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The Rhizome Blog and Rhizome News

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    Chambers Pavillion at The Wrong - New Digital Art Biennale.

    The Wrong—New Digital Art Biennaleaccessible only from November 1 through December 31, brings together 30 online "pavilions" showing curated artworks. Each pavilion is introduced by an informational web page on thewrong.org which includes an external link to the pavilion itself; pavilions often take the form of an artist- or curator-designed page through which one can access multiple artworks. For Chambers Pavilion, curator Sara Ludy invited eleven artists to create original, online "sound rooms" which can be accessed from a blueprint-like layout (pictured above). Select works from the pavilion are featured below.

    Maryann Norman, Strm (2013). 

     

    Robert Lorayn, Isolation Center (2013). 

     

    Krist Wood, Corners (2013). 

     

     Bunny Rogers, Corners (2013). 


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    Migrating obsolete digital media as part of XFR STN at the New Museum. Photo: benfinoradin.info

    Digital Conservator
    (full-time w/ benefits, or part-time negotiable)
    Deadline: Tuesday, December 3rd at 9am EST
    Send a cover letter and resume to jobs at rhizome dot org

    Rhizome is seeking a digital preservation leader to bring our award-winning digital art conservation program to its next phase, and to steward the ArtBase archive of born digital, internet-based, software, and computer art. The successful candidate will work inside a lively contemporary art  museum alongside a dynamic team at the forefront of art and technology culture, with the opportunity to make significant contributions to the digital preservation field.

    Full description (PDF).


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  • 11/21/13--11:28: RIP Artists Space Cursor
  •  
    artistsspace.org, as it was 

    Today, storied NYC arts nonprofit Artists Space relaunched their website. Overall, it's a playful refinement, yet one that loses the old artistsspace.org's most defining feature: its oversized royal purple triangle cursor, derived from the institution's longstanding "A"-oriented visual identity. (A breezy and engaging history of which, given by Rob Giampietro in 2011, can be found here.) In fact, against the site's sparse backdrop, the cursor was, more or less, the design.[1]

    Created by Studio Manuel Raeder, Artists Space's deceased cursor was hulking, distracting, so wonderfully weird. It was an input object that always left you wondering whether you'd clicked, and where. On an internet that values user comfort and control above all, the cursor asserted difference and disobedience—what we look for in art, in general. 

    Here at Rhizome, we're lamenting the death of this art web icon. We loved it and now it's gone, and we feel as though we never gave it its public due. Yet as Kierkegaard reminds, life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

    We'll be paying our respects at this weekend's opening.

    [1] An unfortunate discovery made while writing this post: Wayback Machine doesn’t archive cursors, which means there is, as of yet, no public archive of artistsspace.org as it was.


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    Seven on Seven at the Barbican Centre (credit: Susanna Sanroman)

    On October 27, 2013, Rhizome presented the first international edition of its flagship Seven on Seven program in London at Barbican Centre. Seven pairings of artists and technologists came together for two days in a collaborative sprint to create an app, an artwork, an argument, whatever they could imagine. The result: a web-based forum for anonymous geolocated conversation, an app that randomly selects one email from your Gmail Sent Mail folder and sends that to another user of the app, a set of icons that demarcate intended levels of privacy, and one leading artist's confession that he would like to become a cyborg.

    Video documentation of the entire event went online today. So, make the most of your coming holiday lulls by checking them out:

    Watch the rest here.


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    This post is part of Wavelength, a series of guest curated sound art and music mixes.
     
    In a 2006 article for TATE Etc. entitled "Black Moods," Gabriel Ramin Schor surveyed the color black's appearance in the Western art historical canon, and in doing so reminded us of the way Goethe referred to color as "troubled light." From black metal theory to black power; the black screen of a DOS terminal to Olbers' paradoxical blackness of the night sky, I've always been attracted to concepts associated with blackness myself. Crossing from the visual to the aural, as a sound artist and occasional DJ, I was moved to respond to some of what I thought was at stake in Black Midi in the form of a nonchalantly sequenced mixtape qua media-archaeological romp through the archive.
     
    Happy Black Friday listening... and if you find anything here that you like, do the artists a favor and buy a copy (if you can find one).
     
     
    1. Richard Povall: "Swipesy Cakewalk" from Impossible Rags
     
    I can't recall if I first encountered ultra-complex player piano music through Conlon Nancarrow or Richard Povall first; either way, I would've been exposed to both by the phonographer and instrument builder Toby Sinkinson. As an alternative take on Nancarrow's approach, this is a great example of what I would call Inhuman Playfulness.

    2. Wolfgang Voigt: "Feld" from Freiland Klaviermusik

    The techno king shows that the rubbery, hollow timbre of the preset MIDI piano that is so dear to Black MIDI has a context in which it can really work.

    3. DJ Sprinkles: "Bassline .89" (Clip)

    Let's get to the real thang, sucka'...

    4. Harddisko Orchestra: "Schikaneder Titel 24 1"

    So much of what I found beautiful about Black MIDI involved the moment when a system was pushed to overload. What about the harddrives themselves?  

    5. Sun Ra: "Dance of The Cosmo Aliens" from Disco 3000

    If you're interested in solid-black sheet music and technology, listen no further than the master of tone clusters on a Crumar Mainman organ & drumbox.

    6. Kaikhosru Sorabji: "Preludio; Passacaglia; Postludio Pt. 1" from Organ Symphony No. 1

    Before Black MIDI's 21-million notes there was the 21-million neuron frying work of Sorabji's symphonic thought. GLBTQ composer solidarity!

    7. Q.R. Ghazala:Excerpt of "Cloud of Fire" from Threnody to the New Victims of Hiroshima

    The godfather of circuit-bending believed that the eventual decay and overload of the circuits in his instruments were a part of the natural life-cycle of their tonal possibilities. It's evident to me that the same holds for Black MIDI's moments of "error."

    8. Drumming from Ghana "Adjagbeko" (fast) 

    Human capability in inhuman (Youtube) fidelity.

    9. BEATZAKAPOUND4POUND from Juke That Vol 1

    Now that we're getting down into it - how 160bpm paino ought to sound.

    10. ThaCrackCaponeDjRoc: "Glitch"

    Any future where more people are making music that sounds like it comes from the Southside of Chicago as much as from the Mille Plateaux back-catalog is a good future. 

    11. Cock E.S.P.: "Black E.S.P." from We Mean It This Time

    The masters of maximalism.

    12. Florian Hecker: "Piste 6 & 8" from Acid in the Style of David Tudor

    Black Acid?

    13. Tom Smith: "Untitled 01" from Naturally Occurring Black Metal λόγος

    Although there's not any black metal explicitly on this mixtape, KSV-founder Tom Smith goes a few steps beyond 'hitting the mark' with his perfectly heady détournement.

    From here... havoc & ecstasy...

    14. Isaac Linder: "The Tamburas of Pandit Pran Nath 1 08 20 9 24" from La Monte Young

    15. Isaac Linder: "ManfredWerder.wav" (Unreleased) 

    16. Excerpt of Auroral Chorus

    17. Sonny Sharrock: "Portrait of Linda in Three Colors, All Black" from Black Woman

    ilind is the working moniker of Isaac Linder, a media philosophy student, member of the advisory board at punctum records, and co-editor at Continent., a culture, theory, biopolitics, and art quarterly.

    Proposals for Wavelength can be sent to emma[dot]hazen[at]rhizome.org


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    On December 2 and 3, Rhizome will present Rendered/Realtime, a series of 24 interactive animations designed and developed by Vince McKelvie. The works are displayed on the front page of Rhizome.org, occupying most of the browser window save for a minimal header and footer. Created specifically for this context, Rendered/Realtime uses a technique adapted from video game graphics, the sprite sheet, to allow the user to rotate, move, and deform rendered animated gifs in real time. Rippling and undulating, riffling and turning inside out, McKelvie's 3D forms defy easy visual comprehension, landing somewhere in between liquid geometric abstraction and sci-fi fantasy.

    This way of displaying work has some precedent for Rhizome. From 1998 to 2002, visitors to www.rhizome.org would encounter one of a number of artist-created splash pages, each one featuring a link (in some cases, a rather hidden one) to the main Rhizome front page. Splash pages were a gloriously inefficient detour, an unexpected interruption en route to an online destination; they fell out of fashion in the early 2000s as the web became more efficient, and such detours less acceptable. Today, web habits have changed: most of Rhizome's visitors now jump directly from social media to individual pages on the site, and there is once again an opportunity to use (most of) our front page in a more playful way, from time to time; to allow visitors to encounter artwork before they arrive on pages offering information and interpretation. 

    Rendered/Realtime will only be on the front page for a short time, but it will be archived on Rhizome following the close of the exhibition tomorrow at 6pm EST. We plan to show more works in this way, continuing with a live streamed performance on December 11 at 3PM (details to follow). A few additional things to note: our thinking about this project was informed not only by Rhizome's splash pages, but also by other points of reference including the online exhibition space Club Internet and the website takeovers of Bubblebyte. Also, this is only possible thanks to our new, more minimal header and footer, designed by PWR Studio. You can read about the tech behind the changes on the recenty-launched Rhizome Labs blog, written by Senior Developer Scott Meisburger. 


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    "CREATIVE 2 PROFESSIONAL: 7 things to think about" is based on a lecture commissioned by Aily Nash and Andrew Norman Wilson as part of Image Employmentat New York's MoMA PS1. Read the curators' afterword here.


     

    #1: Scot Halpin

    In 1973, the rock band The Who were opening their US tour for Quadrophenia with a sold-out concert at the Cow Palace outside of San Francisco.

    Halfway through their set, drummer Keith Moon passed out on his drums, allegedly due to a mixture of animal tranquilizers and brandy. After unsuccessfully trying to revive him, the band soldiered on drumless for a few songs. Eventually, Pete Townshend, The Who's guitar player and main songwriter, asked the crowd if anyone could play the drums.

    After some egging on from a friend, Scot Halpin, 19 at the time and standing in the front row, volunteered. He filled in for four songs before the show ended. In this moment, Scot crossed the threshold from audience to rock star. He became a bit of hero among rock fans, even earning a special award from Rolling Stone magazine in 1973 for "Pick-up Player of the Year."

    In a 1996 interview with the San Francisco Examiner, Scot said of the experience that it was "one of the few times you could play royalty."


     

    #2: A page from the 1977 zine Sideburns

    This page from a 1977 issue of London-based punk zine Sideburns has become somewhat iconic as a distillation of punk's early ethos. The idea was one of de-professionalization: not only that you, the fan, could become a performer, with no divide between you and the musician on stage, but also that you should do so, that your voice was worthwhile.

    This image and idea can be compared and contrasted with Apple's home studio software Garageband, and its marketing campaign. In text on the webpage for GarageBand, Apple states:

    With GarageBand, you have all the instruments, bandmates, and talent you need.

    You don't need a studio full of big, expensive amps to play like your heroes.

    And further down the page, describing the software's "Jam" function: "The roadies have set up. The band is ready to jam on a full-screen stage. Now pick your instrument and step into the spotlight."


     

    #3: Beamz

    Similar to Apple's promotional language around GarageBand, Beamz was touted as a device that let you "be a one-man rock band" and "be a hero." The device allowed you to alter pre-recorded music by waving your hand across a light beam.

    While your movements would do something, you couldn't play a wrong note or off-time rhythm. It was targeted towards people who wanted to feel like they were making music, but lacked the skill. It relied on a specific idea of agency in making music, one that was rooted in mimicking the physical act of playing, much like playing air guitar.

    This infomercial and the original Beamz model debuted in 2008 to much internet-based public mockery. Since then, Beamz has shifted their focus and marketing campaign. They have enlisted pop musician Flo Rida as spokesperson for their "Beamz by Flo," a version of the device that allows users to riff on "20 interactive songs inspired by some of the world's greatest artists—Flo Rida, Adele, Taylor Swift, Coldplay, Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Pink, Lady Gaga, Carrie Underwood and many more."

    They have traded in their original market of middle-aged males for young teens. In parallel, they have marketed Beamz as an educational device, "An Interactive Music Experience That Enriches Learning and Promotes Healing," targeted towards early-childhood educators, those in the fields of therapy and rehabilitation, and seniors.


     

    #4: Paint-by-Number

    Paint-by-Number kits were invented in 1950 by Max S. Klein, an engineer and owner of the Palmer Paint Company of Detroit, Michigan, and Dan Robbins, a commercial artist.

    In 1951, Palmer Paint introduced the Craft Master brand of Paint-by-Number kits to the American public. They allowed the user to paint over a coloring book-style black-and-white illustration using special numbered paints. Each area of color in the illustration contained a number corresponding to a paint color, allowing the user to create a painting as long as they could stay inside of the lines.

    Each Craft Master paint-kit box top proudly proclaimed, "A BEAUTIFUL OIL PAINTING THE FIRST TIME YOU TRY."

    The above images are both designed and painted by Dan Robbins, co-creator of Paint-by-Number.


     

    #5: The Prosumer 

    Prosumer is a word with many loose definitions, uses, and meanings.

    In 1980, Alvin Toffler coined the term in his book The Third Wave. His definition was based on a portmanteau of producer and consumer, pointing to a new era in which consumers would help design and improve the goods and services of the marketplace. Products would no longer be mass-produced, but instead customized to the individual needs and desires of the consumer.

    More recently, the term has been used as a portmanteau of professional and consumer, commonly referring to a certain grade of technical gear—often cameras and A/V equipment—whose intended consumer base blurs the line between professional and amateur: high-end hobbyist, or low-end professional.

    A third use of the term stems from Toffler's original producer / consumer portmanteau, but refers instead to the idea of the consumer as cultural producer.

    These various definitions seem to exist in the gray area between Sideburns's "here's three chords, start a band" and Apple's "You don't need a studio full of big, expensive amps to play like your heroes."


     

    #6: The Ken Burns Effect

    In 2003, Apple introduced a feature called "The Ken Burns Effect" to their consumer-grade video editing program, iMovie. The feature was named after the documentary filmmaker's ubiquitous use of slow pans and zooms over still photographs. It allowed the user to easily emulate Burns's signature style.

    With this feature comes a readymade affect, bringing a particular gravitas to whatever content it is used with.


     

    #7: Envato

    Envato is an internet-based network of sites dealing with creative digital software and their products. They describe it as a "Creative Ecosystem":

    Envato's ecosystem of sites includes digital marketplaces, an educational platform, a group of blogs, a design gallery and a freelance network. These services help millions of people around the world get creative, earn an income online, and learn new skills.

    The marketplace sites are broken down into specific media and types of digital assets for sale, each with a pseudo-geological or ecological name:

    Themeforest for Wordpress themes;

    GraphicRiver for digital illustrations, templates, and graphic software plug-ins;

    Codecanyon for programming "scripts and snippets";

    Videohive for stock footage and video templates;

    Photodune for stock photographs;

    3DOcean for 3D models and textures;

    AudioJungle for sound effects; and

    ActiveDen for Flash files.

    While Envato describes the marketplace as a platform for creative individuals to sell their wares, thus making an income off of their passion—à la, say, Etsy—the aesthetics and form of the material for sale are clearly aimed at commercial clients.   

    These products of creativity, then, are ultimately destined to be employed in the service of selling yet another product, a link in a complex chain of exchange, labor, and desire.


    Image Employment is a research project investigating various modes of contemporary production that took the form of a moving image exhibition comprising four screening programs at New York's MoMA PS1 in September and October, 2013. The selected videos in the Dream Factory program examine new forms of labor, consumption-as-production, and the aesthetics and visual language of globalized "lifestyles." Michael Bell-Smith's video De-employed addresses this relationship between consuming and producing through the use of "prosumer" tools to perform a corporate commercial aesthetic. With his structuralist approach, Bell-Smith pushes the boundaries of these templates, interchanging sensationalistic content in the service of readymade affect, paralleling the way in which media today—music, movies, tv shows, news—are endless variations on structural templates.

    For our Image Employment: Overtime Sunday Session at MoMA PS1, we invited Michael to present a new lecture, "Creative 2 Professional." It has been reworked for publication, above.

    — Aily Nash & Andrew Norman Wilson, curators 


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    Portrait of Stoya by Molly Crabapple.

    Creative Time Reports and Rhizome present Glass Gaze, a one-time performance in which artist Molly Crabapple, wearing Google Glass, will create life-drawings of Stoya, porn star and advocate for fair labor practices in the pornography industry, as she strikes a variety of poses. The performance will be streamed live on the Rhizome website on Dec. 11 from 3pm to 3:30pm. In early 2014, Creative Time Reports and Rhizome sites will co-publish the video along with an essay that Molly will write about the project.  

    Looking means taking. The gaze, whether the stereotypical male gaze or the gaze of an artist, is rapacious and objectifying. But technologies like Google Glass add a new layer to looking. Now, the gaze itself can be commodified, quantified, and sold—whether to advertisers or the NSA. Google Glass lets your audience, or the government, see the world from your perspective.

    A classic act of looking is that of the artist staring at a model. In Glass Gaze, I will draw porn performer and aerialist Stoya while wearing a Google Glass that has been hacked by journalist Tim Pool, enabling it to live stream. Viewers will see art-making directly through my eyes.

    The choice of Stoya as a model is an homage to Degas's drawings of dancers. Degas is an archetypical artist of the male gaze. In the 21st century, the subjects of his drawings have been stripped of context, but in 19th-century Paris, many dancers doubled as sex workers and mistresses. His ballerinas were iron-tough athletes, working-class women hustling to survive and finance their art. As an artist, I love Degas's dancers, but not his misogyny and alienation. Glass Gaze attempts to see what the gaze sees when the artist is not other, although the gaze itself is commodified and captured by an intermediary. 

    Artist: Molly Crabapple. Model: Stoya. Tech: Tim Pool.


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    Matthias Fritsch is an independent artist from Berlin, most well known for his work Kneecam No 1—the live video that brought Technoviking to the internet. Over a decade after he uploaded the clip that went viral, Fritsch now is enduring a long legal battle with Technoviking himself, who sued for the reproduction, proliferation, and unwarranted use of his likeness. In response to the process, Fritsch is making The Story of Technoviking, a crowd-funded documentary that aims to shed light on the legal issues surrounding viral images. Below, Fritsch talks about what it’s like do battle in court with a viking, the ownership of images in the internet age, and hopes for his current project.

    My Life Without Technoviking—since the trial began, Fritsch is no longer allowed to use images of the plaintiff's face.

    DQ: Matthias, I'm of course curious about the video that originated it all. What was, for you, Kneecam No 1 (2000) before it became an internet meme? Why did you upload it to YouTube? Were you expecting such a viral reaction? What did you think when it happened?

    MF: Kneecam No 1 was the beginning of a series of short experimental films in which I wanted to explore the role of the camera and the perception of reality in film. When Youtube emerged as an easily accessible video streaming platform, I started uploading my films in order to integrate them into my website. I wasn't aware of viral videos back in 2006 and learned about this emerging culture of internet memes when my own clip went viral.

    DQ: In Kneecam No 1, you simply turn your camera on during the Fuckparade in Berlin and record a short clip. The appearance of the man later known as the "technoviking" is something you couldn't expect, unless it's staged; and that turns the video into something completely different from a simple fragment of reality. Your description of the video on your website, however, is somehow ambiguous about this. You write: "Real or set up? The camera as a voyeur in an extraordinary situation and level of intimacy." Can you tell us more about this?

    MF: The documentation sequence turned out to be very dense and intense. My original impulse in publishing this uncut sequence came from its potential of raising the question of whether what you see is real or staged—a question that was very much connected to my personal interests and artistic focus. I was influenced by developments in film aesthetics, for example by Dogma 95 from the Danish film scene of the 90s. And yes, you could say that I pressed a button, stayed calm, like a street photographer and captured the moment in reality, but the act of publishing it put in a frame of working on filmic language and perception.

    DQ: The viral circulation of an artifact conceived as an artwork may be experienced as an act of violence against the artwork itself. You lose control of your work, its circulation, the way it is understood. It circulates under a different title, and without your name on it. And probably, it is completely misunderstood. How did you react to all this?

    MF: The film went viral on a video portal that I didn't even know about. And still—although I lost control—my original question was still not answered, and I didn't reveal if the video was staged or not. The portal break.com paid the guy that copied the video from my channel and reposted it for $2,000 USD after the first 2 million clicks and later on, when it reached 4 million clicks, most likely another $2,000. I didn't bother much about that. The "violation" that one could see in this user’s appropriation of my film made a work of mine famous, and the reactions of the community were much more fascinating to me than the notion of losing control or being ripped off. The idea that I could have an issue with the protagonist didn't occur to me. He was perceived as a hero. The film was a piece of art, originally shot in a political demonstration with a camera that had a very big and obvious lens.

    Installation of the Technoviking Archive in Nancyhalle, Karlsruhe, Germany (2009).

    DQ: Casually or not, the viral success of Kneecam No 1 matches very well your interest in the relationship between mediation and reality and somehow conditioned the later developments of your work, focused on digital communities and online distribution channels (I'm thinking of the Technoviking Archive and Music for the Masses, your online archive of free, silent music video-length works to which musicians are invited to add their own songs). Do you agree? Do you think your work would have developed in a different way, if you hadn't met, on your way, the Technoviking?

    MF: The Technoviking phenomenon showed me a new world: global online communities. But already years earlier I had been involved in analogue social platforms. At the time when I shot the video, I was active in independent film scene in Berlin, organizing a festival and open screenings that enabled filmmakers in Berlin a platform to show, test, and exchange their works. For as long as I can remember, I have also liked the idea of media recycling, and I did recycle my own material in different works before the Technoviking-Meme was born.

    I don't know if I would really do something completely different if Kneecam No 1 hadn’t become a viral piece of pop culture. For sure without the figure of Technoviking there is no Technoviking Archive. Also, I might not have come up with my 5-year project Music from the Masses, which was directly inspired by observing strategies of recycling in the users’ reactions to the technoviking meme: the exchange of soundtracks. Funnily enough, in court at the Berlin trial the plaintiff's lawyer argued several times that my whole artistic career is based on Technoviking.

    This is an interesting point, by the way. Let's assume he is right—who is the artist, who is the originator of the meme and the body of works that I have been working on for the last 6 years? The plaintiff? My guess is: the community is actually the originator and the driving artistic and creative force in this collective cultural production.

    DQ: I would expand on this by saying that, even if your original question remained unanswered, it was exactly this question that resonated in the online community that turned your video into a meme. The video fascinated people for the same reason it fascinated you: its unclear status, between documentation and fiction, and its main character's connection with a narrative and an imaginary that exceeds him, that others shaped long before the video (from Thor to Conan the Barbarian to heavy metal singers and the techno underground). In other words: the plaintiff became the Technoviking not because he was "original," but because he was originally playing a cultural stereotype in a real life event—and people wouldn't have noticed it if you didn't notice it in the first place, if you hadn’t published your footage when you did. Do you agree?

    MF: I agree that there is no original and the figure of the Technoviking is the result of new combinations of old ideas. That sounds like something that applies to almost everything. An interesting aspect of the trial is actually to distinguish between the real persona of the plaintiff and the art persona Technoviking. It might just be a strategic argument that the plaintiff does not see the difference and takes everything that is connected to Technoviking-Meme very personally. This explains why he even wants to censor comics and drawings of the Technoviking meme. The original question somehow returns to the courtroom, but now with the focus on the Technoviking-Art-Persona rather than the video: is he real or is he fiction?

    DQ: After losing control of your artwork, you have also had the experience of being sued by the subject of that artwork for what other people have done with it. This is pretty absurd because, in my view, you are both victims of your internet celebrity: you should feel sympathetic to each other. At the same time, however, the trial raises a series of questions about intellectual property and reproduction rights in the internet age: who owns the image? Should we be free to use, manipulate, and redistribute what's found online?

    MF: To collect opinions, concepts, and hopefully solutions on those urgent issues I am working on a documentary film. One interesting thought was expressed by Ulf Petterson, who works in Brussels for the European Union. He said that the plaintiff "has already ‘published’ his image by appearing in a public place."

    The technological changes within the last years generate and boost our collective visual memory of reality. It is constantly growing and keeps each one of us in a huge global data cloud. We have no real idea where this data will end up and how they will be used one day. State, companies and citizens produce and collect massive amounts of images every second and nobody can escape this anymore. New electronic senses demand new human behavior and (yet unwritten) codes and must result in an adjustment of the protection of privacy. We can observe a new individual behavior in public. We need to change ourselves if we want to stay out of the data collecting sphere that surrounds us. I am not suggesting that everybody who is really concerned should wear a burka, but most likely this would be the most effective protection to escape the image stream that we constantly create by exposing ourselves to the CCTVs and smart phones around us.

    DQ: What Petterson says is right. In an age when there are more cameras than eyes, and in which the "publish" option is embedded in almost every recording tool, every action performed in the public space has the potential to end up on the public space of the internet in a minute. Celebrities know it very well, and it's hard to imagine Keanu Reeves or Scarlett Johansson suing somebody for the "Sad Keanu" or the "Scarlett Johansson Falling Down" meme. At the same time, your trial shows that it's time to start a public debate and make an attempt to regulate this subject. Is this what you are trying to do with your upcoming documentary?

    MF: Yes, that's basically my motivation for making the film. From the moment that something is online and the community starts to use, manipulate, and redistribute content—I think there is a right to share. Nothing is really original and everything is the result of culture that existed before. If creators demand to own their content, they should also be responsible for sharing their income with the society that inspired their ideas. How can you own something that you (at least to a large extent) took from others for free? Therefore, I see the protection of exclusive rights on intellectual property as the wrong tool for the future. It only creates complications for cultural development and a fair society. Not restrictions and control, but fairness and openness are the values we should focus on.

    At this point, the courtroom is not the place to solve these issues. The judges have a very tight corset of laws that are already 100 years old. The law to own and control your own image (which the plaintiff demands) is from 1907. To find a final judgement in court and maybe change some laws, it still has to go one level higher to the constitutional court. This means a many-year long process, and it demands a really strong financial backbone to keep up with the costs—something that is not suitable to my personal situation. Therefore, to contribute to the discourse and push for new solutions, I would rather make a documentary film that can be discussed in public.


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    Exterior view of I Thought It Was a Pull, but It's a Push at the Center for Ongoing Research & Projects (COR&P). Photo: Tim Smith.

    Last autumn, the Center for Ongoing Research & Projects (COR&P), a project space founded in 2012 by Ryland Wharton and Kris Paulsen, held a solo exhibition by Michael Bell-Smith entitled I Thought It Was a Pull, but It's a Push. The following interview explores the themes from that show, as well as the 12" record published alongside it, delving further into the ideas raised in Bell-Smith's recent piece for Rhizome, "Creative 2 Professional: 7 Things to Think About."

    COR&P: COR&P's mission is to facilitate and present research-based art practices. In previous exhibitions, artists have conducted archival research (such as Shana Lutker's history of Surrealist fistfights) or mined data in real time (Aspen Mays' tracking of shipping traffic). It is apparent from your work that you are an avid collector of digital ephemera. Do you see the process of searching, downloading, and collecting files as a type of research, and how does that research inform your practice?

    MBS: When I'm working, I never think in terms of "research." It implies a division between your input and your output, that you put everything on pause to conduct "research." Who has the time for that? When I think about it though, I conduct research all the time. I spend hours sorting through collections of stock footage. I clip things from across the web, logging them in different websites, applications, and folders. I'll pull out my phone in the middle of conversation to jot down the name of an article, tracking it down later to read from my phone while on the train. I take photos on the street. And so on.

    With various levels of intervention these things might be flipped into "production"—input becomes output. So, my research is intertwined with my daily life and the process of actually making things.

    It's also horizontal, skimming across the surface of various areas of knowledge. Skimming is natural when you're using the internet as your primary access point to the world (more "conventional" research also starts online: I buy books online, I plan what shows to go to online, etc.). But it's also about trying to engage with the world at the same level that my audience encounters it on a day-to-day basis. I want the work to be in conversation with what people encountered when they woke up this morning, what they saw on the way to the gallery—if I go too deep down any given rabbit hole, I'm losing that.

    COR&P: The choice of "Research" in the name of the Center was intentional, since I felt it provided a great deal of curatorial freedom. The question of what is or isn't research is a slippery one, and I am not necessarily interested in making a distinction (which seems futile), but rather to make public an investigation of the convoluted path from idea to investigation to production to new idea, to investigation, etc.

    The origin of the world "research" is the Old French resercher, meaning "to seek out closely." "Re-" intensifies "search." Your answer makes me wonder if this definition is completely outmoded given the way that we now conduct research and the way contemporary networked technologies are part of the process—we aren't necessarily digging in dusty boxes for a specific item, but conducting broad "searches," across the web or in databases, and always aided by software. We "search."

    Given the massive amount of searchable data available at any moment, is there any longer a difference between searching and researching?

    MBS: Maybe it's a perception of rigor. We think of the dusty box digging as a serious pursuit, while searching is casual and impulsive. But maybe searching can be as serious and focused as hunting through the stacks at the library (or alternately, maybe they're both just surfing through information).

    I think the bigger issue is how we work with this access to everything, what we expect from it. If total access is the new starting point, where do we go from there? There's a gap—the way we think about these things hasn't caught up to how they really work. We still associate certain types of knowledge with power and cultural capital, when we know it's just an internet search away. I think the work is in going wider, rather than deeper, making connections between things that couldn't have been made before. While there's a lot of problems with the way the term "curation" is thrown around these days, there is something positive in identifying the importance of that type of thinking and work.

    Michael Bell-Smith, I Thought it Was a Pull, but It's a Push (2013). Installation view (detail, featuring COR&P bulletin board). Photo: Gina Osterloh.

    COR&P: Your installation at COR&P last fall, I Thought It Was a Pull but It's a Push, featured a looping soundtrack. In conjunction with the exhibition, we pressed it as a 12" record entitled Claps/Applause. One side has an ordered archive of samples of hands clapping, while the reverse has applause. Foley sound effects have long been a tool in filmmaking, and the record a tool for DJs and other performers. Claps/Applause is interesting in this regard because it is both a performative object, and a reusable archive. How do you imagine people listening to or using this record? Does it operate as a kind of tool, too?

    MBS: I think of the record as existing in an in-between zone: utility posing as aesthetics, or vice versa. In many respects the sounds have been de-tooled—if it was simply a digital archive, it could function as a sound library or sample bank. The process of putting it on vinyl, as a composition, where the sounds are more fixed in place, changes it into something else. Where it might still work as a tool, is in that performative sense. There are those micro-genres of records designed for DJs: DJ tools, battle records, scratch records. They contain drum breaks, sound effects and acapellas for DJs to work with live. They're a bit anachronistic now, with so much of that going digital, but that makes them more interesting in certain ways. I think the record has a relationship to that world. Which is not to say it doesn't work as a composition—there's shifting textures, tension, release. It's great to listen to while cooking dinner, answering email or working out.

    Michael Bell-Smith, cover image for Claps / Applause (COR&P, 2013), a 12" record created from 911 audio samples of claps and one audio sample of applause.

    COR&P: What you're talking about connects to a broader renewed interest in physical media. Concurrent with the transition to digital music libraries and the rise in popularity of massive streaming services, vinyl sales have actually been increasing for the last seven years. You've been working with digital media and online archives and communities for several years. Do you see these objects as immaterial? Is the record a means of returning to physical media?

    MBS: Working with more immaterial forms is less a conscious decision to be ephemeral, than it is about process, about the tools I use. 99% of my work is on a computer—taking that and making it into something explicitly material often feels arbitrary or disingenuous. Other times, however, that step is part of the process, or the translation is an important part of the piece. In the case of this record, the decision to put it on vinyl is a key part of what it's about. By making it a record—given that current state of vinyl—I can talk about digital media in a different way. It's the same conversation, just getting at it from another angle.

    COR&P: The video portion of the installation presents a stream of images you've collected—graphic patterns, clip art, screenshots, etc.—in a cyclical digital flipbook of sorts. You've described the video as functioning as a "template." Do you see plugging what you've gleaned from your skimming into this template as a presentation or restaging of your act of researching or more of a transformative synthesis of the information?

    MBS: For the video, I created a template of movements and video effects, a ten second loop of shifting and overlapping images. Different "content" was slotted into the template over and over again, creating the flipbook you describe. I saw this as a sort of machine for creating a structured yet random set of juxtapositions. It's a bit of a proposition that the presentation might produce new meanings, leading to a synthesis, to something more.

    The video takes a lot of aesthetic cues from corporate design, specifically the glossy non-spaces of Web 2.0 and Apple design. But it's pushing against that as well, amped up, more dense and off kilter. So part of that proposition is about how we interpret or work with these structures in our daily lives. Is there a potential to find meaning or beauty or liberation within them, or do they just eat everything you throw into them?

    Top and center: Michael Bell-Smith, I Thought It Was a Pull, but It's a Push (2013). Installation views (detail), COR&P. Photos: Tim Smith. Bottom: Michael Bell-Smith, I Thought It Was a Pull, but It's a Push (2013). Still frame from video.

    COR&P: You use a manual process to fill and sequence these templates. However, one could imagine using software to automate this process. Is the "handmade" aspect of the video important to you and why? (i.e. how does authorship and control matter to you here?)

    MBS: While I work predominantly on the computer, I'm interested in the kind of work that comes out of traditional art processes: trial and error, repetition, iteration, chance, accident, etc. On the one hand, I "believe" in those approaches. On the other, I like the friction of working that way on a computer. There's a different kind of legibility of process when working with digital media. The computer is very good at hiding your hand, so the process comes through in much more ephemeral or nuanced ways. It results in a kind of anxiety with things made digitally: what did the person do and what did the computer do? I like playing with that.

    At first glance, the template for the video it may look off the shelf, but in reality, while it's fairly simple, it's carefully choreographed. My hope is that this is legible if you give you the work enough time, but manually enacting the logic of a computer, or of a default commercial aesthetic, is an important aspect to the work as well. It gets back to that idea of how much these tools dictate what we can do with them—how much room do we have to break them, elevate them, or undermine them, while still working within their constraints?

    COR&P: The types of tools you're talking about are primarily marketed at the "creative professional," which is a figure that I know interests you. Can you describe your interest in this figure?

    MBS: Most digital art is commercial art. So the tools that get created for making art with your computer are designed for, and marketed to, creative professionals, people using them for "professional" (i.e. commercial) means. On top of that, there's a massive infrastructure of tips, tricks, tutorials, add-ons, stock media, and templates augmenting that software and hardware, all of it catering to this commercial market. By working toward a different end, I'm inherently misusing these tools, pushing against their intended use. It's about de-naturalizing them a bit, calling into question how they're normally used. That "normal" use is responsible for much of our day to day visual environment.

    This association is echoed in the reception of the work. Digital media in an art context is read in relation to all the culture, advertising, etc. the audience sees on a daily basis. There's a built-in conversation to the broader world—it's what draws me to working the way I do. I'm trying to piggy-back on that everyday experience, then take it on a detour.


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    When all of my friends are on at once, organized by Gene McHugh

    Chat rooms, ScReEnNaMeS, AdultKing, cheat codes, Everquest, AOL/Rent essay writing contests. While the cultural forms we encounter on the internet are always changing, there was something palpably unique about the early web; for many of us, this is simply because we encountered it for the first time as adolescents. As many of the entries in When all of my friends are on at once detail, adolescent experiences online in the pre-mobile computing era were often alone, all-engrossing, and/or associated with some form of embarrassment. Launched today, this new project organized by Gene McHugh collects the thoughts of 48 contemporary artists engaged with technology on their first memories of being online.

    The site, which will soon be translated into book form, reads like journal fragments strung together on an early web coloring book. (Yes, the site uses HTML frames.) As McHugh states in the outro, one's physical "first memories" are easily supported by a cultural narrative—"running around in nature, walking up the stairs of an old house, a first kiss"—but for the first generation to have come of age with the internet, one's virtual memories are still kind of humming somewhere downstairs with that old dial-up modem.

    On this occasion, I've gathered some recollections from the Rhizome staff. They may not do justice to the breadth of experience captured in McHugh's collection, but it's our modest contribution to the collective memory of growing up internet.

    Kei Kreutler (me), Editorial Fellow (New York):

    We talk a lot about Angelfire and Geocities, but does anyone remember Expage? Well, my friends and I, we each had an Expage. In fact, I think we also had one exclusively for our group, comprising our nicknames, arbitrary preferences, and lots of fuscia Comic Sans on reflecting pool image-repeat backgrounds. At 8, I even spent a lot of time in Dreamweaver developing a tropical-themed website for me and my best friend. Once it was finished, we couldn’t think of anything we felt very compelled to post. It was never hosted. 

    Michael Connor, Editor & Curator:

    My first experience of the web was in using it for research, at school, which was difficult because everything was just pages of "interesting links." Once, while looking for something while a teacher hovered over my shoulder, I accidentally visited a porn site—luckily, it was a text-only browser.

    Heather Corcoran, Director:

    I don't like nostalgia... .com :)

    Laura Davidson, Editorial Fellow (London):

    My Dad was an engineer for Ferranti, and as a result I grew up in a household of handcrafted, idiosyncratic, domestic hardware experiments. I was known as the only girl in town that had a successfully networked home system, and word got round to my chemistry teacher, who stalked me for an invitation to our house. #die 

    Emma Hazen, Program Intern: 

    I remember in 4th grade we got to use the computer lab. We usually learned to type and did Kidpix. Right after 9/11, some boys surfed the internet and allegedly found some website where they could sign up to join the military. 

    Nate Hitchcock, Curatorial Fellow: 

    I was being taught by my dad how to use a computer and I remember it seeming strange that the pictures had light behind them but didn't move. And that words moved vertically and not horizontally. [ED. Nate was using a machine equipped with a T3.]

    Zachary Kaplan, Community Manager/Program Administrator:

    I had the internet, but my dad wouldn't get AOL (the cost!). My friend Michael had it as his house, however. He also had punters. And we used to go around seeking out what we thought were neo-nazi chatrooms—I'm sure they weren't—trying to boot people. We were good/confused Jewish day schoolers. 

    Scott Meisburger, Senior Developer:

    Growing up, I shared a gray box computer with my brother. When our parents first hooked it up to the internet, they flung their hands in front of the screen to cover it, deathly afraid that their children might see pornography.

     


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    Chuck Colby with Homebrew Computer Club wares (Credit: Amy Desiree Photography

    The buffet occupies two tables; the rest are covered with computer paraphernalia. In many ways, it feels like another tech meetup. Well-rehearsed elevator pitches are offered: "It's like Minecraft and The Sims smashed together and put on the web." One young programmer was attracted to the meeting because, "It's in the Bay Area, it's on Kickstarter, so why the fuck not?"

    But this is the 38th Anniversary Reunion of the Homebrew Computer Club, the group that "launched the personal computing revolution," or so the story goes. Temporal and ideological anomalies abound. The hardware is all vintage, and while some participants are there in search of networking opportunities, others are still out to change the world, to put technological tools into the hands of the people. A veteran whips out his $90 paper tape reader, insisting no one can understand Homebrew unless they’ve hacked one. An Altair 8800 that famously produced music at an original meeting is here for an encore—no drastic restoration necessary, the thing just works. At serial inventor Chuck Colby's table, there's a stack of printouts which read:

    Wozniak, who is in attendance, is the unwilling magnet for 90% of the actual recognition.

    The sense of rewards unevenly divided among collaborators continues when we take our seats for the "remarks" portion of the evening (which includes an open mic session, a Homebrew tradition). Technology pioneer Ted Nelson says, "Computing has always been personal, in that the people involved took it personally." The audience laughs. We get that the term "computing" no longer refers to an open exchange of ideas about commercially available microprocessors, but to a multi-billion dollar industry, and a highly competitive one at that.

     

    FaceTime

    Wealth disparity as it relates to computer technology is as sore an issue today as it was 30 years ago. The same day as the reunion, KQED aired a discussion that addressed "techie hipsterism" and gentrification in West Oakland. Many of these kids flocking to the Bay will feel forgotten in 38 years, even though they were at that meetup—you know, the one where those guys launched the next big thing? I hear that group's getting together again for a reunion.


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    Martine Syms, film still produced for the cover of Most Days (2014). LP. Mixed Media Recordings, Brooklyn.

    The undersigned, being alternately pissed off and bored, need a means of speculation and asserting a different set of values with which to re-imagine the future. In looking for a new framework for black diasporic artistic production, we are temporarily united in the following actions.

    ***The Mundane Afrofuturists recognize that:***

    We did not originate in the cosmos.

    The connection between Middle Passage and space travel is tenuous at best.

    Out of five hundred thirty-four space travelers, fourteen have been black. An all-black crew is unlikely.

    Magic interstellar travel and/or the wondrous communication grid can lead to an illusion of outer space and cyberspace as egalitarian.

    This dream of utopia can encourage us to forget that outer space will not save us from injustice and that cyberspace was prefigured upon a "master/slave" relationship.

    While we are often Othered, we are not aliens.

    Though our ancestors were mutilated, we are not mutants.

    Post-black is a misnomer.

    Post-colonialism is too.

    The most likely future is one in which we only have ourselves and this planet.


    Coco Fusco, Observations of Predation in Humans: A Lecture by Dr. Zira Animal Psychologist (2013).

    ***The Mundane Afrofuturists rejoice in:***

    Piling up unexamined and hackneyed tropes, and setting them alight.

    Gazing upon their bonfire of the Stupidities, which includes, but is not exclusively limited to:

    • Jive-talking aliens;

    • Jive-talking mutants;

    • Magical negroes;

    • Enormous self-control in light of great suffering;

    • Great suffering as our natural state of existence;

    • Inexplicable skill in the martial arts;

    • Reference to Wu Tang;

    • Reference to Sun Ra;

    • Reference to Parliament Funkadelic and/or George Clinton;

    • Reference to Janelle Monáe;

    • Obvious, heavy-handed allusions to double-consciousness;

    • Desexualized protagonists;

    • White slavery;

    • Egyptian mythology and iconography;

    • The inner city;

    • Metallic colors;

    • Sassiness;

    • Platform shoes;

    • Continue at will… 

    ***We also recognize:***

    The harmless fun that these and all the other Stupidities have brought to millions of people.

    The harmless fun that burning the Stupidities will bring to millions of people.

    The imaginative challenge that awaits any Mundane Afrofuturist author who accepts that this is it: Earth is all we have. What will we do with it?

    The chastening but hopefully enlivening effect of imagining a world without fantasy bolt-holes: no portals to the Egyptian kingdoms, no deep dives to Drexciya, no flying Africans to whisk us off to the Promised Land.

    The possibilities of a new focus on black humanity: our science, technology, culture, politics, religions, individuality, needs, dreams, hopes, and failings.

    The surge of bedazzlement and wonder that awaits us as we contemplate our own cosmology of blackness and our possible futures.

    The relief of recognizing our authority. We will root our narratives in a critique of normative, white validation. Since "fact" and "science" have been used throughout history to serve white supremacy, we will focus on an emotionally true, vernacular reality.

    The understanding that our "twoness" is inherently contemporary, even futuristic. DuBois asks how it feels to be a problem. Ol’ Dirty Bastard says "If I got a problem, a problem's got a problem 'til it’s gone."

    An awakening sense of the awesome power of the black imagination: to protect, to create, to destroy, to propel ourselves towards what poet Elizabeth Alexander describes as "a metaphysical space beyond the black public everyday toward power and wild imagination."

    The opportunity to make sense of the nonsense that regularly—and sometimes violently—accents black life.

    The electric feeling that Mundane Afrofuturism is the ultimate laboratory for worldbuilding outside of imperialist, capitalist, white patriarchy.

    The sense that the rituals and inconsistencies of daily life are compelling, dynamic, and utterly strange.

    Mundane Afrofuturism opens a number of themes and flavors to intertextuality, double entendre, politics, incongruity, polyphony, and collective first-person—techniques that we have used for years to make meaning.

    Neil Beloufa, Still frame from Production Value (2013). 

    ***The Mundane Afrofuturists promise:***

    To produce a collection of Mundane Afrofuturist literature that follows these rules:

    1. No interstellar travel—travel is limited to within the solar system and is difficult, time consuming, and expensive.

    2. No inexplicable end to racism—dismantling white supremacy would be complex, violent, and have global impact.

    3. No aliens unless the connection is distant, difficult, tenuous, and expensive—and they have no interstellar travel either.

    4. No internment camps for blacks, aliens, or black aliens.

    5. No Martians, Venusians, etc.

    6. No forgetting about political, racial, social, economic, and geographic struggles.

    7. No alternative universes.

    8. No revisionist history.

    9. No magic or supernatural elements.

    10. No Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, or Bucks.

    11. No time travel or teleportation.

    12. No Mammies, Jezebels, or Sapphires.

    13. Not to let Mundane Afrofuturism cramp their style, as if it could.

    14. To burn this manifesto as soon as it gets boring.

    — Martine Syms & whomever will join me in the future of black imagination.

    Most Days is a Mundane Afrofuturist sound work released on vinyl by Mixed Media Recordings, due to be released in early 2014. The audio consists of a table read of an original screenplay alongside a score composed in collaboration with artist Neal Reinalda. The piece considers what an average day looks like for a young black woman in 2050 Los Angeles. For this piece, I adapted the literary rules of "Mundane Science Fiction." I produced a film still for "Most Days" to assert its reality and circulate it within visual culture.

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  • 12/18/13--09:30: Artist Profile: Kimmo Modig
  • 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.

    "In the distance I see Kimmo Modig. He's walking around Helsinki with his iphone, grumbling about bad art."
    Antagon 2013: Proceedings (2013)

    Age: 32

    Location: Helsinki, Finland.

    Jesse Darling: How/when did you begin working creatively with technology?

    Kimmo Modig: I remember doing sound collages with boomboxes in my early teens, you know, like having two of them playing something I’d recorded earlier as a backtrack while the third one recorded whatever I was doing live on top of that. I’d repeat this process again and again until the signal-to-noise ratio was heavily weighted towards noise. But already at that time I always wanted to use my voice, to have a narrative of sorts. I’ve lately been returning to a way of being that I had in my teens, when I was dressing to provoke and performing nude on stage with my childhood friends.

    Later on I got into so-called experimental music, and started directing a Helsinki-based organisation called Äänen Lumo (Charm of Sound) between 2008–2011. Nowadays I feel detached from any kind of hacking / DIY / circuit-bending activity. I still get really excited about adventurous music—for example, Bee Mask has blown my mind so many times. Mostly, though, I just listen to the Soundcloud stream—I usually like whatever Jennifer Chan reposts.

    I’m increasingly drawing on my background as a sound designer in my work, and I think there will be more of this in the future. I still follow the discussion around sound art, and look for a new, unexpected way to understand it, maybe as a Trojan horse—a tool for artistic expression and as a personal methodology. One of my fave books of late has been Black Sound White Cube by Ina Dieter and Wudtke Lesage, which looks at why Sound Art is predominantly white noise without rhythm. I think someone like Phill Niblock (the godfather of drone music) is very anti-culture, you know, in not wanting to communicate anything with music, in keeping it free of conventional structures such as melody etc. The future of sound in art is in naivety, not surround.

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

    I did an MA in sound design at the Theatre Academy, Helsinki. I must stress here that we weren't taught to be technicians but "artist-designers" who dabble with installations, music, collaborative practices and contemporary theatre & performance art. I didn't really click with that many people in school, so I ended up graduating without belonging to a scene or any newly formed company etc. My whole artistic career has been about moving from one scene to the next. I don't have any kind of cohesive or even formative knowledge of anything but just scatter from everywhere.

    JD: What does your desktop or workspace look like?

    KM: I share a studio with two sound designers and a poet in North central Helsinki. I pay €120 a month. It's more like an office, but luckily there's a recording booth here which is really important for me. My desktop is nothing special I imagine. I mostly use Ableton Live, Premiere, Writeroom, Chrome, and an internet-connection-killing app titled Freedom.

    Modig remembers Anatagon's artists before the biennale in a place that doesn't exist anymore.
    Remembering Antagon: Artists are mountains (2013)

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

    I do a lot of things, I suppose, like teaching and DJing and whatnot, though for 2013 I'm on a grant from Kone, a private Finnish foundation. Then there are grants with which I fund projects like Antagon (a biennale I founded in Turku, 2013). I used to be the director for this gallery Titanik for a year; I earned €1500 per month in a 25h/week. That was pretty good, though it was mostly paperwork, which I found frustrating. A big problem in the art world, at least here in Finland, is that nobody is trusted to make real decisions, so all the good ideas and radical energy get killed by faceless boards and committees.

    This is a larger issue and it has to do with attempts to hide taste behind politically correct and credible power structures. This is very difficult to do with something as meaningless or at least hard to measure as contemporary art. To think that art is just for lulz in a world full of unfathomable suffering and constant exploitation is hard and some might say, unethical. In order to avoid these issues, we’ve created these value systems, complex ever-changing hierarchies, which are ultimately ways of proving that art matters. When I work with institutions, I try to always work directly with individuals, so I know that there's someone who hopefully understands what I'm trying to do.

    JD: But don’t you think these professional friendships are like, part of the job?

    KM: I don’t know, are they? Is the work also a barrier reminding us where one singularity ends and another begins? I think the best way to understand someone begins with grasping the power relations at play. Like I don’t know if I’ll ever understand you, which is strange because our works (yours and mine) are so much about ecstatic communication. The art world creates and accelerates so much paranoia and amnesia and discontinuation in relationships. To survive in an art world that is constantly afraid of its own emptiness, everybody has to have an agenda. I've never had one. To be able to take this stance talks volumes about my privileged position, of course, but I’m a total nihilist without any ethical reverberating chamber. The Groys article on change and the avant-garde meant a lot to me.

    Stills from the trailer for the Suomen Paviljonki / Finnish Pavilion

    JD: That makes sense, though I find your approach full of contradiction (which, knowing you, might be deliberate). You talk about the emptiness of the art world; you say art has no inherent meaning, and yet in your curatorial projects and your auxiliary works you seem to want to produce or harness spaces of authenticity or intersubjectivity. Like you want to work with individuals, not institutions; you produce these performances that mess with the conventions of playing to or not playing to an audience (but which would be meaningless without it); it’s like your project is all about lived experience, and you’re trying to communicate that to another; singular or plural.

    KM: I wouldn't say what I do is about authenticity. I’m trying to bring people and things together, play host to a situation. It's easy to point out either way, i.e. how artificial or authentic it was, for example, having you or Maja Cule or anyone hanging around in Turku during Antagon. Like it’s sort of a forced meeting, but you can enjoy it tremendously, go past that, communicate. I think things get as real as one lets them, you know? Like, look, here’s a situation: if you invest in it maybe something will happen, but if you don't, at least there's glorious art works that you can also enjoy passively just by being there.

    JD: In post-net politics and aesthetics there's a lot of discourse about the legacy of the network and how it has affected our aesthetic and sensibility, our sense of space and place. In this context I want to talk about your work as a seer, using intuition and “magical thinking” to create a space of exchange between you and another where data flows take place in the form of card readings. Do you relate to the techno-utopian idea of "the cloud" or noosphere, like the collective consciousness? Are you consciously channelling this?

    KM: The idea of a noosphere seems a bit far-fetched for what I do, which is to try to feel signals coming from the person(s) sitting opposite me. It’s mostly just social skills: focusing, noticing the details, listening to what they’re saying (with or without words). Sure, I can refer to things most of us might have in common: life's big questions, relationships, work. When I did the reading at V4ult gallery in Berlin, I had 10 minutes per person and I just trusted my intuition about people and talked about things I felt might resonate with them. From there on out, it's a matter of luck, faith, and in most cases, genuine non-verbal dialogue. Mostly people come looking for affirmation of decisions they think they’re about to make, although usually they've made the decision already.

    JD: Can you tell me what I'm thinking right now?

    KM: No, but if I can be selfish and assume you're thinking about me, then I'd imagine you're thinking about my not having any goals, which seems to bother you. I know you have your very personal issues with Buddhism, but I actually believe in the idea of inner peace which should be something unshaken by everyday defeats and victories. Since we can control so few things in life, having long-term goals other than happiness just seems silly.

    JD: As someone whose work is so much about liveness, contingency, relationships and networks, how do you negotiate the flatness ("deadness"), and/or the object status of the document?

    KM: I didn't document my works for a long time, mostly because I didn't think this would be a career of any sort, and because I was invested in so many different things. Nowadays I do like to document my work, but I feel like it's a project you have to figure out every time anew. Sometimes the best documentation is the rumour and sometimes you really need to hire a camera crew. I directed a prologue and an epilogue for Antagon, which were conceived as celebrations of the Antagon vibe, rather than straightforward information about the event. When I made the Sounds Like Work event with Jenna Sutela (in Kiasma museum, Helsinki, 2012), it took us 10 months to put together a short documentary video, I guess because our conception of what the event was really about kept changing radically after the event. For me, Sounds Like Work (which featured e.g. Bill Drummond, Miriam Katzeff, Minouk Lim, Jaakko Pallasvuo and Anneli Nygren), was the beginning of something real. It was my blueprint for a practice fusing event production, curation, dramaturgical thinking, and performing. We had a slogan, “Make Poems Not CVs”, and we really tried to figure out how to do everything as freely as possible within the event production: we tried to figure out how to make the production into an artwork an sich. It wasn’t a total success, but it put me into motion for good.

    Death of You (2013)

    JD: Though we talk a lot about post-internet, I sometimes feel like one of the biggest things we have to contend with in contemporary practice is the legacy of relational aesthetics—the deskilling of art practice, "just doing stuff", and not trying to make it mean anything, like, in the unfashionable modernist sense. I feel like your practice is a post-relational practice in that it happens in real time and space, but without the "whatever" aspect of some relational aesthetics shit. You’re gonna hate me for saying it, but it's almost as though you are trying to force meaning into meaninglessness—how else would you describe someone who calls themselves an “oracle?”

    KM: I agree. That desire to force meanings comes from my background in theatre, where you might have a group of people trying to figure out these impossible conversions, such as how to turn the pain of the mother into a soundscape, or how to create lighting design that has something to do with current governmental policies or whatever. Anyway, I accept that the stuff I do is mostly madness and meaningless and then I make a big point out of it. I mean either we dig craftsmanship and the certainty it brings or not. And I absolutely don't.

    JD: How do you select your collaborators or (as a curator) your artist/projects?

    KM: Well, there has to be trust, and it should feel exciting. For example, this collaboration with you (if you can call it that) began in Venice 2013, with a chance introduction: I proclaimed on Twitter that I’d be doing card readings, and you wanted one. We dodged our pre-set dates but ended up doing readings for each other in this desolate part of the island one hour before I had to leave for my flight. It was a clash of two seers. I think I decided I want to work with you when you refused to hug me when we parted ways, saying “we're colleagues not friends”. I’m trying to establish this new profession of dramaturge slash curator, and look at everything as an event or performance, striving for a dialogue or a polylogue between people with wildly different aims while keeping an eye on the structure of the events taking place. I guess what I'm doing is I'm performing art, really.

    JD: Performing art? Like performance art? Or like, performing the act of making art?

    The latter. All show, but the kind that makes you cry.

     


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    Ben Aqua, NEVER LOG OFF, 2013 (Limited edition t-shirt designed for #FEELINGS)

    We are no longer mostly dealing with information that is transmitted form a source to a receiver, but increasingly also with informational dynamics—that is with the relation between noise and signal, including fluctuations and microvariations, entropic emergences and negentropic emergences, positive feedback and chaotic processes. If there is an informational quality to contemporary culture, then it might be not so much because we exchange more information than before, or even because we buy, sell or copy informational commodities, but because cultural processes are taking on the attributes of information—they are increasingly grasped and conceived in terms of their informational dynamics.

    - Tiziana Terranova, Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age

    Post internet[1], post media [2], post media aesthetics[3], radicant art[4], dispersion[5], formatting[6], meme art[7], circulationism[8]—all recent terms to describe networked art that does not use the internet as its sole platform, but instead as a crucial nexus around which to research, transmit, assemble, and present data, online and offline. I think all of the writers advancing these terms share a sense that since the rise of mainstream internet culture and social media, art is more fluid, elastic, and dispersed. As Lauren Cornell astutely points out in the recent  "Post Internet" roundtable for Frieze, terms are always placeholders for more complex ideas, and when successful, can instigate further, deeper conversation. Towards that end, I'd like to introduce another word to the list—expanded. Drawing from the definition of expansion as "the action or process of spreading out or unfolding; the state of being spread out or unfolded," I consider "expansion" not as an outward movement from a fixed entity, but rather, in light of data's dispersed nature, a continual becoming.[9] Expanded internet art is not viewed as hermetic, but instead as a continuously multiple element that exists within a distributed, networked system. In order to elaborate this term, and to take small steps towards thinking through the changing conditions for art production in the early 21st century, I will use Tiziana Terranova's notion of an "informational milieu" to describe the dynamic process of exchange among artist, artwork, and network.

     

    Harm van den Dorpel, Assemblage ('About' press and reviews), 2012, and Artie Vierkant, Image Object Monday 26 March 2012 10:45AM, 2012 (Installation shot, manipulated by artist Artie Vierkant

    In a group exhibition I co-curated with Tim Steer titled MOTION for London's Seventeen Gallery in Spring 2012, we attempted to present and describe artworks that displayed this sort of quality, stating in the accompanying curatorial text:

    The object that exists in motion spans different points, relations and existences…it reproduces, travels and accelerates, constantly negotiating the different supports that enable its movement. As it occupies these different spaces and forms it is always reconstituting itself. It doesn't have an autonomous singular existence; it is only ever activated within the network of nodes and channels of transportation…Both a distributed process and an independent occurrence, it is like an expanded object ceaselessly circulating, assembling, and dispersing.[10]

    Much like the exhibition's title itself, a sculpture exhibited in the show by artist Harm van den Dorpel from the series Assemblages exemplifies the fluidity and movement of these network-dependent works. Made of Perspex plastic bands tied together in circular forms and suspended in the air by small chains, the Assemblages sculptures resemble tumbleweeds floating in space, a gesture that dramatizes the vast circulation of digital information. The images printed on the bands derive from van den Dorpel's website, which he calls Dissociations. A programmer by training,the artist designed a predictive algorithm to organize the images on the site. Working intuitively, van den Dorpel manually selects groupings of images that the algorithm then learns and replicates.[11] The images themselves include sketches for unrealized artworks, installation shots of completed artworks, and found images. Rather than a standard artist's portfolio organized chronologically, Dissociations forges disparate, atemporal connections among the artist's works and research material, a portrait of van den Dorpel's creative process as well as an ongoing driver for his prints and sculptures. A product of this experiment, visually and conceptually van den Dorpel's Assemblages sculptures express the constant reconstitution and flow of expanded objects.

    The key issue in expanded art is not that internet art is on or offline, real or virtual, net or post, but that all art is increasingly embedded within what theorist Tiziana Terranova called an "informational milieu." The capture and transmission of digital information is now a defining characteristic of our environment, a fact that is apparent all around us, in everything from car design to ATM machines. By creating work that is intentionally diffuse and distributed, artists are not just internalizing these conditions, but thematizing them. Expanded internet art is but one demonstration of the art of an informational milieu. But, this is just the beginning. I imagine as our realities, experiences, and stories are increasingly structured by informational dynamics at lighting speeds, art, like life, will morph and mutate accordingly, becoming ever stranger.

    In Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age, Terranova develops her term "informational milieu" through a reading of French philosopher Gilbert Simondon's concept of a "milieu." During the advent of cybernetics in the 1940s and 1950s, Simondon described how things emerge in relation to their environs as a type of becoming, one that explicitly presented itself in opposition to the hylomorphic and substantialist tendencies of dominant theories of information, such as the Shannon-Weaver's sender/receiver model of communication.[12] In contrast, Simondon posited that there is no content proper to any elements within a system, and form (as signal) is never abstracted from matter (as noise). For him, information is incessantly engaged in a continual process of exchange within a metastable milieu full of potential energy. Thus, communication always contains the terms of its metastable milieu and can't be abstracted from it. For Terranova, Simondon's ideas are compelling precisely because of his understanding that information is not the content of communication, but an unfolding process within its material constitution. Informational processes exist in the environment in a way that is inherently "immersive, excessive, and dynamic" and that points towards an interpretation of information that is not reduced to mere signal and noise.[13] Terranova's "informational milieu" extrapolates from the processual dynamics within Simondon's model to characterize a moment in which nearly all aspects of human environments exist in ongoing exchange with digital communication, and it asks us to consider how the logic and demands of information's "massless flows" are integral to the reorganization of culture and representation.[14] But we should be reminded that these "massless flows" are not randomly decentralized, rather they are deliberately dispersed according to what Alexander Galloway once described as protocol. (And herein lies the political dimension of art practice today.)

     

    Kari Altmann, CORE SAMPLES (FLOOR MODELS, DEMOS), 2011 from the series CORE SAMPLES I (2011-Ongoing)

    Simondon's push to view form and matter as always already immersed in each other's constitution—rather than as distinct entities—is significant not only for an understanding of information but also for matter. Critic Josephine Bosma picks up on this in her book Nettitudes: Let's Talk Net Art, where she refers to Simondon and thinkers inspired by him, such as Brian Massumi and Gilles Deleuze, to elaborate a non-reductive approach towards matter in an effort to reconsider the role of medium—in other words, material that is employed in an artistic process. Rather than viewing matter, medium, and body as static objects, Bosma reorients the conversation toward an understanding that matter (and, by extension, medium) are constantly in a state of movement and change.[15] Central to her argument is Brian Massumi's definition of matter in Parables for the Virtual as a "form-taking activity immanent to the event of taking form."[16] Matter is not inert, but a potential. Thus, when artists activate all the components that go into an artwork, they participate in what Simondon's termed "resonance" where all elements—matter, technology, body—momentarily sync up with each other. I think of Kari Altmann's practice, where her website acts as an ever expanding database which establishes an equivalency between produced and potential projects, in which all are presented under the header of "content," in many ways mirroring how computers read everything across the board as data. Identifying herself as a "cloud-based artist," Altmann views exhibitions as "another software, another medium that you have to export to."[17] For example, in her series Core Samples I (2011-Ongoing), Altmann acted as a "mutated search algorithm" to aggregate the same orb design across images found online in order to recognize reoccurrences of certain motifs, especially in advertising and stock photography. Core Samples I (2011-Ongoing) has been instantiated as a sculptural "floor model," as videos, and as a blog post for DIS. Altmann's work is very much about the labor of aggregating content, where she constantly compiles and organizes images not only for Core Samples but also across multiple sites like R-U-In?s and Garden Club. By inserting herself into the stream and codifying it according to her own logic, she develops a vision that twists the rapid systemization of information. For Bosma, it is this attuned, intuitive relation to technology that makes artists like Altmann and others so valuable, stating, "…a close 'resonating' with the medium and with technology is a powerful state of being, an awareness of which enables us to also develop responsible or meaningful strategies for an engagement with matter, technology, and the world."[18] Both Bosma and Terranova allow us to think of the artwork as being both within and of informational logic in symbiosis, rather than something that is medium specific or medium determined.

     

    Brenna Murphy, Lattice~Face Parameter Chant, 2013 (Installation shot)

    By being keenly attentive to the dispersion and parcelization of their artworks over a network—allowing them to unfold, surf, drift—contemporary artists are intuitively articulating strategies in ways that resonate with the peculiar way data collection and management are integral to the structure of our contemporary world. For instance, Brenna Murphy envisions her practice—which fluidly encompasses video games, websites, installations, sculptures, prints and performances—as one constant flow, rather than a number of discrete projects. Interested in the way consciousness and the brain respond to digital technology, Murphy operates in tandem with her digital tools in a meditative process to produce repetitive, mind-bending mandala-like structures that play on the viewer's concentration and awareness. Murphy presents these works in contexts both online and off, using digital files as the basis for a 3D print or a video, an installation or a jpeg. Her practice embraces spread, circulation, expansion—artistic production that cleverly and self-consciously takes advantage of its means of transmission and its own existence as data-to virally inhabit any space, every space. Of course, internet art from its inception was expanded to an extent because the structure of the internet itself required it to be in constant circulation, and mutable in form. However, the difference between the 1990s and today is that the internet is much more mobile, more ubiquitous, more mainstream than it has ever been. And it's not just the internet that has changed, we've also witnessed the rise of Big Data as well as an increase in our heavy reliance on software to do everything from navigating our airplanes, stocking our shelves, and delivering our packages. The term "informational milieu" encompasses all of the above.

    One of Terranova's key arguments is that an informational milieu radically usurps the production of meaning itself.[19] In her view, traditional perspectival representation assumes a "homogenous space where different subjects can recognize each other when they are different and hence also when they are identical;" the informational milieu puts forth instead an interpretative experience that is "inherently immersive, excessive and dynamic."[20] In light of this, Terranova sees a need for modes of understanding outside of the representational which take into account the "field of displacements, mutations and movement" of informational space. Terranova's point bears on the critical potential of all forms of creative expression under an informational milieu—art, literature, etc. Echoing Michael Connor's recent article "What's Postinternet Got to do with Net Art?", here at Rhizome, it also requires that critics and writers rethink how we read and interpret art. No doubt, we are witnessing widespread epistemological and ontological change in the rise of a deeply informational culture. Art can and does open up concrete possibilities within that space, pushing us forward.

     

    [1] Régine Debatty “Interview with Marisa Olson” We Make Money Not Art (March 28, 2008), http://www.we-make-money-not-art.com/archives/2008/03/how-does-one-become-marisa.php

    Gene McHugh, Post Internet, LINK Editions, Brescia 2011. http://www.linkartcenter.eu/public/editions/Gene_McHugh_Post_Internet_Link_Editions_2011.pdf

    [3]Lev Manovich, "Post-Media Aesthetics" sd (2000-)http://www.manovich.net/DOCS/post_media_aesthetics1.doc

    [4]Nicolas Bourriaud, The Radicant (New York: Sternberg Press, 2009)

    [5]Seth Price, Dispersion, 2009, www.distributedhistory.com/Dispersion2008.pdf‎

    [6]David Joselit, "What to Do with Pictures" October Fall 2011 No 138, pages 81- 94 http://prod-images.exhibit-e.com/www_petzel_com/Joselit_Price.pdf

    [7]Michael Sanchez, "2011: Art and Transmission" Artforum (Summer 2013), 295- 301

    [8]Hito Steyerl "Too Much World: Is the Internet Dead?" e-flux journal November 2013, No. 49 http://www.e-flux.com/journal/too-much-world-is-the-internet-dead/

    [9]Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. “expansion” “expand”

    [10]Ceci Moss and Tim Steer, MOTION (London, United Kingdon: Seventeen Gallery) http://www.seventeengallery.com/exhibitions/motion-ceci-moss-tim-steer/

    [11]"I was looking for other ways to reflect an artistic practice online, to replicate a thought process, instead of reducing to the common fixed list of 'selected works' of portfolio sites. For me the art happens between the pieces, less in them, so it was evidence I wanted to develop some new system that would structure this. There are no underlying tags or taxonomies, but it’s 'learning' by 'training.' I get to click choices like 'this thing relates to this, and that one to that,' without 'tags' or other proxies that would force me to interpret with words what things are 'about.' From all these thousands of manual associations it generates these pages, of which some make more sense than others. Sometimes it comes up with surprising combinations; those are small eureka moments for me." Harry Burke "Interview with Harm van den Dorpel," cmdplus (February, 2013) http://www.cmdplus.info/interview/harmvandendorpel.html

    [12]See Gilbert Simondon, "The Genesis of the Individual" in Zone 6: Incorporations (New York: Zone Books, 1992). Note, Simondon does name the Shannon-Weaver model explicitly but rather refers to a "technological theory of information." Simondon’s notion of "becoming" was enormously influential for Gilles Deleuze, see Gilles Deleuze "On Gilbert Simondon" in Desert Islands and Other Texts (New York: Semiotext(e), 2004), 86-88 and Difference and Repetition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995).

    [13]Tiziana Terranova, Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age (New York: Pluto Press, 2004), 7.

    [14]"…information is not simply the content of a message, or the main form assumed by the commodity in late capitalist economies, but also another name for the increasing visibility and importance of such 'massless flows' as they become the environment within which contemporary culture unfolds. In this sense, we can refer to informational cultures as involving the explicit constitution of an informational milieu – a milieu composed of dynamic and shifting relations between such 'massless flows.'" Ibid., 8.

    [15]Josephine Bosma, Nettitudes: Let’s Talk Net Art (Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2011), 54.

    [16]Ibid.

    [17]Lexie Mountain "Interview with Kari Altmann," Motherboard (April 18, 2013) http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/ripe-for-capture-artist-kari-altmann-is-a-prophet

    [18] Josephine Bosma, Nettitudes: Let's Talk Net Art (Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2011), 55.

    [19] "Information is no longer simply the first level of signification, but the milieu which supports and encloses the production of meaning. There is no meaning, not so much without information but outside of an informational milieu that exceeds and undermines the domain of meaning from all sides." Tiziana Terranova, Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age (New York: Pluto Press, 2004), 9.

    [20] Ibid., 37


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    The latest in an ongoing series of themed collections of creative projects assembled by Prosthetic Knowledge. This edition brings together projects that make use of the Oculus Rift, a device that has reignited interest in Virtual Reality and provided creative inspiration for hackers and artists alike.

     Kim Laughton, Timefly.

    Every year, there is usually at least one piece of technology that stands out, that captures the attention of engineers and creatives, that inspires new ideas and makes new experiences possible. At various times in the past, you could have said this in relation to (for example) the Kinect, Arduino, 3D printing, the Processing programming language, or projection mapping software. This year, one piece of tech stood out, one which reinvigorated an idea from the 1980s and 1990s, making it exciting and within the reach of anyone with a computer or console: the Oculus Rift.

    Released this year, the current model is intended for developers; the consumer-level version is planned to be available late 2014. It isn't the only device in the fields of virtual and augmented reality (others include the Sensics Smart GogglesCast AR, the Avegant Glyph, and of course Google Glass), but none of these have got into the hands of many creative developers. While the Rift is primarily being developed for video game experiences, it is interesting to note that many creative projects also utilize other gaming tech as well. For example, there is a programming plug-in for the Unity engine to help convert a 3D application developed on the platform to be easily Rift compatible, as well as experiments with attaching a Kinect sensor to the device.

    In this submission, I will present a sampling of interesting Rift-related projects from both artists and engineers.
     
    Entropy Wrangler
     
     
    Artist Ian Cheng debuted the Oculus Rift version of his Entropy Wrangler piece at the Freize Art Fair in London this year. It is a chaotic virtual space in which the viewpoint of the participant can alter the dynamics of weightless 3D forms, generating their own narrative from the experience. Below is a screen capture of the piece and a Vine taken by Marina Galperina:


     
    Ian Cheng discussed his thoughts on the future of storytelling in a recent roundtable in Frieze:
    But now it's 2013, and there's the feeling that the straight story can no longer normalize the complex, unpredictable forces of reality that intrude with greater and greater frequency, let alone the incessant stream of big data reporting on these complexities. What is the intuitive story of climate change? Shifts in the market? Mutations in your brain? Your browsing history?

    Specialists turn to non-intuitive technologies like quantitative analysis, simulation modelling and probability in order to trace narratives that account for the present and make predictive narrations of the near future. But for the rest of us, this kind of non-human storytelling is counterintuitive to our intuitive UX. We receive it, but we don't feel it, so we can't embody it. Anxiety takes hold when embodied narration fails.

    The evolution of the narrative form necessitates mutating our intuitive ux for storytelling with a coefficient of persistent anxiety. Anxiety is a condition that cannot be eradicated, but can be managed. Is it possible to shift from a culture that wallows in anxiety towards the creation of narrative tools that contain and manage a bug of anxiety within them?
    See more of Ian Cheng's work on his website.
     
    PaperDude VR and CityTrip

     

     

     

     

    Two projects separated by four months, both of which utilize the common bicycle. The first, PaperDude VR by Globacore, is an homage to the well known 8bit video game Paperboy, using a Kinect to pick up gestures for gameplay:
     

    From the project page:

    PaperDude VR is built in Unity with 3D assets created in 3D studio and textured in Photoshop. The KickR sensor detects the speed of the bike and has the ability to provide programatically controlled resistance. The KickR communicates speed and cadence through bluetooth to a nearby iPad which updates our app over OSC.

    The Oculus Rift VR headset lets you look around your scene in a full 360 degrees and allows you to focus your newspaper aim. The Kinect controller tracks the positions of your hands and arms, and detects the paper-throwing gesture.

    The second, CityTrip by FRONT404, uses the bike for the participant to travel through a virtual alien landscape:

    From the project website:

    With Citytrip you can explore a fantastical, alien city by riding a bike. By pedalling and steering you navigate through the virtual reality as if you are really there. Fly through the air by pedalling like a mad-man and hitting the ramps, or use the bicycle bell to jump from building to building. Explore the city on the ground or navigate the twisting aerial pathways and cycle along the top floors of skyscrapers. You set your own goals and create your own challenges, and fun!

    The idea for this project came to us when we were playing with some of the projects other people had already made for the Oculus Rift. While the virtual reality of the Oculus Rift is very immersive, we noticed that moving around using a mouse and keyboard breaks down that immersion pretty quickly. The interaction and movement in the game world just doesn’t feel real, because you know you're not moving. We wanted to create a project in which this disconnect between your movement and the virtual reality wasn't an issue. After brainstorming for a bit we decided on using a bicycle as the way to interact with the world. A bicycle removes a lot of the disconnect of using a keyboard because it is a familiar way of moving for most people, making the interaction with the virtual world feel much more natural.

     Stay with Hatsune Miku in AR environment

    A Japanese hacker has developed this system attaching a Kinect sensor to the Oculus Rift to give a virtual character (in this case, virtual pop idol Hatsune Miku) a more realistic presence in the real world, in terms of "interaction" with and representation of the character. For example, it allows her to appear behind real objects, as seen in the last gif above.

    Related: A virtual girlfriend sleeping partner.

    TIMEFLY

    TIMEFLY is an ongoing project by artist Kim Laughton that combines net art and fashion. The project employs a poncho-like garment for which other artists can compose designs, which Laughton composes into 3D images and physically constructs as well. Laughton created an interactive net art rails piece using Unity called Trip (which you can try for yourself here), but also managed to make it Rift-compatible (which you can download here). 

    For your enjoyment, though, here is a review of the piece from 7-year old Khalin:

     

    The Entertainment


    The Entertainment is a play by Lem Doolittle that was written without any stage direction in order to invite open dramatic interpretation. Independent game developers Cardboard Computer have constructed a first-person version of the play, which can also be experienced through the Oculus Rift.

    You can download the Oculus Rift version (as well as the normal single viewpoint version) at the project's webpage here.

     

    Other Links:

    Oculus Streetview Viewer: An online app that allows you to view any panoramic Streetview images, very much like the old-fashioned stereo viewers.

    Riftenabled: A depository of Oculus Rift demos and projects available for all, including this Virtual Art Gallery app.

    Guillotine Emulator: Developed as part of the Exile Game Jam, participants don the Rift and place themselves in a virtual guillotine and... you can imagine the rest.

    HOASCA VR Psychedelic Simulator.

    Grand Theft Auto IV VR: Demo of game played with Oculus Rift, a WiiMote, and the Cyberith Virtualizer.


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    Yuri Pattison's RELiable COMmunication,2013

    Through the prism of the 1991 attempted coup d'état in Russia to bring down Mikhail Gorbachev's government and restore hard-line Communist Party rule, Yuri Pattison's newest work, RELiable COMmunication, repositions 2013's defining story: Edward Snowden's revelations about the U.S. National Security Agency's global surveillance operations.

    When one scrolls through the project, the site slips between real-time chat logs addressing the '91 plot, purportedly culled from the eponymous RELCOM (a Russian networking apparatus that predates the modern internet), IRC communiqués from that same year relating to the first Gulf War, and Jabber chats between hacker Adrian Lamo and one "bradass87," AKA Chelsea Manning, Snowden's forerunner in whistleblowing. (The piece will evolve, with new content and texts, over the course of its run.) RELiable COMmunication could be considered a historiographic effort; its non-linear narrative merges past, present, and future into one textured mass, a transhistorical portrait of the leaker and his or her event. Accompanying you through the archival layers are small, rotating 3D models of the Chelyabinsk Oblast meteorite—another event that restructured our sense of history, but in this case via an object that exists outside any human's timespan. (The meteorite also appears in another form scattered through Pattison's Instagram account.)

    Adding a further tantalizing layer to the wide-ranging cultural references marshalled in the project, the press release for RELiable COMmunication begins with an explanation of the Inuktitut word for the internet, ikiaqqivik, which translates into English as "traveling through layers." The text links to a 2006 journal article that not only gives great insight into the research behind RELiable COMmunication—it also will appeal to anyone with an interest in articulating time, narrative, and history in digital culture.

    Yuri Pattison's RELiable COMmunication, a new work commissioned by London-based Legion TV, is online until the end of May 2014.


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  • 12/30/13--09:00: Best of Rhizome 2013
  • As 2013 draws to a close, we've gone through the archives and assembled this selection of articles as a way of reflecting on the year in art and technology. Enjoy!

    Histories of Technology

    Jacob Gaboury delved into the affective, sexual dimension of computational archives in A Queer History of Computing [Part 1234, and 5]:

    Thus, this is not a reinterpretation of history, or a queering of computation. Rather it is an insistence on the queer as it exists and has always existed within them.  

    Also:

    Post-Net Aesthetics

    In October, Karen Archey trenchantly facilitated a panel in London that brought renewed focus to the term "postinternet" as a descriptor of recent artistic practices.

    Later, Ceci Moss drew from the ideas of Terranova and Simondon to clarify the relationship between artistic practice and its technological context:

    The key issue in expanded art is not that internet art is on or offline, real or virtual, net or post, but that all art is increasingly embedded within what theorist Tiziana Terranova called an "informational milieu." 

    Also:

    Branding and Labor

    Huw Lemmey argued that the corporate language of trend forecasting was a suitable creative form for post-internet artists:

    This is perhaps the key to understanding the reasons why trend forecasting has taken off within the post-internet demographic. The trend forecast represents a displaced subject: rather than being predictive or even speculative visions of what is to come, they actually function as models to conceptualise and contextualise the effects a technological explosion is having upon our everyday lives. 

    The strategic graphic design agency Metahaven offered up this polemic in an interview with Giampaolo Bianconi:

    A brand is a socially and economically sustained form of prejudice.  

    In her review of Jonathan Crary's 24/7, Megan Heuer suggested that the book could have benefited from a consideration of other forms of affective labor, not only sleep:

    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?

    Also:

    Glitch Aesthetics

    In a conversation with Daniel Rourke, Hito Steyerl emphasized the material existence of digital images:

    Whoever is an image is an object. Whoever is not an image raise their hand. Images have permeated our environments since long time ago. They crossed screens and incarnated: as junkspace, and all sorts of 3D spam. They materialised in form of our own bodies. Images do not represent reality, they create reality, they are second nature. Things among other things, image-objects, image-events, image-situations, images-bodies.

    Also:

    Performance

    Jesse Darling asserted the continuing significance of the body and its labors in a high-tech world in her curator's introduction to a series of Performance GIFs series—short actions by artists, presented via the GIF format:

    I wanted to stop talking about "the work" as though it exists somehow separated from our labor and from our bodies. I wanted to put the body back into the frame, since this is what we learned from OWS and Tahrir: that bodies still signify, no matter how posthuman we might imagine ourselves to be.

    Also:

    Criticism

    Orit Gat explored art criticism in the 'Age of Yelp' (by way of the online writing of critic Brian Droitcour) and saw reason for optimism:

    What Yelp offers, then, is a way out of this impasse—a possibility of not just being obligated to professional colleagues, but a sense of belonging to a public. 

    Gene McHugh wrote a fictional account of artist Nate Hill's daily performance work:

    "For spare change, I can't sing, I can't dance, but what I can do is share some art ideas I had with you today." The screech of the wheels finished his sentence with a flourish. In a mumbled rush, he announced, "Rodeo clowns, one per block, overlooking violent neighborhoods, breaking up fights with their traditional tactics. And, ah, catch a fish in the East River and run it to the Hudson before it dies." 

    Brian Droitcour weighed in on behalf of Michael Manning's Microsoft Store Paintings:

    The image of the internet and the corporate consolidation of its parts that appears in Manning’s paintings, then, is not a neat array of self-contained silos, humming away busily as users operate inside their confines, but rather a messy mass of overlapping and colliding edifices, with the artful user at play in the openings between them.

    Brendan Byrne delved into Endzone, a LiveJournal kept by the SF author Thomas M. Disch for two years before his death:

    The tomsdisch of Endzone, the miniature icon with its blank humanoid face, is no more Thomas M. Disch than the authorial voice of The Waves is Virginia Woolf. We would do well to remember this when viewing the memorial Facebook pages of our loved ones or imaging the analyzation, by humans or bots, of our Twitter timelines after our own deaths. 

    Also:

    First Person (Artists writing about their own work):

    Martine Syms outlined a set of literary rules for "Mundane Afrofuturists":

    The understanding that our "twoness" is inherently contemporary, even futuristic. DuBois asks how it feels to be a problem. Ol’ Dirty Bastard says "If I got a problem, a problem's got a problem 'til it’s gone."

    Also:

    Other Features & Interviews

    Online Exhibition

    Artist Profiles

    From Jeff Baij's Artist Profile by Brian Droitcour:

    i get super wasted with a lot of like "cool" and "up and coming" artists on the regs and being the net guy/ coolest person in the room is like, pretty exhausting u know?

    i just wanna use this space to say plz dont remove any of the swearing from the interview, ive waited a very very long time for this

    Also:

    Prosthetic Knowledge Picks

    An ongoing series of themed collections of creative projects assembled by Prosthetic Knowledge


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    A still from an online clip of Wong Kar-Wai's Days of Being Wild (1991) incorporated into Masha Tupitsyn's Love Dog (2013), a transmedia publishing project

    Rebekah Weikel founded Penny-Ante Editions, a Los Angeles-based publisher of literary works by artists, writers, and musicians. This post is part of Wavelength, a series of guest curated sound art and music mixes. 

    Masha Tupitsyn's Love Dog, which we commissioned at Penny-Ante Editions, was originally published as a series of posts on Tumblr from November 2011 to December 2012. In its online form, Love Dog married diaristic and critical writing while incorporating wide-ranging samples (music, recorded interviews, photographs, films, and texts) as expressions of authorial intent. The project explores "love" and (the) "loss" (of): grief as it unfolds, narrated diaristically.

    As Masha told make/shift in 2013:

    I met someone, it rattled me to the core, and I felt called upon to write about it in some roundabout, uncategorizable way that would still examine all the other social, political, and philosophical issues that I have always been concerned with. Tumblr allowed me to write the kind of interactive, associative, experimental, and discursive criticism that I have always wanted to write and that directly responds to the digital structure that now informs and organizes our lives.

    Though written linearly, the result veers backward and forward through time, realizing its present and future through careful association, memory, and nostalgia.

    In 2013, Love Dogwas published as a book. Our aim for a print adaptation of the work was to experiment with digital time and form(s); to see if a printed object could encapsulate and extend the immersive qualities of a multi-sensory, multi-media online work. We did this in part by releasing the book in conjunction with other accompaniments, including playlists.

    This audio piece was mixed in September 2013 between a Fostex Multitracker X-12 four-track and Wavepad. The music, dialogue, and film used in it have a direct relationship to the ideas and themes of the book. Seventeen of the tracks featured are taken directly from the book's playlist and are noted with an asterisk. Below, I've included a few liner notes: reflections, citations, and links.

     

    INTRODUCTION

    References:
    -Masha Tupitsyn: "What is coming sounds like this." (Love Dog, p146)
    -Masha Tupitsyn: "In real life, people can see something happen between two people and say, 'It's nothing.' In a movie that 'nothing becomes an entire movie." (p152)

    Tracks:
    0:00 Masha Tupitsyn reads "Love Dog" from Love Dog (Nov 22, 2013)
    2:04 Peter Downsbrough "Taken Down" (1979)
    3:06 Director John Cassavetes on filmmaking*
    4:48 The Chromatics "Tick of The Clock" (2007)*
    5:05 Tangerine Dream "Love on a Real Train" (Music from the motion picture Risky Business, 1983)*
    5:42 Masha Tupitsyn reads "Saudade" from Love Dog

    SOUL, START TO FINISH

    References:
    -Masha Tupitsyn: "I met someone, it rattled me to the core." (make/shift)
    -The Music of Chance: "We had everything in harmony... everything was turning into music for us and you go upstairs and smash all the instruments." (p220)

    Tracks:
    7:13 Excerpts from Pretty in Pink (1986), director: Howard Deutch*
    7:26 The Persians "Gee, What A Girl" (1968)
    9:37 The Chiffons "He's So Fine" (1963)*
    10:32 Excerpt from Stardust Memories (1980), director: Woody Allen*
    11:32 Bobby Peterson "Irresistible You" (1960)
    14:14 Excerpt from Sleepless in Seattle (1993), director: Nora Ephron*
    14:47 Jean Wells "Have a Little Mercy" (1968)
    17:17 George Jackson "How Can I Get Next To You" (1974)
    20:36 Eddy Gilles "Losin' Boy" (1966)
    23:36 Mixed excerpt from JAWS (1975), director: Steven Spielberg
    24:46 John Williams "End Theme" (Music from the motion picture JAWS, 1975)*
    24:46 Masha Tupitsyn reads "End Theme" from Love Dog

    START: LOSS/START: TIME

    References:
    -Culture Club: "Time won’t give me time." (p79)
    -Masha Tupitsyn: "The Hanged Man is about suspension. Time is suspended, left hanging. When you are in The Hanged Man space, you stay still rather than move – act. You do nothing." (p50)

    Tracks:
    27:09 Kate Bush "Oh to Be in Love" (1978)*
    30:20 Polyrock "Romantic Me" (1980)
    33:25 The Clash "Long Time Jerk" (1982)*
    36:15 Bill Nelson "Eros Arriving" (1982)
    39:47 The Times "Blue Fire" (1984)

     

    IN SILENCE

    References:
    -This clip from Godard's Scénario du film Passion is not in the book. Masha sent me this in an email (and followed with an entry on Tumblr) sometime after the book was completed. We were emailing, discussing our mothers. I lost mine in 2010. Masha emailed, "When you write about your mom and losing her, it makes my heart ache. I can't imagine." For once, I couldn't agree. Masha could imagine, which is what made her heart ache. Godard: "You can invent the sea for your white beach. Like a mother, she waits. You are her child. You can return to her arms. You can tell her everything."
    -In Part II of Love Dog, we hear from Masha while in Greece. She had posted a photo of a blue blow-up raft floating in the ocean that belonged to her. Though this image didn’t make its way into the book, it’s one that's sat with me. There was something serene about it, but also sad. Lonely. "Speak To Me" is a track with a certain fluidity to it, a backward and forward sway. A floating, felt.
    -Masha Tupitsyn: "My ears have been hearing things, things which aren’t even words, or messages, while my eyes, along with everyone else's, are forever telling me that nothing is there. That nothing is happening. It is the difference between inward and outward. Between me and everyone else." (p66)

    Tracks:
    42:57 Music from the motion picture La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928), director: Carl Theodor Dreyer*
    43:55 Masha Tupitsyn reads "Mourning After" from Love Dog
    45:26 Moose "Speak To Me" (1991)
    48:04 Mickeranno "D.D." (1985)
    50:46 Self-recording
    51:06 Excerpt from Scénario du film Passion (1982), director: Jean-Luc Godard
    52:33 Laurie Anderson "O Superman" (1981)*
    1:01 Excerpt from Faces (1968), director: John Cassavetes*

    WAKE-UP!

    References:
    -Sink or swim
    -The Smiths: "What a terrible mess I've made of my life." (p178)
    -James Baldwin: "If you don’t do your work, you really are useless." (p148)

    Tracks:
    1:01:21 Umberto "Night Fantasy" (2013)
    1:06:14 Makis Prekkas "That's the Way Out" (1985)

    AWAKE

    References:
    -Hit 'Restart'
    -Masha Tupitsyn: "Blue, water blue, is one way to get your energy back. To survive being alone." (p173)
    -Derek Jarman: "In the pandemonium of image, I present you with the universal Blue." (p178)
    -This section includes "Reunion" read by Masha, an essay which appears toward the beginning of the book. I chose to place it toward the end of this mix given its prophetic nature: "Work is destiny; destinal."
    -I think about the death of my parent(s) and if I would have been drawn to this project in the way I was if they were still alive.
    -The song "Crossing" echoes the period of five months it took to produce the book after Masha completed her last entry: Endless email threads, many late nights/early mornings. Love Dog was put to page collaboratively, obsessively, entirely through email exchanges.

    Tracks:
    1:09:42 From the film Blue (1993), director: Derek Jarman*
    1:14:55 Jean-Paul Sartre Experience "Transatlantic Love Song" (1986)
    1:18:06 Conrad Schnitzler "Ballet Static" (1978)
    1:18:20 Masha Tupitsyn reads "Reunion" from Love Dog
    1:20:47 Midori Takada "Crossing" (1983)

    IN THE END IS THE BEGINNING

    References:
    -Love Dog is wrapped, completed May 8, 2013
    -A book trailer is made on June 24, 2013
    -Roll credits. "Make Love" (cyclical).
    -Masha Tupitsyn: "'Make Love' has a mezzo beginning, which means it comes from the middle, from something that is already there." (p182)
    - Avital Ronell: "A call comes from within you and beyond you. A call is ontological and rooted in being. Your being is being called." (p260)

    Tracks:
    1:25:05 From the motion picture One From the Heart (Trailer, 1982), director: Francis Ford Coppola*
    1:27:50 Gullivers People "Splendour in the Grass" (from Dream Babes, Vol. 2: Reflections CD comp, 2011)
    1:30:06 Daft Punk "Make Love" (2005)*
    1:33:43 Excerpt from the documentary James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket (American Masters, 1989)*

     


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    1. The Email-Epistolary Novel

    In a 2010 broadside subtitled "Where are the iPhone Addicts and Facebook ‘Stalkers’ in Contemporary Fiction?" Joanne McNeil critiqued the email correspondence in Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story (2010) as having been "presented no differently than the epistolary passages in nineteenth-century literature." McNeil argued that the accurate portrayal of online communication today would resemble Burroughs and Gysin's cut-up technique.

    If McNeil’s desired stalkers and addicts are still rarities in contemporary literature, the last several years have been bizarrely good for the email-epistolary novel. Besides Super Sad True Love Story (2010), S.D. Chrotowska's Permission (2013), Lynn Coady's The Antagonist (2011), Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette (2012) and Kimberly McCreight's Reconstructing Amelia (2013) are all either primarily composed of emails or structurally rely on the form. The traditional epistolary novel is not as antiquated as memories of Richardson’s Pamela (1740) or Stoker’s Dracula (1897) might suggest. Contemporary authors are, after all, chief among the fetishizers of dead media, and snail-mail epistolary novels get churned out regularly. But the email-epistolary novel, arguably kicked off by Matt Beaumont's e in 2000, has now achieved conventionality as well.

    Perhaps, however, this isn’t so bizarre. Email offers fertile ground for the central elements (unreliable narrator, disjointed plot, use of multi-media etc.) of contemporary conventional literature. And then there is the fact that most people who write conventional lit are old; old, as in above thirty-five. And old people write emails. They might text and post on Facebook and Twitter-fight about the latest listicle, but they've been using email for decades. They’re comfortable with its possibilities, with the way they can control it.

    While McNeil is correct in identifying the larger trend, Shteyngart's very distressing (if imperfect) semi-dystopia does offer a perceptive take on digital communication in the disparity between the twenty-four year old protagonist Eunice Park's communication IRL and IFL (In Fake Life) with her younger sister. They are only ever physically present together in front of their father, where they are silent and deferential, communicating "in a dance of glances, like two divorced spouses who hadn't seen each other in years and were now sizing each other up." But when they are on chat, they cut at one another, plead for forgiveness, profess their love, beg each other "not to be Political," give each other the silent treatment, and shop together; it's a real, fundamentally wet and screaming relationship—but only online.

    The Antagonist and Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, however, are fully vulnerable to McNeil’s critique, reading like novels down to their grammar, punctuation, and syntax. The correspondent of The Antagonist is railing against a novelist-object-of-rage, so the form might be justified if he didn't confess to writing "sober or drunk." Very few drunk emails maintain their structure and tone this well. Where'd You Go, Bernadette? incorporates a barrage of emails from a variety of correspondents, a "Live-blog transcript" of a TEDTalk, chats, a PDF of an Artforum piece, etc. but when a mid-meeting IM exchange opens with "Everything OK? You seem distracted." rather than a hastily thumbed "u ok", it’s clear that Semple is uninterested in what separates new media from ink on paper.

    The jumble of emails, chat, texts, blog posts, and Facebook updates used to narrate the last month or so of a teen's life in Reconstructing Amelia present mysteries, but don't confound the reader in the sense that cut-up techniques do. Abbreviations and a lax attitude to capitalization stab in the direction of authenticity, but McCreight isn’t interested in how her forty-something narrator uses new media, but rather how she reacts to her daughter’s use of it. She shifts through a pile of her daughter’s printed out emails and texts, expresses befuddlement by the sheer volume of texts, and is horrified by pics of her daughter "vamping" in underwear on her blog. Maternal shock is understandable, but sentiments like, "What on earth would possess her to take half-naked pictures of herself, much less post them online? It was the kind of thing that - No, it was not the kind of the thing that anyone did." seem sheltered. The age gap here doesnt generate contrast, just something close to moral panic.

    McCreight does, however, display how people normally use email and new media. Chrostowska has no such interest, rather focusing on evoking a spectral presence behind a screen in all its self-satisfied narcissism. "I identify with the mask, or a series of masks, created for speaking to you," writes her solitary correspondent in Permission. The correspondent means to comment on her experience of writing the series of 27 anonymous emails to a filmmaker that comprise this text, but her remark also speaks more broadly to the effects of composing for an electronic medium—namely, the freedom it offers to experiment with one's identity. Contrast this with a quote from Clarice Lispector’s equally unconventional epistolary effort Água Viva (1973): "I write to you because I don't understand myself." Lispector’s correspondent accepts the static nature of selfhood, and uses correspondence as a means through which to attempt to understand herself; Chrostowska's accepts, and celebrates, the obfuscating nature of the screen and the fluid identity play it facilitates.

    Lynn Hershman Leeson, I Phone Crack 2 (2013). Archival digital print. Gallery Paule Anglim.

    Permission is not a novel, though I read it as one before the release of an interview in which Chrostowska explained her "experiment in giving" (in the words of her/her narrator) had been real, her aim not to expand the epistolary novel but "the art of letter-writing." Yet she comes closer than the novelists cited above to addressing a question posed by Žižek in his book In Defense of Lost Causes: "Is not, then, the internet, where we supposedly express on screen our deepest truths, really a site for the playing out of deceptive fantasies that protect us from the banal normality that is our truth?" Despite her perceptive take on the relationship between the self and the screen, it is indicative of how invested Chrostowska is in the tropes of old media that Permission's correspondent uses the phrase "taking up the pen" to describe her email-writing process.

     

    2. The New Media Novel

    In November, Emily Gould asked for examples of gchat layout in novels. Her query suggested that its usage remains uncommon, and perhaps some of the authors Gould’s followers suggested are drawn to the form by its current anarchic situation, as a genre that remains to be defined. None of these works are meant primarily as commentaries on new media, but their attention to the way we currently communicate reveals character and concern in a fundamentally different manner from the traditional novel, email-epistolary or not.

    The least soaked in new media, Ben Lerner's Leaving the Atocha Station (2011), contains a single long IM conversation (the novel is set in 2004, predating Google Talk by a year) in which two correspondents lose the thread, as well as occasionally the topic itself, desperately scramble for conversational purchase, finish each others' sentences, and impatiently interject while waiting real-time for their transcontinental partner to finish a thought. Emoticons are eschewed, capitalization is irregular, and the experience comes very close to replicating a real-world experience of new media, such as when one correspondent interrupts his own story to ask "You there?" It is also the only time the narrator, transplanted to Spain, has what he considers to be a substantial conversation. Lerner is concerned with fraudulence, and the bad faith one engages in when one accepts and insists on one’s own status as a fraud.

    Fraudulence is likewise a key theme in Jennifer Egan's A Visit From The Goon Squad (2010), a near-future section of which features brief bursts of social media that are unique in that they almost satisfy McNeil's urge for cut-up ("JD nEds 2 thnk"). The short narrative tells of an attempt to source "parrots," social media users paid to "create authentic word of mouth" for a concert. The parrot-seeker, Alex, finds himself able to engage in such chicanery because "he could never quite forget that every byte of information he’d posted online... was stored in the databases of multinationals." Mid-meeting, Alex's younger coworker, Lulu, requests that they T (communicate via handset) as "I just get tired of talking." When Alex agrees, Lulu "looked almost sleepy with relief." The switch in mediation leads to their first real personal exchange, Lulu telling him "Nvr met my dad. Dyd b4 I ws brn." Alex verbally expresses his condolences, "but his voice seemed too loud - a course intrusion." Realizing his mistake, Alex Ts "Sad." Taken together, these sections comprise a common conservative fear about new media: that it will destroy verbal and/or written culture, create an almost pathological lack of affect, demolish "authenticity" etc. Shteyngart deals with similar concerns, but, as Anne Trubek writes in her 2012 appreciation of Super Sad True Love Story "[h]e understands that easily derided obsessions with Facebook and Twitter...are what makes us human, not what spells our doom."

    Speaking of pathological lack of affect, Tao Lin's novella Shoplifting From American Apparel (2009) presents "Gmail chat" as one would normally a verbal conversation, using "said" and complete sentences with proper capitalization. Lin undercuts this representation by not using any punctuation besides periods and commas, and his characters don't type "lol", or perhaps they do and Lin just relates it as "I’m laughing." Like Lerner's characters, Lin's lose the thread of their conversation, but do so in an exaggerated, ridiculous fashion. It's all deeply irritating and meant to be so. After an argument, the protagonist leaves his semi-girlfriend's apartment and texts her "that he liked her, didn’t have anything bad to say about her or her life, and didn’t agree at all with anything he had said." Contra-Egan, Lin doesn't suggest his characters have abandoned or been seduced away from an authentic position, or that they are now only able to communicate via tech, but rather that their attempts to communicate through any medium fail simply because they have no interior life.

    Seecoy and Jon Rafman. Storyboard for Small Crowd Gathers to Watch Me Cry, written by Tao Lin. Forthcoming.

    It's perhaps not enough to refer to Lin's work as being about/displaying blunted affect, which suggests that there is at least emotion present which is incapable of being expressed. His alienation from human emotion is more complete than that; Christian Lorentzen's coinage "Asperger’s realism" seems to have stuck. Joining Lin in this sub-genre is Marie Calloway, whose what purpose did i serve in your life (2013) is not, technically, a novel, but a collection of stories whose fictive element is uncertain. It is often difficult to tell if Calloway is copying and pasting from her gmail account, composing fresh, rewriting, or some combination of the three. Like Chrostowska, Calloway is deeply uninterested in attempting to replicate "normal" email discourse, with missives containing such lines as "'I’m glad that you are glad that I exist.' I responded." or "Thanks for typing all of that, I feel less awkward." Yet what purpose did i serve in your life is perhaps singular among the pieces discussed in that it could not possibly exist without the internet, so deeply is new media ingrained its structure. Calloway's work is primarily composed of communication with men on the internet, whether they be johns or writers, her sexual encounters with them IRL, the writing and publishing of these events, and the aftermath. (One section is composed of vicious personal criticism of Calloway superimposed over pictures of her in camgirl-esque poses.) New media is both seamlessly integrated, as Calloway is continually texting or composing and reading emails, as well as jarred by abrupt transitions: iPhone and Facebook chat is replicated with supposed screenshots, her correspondents’ avatars and details redacted CIA black-marker style.

    Much like Permission, what purpose did i serve in your life is obsessed with anonymity—or, more precisely, pseudonymity. "Marie Calloway" is a nom de plume, and the titular male characters of her stories "Jeremy Lin" and "Adrien Brody" are thinly disguised writers; others go nameless. However, Calloway as a public figure is always central, such as when she details a brief ban from Facebook after posting pictures of bruises inflicted during rough sex. One could read Calloway as critic of the new mediated life, her prose resisting ethical examination and suggesting an inner life composed only of the desperate desire to be needed and medicated. Certainly Calloway feints toward this reading, though to discount her feminist brinkmanship would be to miss the point.

    Both Chrostowska and Calloway’s work gesture toward an mutation of the epistolary novel into something which is neither epistolary nor a novel, utilizing new forms to explore questions of identity and the possibilities of anonymity. What's new about them isn't their use of Gyson-esque modes of contemporary digital communication, but a more fundamental understanding of how identity is staged in the internet age. When the identity of a supposed teenage correspondent in Reconstructing Amelia is revealed, it is a mystery solved. Chrostowska and Calloway, however, hue more closely to Sacheverell Sitwell's quote, "In the end it is the mystery that lasts and not the explanation."

    The antiquated does not need to be destroyed and plowed under; its preeminence will no doubt erode as texting, chat, social media etc. become just as "safe" as snail-mail. As Wikipedia intones in the voice of a zen monastic, "[n]ew media deals with the issue of things being new," and soon we will be forced to write about ourselves in another way.

     

     

     


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