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The Rhizome Blog and Rhizome News

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    Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied, Once Upon, 2012

    Rhizome is a nimble organization that is passionate about the impact we can make in the field of digital preservationyet the work we do exists outside the funding structures of higher education or institutional research. We think organizations like ours play an important role in the ecosystem of the digital preservation community. If you believe this too, please support us.

    A message from Dragan Espenschied: 

    I was appointed Rhizome's new Digital Conservator in January, and though I've not even started yet, I've had a lot of encouraging feedback. People are enthusiastic about what this organization can do for the field of digital preservation.

    Memory institutions are facing technical and conceptual issues in keeping their born-digital artifacts alive, in the sense that they can gain an ability to narrate, and the cultural relevance that they deserve. It is simply not acceptable that a history is constructed almost solely on the basis of enumerable, easily computable, decontextualized data; on most used search terms, ad banner clicks, video view counters—while at the same time, things that could actually tell us something of value are regarded as "ephemeral" by nature.

    I strongly believe that designing the access to complex legacy digital artifacts and systems is the largest contemporary challenge in digital culture. Rhizome is one of the few places in the world that can conduct the research and execute the ideas that I believe can make a big impact. 

    Make a donation to support the sustenance and growth of Rhizome’s digital preservation work in this next phase. 

    -Dragan Espenschied 

     


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    "Joy To Ode" by Dominik Podsiadly

    The latest in an ongoing series of themed collections of creative projects assembled by Prosthetic Knowledge. This edition takes a look at creative projects and cultural implications that emerge from the meeting of computing culture and economics.

    It's interesting that the etymology of the word "economics" goes back to the Greek oikonomikos, meaning "practiced in the management of a household or family," "frugal" or "thrifty," especially considering the term's modern-day association with big capitalism. On a small or large scale, economics has always been concerned with the distribution of wealth and the management of resources, and its principles can therefore be applied in a range of other fields. For example: In the mid-70's, the subject entered into dialogue with the biology (such as Gary Becker's paper "Altruism, Egoism and Genetic Fitness: Economics and Sociobiology" and "Economics from a Biological Viewpoint" by Jack Hirshleifer), where resources such as fitness, energy, disease, or environment were studied in an economic framework.

    The 1970s also saw the arrival of the microprocessor, which made computers smaller, more powerful and available to more scientific spaces. The computer could be seen as an economic system in itself, and coding provides the means to manage the resources of the CPU—an environment structured by binary, itself a lexicon for economics of design.

    The following examples all relate to the financial aspect of economics, all experienced, though, through creative uses of computational technology.

    A Superstitious Fund

     

    Experimental financial project by Shing Tat Chung from 2012 which uses a machine to trade on the stock market based on superstitious ‘lucky numbers’ it generates:

    The Superstitious Fund Project is a live one year experiment where an uncanny algorithm or SUPERSTITIOUS AUTOMATED ROBOT will trade live on the stock market. The financial instruments it will be using will be spreadbetting on the FTSE 100.

    The superstitious trading algorithm will trade purely on the belief of NUMEROLOGY and in accordance to the MOON. It will for example have the fear of the number 13, as well as generating its own beliefs and new logic for trading.

    More here.

    Facecoin

    A peculiar experimental proof-of-concept demo put together by Rob Myers utilises facial recognition algorithms to generate a "proof-of-work" matrix code for cryptocurrency validation:

    Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin use a “proof of work” system to prevent abuse.

    Artworks are proofs of aesthetic work.

    Facecoin uses machine pareidolia as its proof of work. This is implemented by applying CCV’s JavaScript face detection algorithm to SHA-256 digests represented as greyscale pixel maps. An industrial-strength version would use OpenCV. Due to the limitations of face detection as implemented by these libraries, the digest pixel map is upscaled and blurred to produce images of the size and kind that they can find faces in.

    The difficulty can be varied by altering the size and blur of the pixmap. Or by only allowing particular detected face bounds rectangles to be used a set number of times.

    More here.

    Bitcoin Statcraft

    Minecraft mod by Jay Zehngebot which turns realtime data about Bitcoin into representational volumetric charts:

    Bitcoin Statcraft (BTCSC) is a dynamic minecraft environment generated using realtime bitcoin market information.

    All of these bitcoin block stacks are accurate piles based on (at the time the video was made) current information regarding the bitcoin market.

    Towards the end of the video you’ll see me programmatically build the stack of gold, based on the current price of gold in USD and the current bitcoin market cap, also in USD. A script does the calculation and figures out how large that gold pile would be, in real life (m^3), and builds the blocks to match.

    More here.

    Gold Farmers

    A documentary by Ge Jin from 2010 looks at the World of Warcraft gold mining industry, where players are employed to make as much in-game gold to sell for real-world cash. Whilst this controversial activity has been around for years (especially in Asia), the practice appears to be occuring today in more familiar online settings):

    Gold Farmers is a documentary that investigates the real money trade in the virtual world of online games(such as World of Warcraft), and portraits groups of Chinese young men who are making a living by playing online games. These young men are called gold farmers in the online games, and the in-game goods they produce are sold for real dollar to American gamers who need a short cut to success in the games. In this documentary, gold farmers describe how it feels to live at the border between the virtual and real, to mix play and work, and to interact with foreign gamers who they would never have the chance to meet if not for this globalized virtual world. We also hear conflicting views from various American gamers who are affected by this particular entanglement of the virtual and the real.

    More here

    ====Net Art Exhibitions====

    M0N3Y AS AN 3RRROR | MON3Y.US

    Online exhibition from M0US310n.net featuring Digital and Net Art on the subject of Money and Error, put together by virtual curator “Vasily Zaitsev”:

    M0N3Y AS AN 3RRROR | MON3Y.US proposes to establish connections , dialogues, and new insights into the contemporary art scene around the general topic of MONEY. Around 60 international artists with various aesthetic and conceptual approaches who work in fields such as Digital Art, Net.Art, New Media, Interactive Art , Multimedia, JavaScript, Glitch, Video, Online Performance, and Image.

    The theme of MONEY was chosen for its ubiquitous nature by an anonymous identity, a virtual online curator who used the name of a famous Russian sniper of World War II: Vasily Zaitsev, a man that could not be seen and acted afar.

    You can check out the online exhibition here.

    Computers and Capital: The Rise of Digital Currency

    A very recent online exhibition co-curated by Erik H Rzepka and Wesley Yuen for Coinfest 2014 in Vancouver, featuring works which examines cryptocurrencies and their emergence:

    Bitcoin presents a new paradigm: the shift in money regulation from the national bureaucracy of competing banks, to the international computational world of networks and algorithms. Coinfest is an opportunity to disseminate information about these new currencies and also to reflect on what the change will come to mean. Computers and Capital presents a series of artists whose medium shifts to the same new medium that digital currencies are moving towards: the computer. How does the computer work as a canvas, and how does this cultural canvas relate to a digital shift in our global financial system? As financial power shifts from the hands of the national economic hierarchy into the processing power of our chips and laptops, what will the societal implications be? Computers and Capital hopes to provide a forum to begin to consider these questions: to promote education and awareness of digital currency, and to think about what it will mean on a broader, social level.

    More here.

    Other Links


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    The following image-essay accompanies a performance given by Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal at This is the ENDD, a forum on the e-cigarette held on February 22. Video of Rosenthal's presentation can be found here, beginning at 2:23:00.

    The Bernays & Assoc. Strategy
    for Vuse E-Cigarette, Appendix #2

     

    Figure 1:

     

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    Figure 9:

    Treatment:
    "Namaste," the ad begins. We're in a yoga studio, close-up on the teacher in spandex, wearing a necklace with a pendant of the whole earth. She's young, she's radiant in that graceful way. Then, we're in the inside of her car, looking over her control center dashboard, GPS smoothly navigating her over the Golden Gate Bridge. Cut to: wide shot of her husband in a glass enclosed robotics lab, the skinny, genteel type, photo of the whole earth in the background. Cut to: the yoga instructor walking through a long, open plan office. Then, her husband spots her through the glass, beckons her inside. "Want to see something?" He asks. She nods. He presses a button, which initiates a countdown. 10, 9, 8, 7… He reaches into his pocket, she into her purse. They each puff on an e-cig… 4, 3, 2, 1. Black screen. Finally, a voice over: "Vuse E-Cigarettes and E-cig Organic." And our logo:




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    Jeremy Blake, Liquid Villa, 1999 Digital C-print 29 x 84 inches Edition of 3 + 1AP

    Rhizome Editor and Curator Michael Connor, in his prior capacity as an independent curator, co-organized Liquid Crystal Palaceopening on March 1. Because of its relevance to the Rhizome community, we felt it was worth publishing Michael's writing about the show. Rhizome.org will also present Blake's Liquid Villa as a front page exhibition on March 6 from 3pm to 5pm EST, courtesy Kinz Fine Art and Honor Fraser Gallery.

    Jeremy Blake's work seemed to be everywhere in the early 2000s. At the time, I was aware that he was successful in a commercial context, and that he didn't really see himself as a new media artist. (Blake always described himself as a painter.) Both of these things annoyed me about him, and remain annoying to some in the Rhizome community. It was therefore somewhat annoying that I liked the work. It seemed unsettling and druggy and dangerous, and it felt funny in my brain.

    Since Blake's tragic death, I've rarely seen the work anywhere, and it sometimes pops into my head. So last year, I decided to look at it again, or as much as I could get my hands on. I was living near LA, and I brought my 2-month old daughter to the highly accommodating Honor Fraser Gallery to go through a stack of DVDs. This time around, Blake suddenly seemed closely connected with a number of other artists working today. The connections that emerged in this new viewing began a thought process that culminated in the exhibition Liquid Crystal Villa, opening tomorrow at Honor Fraser and co-curated with Nate Hitchcock.

    The exhibition incorporates Blake's Liquid Villa (2001). Although Winchester remains my favorite of Blake's works, it was almost too successful in its own time. Now, I find it kind of hard to see it with fresh eyes. Somehow it seems more productive to return to the earlier work, which had a more serial, unassuming quality, and which nevertheless embodied many of Blake's concerns.

    Shortly after it was completed, Blake wrote this description of that work:

    Liquid Villa depicts dreamlike states using a combination of architectural and abstract imagery. I refer to this work as "time-based painting," and employ a painterly sensibility and process to create images that transform over time.

    Liquid Villa begins with a series of patterns in deep, aquatic tones overlaid with an intermittent glowing vertical stripe or ray. This imagery eventually disintegrates to a view across a pool of water in an imaginary villa. This structure is in turn subsumed by a pale fog. When the fog dissipates, the scene has been reconfigured back into an abstraction. The fog, the abstract imagery, and the architecture are protean, slowly mutating into one another or recombining to create a sense of instability and unease.

    As Blake describes, Liquid Villa shifts between lucid, crisp dream architecture and colorful, blurring abstraction, unsettling the viewer between pictorial depth and flatness. These shifts take place from moment to moment, but also within particular scenes. For example, the dark alcoves in his dreamlike villa feature glowing orange torches with jagged edges, suggesting (on a pictorial level) the amorphousness of flame, but (on a material level) the low-resolution artefacts of a too-large digital image. Such passages function in a way that is analogous to facture in painting: as traces that point back to the process by which the work was created. Thus, Blake's "painterly sensibility" incongruously leads him to call attention to his use of digital tools.

    Travess Smalley, Primordial Trance Puddle, 2011, HD looped video from GLORIAMARIA gallery on Vimeo.

    Abstraction and architecture, pixellated and painterly; Blake's work sets in motion a series of seemingly irreconcileable incongruities. Liquid Villa is amorphous and organic, it is also geometrically precise. It is composed of computer code generated with a suite of prosumer digital tools—off-the-shelf high-price software like Photoshop that media artists of the time were supposed to either hack or use self-referentially, not just use—but it is also psychically charged, haunted.

    Sara Ludy, Dream House (2014). Still frame from digital video. 

    The other artists in this exhibition, all younger than Blake, inhabit similarly incongruous positions, although they often are not presented as incongruities at all. For her new work Dream House, Sara Ludy translates the architecture seen in a recurring dream into a rendered 3D model. With sterile surfaces and mathematically perfect lines and shading, the model somehow conjures a sense of a genius loci, an oneiric intensity akin to Blake's own work. Ludy has a strong personal interest in the paranormal, and has said that working with digital tools is the most intuitive way to explore these subjective experiences and qualities of space.

    Jon Rafman and Chris Coy, Unexpressed Resentment: A Possible Beginning (2014).

    Chris Coy, who conducted an email exchange with Jeremy Blake as an undergraduate in 2006, makes work that draws on cultural sources including uninhabited architectural spaces from the children's cartoon The Real Ghostbusters and the color-coded emotional tone scale used in Scientology. For his videos and prints, Coy crops and re-works his raw materials to the point of near-abstraction, creating compositions that evoke a sense of dread despite their use of bright colors and high image fidelity. Jeff Baij also makes work that is rooted in appropriation, drawing on and manipulating images from a wide range of sources to make new still or moving image works almost daily. However, in contrast with the high-fidelity, slick imagery found in Coy's work, Baij's serial production revolves around simple digital effects and an aesthetic rooted in degradation. In his work The Mind's Eye and the Sequel to theMind's Eye (2013), he applies these tools to highly produced sci-fi video clips featuring bodies and technology in motion.

    Into Time, installation by Rafaël Rozendaal. Mirrors, computers, projectors. Museu Imagem e Sol, Sao Paulo, 2012

    In Rafaël Rozendaal's work, abstraction takes on a different valence than it does in Blake's:

    I have an affinity for "abstraction in service of reproduction." What I mean is that in order to make images that are easily copied/transmitted, artists have invented different ways of simplifying. Think of Egyptian reliefs, Japanese woodblock prints, early Mickey Mouse, early video games. In all these cases the medium forced artists to simplify.

    Thus, the abstractions in Rozendaal's work could be said to refer to a distinct tradition from that of painting, one rooted in the very technologies of image reproduction that have provoked repeated existential crises in the painting field over the years. While citing a disparate history, Rozendaal's work has certain traits in common with Blake's: in particular a use of both geometric abstraction and more organic fields of color and a push and pull between illusionistic depth and digital flatness.

    In Petra Cortright's works, the seemingly conflicting traditions of painting and digital art are confidently and simultaneously put in play. Cortright exhibits two prints in the exhibition: fuzzy love clams is a gestural abstraction created digitally and output to an aluminum substrate, a material that references the hard, reflective flatness of the screen, while mp3 +skins +download +winap +patra is a print on silk made from still frames from a consumer-grade webcam, layered and blended in Photoshop. In these works, the seemingly opposed categories of digital art and painting come across as opposite sides of the same coin.

    In 2004, Jeremy Blake told John Baldessari about an early source of inspiration for his move to screen-based media.

    In Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451, you see Julie Christie in her apartment at the mercy of a, well, basically a flat screen, with kaleidoscopic, hypnotic projections being piped in from an all-powerful regime that has burned books and provided instead a kind of insidious abstract entertainment. When I was a student I saw that and thought, What a great comment on abstraction. What a weird, uncanny, dystopic potential for abstraction. I wanted to make paintings like that.

    In Truffaut’s film, geometric abstraction and other modernist styles are held up as failures: reduced to mere ornamentation, and offered to the masses as a sense-tingling but mind-numbing panacea via the technology of the flatscreen. But the decorative, sensory, psychedelic weave of images that physically affect the sensorium of the body were never really outside of the project of modernism; they were merely its flip side. Haunted by the perceived failure of geometric abstraction, and fascinated by technologies that are often written off as mundane, flat, and lacking in affect, Blake found in digital abstraction and prosumer tools not dystopia, but a “dystopic potential.” It is perhaps this sense of dystopic potential that resonates so strongly in a contemporary context.


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    Nancy Holt, Boomerang (1974), still from video.

    In her time on this planet, Nancy Holt came to be known as a great American Land Artist, and certainly her brilliant installations, like Utah's Sun Tunnels and collaborations with her partner Robert Smithson and their peers, are profoundly significant, but it was her work in film & video that has had the greatest personal impact on me.

    I somehow didn't see Boomerang, her 1974 video performance usually credited to her collaborator Richard Serra, until I was a Ph.D. student in Linda Williams's Phenomenology of Film seminar at UC Berkeley's Rhetoric program, but the time delay was more than made up for by the work's formative resonance. In the video, made during Serra's residency at a Texas television station, a young Holt is seen sitting in an anchor's chair before a staid blue background. Despite brief station ID graphic overlays and one minute of silence in the midst of the ten-minute piece (announced as audio trouble and reminding viewers of the work's live TV origin), the work is in many ways sound-centric.

    Donning a pair of studio headphones, Holt begins the transmission by confirming to an unseen engineer that, "Yes, I can hear my echo." With her own voice blasted back into the headphones and picked up again by the microphone, creating an audio feedback loop, she spends the duration of the video (save for the 60-second blue-out) describing the experience of speaking and hearing herself speak, while we watch in pre-recorded real time. The experience is disorienting for Holt; she can't hear herself think over the sound of hearing herself speak (quite poetically) about her thoughts. The title of the piece derives from a moment in which she describes her voice going out and coming back to her like a "booomerrranganggboobooomerranrang." She can hardly say it.

    The video came in an era of artist's tapes rife with self-reflexive commentary on the nature of television, or even tape itself, just a few years into the mainstream availability of commercial video cameras. When I think of this moment, I think of classics like Serra's Television Delivers People or Lynda Benglis's Now and Joan Jonas's Vertical Roll, projects that explore the production and reception of electronic moving images, the compression of time and space that happens in live broadcast, intimacy at a distance, one-to-many communication, and of course the self-image in the midst of the (dis-)embodiment happening at the site of televisual display. I appreciated these concepts in many of the videos of that era, but it was Boomerang that first offered such an intense, visceral, mind-bending point of identification with their reality.

    In 2009, artists Aleksandra Domanovic and Oliver Laric invited me to be in a VVORK-organized exhibition on the theme of the experience of art. Over a slightly time-delayed intercontinental Skype call, I listened to them describe their goals for the show and all I could think about, in this moment of contemplating reception under a new set of technological conditions, was Nancy Holt. I found myself nearly reperforming the video for them (as best I could remember, because despite periodic searches of the net for a copy of Boomerang, I'd not seen it in years), and we all agreed that I had to make something around this piece. When we got off the phone, I made one last search for the video and, behold! some kind soul had finally posted it online.

    I had, for the previous four or five years, been carrying out a series of live performances and recorded videos called "Performed Listening." Very explicitly inspired by Boomerang, this series played out various methods of exploring the performativity of spectatorship, of experiencing images and sound. For Performed Listening: Boomerang, I essentially retraced and mirrored Holt's steps, listening to her historically-delayed/live-on-the-internet voice and repeating what she was saying, as I was hearing it. The original video and my fan letter are perpetually-linked to each other as YouTube response videos, while on my site they auto-play and auto-loop side by side, a two-channel visualization of Holt's observation toward the end of the work that her voice serves as both a mirror reflection and refraction of the world.

    Marisa Olson, Performed Listening: Boomerang (2009)

    Nancy Holt worked in a time and community in which men dominated the professional landscape, and—placing herself at a further "disadvantage"—she maintained a radical commitment to the exploration of beingness over the production of the commercial objects that motivate gallerists and others to promote artists' work. Nonetheless, her groundbreaking work sent ripples across numerous planes of artistic practice, including my own. Whether glancing through the aperture of a tunnel, a camera, or even the lens of poetry, Holt's work considered the relationships between individuals, spaces, and the mediation of their experience. Establishing a vocabulary and conceptual compass for decades of psychogeographers and locative media artists to follow, Holt's commingling with this Earth is a story we will re-read and re-tread for many moons.


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    Artist's rendering: Editor and Curator Michael Connor on March 19

    First things first: we're behind on our targets with two weeks to go in this campaign — donate today to catch us up?

    Now, on to something more exciting. As you may have gathered from our campaign website, on March 19th, we will host a 24-hour telethon to close this fundraising drive. Broadcasting on the web from locations around the globe, net art superstars will shine.

    Presenters include: Jeremy Bailey, Ann Hirsch, Jonas Lund, Tom Moody, Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal, and, of course, the whole Rhizome staff (not least Michael's baby, who needs to eat, so donate). Surprise guests! Deep listens! Theory and criticism! Sketches and video!

    Over the next two weeks, we'll tease more about the program, including specific live-event rewards for giving. But be certain, any campaign gift will be celebrated via public recognition of your generosity.

    So... you know...

     


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    Before reading this, you may as well play the game. It's only ten seconds long. But, I recommend that you do it late at night, and all by yourself. OK, here's the link. 

    Begin.

    Blue helvetica typeface displayed on a black background. You click, and a timer appears on screen, counting off ten seconds. 

    In the end, like you always said, it's just the two of you together. You have ten seconds, but there's so much you want to do: kiss her, hold her, take her hand, tell her.

    This is game designer Anna Anthropy's queers in love at the end of the world (2013), a work made using the Twine interactive storytelling platform that is as much video game as it is hypertext fiction. In keeping with hypertext tradition, one navigates the work by clicking on highlighted words to choose among narrative threads, playing out one of several imagined end-of-the-world interactions as quickly as possible, from biting to fucking to handholding, before time runs out. 

    The video game-like ten-second time limit (inspired by the theme of a Ludum Dare online game jam) is a shrewd solution to one of hypertext fiction's persistent problems, that of narrative excess. For completists like myself, it can be difficult to feel that a work offering multiple narrative threads has really been "experienced" until every permutation has been tediously explored. In queers in love, the impossibility of completion cuts through this, but also lends the work poignance: Ten seconds, after all, could never be enough.  

    With each replay, a user gradually masters queers in love as a game of skill and encounters new facets of its characters. Never identified by name, they and their surroundings are sketched out in the broadest of strokes. Presumably, this is what makes it easy to identify with the protagonist, to experience their longing. But the relationship (in all its different scenarios) feels utterly specific. For example: "Her fingers pull your hair while dollars turn to dust and laws that were too small to hold you blow away like old newspaper." When you take it out of context and really look at these lines, they seem so over the top. But it feels real, like someone else is letting you inside some really intimate, cringeworthy feeling. The super-concise structure of queers in love somehow allows me to relax my normal filters for a moment or two, and really go with it. 

    Beyond its devastating affect, the politics of queers in love are worthy of some discussion. The scenario it represents differs from most in-game end-of-the-world scenarios in that the player has absolutely no control over the course of larger events. There is no saving the word, here, no political agency. No point in fighting legislation or raising money that only turns to dust in the end anyway. In a way, it's a refreshing change from socially conscious games' usual over-emphasis on personal responsibility in the face of massive structural issues such as climate change. In its place, Anthropy offers a seductive nihilism, or maybe a nihilist seductionism: When we have each other, we have everything, she says. And that "everything" can be so easily wiped away.

     


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    Republished with permission from Public Seminar.

    Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster. Film still from Atomic Park (2003).

    Who could have guessed that when the flood came it would come in slow motion, over forty decades rather than forty nights? As the polar ice sheets unravel and plunge into the waters, whose who have so mismanaged the fate of all things cling to their private arks. The animals, one by one, will be saved, if at all, as gene sequences.

    What confronts us now, in our still cozy worlds, are spectacles of disintegration. There's probably not much one can do to prepare American culture or polity to deal, not with its future, but with the very texture of the present. It wants to hide under the covers. As the philosopher Theodor Adorno might put it: let's not let the power of others, or our own powerlessness, stupefy us. We can prepare the space of education, and joyfully, by inventing new practices where aesthetics and technics meet. That's the kind of practice there may be call for soon enough.

    One understanding of art—Adorno's for example—would make it the antithesis of technology. Technology partakes in a certain kind of abstraction. It creates a grid through which to reduce qualities to quantities. The place of art is then to be a refuge for the qualitative. Art is where that which cannot be reconciled with an ever more abstract world takes its last stand.

    I take a different view. I think of art as a different way of experimenting with a given technology. Art is a kind of practice which finds out what you can do in a given space of possibility. Art is about abstraction just as much as technology, it just uses different methods.

    This kind of abstraction has nothing to do with "abstract art" in the sense of abstract versus figurative art. All art is figurative, it is just that some figures aren't human. Richard Taylor, a physics professor from the University of Oregon, maintains that some of Jackson Pollock's paintings are actually of fractals. One might say that Pollock's paintings are "figurative" but the figures are not human forms, they are mathematical forms.

    Katie Holten, Constellations (maps of Louisiana oil and gas wells) (2012). Detail. Chalk from the Cretaceous era on canvas, 10" x 12''.

    And while it is interesting that a scientist finds fractal geometry in Pollock, it is not that we can now discover what Pollock was "really" doing because we can model it mathematically. It is rather that art is always experimenting with the possibilities of abstracting away from certain habits within a given space of materials. Pollocks are not fractals; fractals are Pollocks.

    Art that seems to be "figurative," in that it has representations of human figures, for example, may also be abstract. Impressionism, for example, was among other things exploring the possibilities of new kinds of industrially produced pigments. Modern chemistry was really changing the substance of our world at the molecular level. One expression of that is the experiments conducted by artists with those materials.

    This is one sense in which one can think about art as "modern." Art was a space, not for retreat from abstraction but for playing out its possibilities in an experimental fashion. Whatever manifestos the artists signed, and no matter what readings we may put on – say – a Turner painting of a locomotive, the practice of making the art was caught up in experimenting with the technical possibilities of abstraction.

    What I think changes is that we now know how all this ends. The capacities of abstraction seize hold of the materiality all around it, opening up its potentials. Modernity was a great liberation front. Only it wasn't about liberating a people, or a class, or a gender. What modernity liberated was carbon. Modernity liberated fossilized carbon in the form of oil and coal and natural gas. Modernity fired it great engines on these fossils. (Think of Marinetti crashing his Bugatti and writing the "Futurist Manifesto" about it.) Modernity released enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to change the climate of the whole planet, forever.

    Climate change is the modern fully realized, the modern as tending towards undoing its own conditions of existence. Mitigating its effects is going to take all the ingenuity – technical, aesthetic, not to mention social and political – that we can muster. Mitigating climate change is not just a technical problem. Nor will the economy just "naturally" adjust. And there's no hiding from it in romantic "back to nature" fantasies. If we refuse to deal with abstraction, then like Martin Heidegger the best we can do is throw up our hands and say "only the Gods can save us."

    A giant inflatable dog turd broke loose from its moorings outside the Paul Klee Center in Switzerland and brought down power lines before coming to a halt in the grounds of a children's home. The Paul McCarthy sculpture, the size of a house, reached a maximum altitude of 200 meters. Other civilizations had their chosen forms: from the Obelisk of Luxor to Michelangelo's David. Marinetti found his crashed motor car more beautiful than the Winged Victory of Samothrace, but he might have balked at flying dog shit. In the twenty first century, the insomnia of reason does not breed monsters, but pets. No wonder there are no longer any Gods, when what is expected of them is that they descend from Mount Olympus with plastic baggies and clean up.

    In other words, there are no Gods to save us – not even Heidegger. There's a role for art, however, in its experimental practice, which charts the possibilities within a given technical domain. The endgame of modernity raises the stakes for this game. Art has to experiment much more broadly across scales. Both the microscopic scale and the planetary scale come into focus as things that are related, interconnected.

    Art can no longer be about a separate domain when the planetary scale—climate—and the molecular scale—carbon dioxide—are linked in their fates. Art can either engage with this fate by being a practice that is open to the kinds of experiment that might be needed to mitigate such a fate. Or, art can become a contemplation, not of origins, but of ends.

     

    Green River Disposal Cell, Utah. Image from CLUI Archive, with flight support from Lighthawk, 2012.

    "The Domain of Arnheim" is a strange story by Edgar Allan Poe, in which a young man who inherits an incredible fortune decides to spend it, not on buying art but on fashioning a landscape. In this story, Poe also imagines the Earth seen from space as itself a complete work of art. He anticipates the real ends of modernism.

    Is not the totality of all our endeavors, all our social relations, tending towards the making over of the planet as a total work of art? This theme of a secular, aesthetic destiny has its roots in Romanticism, but lately it has lost its more optimistic cast. What if the work of art into which the word turns excluded the presence of its own makers? What if its creation destroys the biological possibility of human life on the planet?

    What light does aesthetics as a branch of thought, and art as a contemplative practice, shed on the (possible) end(s) of the world? What if we consider the end of the world as the finished product of aesthetic modernity? The blue ruin of earth is the total work of art at the end of history. The earth will be buried at sea.

    These matters are too serious to leave in the hands of technological optimists and apocalyptic doomsayers. Nor is moral scolding about doing the recycling either effective or adequate to conceiving of the whole picture of climate change and its consequences. Rather, it calls for an aesthetic sensibility oriented to the whole picture rather than this or that aspect.

    There is a certain popular delight in imagining the modern world in ruins. It's a theme Walter Benjamin identified early in the 20th century. In the shadow of the bomb, the Beats and their contemporaries occasionally gave it an incendiary cast. But what if we push beyond the picture of atomized cities to imagine not what passes but what is created at the end of human time? Our permanent legacy will not be architectural, but chemical. After the last dam bursts, after the concrete monoliths crumble into the lone and level sands, modernity will leave behind a chemical signature, in everything from radioactive waste to atmospheric carbon. This work will be abstract, not figurative.

    Grasping this as a total work means understanding two tendencies in relation to each other: the global and the molecular. The tendency toward the global and the tendency toward the molecular are combined in work such as the Center for Land Use Interpretation's guided tours of urban LA oil rigs or nuclear waste dumps in the salt flats, where the tour bus is an inside out vitrine. In the wake of the vast oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the artist duo übermogen.com announce: "oil painting has evolved into generative bio-art… an oil painting on an 80,000 square mile ocean canvas…" It's simply a matter of taking the next step, of accelerating the parameters of the molecular aesthetic to the planetary limit.

    Such would be the contemplative path for art, a perspective in which the vanishing point is the cessation of life, in part at least the efforts of modernity itself. The other path, the active or practical path, prepares us for a time—already present—when creative uses not just of technology but all the capacities of modernity will need to be put in play. As Hunter S. Thompson put, it, when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. We are coming into the time of the artists, but hardly the kind of artists hitherto seen on earth. 

    Ryan C. Doyle, Eva and Franco Mattes aka (0100101110101101.ORG) gathering artistic materials in Chernobyl.

    See also:


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    Jon Rafman, BR-265, Barbacena, Minas Gerais, Brazil, (2012). Archival pigment print on aluminium. Seventeen Gallery.

    It is not a good opening paragraph, as opening paragraphs go: 

    A friend of mine showed me how to use Google Maps. I'm sure you've seen it. It lets you use satellite images to look at locations all over the world. A few years ago, I was in a car accident.

    Besides unnecessarily explaining Google Maps, "Satellite Images" begins by executing exposition with brutality and an utter disregard for the show-don't-tell "rule." But this is creepypasta, an authorless horror story from the bowels of the internet. A kind of new iteration of the urban legend, with the internet as its city, creepypasta generally takes the form of as FOAFlore (ie friend-of-a-friend lore), comments on a forum, or a final, strangled pleading blogpost, posing as authentic testimony rather than fiction. The genre thrives on anonymity and slipshod writing, both of which boost the stories' presumed veracity. Will Wiles describes the genre as having "an eerie air of having arisen from nowhere... a networked effort to deliver dread in as efficient a way as possible." 

    The narrator of "Satellite Images," physically disabled and seemingly agoraphobic, can only "feel free" while street-viewing random cities on Google Maps; s/he finds herself stalked by a blur-faced woman with red shoes from city to city. The woman's introduction is flubbed; sentences have seemingly been lost somewhere along the story's copy-and-paste life-cycle, so much so that the reader must go back and fill in pertinent details. "Satellite Images" goes on to underline its insinuations, cut off mid-sentence as if the narrator were actually speaking, and end with a gesture towards the hoary IT'S COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE. 

    "Satellite Images" doesn't interrogate or challenge horror's main chords, nor does it emulate vernacular forms of internet writing in an interesting way. There exist far more polished examples of the form, such as "Candle Cove," which is carefully composed enough for its originator to keep his name on it. Yet "Satellite Images" does evoke a certain disquiet, thanks largely to the fact that it takes on faith that Street View and its smear-masked denizens are deeply and inherently creepy. As Joanne McNeil writes of that constantly mid-day land, "It never rains in the world of Google Street View but few people live there... They are photographed at an unknown moment in time, neither now nor obviously in the past," as anonymous as the author(s) of any particular creepypasta, and as difficult to situate, beyond mere geography. The overlit, underpopulated world that McNeil finds unsettling is deeply comforting to the narrator, partially because it is free enough of actual humans to allow her to project herself into it. 

    Author Thomas Ligotti identifies the elements of supernatural horror as divulging "the "dark knowledge" that human beings are also things made....and may be remade because they are only clockwork processes, mechanisms, rather than immutable beings unchanging at their heart." The woman with the red sneakers, who moves through Google Maps and real space simultaneously (and thus atemporally), is a new example of such an uncanny-figure. Whether she is a ghost, a glitch, or a deliberate creation is never explained, but she is revealed as more real than the narrator, who only moves through Google Maps. Unconcerned with its own reputation, only its effect, "Satellite Images" seizes a previously unexplored instantiation of the uncanny and exploits it before the rest of the literature world catches up. 


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    For 24 hours from 11am on Wed, March 19 (EST) on Rhizome.org, and broadcasting live from Lu Magnus. 


    Our volunteers will be ready to take your calls.

    Our campaign still has some way to go to meet our $20,000 target, but our friends around the world are going to help drum up donations via our home, the internet. Donate in advance to receive a special thank you during the telecast! 

    The internet telethon will feature entertainment, performances and appeals by:

    Live from NYC 

    ANN HIRSCH
    directing a Rhizome Reality Television Show 

    TOM MOODY
    conducting a Live Reading of His Comments on Rhizome.org

    MICHAEL CONNOR
    telling you about Artworks He Likes

    BODY BY BODY 
    surprising with a special Video Selection

    NICK DEMARCO
    giving Thanks to the Donors

    From sunny LA

    DANIEL REHN 
    throwing a Floppy Disk Party!

    TRACY JEANNE ROSENTHAL 
    doing a Reading

    Live from Europe

    ALEX MCLEAN
    performing a Livecoding Algo-Rave

    LINDSAY HOWARD 
    offering an Open Internet Studio Visit (first come, first served)

    JONAS LUND
    letting you See His Browser With Selfsurfing 

    Our Canadian friend

    JEREMY BAILEY
    who is a Famous New Media Artist 

    Plus

    Baby Arizona iPad Hour 
    Listening Party: Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon 
    Game of Thrones 
    DJ sets by friends 
    Acoustic covers requests

    ... and much more. Tune in starting 11am EST on March 19. 

    Thank you to Lu Magnus Art Laboratory + Salon for generously donating their space for this event in support of Rhizome. Image: Thomson & Craighead, Telephony.


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    Republished in slightly edited form from VVVNT.

    Image courtesy of Graham Harwood.

    How does the way war is thought relate to how it is fought?

    As the Afghan war unfolds, it produces vast quantities of information that are encoded into database entries and can, in turn, be analyzed by software looking for repeated patterns of events, spatial information, kinds of actors, timings, and other factors. These analyses go on to inform military decision-making and alter the course of events in the air and on the ground.

    On July 25, 2010, WikiLeaks released a large amount of this normally classified information as the Afghan War Diary, comprising over 91,000 (15,000 withheld) reports covering the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2010. The reports were written by soldiers and intelligence officers and calculated by clocks, computers, and satellites. The primary source of the Afghan War Diary is the Combined Information Data Network Exchange (CIDNE), a database created by the US Department of Defense (DoD).

    One way of looking at the War Diary is to use it as a record of specific military acts; another is to critically reflect on the database machines that generated it. Endless War,[1] an artwork by YoHa and Matthew Fuller, takes up the latter project. It processes the WikiLeaks Afghan War Diary data set as a collection of analytic viewpoints, both machine and human. A software-driven system, Endless War reveals the structure of these viewpoints by using N-gram fingerprints, a method that allows sorting of the text as an anonymous corpus without having to impose predetermined categories on it.[2] Presented as a gallery installation, the system includes a computer that processes the data in real time, projections of the results, and coil pick-up microphones on the central processing unit that sonify the inner working of the machine.

    The torrent files released by WikiLeaks in 2010 are the residue of the system that created them, both machine and human. They seem to hint at the existence of a sensorium, an entire sensory and intellectual apparatus of the military body readied for battle, an apparatus through which the Afghan war is both thought and fought.

    Endless War installation shot #3, at Kunsthal Arrhus. Photo: Arrhus, 2013.

    Making Endless War

    The Afghan War Diary was one of three data dumps released by WikiLeaks in 2010, along with the Iraq War Logs and Cablegate, a collection of cables sent between Washington and US embassies in 274 countries, dating from 1966 to 2010. What all of these archives had in common was that they required a level of mediation to make them meaningful. Julian Assange, editor-in-chief and founder of WikiLeaks, remarked:

    It's too much; it's impossible to read it all, or get the full overview of all the revelations. But the impact all over the world is enormous. [3]

    Enormous, and unevenly distributed. There are at least two people who lost their liberty and are now sitting in confined spaces as a consequence of this archive: Julian Assange and Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, a 25-year-old Private First Class, United States Army. They sit on opposite sides of the Atlantic, restricted by state machines, legislative process, and the physical boundaries of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and Fort Meade, Maryland. Also implicated in the making of the database are obliterated bodies, the dead and the disfigured, which (particularly given YoHa's work Tantalum Memorial and Coal Fired Computers) would lead us to ask how the space between knowledge and power is transfigured to create a machine of death (a topic outside the limited scope of this commentary).

    The databases contain fields for reporting and analysis for disciplines including: Human Intelligence (HUMINT), Psychological Operations (PSYOP), Engagement, Counter Improvised Explosive Device (CIED), Significant Acts (SigActs), Targeting, and Social and Cultural reports. All the entries are indexed spatially by the sixteen orbiting satellites of the Global Positioning System and temporally by the coordinates of atomic clocks. Intelligence analysts like Manning would use the database to produce charts, graphs, tables, and maps to conduct predictive analysis based on statistical trends. As Manning described in her 2013 court-martial:

    The SigAct reporting provided a reference point for what occurred and provided myself and other analysts with the information to conclude possible outcomes. […] I enjoyed the fact that an analyst could use information derived from a variety of sources to create work products that informed the command of its available choices for determining the best course of action or COAs. Although my military occupational speciality (MOS) required working knowledge of computers, it primarily required me to consider how raw information can be combined with other available intelligence sources in order to create products that assisted the command in its situational awareness or SA. [4]

    NATO forces invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001. At that point, an apparatus including the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) reporting tool was established for reporting every interaction between NATO and local people. It was a system for administering the utterances of men and machines so they could be sorted for further intelligence and COAs in the pursuit of the war.

    ,100,802F8563-4108-4FD7-ADAA-903CD4641B47,2004-01-21 00:00:00,Non-Combat Event, Propaganda,2007-033-010818-0970,PROPAGANDA
    Other ,KHOWST AREA ACTIVITIES: TB TYPE NIGHT LETTERS HAD BEEN DISTRIBUTED IN YAQUBI, IVO 332738.48N 0695927.88E; BAKHTANA
    IVO 332730.36N 069 5558.61E; AND KHOLBESAT IVO 332938.16N 0700023.50E ON THE NIGHT OF 18 JAN 04. THESE LETTERS STATED THAT
    "ANY ONE WORKING FOR THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD QUIT", AND THAT "WE FORGIVE ALL THE COMMUNISTS, UNLESS THEY WORK FOR THIS GOVERNMENT".,RC EAST,NEUTRAL,FALSE,OTHER,OTHER,Coalition,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,42SWC9210302785 ,33.4605484,69.99111176,UNKNOWN ,UNKNOWN,,,NEUTRAL,GREEN,SECRET.

    Typical record from the WikiLeaks Afghan War Diary.

    The 91,000 entries could, at that time, be downloaded in HTML, CSV, or SQL formats, each entry formatted as above. This watershed moment solidified the idea that news could be delivered in the form of a data dump: a blob of files, comma separated entities, modulated patterns, alphanumeric strings, lines, and breaks. This downloaded structure is not only the residue of data types, domains of searchability, a shadow of the list architecture, but is also a record of the soldiers' fingers hitting the keyboard. In its raw form, as Julian Assange noted, even the HTML version was relatively unintelligible for the human reader. The container of the records, its tables and entities, was conceived of by another intelligence—an intelligence formed by the collective acts of humans and machines.

    As you unzip and distribute the leak documents into a newly created folder, you begin to gaze at record after record. You soon find yourself becoming hungry for a device that will sort, join, and create new views out of the 91,000 comma-separated lines. It's as if the image of the parent machine emerges from the potential of the information in front of you. The text blobs scream out to be hung on indexes, laid out on the latitude and longitude of maps, and ordered across the epochs of time. But files must first be cleaned before this imagined machine can perform its mediation. Journalists must have needed to talk to database administrators, who would have been writing SQL-type queries that make database selections revealing civilian deaths from friendly fire.

    Making Meaning from Machine Intelligence

    # To measure is to introduce new pressures and potentialities into the subject.
    # Triage = Assign degrees of urgency.
    harwood@ripper:~S MYSQL> SELECT SUBSTRING(Summary 'child', Summary) - 8, 32)
    FROM war_diary WHERE Summary LIKE "%child%" LIMIT 6;
    ----------------------------------
        WAR DIARY
    ==================================
    triage, 67  children, 0   attended
    triage, 93  children, 161 attended
    triage, 150 children, 89  attended
    triage, 48  children, 86  attended
    triage, 191 children, 121 attended
    triage, 285 children, 190 attended
    # To measure is to introduce new pressures and potentialities into the subject.

    Code snippet, searching the Afghan War Diary archive on the MySQL command line.

    If journalists tried to make the data transparent, to use it as a window to real world events, what we wanted to make visible was the data itself, and its role in a system of war in which we are also implicated. Endless War was an attempt to convey a sense of how the machine is able to read the entries in a way that is unlike a human, yet makes sense of the entries, ordering them in order to allow the human to participate in an intelligence that is not their own. 

    Key incidents from the Wikileaks Afghanistan data. Courtesy of The Guardian.

    | war_diary_id | ReportKey| Date| Type| Category  |
    | TrackingNumber | Title| Summary  | Region  | AttackOn |
    | ComplexAttack | ReportingUnit| UnitName | TypeOfUnit |
    | FriendlyWIA | FriendlyKIA | HostNationWIA | HostNationKIA  |
    | CivilianWIA | CivilianKIA | EnemyWIA | EnemyKIA | EnemyDetained |
    | MGRS  |Latitude  | Longitude  | OriginatorGroup | UpdatedByGroup |
    | CCIR |Sigact |Affiliation | DColor | Classification |

    Column names or Entities from the header section of the War Diary.

    To make full sense of the contents of a SigAct table requires a consideration of the mediating structure that regulated their production. Above are the columns of the table holding an individual SigAct from the Diary. The entries were created with particular reference to the policing, filtering, and sorting of information that would allow records to be used for COAs, processes which are governed by the logic of the relational model, the central formal definition upon which individual iterations of relational database software are created.[6] The entities in the War Diary's table's structure can be thought of as a logical blueprint, an ideal rendering of the relational algorithm and the enterprise of war.  

    …'2007-033-004629-0577', 'CACHE FOUND/CLEARED  Other', '(S) SOURCE: GLOBAL RISK STRATEGIES WEST\n
    REPORTS THAT POLICE LNO COLONEL JUMA REPORTED \n
    SIZE: 11 MISSILES \n
    ACTIVITY: LOCATED BY THE NATIONAL SECURITY DIRECTORATE \n
    LOCATION: SOME 20 KM OUTSIDE FARAH CITY\n<br>TIME: ATAROUND 28 1100L OCT 04. \n
    REMARKS: THEY WERE APPARENTLY SET IN THE GROUND READY FOR LAUNCH AND WERE LOCATED AS A RESULT OF A TIP OFF.HE ADVISED THAT THE NSD WERE ACTIVE AGAIN TODAY, BUT HAD NOT HEARD THE REPORT OF THEIR FINDINGS YET. MORE INFORMATION WILL FOLLOW.','RC WEST', 'FRIEND', 'FALSE', 'OTHER', 'OTHER'

    A significant act (SigAct).

    The records are first dislocated from the field operative, a low-ranking solder who radios them in over the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet). Manning describes the subsequent process:

    Once the SigAct is recorded, the SigAct is further sent up the chain of command. At each level, additional information can either be added or corrected as needed. Normally within 24 to 48 hours, the updating and reporting or a particular SigAct is complete.[5]

    A SigAct necessarily retains evidential power that reflects its origin outside of the system that will now preserve it, but once isolated from blood and guts, sweat and secretions of the theatre of action (TOA), the SigActs are reassembled through a process of data atomisation. This filter constructs a domain where the formal relation, set theory, and predicate logic has priority over the semantic descriptions of death, missile strikes, or the changing of a tank track and the nuts and bolts needed. The process of data atomisation takes the intelligence report and deconstructs it, breaks its process down into a number of discrete parts by naming them as entities. The atomisation creates the possibility of both searching across domains and giving the queries scope. The other role for atomisation is the internal rendering of meaning to the system itself, which is constructed by saying just how far our SigAct should be broken down—too far and the entry shatters into millions of meaningless alpha-numeric characters; not enough and it becomes unsearchable.

    Endless War installation shot #2. Computer with coil pickup microphone and attached amplifier. Photo:Matsuko Yokokoji, 2011.

    This system of record keeping can be seen as a utopia of war. It is idealized, abstracted, contained; time can be rolled back or forward at a keystroke, vast distances traversed in a query, a Foucauldian placeless place that opens itself up behind the surface of blood-letting and hardware maintenance and the ordering of toilet rolls. A residue that casts a shadow to give NATO visibility to itself. As the ensemble of technical objects and flesh congeal, they create an organ to collectively act to rid itself of some perceived threat—this time from Al Qaeda or the Taliban—faulty vehicles, bad supplies, or invasive politics. This organ also allows NATO's human souls to imagine themselves grasping the moment, the contingency of now. All of the war, all of the significant events, all of the time, all of the land, coming under the symbolic control of a central administration through the database, affording governance to coerce down the chain of command (COC).

    SELECT SUBSTRING(Summary, LOCATE('smile', Summary) - 8, 32)
    FROM war_diary WHERE Summary LIKE "%smile%";
    us with smiles, waves, and laughed  | CF with smiles, open arms, and wer
    w one a smile started to appear. A  | CF with smiles and open arms and w
    and all smiles when we showed them  | did see smiled and greeted us. Onc
    ed with smiles and everybody under  | ere all smiles, and they were all
    ere all smiles.The principal propo  | CF with smiles, open arms, and wer
    us with smiles and open arms. Aft   | CF with smiles, open arms, and wer
    us with smiles and open arms. Aft   | rms and smiles. ALL ROUTES ARE GR
    ery few smiles or waves were retur  | ved and smiled. No hostile activi
    SF with smiles and open arms. Thi   | urious, smiled in our presence, an
    with a smile and answered our que   | with a smile he replied yes. He
    with a smile and answered our que   | IENDLY, SMILED, AND WHEN ASKED FRO

    Code snippet, a command line MySQL search for smile.

    In the example above, how many children smile with open arms when a soldier enters a village can be correlated with the key "hostile" or "friendly" at a particular grid reference. Does such a calculation lead to a drone strike or a gift of chewing gum or chocolate? As the missile strikes and mouths masticate, the background process of the relational machine re-orders supplies from factories in North America.

    mysql> select CivilianKIA from war_diary where CivilianKIA > 20;
    +-------------+
    | CivilianKIA |
    +-------------+
    | 50 |
    | 37 |
    | 25 |
    | 21 |
    | 67 |
    | 55 |
    | 30 |
    | 42 |
    | 30 |
    | 47 |
    | 22 |
    +-------------+
    11 rows in set (0.21 sec)

    Code snippet, a MySQL query showing civilian killed in action where a record is greater than 20.

    It is important not to think of this process as an instrumental realization of political aims: The history of warfare, logistics, set theory, and the computer industry all play a role. The Afghan War Diary is the scum on the surface of its underlying process. The results of large-scale socio-technical ensembles consisting of many interlocking components of other ensembles. A low-ranking larynx fixed by GPS markers that connect by radio wave. The report cascades up a command hierarchy until the SigAct is "true." Then de-constructed into data-atoms, logical machines compress the contingency of the moment as another higher-ranking larynx calls across another radio wave.

    Technicity—the practical inventive engagement with what is human in machines—affords a lens through which to understand how the implicit rules arising out of the structuring of the database's lists and comparisons act with and within the field operative to form a collective act. It could also refer to the extent to which the database mediates, supplements, and augments different forms of collective life in the war zone; the extent to which database lists are fundamental to the constitution and grounding of the war and also the evolutive power of those specific lists to make things happen in conjunction with people.

    The Afghan War Diary is often seen as the residue of an abstract war machine that hides some secret social process that can be unlocked if we can construct the right query. The project Endless War is about how we participate in this particular war machine and how it participates in the audience. The work is an attempt to avoid the trap of technology being seen as simply a tool of human agency; it is equally distrusting of technology being seen as an historical, virally colonizing human culture with its material structures and logics. The intention of Endless War is to see if we could gain a reading of the database object and its processes, the relational machine, from the Afghan War Diary.

    The relational machine is open-ended and full of hungry operators. It yearns, like all technical objects, to be complete, yet it is not. It carries out the tasks of viewing, sorting, inserting, updating, deleting, and joining of data, participating in the humans connected to it as they feel connected to the organ of NATO and the theatre of war. The war machine is a milieu, a system under precise forms of tension: How many "Host Nations," "Civilian" killed in action, and nuts and bolts are needed to make a tank move? The tensions are part of the pre-existence of the database. It is the tension of the systems in play that create the energetics to transform the war into a relational query, and the relational query into war.

    Endless War was originally commissioned for Void Gallery, Derry, Northern Ireland (2011). It has subsequently been shown at Kunsthal Arrhus, Denmark (2013) and Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, USA (2014). Planned exhibitions include: Centre for New Media Culture Riga, Latvia ( May 2014); a UK tour during May 2014; Brighton Lighthouse (March 2014); Future Everything, Manchester (August 2014); and Red Gallery, London.

    Graham Harwood is well known for his management of controversial projects, sensitively bringing conflicting views together through his work with secure hospitals, asylum seekers, local authorities, or National galleries, museums, or with the National Health Service. His work over 25 years has entangled him in the ethics of media systems, representation, anonymity, and highly sensitive data. His current research interests are in how relational machines are changing our daily conduct.

    Graham Harwood and Matsuko Yokokoji (YoHa—English translation ‘aftermath’) have lived and worked together since 1994. YoHa’s graphic vision and technical tinkering have powered several celebrated collaborations including: co-founding the artists group Mongrel (1996-2007) and establishing the Mediashed, a free-media lab in Southend-on-sea (2005-2008). In 2008 they joined long time collaborator Richard Wright to produce Tantalum Memorial, winning the Transmediale first prize for 2009. More recently, Harwood has co-produced Coal Fired Computers and Invisible Airs. Graham Harwood is the course convenor at the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London, where he teaches on the MA in Interactive Media—Critical Theory and Practise.


    www.goldsmiths.ac.uk/cultural-studies/
    www.yoha.co.uk

    References:

    1. Endless War, YoHa with Matthew Fuller, 2011, was exhibited at Void Gallery, Derry, Northern Ireland, 2011 and the Kunst Hal Aarhus, Denmark, 2013. 

    2. N-gram analysis can be traced back to an experiment by Claude Shannon in 1949, fittingly developed from military funding. Shannon posed the question: given a sequence of letters (for example, the sequence "the wa"), what is the likelihood of the next letter? In Endless War we were interested in how n-gram analysis would allow the database to be sorted as an anonymous corpus of text, that is without having to establish categories beforehand. (Shannon, Weaver, 1949)

    3. Vold, Eirik. "Resistance From a Cage: Julian Assange Speaks to Norwegian Journalist Eirik Vold." Truthout. http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/14835-resistance-from-a-cage-julian-assange-speaks-to-norwegian-journalist-eirik-vold

    4. Guardian News and Media. "Bradley Manning's personal statement to court martial: full text." theguardian.com

    5. Ibid.

    6. The relational model can be thought of as the formal, technical parts of database software that conforms to the principles of Edgar F. Codd's A Relational Model of Data for Large Shared Data Banks (1970) and further developed by the ANSI/X3/SPARC Study Group on Data Base Management Systems (1975).

    Additional:
    Combes, Muriel. Gilbert Simondon and the philosophy of the transindividual. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2013.
    Mackenzie, Adrian. Transductions bodies and machines at speed. London: Continuum, 2002.
    Codd, E. F.. "A relational model of data for large shared data banks." Communications of the ACM 13, no. 6 (1970): 377-387.
    Date, C. J.. An introduction to database systems. 3d ed. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., 19811983.
    Shannon, Claude Elwood, and Warren Weaver. The Mathematical Theory of Communication. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1949.
    Shannon, C. E.. "Prediction and Entropy of Printed English." Bell System Technical Journal 30, no. 1 (1951): 50-64.


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    A telethon. All day. All night. We are doing this. Will you donate to support?

    11am-11am EST, March 19-20. 24 hours. Wow. That's a lot of hours. But we are going to fill those hours with some of the internet's best, on view via the front page of rhizome.org.

    After the break, we've included a schedule to get you pumped. If you're in NYC tomorrow, stop by Lu Magnus, our host at 55 Hester. If you're anywhere else, join the hangout for some screen time. And, for real, D O N A T E.

    Wednesday, March 19
    11AM — Michael Connor composes the day's post
    Noon — Tom Moody reads his comments from rhizome.org
    1PM  — Heather Corcoran broadcasts an internal email featuring the musical genre grime's greatest hits
    2PM  — Anyone can share their work on rhizome.org as Lindsay Howard leads an open crit
    3PM  — Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal and friends give a reading
    4PM  — Ann Hirsch's Rhizome Reality Show uncovers what it's REALLY like to work here
    5PM  — Alex McLean demonstrates coding after the 1980s club scene
    6PM  — Nick De Marco gives thanks to Rhizome's donors
    7PM  — Julia Kramer, Associate Editor of Bon Appetit, cooks dinner for the team
    8PM  — Ryder Ripps offers some real talk about your favorite brands
    9PM  — Chill with the Commonwealth's primary contribution to music: Pink Floyd
    10PM — Jeremy Bailey goes wild
    11PM — Body by Body share some favorite vids

    Thursday, March 20
    12/1AM — Potpourri
    2AM — Daniel Rehn's floppy party!
    3AM — Andrew Hunt will perform covers of your favorite songs.... by request!
    4AM — Jonas Lund self surfs
    5AM — Game of Thrones
    6AM — America's greatest export: Steely Dan
    7AM — Baby iPad Hour with Arizona Connor
    8AM — Michael Connor talks about art he likes
    9/10AM — Surprises! 


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  • 03/19/14--08:58: The Commenter: A Lament
  • This post was composed in one hour in front of an online audience for the Rhizome Internet Telethon 2014.

    Tom Moody, Double Buckyball (detail of work in process), 2004, mixed media, approx. 60 x 40 inches.

    Nearly a year ago, and not long after I started working at Rhizome, I published a post called "Breaking the Ice," inviting the community to leave their thoughts about our curatorial and editorial direction. It took a while to get started, but eventually some of the Rhizome old timers latched on and got the ball rolling. As my introduction to the Rhizome community in my new role, it painted quite a picture. Heated opinions were debated, n00bs were put in their place, and frustrations were vented. Despite a sometimes negative tone, I was excited by the energy that people brought to it. And the fact that, y’know, people were commenting on Rhizome.org, a non-profit website that serves as an important cultural archive, rather than on a for-profit site that will sell your data to the highest bidder.

    Zachary Kaplan often makes fun of me for being a fan of internet comments. He's our Community Manager, people. When he was on his honeymoon, he wrote a nice comment on a Brendan Byrne piece, and he described this as a "gift to me." This is a longstanding and firmly entrenched debate in our community, at this point, and one which is divided along generational lines: participate avidly in highly commercialized, highly populated social media, or confine oneself to the less populous sidelines of open comment forums and listserves. 

    My affinities here are probably clear, but I think there are arguments in favor of social media participation. What Zach understands is that while Rhizome's communities are real, while the discussions rage as fiercely as they did in 2008 or 1998, they generally don't happen on our site, on our infrastructure, but in the world of social media and, yes, in real life. I really appreciate how avidly Zach follows and participates in these conversations, even though they don't end up as a part of our institutional archives. He sees his job as Community Manager to require that he go to where our community is.

    The other interesting argument for social media participation comes is articulated by people like Jesse Darling. A while ago on Facebook, she shared a screenshot from her text in the forthcoming edited collection You Are Here: Art After the Internet, edited by Omar Kholeif; in it, I think I remember that she made the argument that being a social media user was a way of identifying with the affectively laboring masses. She uses the phrase #usermilitia, I like that idea of being in solidarity, because there is something elitist about the social media refusenik postion.  Brian Droitcour has made a similar argument around his use of Yelp and other lowly forums for serious critical art writing.

    So, I get it. But, I still feel a twinge of regret over the decline of commenting culture on good ol' Rhizome.org. And this is, in part, why I'm so excited about the next segment of the telethon, following my live composition of this article, in which Tom Moody will read his Rhizome comments aloud. Tom is our most avid commenter. His comments are often acerbic, he's hurt all of our feelings at one time or another, and he's been described as a troll. Still, I'm always impressed with his reasoning. The writing is clear, and he has a strong critical framework--which I respect, even if I disagree with it.

    So I want to end this post by saying, Tom, thank you for the hours of labor that you've devoted to writing on Rhizome. I love that you do it as a commenter, and I will (for that reason) probably never commission you to write an article. But you're here now, so we can just continue this discussion face to face.

    This post was made possible by the support of Mark Matienzo.


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    Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal and friends. 

    After a successful conclusion of our 2014 Community Campaign yesterday, there are many positive feelings, and many things to say.

    The format was an experiment. Our annual campaign, which is a significant part of our income each year, was shorter than ever before. We recognize that nature of online giving has changed since we started our appeals in 2001, and are sensitive to this now-crowded space. Inspired to innovate with our format by the success of 2009's $50,000 Web Page (which is still online, and well worth a look), we hoped that a grand finale, the 24-hour Internet Telethon, would carry us over the edge of our $20,000 goal. It did, in dramatic fashion. With just 20 minutes left, longtime Rhizomer and Telethon participant Tom Moody made the donation that carried us over the finish line.

    The experience of this past six weeks, and the 24-hour marathon at its end, has filled us with gratitude and renewed energy drawn from those who contributed. Over the course of our telethon, we had live article writing, a reading of Rhizome comments (Tom Moody), a Grime DJ set (my own modest contribution), poetry reading (Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal and friends), a Rhizome Reality TV show (Ann Hirsch), livecoding (Alex McLean), a DMCA-blocked thank you sketch (Nick DeMarco, continues here and here), cooking with Rhizomes (Julia Kramer), brand criticism (Ryder Ripps), a dance party (Jeremy Bailey, continues here and here), soothing video narration (Body by Body), a floppy disk party (Daniel Rehn, continues here and here), a covers serenade (Andrew Hunt), a surf party (Jonas Lund), a planned portfolio review with Lindsay Howard, Zachary Kaplan's impeccable hosting, and more.

    Tom Moody

    My vision for Rhizome is for it to be more than just a New York City non-profit, but a model for what an arts organization on the internet can be. This includes innovating our infrastructures and re-committing to the fact that our primary public is online. The telethon was a glimpse of this possibility—and, as one contributor said, a "surprisingly earnest" one, to us too—but there's much more we can do. Now that you've lent us your support, we'll continue to work towards our mission in all our programs: supporting contemporary art that creates richer and more critical digital cultures. We think that we're uniquely placed to achieve this, and you've shown us that you think so too.

    Thank you to all those who helped make this telethon happen, to those who gave and helped spread the word, and to the artists, writers, and technologists whose daily efforts make our program possible. 




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    An artist's impression of Rosetta waking from deep-space hibernation to rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014. © ESA, image by AOES Meidalab.

    In May, the Rosetta spacecraft will make its final approach toward the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, after patiently stalking the space rock for ten years. As the comet approaches its perihelion, it will slow to dig its foot into a gravitational eddy and steer itself around the sun. As it emerges, Rosetta will strike, launching a sensor-packed lander like a javelin into the side of the comet. Harpooned in place, the lander will allow us to reach out across the cosmos and caress a billion-year-old piece of the solar system.

    The experiments are scheduled to last two months, after which Churyumov–Gerasimenko will have arced around the sun and begun accelerating back out into deep space. When it does, it will take with it a small piece of humanity anchored to its side. Forever after, this relic of early 21st century technology will remain looping above us, a time capsule buried ten years deep in space.

    The apparatuses of our space explorations invariably become monuments to the missions they served. When they're no longer of use, they are discarded and left to blanch slowly in the airless sunlight. Rosetta is only the latest in a long series of inadvertent time capsules bequeathed to the heavens. At the Sea of Tranquility, Apollo 11's landing stage still stands as a memorial to that incredible journey. At its feet, the rocket-blasted shoes, camera, backpacks and other equipment that Armstrong and Aldrin cast away to lighten the lunar module before launching homeward.

    These abandoned machines are some of our most perfect time capsules.  They show our society at its most candid, a transparent expression of our technology, our financial might, our social ambitions. Unlike the Pioneer plaque, with its sanitised view of humanity—see the diminutive woman airbrushed of her genitals—or Trevor Paglen's poignant Last Pictures, which orbits on the satellite EchoStar XVI, these machines are devoid of political or social framing and filtering.

    Gold aluminium cover designed to protect the Voyager 1 and 2 Sounds of Earth gold-plated records from micrometeorite bombardment, including playback diagram. 

    They are a piece of our world captured and buried away from us. When they eventually resurface, entire and unadulterated, they can be a mirror in which we see ourselves distantly reflected.

    Already, the historical value of technological artefacts is obvious. The Google Lunar X Prize for the first commercial sightseers to reach the moon offers a $1 million bonus for any competitor that visits a historic site on its desolate surface, the first tourists at Tranquility's shores. Meanwhile, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos combed the ocean depths off the coast of Florida for abandoned parts of the Apollo 11 mission, eventually raising a pair of rocket engines from 14,000 feet of water. But what will the value of such artefacts in a thousand years? Five thousand years? Will we hold them in as much awe and wonder as the Pyramids when they are as old as those monuments are now?

    Among the artefacts of our civilization, the comet probe is a special case: outside of the corrosive effects of Earth's atmosphere, semi-protected from collision with orbiting space junk, and so-far inaccessible to space tourists. While technologically challenging, there is no outward reason why Apollo's rockets couldn't have been recovered sixty years ago. Quite obviously we have the technological capacity to visit the moon—we've simply lost the will to go there. But Churyumov–Gerasimenko's long orbit will offer us only a tiny window every six and a half years in which we might, if we set off ten years before that, recover the Rosetta lander. As a time capsule, the Apollo rockets were never far from reach, and the Tranquility Base junkyard is where we left it. But the Churyumov–Gerasimenko time capsule can only be opened every 78th month.

    By astronomical standards that's positively frequent. If we were to inter a time capsule on one of the comets launched from the Oort Cloud on galactic tides, we could set aside a message for ourselves one thousand years, ten thousand years, a million years in the future.

    The tools that now lay discarded and forgotten across a narrow strip of the cosmos will one day tell someone as much about us as they told us about the planet, the moon, the stars. The pinnacles of our technological achievements are destined to become ruin. Instead of a thriving outpost, we left a technological footprint on the moon, a set of vast and trunkless legs in the desert. Our legacy there is not a thriving extension of the United States' empire, but an inert memorial built from mid-20th century technology.

    If our exploratory machines are destined to become accidental monuments to their makers, perhaps we ought to be conscious of this in their design. Could the physical construct of the Apollo lunar modules exemplify peace for all mankind? Should a celebration of liberté, égalité, fraternité and the free market be encoded into the fabric of the Channel Tunnel boring machines, still buried in the chalk marl under the seaway? Can Rosetta evoke its namesake?

    The Rosetta spacecraft is named for the huge slab of black granite pulled from the Nile mud inscribed with the text of three distant empires, a cipher with which we could decode the lost history of Egypt. When it was first discovered, a postscript was added in white paint to the side: "Captured in Egypt by the British Army in 1801," it reads, "Presented to King George III." When Rosetta's harpoon lands like a stylus on Churyumov–Gerasimenko, we'll add our own chapter to the billion-year-old story encoded in the stone. Look here, we'll tell our descendents, see this strata of carbon fibre and lenses, this was when your forefathers explored the heavens. We'll add our own footnote to the history of the solar system and cast it back into the interplanetary mud for some future human to find.


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    Thursday, 2:30 am, four drinks deep, at the old Night Gallery Space, some schmoe is coming around the crowd with a lockbox and deck of cards, telling us to hand over our cell phones. "None of this can be recorded, you guys." I get a pat down, give up nothing, phone tucked safely in my coat. Most get snagged with a grunt or a whine. The process is endless. My traveling companion is on his third cigarette. (If there is one redeeming quality of this VIP-themed performance series / curatorial-themed party called Top 40 that has smeared across my last few weeks, it's that you can smoke inside.)

    We're recovering or repressing. We just watched Vishwam Velandy leave a series of messages for women he claimed to have slept with, informing them, between "uhhs.." and chuckles, that he had seen a doctor and they'd better too, because he'd just been diagnosed with HIV. Then, after endless minutes, I'm getting squashed with elbows and shoulders, alternately averting my eyes and craning for a view of the floor in front of the DJ booth, where, with frat party fanfare, Eugene Kotlyarenko's girlfriend is inserting a zucchini into his ass, and a curious, deeply unpleasant combination of boredom and offense is flowering in my insides like Giardia.

    Ask Kotlyarenko and he'll tell you this feeling was "mission accomplished."1 (Perhaps his Bush-ism is nod to the level of insecurity that occasioned the explanation on his blog.) There, he writes that the evening he organized was "tepid, idiotic, done in poor taste," but this "waste of time" was on purpose. The anal sex was just a front to take away everyone's iPhones, the whole night his experiment in being a troll.

    Trolls are the self-declared other to communication technologies. In folklore, they live under bridges, interrupting circulation and flow. In the 70s, the US Military capitalized on their luring connotations; "trolling" was the US Navy's preferred term for their own baiting tactics in the Vietnam War. In his words, Kotlyarenko's goal was to "employ the language" of trolling to "subvert" it. I offer him some routes of future inquiry: Trolls might reveal the falsely jolly optimism of online communication, pulling back the sheets as it copulates with the positivity of marketing. Trolls might expose the profound nationalist (and military) heritage that presents itself in white male aggression. As the Id of the internet, trolls might urge us to expand our subjectivities, compel us to identify with the aggressor rather than, as our moral habits dictate, with the victim.

    Instead, Kotlyarenko misreads trolling's critical and structural function as a mere "hatred of happiness." He wanted only to "make sure [his] night would NOT BE A GOOD TIME AT ALL." At this he succeeded. But what, specifically, deserved his antagonism? And what, ultimately, did he say about trolling? #Wewon, he bragged later, cheesing for Instagram. The meme was the message. Rather than show us how trolls complicate circulation, his one-liners (Jokes over. Jokes on you.) make for easy web-ready content, whose defining feature is that it is content-less. Rather than offering insight into trolls, Kotlyarenko holds them up as impenetrable (even when he bends over) and uses them as a shield to deflect all criticism.

    But meaning, to speak in troll-ready Jeff Goldblum memes, finds a way, and the rectum itself emerges as the focal point of Kotlyarenko's trolling. Kotlyarenko argued that his anal experiment was a red herring, a cheap distraction. But for it to function as such, his audience must regard anal penetration with a special kind of horror. Velandy's invocation of HIV provided that necessary, if oblique, link. More, the last time I saw Kotlyarenko perform, just days after two LAPD officers had sexually assaulted then tossed a woman out of their car, he was playing a cop at the new Night Gallery in an ill-conceived spectacle by Ben Noam. While the other faux-cop stripped into a purple thong, Kotlyarenko grunted "you like that" while Noam mimed a blowjob on his nightstick. If #Theywon, then these were context-negligent victories for straight bros who seem desperate to commodify the contours of gay sex in an exhausting effort to neutralize its power.

    "Is the Rectum a Grave?" Leo Bersani famously asked, tying murderous representations of gay people and gay sex to America's criminal handling of the public health crisis of HIV/AIDS. His answer, ultimately, is yes. For Bersani, the penetrated ass, or the penetrated vagina, provokes our cultural revulsion because it represents an abdication of power intolerable to the cultural order. But if the rectum is the grave in which "the masculine ideal...is buried, then it should be celebrated for its very potential for death." Sex is our original technology for self-shattering.

    Sjoerd Dijk and Dwayne Brown at a previous performance by The--Family

    Saturday, 8pm, I'm seated on a cushion nuzzling a traveling companion, as Wojciech Kosma straddles Sjoerd Dijk. Their crotches pressed against each other, Kosma asserts, "every straight man should be penetrated regularly." For The--Family at Human Resources, these two straight performers spend two hours engaged in an exchange of movement and conversation, transitioning on improvisational impulse from cuddling to athletic lifts to exposing each other's junk, from bickering to sharing personal histories to revealing mutual affection. Homophilic rather than homophobic, the performance pointed back at my own expectations of sexual linearity, opting instead for a wave function of polymorphous sensuality.

    In the end, Kotlyarenko misreads anal sex far more gravely than he misreads trolling. As Kosma seems to know, what sexuality can offer aesthetics (and ethics) is a platform for the improvisational giving over of control, for losses of selves never reincorporated into narratives of #winning. The ghost of anal penetration haunted Los Angeles last weekend, playing, as it often does, the synecdoche for the exercise or loss of power. As a meme, it can be appropriated for the trollish hazing (or experimental beneficence) of straight culture. But as a horizon, anal is an affirmation of our shared vulnerability, culpability, and thank god, mutually assured destruction. 


    1 On his blog, Kotlyarenko describes this moment as follows: "The anti-climax of seeing me mildly penetrated by a little red pepper, would provide a momentary diversion that could dull people and delay their response time as phones (uniformly iPhones) were thrown back willy-nilly." — Ed.


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  • 03/26/14--07:23: Locative Media Revisited
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    Molly Dilworth, 547 West 27th Street (2009). From the series "Paintings for Satellites."

    In the early 2000s, as location-aware devices first became commonplace, there was a lot of hype surrounding their potential creative use by artists. However, over time, this initial enthusiasm for "locative media"--projects that respond to data or communications technologies that refer to particular sites--leveled off, even dissipated. Regardless of this drought, geospatial technologies are widely used, and play an important and often unnoticed role in conditioning many aspects of our existence. Responding to this condition of ubiquity, artists have continued to use locative technology critically, opening up closed systems, making its effects visible, and reconfiguring our relationship with it.  

    Several recent projects have aimed to open up closed systems such as GPS (Global Positioning System). and space satellites to users' participation. One example is the Open Positioning System (OPS) by German artist Philipp Ronnenberg, an alternative positioning system that works by triangulating seismic frequencies produced by generators in power plants, water turbines, pumping stations, or large machines in factories. If the sensor, held in contact with a wall or the ground, can detect seismic frequencies from three known sources, its location can be established. (A similar proposal was made by the British police, who are using sound frequencies from the background noises on incoming emergency calls to help fight crime in the UK). 

    Philipp Ronnenberg, Open Positioning System (2012).

    Ronnenberg describes the potential pitfalls of the state control of GPS:

    Maps are power and those who draw them provide access to the world. Maps and navigation instruments shape our perception of our world. The devices and technologies we use are showing us where to look at and where not to look at. As the technology we are using today, GPS, is controlled by governmental / military institutions we as users do not have an insight if the system will be shut down one day. Nor do we have a clue how and if the system will be changed in accessibility. We totally rely on a service which could be edited at any point. As people push for more transparency and openness in technology, why shall we not think about open infrastructures as well? In times of surveillance and uncertainty, people should start to develop their own infrastructures which they can trust and which they can maintain themselves. 

    In response to these conditions, OPS is an attempt to curtail the US government's control of geolocation systems, opening them up for average citizens to get involved in information gathering.

    Taking a similar strategy of opening closed systems is the Open Source Satellite Initiative (OSSI) by South Korean artist and maker Hojun Song. Song designed a satellite that anyone can make; he offers the plans and instructions for building it and launching it into orbit. The device itself is about 60 cubic inches, costs under $500 USD, and consists of a solar cell, lithium-ion battery, modified Arduino controller to withstand the Sun's radiation, and four LED lights that are bright enough to be viewed from Earth once the object reaches orbit. The most challenging aspect of the project was to get get the little device into space, forcing Song to run a crowdsourcing funding campaign and pay close to $100,000 to the commercial rocket corporation NovaNano for this service.

    Song's satellite senses cosmic microwave background emissions in order to help prove the existence of the Big Bang and to seed a random number generator and transmit that number to Earth. The numbers created by the satellite are then used to play an actual lottery game and to generate particle-like computer graphics simulations.

    Hojun Song at launch for Open Source Stellite Initiative in Baikonur, Kazakstan.

    OSSI Prototype: GOD (Global Orbiting Device), 2010, Photo: Motohiko.

    Song's approach is close to that of the AMSAT or Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation, an organization founded in 1969 that attempted to bring space research and study into the public domain. The device is open source and all of his code and hardware schematics for the Satellite were released free to the public through on the popular site, GitHub. The viewer on Earth can communicate to the satellite through a wearable device that is worn over the shoulder; it requires two people to hold hands with the wearer to enable the conductive sensor and send a message to the satellite to blink its lights on and off. Song calls this type of interaction "communication that needs a collaboration or a collaborative fantasy."

    Even as the US has decommissioned its government-funded space shuttles and opened up space exploration to international corporations such as Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Blue Origin, PlanetSpace, and hundreds more, the potential social reach of these companies is still eclipsed by the amount of money needed to send their vessels into space and maintain the lives of their passengers. Whether they are going on a short "tourism" flight or a longer mission excursion, the cost is still beyond that of what an average citizen on most countries can afford. OSSI's use of satellite-generated data for terrestrial gambling is a wry comment on the fact that space exploration, once the purview of government agencies, is now available to wealthy individuals.

    Other locative media projects employ data visualization strategies to stretch and critique location-based information. Border Bumping (2012) by Julian Oliver, described cautiously by the artist as a work of "dislocative media," is a smartphone application that collects cell tower and location data of individuals in close proximity to national borders. Oliver explains, "For instance: a user is in Germany but her device reports she is in France. The Border Bumping server will take this report literally and the French border is redrawn accordingly. The ongoing collection and rendering of these disparities results in an ever evolving record of infra-structurally antagonized territory, a tele-cartography." The project uses collected data against itself, pointing to ambiguities that persist in a highly rational system, and against the state, suggesting a blurring of political boundaries through connectivity.

    Julian Oliver, Border Bumping, (2012).

    A more open-ended response to location-based data can be seen in Quotidian Record (2012) by US-based artist Brian House. Quotidian Record consists of a limited edition vinyl record etched from a recording of House's location data over an entire year. Every locality, city, country and continent that House traveled to over this period were recorded with GPS coordinates on his mobile phone and then automatically assigned a musical note. The resulting long playing (LP) record is a physical artifact of location-based information where each rotation of the vinyl represents a 24 hour period of House's life. With 365 rotations on the record, an entire year progresses over an 11-minute time frame. The record itself carries markings that represent the time the data was captured and the names of the cities House traveled to over the year. As House explains, "It provides an expressive, embodied, and even nostalgic alternative to the narratives of classification and control typical of state and corporate data infrastructure." Although House's data was gathered by government controlled satellites, his intention was to remix and reimagine the type of output that these machines could designate, choosing a form (the LP) that offers an intuitive and tactile experience rather than an analytical one.

    Brian House, QUOTIDIAN RECORD (2012). 

    Where House and Oliver are concerned with critiquing the collection and representation of location-based data, other artists take on the ways in which location-based images increasingly condition our experience of the world. One example, which adopts the strategy of restaging historical works through new technology, is iSkyTV by the Institute for Infinitely Small Things with Sophia Brueckner. This project is based on Yoko Ono's Sky TV (1966), cited as one of the earliest examples of video sculpture, in which the artist placed a Sony Portapak video camera on the roof of a gallery, pointed it at the sky and clouds, and sent the feed via a cable to a television placed inside the gallery. Thus, live images of the sky were viewable in the interior space of the gallery, bringing the outside world to the inside space in real time through live video. iSkyTV (2013), in contrast, features several monitors displaying images of the spaces surrounding the gallery taken from Google's Street View service, foregrounding the fact that such technologies act as the lens through which we see our thoroughly scanned and digitized planet today.

    Institute for Infinitely Small Things with Sophia Brueckner, iSkyTV (2012).

    #82.948842, Detroit, MI (2009), Doug Rickard, 2010. 

    Also calling attention to the reframing of the world through locative media is Doug Rickard's Street View. For this project, Rickard collects images from the same archive used in iSky TV, Google Street View, but rather than showing us nearby spaces, he is particularly interested in places to which the viewer probably never ventures--locations with poor infrastructure and low economic value [4]. His work re-appropriates images taken from these areas by Google's Street View camera. Rickard is particularly interested in how Google's camera is positioned when it shoots its generic images of the world's streets. High above, the vantage point of the camera reinforces the hierarchy between photographer/viewer and subject, looking down on the poor or derelict streets of urban centers in economic decline such as Detroit or New Orleans. Like other locative media projects, Rickard's work re-appropriates a widely used technology and interprets it from a reverse angle of desolation, isolation, and surveillance, calling attention to the ways in which it reproduces imbalances of power.

    Other projects take on the photographic act itself and its reconfiguration through location-aware technology. Buttons (2009) by German artist Sascha Pohflepp originally began as a modified cellphone and later developed into an iPhone app in order to incorporate location-based data. Buttons is a camera without a physical lens, but only a shutter button. When the button is pressed, the exact time of the press is recorded as well as the location of the camera. This information is then searched on the internet, returning a photo with either the exact location metadata or the exact time stamp of creation. Thus, Buttons is a camera that allows you to take someone else's photos. 

    Buttons, Sascha Pohflepp, 2006.

    Another response to the sense of local displacement associated with networked image-making is seen in a project by British artist Mark Selby, Camera Explora. The project employs a specially designed location-aware camera with an embedded map to urge us to explore a wider range of locations and photograph each more mindfully. The camera only allows the user to take one photo for each plotted grid on the map, and when this picture is captured, the camera disables itself until the photographer physically moves to a new area. The photographer's movements around the city are also plotted in real-time on a map, and each photo is printed as it is taken. Selby states that "these constraints aim to encourage more attentive exploration of the city, more careful consideration of which locations or experiences to record, and consequently, in combination with the materials produced, to allow the creation of more valuable records of experiences." 

    In effect, Selby's redesigned camera paradoxically enables self-expression by limiting it based on a user's location and movement. One is given incentive to venture to new, unexplored areas; one also has to consciously decide and hierarchically categorize what the most important characteristic of a specific location might be before they snap a photograph;. To a certain extent, this approach brings us back to the days of traditional film photography, where we only had a limited number of photos per roll of film and had to be more selective about what was photographed. Selby's project asks us to pay closer attention to the photos we are snapping and the spaces in which we snap them.

    Camera Explora Plotter, Mark Selby, 2012.

    In addition to critiquing the ways in which locative media alter our experience of urban space, artists are also reflecting on the ways in which the city itself changes in response to tracking apps and satellite maps. For example, New York based artist Molly Dilworth has been on a campaign to disrupt the images we see with satellite surveillance by implanting her large scale paintings into urban areas so that these space voyeurs will automatically add  them to their large database. Dilworth’s Paintings for Satellites (pictured at top) consist of extremely large paintings on New York City rooftops (including one in Times Square) that can only be seen clearly by orbiting satellites moving through space.         

    Dilworth describes her images as "physical paintings for digital space" and creates them on rooftops that she identifies as "clearly not designed for the bird’s-eye view" since they contain watertowers, ventilation ducts, air-conditioning units, and more industrial artifacts that are meant to be put out of sight and out of mind. Three paintings have been executed in New York City, where rooftops offer a unique artistic possibility, as bland and unconsidered visual space in an otherwise highly aestheticized urban environment. This possibility has not escaped the notice of advertisers, as well, as was apparent when the Target store painted its circular brand on the roof of its building so that viewers using Google Maps would identify its store online.

    Target Store Ad for Google Maps, 2007.

    Dilworth's project points to ways in which the design of our built environment has not yet caught up to the way it is depicted in digital imagery, and suggests possibilities for how it might evolve in the future.

    While locative media is a broad and diverse field of practice, the most compelling projects share the goal of calling into question the very existence of the technology and social frameworks that underpin location-based technological systems. They do so by opening up normally closed, proprietary locative systems (Ronnenberg and Song), by critiquing visualizations of location-based data (Oliver and House), by reflecting on how archives such as Google Maps and Street View condition our understanding of the world (the makers of iSkyTV and Rickard), by intervening in the act of location-aware photography (Pohflepp and Selby), and by pointing to the changes that digital technologies effect on the physical world (Dilworth). As a whole, these projects call into question the effects of these technologies and who they are trying to serve. The more we use these tools against themselves and in creative, unexpected ways, the more we can discover about our increasingly networked world, now and in the future.

    FURTHER READING

    Galloway, Anne; Ward, Matthew (2005). "Locative Media As Socialising And Spatializing Practice: Learning From Archaeology (DRAFT)”, http:// www.purselipsquarejaw.org/papers/galloway_ward_draft.pdf.

    Tuters, Marc, Varnelis, Kazys, Beyond Locative Media, http://networkedpublics.org/ locative_media/beyond_locative_media.html.

    Appleyard, Brian, "Google Street View as Art," Sunday Times, December 11, 2011. 

     


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    4 Apr 2006

    Hello Chris. Thanks for taking an interest in my work, and Jayson's as well. Below are my answers in blue.

    Sincerely,
    JB

    1. How integral was Jayson Whitmore's involvement with you on the Winchester series? I noticed that you thanked him first in the introduction to the book of the exhibit. Did he do a majority of the animating and compositing of your imagery/drawings/abstractions, etc? Or was his role more to provide technical experience when you needed it and had questions?

    Jayson Whitmore is the total motion graphics pro. He makes life easier on me because I can describe something to him and he can help me do it without much trouble. That said, its not the main reason I choose to collaborate with Jayson, because there are many people trained the way Jayson is trained, just as there are many people trained to draw and paint like I was trained. My work is also very technically simple, so technically Jayson is holding back some of his skills when he does my stuff. The reason why I always try to work with Jayson Whitmore first is because he's got a GREAT musical ear. He's got a sense for the timing of the movement and the content of the art that qualifies him as an artist in his in right. Its always an honor to work with people as outstanding and insightful as he is. The same can be said for a man named Jonathan Karp who helps us with sound, Brendan Canty from the band Fugazi who's done music with us in the past, and all the other great people I've been lucky enough to work with. I've been very fortunate to have such good people around me. Jayson is an unbeatable talent and has spent years learning the techniques he knows, and he frees up the time I need to perfect my imagery.

    2. From your background in painting, and painterly approach to earlier works (like the ones employing traditional cell-painting) you have shifted to a more mixed assortment of collaged elements with your signature sixties abstraction inspired veil shapes.(that's an oversimplification I know) Does your current process still reflect that heritage? In other words, do you still employ a variety of techniques to realize your completed elements- or is it all done in the computer now?

    I employ a wide variety of techniques which I can pull from years of painting, and I still paint, although obviously I don't have as much time to do so because of how complex the films are. You can't do what I do with just a computer. You can do some very cool things with just a computer though, so the young kids coming out of school making art now shouldn't give up on that approach either. Drawing is the key to everything visual though. Its not the only route to making great visual art, but its so immediate and it sweeps the cobwebs out of the brain.

    3. You talk of time-based color field painting, yet it seems like they are quite pop in their referencing of contemporary culture and narrative structures. It's this mix that so intrigues me- painterly abstraction and "architectonic" cultural references like Raquel Welch standing in for Sarah Winchester. The archetypal cultural stand-ins and very symbolic nature of your almost sequential narratives remind me of things I am striving to understand in my own art... (this is more about a dialogue than a concrete question with an answer)

    The simple answer here is that I am influenced by a wide variety of things that might contradict in say the mind of an art historian who specializes in one of my areas interests. That said, I think its fair to say that I make Pop art, although I think its darker and more personal and more involved with language now than most Pop art.

    As far as symbolism goes, I don't have a strict system or any ideology to use in determining what is symbolic myself. Instead I tend to rely on signals from the culture to let me know what is actively symbolic or a hot issue. The Winchester rifle for example, and the larger issue of the gunfighter, are huge preexisting iconic images or subjects that loom large in many of the stories we tell ourselves about what it means to be an American. I didn't invent this stuff obviously and I'm not trying to control what it means to other people. Instead I was exploring the complexity of all it can mean in order to get to new places with my work.

    There can be some good in this gunfighter imagery since at best it inspires bravery and heroism , and some bad since at worst it inspires violence which might have been avoided. And there is a neutral interpretation which doesn't weigh the good or the bad of violence in a literal way,which is that this kind of imagery and story telling inspires one to think of bold and independent individuals taking risks.

    In German academia they teach something which I think translates as idea reception ( I can't remember what its called in German) and basically it is a study of the evolution of ideas through history. I try to make work that shows this evolution of ideas in action, rather than work which tells people exactly what to think. The power of art is focus the range of interpretation and at the same time leave room for multiple views.

    4. Benamin Weil lists your influences as people like: Morris Louis, Barnett Newman, Edward Ruscha, Richard Prince and James Rosenquist. Are there any others? Richard Hamilton, Harun Farocki, David Hockney? Are there any filmic influences?

    Too many to be named in film because even a TV show I watched as a kid might pop back up, or an idea about how a building should look or something like that from a film I'd forgotten all about. But picking up on a thread from the last question, if you think of some great American Pop films like "High Noon", "Invasion of The Body Snatchers", "Star Wars", "Apocalypse Now" etc. you'll find that all kinds of people want to claim that these stories reflect their particular belief systems (Republican vs. Democrat, etc.) or what have you.

    Well maybe they do in places, maybe they don't in places, but on the whole I don't think that is ever really the main issue to an artist. What's important to an artist is that you find an image or create a moment or series of moments that matters to you for personal reasons. Then, branching out from there you need to ask if your imagery or story or music etc. is also likely to energize people to think about their own situation critically and on a very personal level, and hopefully get a lift out of it. And if it does all that then you've struck gold. If what you make keeps doing that across decades and centuries then it stands the test of time.

    5. How important was your upbringing as a catalyst for imagery and art-making? Are works like Bungalow 8 at all auto-biographical?

    No, I hate to disappoint but I am a fairly traditional guy, and somewhat boring day to day. I have been with the same woman for over ten years and we live quietly and that's the way I like it. I'm not a tough guy gunfighter like the Winchester images might suggest, nor am I a swinging London-rock n' roll-bisexual-drug addicted- socialite like Ossie Clark, nor am I a wheeler dealer, party till you drop 1980's era businessman like the imagery in Bungalow 8 suggests.

    I am just a person who tends to want to describe things that I can't look away from.

    The stories around Bungalow 8 are all preexisting. The "Predator's Ball" which was an annual party some high living stock brokers and investment guys threw there in the 80's, Robert Evans getting discovered by the pool etc. All legendary stuff and great material for an American artist. I made those first DVD works at a time when I was working constantly in New York City-sixteen hour days and weekends and so on. I was processing all I had seen while at school in Southern California, and missing the light and the space. New York in the nineties was very work driven and there was a lot of economic optimism. I loved the ambition and the powerful energy I sensed in that, but at the same time I also I felt like maybe life was going by a little to fast in some ways. So as a reaction I made this slow meditative work that reflected some of the dream like pleasures and fears of the culture at that time as I saw it. When I came out to California where life has a slower pace, my work started moving faster.

    An artist is usually better off if he or she is humbled by the size of the subject matter. Its like a surfer trying to catch a big wave and enjoy it and hopefully impress the crowd rather than being sucked under in front of everybody. Art making is very humbling on that level because you're always dealing with a culture that is much larger than you and you have to respect it, but you also have to be brave enough to try and make something new and exciting anyway.

    As far as one's upbringing goes, its like the Eagles said "Some dance to remember, some dance to forget." My upbringing was not traditional in so much as my parents were divorced and I was growing up with in the seventies which was sort of an experimental and tumultuous time in the culture even if your family life was stable. Even so, a majority of the men on both sides of my family served in the military, including my dad who enlisted as an officer during Vietnam, and most of the women had kids which they stayed home to look after, so there was a lot of very traditional social life and family life around me on both sides growing up.

    So am I the product of tradition or a break from tradition? I really have no idea. I don't even try to answer that question anymore since I'm always being subtly accused of being too liberal and too conservative for the exact same works of art.

    The main thing is that I was read to a lot as a kid by my mom, so I had access to all kinds of ideas and imagery, and I was supported in pursuing my talent for drawing by my dad. Those were the biggest gifts my parents gave me and I'm grateful to both of them on that level every day.

    I can tell you that no matter what your family life is like, art making is something that nobody is going to care about unless you care about it first.

    Thanks for your interest Chris.

    Yours,
    JB

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Jeremy, Thank you for taking the time to consider my questions and give me great responses. I'm finishing up my paper in the next two-three weeks. If you'd like I can e-mail you a copy of it. Just being able to talk has totally made my day- your art and approach to image-making/ creation (not to mention your theoretical/philosophical approach) are very inspiring to me.

    Thanks again,
    Chris

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Good show Chris. I look forward to your paper. By the way, "Coy" is a dynamic last name.

    Best,
    JB

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Subject: art history paper from year + half ago
    Sat, Jul 28, 2007 at 3:44 PM

    Jeremy/
    Feb/March of last year I emailed you with questions for a paper I was writing for an art history class. You were so generous with your answers and time and I failed to return the favor by sending back the completed paper. I've just dug it up of my l hard drive and am finally sending it off to you. I think in my head I had thought of revising it more and more in anticipation of your reading it and with notes from my professor to guide me on some minor changes.... but then just forgot about it and got busy.
    Please forgive me for never sending you the paper I interviewed you for. I'm including it in this email. Thanks again- and if you have any thoughts / clarifications I would love to hear them.

    /chris coy

    ps. if you're interested in seeing any of my work, click on the link below.

    //////// http://www.seecoy.com

     

     

    (When I wrote this email I had not yet learned of Jeremy's death 11 days earlier. )

     

    Blake_FinalPaper.doc by Chris Coy [pdf]


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    Photograph posted to Twitter by Engin Onder on March 20, 2014, with the caption: "‪#twitter‬ blocked in ‪#turkey‬ tonight. folks are painting ‪#google‬ dns numbers onto the posters of the governing party." The poster shows the AKP candidate for Eskişehir.

    Last Friday, DNS-themed graffiti and memes began to appear in Turkish streets and on the web, bringing the normally unnoticed architecture of the internet into public discourse.

    The sudden focus on DNS, the system that translates a URL into its corresponding numerical IP address, was prompted by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's decision on March 20 to ban Twitter. Court orders were issued to Turkish internet service providers, who apparently implemented DNS redirects, meaning that requests for "twitter.com" would be routed to a different IP address and shown a warning page.

    This kind of block is not particularly effective; users can easily circumvent it by using a public DNS server. Instead of sending the request for twitter.com to a Turkish ISP, users could simply change their computer's network settings and send the request to Google or OpenDNS, or any number of international, publicly available DNS servers. While this is easy to do, it's perhaps not widely understood, and so fans of internet freedom took to the web and the streets to spread the word about the DNS workaround. 

    The 140journos citizen journalist network—organized by Serdar Paktin, Engin Onder and Cem Aydogdu of Institute of Creative MindsBurcu Baykurt, and Igal Nassima—have been engaged in archiving and analyizing social media from Turkish users in an effort to make popular voices more present in the reporting of news and, later, the writing of history about this pivotal period. By way of example, they offered us some of the media from their archive in which users spread the word about DNS: 

    Major soccer team logo used as DNS digits.

     President's rival Imam in Pennsylvania depicted with DNS settings in Survivor Turkey.

    By Saturday, the ban had been tightened: Twitter's IP address itself was blocked, requiring users to set up a VPN or use a Tor browser to work around the requirements. Yesterday, the plot thickened further; after the leak of an audio tape in which Turkish leaders discuss starting a false flag war with Syria, Erdogan blocked YouTube. Strangely, this was done as a DNS block, once again. 

    A number of internet pundits triumphantly hailed the collective action around DNS usage as evidence that "The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it," in the words of John Gilmore. Hapless politician attempts to block website, people find another way, or so the story goes. However, Nassima, argues that this is a misrepresentation; the Twitter ban did have an effect on usage. Nassima and have been archiving social media since the Gezi protests. Nassima has seen a drop in the volume of tweets archived. Even on the first full day of the DNS ban, data from social media analysts Semiocast show a drop in usage from the prior week. Zeynep Tufekci convincingly argues that Erdogan's "ineffective" blocking techniques are more strategic than they seem, that he merely wants to create conditions in which only the existing opposition is using the internet.

    Whatever his intentions, one of the unintended consequences has been an opportunity for public, international conversation about network protocol, normally considered too arcane for the news cycle. As Alex Galloway argued in his book Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization, the web's logic is not purely one of decentralization; instead, horizontal and hierarchical systems exist on it at the same time. The DNS system is one of these hierarchical systems; as Galloway wrote, "The inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, describes the DNS system as the "one centralized Achilles' heel by which [the Web] can all be brought down or controlled.'" Coming in the wake of the recent announcement that US oversight over the central administration of DNS would end by 2015, Erdogan's ongoing DNS hijinks are a reminder of this structural weakness and an opportunity to encourage a wider understanding of the architecture of the web and its vulnerability to centralized power.

    Erdogan's network-level censorship, though, also calls for immediate, tactical responses to ensure that marginalized voices can be heard online. The 140journos network have developed a mobile app, Journos, for citizen journalists in Turkey; they also have an SMS setup in case of internet blackouts. During Sunday's election, users can tune into to the Journos website for live updates and analysis (in both English and Turkish), including election results as well as live user-reported news around Turkey.

    "The Net" as we know it doesn't route around censorship like that of Erdogan's bans. In fact, its DNS-dependent structure actually facilitates it. If censorship is bypassed, it is only because of the collaborative labors of those like 140journos and the many DNS-savvy graffiti artists and meme-makers who know not to interpret censorship as technical damage, but as targeted political oppression.

    Translation: AKP voters have started changing their DNS settings.

    Translation: who's going to explain to Bilal (Prime Minister's son) how to change DNS?

    Classic Gezi meme adapted to the DNS workaround.


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    Wake up, sleepyhead. Art21 just posted their profile of Shana Moulton and Nick Hallett's opera, Whispering Pines 10, presented by Rhizome at the New Museum.

    "Shana gets all of these comparisons to like a Buster Keaton or a Charlie Chaplin" -- Nick Hallett

    Shana Moulton & Nick Hallett Stage An Opera | "New York Close Up" | Art21 from Art21 on Vimeo.

    From Brian Droitcour's 2010 article on Shana Moulton:

    Whispering Pines blends Nickelodeon abracadabra with the consumer's faith that purchases--home decor, skin care products, self-help books--will make life better and happier. But, as Cynthia's mute bewilderment reminds us, agency lies in the objects, and the results are never what Cynthia or the viewer might expect -- like the off-brand pore-cleansing strips that conjure a singing Sphinx in the bathroom mirror. And for all her attempts to improve her life, Cynthia, like a sitcom character, registers no net change from episode to episode (a fact reinforced by the non-chronological numeric sequence of some episodes). Sure, the products aren't all they're cracked up to be, but this is far from a critique of the market and its sham promises. It's just a way to keep the slate blank for further explorations of the subject's relation to her surroundings.


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