviours are constantly being tracked and manipulated through the media and technology that we inhabit; how can we claim to have any "authentic" desires? Facebook's "About" section actually states, "You can't be on Facebook without being your authentic self," and yet this is a self that must fit into the predetermined format and is mostly defined by its commercial choices (clothing brands, movies, ice cream, whatever). And those choices are increasingly influenced by the algorithms through the ambient, personalized advertising that surrounds us.

    So in You Could've Said, which is written entirely in an instrumentalised form of language, i.e. Google's AdWords tool, I'm relaying the impossibility of having an authentic feeling, or even a first-hand experience, despite the seemingly subjective, emotional content and tone. Google search stuff is often seen reflective of a kind of cute "collective self" (hey, we all want to kill our boyfriends sometimes!) but perhaps it's producing as much as reflecting us. It's not just that everything's already been said, and can be commodified but that the devices we share so much intimate time with are actively involved in shaping what we consider to be our "selves," our identities.

    And yet, despite being entirely mediated, my delivery is "sincere" and heartfelt; I'm really interested in the idea of sincere, but not authentic. I think it's the same reason spambots can have such unexpected pathos; they seem to "express" things in a sincere way, which suggests some kind of "soul" at work there, or some kind of agency,  and yet they totally lack interiority, or authenticity. In this and other work of mine (especially Life in AdWords) dissonance is produced by my apparent misrecognition of the algorithmically produced language as my own- mistaking the machine lingo as a true expression of my own subjectivity. Which is not to say that there is some separate, unmediated self that we could access if only we would disconnect our damn gadgets for a second, but the opposite—that autobiography, which my work clearly references, can no longer be seen as a narrative produced by some sort of autonomous subject, inseparable from the technology it interacts with.

    Also, autobiography often involves a confessional, affective mode, and I'm interested in how this relates to the self-exposure which the attention economy seems to encourage—TMI can secure visibility when there's not enough attention to go round. With the Google confessional, I'm enacting an exposure of my flaws and vulnerabilities and while it's potentially "bad" for me (i.e. my mediated self) since you might think I'm a loser, if you're watching, then it's worth it, since value is produced simply through attention-retention. Affective vitality doesn't so much resist commodification as actively participate within it…

    DR: You mention agency. When it comes to the algorithms that drive the current attention economy I tend to think we have very little. Active participation is all well and good, but the opposite—an opting out, rather than a passivity—feels increasingly impossible. I am thinking about those reCaptcha questions we spend all our time filling in. If I want to access my account and check the recommendations it has this week, I'm required to take part in this omnipresent, undeniably clever, piece of crowd-sourcing. Alan Turing's predictions of a world filled with apparently intelligent machines has come true, except, its the machines now deciding whether we are human or not.

    ES: Except of course—stating the obvious here—it's just carrying out the orders another human instructed it to, a mediated form of gatekeeping that delegates responsibility to the machine, creating a distance from the entirely human, social, political etc structure that has deemed it necessary (a bit like drones then?).

    I'm very interested also in the notion of participation as compulsory—what Zizek calls the "You must, because you can" moral imperative of consumerism—especially online, not just at the banal level (missing out on events, job opportunities, interesting articles and so on if you're not on Facebook) but because your actions necessarily feed back into the algorithms tracking and parsing our behaviours. And even opting out becomes a choice that positions you within a particular demographic (more likely to be vegetarian, apparently).

    Also, this question of opting out seems to recur in conversations around art made online, in a way it doesn't for artists working with traditional media—like, if you're being critical of it, why not go make your own Facebook, why not opt out? My reasoning is that I like to work with widely used technology, out of an idea that the proximity of these media to mainstream, domestic and wider social contexts makes the work more able to reflect on its sociopolitical implications, just as some video artists working in the 80s specifically engaged with TV as the main mediator of public consciousness. Of course some say this is interpassiviity, just feebly participating in the platforms without making any real change, and I can understand that criticism. Now that coded spaces and ubiquitous computing are a reality of the world—and power structures—we inhabit, I do appreciate artists who can work with code and software (in a way that I can't) and use their deeper understanding of digital infrastructure to reflect critically on it.

    DR: You've been engaged in a commision for Colm Cille's Spiral, sending personal video postcards to anyone who makes a request. Your interpretation of the "confessional" mode seems in this piece to become very human-centric again, since the work is addressed specifically at one particular individual. How has this work been disseminated, and what does your approach have to do with "intimacy"?

    ES: I've always liked Walter Benjamin's take on the ability of mediating technologies to traverse spatial distances, bringing previously inaccessible events within touching distance. With this project, I wanted to heighten this disembodied intimacy by sending unedited videos shot on my iPhone, a device that's physically on me at all times, directly to the recipients' inbox. So it's not just "sharing" but actually "giving" them a unique video file gift, which only they see,  positioning the recipient as a captive audience of one, unlike on social media where you have no idea who is watching or who cares. But also, I asked them to "complete" the video by adding its metadata, which puts them on the spot—they have to respond, instead of having the option to ignore me—and also extracting some labor in return, which is exactly what social media does: extracting our affective and attentive labor, supposedly optionally, in exchange for the gift of the free service.

    The metadata—tags, title and optionally a caption—became the only viewable part of the exchange, since I used it to annotate a corresponding black, "empty" video on Instagram, also shared on Twitter and Facebook, so the original content remains private. These blank videos record the creative output of the recipient, while acting as proof of the transaction (i.e. that I sent them a video). They also act as performative objects which will continue to operate online due to their tagging, which connects them to other groups of media and renders them visible—i.e. searchable—online, since search bots cannot as yet "see" video content. I wanted to make a work which foregrounds its own connectedness, both to other images via the hashtags but also to the author-recipients through tagging them on social media. So the process of constantly producing and updating oneself within the restrictive and pre-determined formats of social media platforms, i.e. their desired user behaviours, becomes almost the content of the piece.

    I also like the idea that hashtag searches on all these platforms, for (let's say) Greece, will bring up these blank/ black videos (which by the way, involved a little hack, as Instagram will not allow you to upload pre-recorded content and it's impossible to record a black and silent video...). It's a tiny intervention into the regime of carefully filtered and cropped life-style depictions that Instagram is best known for.

    It's also a gesture of submitting oneself to the panoptical imperative to share one's experience no matter how private or banal, hence using Instagram for its associations with a certain solipsistic self-display; by willingly enacting the production of mediated self on social media I'm exploring a kind of masochistic humour which has some affinities with what Benjamin Noys identified as an accelerationist attitude of "the worse the better." And yet, by remaining hidden, and not publicly viewable, the public performance of a mediated self is denied.

    DR: An accelerationist Social Media artwork would have to be loaded with sincerity, firstly, on the part of the human (artist/performer), but also, in an authentic attempt to utilise the network completely on its terms. Is there something, then, about abundance and saturation in your work? An attempt to overload the panopticon?

    ES: That's a very interesting way of putting it. I sometimes relate that oversaturation to the horror vacui of art that springs from a self-therapeutic need, which my work addresses, though it's less obsessive scribbles, more endless connection, output and flow and semi-ritualistic and repetitive working processes. And in terms of utilizing the network on its own terms, Geert Lovink's notion of the "natural language hack" (rather than the "deep level" hack) is one I've thought about—where your understanding of the social, rather than technical, operation of online platforms gets your work disseminated. For example my project Woman Nature Alone, where I re-enacted stock video which is freely available on my Youtube channel—some of those videos are high on the Google ranking page, so Google is effectively "marketing" my work without me doing anything. 

    Whether it overloads the panopticon, or just contributes more to the babble, is a pertinent question (as Jodi Dean's work around communicative capitalism has shown), since if the work is disseminated on commercial platforms like YouTube or Facebook, it operates within a system of value generation which benefits the corporation, involving, as is by now well known, a Faustian pact of personal data in exchange for "free" service.

    And going back to agency—the mutability of the platforms means that if the work makes use of particular features (suchas YouTube annotations) its existence is contingent on them being continued; since the content and the context are inextricable in situations like this, it would become impossible to display the original work exactly as it was first made and seen. Even then, as with Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied's One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age, it would become an archive, which preserves documents from a specific point in the web's history but cannot replicate the original viewing conditions because all the infrastructure around it has changed completely. So if the platforms—the corporations—control the context and viewing conditions, then artists working within them are arguably at their mercy- and keeping the endless flow alive by adding to it.

    I'm more interested in working within the flows rather than, as some artists prefer, rejecting the dissemination of their work online. Particularly with moving image work,  I'm torn between feeling that artists' insistence on certain very specific, usually high quality, viewing conditions for their work bolsters, as Sven Lütticken has argued, the notion of the rarefied auratic art object whose appreciation requires a kind of hushed awe and reverence, while being aware that the opposite—the image ripped from its original location and circulated in crap-res iPhone pics/ videos—is an example of what David Joselit would call image neoliberalism, which sees images as site-less and like any other commodity, to be traded across borders and contexts with no respect for the artist's intentions.

    However, I also think that this circulation is becoming an inevitability and no matter how much you insist your video is viewed on zillion lumens projector (or whatever), it will most likely end up being seen by the majority of viewers on YouTube or on a phone screen; I'm interested in how artists (like Hito Steyerl) address, rather than avoid, the fact of this image velocity and spread.

    DR: Lastly, what have you been working on recently? What's next?

    ES: I recently did a series of live, improvised performance series called Other People's Problems direct to people's desktops, with Field Broadcast, where I read out streams of tags and captions off Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook, randomly jumping to other tags as I went. I'm fascinated by tags—they're often highly idiosyncratic and personal, as well as acting as connective tissue between dispersed users; but also I liked the improvisation, where something can go wrong and the awkwardness it creates. (I love awkwardness!) Future projects are going to explore some of the ideas this work generated: how to improvise online (when things can always be deleted/ rejigged afterwards), how to embrace the relinquishing of authorial control which I see as integral to the online (or at least social media) experience, and how to work with hashtags/ metadata both as text in its own right and as a tool.


    Age: 33

    Location: London, Athens when I can manage it

    How long have you been working creatively with technology? How did you start?

    14, 15 maybe, when I started mucking around with Photoshop—I remember scanning a drawing I'd made of a skunk from a Disney tale and making it into a horrendous composition featuring a rasta flag background... I was young. And I've always been obsessed with documenting things; growing up I was usually the one in our gang who had the camera—showing my age here, imagine there being one person with a camera—which has given me plenty of blackmail leverage and a big box of tastefully weathered photos that, despite my general frustration with analogue nostalgia, I know I will be carrying around with me for life.

    Where did you go to school? What did you study?

    After doing Physics, Chemistry and Maths at school, I did one year of a Chemistry BA, until I realized I wasn't cut out for lab work (too much like cooking) or what seemed like the black-and-white nature of scientific enquiry. I then did an art and design foundation at a fashion college, followed by one year of Fine Art Textiles BA—a nonsensical course whose only redeeming feature was its grounding in feminist theory—before finally entering the second year of a Fine Art BA. For a while this patchy trajectory through art school made me paranoid, until I realised it probably made me sound more interesting than I am. And in my attempt to alleviate the suspicion that there was some vital piece of information I was missing, I also did loads of philosophy diploma courses, which actually did come in handy when back at Uni last year: I recently finished a Masters of Research in moving image art.

    What do you do for a living or what occupations have you held previously? Do you think this work relates to your art practice in a significant way?

    At the moment I'm just about surviving as an artist and I've always been freelance apart from time done in bar, kitchen, shop (Londoners, remember Cyberdog?) cleaning and nightclub jobs, some of which the passage of time has rendered as amusingly risqué rather than borderline exploitative. After my B.A., I set up in business with the Prince's Trust, running projects with what are euphemistically known as hard-to-reach young people, making videos, digital art pieces and music videos until government funding was pulled from the sector. I mostly loved this work and it definitely fed into and reflects my working with members of loose groups, like the meditation community around the Insight Time app, or Freecycle, or Facebook friends. I've also been assisting artist and writer Caroline Bergvall on and off for a few years, which has been very helpful in terms of observing how an artist makes a life/ living.

    What does your desktop or workspace look like?

    I'm just settling into a new space at the moment but invariably, a bit of a mess, a cup of tea, piles of books, and both desktop and workspace are are covered in neon post-it notes. Generally I am a paradigmatic post-Fordist flexi worker though: I can and do work pretty much anywhere—to the occasional frustration of friends and family. 

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    The following videos are selections from interviews that Rhizome conducted with artist Rafaël Rozendaal, whose online artworks are part of the Rhizome Artbase.

    Rozendaal's work is an important inclusion in the Artbase not only for its considerable artistic merits, but also because of his development of new models for selling internet art that allow the work to remain publicly accessible online. The terms of Rozendaal's Art Website Sales Contract stipulate that collectors may purchase the websites (and many have), but that they must maintain it as a public site. This provision makes it possible for Rozendaal to deposit a public, archival copy of the works with Rhizome for conservation and research purposes, even as it is also part of a private collection.

    In the following videos, Rozendaal describes his working process, his pieces, and his understanding of the web as medium. The full videos will be made available to researchers as part of the forthcoming ArtBase relaunch.

    Rozendaal's "" is included in Paddles On, the first digital art auction at Phillips, curated by Lindsay Howard.  The live auction will take place on Thursday October 10 at 8:30pm at Phillips: 450 Park Avenue, New York, New York.  Rhizome receives 20% of all proceeds from that auction.

    "Interaction for its own sake"

    With many of Rozendaal's online works, interaction is key. Websites such as on and off .org (2003), often invite gestures that refer to spaces and objects outside of the screen—in the case of on and off .org (2003), the flicking of a light switch. "We're used to interaction to open a folder, or to kill the enemy in a game, but it's always clicking to do something." Clicking on this work, in contrast, serves no such instrumental purpose.

    A similar kind of interaction is found in color flip .com (2008), in which users peel away the "surface" of the webpage as if it is a stack of monochromatic paper, reminiscent of Richard Serra's Color Aid (1970-1). This work draws attention to some of the mundane formal aspects of the web (such as background color) and refers to the new medium's tendency to replicate earlier media (such as paper).

    "How long is Facebook?"

    Going beyond the traditional A-to-B structure of the moving image, Rozendaal addresses the question of duration on the internet by using randomness generators to create recursive animations that have millions of possible iterations—something made possible only through modern computing. "It's interesting, the time people spend on the internet, and the way you forget about time. With TV, the sitcom is an hour...that's why I make these works that are infinite, because a website doesn't have a duration. Like, how long is Facebook?"

    "Liquid websites"

    Rozendaal's works have an enormous potential scale not only in time, but in space as well. His websites make use of vector-based images, which can be mathematically scaled to retain their sharpness at any size, as opposed to raster images, which have a fixed amount of visual information. Vector graphics allow Rozendaal's works to be displayed on devices from iPads (AppArtAward, 2012 at ZKM) to the largest LED screen in the world (Seoul Square, 2011), with zero loss in image quality. "The idea is that the website is like liquid, or like a piece of gas," Rozendaal says. "It adapts to whatever environment it has."

    "Whoever's in the future, you can re-create it in your way"

    And finally, your moment of Zen.

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