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     Gustave Caillebotte, Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877).

    If it's just a matter of avoiding "that guy" or helping its co-creator avoid his ex, then the new "anti-social" app Cloak—which sources your contacts' locations based on their check-ins on Foursquare and Instagram, so that you can avoid them—is just another coddling mechanism that allows us to construct miniature worlds from our "likes," excluding anything that causes us discomfort. This ends, of course, in a boring, predictable, and ultimately doomed utopia, when suddenly everyone is too "Nearby" on Cloak's green-on-black world map, and no one can be "Far enough."

    Cropped screen captures from Cloak (iOS app).

    The design of Cloak, which shows all contacts' locations by default, makes it easy to do more than just cherry-pick those we don't want to interact with (otherwise known, to Cloak copy-generators, as "particularly hazardous people"). We can also use it to avoid interacting with any of our contacts, or at least the ones who have recently checked in on social media. Co-creator Brian Moore identifies the app's target user as someone suffering from "social fatigue." This could describe any of us, at some point, but it's also a coded way of saying introvert. While Jung's explication of the introvert-extrovert dichotomy wasn't meant to assign value, the "introvert" has long been viewed with suspicion. Recent years, though, have seen the rise of a muted introvert pride movement, with Jonathan Rauch's essay "Caring For Your Introvert" in The Atlantic, Susan Cain's celebratory 2013 book The Quiet, and numerous Tumblrs.

    Much of the pro-introvert rhetoric comes down to creativity: There's a widespread stereotype that poets and writers are "naturally" more introverted, and Cain argues that collaboration, often cited as the source of tech-industry innovation, is only possible because of the solitary creativity of people like Steve Wozniak. Arguing about the nature of innovation is a favorite late-capitalist touch sport, and all sort of pseudo-scientific briefs have been authored about the best way to extract creative value from one's employees/oneself. Cloak, however, has nothing to do with creation. You could, presumably, use it to make sure your local cafe is empty of "unwanted friends" (one dark and poetic piece of marketing copy) before going into begin your freelance workday. But then what about all the regulars whose names, much less Instagram accounts, you don't know? Public spaces for composition are thinly protected by any number of unwritten rules, and an app will not save your from their piercing.

    Nor does Cloak engage with that other great intersection of the introvert and the internet: social media. It sources from social media, but does not protect the user from social media fatigue; its effects are purely AFK. And actually avoiding people still requires legwork. If Cloak says a contact is walking down the block towards you, you have to reroute; if Cloak says your ex is at your local bar, you have to change your evening's plans. No one gets to disappear (or, vice versa, can be disappeared). Its slogan, "Incognito Mode for Real Life," won't actually be feasible until someone builds a functional blursuit and its legality is ruled upon. 

    Following McKenzie Wark's call to "reimagine the potential" of emergent tech, we'd like to suggest another use for Cloak: to achieve the social lost-ness so many seek in our cities, not to avoid human contact, but to open ourselves up to the experience of being truly among strangers. This is not freedom from what Baudelaire called "the tyranny of the human face", but rather what he prized as "the singular intoxication" of "the solitary and thoughtful stroller... who loves to lose himself in a crowd" and the "feverish delights that the egoist locked up in himself as in a box...will be eternally deprived of."


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    “Threshhold of Detectibility” Top: the roof of a building in Miranshah, Pakistan, that has been hit by a drone-fired missile. the form of destruction is masked in the photo’s pixelation. Source: Digitalglobe, inc., March 31, 2012 Bottom: Still from footage broadcast on MSNBC of the aftermath of a March 30, 2012 drone strike in miranshah, pakistan, showing the entry hole of a missile through the ceiling of a room. Visualization: Forensic Architecture. Page from Forensis program.

    Any act of looking or being looked at is mediated by technology. This is true of any scientific process too, where each tool or method of looking is developed with a purpose in mind which influences the data that it produces. This is precisely what forensic investigation reveals: not only the reality of an event, but also the intention of a viewing mechanism and the political weight of that intention once made visible. Representations of warfare illustrate this as successfully as any art object.

    As part of the exhibition Forensis, now on view at Haus der Kulteren der Welt in Berlin, Forensic Architecture and SITU Research investigate drone strikes in situations where state-mandated degradation and pixelation of publicly available surveillance footage is a legal regulation rather than a visual constraint, and drones are designed to evade the digital image. Missiles are developed that burrow through targeted buildings, leaving holes that are smaller than a low resolution pixel. Attacking at "the threshold of visibility," the legal, political, and technical conditions equally attempt to remain invisible. The job of forensics is then to recover them.

    Yet to what extent is an exhibition able to bring these conditions into visibility? The Forensis exhibition, curated by Anselm Franke and Eyal Weizman, investigates the forums in which spatial and material evidence is recorded and presented. Exhibiting aesthetic and political practices by individuals and independent organizations (mostly centred around the Forensic Architecture project at the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London), the exhibition raises the political questions that are inherent within changing techniques of media representation across government, surveillance, and law, while also making sure to self-reflexively embed its own apparatus of representation within its critical framework.

    Mostly staged in the one main exhibition room of HKW (below the Anthropocene Observatory and its energetic programme of talks, films and performances), Forensis includes a wide survey of different forensic presentations—involving imaging processes, satellite images, 3D visualizations, models and videos—which have, in their real lives, been mobilised as evidence on behalf of prosecution teams, civil society organizations, activists, human rights groups, and the United Nations. While the Roman forum, the etymological root of the word "forensics," was a site of bustle, noise, and vigorous market trading, the site of contemporary forensics is represented here through a series of projects that require vigorous cognitive processing. Within the exhibition, the viewer is encouraged to drift between a datafarm of text, video essays, and computer renderings, all of which provide the architecture through which we understand choice examples of photographic evidence. However, for such an information-heavy viewing experience, the exhibition also reflects strongly on the aesthetic and performative dimensions within the process of forensic research.

     

    Image from the 3D virtual model reconstruction of the scene at the moment of the shooting of Bassem Abu Rahma. © Forensic Architecture and Situ Studio

    The Roman forum, as Franke and Weizman point out in the exhibition text, was a "multi-dimensional space of negotiation and truth-finding in which humans and objects participated together in politics, law and the economy." The development of forensics in the second part of the twentieth century marked a departure from these origins, as juridical practice shifted away from a sympathy toward the human witness (we're reminded of the importance of testaments in the trial of Adolf Eichmann in illustration of this) and toward a renewed faith in objective analysis. However skulls don't have smiles, and forensic findings can nonetheless be inconclusive—they often produce neither stable nor fixed alternatives to human uncertainty and ambiguity. Forensis is careful to argue for a technological realm in which humans and objects meet each other halfway, and this is one of its charms. Several projects remind us not to lose sight of the human subject within the forensic process. In one exhibit, images of a barricade in the Paris Commune before and after a police attack are compared—an early example of the role of photography in negotiating history. However, no record of the people present is captured in the first image, as they were moving too fast for the shutter speed. This serves as compelling reminder of the need not to erase the human body in our engagement with these technologies. "Can the Sun Lie?" a documentary-style film by Susan Schuppli, examines the conflicting authority of an indigenous storytelling tradition versus scientific expertise. As the film narrates, "in the Canadian arctic the sun is setting many kilometres further west along the horizon, and the stars are no longer where they should be"—observations made by indigenous populations, yet deemed unverifiable and thus illegitimate by scientific communities. This is post-production occurring before an image is even captured; representation is a continually recurring process, with no real sense of "before" or "after." The truth, as such, needs to be conferred.

    Here is the political kernel of the exhibition: if interpretation of information is a continually occurring process, then it is one we need to maintain an active relationship to, which means understanding the constructedness of any truth-situation, but also taking opportunities to reconstruct truth. Illuminated within an area of the exhibition on predictive forensics, "pre-emptive targeted assassinations" by drone-fired missiles dispense punishment not for crimes their targets have committed in the past but for attacks they will presumably commit in the future. Thus, contemporary security management uses statistical prediction to replace documented action as the basis of enforcement and philosophical concepts such as free will are determined in the name of security. Understanding how forms of control navigate through the legal system offers opportunities to consider the validity of other possible futures outside of the lens of accumulated data, granting individuals the ability to question the ethics of preventative measures based on statistical prediction. The materiality and aesthetics of the seemingly objective is emphasized throughout the exhibition.

    “Decoding video testimony”. Animating the shadows allowed FA to establish the time of the day in which a video capturing the ruins of a market targeted in Miranshah, North Waziristan on March 30th 2012 was shot as well as the form of the ruin. © Forensic Architecture

    This is one of the strengths of Forensis, its willingness to wear its ideology on its sleeve and not shy away from making political claims, in contrast with the ambiguity of many contemporary exhibitions. Within Forensis, the form of the exhibition functions primarily as a forum for sharing research and its methodological interpretations, and not as a platform for exhibiting individual works or the identity of the makers of the work. The exhibition argues that forensics is a political practice primarily at the point of interpretation. Yet if the exhibition is its own kind of forensic practice, then it is the point of the viewer's engagement where the exhibition becomes significant. The underlying argument in Forensis is that the object of forensics should be as much the looker and the act of looking as the looked-upon. Perhaps this critical framework can extend beyond the scientific and juridical spheres, and influence our understanding of epistemology and the politics of looking in the world at large.


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  • 04/03/14--07:30: Notes for a New Documentary
  • Tony Conrad, Yellow Movie 12/17/72

    If, as Tony Conrad might have us suppose, a Movie is light and any marking of the passage of time, what is Documentary Cinema as a category? In fact, the Minimalist structural filmmaking practices of Conrad and others share concerns with documentary's base impulse, namely the transmission of a "factual record or report." 

    As screen culture settles into its well-earned ubiquity, we must revisit old questions about the where and the what of cinema as an object and what constitutes something separately known as the "cinematic." All cinema is, on some level, depictive, not necessarily by choice, but rather by inevitability. As fictional as any narrative may assert itself to be, it is also a real event. Every book is a record of someone and something somewhere writing and printing it in real time, and so too every image on screen. Regardless of visual effects and editing, the moving image is, at its root, depictive, depicting its own movement as a bare minimum.

    With this in mind, is a digital clock cinema? Is any screen producing light at any time—picaresque and episodic as devices are woken up, sleep, wake up, sleep, screens within screens are opened and closed, sleep—also cinema? It appears to me that a movie or television show begins when the screen is turned on and ends when it is turned off, regardless of any durational claims made by an individual work.

    Still from Dara Birnbaum, Kiss the Girls: Make Them Cry (1979)

    A month or so back, I had the pleasure of seeing an abridged retrospective of Dara Birnbaum's shorter video works. Birnbaum was present and spoke with the audience after the screening.

    What struck me most were some comments she made regarding the screen-area as a depictive space, a space with the potential to capture or document some event, affect, or qualia, in time, and to attempt a broad accountability for its subject's complexity. Birnbaum described the early days of video and the advent of screen-in-screen editing technology as marking a historical shift with regard to the way information is presented and indexed on screen. No longer were occurrences on screen "calling" to objects or occurrences off screen; now, they could call to other objects sharing the same depictive field by way of a simultaneous pseudo-cubist realism.

    Birnbaum also discussed a video she made with the composer Glenn Branca in which Branca and a group of musicians perform at New York's legendary Mudd Club in the late 70s or early 80s. Using a dark, abstract screen-in-screen effect, and overdubbing audio of the thunderstorm outside the club on the night of the performance, the video folds in sensory, affective, and allegorical information simultaneously, entangling the virtual and the actual in an expanded-field depiction. She noted that Branca was unhappy with the video because it wasn't simply a reproduction of the performance.

    The potential imbued in screen-within-a-screen has enabled an aesthetic family of home shopping networks, game shows, news networks, pop-up video, pop-up ads, and the graphic user interface of our contemporary internet. All share an approach to aestheticized data: shifting infographics that visually index the economies orbiting around and intersecting with the object of our viewing. Which is to say, these windows didn't open themselves (for the most part).

    Screen capture of YouTube's recommended videos for Sam Davis.

    I experience this phenomenon most acutely via YouTube. Last year, I made a movie called Slowly We Rot, assembled entirely of YouTube clips I ripped using a website called clipconverter.cc. Most of what I watched while researching and editing this project (and most of what I watch on YouTube, regardless) is live concert footage of the sort I imagine being traded on videocassettes 20 years ago.

    As a result of regular use, there is a column at the right of my screen recommending videos which YouTube has, in procedural collaboration with me, deemed content Related to my current viewing concerns, and therefore Related to the concerns of the object of my viewing, becoming subject at the center of a broader historical network of culture and capital. Unlike televised iterations of screen-in-screen graphical user interfaces (or GUIs), things like ads for other television shows or stock tickers, I can actually click through to any YouTube recommendation, my own desire intersecting with history, organizing culture for myself and others.

    History is performed, in the case of YouTube and its user, as a creative act of delineation, incorporating countless economies of affect, data, qualia, etc., our taxes, our photos, a clock, a calendar, a calculator. YouTube's mode of on-screen depiction and incorporation of its surrounding context has its less interactive roots in television, but a peer in the structural Representational cinema of artists like Conrad and Birnbaum. By depicting the behavior of the viewer through targeted recommendations and histories even during the act of viewing, traditional cinematic time becomes depictive time, slow time. This is not merely process cinema, however, nor self-reflexive redundancy marking its own passing. YouTube viewing has the potential to include the Bergsonian "any moment whatever," Whatever's Around In The Expanded Field.

    Martine Syms, Reading Trayvon Martin (2013)

    Martine Syms's readingtrayvonmartin.com is a public website collecting links to news and opinion articles orbiting the event depicted, the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. The overlaid images of a hoodie, iced tea can, and skittles bag are nearly platonic in their ubiquity; flattened product shots of the type used by Amazon and tiny procedurally-generated Google ads. My own computer's clock and my internet connection become formal edges for the work, a structurally cinematic delineation à la the black frames around Tony Conrad's Yellow Movies, an instance of what John Keats might call negative capability. The website as situated both within time and the internet indicates the end of point of delineation and autonomy, an inevitably and irreparably open end where the Content meets the rest of the universe.

    Detail of Carson Fisk-Vittori, Women Weed & Weather, at Carrie Secrist Gallery, Chicago.

    Off-screen, Carson Fisk-Vittori, an artist living in Oakland, CA, makes clean formal arrangements using consumer gardening products, water bottles, cell phones, and lots of live plants. The plants co-exist with commercial iconography flatly representing The Natural, casually assertive biomorphic branding clip art arranged in colorful harmony as "freestyle ikebana," a variation on Japanese ikebana flower arrangement that Fisk-Vittori describes as celebrating "creative design and innovative materials not limited to plants."

    Free Style arrangements attempt to reflect their surroundings, and through their inclusion of modern materials compile an updated image of the world we currently live in—some acknowledging dust bunnies, plastic parts, discarded Dr. Pepper cans, candy wrappers and other technological wonders culled from our contemporary landscape.1

    I like to imagine that the plants in Fisk-Vittori's work constitute a cinema of their own. A slow moving image in real time, at the center of orbiting Related nodes performing the intersecting economies on display.

    In the work of both Syms and Fisk-Vittori, documentary cinema is material and even sculptural, a cinema of clocks, links, and photosynthesis that manages to temporarily depict simultaneous economies in real time, rejecting structures enforcing the subjugated informe and depicting the incidental and everyday as an essentially iterative, procedurally and thus politically generated component of the documentary body.

    These intersecting economies suggest a cinema that is radically participatory, turning us, if we so desire, into aesthetic prosumers. This ikebana take on practices of depictive capture implies an accessible and potentially subversive set of generative circumstances, which is to say, a sandbox.

    Still from Paul Salveson, Instructional #3 (2014)

    Paul Salveson, an artist whose work has its roots in depictive photography, reveals the latent alien qualities in the arrangement of everyday life and, occasionally, makes minor adjustments. Not only does Salveson depict the strangeness of the sandbox itself, but he's acting upon it, akin to Fisk-Vittori's freestyle ikebana, but like a YouTube instructional video insisting that we can all just do it if we want to. In a recent video called Instructional #3 (which he was gracious enough to upload to Vimeo for this text), Salveson imitates the well-lit depictive space of YouTube How-To videos, performing a series of actions within that space and narrating his actions in real time. Despite the strange abstract quality of the imagery, there is no suspension of disbelief required while Salveson unpacks the scene depicted, exploring its nuances in a way that, wonderfully, doesn't make it any less strange or alien. What constitutes the edges of a work like this? Given the tools to recreate the actions in front of us, are we, the viewer, the cinematic delineation of this documentary, the edges marking its frame?

    The cinemas of Tony Conrad and Dara Birnbaum are cinemas of the divining rod, instances where cinematic capture is the same thing as any event's material expression. While Salveson's work has more in common with traditional cinematic viewing experiences, it performs the same documentary function as the work of Syms and Fisk-Vittori, a carefully freestyle depiction in real time, a documentary of the swirling vortex, actions performed on images and images performing actions, the ability to depict the experience of living under late-capitalism, or universe circa 2014, or whatever you want to call it. This could be New Documentary.


    1 From an unpublished text by Fisk-Vittori and collaborator Jasmine Lee. Due to an editing error the block-quoted paragraph was not attributed as a quote in an earlier version of this article. The post has been updated. 


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    Saturday, May 3, 201412-6pm EST
    at the New Museum, New York 
    Livestreamed on Rhizome.org 

    For Rhizome's Seven on Seven, leading contemporary artists are paired with tech luminaries for one day. Their assignment: to make something new.

    On Saturday, May 3, the duos unveil their creations, with rich discussion, for the first time. A five-time sold-out event, Seven on Seven brings the thinkers and makers who shape contemporary culture, today and in the future, into critical and creative conversation.

    This year's NYC line-up features: 

     

    MORE INFORMATION & TICKETS: rhizome.org/sevenonseven


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  • 04/04/14--08:20: Successful Apps Fill Gaps
  •  

    Jon Nash and Michael Petruzzo, Slight 1.0 (2014), screenshot of iOS app.

    A smartphone app feels special when, upon first being opened, one has no clue what one is supposed to be doing with it. If life is a series of bricks or whatever, then a successful app can be a kind of mortar, filling gaps that you never knew were there (thats where the title of this essay came from). I don't mean *invented* gaps, or *fake* gaps, the type that boring Menlo Park chads cook up after one too many rails, apps with such a specific purpose that they end up sitting in the back of your phone somewhere, sad and utterly useless. I'm talking about apps that come out of the gate with no purpose, or a purpose so open-ended that the original creators could never have dreamed how it would end up being used. This is DUH but twitter: you write text! and look at all this malarkey we have to deal with now! Sad Twitter, Weird Twitter, Talking Tower Bridge Twitter, Commuter Express 437 Updates Twitter, Will Smith's Kid's Twitter, JEFF BAIJ TWITTER!

    An analogy: there are two types of kitchen tools, the kind that do one thing (usually poorly?), and the humble kind, the kind that slowly reveal their true usefulness. First category: Microwave Bacon Cooking Trays, Avocado Slicers, Those Syringes That Inject Marinade. Second category: Microplane, Potato Peeler, Tiny Spoon.

    Right, so a couple months ago Jon Nash and Michael Petruzzo (full disclosure: I drink with these people like, a lot) released a wonderful and seemingly useless app called Slight. The mechanics are as follows: upon opening, the user is shown a pin of their location on a map. Click the pin, and one can leave a short message that is always pinned to that location and never deleted, along with any other messages that have previously been left there. When someone leaves a message, everyone else who is there gets it pushed to their phone. You can upvote and downvote previous messages from that location. User, you may also fly around, at your will, viewing messages left Anywhere On Earth. If a place has had lots of messages within 24 hours, the pin turns red. Also, Slight is completely anonymous. There is no sign up, no login, no user names. Imagine. 

    Uses are myriad, such as talking crazy amounts of shit on your peers while at a party or opening, but there are several other, less caustic uses that I've discovered. You can use it to sell drugs or find someone to do drugs with! Sample message: "I'm in the bathroom, bring me drugs." You can use it to find a potential makeout partner using the same message but replacing "drugs" with "your face." You can leave reviews of restaurants, you can find friends at a concert, you could probably even use it as some sort of dead drop, hiding messages in the desert for your spy friends. This is what I was talking about in paragraph #1 about open-ended apps, I think you understand my central thesis.

    Why, one may ask, are all the art kids and all the net kids in LA going crazy over this thing, deeply embarrassing themselves and others? The art world, you see, like any other scene, is a pressure cooker. Feelings such as rage and horniness build up, with very few scene-sanctioned outlets. But now! We are free to vent, to let it rip, to say what everyone was thinking. Another reason: artists are poor, and a simple message such as "Try the Grateful Bowl, it's cheap and filling!" can go a long way in helping one's budgetary issues. Finally, people in scenes, like all other pack animals, need a way to pick themselves out in a crowd. I have seen the actual message "net artists are in the bedroom." 

    If this all sounds like a long-winded advertisement, that's because it is. I love this app bb. 

     

     

     

    Jon Nash and Michael Petruzzo, Slight 1.0 (2014), screenshots of iOS app.


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    In order to increase survivability in the event of a crash, scientist Charles Yost developed memory foam in 1966 at the NASA Ames Research Center, within walking distance of what would later become the Googleplex. Memory foam holds the mark of any pressure made against it before slowly returning to its original form when the pressure is removed.

    Curated by Agatha Wara, ٩١١,000 B.C. was the inaugural show at Grand Century, an exhibition space in an artist's studio on New York's Lower East Side organized by artists Dora Budor, Alex Mackin Dolan, and Olivia Erlanger. The show lasted less than twenty-four hours, opening on Saturday night (March 29) and closing the following evening. The visitor found memory foam in the first and last corners of the space.

    For these two works, Berlin-based artist Philip Zach UV-printed the terrain of Mars and the Moon on memory foam. Looking at them, I wanted to replicate the mattress advertisements where a hand hovers over a vanishing mark it has made. The suggested physicality of this landscape and the familiarity of the foam brings scientific research into the domestic sphere and links the planetary scale with the corporeal through a commodity, producing desire through false proximity.

    Wara’s staging made viewers ever conscious of their movement within the small space. Though they were positioned to encourage circumambulation around the small space, the saturation of the works did not allow room to breathe. The two largest works, a computer-designed quilt by Cairo-based Kareem Lotfy and a text by Berlin-based Ilja Karilampi, were placed across from each other in the gallery's rear. During the opening, I navigated through the bodies to have a clear view of these two works; walking from the entrance, I tripped over someone's foot in order to avoid hitting Oslo-based Anders Dahl Monsen's protruding steel line-graphs and landed somewhere in the back near Karilampi's work, a gold-mirrored overlaid by an erasure of a large blue text that puns on "Jag är den jag är" ("I am that I am"). 

    On the closing day, two of the pieces of memory foam were no longer against the wall, possibly kicked. In the space, the head undulates, and the viewers step back to look at the ceiling, forward to gaze at the floor, bend half way and shake their heads to read Ida Eritsland's text stretched across a corner, conflating universal inflation, Jimmy Carter's Gold Record, and the ripples of historical violence, so many gestures impeding the possibility of structuring meaning.

    But what about the crash? 

    Structural contradictions are vital to its operation. 

    Did we see it?

    Or when we search for "Jag är den Jag är" on Amazon did we mean to say "Jaguar Sports Car"?


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  • 04/09/14--07:32: Connecting With My Inner Bot
  • Incorporate introduces itself in the iOS app store with a simple inquiry: "How do you connect to others, if you're not connected to yourself? This experiment in digital relaxation comes from artist duo Essex Oliveras by way of support from SculptureCenter. It is an artwork designed to circulate among apps, taking its place in—and perhaps commenting on—an increasingly crowded landscape of self-help tools for the informationally overloaded.

    The opening screen asks, "how are you feeling?" above a menu of rounded buttons displaying six succinct emotions: overwhelmed, torn, centered, hostile. Select one or two.

     

    I choose two emotions—blocked and flustered. The screen transitions to the first exercise. A transcript of the upcoming verse appears onscreen; below it, a progress bar, a pause button, and navigation arrows. The minimal interface tempts me to interact. An even-toned voice, speaking softly alongside an original soundtrack of chimes, saxophone, and plenty of synth, asks me to focus on my breathing, a rudimentary relaxation technique:

    Breathe in through you nose and out through your mouth.

    Feel these words through your body.

    With every breath, you release more tension.

    I breathe. I try to release tension. "With every breath, you release more tension." It recites, but with every breath, I realize I am not really focusing on my breath. Tension levels remain the same even though I visualize tension melting away. "With every breath..." Without realizing it, I'm scrolling through the transcript. I'm disappointed to find these are the only words. With every breath, my mind wanders back to the usual places. I click "Next." It's not Incorporate's fault; it's mine. My brain isn't accustom to this brand of touch-screen surrender.

    The pavlovian response to a touchscreen is counter-productive to real relaxation, meditation, or introspection. My mind has learned to switch on with the device. While I'm trying to relax with this app, millions of neurons are prepared to receive a cascade of information. I can't feel at ease with an iPad glowing back at me.

    I try closing my eyes. Sans screen, I'm able to appreciate the audio environment Incorporate creates. It's clear that the audio and text alone is the app's strongest facet, well written and at times poignant. The music is soothing without relying on new age staples of whale sounds or ocean waves accompanied by wind instruments.

     

     

    However, the interface is rife with elements borrowed from other places of daily, thoughtless interaction: the transcript on the screen, the pause button, the next arrow, the yes or no questions. If the exercise's design worked as well as the content, using visuals and interaction to enhance and facilitate the concepts (like a non-sexual Luxuria Superbia), Incorporate just might be able to détourne my well-trained neural pathways and create a hypnotic and deeply relaxing experience. Instead, the design is almost wilfully mundane, anti-transcendent.

    Is the app an exercise in futility, a comment on the impossibility of app-based meditation? Is it badly designed? Or, does it just want me to close my eyes? If the audio track were to play for a full hour, I can see myself being lulled away from my usual hyperactive thought process and into relaxation. But that's not the case. Soon, the verse ends and a truncated version of this exercise's soundtrack plays on loop. The loop is not seamless and not as pleasant as the exercise itself. I'm forced to interrupt the feeble beginnings of release and open my eyes. The task following each audio visualization waits to be tended to:

    Throw away your phone.

    Did you accomplish the task?

    Two buttons appear below yes and no. Answering "No" returns me to the previous exercise.

    Throw away your phone.

     

    I'm on an iPad. My phone rests peacefully in my bag. This hardly marks a departure from my routine: I visualize throwing my phone away daily, hourly, whenever I'm lost in a feed. Other tasks use heavy-handed symbolism and are equally ineffective. "You are a cactus. Remove every single one of your spines." "You are a block of ice, slowly melting into the person next to you." I glance at the stranger beside me on the train. We make eye contact and she shifts her body away from me, uncomfortable. "Did you accomplish the task?" Yeah, sure. The screen eases into the next verse, not once questioning the integrity of my answer, even when I have clearly not followed instructions, my intact phone by my side.

    I try different variations by refreshing and recombining the emotions. There are more repetitive verses that my mind wanders away from. Other exercises read as 3-minute psychotherapy, asking about childhood embarrassment or digging at the possible roots of contemporary disillusionment. "Right now, on this device through which you are listening to me speak, you are being tracked, recorded, and monitored," I'm told, as though I'm not already aware. Like most cold readings, Incorporate relies on overgeneralization. For every line that applies to me, there is one that does not.

    Completing three exercises leads to a congratulatory closing screen:

    You've reached the end of this process.

    You've dug deep inside yourself. Drawn your own conclusions. You're ready to incorporate into the world.

    There is only one button: "I'm ready." If you say so. I tap it. The app doesn't shut off or call me a liar. I don't incorporate into the world. I'm back at the menu, ready to spend more time in the service of a bot. "How are you feeling?" My starting emotions remain selected. Accurate, as I feel exactly the same as when I began.

    The Incorporate app was developed for the exhibition "Chance Motives." (2014) at SculptureCenter, curated by Kari Rittenbach, and supported by SculptureCenter's In Practice program.


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    From Joe Hamilton, hypergeographySources: ultrazapping and darrellg.

    If you thought cryptocurrencies were hard to understand, you probably want to sit down for your first introduction to smart property.

    The easy way to think about smart property is like Bitcoin, but for real things. I recently explained BTC here on Rhizome as follows (skip this excerpt if you're already familiar with this):

    Basically, it's a peer-to-peer database that lists a number of units of value, or coins, by unique addresses, and assigns them to personal owners by more unique addresses. The database makes sure that only the right coins are assigned to the right owners by keeping a single list of who owns what, called the blockchain.

    It also makes sure that the blockchain cannot be falsified, by placing the transactions between pieces of a complicated code, which are called the proof of work. Since every computer on the network is simultaneously generating the proof of work (and is rewarded for doing so by being given a fraction of new BTC according to the amount of work they are doing, in what is called mining), it would take a computer that is more powerful than all the others combined to mess  up the record.

    Rather than recording ownership of non-physical cryptographic made-up money-units using a distributed, peer-to-peer database, the smart property database (the blockchain) is tracking contracts that determine access to things like cars, real estate, or stocks. Your car's title is not just a pink sheet, it's also an entry in the blockchain—in other wrods, a cryptocoin. (The idea was first proposed by Nick Szabo, who worked on a precursor to Bitcoin called "bit gold.")

    There isn't functional smart property yet, but people are working on it. Ethereum is a platform that works like a cryptocurrency, but with actionable script inside the blockchain. This code could be programmed to work in many different ways. It could simply be used as a kind of cryptocurrency, or a contract, or a bet between two parties, in which ownership of a property changes hands automatically based on the results of, say, the NCAA tournament. Or, it could get much more complicated than that. Ethereum's white paper suggests the possibility of anonymous, distributed corporations, making decisions and paying salaries based on who controls a majority of the shares. But even Ethereum's developers aren't quite sure how it will work—they are planning a sandbox test chain first, so that they can see how it works in practice and prevent weird code bugs from escaping into the wild. In the world of smart property, stakes are accelerated as theory becomes real life.

    Woe betide you if you lose the digital wallet that has the title to your car, your home, and your perfect digital fantasy sports team. But what is really unfortunate about smart property is not just what might go wrong, but our inability to understand it at all, right or wrong. Although transparency is often cited as one of the more salutary features of decentralized cryptocurrency, the automation of contracts opens up the possibility for new levels of automated, algorithmic manipulation of real property. 

    When the bank comes to foreclose on your house, at least it is fairly easy for the layperson to understand what is happening. You didn't have the money to buy the house, the bank gave you a loan with interest, you didn't pay them back, so the bank gets the house. Perhaps it's predatory and capitalistic, but at least we can see how.

    The only way that most people even pretend to understand Bitcoin is with analogy—"mining," "keys," and "wallets." But what actually makes it work is math that almost no one understands. This is why no one uses public-key cryptography if it isn't automatic—it just doesn't make sense to ordinary people, no matter how many stories of Alice and Bob you hear. We detest legalese and fine print, because this is where someone can take advantage of us. In the case of cryptocurrencies, there is only fine print. When you find out that someone in Romania now owns your car, and it has something to do with the a vulnerability in the Merkle branch that allowed the dealer's transaction to double-spend, what then? If you couldn't understand in the first place, how could you not mess up?

    We might chuckle at those who lost money in the Mt. Gox fiasco, because we think they were suckers that should never have invested in Bitcoin to begin with. But Bitcoin is a choice, forced upon no one. Property is different. Even to reject private property, one must have the authority to declare something common property. Under US law, common property and private property are two types of the same thing, and if that property is smart property, they will both be dependent upon cryptography. A Creative Commons license would be as dependent upon public and private keys as the preferred stock of an asteroid mining start-up, ensnared by the same fine print.

    Currency is an invented unit of value. Property, on the other hand, is the world, being valued. Smart property, if it becomes a success, could put the entire authority by which the world is valued beyond our understanding, including the ground beneath our feet, the water that we drink, the air that we breathe.


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    Photo of Salon de Thé Facebook, Tunis, shared on Twitter by @WadhahJebri on February 16, 2011 and recirculated with the #16juin2014 hashtag.

    It sounds, at first, like something out of H.G. Wells. On February 16, 2011, a person opening a Tunisian newspaper or website might have come across an article dated more than three years in the future. 

    Following the Sidi Bouzid Revolt in January 2011 which ousted the president, the country experienced a national strike which halted economic activity, and the transition government swiftly lost the confidence and goodwill of the people. A Tunisian ad agency, Memac Ogilvy Label Tunisia, embarked on a campaign to convince Tunisia's media outlets to join together for one day to report news from 2014. 

    We needed to find a way to encourage the people to get back to work and start rebuilding the country we had all fought for… So we decided to show everyone how bright our future could be if we all started building it now… During a whole day, the media acted as if it were June 16th 2014 and presented Tunisia as a prosperous, modern and democratic country… The media content spread to social media via 16juin2014.com and people began to imagine wonderful futures and called everyone for action. #16juin2014 hashtag was n°1 top trend topic on Twitter all day long. At 6pm, the debate was everywhere on TV, radios, blogs… Getting back to work quickly became an act of resistance.

    When I visited the 16 Juin 2014 website (sadly no longer active, but available via the WayBack Machine), what struck me about the news being reported was how uneventful it was. Using Google to auto-translate the title of the clip revealed that the major news item was about a "Shopping Festival" in the town of Kasserine, featuring interviews with celebrity fashion designers Giorgio Armani and Marc Ecko. There was discussion of a giant Daft Punk concert in Tunisia, and the leading newspaper La Presse boasted of the Museum of the Revolution joining the ranks of the 50 most-visited tourist destinations worldwide. As a vision of the future, it seemed rather modest. But then, given the turmoil that spread across the country just several months before these articles were written, uneventful may be ambitious enough.

    Top: Front page of La Presse on February 16, 2011. Bottom: inside page of La Presse with fictional advertisement announcing the opening of the 12th McDonalds in Douz, Tunisia.

    In the last few years, new strategies have emerged for facilitating discussion and thought about the future. Dubbed "Experiential Futures" by futurist Stuart Candy, these approaches sidestep intellectual discussion in favor of provoking more emotional responses by embodying elements of hypothetical futures into present-day artworks, films, and performances, such as newspapers from the future. 

    #16juin2014 isn't the only example of an Experiential Future in the form of a newspaper. In 2008, a collaborative group of political activists and mischief-makers carried out a major stunt, producing and distributing 1.2 million copies of a "special edition" of the New York Times from 2009. This newspaper of the future perfectly replicated the design and layout of the original, but with a telling edit of the Times' motto, from "All the news that's fit to print" to "All the news we hope to print." 

    The New York Times Special Edition Video News Release (Nov. 12, 2008). 

    The content of the fake NYT was as aspirational as the Yes Men's motto suggested: front page headlines included "Iraq War Ends," "Ex-Secretary Apologizes for WMD Scare," "Maximum Wage Law Succeeds," and "Nation Sets Its Sights On Building Sane Economy."

    In 2013, two years after a massive earthquake devastated the city, Christchurch newspaper The Press produced an edition of the paper reporting from 2031. Articles covered New Zealand politics, city planning, the impacts of climate change, and local Christchurch sports and arts, from the perspective of 20 years after the earthquake. The aim of the exercise was to prompt Christchurch citizens to look beyond the recent disaster and to "Rally, protest, cheer, plant ... do something that changes the future."

    The 2011 Lecturas de Cruce ("Crossing Lectures"), organized by SF author Pepe Colo and his media studies students from the Autonomous University of Baja California, tapped into the potential of the border as a place from which to envision the future. Alongside a dispensary of free science fiction books, dance performances by pre-programmed cyborgs, a procession dedicated to a cyborg saint called Santa Ste.la, a newspaper from the future was handed out to cars queued in the hours-long line to cross the US-Mexico border.

    The Procession of Stanta Ste.la at Lecturas de Cruce

    These are among a scattering of recent newspapers and other media outlets around the world that have published editions reporting from hypothetical futures. This is hardly a trend—the few examples I'm aware of are so disparate that it is more likely to be convergent evolution, with each paper coming up with the idea independently. 

    What is the point of this practice? The short answer is that there are too few opportunities for people to come together in public discussion about the future. Future forecasting is generally left to the "experts." Science fiction offers a more populist approach, but it too often offers a nearly unrecognizable image of the world. The newspaper format—digital or print—is effective because of its familiarity to so many people, and because of its aura of authority. Seeing a well-known media outlet describing events of the future has the potential to prompt concrete thinking and widespread discussion about what lies ahead.

    That's the theory, anyway, although it is difficult to assess its effectiveness. Three years after #16juin2014, Tunisian artist Noureddine El Hani described the initiative in positive terms:

    The waking dream was like a flash in the pan (un feu de paille, literally a fire of straw); it didn't last more than a moment, but it was useful in the sense that it permitted one to disengage from the real, it created a small sphere of hopes and desires for, and projections onto, the future. It is indispensable in times of crisis—whether economic, national, or emotional! Being a continual transgression, art doesn't make sense except to the extent that it comes from the imagination to build a dream world. The video… was received with pleasure, I think, at the time even though the economic situation of the country leaves something to be desired since! But the fact of imagining, thanks to new technologies, better horizons give a glimmer of hope and offer a certain enchantment for the viewer even if he or she knows it is utopian.

    El Hani's remarks echo Steve Duncombe's argument that the "impossible dreams" of Experiential Futures "open up a space for democratic participation in the process of imagining the future, which also offers the possibility of escaping the tyranny of the present... for people to imagine, 'why not?', and 'what if?'"

    However, some Tunisian commentators, including independent critical blog Nawaat.org, put forward the argument that #16juin2014 was less a democratic vision of the future than an elitist one (see: Armani & Ecko). Journalist Frida Dahmani questioned the suddenness of the campaign, arguing that it was too soon for Tunisians to even be sure of their current situation, let alone imagine its future, and questioned the value of a future visioning exercise led by an ad agency and carried out by a small elite against the backdrop of a general strike. Rather than taking time to reconnect with what the country wants and needs, the #16juin2014 operation seems "like a big joke mounted by a bunch of friends at a party in the [affluent] northern suburbs."

    The wildly aspirational, almost euphoric vision of 2009 in TheNew York Times Special Edition was also not uncontested. Its makers, a group that included Steve Lambert, Andy Bichlbaum of The Yes Men, 30 writers, 50 advisors, 1000 volunteer distributors, CODEPINK, May First/People Link, Evil Twin, Improv Everywhere and Not An Alternative, were less concerned with making realistic predictions of the future than with prompting a call to action, with the immediate intended result of a celebratory end-of-the-war street party. Their dazzling, egalitarian, humanist alternative to the dismal futures then being debated by politicians on the left and right was at first glance absurd, but so richly detailed that readers couldn't help asking themselves, "Why not?"

    The New York Times Special Edition, 2008

    One of the original collaborators, artist and editor Anne Elizabeth Moore, left the project before it was published; she later discussed the fact that the political content of the paper changed after her departure:

    A ton of stuff was cut–much of it the most engaged critical stuff... Perhaps coincidentally, most content by female contributors was cut… This was where writers–original contributors to this vision–started to get screwed. When their work was changed or dropped without consultation, I mean fake paper or not, that’s really exploitive of people’s labor, and just generally kind of unethical. Made more disturbing by the utopic vision and structure of this paper. Because whose ideal vision of the future includes having their contributions ignored or changed without consultation? Which is sort of a great lesson in how supposed utopias operate, I guess. 

    Like #16juin2014, like all such projects, The New York Times Special Edition represented a particular set of voices and their political beliefs and assumptions. Nevertheless, it also represented a moment of possibility, bringing otherwise unexpressed hopes and dreams back into the broader political conversation.

    It's hard to prove that newspapers of the future as a whole contribute to social change in any meaningful way. They don't solve the underlying problems involved in facilitating a truly collective dialogue about what lies ahead, and there is always some line drawn between those who are included in the discussion, and those who are not.

    Yet as a popular medium with a particularly strong claim on reality, the newspaper (in its paper and digital versions) does have the potential to reach a wide audience and invite readers into a process of visualization. Visualizing a preferred future may only be a first step—the next is visualizing the process needed to make it happen. Still, considering that most of the time we do neither, any prompt that reminds us that the future is not fixed, but up for grabs, can only be a positive. In this sense, most newspapers from hypothetical futures are, at least, gestures in the right direction.


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    Animated GIF via dump.fm

    LH: For as long as I've been familiar with your work—starting on dump.fm in 2010—you've been incredibly prolific. Back then, you were creating and sharing abstract animated GIFs. I remember you would post hundreds of variations on a single shape. I see that kind of preoccupation, or obsession, come up again and again in your work, with the Phone Arts series, the Microsoft Store Paintings, and most recently, the Sheryl Crow Pandora Paintings. These expansive projects create a sense of repetition, ultimately a smooth rhythm, which appears to be so continuous as to not have a beginning or an end. Can you describe the process for coming up with these projects? How do you distinguish the individual pieces?

    MM: I don't like to take any single piece too seriously, I want to work on something without the pressure of it being perfect. I think people discount producing a lot of work because they connect it to feed culture like it's more important to produce massive amounts of content for tumblr or instagram or w/e but that's not really what I'm trying to do. I think it's more interesting to like shit out a bunch of work in a natural way whether it's through a rhythm that you just stumble upon or if you see a jpeg on dump and you're like "loloolllollll pssssssh what in the even fuck ommmmmg" so you have to like rework it 50 times because you're obsessed with it, and then step back after you make this massive body of work and say to yourself "what is all that about dude?", than if you try and distill an idea into one perfect piece you've over thought to death. When you try and make a piece fit a preconceived concept it feels like graphic design, you have the message and the content you're just trying to solve how to effectively communicate that through the work and I don't want to work like that.

    From the series Microsoft Store Paintings.

    As Tom Moody noted on his blog there are some distinct differences between your Phone Arts paintings, which are made on an iPhone or an iPad, and your Microsoft Store Paintings, which are made on Microsoft's Surface tablet. Mainly, the Microsoft Store Paintings appear more painterly. Have you come to any conclusions about these branded devices after working with them for the past few years? How do you work around the built-in limitations of the devices, or are those limitations part of your interest?

    The Microsoft Store Paintings are all about self-imposed limitations and subverting the idea of an artist's studio. I only paint inside of Microsoft retail locations on display computers, using a stock Windows program, in the amount of time it takes before a sales person is like "dude, WTF are doing?" I'm using default devices and software in a public commercial space to create work that is typically done in a private location with highly specialized tools.

    I don't really care about brands or the branded part of any of it, I just look at them all like toys lol.

    "oh word you got faux palette I can mix paint on, lemme try that"

    I will say however I had to goto an Apple store one time to post JPEGs I made on a computer at the Microsoft Store because Tumblr was blocked at the Microsoft Store so that was pretty funny, especially since they were like within two doors of each other.

    In most places on the internet you're known by your alias, mirrrroring. Where did that name come from? What's mirroring what?

    Mirroring is a term for identically replicating a set of data. Usually you like mirror a hard drive to create a copy of all the files so that was the first part. The next part was a combination of my general obsession with mirrors and this story Borges wrote called "The Fauna of Mirrors" which was about this prehistoric time when like men and spectres lived in harmony on opposite sides of mirrors but could freely pass through them to the others world. Then they got into a massive war and men banished the spectres to the other side of the mirror to only mimic them, but there's this ominous tone signifying the impending day when the spectres free themselves and can cross the mirror again.

    The short answer is that it looks cool when you add those extra two R's and it's always available when I want to sign up for a new account on literally every website.

    Michael Manning, Without You (2013). 50% scale.

    Your description of "Fauna of Mirrors" reminds me of the endless, looping window opening in Without You (2013), the piece you made for Rick Silva's pavilion in The Wrong online biennial. This piece is an interesting counterpoint to your paintings because there seems to be such a slow focus on composition. The viewer is caught in a cycle of approaching something without the satisfaction of ever actually reaching it. Is the repetition in your work reflective of some kind of longing or attempt to move toward something? What are you trying to move toward?

    It's more about never getting there. That piece in particular ended up being about feeling like you are sitting around your ex's house after staying over and they are at work and you're just chilling watching Psych episodes on Netflix which should be hilarious but you just feel sort of weird. In a larger way a lot of the websites I have made are about some kind of misplaced longing for something larger than ourselves. Sort of like saying: so ya we killed god, technology is cool, we have the internet and all that, we can grow people ears but that doesn't change it, we just find new ways of trying to find or define or understand something larger than us.

    From the series Sheryl Crow Pandora Paintings.

    You're becoming well known for your large-scale paintings that start as JPEGs, are printed on canvas, and then brushed with a clear acrylic for texture. What inspired you to start creating objects?

    Basically I didn't want to show a Tumblr in a gallery lol.

    Personally one of the reasons I love net art or internet based works (which is what those paintings were until Lucy asked me to show them) is how chill the experience of consuming the work is. You are typically by yourself hanging around doing whatever the F and you can just surf or surf and smoke or surf and eat pizza etc. ad infinitum. The experience is informal and personalized looking at art in a gallery is crazy different lol, not to mention how dumb like scrolling through a website is at an art show.

    I always just say I was lucky because I had been making corny sellable paintings for 2 years I just hadn't printed them out yet.

    Age: 28

    Location: Los Angeles

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

    I went to NYU for my undergraduate degree and got a BFA in Film. I mostly studied animation and getting really stoned in Washington Square Park, like every other loathsome NYU kid. Later, I got my MBA at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. There's a stone plaque at the football field with my name on it that says "All Business"

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

    I build houses.

    Which artists have influenced you the most, or which projects?

    I feel really lucky actually because a lot of them are people I get to say hi to in LA, I mean Guthrie and Petra were like fundamental to me and dude Pascual where else do you have a Pascual in this world??? Tom Moody obvi.

    As far as olds like I'm really big on Jackson Pollock before he went drippy, Gauguin even though he was a creepy ex-pat imperialist, def Richard Jackson, Diebenkorn and Hockney as like old school California chillers.

    Michael Bay > Marcel Duchamp

    What does your desktop or workspace look like?

     

    Best link ever?

    Can't even.

    Michael Manning's solo show, "Wild Fusion: Vol. I - Total Collapse," will open on April 24th at American Contemporary in Manhattan. In May, he will have another solo show, "Wild Fusion: Vol. II - One Love," at Retrospective Gallery in Hudson, New York.


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  • 04/21/14--07:45: The Image of a Storm Cloud
  • The following is a fictionalized account of the opening of Jon Rafman's You Are Standing in an Open Field, which was on view from Sept 12 - Oct 26, 2013 at Zach Feuer Gallery in New York. 

    "Zach Feuer's on 22nd Street," said Thor. He looked up from his iPhone and pointed downtown.

    "That sounds right," said Zoe. "A really even number. I can picture it on their website." Zoe nodded and then coughed.

    I shrugged and joined them—Thor, Zoe, and my girlfriend Ann. Thor leaned over his phone.

    Thor was a tall man, handsome with thick eyebrows. At twenty-two, he was a decade younger than me. Zoe, meanwhile, had sparkly eyes. I think she was Ann's age, twenty-eight. "I haven't seen anything new by Jon in a long time," she said. "I don't even know what this is going to be like."

    "I haven't seen anything, either," said Ann. "It should be good, though; Jon's really good." I looked over to Ann. Where Zoe's eyes were sparkly, Ann's eyes were windows. She smiled at me. That was nice. It helped propel me forward, into the surge of eccentric old rich people and hipsters that negotiated their way in our direction up 10th avenue. Thor ran his finger down his phone.

    I peeked over to see what he was doing. Thunder rippled in the distance. I thought maybe he was looking at the Facebook page for the Jon Rafman opening we were all walking to or maybe at Google maps for Zach Feuer Gallery's address, but he wasn't; all I saw was the image of a dark storm cloud on a weather app.

    Drips. Raindrops. I looked up. It wouldn't rain tonight, I thought; it wouldn't rain on all of these rich people

    I looked around to see if anyone else noticed the raindrops.

    But no one seemed to; Thor was nodding at his phone with a half-smile while Ann was busy making Zoe laugh about boys they knew from the internet. "Oh my God, I love Brian Droitcour so much," said Ann. We caught each other's eyes. I tried to funnel psychic energy through the middle of my forehead—from my "third eye"—to Ann. In the middle of my trying to do this, I bumped into a man with a manicured beard. "I'm so sorry," I said, speaking into his beard. I could see that its black color was dyed. We tried to get out of each other's way. There was cigarette smoke billowing out from his nostrils and beard. "It's fine," he said through his beard. Once he passed, I coughed. I reached down for my phone. I felt like I had to touch my phone. I did it even though I knew that it was still just as dead as it had been when I'd checked one hour earlier. I couldn't help myself, I wanted to touch the frame, just do something, just hold my phone, just do something. I clasped it, flipped it around a few times in my pocket. One second later, I pulled it out and tried to turn it on. When that didn't happen, I looked at my reflection in the blank screen.

    There I was: a prematurely bald man with splotchy skin and a somewhat off-putting gaze. In the background of my reflection, I saw red clouds spread out like a torso behind the angled buildings of the neighborhood.

    A strong breeze rolled up 10th Avenue. A couple more rain drops fell. It wasn't going to rain that night. Or maybe just a little bit. Not much, I thought. The force of the breeze increased, blowing something to my shoe. I looked down. It was a newspaper. Someone had circled a picture of the Empire State Building in red. Looking up, I saw this girl Monica.

    Monica...I couldn't tell if Monica was an artist or just an artsy person that hung around at the same sort of things that I went to. I had once asked her to contribute to something I was organizing on the internet—it was all writing. I liked when people wrote. Monica told me that she wanted to write something about how capitalism and technological progress had unequivocally won in their struggle against the natural environment. She wanted to write about how there was now nothing to do to stop the Earth's ecology from rapidly winding down and all life on "Gaia"—her term—from perishing. I agreed in spirit, but worried that she might not be able to make a strong argument. It didn't matter; she never ended up sending me anything. I watched Monica pass me by and then I turned back, but I didn't see Ann, Zoe, and Thor. Oh no, I realized, there they were. They had turned onto 22nd street, angling toward Zach Feuer.

    I caught up to them and we walked through a crowd of smokers who were standing outside of the gallery's storefront windows. I recognized Janet, a curator that I liked.

    "Hey, Jan-Jan, how's it going?" said Ann. "What've you been up to tonight?"

    "Annie Poo!" said Janet. "It's gooooooooood, how are you guys? Where you coming from?"

    "Lonely Ladies," said Thor, referring to the show we'd just been to, Lonely Girl. The show was all young female artists whose work is their internet personas. Thor made an over-the-top frown-y face and Janet reciprocated with an even more frown-y face.

    She recomposed herself and said, "Oh yeah, I wanted to see that…I think. What was it like inside? I couldn't tell what it actually was."

    "Ya know, said Zoe. "Art. Paintings. Sculptures. It was okay."

    "Wait, I thought it was internet stuff."

    "No, I don't know, that part was confusing. There was one computer, I think. I liked it, I think. I liked this one piece that was a drippy mop. It's nice that it was all women."

    "But, yeah, the way he's presenting the women. I don't know, it just—whatever."

    More raindrops. We all looked to the clouds—they were a deeper shade of red—vermillion.

    "Well," said Ann, "if it ends up raining as hard as I think it will tonight, Lonely Girl is going to need that drippy mop—those floors are going to get filthy!"

    I laughed a dumb laugh at that. Hearing the sound of it, I made a serious face. "How's Jon's show?" I asked, changing the subject.

    "I don't know," said Janet. "I haven't really had a chance to see it honestly, I'll have to come back another day. There are too many people in there."

    I looked in through the windows. There were indeed a lot of people. Maybe two hundred. More? I don't know. I can't tell numbers. The crowd was a mixture of young people, many dressed in athletic gear with a techno-future style, and older art world people in designer glasses. I noticed large vinyl letters on the wall—JON RAFMAN: YOU ARE STANDING IN AN OPEN FIELD. I scratched some stubble on my face. Good for Jon, I thought; he'd gotten off of the internet. Me, not so much. A few years before, there was a moment where I was writing about artists, including Jon, that made work about internet culture and I was getting some attention from the art world. If I would have capitalized on that, I could have gone somewhere, spoken on panel discussions, stuff like that, I don't know. But instead my work became more hermetic and I haven't really recovered my footing. GENE MCHUGH: YOU ARE STANDING UNSURE OF YOURSELF.

    "Alright, I wanna go inside and see what the deal is," I announced. Ann, Zoe, and Thor nodded.

    When I opened the door, a low rumbling noise caught my attention. I looked ahead to see if I could tell what it was, but the pathway to the main gallery was bottle-necked with small groups of people greeting each other and looking at their phones. I pushed my way through, past DVD sales racks, each of which displayed brightly-colored DVD cases. This was one of Jon's pieces—not the individual DVDs, but the whole installation of display racks. Some people were asking their friends whether or not you were supposed to take one of the DVDs, as, like, a thank you for coming to the opening.

    I walked into the main gallery—a huge open space. I'd forgotten how big Zach Feuer was. Without walls to break up the room, the visual sweep of the place, along with the din of several hundred voices echoing twenty, thirty feet above the work, took on a collective buzz. The work—sculptures, videos, prints, and wall reliefs—all seemed inspired by video games and the apocalypse. One of the centerpieces was a long row of body pillows with anime-style drawings of naked Asian women in sexually explicit poses. I knew what these pillows were —they were a real product in Japan for people too shy to interact socially. They function as surrogates for real bodies. Near those were these three busts that looked like human beings morphed into digital abstractions, characters, I imagined, from an artsy, sci-fi video game.  The color of each of the busts was too intense for nature; it could only have come from a lab . And past those was the other centerpiece of the room, a hyper-kinetic video. The video had extremely poppy, violent imagery, much of which was also in an anime style.  Taken together, these references and themes infected the physical space of the gallery with a virtualized feel, as if it was a three-dimensional video game space. Perhaps, I thought, the objective of this game was to accrue more and more professional and social capital in order to advance to the next level of your art career. Okay, here's my first chance: a curator wearing a leather jacket that I'd always wanted to meet was wandering around by herself, reading the press release. If I went up and talked to her and made a good impression, I would have gotten ten points. If she thought that I was awkward, I'd lose ten. By doing nothing, I'd just lose one point. She seemed like she was pretty deep in thought; I wasn't going to bother her. So minus one point. I can deal with that.

    Where's the bar, I thought. I looked around the room. Ann, Zoe, and Thor were each talking to other people, getting those points. I walked over to the other side of the room. There was a crowd there, maybe that's where the bar was. Before I got there, I saw this piece that I liked a lot—it was a sculpture of a laptop that had been coated over with green reptilian skin as though the skin was a spreading organic growth. It was uncanny. Once a year or so, I have a nightmare about alligators. I think of them as a distilled form of evil or something. I read St. Augustine on evil in high school. When I was a senior, I spent an entire Computer Literacy class searching "st augustine evil." I found pictures of alligator claws.

    I heard a low, rumbling noise in the gallery.

    I spotted the bar, but before I could reach it, I ran into my friends Josh and Dan. "Hey, guys," I said. I already knew them pretty well, but maybe I could still get a few points.

    "Hey," they replied. Dan was tall; Josh was average size with a wispy blonde beard. They wore shirts with the top button buttoned—Dan's shirt was colorful; Josh's was gray. Their eyes darted around.

    "Hey," I said, "Which piece makes that low, rumbling noise?" They didn't know what I was talking about, which must have meant that I was confused about having heard any noise like that. And they would know—while Jon made his videos and came up with the ideas for the sculptures, it was Josh and Dan who fabricated them into actual objects. Hardly anyone knew, but they were completely integral to the show.

    "Everything looks really great," I told them. "I especially liked that computer that's covered with reptile skin." Their eyes brightened and they nodded to me.

    "Yeah," said Dan, grinning, "It has a really weird feeling." I looked over at the sculpture again and turned back to him, nodding in conspiratorial agreement.

    "It's nature overwhelming technology," I said. I grinned an intentionally evil grin.

    Josh scanned the room. "You know, I'm actually really happy with how it all turned out in the end. I have to say. It's a good turn out, too, which is nice. For Jon."

    I followed Josh's eye. People were packed near the front. Through the storefront windows I could see that it was dark outside and I tried to remember if it had been dark when we arrived. I looked closer. There was a red tint to the darkness.

    "What are you guys doing after this?" I asked.

    "I think we're going to that bar in the East Village with everyone else," said Dan.

    "Yeah, that's where we're going, too," I said. "Wait, why is it in the East Village?" A flash from someone's phone caught the corner of my eye, sort of stinging it.

    Before they could answer, a woman in a wife beater and tilted baseball cap came up to Josh and Dan. She told them that everything looked great and that the turnout was really great. I kind of wanted to leave and go home with Ann. I was tired of trying to get more points. But Ann was busy. She was talking to this couple that I vaguely knew. The couple was older and their faces were wrinkly.

    Jon Rafman walked by me. He was talking to an important looking person, maybe a collector. He acknowledged me with a wave, which was nice of him, and then stopped and we chatted a little bit. Twenty points, at least. The points popped up with a colorful on-screen graphic—glistening gold. He introduced to me to the collector (it might not have been a collector) and Jon told him that he still quotes this one thing I had written about his work a long time ago. It was about his series Brand New Paint Job. I had said something about how…never mind, it's kind of complicated and not worth going into. The point is, every time I see Jon he tells me about how he still quotes this one thing from several years ago. It's nice of him. I just wish I had something else going on in my life worth talking about. We joked around a little bit and he said goodbye to me with a good-natured bro-hug.

    As soon as he went away, I noticed that the lights in the gallery were too bright. It had been nice to talk to Jon, but after he left I felt like I didn't have any points. I wanted to unbutton my shirt, but decided not to. I saw this artist named Claudia that I had hung out with a few times. She was in a hurry; she shot past me and disappeared into a crowd. I thought of texting her and telling her to come and find me because I was bored. But, of course, my phone…If I would have just had my phone I could have been communicating with people and getting points, but I wasn't. I was just losing more and more points.

    Someone took a picture of their friend. After the flash, the friend asked to see the picture. When she saw it, she said, "Oh my God, it looks like my skin is falling apart!" There were a bunch of other flashes, bright white ones, from outside the gallery.

    Zoe came up to me and said, "What's up, dude?"

    "Nothing, homey, what up with you?" I heard that rumbling sound again. I asked Zoe if she knew which piece that rumbling sound was coming from. She shrugged. I asked her if she knew what she was doing after and she said she was feeling sick and, plus, with the weather, and we both looked outside. I tried to spot Ann; I wanted to see if Ann wanted to leave with Zoe. But Ann was still in conversation with the wrinkly couple. Everyone in their triad looked very still. I wondered what time it was.

    "Do you want to get a beer?" I asked.

    "Yeah, alright…." We went over and waited in line at the bar area. Once I had a beer in my hand, I cracked it open and guzzled back a bunch of it. My cheeks tingled. I looked at the reptile-skin sculpture again. The monitor displayed video from a first person shooter video game. I swallowed a bunch more beer and noticed that I had already had about half of it.

    I clinked cans with Zoe and then finished mine in a few more big gulps, burping a little. Zoe said she thought she was just going to go home because she felt sick. I said I understood and hugged her goodbye. Then I went to get another beer. "Oh, hello," I said. I saw Thor. We started saying "Hello" to each other in these low, very slow voices and then we continued to talk about the sculptures and Jon's work in these same low voices. When my voice was at its lowest and slowest, I said, "The turnout's really good, don't you think?"

    Jerry Saltz, the critic, walked by. A hundred points easy. No, I realized, it wasn't Jerry Saltz. Zero points. Two points. I didn't know. Negative points. I looked at my phone. Sweat was caked on the screen. I looked up to Thor and asked him if he thought that art collectors would be into this show and he said maybe. Ann came over. "Do you want to leave?" she asked. "I'm ambivalent about going to this after party. I'm kind of exhausted." She looked over to Thor. "What are you thinking?" You wanna go to this thing? I never heard of the place, though. And the East Village is so far, but, still, I don't know, it might be fun."

    "Yeah, I'll go," said Thor and I said the same thing.

    "Alright I'm going to find Zoe," said Ann. I was going to tell Ann that Zoe had left because she was sick, but, before I could say anything, I saw that Jasmine, an artist that had a really big following on the internet, was drenched. The gallery door slammed behind her and a gust of wind made a woosh. Ann turned back and saw me staring at Jasmine. I looked outside. It was pouring rain—Jasmine had just come from out there. The door swung open again; a few more drenched people dashed inside. They clearly didn't know what show this was. One of them—a girl too wet for me to be able to tell what she looked like—stomped over to the reception desk and grabbed a press release to dry her hair and glasses. The rest of us who had already been in the show were watching, mildly shocked, as the drenched people said, "It just started, one second it wasn't there and then it was there…" We all looked out the window. There were insane amounts of rain. Everyone clutched their phones, glanced at their phones. More drenched people, including Zoe, rushed inside. Their umbrellas were broken; a crack of thunder literally made us all jolt.

    I wanted to move around a little bit. A bead of sweat trickled down my forehead. I went back into the show, guzzling down a bunch more beer. Some people in the gallery were looking out front, trying to tell how bad the storm was going to get and comparing their guesses with other people. I looked over to the laptop—the one covered in reptile skin. Just below it, a wet puppy was shivering. The puppy didn't have a leash. I looked around, but it wasn't clear that its owner was nearby. I put my hand in my pocket and touched my phone. I had this idea I wanted to take a picture of the puppy. It looked kind of funny, all wet and shivering. It was suffering. It wasn't funny—the puppy wasn't funny—but maybe it was funny that I had taken the picture? Was it funny to do very mildly evil things? It didn't matter. My phone was dead.

    The puppy ran over to Ann. Ann crouched down and said, "Hi, Mr. Friendly! Hi! Don't you smell like a wet dog?? Yes, you do!" I walked over to Ann and the dog and heard someone ask, "Did this gallery suffer damage during Hurricane Sandy?" Another person asked, "Will I need a a better umbrella if I'm going to stay in New York?" 

    Because the rain was coming down so hard, I thought that it would finish quickly. That's what I told Ann and she said, "Don't jinx it. Besides, you don't know. This seems like it might keep going." Ann was smarter than I was and she knew a lot about the weather. I thought maybe she was right. I stepped in a little puddle of water and walked back into the crowd near the entrance. Thor said something about a spiral in the Empire State Building, but I must have misheard that.

    "I'm gonna get us a cab," said Thor, pressing things on the screen of his iPhone. "I have this one app that calls cabs…well, it calls town cars, actually. Uber." Everyone thought it was a good idea to use Uber.

    "Yeah," I said, "let's just go to the after party."

    Thor shook his head and made a clicking noise. "Shit," he said. "The network is down." He looked up at us. "It says the Uber network is down right now." He checked with some other people who were also trying to use Uber and the consensus was that the storm had definitely shut down the network. It wasn't clear if this was because there were so many people trying to use the app at once or if the weather had disrupted the service more directly. I rubbed a hole in a fogged-over window and saw raindrops pelting through ambient street light. More people rushed in and I found myself stepping out through the door and, oh my God, the sensation of passing from a controlled gallery environment to raw, blistering nature made my heart skip and I took a series of deep, watery breaths. A moment before, I had had this compulsion to go outside and try to find a cab, so I just did it. I didn't want to have to rely on the internet to get us a cab; I wanted to go out into the real street and really find one in the real, natural world. It just seemed like something I had to do or I would feel weird all night. And so I did it, I went out. I couldn't see anything; just flickers of light and broken tree branches on the street. Eventually my eyes adjusted and I saw 10th Avenue. I ran in its direction and the rain hurt my face. I saw a cab turning onto 22nd Street, but it wasn't available. None of these cabs would be available, I realized. What was I even doing out there? But, wait, there was another one…that…yes, it was stopping. Yes, its availability light went on. Oh, man, I'm going to get this cab, I thought. I'm really going to get it. And then I'll pick up my friends and they'll be thankful. I ran up to the cab through the rain as children in Transformers t-shirts scurried by me, chittering beneath an enormous blue and white umbrella. I was within twenty feet of this cab. I started to trot. It would feel good to be inside. I imagined the moment when the door would shut and I'd encounter total warm dryness and the comforting blue and yellow light of Taxi TV that would play off the raindrops streaming down the window. I imagined how money would start accumulating and how progress would be happening and how I would have done it all on my own. I waved my arms at the cab. The guy must have seen me. Just a few more feet…The cab's availability light shut off. Oh no, wait…what? The cab drove away. Before it completely passed by, I looked in. It was the wrinkly couple. How did they get in there? Well, it didn't matter; the cab was gone. Rain was streaming into my face and mouth and I swallowed it like I was guzzling beer. I told myself to be Zen about this and just walk at a normal pace and not let the extremity of the situation affect my demeanor, just, if anything, I told myself, enjoy this experience for what it was rather than freaking out. I tried to funnel anxiety through the middle of my forehead. I started feeling very cold, though, and I shivered and my body wasn't allowing me to be Zen about everything. I started to jog back to the gallery and I tripped a little bit on the sidewalk. I looked up and saw Ann, Zoe, and Thor getting into a black town car. Ann was yelling, "Genie, come on!! Get in!!" I ran up, opened the back door, and hopped in. I looked around and they were all gawking at me, thinking it was funny how utterly soaked I was. Ann said that this was the town car from Uber. She said that even though it didn't look like Uber was working, the request had been put through and Thor had just gotten a text from the driver that he was out front. It had all happened just after I left the gallery. I nodded, not knowing what to say, and told the driver, "East Village."

    Gene McHugh is a writer based in Brooklyn. 


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  • 04/23/14--07:53: Retweeting Fiction

  • New York City. Photograph by Teju Cole, via Flickr.

    On the morning of January 8th, Teju Cole published a fiction in the form of 33 tweets, each posted from the account of a different "collaborator," and then retweeted sequentially by Cole. Titled "Hafiz," it took three hours and fifteen minutes to be published. Like most of Cole's experiments in Twitter publishing, it generated much more social media heat than actual critique. (There are a few notable exceptions.) But "Hafiz," both as a story and presentation, is worth examining, as it is both the closest @tejucole has come to Teju Cole's fiction and a singular commentary on it.

    This is not Cole's first foray into Twitter publishing. "Small Fates" (2011-2013), which took the style of Felix Feneon's faits divers, comprised a mammoth and often wearying series of news stories compressed into Tweet-length narratives of violence and disaster. It stood in direct contrast with the slow perambulations and musings of his 2007 novel Every Day Is For The Thief, though both take place primarily in Lagos. His Seven Short Stories About Drones (2013) was a series of similar compressions, ending famous first novels (Mrs. Dalloway, Things Fall Apart) by incorporating drone strikes in their first lines. It was a direct attack on the then-obsession with Obama as reader, and it had the half-life that all political provocations share. If "Small Fates" was the perfect marriage of an antiquated form and contemporary social media, Seven Short Stories About Drones was an addition to an already thriving genre of net-detournement. Cole told the New York Times recently, "…the writers I find most interesting find ways to escape [the novel]," and his ongoing project @_kill_list, which recounts each kill in The Bible, reflects that continuing restlessness in his own output.

    "Hafiz" is far less immediately readable than any of these projects; this, perversely, is its greatest strength. Cole has moved beyond his previous formal horizon of a single story per tweet, bringing Twitter's networks into play. If you were one of @tejucole's followers, the experience of watching him string together the RTs was highly disconcerting, so much so that I immediately(and incorrectly)guessed that he was composing a story from found tweets, rather than disseminating his own writing via his followers. (The critic David Vecsey, who did not follow Cole at the time, had the inverse experience: he was captivated by an out of context tweet on another account, and only later realized that it was a part of a collaboratively published story.) The collaborative structure of the project, and the lack of any central voice, fractured the narrative and dispersed its fragments across a riot of feeds. After the nature of Cole's project became clear, however, the clamoring identities distributing "Hafiz" eventually cohere into a single voice, one of semi-deliberate haziness attempting to articulate complex ideas in relatively simple language, a voice similar to that deployed in Cole's two novels.

    At the same time, the use of the RT in "Hafiz" can be read as a paratextual comment on Cole's own fiction. In his 2011 novel Open City, the narrator, Julius, encounters a strange subcategory of strangers, from an old man in a movie theater "his head thrown back and his mouth open, so that he looked more dead than sleeping" to his grieving neighbor Seth, to a sole marathon runner he reproaches himself for pitying. Julius invents narratives for each partially in an attempt to deal with his intense empathetic reactions but more, perhaps, to work through the parental absence in his life. Using the analogy of the Freudian view of mourning as the incorporation of the dead into the living, Cole shows how Julius takes strangers inward less to understand them than to use them to consider his own existence and obsessions.

    Such a stranger interrupts the commute of the narrator of "Hafiz": a seated man, clutching at his heart, pedestrians looking on. A heart attack is assumed; the paramedics eventually arrive. As in Open City, the narrator appropriates these events as fodder for his own ruminations. He believes the seated man is crying, "Because light is beautiful. Because we do not wish to leave something and stray into nothing" (relayed by @robdelaney, of all people). He quotes Logue's All Day Permanent Red, imposing a high literary aesthetic on a scene which, he admits upon the paramedics' arrival, is just another day for them: "In each unwasted gesture was the message: it's always someone's turn, always someone's bad day" (via @rachelrosenfelt).

    As the thirty-three different collaborators' distinct and clanking agendas are stilled to utter a single, unitary voice, so too are the characters in "Hafiz" muted to allow the narrator to meditate. Still, he is distracted not only by the others but also "by my own presence" and thus unable to concentrate. The narrator appears to be the only bystander with any agency. It is he who calls 911 and summons the paramedics; it is he who bends down to feel the seated man's pulse. But it is ultimately another's presence, the young man with the phone, who punctures the narrative with his statement that the  suffering man is a local drunk ("I know him," the young man said. "I've seen him around. Drinks a lot." via @patricknathan), allows another character's interpretation of the events to impinge, almost turning the entire story into a joke.

    Was the decision to relay "Hafiz" through the appropriation of other Twitter profiles (via the RT) a deliberate comment on the self-entrapment of his narrators? Or was the marriage of story and form merely the product of Teju Cole's refined and narrow authorial concerns and @tejucole's open, welcoming, and broad Twitter-style? Cole has neglected to directly address this, rather speaking to Vecsey of his fascination with the "clean"ness of a RT as "an occasion for grace... to create a 'we' out of a story I might simply have published in the conventional way." Regardless of authorial intent, "Hafiz" uses the RT to comment on solipsism and empathy in Cole's own fiction and, perhaps, on Twitter itself.


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    General admission tickets to the 5th Anniversary edition of Rhizome's Seven on Seven program, returning to the New Museum on May 3, are sold out. Missed your chance to buy tickets? Live somewhere other than New York City? Worry not—you can still join this celebration of art and tech.  

    Everyone, anywhere: we'll be live-streaming the entire event via the front page of rhizome.org, 12-6pm EST on May 3. Don't miss artists Kari Altmann, Ian Cheng, Simon Denny, Holly Herndon, Kevin McCoy, Hannah Sawtell, and Frances Stark, and technologists Nick Bilton, Anil Dash, Jen Fong-Adwent, David Kravitz, Aza Raskin, Kate Ray and Rus Yusupov. (All bios available on Rhizome's Seven on Seven microsite). Microsoft Research's Kate Crawford will give the day's keynote address. Also follow us on Twitter; we'll be using #7x7NYC for discussion about the event.

    Londoners:The White Building will host a full weekend of events in conjunction with this 5th Anniversary. On May 3rd, they will live-stream the full program as a public event, and on Sunday, May 4, they'll host a critical forum on the state of art and technology collaboration. Throughout both days, they'll house a mini-exhibition of highlights from five years of Seven on Seven.

    New Yorkers: While the event is sold out, we're still offering tickets for the after-party. Join the participants and audience, and the party host committee—comprising Lauren Cornell, Nick Chirls, Alex Chung, Matt Duckor, Audrey Gelman, Sarah Hromack, Julia Kaganskiy, Thessaly La Force, Jill Magid, Hari Nef, Megan Newcome, Slava, and Anthony Volodkin—in the New Museum's Sky Room as we toast the day's work and this program's five years.

     


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    Image of äda 'web page produced for the exhibition "Screen," 1996.

    In 1996, curator, critic, and educator Joshua Decter colorfully defined "media cultures" as "a euphemism for how we reproduce ourselves, as a society, into a spectacular—i.e., ocular and aural—organism whose viscera has become technology itself."

    Throughout his career, Decter has paid special attention to media cultures and their relationship with the public sphere, developing a curatorial practice that has long been distinguished by its openness to adjacent new media and net art practices. Beyond spectacle, his use of websites, apps, and other technological apparatuses sheds fresh light on artists and artworks generally considered to be decidedly analog.

    I invited Decter to walk me through three curatorial projects, all ambitious group shows, that exemplify his career in digital and AFK spaces. In each, the artwork is mediated—either by conceit, didactic, or display—so as to variously diffuse and emphasize the image, addressing the nature of art and its publics under the condition of networked technologies. 


    "Screen," Friedrich Petzel Gallery and äda 'web

    January 19—February 24, 1996

    For the exhibition "Screen" at Friedrich Petzel, I mentioned to Benjamin [Weil, co-founder of early online art website äda 'web] that I was curating a painting show thinking about the relationship between painting and television. It was a kind of conceit, in terms of theories of velocity and reception, not in a way that was meant to be didactic or academic, but more playful... I thought, why not work with äda 'web to build... a virtual extension of the exhibition? This work is still online.

    It wasn't groundbreaking as an interactive interface, but it was meant to ask, "how does one articulate a curatorial structure on the web?" [The online project] involved the text being integrated into the visuals of the exhibition; it allowed people to click on individual paintings that would then become screengrabs from television, paralleling through interaction the actual television in the site of exhibition, and the interpenetration of images of television and images of the paintings... in a video catalogue produced alongside.

    These were screengrabs from news images, commercials, sitcoms, what have you. Our developer, John Simon, built an algorithm so that there was a randomness to the [screengrabs] and the paintings. We wanted to make it more elaborate—that there would be a real-time feed from a television signal, an endless uploading and then grabbing of images—but for some reason technically we weren't able to accomplish that with the means that äda 'web had at that time.

    Participating artists: Richard Artschwager, John Currin, Nicole Eisenman, Gaylen Gerber, Peter Halley, Mary Heilmann, Peter Hopkins, Alex Katz, Byron Kim, Jutta Koether, Bill Komoski, Udomsak Krisanamis, Jonathan Lasker, Glenn Ligon, Allan McCollum, John Miller, Laura Owens, Jorge Pardo, Elizabeth Peyton, Lari Pittman, Sigmar Polke, Richard Prince, Gerhard Richter, Matthew Ritchie, Alexis Rockman, Gary Simmons, Rudolf Stingel, Philip Taafe, Luc Tuymans, Christopher Wool, Chris Wilder, Sue Williams.

     


    "Transmute," MCA Chicago

    July 24—September 19, 1999

    Installation view of "Transmute" at MCA Chicago in 1999; at center, the virtual curator kiosk.

    MCA Chicago was inviting outside curators, maybe even one or two artists, to interpret the collection. Not knowing it well, I was tentative about this, but decided I would do it if we could figure out a way to broaden its scope in terms of outreach, to move beyond parochial education programs, because, in the end, this was seen as an opportunity to re-energize the collections. I wanted to work with an interactive programmer to design a dual system: a virtual artist component and a virtual curator component. Both were available on kiosks in the site of exhibition and online.

    A screenshot of the virtual curator application created for "Transmute."

    For the latter, I selected a John Baldessari work from the exhibition—this would be an opportunity for people to engage with a Baldessari in a conceptually consistent way with how John actually makes his work. Appropriating. Selecting. Reorganizing. Doing something to public or private domain images. People could submit their own images that would be plugged into a virtual template, basically of the Baldessari work, so that one could manipulate the image. These public submissions were not necessarily meant to be as art, this wasn't about endeavoring to transform people into artists per se, but to offer a sense of what it means to actually make a work of art with images. 

    To me, the more exciting element was the virtual curator, in which the public had an opportunity to re-curate the exhibition, not in terms of selecting new works—I wanted to do that, but the museum could not give me access to other pieces—but reinstalling extant works in the show. From what I understand that had not been done before. I was very excited about this, still today when I think of what other things museums could have done, what roads they could have taken, but didn't.

    This was on MCAChicago.org until the mid-2000s, but then it disappeared. Apparently, no public archival version exists.

    Participating artists: John Baldessari, Matthew Barney, Chris Burden, Jeanne Dunning, General Idea, Gilbert & George, Mona Hatoum, Gary Hill, Jim Isermann, Mike Kelley, Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger, Charles Long (with Stereolab), Rene Magritte, Bruce Nauman, Tony Oursler, Jorge Pardo, Jack Pierson, Richard Prince, Mel Ramos, Allen Ruppersberg, Jim Shaw, Cindy Sherman, Lorna Simpson, Liam Gillick, John Miller, LOT/EK, Noritoshi Hirakawa, Grennan and Sperandio, Miltos Manetas, Julia Scher, Fariba Hajamadi, Sam Samore, Mans Wrange and Gerwald Rockenschaub.

     


    "Dark Places," Santa Monica Museum of Art

    January 21—April 22, 2006

    Install view of "Dark Places" at Santa Monica Museum of Art, 2006.

    Developing a framework for "Dark Places"...I was thinking about noir, urban psychogeographies, and remapping space, coming out of the ideas of [architecture critics] Reyner Banham and Anthony Vidler. And that led me to thinking about I don't simply want to curate an exhibition where I invite artists whose practices had been re-working one space or another. Instead, I thought it would be more compelling to rethink the format of presentation in a fairly radical way.

    Installation view of "Don't Look Now" (1994) at Thread Waxing Space.

    What allowed me to do that was going back to an earlier exhibition—my first, technically—in 1994 called, "Don't Look Now" at Thread Waxing Space. For that, I invited 100 people (artists, writers, and other cultural producers) to submit one image in 35mm slide form. I worked with a designer to build an environment for 80 slide projectors, which would run simultaneously, continuously. That was about using the available technology of mediation then—the slide projector—in relation to the movement from some kind of "real life" to mediated space.

    So, I thought back to 1994 in 2005-06, when I began developing "Dark Places." I thought, what is the technology of mediation that's available, what are the mediating devices? Of course, it was digital imaging. (I should note that the video catalogue for "Screen" was produced with [the nonlinear video editing system] AVID, but in 2006 we were talking much more advanced digitization.) I reached out to servo, a group of architects, who were working with information-based, systems architecture. I collaborated with them for a couple of years on this apparatus of display, presentation, and projection, an apparatus that would allow me to curate in a quite different way. 

    Installation view of Dark Places (2006) at Santa Monica Museum of Art.

    For the show itself, I invited a large group of artists to have their work digitized—ranging from one image or sequence of images to an entire video or digitized film—and I broke their contributions down into eight quasi-autonomous "scripts." All were presented via this display apparatus, the collaboration with servo—this kind of thing, which had a thingness or an architectonic sculpturality. And each node was an opportunity to curate a sequence of these works, presented via screen. So there were eight exhibitions contained within one, but, of course, taken as a whole, there was a lot of stuff happening at once. 

    Clearly, I wanted to push things as far as one could in terms of mediation, through digitization, sequencing, scripting, simultaneity of audio/visual information and effect, challenging the autonomy of works in a way that I thought was somehow commensurate with how art operates digitally, virtually, within the broader culture, amidst distraction. I didn't want to produce distraction, but I wanted to see how far things could go, in terms of velocity, attention, focus, and de-focus.

    Participating artists: Vito Acconci/Acconci Studio, Franz Ackermann, Francis Alÿs, Michael Ashkin, Jaime Ávila Ferrer, Dennis Balk, Matthew Barney, Judith Barry, Thomas Bayrle, Julie Becker, Douglas Blau, Monica Bonvicini, Daniel Bozhkov, Mark Bradford, Miguel Rio Branco, Troy Brauntuch, Candice Breitz, François Bucher, Sophie Calle, Eduardo Consuegra, Jordan Crandall, Teddy Cruz, Jonas Dahlberg, Stephen Dean, Anne Deleporte, Diller Scofidio, Sam Durant, Anna Gaskell, Douglas Gordon, gruppo A12, Fariba Hajamadi, Pablo Helguera, Noritoshi Hirakawa, Julian Hoeber, Emily Jacir, Christian Jankowski, Vincent Johnson, Mitchell Kane, Joachim Koester, Glenn Ligon, Dorit Margreiter, Fiorenza Menini, John Miller, Muntadas, Paul Myoda, Yoshua Okon, Catherine Opie, Lucy Orta, Hirsch Perlman, Raymond Pettibon, Richard Phillips, Richard Prince, Raqs Media Collective, Alexis Rockman, Julian Rosefeldt, Aura Rosenberg, Peter Rostovsky, Sam Samore, Paige Sarlin, Julia Scher, Gregor Schneider, Allan Sekula, Andres Serrano, Nedko Solakov, Doron Solomons, Wolfgang Staehle, Javier Téllez, Anton Vidokle, Eyal Weizman/Nadav Harel, James Welling, Wim Wenders, Judi Werthein, Charlie White, Måns Wrange, Jody Zellen, and Heimo Zobernig.

    A graduate of the Whitney Independent Study Program, Joshua Decter is a New York-based writer, curator, theorist, educator and editor, whose writings have been extensively published over the past twenty-five years.

    Decter founded the M.A. Art and Curatorial Practices in the Public Sphere program at USC in 2011. A collection of his writings, titled Art is a Problem, was recently published by JRP-Ringier. Last week this saw a launch in New York, with events in Los Angeles, London, Vienna, and Berlin forthcoming.

     


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  • 04/30/14--07:25: Notes on Being Net Artist
  •   

    18 years of being net artist were 18 years of

            explaining difference in between net art and web art
            explaining difference in between net.art and net art
            removing the dot from net.artist
            being called media artist
            being mixed up with the austrian artist Lia
            being called cyberfeminist


            getting to know that i'm in a show from vanity search
            getting requests to send screenshots in 300 DPI
            refusing to show the work offline
            refusing to show the work without address bar
            rejecting Internet Explorer (and later Safari)


            being told that there is no fee for online works
            being interviewed about net art economic models


            praying that it works in the next browser version
            updating for the next browser version
            making no back ups
            editing files directly on server
            ignoring the rumors that net art is dead

            learning HTML
            teaching web design

    these are not the only things that happened to me,
    but the ones that were there from the very beginning and never went away

    Olia Lialina is a pioneering internet artist and theorist. She is an Animated GIF model and Professor for New Media at Merz Akademie, Stuttgart. 


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    Kenneth Goldsmith at Labor Gallery, Mexico City, 2013. Posted on Printingtheinternet.tumblr.com with the caption, "We printed the fucking internet."

    "Printing the internet is not creative nor art. It is a waste of time and resources. Please, find something more creative to do."

    So reads a comment on a petition on change.org. Directed at Kenneth Goldsmith, the petition was published in 2013 in response to a project the poet organized at LABOR gallery in Mexico City, where Goldsmith invited people from all over the world to print out the internet and send the pages to the gallery.

    While those who signed the petition ("Please don't print the internet") objected that printing was "not creative nor art," Goldsmith took the contrary view. (From UbuWeb's Twitter account: "Secretly, what people hate most about @internetprint is its democracy; with a simple, command+p, anyone can be an artist.") While the petitioners discussed material issues of sustainability and resources, Goldsmith was interested in the presentation of the internet as a material thing—by reframing it in very, very tangible terms. He characterized the project as a memorial to Aaron Swartz, and as an attempt to illustrate the quantity of information that the late internet activist liberated from the scholarly article database JSTOR.[1] There's a fantastic image of the poet lying atop boxes of printouts, and a couple of months into its inception, the project's Tumblr celebrated the reception of ten tons of paper with the prompt: "Keep it coming! We're getting close!"

    Close to what? Goldsmith's project is a visual, idealist gesture that winks at failure, both a comment on the economies of circulation and dissemination (versus privatization) of knowledge on the internet and an echo of his other major project, UbuWeb, which also makes cultural documents public via an online repository of avant-garde work. For Goldsmith, printing out is a way of liberating digital content from paywalls and password-protected services.

    But what we are most likely to remember about Goldsmith's printing project is not exactly the impossible gesture of wanting to print out the whole internet, not the monument to Swartz, not the liberation of strictly protected content, but the fact that people participated in it at all. The content that was sent reflects very much what internet users deem important, from emails to song lyrics to YouPorn, and reflects the way we use the internet—but also the stuff online that we valorize. Goldsmith may not have made everyone an artist, but he did touch the raw nerve that is our fear of losing our data.

    Printing out YouPorn.com at Labor Gallery, Mexico City, 2013. Posted on Printingtheinternet.tumblr.com.

    For most people, printing is a way of preserving content, of fixing it in a bound, physical location. This desire to bind our data has led to a rapidly growing sector of commercial services trying to monetize the printing of the internet. Printing, though, is not the same as preservation; in Goldsmith's project, pressing command+p enacts a transformation, which is part of what this project turns a critical eye to—printing online content may liberate it, but it also divorces it from its surroundings and the dialogues inherent in them. By printing our data, these aforementioned services alter the ephemeral content we share online, strip it of its context, and further complicate our already tenuous sense of ownership over our online social lives.

    A Yearbook of Facebook

    MySocialBook, Yearbound, Egobook, Social Memories, JotJournal, YearlyLeaf. It seems like all these companies' names were cut from the same cloth. In fact, their products aren't so different either. All offer differing versions of books created from users' Facebook profiles. YearlyLeaf, which prints Facebook accounts onto hand-bound Moleskin-type journals, publicizes itself as "a new dimension for your Facebook—an experiment in social permanence." There's also Tweetbook, TweetBookz, Twournal ("Twitter to journal!" brought to you by the people who make Fonicle, which stands for Facebook to chronicle). Also, Printstagram.

    Egobook.

    All these companies prey on the same anxiety: The internet is constantly shifting; will your memories—in the form of writing, images, or anything else—survive the demise of the sites that host them? From Twournal's comma-averse about page: "Over time tweets can tell a story or remind us of moments. In 20 years we don't know whether twitter will be around but your Twournal will be. Who knows maybe your great grandkids will dig it up in the attic in the next century." In other words, you can't trust corporations to be good caretakers of your content; but the solution is not to stop sharing it freely with corporations, but to seek out third party memento-making services. All of these services feed off the angst over the future of this content without prompting users to consider its present form, who owns it, and what is being done with it.

    The solutions offered by these services are also very similar: a product, a one-dimensional, concrete version of a user's social media content. While for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the money is in the user as a target for their real clients, advertisers, the services printing out those users' content are banking off the users more directly by charging them for their own stuff (images, texts). Rather than allowing us to keep a tighter grasp on the fruits of our social media labors, these services change them. When we upload content to social media websites, we are producing social relationships (ones which are subject to expropriation, but relationships nonetheless). When we print our content as a scrapbook, it is flattened, becoming merely content again. Disregarding the complexities of the way we interact online, these companies allow us to consider Facebook as the raw material for a kind of scrapbook, a way to organize our private memories and public interactions. They also allow the clients to edit what goes in the book, making for a manicured reflection of our not-always-so-perfect, messy online life.

    Are Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram regretting not offering the book printouts themselves? Probably not. In comparison with the big money that is in data about users' behaviors and relationships, the resale of user content is peanuts. And yet, by taking offline the material that users upload themselves and then charging them for it, they ever so slightly shift the economy of social networks, making the user both the product and the client.

    Making Sense of Wikipedia

    When Encyclopaedia Britannica ceased printing in 2012, moving to an all-digital format, many people tied that decision to the growing importance of Wikipedia. The 32 volumes of the 2010 15th edition of Britannica may seem like the stuff of musty libraries today, but it was still a shocking announcement, so much so that a post on the encyclopedia's site following the announcement was titled "Change: It's Okay. Really." With a 244-year-long tradition in print, we learned to associate the idea of the encyclopedia with alphabetized multi-volume sets.

    By He!ko (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

    And maybe that's a hard tradition for some readers to shake, which is why there are a number of projects dedicated to printing out and selling Wikipedia's content. PediaPress, a team of developers who have created an open source Wikipedia-to-book tool, recently got a lot of media attention for its crowdfunding campaign to finance an initiative to produce a "Wikipedia A to Z" set. The print-on-demand services that PediaPress has developed are repeated in other initiatives like Project Webster, which publishes books that bring together disparate pages from Wikipedia according to subject. Project Webster claims that, "We believe books such as this represent a new and exciting lexicon in the sharing of human knowledge," but by "sharing," they mean that books are sold via Amazon for sums averaging $15. Also, a lot of said "lexicon of human knowledge" seems to be directed at celebrity culture and other nonessentials.

    Are these "curated" books proof that we are simply looking for someone to make sense of the amount of knowledge we ourselves, as contributors, created on Wikipedia? A big part of what these projects are reacting to is a gap between received form (the encyclopedia) and actual function (a constant reassessing and rewriting of knowledge) in Wikipedia. If what Britannica offered the buyers of its sets was a reassurance that knowledge is stable and fixed, we're apparently still hungry for that in the age of Wikipedia—and so we turn from the constant reassessing and rewriting of knowledge online back to our association of permanence: print. And we're willing to pay for that.

    Is anything really produced when printing out Wikipedia? Not much, other than the creation of fixed commodities from what was once free, open to debate, and collectively created.

    Internetausdruckern

    Earlier this month, Goldsmith began another printing project, Papers from Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, currently in progress at Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, as part of the "Smart New World" exhibition, on view through August 10. With this iteration, Goldsmith more directly responds to the commodification of knowledge (and more directly invokes Swartz) by making available the prints of more than 230,000 pages from JSTOR. In a recent email interview with Yahoo! Tech, he said: "The material being printed consists of arcane scientific papers that are hundreds of years out of copyright, yet JSTOR is firewalling & profiting from this stuff, which should be available to everyone at no cost." As before, the concreteness of this work is a way of visualizing the marked contrast between the actual abundance of knowledge and its enforced scarcity.

    The JSTOR Pirate Installation just before opening at Kunsthalle Dusseldorf. Via.

    Whether or not Goldsmith's printing projects are successful (and I think they are), it is crucial that he recognizes the transformative nature of printing and frames it as a potentially subversive act that changes the power relations that surround any cultural document. Printing can release us, as producers and consumers of content, from the corporations that set the terms of production and consumption. And we, in turn, shouldn't let paper go to waste in ways that perpetuate those power relations. Interestingly, it seems like quite a bit of the anger (and petitioning) directed at Goldsmith's project was rooted in the fact that it seemed like Goldsmith was calling for people to print something that, for many critics, has no cultural value—the internet. But it's the fact that their products originate from online content that gives services like MySocialBook their value.

    When our content is printed, it has already become something different. There is a derogatory term in German for people who can't understand online content without printing it: Internetausdrucker. It's derogatory because the Internetausdruckern do not understand that printing online content fundamentally alters it.[2] It is not the content that we pay for with companies like MySocialBook and PediaPress: it is the transformation of our online activities into a different medium; it is the reassurance of the permanent.

    The economy of the internet has managed to make us all into producers and consumers of the same material at the same time—the fact that we generate content for social networks and do not consider that an economic relationship is already problematic (and some people are calling our attention to that). But this is a moment for us to reevaluate economic relationships online, not reproduce them again in print.


    Notes

    [1] "I downloaded a torrent that was supposed to be some chunk of Swartz's heist. It was 33 gigabytes, and it was something like 18,000 documents, and I began unzipping those files. And within each one of those were thousands and thousands of pages…I started thinking about the large data sets that everyone's dealing with," Goldsmith said in an interview with the Guardian, concluding "We have no idea what we're talking about, and I think the way to understand it is to concretise it…we're dealing with abstraction, and we have no idea what this is. We need new metrics for infinity."

    [2] Perhaps the best example of this sentiment is the website http://www.politiker-stopp.de, which suggests that users insert code into their website so that those who try to print it see the following message offered up: "Your browser is trying to print a page from the so-called Internet. The Internet is a worldwide network of computers that provides people with new possibilities of communication… If you believe that you should still see this website, you can access it any time through normal use of an Internet browser."


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    Frances Stark and David Kravitz during the Seven on Seven work day. Photo: Ed Singleton.

    The fifth anniversary edition of Rhizome's Seven on Seven took place on Saturday. The project pairs seven leading artists with seven influential technologists in teams of two, and challenges them to develop something new–whatever they choose to imagine—over the course of a single day. The results were unveiled to the public on Saturday at the New Museum, and are recapped here.

    #1. Occupy invented #normcore

    In the keynote, Kate Crawford suggested that K-Hole's #normcore trend report, as well as the Snowden-leaked GCHQ Powerpoint, could be read as manifestations of the anxieties of an age of mass surveillance, those of the surveillers and those of the surveilled.

    Blending in can give you a kind of power in 2014. This gets even more interesting when we think of the other groups that have recommended dressing like a tourist in New York City. Who am I thinking of? Occupy.

    Top: Flyer for "#SpringTraining on Friday: Dress To Blend," March 30, 2012. Bottom: Image from YOUTH MODE: A REPORT ON FREEDOM by K-Hole and Box 1824, 2014.

    "The cultural idea of disappearing," Crawford argued, "has become cool at the very historical moment when it has become impossible, because of Big Data."

    #2. Promiscuity can be a metaphor for certain conditions of creative labor

    David Kravitz and Frances Stark delivered an absolutely unforgettable presentation via an onscreen chat in which they discussed the possibility of having sex on stage before getting to their real proposal: to cut out the middle man. Your move, TechCrunch Disrupt.

    Actually, their real real proposal could be understood as a kind of analogy between sex and labor. While they joked about cutting out the middlemen, they came down squarely on the side of sex.

    #3. Autocomplete is a tragedy (but there's hope)

    "Google reflecting your own habits back to you," artist Kari Altmann noted, "is changing your habits in the process." Her project with Aza Raskin, who described this as the "tragedy of autocomplete," introduced softness and abstraction into the literal-minded world of the search engine. 

    They made a new search engine (which needs a name! suggestions welcome). After being fed a short sequence of images, it attempts to locate similar images on the internet. First, though, this fuzzy searcher attempts to recreate each source image. It finds itself unable to forget the other images it was given, so its recreations take the form of morphing variations and composites of its sources. It uses these abstracted versions to trawl Google Image Search, with happily unpredictable results. 

    #4. Data has status in the eyes of humans

    Ian Cheng and Jen Fong-Adwent aka Edna Piranha produced a BDSM-friendly icebreaker. In their smartphone-enabled game, participants in a social setting assume the role of master or slave, and must find their other half. Upon locating their partner, the participants would be asked to enter a mutually agreed safe word. (More about the project here.)

    We didn't get to play at the conference because it was in demo mode only, but we all imagined what it would have been like, and it was happily carnivalesque and only mildly NSFW. But one of the interesting ideas to emerge from their conversation was that of data status—the idea that a piece of data like a safe word only has value because of the context conferred on it by humans. For example, the word "seafood" as a piece of data floating around Twitter doesn't have much status until we learn that it's actually Ian and Jen's safe word; in the context of their one day working relationship, that piece of data had very high status.

    (As a side note, the word "user" came up several times at the conference because of concerns, initially voiced by Kate Crawford, that it uncritically reflects, even produces, technologically enabled asymmetries of power. Cheng and Fong-Adwent happily circumvented this argument by extending this asymmetry to its logical endpoint, the master and the slave).

    #4a. Our data is more valuable to our loved ones than it could ever be to the NSA

    I'm cheating with the numbering here, I know, but I think data status is a nice way to think about this next project too.

    Holly Herndon and Kate Ray both approached their collaboration with the intent of making something that would foster greater intimacy through technology, age of mass surveillance be damned. They had several fantastic ideas (and I hope they someday make their email-related ones) but the one they built allows people having a text-based chat to take screenshots of one another at random moments. So you get to see someone in unguarded moments, beyond the duckface. 

    Herndon shared some of the screenshots that her life partner has taken of their Skype calls while she travels for music around the world. The images were of an empty room; she was presumably off getting ready or taking care of some mundane business of being on tour. Occasionally, the top of her partner's head was visible in the video chat window, looking very patient. The NSA might not get very much hard data from them, but in the context of their relationship they seem really sweet. 

    #5 The Spatial Montage Theory of Vine (or, painting with video)

    Before we all had smartphones, the awkward, accidental cut was a staple of home video. By stopping and starting the camera strategically, one could create fake eyeline matches and hugely inappropriate juxtapositions of tone. It was Vine that re-introduced montage to the lexicon of home video. Where the smartphone camera generally creates a separate clip for each shot, Vine allows users to piece together their six-second videos from short fragments, the way moving image is supposed to be.

     

    Sawbaum gif by Prosthetic Knowledge

    In their collaboration, Avi Flombaum and Hannah Sawtell took this collage-esque logic a step further, not just assembling video fragments in time (through editing) but in the space of a web page as well. Their tool, Sawbaum, allows users to create pages out of many Vines, butted up against one another in what Lev Manovich would call a spatial montage (as opposed to temporal montage of video editing).

    Sawtell said she liked these sharp juxtapositoins the best, but the tool is intended not just for spatial montage, but for what Avi described as "painting with video," using layers and transparency to blend multiple sources together in fluid compositions.

    #6 A contented, secure employee with the agency to use his paid hours to pursue compelling, if off-topic work, will draw the news better than a precarious worker

     

    An excellent drawing by Rhizome Conservator Dragan Espenschied

    On Friday, Simon Denny and Nick Bilton sent the recent US Government Big Data report out to Rhizome's staff and community, as well as via TaskRabbit and other networks of precarious workers. The experiment was a modest intervention into the cascade of information that constitutes today's news; drawing requires a contemplative but analytical frame of mind that is about as far from continuous partial attention as it gets. But what emerged from the project, in part, was the reality that this kind of frame of mind is something of a luxury. Only the privileged can take both eyes off the cascade.

    #7 The blockchain can be used to establish ownership and provenance of digital art

    Every article about cryptocurrency that I've read in the last year, and that's a lot of articles, includes some version of the sentence, "the greatest potential of bitcoin is the new forms of collective behavior it can potentially enable." Exciting! But for the most part, it doesn't seem to have really happened, yet.

    This new project by Anil Dash and Kevin McCoy might be a way of giving the cryptocoin community something useful to do. Monegraph uses a cryptocurrency (Namecoin) to record the owner of any given digital artwork. Thus, artworks sold via monegraph use the blockchain (the shared database of all transactions that makes cryptocurrency possible) to preserve information about the title of an artwork; it's like proof-of-provenance for GIFs.

    McCoy and Dash used Monegraph to sell this GIF onstage for the contents of Anil's wallet ($4). He's now registered as the owner of this GIF in the public Namecoin blockchain:

    Dash has already had an offer, but he's not sure if he wants to flip it just yet.

    The full video of Seven on Seven 2014 is available here.



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  • 05/06/14--07:00: Her Quantified Self
  • Courtesy of Natalie James at NJinLA.com

    The alarm on her FuelBand pulses at 5:30 am because she wants to be a better person. Studies show that early risers are more proactive, more likely to anticipate problems, and more optimistic than those who sleep in. She wakes up two hours later because no one is expecting her to be anywhere. She slept for 12 hours and worries for a moment that it means she is depressed. It's still early, she thinks aloud.

    From bed she scrolls through news, links, baby pictures, and other pieces of life. She composes an update to share and deletes it. She writes something else and deletes that too. She looks around the room. She's happy to be home even if it doesn't show. She chides herself for forgetting to practice gratitude. She closes her eyes and thinks about her family with gentle love and appreciation. Thank you, she whispers to the universe. Her goodwill quickly evaporates as she hears Deb, her mother, making a morning racket in the kitchen. She decides to wait until Deb leaves to get out of bed.

    Lately she finds herself eating almost exclusively from Trader Joe's because it's easier to track in MyFitnessPal. She thinks they probably have some kind of deal. She eats every three hours beginning an hour after she wakes up. Right now she's consuming 1500 calories a day, but she hasn't been counting. She might need some encouragement.

    Her favorite breakfast is a smoothie. She makes a Greena-Colada with pineapple chunks, coconut water, avocado, protein powder, green powder, and flax seed oil. Usually she enjoys entering items into her food diary before eating them. It's like predicting the future.

    She pours the drink into a chipped IKEA tumbler. She washes the blender and the other dishes in the sink. She straightens the items on the counter, and wipes down the tabletops. She hopes her parents are grateful that she's here.

    Since moving back to the West Coast she's been reading Free Will Astrology. Today her horoscope said that she is homing in on an impossible dream.

    Once she feels anxious enough she gets in the car and drives downtown. She usually runs from Angels Flight to 2nd Street, down 2nd to SciArc, across to Temple, back up to Figueroa, Figueroa all the way to Olympic, and back across Hill. It's a 6 mile loop, or 3,000 Fuel Points.

    She's wearing all Nike. A few years ago she would've been embarrassed to have swooshes all over her, but the logo is in. She wishes Stella McCartney for Adidas was easier to find in the States.

    She plants her feet firmly on the grass, shoulder distance apart. She reaches her arms above her head and pushes them towards the sun. She folds her body in half and plants her hands next to her feet as she looks towards the mountains and lengthens her spine. She kicks her feet out behind her and flows through a few more stretches. She kneads her hamstring for a minute while she stares ahead at nothing.

    For a moment she thinks about quitting. It's warm. It's going to be hard. She's going to get tired and her muscles might ache tomorrow. She imagines getting back in the car and driving home. She knows better. She'll feel amazing when she's done.

    She starts off slowly, one foot after the other until she finds her pace. She cruises around pedestrians and other obstructions, reading each sign as it passes her. Parking all day $7. Discount wholesale electronics.

    Her breath syncs with her stride and she falls into a comforting rhythm. She chants silent messages of positivity, hope, and gratitude. In her headphones, Beyoncé yells at her. Most people jog to clear their minds, but she runs to fill hers. She just wishes she could track that too.


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    Realistic Kissing Simulator (2013) James Andrews and Loren Schmidt

    Dueling tongues protrude from simplified profiles. They worm through swinging-door lips, taking an unpredictable course as they collide; they push upwards and into a nose, flopping limply past the chin, or prodding one of the eyes, forcing it to blink. Sometimes, a lucky tongue finds its way to its counterpart's mouth, but that’s not really the goal.

    This is the Realistic Kissing Simulator (2013, James Andrews and Loren Schmidt), which was impossible to miss at this year's Different Games Conference at NYU Poly’s MAGNET Center. Between talks, a small crowd gathered to snicker at the game, but its sexual politics are anything but a joke. Following a brief intro, one player asks, "Would you like to kiss me?" If the other player responds "Yes," the game begins. If they answer "No," the profiles slide awkwardly away from each other and the game ends. The game can be seen as a response to the genre of largely hentai-inspired sex sims, with a few key differences: it eschews visual "realism" for silkscreen-style graphics, it lacks a goal or winner, and both parties must explicitly give (or refuse) consent.

    Realistic Kissing Simulator set the tone for Different Games, where talks, panels, and workshops outlined issues relevant to social justice in gaming. Topics ranged from defining punk videogames, to consent in sex games, to what it means to queer a game. The speakers included some of gaming's most vocal social justice advocates, some of whom had developed games which were shown in the conference's arcade. Games showcased at DG interrogated not only standards of inclusivity and diversity, but also conventions of storytelling and play in mainstream gaming and how they might facilitate a wider range of subjectivities.

    Another popular game at the conference was Perfect Woman, an Xbox Kinect game by Peter Lu and Lea Schoenfelder. In Perfect Woman, the player physically enacts absurd female archetypes by contorting their body into poses outlined on-screen. The life trajectory of the character depends on the players ability to conform to the stereotypes. Perfect Woman's humorous and experimental form of play fits its message. As the player aligns their limbs into unnatural poses for absurdly specific roles such as "child street gang leader," "MIT professor giving a TED Talk," and "whale hunter," the concept of confining women to gender-specific roles begins to feel as ridiculous as twisting your left leg sideways to mimic an avatar.

    Nestled in the "Kink Corner" of the arcade was Porpentine's Love Is Zero. The Twine game begins by establishing the player as an "extremely hot" vampire babe living on the moon and attending an all-girls tennis school where "the competition is fierce and our mood rings are monitored." Players alternate between "Bully," "Study," and "Play Tennis." Each unique sequence culminates with a modifier-heavy question defining the character: 

    One ending of Love is Zero (2014)

    Through language alone, this ending builds a character whose level of brutality, insecurity, and narcissism varies with each play-through--a refreshing departure from the predominantly two-dimensional women featured in mainstream titles. The hardened attitudes of these "Blood Babes" embody the approach often required by female gamers who vocalize discontent with the industry.

    While various waves of feminism have infiltrated the art world in many ways, gaming culture is experiencing its first large-scale social justice revolution. The male-dominated gaming industry keeps up a constant low roar of hostility toward female, queer, trans, and minority gamers. Its misogyny is particularly visible, with objectifying female characters, pathetic Bechdel test results in gaming's most successful franchise, and multipleincidents of online violence aimed at women in gaming. The underlying sexism that has dominated gaming culture since at least the early 90s is what Different Games and the surrounding community of activists aims to dismantle. Through social media and political indie titles like those shown at DG, gaming's social justice advocates are chipping away at patriarchal norms enforced by mainstream video game narratives. With continued effort, these ideas of inclusivity and diversity will transcend their current niche status and infiltrate mainstream videogame culture.


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    The 123D Catch website promises its users that they can "Turn ordinary photos into extraordinary 3D models;" the resulting models can be shared with other users on the 123D Catch community site. In this video, which premieres on Rhizome, Clement Valla and A.E. Benenson argue that the 3D models of 123D Catch should be understood not as recreations of photographed objects but as records of machine vision: 

    Like the junk-piles known as middens to archaeologists, the 123D Catch site paradoxically conserves its objects at the moment of their fragmentation.

    But if a midden grows out of cast-off objects, broken as they are discarded haphazardly as refuse, here the artifacts are fractured by the opposite force: not by inattention but a moment of intense technological attention.

    Clement Valla's solo exhibition "Surface Survey" runs through May 10 at Transfer Gallery in Brooklyn.


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