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

    Jennifer Chan. Tralier for the exhibition "Young Money" (Future Gallery, 2012).

    I remember when I first saw the videos you were making in 2012 while you were at Syracuse, and I recall feeling as though you were imitating a "bro net art aesthetic" as a way to critique it. For example, the trailer for your exhibition "Young Money" (above) includes a shot of you holding cash, a rotating pizza, and a floating rendering of a bong. But now, ironically, that has actually become your signature style and when I see others making videos in that vein, I think they are copying you. How do you feel your video style came to be, and now that you've been immersed in it for some years, why do you use the formal elements that you do?

    I want to defensively say "I wasn't copying art bros; they're copying me!" but I really don't think there is any originality after the internet and in some sense we subconsciously or directly retain emotional and aesthetic affects of everything we see. I wasn't thinking it was particularly "bro-ey" style that informed works like Young Money [the eponymous video work of the exhibition by that title]...Before I discovered "postinternet" art I was watching a lot of amateur YouTube videomakers like Wendy Vainity, Epic Mealtime, and random videos of boys performing pranks and dares, so there were some definite influences from vloggers and pro-am producers. I noticed that people actually enjoyed performing "bro" ironically, and I wanted to channel that parodic pleasure. It can't and won't be about youth and fantasy forever though. I'm currently working on a 15-minute video about equality that bastardizes film and documentary tropes...

    Bad videomaking seemed sincere, effortless and convenient for the net. My older videos were inspired by fan culture on YouTube and could be lumped in with screen-recorded videos, unboxings, and reviews made by young videogamers. A direct aesthetic influence was my friend Daniel Waldman who made videos for fun with Windows Movie Maker and posted every one of them on YouTube without caring whether people thought it was art or not. 

    @mikepepi asked on twitter recently, "What is a net art bro anyways?" Since you play so much with these tropes, I wonder how you would answer him? My fear is that it is easy to hear that term and not associate yourself with it. And Mike is right, no one has really defined the term, kind of letting a lot of people off the hook to not look inwardly and correct conscious or unconscious misogynist behaviors. 

    Here is my answer: 

    Are YOU an Art Bro?

    //You are an art bro if you're a man or a woman who thinks the art world is equal as is, and that there are no internal politics that exclude certain artists from participating and being as visible as you are.  The art bro mostly validates the voices and work of men, in the same way men quote the words of other men who quote the words of other men–patrilineage produces patriarchy. Art bros don't believe in community or solidarity. 

    //To be more incendiary, I will cop pickup artist terms to compare art bros to the idea of an "alpha" or a "beta" male–terms created by the male seduction communities and men's rights blogospheres ("manosphere") to push insecure men to honor traditional ideas of masculinity. That's gender, it's always a self-conscious and precarious performance anyway. ;)

    The alpha art bro is shameless, confident, sociopathically opportunistic, and defensive with professional critique. The beta may be polite and eloquent but he tip-toes around being a bro; he feels entitled and competitive to the accomplishments of art bros and schmoozes with who they perceive to be art power while crying bitter tears of rejection. Omega males do their own things; they don't believe in tribal feudalism, observe and get their opportunities while the alpha and beta dudes are pissfighting. The last "type" I didn't include in the flowchart is the ~chill bro~ with a bit of Peter Pan syndrome. He might smoke too much pot or be late all the time. He's apathetic to everything except his pleasure and just cruises on, working when he feels like it. 

    Important Objects from Jennifer Chan on Vimeo.

    As you mention, you're directly influenced by popular internet culture and tropes. Your work plays with and against these tropes through imitation and exaggeration, but I have also noticed a personal narrative element that subtly moves through your work, often hidden beneath layers of humor and critique. Can you talk about your use of personal narrative and performance within your works? And how and why you tie that in with your interest in pop net?

    I think pop experiences and ideologies contain universalities that people instantly latch onto or reject... in that way pop culture is unexpectedly political and persuasive. There are pleasures in the escapism it offers, such as karaoke and cover songs as affinity... There's a personal suturing to a text for its aspirational or fantastical qualities or how one ideologically aligns with it, just as there is a parodic pleasure in performing things you despise but indulge in ridiculing (Recall Alanis Morissette reperforming Fergie's My Humps in a sad way or James Franco making Bound 3 in a homophobic way?). Then there is a fan affinity or even a meticulous labor in the way people supercut moments of their favorite boyband member or even make careful tutorials of how to best use a certain software. This is all fandom; I personally love observing how people digest it and spit it out and right now, it happens to be how men define themselves in dialogue with popular ideas of masculinity, sex, romance and body image. It's a shared obsession. 

    I was born in Canada and grew up in Hong Kong; I don't think I noticed how powerfully syndicated American media (and subsequently, cultural values) were until I moved back to Canada and noticed there were Canadian content restrictions. For me, the personal subtext is a way of dealing with mediated fantasies and ideologies that don't apply to my condition or deliver ever, in real life.

    In terms of performance and when I choose to appear, I mostly choose not to because there's no way to control the context of my image without being reduced to some "Asian chick." Like you said in a previous discussion on MetaMute: "When you put your body online, you're in dialogue with porn." And in Young Money, I emerge after the point-of-view ejaculation scene from behind the "hidden" camera and direct it on myself, to affirm I am the director who set up the scene up. So far, there isn't much user-generated porn made from women's perspectives and I thought it was important to pull that rug on viewers in addition to trivializing the "cumshot” trope in porn. All the way through before that it was just video collage of some dudes hanging out on skype and ordering pizza... the video might as well have been made by a dude. I guess I most often perform when other people perform for me, I feel a need to implicate myself to reveal my relationship to the performing subject or invoke pathos. Another way of thinking about this impulse is quotation, which people do when no one else has said it better. Because I think and work through "found" online media, I shoot only when a video of something I've thought up hasn't been shot already, and I perform when no one else can say something better from my perspective. This was the case in Important Objects where I was invited to make a selfie work for Museum of Internet and I made a video portrait of my nails,  food and objects I find important as a way of distracting my bitter, heartbroken self. I suppose I enjoy the feel of being "present" but not being actually in front of a camera for the duration of a video. 

    In your piece "2011" you made for Sleek magazine, you keep the pop track but the personal narrative comes through a lot more clearly and directly than in your other work, as you narrate a story about your roommate sexually assaulting you. You do well at describing the banal reality of this act—that it can seem almost normal or expected for it to happen. You even start off by saying "Worse things could have happened to me," as though to negate the severity of the actual act and to kind of pre-emptively inform the viewer that you know it's not "that bad," to anyone who might say to you that you "let it happen." As a woman artist making work at times about your personal life or feelings, do you feel you are at liberty to express yourself the way you want to, or do you feel you have to couch your feelings/thoughts in a way to make them more digestible for an audience?

    I said "not that bad" because people generally think rape is the worst thing that can happen to a woman—that it makes a rape survivor a "damaged good" or irreparably traumatized. The apathetic tone or blocking out of emotion was really how I dealt with it, I didn't get paranoid or break down afterwards... just very slowly became angry over years when I realized that my refusal to have sex was blurred and ignored by someone I had considered a friend. This article by Charlotte Shane best describes the realization and banality of living down sexual assault, and perhaps resounds more closely with date rape or assaults from exes, husbands, friends, acquaintances etc. One is way more likely to feel they are creating unnecessary (negative) attention around themselves when they call someone they know out for sexual violation, and that's how a lot of assault from people we know goes unreported.

    What I learned from reflecting on all this is that it's possible for people to be regular nice people who open doors for the elderly, etc. AND also emotionally manipulate or pressure on people to have sex.

    I am comfortably embarrassed with making these parts of my personal life public. I, like you, enjoy externalizing shame as a means of drawing empathy or discomfort about what people think are black-and-white social issues. I have a deep belief, like Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby, that art is for empathy and asking questions about human nature. Technology is only a means to an end of doing that. 

    Questionnaire

    Age: 26

    Location: Chicago, IL.

    How/when did you begin working creatively with technology?

    I made Photoshop brushes and digital collages on DeviantArt in my teens. I was a goth-turned-emo kid and I remember buying a domain called "demonicseduction.tk" to show off my digital art. I made posters for local hardcore shows in Hong Kong. Here is one I scrounged up:

    I didn't know about contemporary art until my second year of university, so back then this type of work was my sense of what design should be. I wanted to be a graphic designer.

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

    I did a HBA in Communications, Culture, Information Technology at University of Toronto, and a MFA in Art Video at Syracuse University. 

    I think institutional support is really important for emerging artists but at the same time it makes them less likely to rebel against pre-existing schools of thought or market models. 

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

    I do freelance work and part-time teaching. I've done some gallery admin and served ramen in Hong Kong before.

    What does your desktop or workspace look like? (Pics or screenshots please!)

    I usually working from my dinner table. :D

     

    More about Jennifer Chan can be found at http://jennifer-chan.com/ or by following @jenninat0r on Twitter.


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    October 15, 2014 - October 17, 2014

    A series of afternoon talks as part of the ICA's Frieze-week program at The Old Selfridges Hotel in London.

    Featuring Kari Altmann, Alex Bacon, Hannah Black, Michael Connor, Constant Dullaart, Renzo Martens, Monira Al Qadiri (GCC), Takeshi Shiomitsu, Martine Syms, Christopher Kulendran Thomas, and Amalia Ulman.

    Amalia's Instagram – 10th July 2014.

    With the screen arguably now the primary site of encounter for contemporary art, this talks series, taking place as part of ICA Off-Site: The Old Selfridges Hotel, examines the ways in which internet circulation has affected art practice and art's function.

    Do You Follow? Art in Circulation begins with the premise that images do not merely depict their surrounding reality, but actively produce and shape it in economic, social, and physical ways. With the advent of the internet, the image's power to effect such transformation has greatly expanded. As a result, image production is by default a posthuman process, subject to the demands of global flows. Images circulating on a network may produce far-flung realities, in unpredictable ways. Some even claim that the world is becoming an image.

    Building on last year's Post-Net Aesthetics panel, this series continues the conversation about art under a networked condition, exploring possible artistic positions in response to three particular aspects of this condition: the internet's tendency to turn artworks into pure image-commodities, to turn locations into image-places, and bodies into image-bodies. How can artists participate in the reshaping of the world by posthuman images and find political possibilities and expansive subjectivities within this process?


    Wednesday Oct 15, 3:30pm

    "Internet circulation has made all art look the same"

    Martine Syms, For Nights Like This One, 1979, 2014.

    "Why does so much new abstraction look the same?" asked critic Jerry Saltz in New York magazine earlier this year. Galleries, he lamented, have gone over to "copycat mediocrity and mechanical art," coming to resemble the generic look of shopping outlets rather than the "individual arks" of the past. In particular, Saltz criticised the influence wielded by "speculator-collectors," which many understood to refer to art world figures who use social media channels such as Instagram to generate attention for their favoured artists.

    On this panel, art historian Alex Bacon challenges Saltz' contention, suggesting instead that we are not looking carefully enough. Artists Martine Syms, Takeshi Shiomitsu, and Kari Altmann discuss the role that internet feeds play in their practice, arguing for different understandings of the problems and potential of "sameness" in art. Chaired by Rhizome Curator/Editor Michael Connor.

    RSVP


    Thursday Oct 16, 3:30pm

    "Internet circulation changes places into image-places" 

    Renzo Martens, Episode III: Enjoy Poverty, 2008

    There is often a gap between what images do and what they say they do. When we talk about images, we often discuss their content or message or our experience of them. Beyond the question of impact on the spectator, though, images act on the world in fundamental ways. Renzo Marten's film Episode III: Enjoy Poverty (2008) for example, documented his efforts in the Congo to establish ways for local people to profit from images of their lives. With its injunctive title, Martens' starting point was that the content of images produced by well-meaning foreign photographers was less important than their effect, which was (in part) to earn money for those photo-journalists.

    Through the work of four artists who deal with very different locations, this panel considers how places circulate as images, how this circulation shapes such places, and how artists can participate (or not) in such transformations.

    Speakers include artists Constant Dullaart, Renzo Martens, Monira Al Qadiri (GCC), and Christopher Kulendran Thomas.

    RSVP


    Friday Oct 17, 3:30pm

    "Internet circulation changes bodies into image-bodies"

    Amalia Ulman

    A selfie is not a portrait, critic Brian Droitcour has argued, because unlike a portrait, which inscribes the sitter in history, it inscribes the body of its subject/maker into a network. This panel continues this line of reasoning, positing that the process of inscribing bodies into networks allows them to circulate as images. To borrow a term from artist Andrea Crespo, our image-bodies morph, interact with one another, spark strong attachments with human viewers, and ultimately effect transformations on our physical bodies in ways that may be oppressive, liberatory, or both.

    This panel will include a presentation by artist Amalia Ulman, who for her online performance Excellences and Perfections (2014) used her social media accounts to circulate images depicting her body undergoing a surgical and cosmetic transformation. It also features artist and writer Hannah Black, whose work has dealt with bodies as vessels, the theorisation of the "Hot Babe," and (most recently) the abolition of the body.

    RSVP

    Work from Amalia Ulman's Excellences and Perfections will be presented beginning October 20 as part of First Look, the online exhibition series jointly curated by Rhizome and the New Museum.


    In collaboration with:

     


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    Yesterday, we surpassed our goal of $20,000 in our first Kickstarter, to save and make playable the Theresa Duncan CD-ROMs. We want to take a moment to say a sincere thank you to all those who donated, promoted on social media, and wrote about the campaign. Now, we'll get to work. We aim to have the games online, free for all to play in any browser, by April 2015. This will also be when we host a public event at the New Museum and an online exhibition celebrating Duncan's work, contextualizing it within feminist gaming history. Furthermore, we'll be commissioning articles and educational materials to deepen public awareness of these CD-ROMs and the broader history of women gamemakers.

    Special shout out to the leadership-level pledge of Mark Matienzo that took us over the goal, and a significant surprise pledge from Mailchimp. But, really, we had 463 pledges at every level. These pledges came from Rhizome supporters and people we've never met, members of the gaming community and digital preservation enthusiasts, people who worked on the games and members of the Duncan family. 

    We'll be working to fulfill Kickstarter rewards shortly. 

    Thank you, once again, for supporting this work!

     


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    Save the Date
    Tuesday, February 3, 2015
    for...
    Future-Proof
    A Rhizome Benefit Dinner
    Honoring...
    Petra Cortright and Paul Chan & Badlands Unlimited
    at the New Museum
     
    For end of year tax-deductible presale inquiries, email info@rhizome.org
     

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    James Deen wearing Google Glass.

    This is Rhizome Today for Tuesday, December 23, 2014.

    Rhizome invited a few of our collaborators to submit a few of their favorite links of 2014. These are published as part of Rhizome Today, a series of "ephemeral" blog posts which are taken offline within a day or so of publication.

    Ann Hirsch:

    • Sophia Katz's story "we don’t have to do anything." Of course, this story initiated "Tullygate" as well as many other women speaking out against men in the alt lit community re: sexual assault/culture of misogyny, which I think was really valuable. I just also loved this story as a story. I think it captured that consent "grey zone" really well and highlighted why sex should be fully consensual as opposed to something obligatory. Also, she captured well what it means to be a young woman navigating that terrain and how older men will take advantage of a young woman still "figuring it all out".
    • 2014 was the year of the shitty "which/what _____ are you quiz?" spurred by Buzzfeed and let me tell you, I took them all! I love learning about myself. Here is one of my favs.
    • Molly Lambert's weekly mad men recaps. The world has been waiting for a pop culture critic as amazing as Molly and her Mad Men recaps are truly pop knowledge at its finest and most beautiful. 
    • James Deen on Bret Easton Ellis’ podcast. This isn't your Grandma's James Deen ladies! James Deen has revolutionized porn for women by being an actual likable, interesting person. This podcast is proof. Also, I agree with Ellis' read on Gone Girl at the top. 

    Los Angeles-based artist Ann Hirsch's Rhizome-commissioned play Playground showed this year in London, and was described by Morgan Quaintance in Art Monthly as a "landmark for internet-aware art."


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    This is Rhizome Today for Wednesday, December 24, 2014.

    Rhizome invited a few of our collaborators to submit a few of their favorite links of 2014. These are published as part of Rhizome Today, a series of "ephemeral" blog posts which are taken offline within a day or so of publication.

    Proposal for a forum: How has Facebook referral traffic fluctuation at your small-scale publishing platform deteriorated your physical and mental health?

    Paywalled (and worth purchasing!), but I hand-xeroxed this excerpt from Jeff Chang's excellent Who We Be for each of my Rhizome colleagues to read. 

    This was quite a year for Vine. Think I saw this one.... 'bout a week ago. Here are some other *recent* non-friend favs: 

    https://vine.co/v/OKHJJKtP0dK 

    https://vine.co/v/M3hid5eYJdJ 

    https://vine.co/v/MYH5aFwuDmW 

    https://vine.co/v/O1K9a6QW3Fr 

    https://vine.co/v/Ov67lJ7q6AB 

    https://vine.co/v/OZxPhZle7Um 

    https://vine.co/v/OaE6QeQ7KWB

    A piece by Roberta Smith, on Carry That Weight by Emma Sulkowicz, that explains why I prefer to call actual art criticism, "art criticism" rather than "art writing."

    Twitter gets a bad rap for being a time-suck and very often dimming and for giving persistent, direct voice to the worst people on the internet. I was logged on to Twitter for much of 2014. In general, the worthwhile time was spent listening to those who are not the worst people on the internet and whose tweets I feel lucky to have persistent, direct access to. S/O to @nanpansky for being the tweeter whose tweets most consistently expanded my thinking; to those who watched the Sopranos for the first time this year and tweeted about it; to @heathercorc when she asked LinkedIn to interview her; to those who tried to build awareness and activism on the hashtags Ferguson and BlackLivesMatter; to people who tweeted @rhizome for whatever reason; to, quoting @pdrvelez, "#FF Everyone I follow because they are thoughtful and good looking." to everyone who did a good job online this year: well done. i am very proud of you. to everyone else: There is always next year. i believe in you.

    Zachary Kaplan is Rhizome's Assistant Director. 


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    Rhizome Today is an experiment in ephemeral blogging: posts written and published each morning, and unpublished within a day. The latest post can always be found at http://www.rhizome.org/today.

    After some discussion about the best way to wrap up each month's posts, we've decided to publish a list of topics and people covered on Today during the preceding month. Here is the index for Rhizome Today in August, 2014. 

    Topics

    • Amazon (8-Aug, 11-Aug, 26-Aug)
    • ARE.NA (20-Aug)
    • Bomb Iraq (26-Aug)
    • Chat (5-Aug, 6-Aug, 7-Aug, 8-Aug, 12-Aug) 
    • Computer animation (13-Aug, 25-Aug)
    • Depression Quest (19-Aug, 20-Aug)
    • Drones (4-Aug)
    • Facebook (5-Aug, 11-Aug, 12-Aug, 22-Aug, 27-Aug)
    • Ferguson (13-Aug, 14-Aug, 15-Aug, 19-Aug)
    • Forensis (HKW Exhibition) (15-Aug)
    • Fuck Everything (video game/dating sim) (19-Aug, 20-Aug)
    • GIFs (1-Aug, 20-Aug, 25-Aug)
    • Helmet cams (15-Aug)
    • Instagram (4-Aug, 11-Aug, 12-Aug, 22-Aug, 27-Aug)
    • Kickstarter (4-Aug, 29-Aug)
    • Labor (15-Aug, 29-Aug)
    • Mail Art (19-Aug)
    • MS Paint (6-Aug)
    • Poetry (1-Aug, 7-Aug)
    • The sharing economy (7-Aug, 15-Aug, 26-Aug)
    • Snapchat (12-Aug)
    • Social Media (4-Aug, 5-Aug, 6-Aug, 7-Aug, 11-Aug, 12-Aug, 13-Aug, 14-Aug,15-Aug, 19-Aug, 20-Aug,21-Aug, 22-Aug, 26-Aug, 27-Aug, 28-Aug, 29-Aug)
    • The feed (5-Aug, 12-Aug, 21-Aug, 22-Aug)
    • Twitter (4-Aug, 5-Aug, 7-Aug, 11-Aug, 12-Aug, 13-Aug, 14-Aug, 15-Aug, 19-Aug, 20-Aug,21-Aug, 26-Aug,28-Aug,29-Aug)
    • Video (4-Aug (video of a drone), 5-Aug, 8-Aug (iMovie), 12-Aug, 13-Aug, 14-Aug, 15-Aug, 20-Aug, 21-Aug, 26-Aug, 27-Aug)
    • Video games (13-Aug, 19-Aug, 20-Aug, 26-Aug)
    • VSCO Cam (27-Aug)
    • Wikipedia (6-Aug, 12-Aug, 28-Aug)

    People

    • Amalia Ulman (15-Aug)
    • Andrea Crespo (28-Aug, 29-Aug)
    • Andrew Cannon (25-Aug)
    • Ann Hirsch (19-Aug)
    • Bunny Rogers (12-Aug)
    • Christoph Schlingensief (4-Aug)
    • Micaël Reynaud (1-Aug)
    • Cory Arcangel (11-Aug)
    • Dan Phiffer (26-Aug)
    • Dragan Espenschied (1-Aug, 4-Aug, 11-Aug, 26-Aug)
    • Dread Scott (14-Aug)
    • Emilie Gervais (28-Aug)
    • Erica Love (29-Aug
    • Eteam (4-Aug)
    • Eva and Franco Mattes (28-Aug, 29-Aug)
    • Faith Holland (29-Aug)
    • Frances Stark (4-Aug, 7-Aug, 8-Aug)
    • Gabby Cepeda (29-Aug)
    • GCC (4-Aug)
    • Harry Burke (7-Aug, 15-Aug)
    • Jasper Spicero (12-Aug)
    • Jennifer Chan  (13-Aug)
    • Jesse Darling (5-Aug)
    • João Enxuto (29-Aug)
    • Joel Holmberg (1-Aug)
    • Keith J. Varadi (5-Aug)
    • Kevin Bewersdorf (1-Aug)
    • Kimmo Modig (5-Aug)
    • Lena NW (19-Aug, 20-Aug)
    • Loney Abrams (5-Aug)
    • Lu Yang (13-Aug)
    • Lucy Chinen (15-Aug)
    • Martha Hipley (11-Aug, 28-Aug)
    • Martine Syms (14-Aug, 28-Aug)
    • Michael Connor (15-Aug, 1-Aug)
    • Mike Francis (28-Aug)
    • Mike Pepi (29-Aug)
    • Mira Gonzalez (7-Aug)
    • Peter Watkins (14-Aug)
    • Petra Cortright (6-Aug)
    • Phoebe Morris (28-Aug)
    • Rebecca Peel (1-Aug)
    • Ross Caliendo (25-Aug)
    • Ryder Ripps (22-Aug)
    • Seth Price (21-Aug)
    • Stewart Home (6-Aug)
    • Tabor Robak (5-Aug)
    • Tom Moody (6-Aug)
    • Wolfgang Staehle (25-Aug)

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    Rhizome invited a few of our collaborators to submit a few of their favorite links of 2014. These are published as part of Rhizome Today, a series of "ephemeral" blog posts. This post will be taken offline on January 1, 2015.

    Hannah Quinlan Anderson and Rosie Hastings, Becoming Natural (still image from video), (2014).

    Harry Burke

    srs

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXr-2hwTk58 Aaron Swartz already seems as if from a different age, but this is an inspiring reminder of how local conviction can sometimes equate with mass consensus. It’s like a rom com for internet activism – corny and basic but real – and is available free on utube ;)
    • #BlackPoetsSpeakOut– This hashtag is an intense and emotional parallel to #BlackLivesMatter, but it’s also amazing because of some of the formal-technological revolutions it’s brought to poetry. A range of expression has been streamlined under one tag, which has been then disseminated through Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, Facebook and elsewhere, often using the immediacy and ‘liveness’ of video and other visual imagery. The Tumblr is great and this essay by Morgan Parker is a good introduction. I imagine a lot of white poets are learning black poets' names.
    • Tbh I just wanna retweet Ann Hirsch by amplifying Sophia Katz's story "we don’t have to do anything." Interesting that both "Tullygate" and #BlackPoetsSpeakOut were initiated, at least in part, within Facebook groups, ALT LIT GOSSIP and Cave Canem.
    • @GAYBAR– I can’t find much online but shoutout to Hannah Quinlan Anderson and Rosie Hastings + everyone else for making the best alternative space (and most effective tequila cocktails) in south London 2014.

    lolz 

    http://boyfriendtwin.tumblr.com/

    http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/stefan_simchowitz_interview

    https://twitter.com/AmarndaBvnes/status/535215170294136832

    https://twitter.com/ehdannyboy/status/539452916030271488

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFgYcVbAaNs

    httfps://twitter.com/AmarndaBvnes/status/534929872586809344

    Harry Burke is a writer based in London. In February, he will curate the online exhibition "Poetry as Practice" for Rhizome and the New Museum as part of the First Look series. 


    Alessandro Bava:

    This year's vine-able "Catcher in the Rye": 

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEDg9NvYChs

     

    Essential read to prepare to 2015's Cold War ... brrr, geopolitics feels like standing above the clouds:

    http://eng.kremlin.ru/news/23137

     

    Incredibly inspiring architecture blog of the year:

    www.airbnb.com

     

    A beaut design by #harryburke 

    www.bavaandsons.com

     

    ++++++

    everyone should also b aware of this to b able to handle 2015? http://wikileaks.org/tisa-financial/

     

    Alessandro Bava is an architect based in London. In 2014, he co-wrote a textb on Airbnb interior photography for Rhizome, as part of Airbnb pavilion.

     


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    The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have a significant body of work that makes use of or responds to network culture and digital technologies.

    Adriana Ramić, The Return Trip is Never the Same (After Trajets de Fourmis et Retours au Nid, M. Victor Cornetz, 1910), 2014. Ebook, 82 pages. Installation view, Smart Objects, from the exhibition "Never cargo terminal has recently discovered the trembling hand of state secrets resounding oversold bounce child."

    Lizzie Homersham: The work you exhibited in the recent show at Los Angeles' Smart Objects ("Never cargo terminal has recently discovered the trembling hand of state secrets resounding oversold bounce child," Jul 12 - Aug 8, 2014) was produced by retracing a series of ant pathways onto an Android Swype keyboard, then translating these movements into every available language. What prompted you to consider the smallest of animals in relation to your personal production of language on a smartphone?

    Adriana Ramić: Both their tiny scale and presence in popular imagination drew me to study ants—but perhaps more influential were the scientific discoveries about their communication habits that anthropomorphized them in an interesting, abstract manner. Olga Kostenko, the researcher behind this 2012 study at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology, describes insects leaving chemical messages in the soil for future generations as an act through which "the insects relive the past." Jussi Parikka's book Insect Media (2010) also drew very insightful connections from insect behavior. More broadly, the symbolic application or correlation of insect logic to other purposes, like artificial intelligence (networks, swarm intelligence), and military practices (robotic prototypes, models for drones), was influential.

    From The Return Trip is Never the Same (After Trajets de Fourmis et Retours au Nid, M. Victor Cornetz, 1910), 2014. Ebook, 82 pages. 

    To return to the case of ants specifically, the status of their movements as informational exchanges was of direct relevance to working with gesture on mobile—partially because the way they develop a complex network of trails seemed to be a form of communication, and also because of the vagaries in their paths (at least seemingly, to an observer).

    Ant trails were studied by the French civil engineer and topographer Victor Cornetz while researching navigation with people living on the edge of the Sahara. His 1910 book titled Trajets de Fourmis et Retours au Nid (Pathways of ants and returns to the nest) collects his drawings derived from this ants going between their nest and what was typically a food source. He noted that "...the return trip is never identical with the outgoing trip, though lying not far away and being in the main parallel."1

    From the book Trajets de fourmis et retours au nid., Victor Cornetz, 1910.

    I found this book while I was in Paris this year as part of an 89plus artist residency at the Google Cultural Institute, where I also began attending meetings of the Paris Association of Coleopterists (Association des Coléoptéristes de la Région parisienne). I was hoping to collaborate with experienced beetle enthusiasts, who count former military generals and famous mathematicians among their ranks. Some members kindly referred me to another scientist working in the catacomb bureaus of the Museum of Entomology, who generously lent me Cornetz's book. It became the source material for The Return Trip is Never the Same (2014), an ebook with texts created from redrawing the pathways onto the Android Swype keyboard in every available language, and accompanied at Smart Objects by a series of works on paper titled Nobody Messages from Nautilus (2014).

    LH: This project reminds me of Architects of Gamma Bad, in which you used optical character recognition and Google Translate to transcribe a found text found written on the walls of a house in Zhujiacun, China that was slated for demolition. Can you talk about your use of language-producing algorithms in The Return Trip is Never the Same? Did you edit any of the writing that the ants produced?

    AR: In terms of composition and editing, one of my interests in language production via predictive text is how it both reinforces and avoids idiom and cliché. Swype-mediated communication is constrained to the crowdsourced analysis of contemporary vocabulary and your own typical writing habits, which are tracked in order to personalize the predictions. The visual, gestural input of Swype and the analytic predictions it offered, led to the fluid creation (a phrase I've likely recalled from Swype's own advertising) of new texts. Imagining how these ants' pathways could string together semi-sensical sentences in every supported language became a means to bring the two ideas together in a way that could be formally interesting as well as a bit humorous, while engaging with various histories of automatic writing, mark making, entomology, speech, and the global expansion of Western technocracy.

    The end results were single sentences, and compiled unedited.

    Here are some epigrams from the ants found in the book, translated into English by Google Translate:

    - "Punishment browser" (Indonesian)

    - "Remember Churchill's chat weight" (Danish)

    - "Inequality ruins rework" (Estonian)

    - "Cutesy river Cartier-Bresson Byzantine" (French)

    - "France-related human rights recommendations Kesset economy casualties :-)" (Icelandic)

    - "Adomaitytė would like to reserve a little cat celebrity presenting me not to issue the order to protract taking lethargy love the conviction of those experts break down departmental ruth diverts energy interests Congress Chernobyl" (Lithuanian)

    - "Ecstasy orphaned swift acceptance gently yogurt bank mental health award zero cattle gym arose requires free debt as many citizens continue artillery incoming vehicle council debate eg crowds deemed museum" (Dutch)

    LH: On your "Travelogue" tumblr you shared snapshots taken in travels around the world as well as screenshots taken in travels around the web. Did the process of documenting these journeys inform more complex works such as Room Visits, in which detailed climate readings inspire sensitive ink drawings?

    AR: I renamed my tumblr from "Blog" to "Travelogue" to resituate a collection of (primarily) photos as traces of time spent in specific locations outside of a studio. I wasn't so interested in using the tumblr or the term travelogue to state a special distinction between URL and IRL, as I was in observing the banal marks left by arrangement and signification in different geographical spaces and the infrastructures they might point to.

    Room Visits (2011) is also about the possibility of experiencing a place through a particular infrastructure, though in this case much more quantified, by attempting to indecipherably inhabit fluctuations in temperature, pressure, humidity, and brightness observed in real-time data uploaded by users to Xively.com, a site which at the time operated like a YouTube of data feeds.

    12 minutes in mkishere’s room, Hong Kong (2011). From Room Weather Data, Fo Tan, Hong Kong. Pressure ranging from 1000.3 - 1033 hPa. Ink on paper, 36" x 26."

    LH: In Craigslist-assisted Readymade (2011), an online application which selects three random, free-of-charge items from a random US region on Craigslist and presents them as a propositional readymade, you use live data in a way that refuses a (traditional experience of) contemplative viewing; the objects are forever changing and moving beyond reach. To what extent did you think of consistency or stability as something to avoid?

    AR: I'm not necessarily avoiding consistency because the essential parameters of three free items somewhere random in America remains constant. Free stuff goes quickly on Craigslist, so the person who views the items as part of the stand-alone app or browser extension I designed could, theoretically, obtain them and take them out of circulation.

    Craigslist-Assisted Readymade (East Oregon, January 23, 2014, 11:56:03 PM) (2011). Giant Wooden Stump (Boise), Free Carlson Maxi Gate Extension (Star), 3- 215/55/17 tires Free (nampa), HTML, CSS, JavaScript. 

    Meanwhile, it's much more likely that the compositions are being constantly altered by Craigslist's millions of visitors, even before the (art) viewer gets to see them. Craigslist-assisted Readymade also exists as screenshot editions of selected combinations, or sculptural works in which the three selected objects have been physically obtained, assembled and supplemented with their classifieds listings. On one hand, these present a series of single, unchanging compositions, but on the other, the process of re-circulating the objects, regardless of whether the items have been obtained or are still being advertised, means that they are to some extent still moving, never quite static.

    LH: Like Craigslist-assisted Readymade, Unicode Power Stones and its accompanying Collector's Guide suggest an interest in rethinking forms of collection and valuation. For that work, you've been engraving stones with Unicode symbols, displaying them digitally and formulating ways for them to be obtained at auction online. The system for the latter remains undecided. Do you think there are reasons to intervene in the systems inherited from the traditional art market, considering the digital foundations of much of your work?

    Unicode Power Stones (U+0107, U+0270, U+0414, U+06AD, U+0AA5, U+0F53, U+1F1D, U+20AC, U+2318, U+2531, U+288D, U+29E4, U+300F, U+307A, U+323F, U+4E0D, U+A030, U+1D332) (2013-). Engraved stone. Dimensions variable. 

    AR: I recall our discussions last year about the conceptual pricing of works, like in the case of Unicode Power Stones (ongoing since 2013), where the pricing of each unique character's stone could be subjective (e.g. based on an auction), or egalitarian—in which case quotation marks and obscure hieroglyphs would both command the same price. The fact that pricing a Unicode Power Stone also necessitates assigning a value to a written character or symbol is one of the more difficult and interesting aspects of the piece for me. I think that the choice to resist or embrace the conventional art market isn't one necessarily motivated by the medium being digital, but that there definitely are opportunities to reconsider valuation. And interesting ones to seize.


    Age: 25

    Location: New York

    How/when did you begin working creatively with technology?

    In elementary school I started making websites devoted to different types of animals.

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

    University of California, San Diego (Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts and Studio Art).

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

    Design and development.

    What does your desktop or workspace look like?

    A white room with minimal furniture and a default desktop background. Travel and hard-drive failure have wiped my homes clean, but I'm preparing for a marimo future.


    Notes

    1. Dr. Rudolph Brun, "The Instinct of Orientation of Ants: The Operation of the Homing Instinct," Scientific American Monthly, 1-2 (1920): 55.


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    Rhizome invited a few of our collaborators to submit a few of their favorite links of 2014. These are published as part of Rhizome Today, a series of "ephemeral" blog posts. This post will be taken offline on January 1, 2015.

     Skip Skip Slide (still from official music video), (2014)
     

    Jacob Ciocci:

    • "Skip Skip Slide (Official Music Video)": this video is perfect from beginning to end and I would call the song one of the best songs that I heard all year. I would even argue that that break down in the middle is one of the greatest musical moments of this decade. I plan on using this breakdown in DJ sets throughout 2015. As you can see by the view count I am not the only one who likes this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8jbSoCbnns
    • "‪Garth Brooks First Facebook Post & Video - Amazing, Authentic & Transparent!" I don't believe this is real. But I also don't believe that cell phones are real.  . . . It really reminds me of Nick DeMarco. In addition the title of the video reminds me of the kinds of titles Lil B uses on his videos. I don't know what to say. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyGG0VMldg0&feature=youtu.be&app=desktop
    • "My Mechanical Pencils 4 shot November 7, 2012" If you know me you know I am obsessed with videos like these. Internet users like this are the only thing that give me hope as social media continues to decay our minds and rot our souls. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfIflecREJU&feature=share
    • "Funkadelic glasses" This video reminds me of the work of Petra Cortright: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0-0OalldTs

    thanks for watching!

    Jacob Ciocci is an artist and musician. As a member of the duo Extreme Animals, Ciocci co-organized 2013's Rhizome-commissioned IRLALIENS TOUR. In 2014, Brian Droitcour covered Extreme Animals' video release THE URGENCY for Rhizome. Ciocci's most recent work can be seen on NewHive.


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    Rhizome invited a few of our collaborators to submit a few of their favorite links of 2014. These are published as part of Rhizome Today, a series of "ephemeral" blog posts. This post will be taken offline on January 1, 2015.

    Still from a video clip on bilibili.com, with users' comments laid over it

    Ying Miao:

    My links all come from bilibili.com, which is one of the most popular video sharing sites in China. Users can upload, view and share video clips as on YouTube (which is blocked here). Unlike other popular video sharing sites, however, comments are overlaid directly onto the video, synced to a specific playback time. This allows comments to respond directly to events occurring in the video, in sync with the viewer—creating a sense of a shared watching experience and literally turning commentary into content. 

    • This video entitled ”When smart meets wash-cut-blow” is one of the most popular videos on the site - as you can see, live comments quickly flood and cover the screen, masking the music video itself over time. This "shanzhai" Chinese music video was originally from a K pop band, but was remixed by a Chinese netizen into a love song about the story of a SMART boy who falls in love with a girl but is worried her family will not like him because he has no class. So he decides to become a salon boy to learn how to cut hair and be fashionable so they can have a sweet life together drinking Coke, Fanta and Wanglaoji (a popular canned tea) every day. SMART or shamate is a subculture in China composed of young migrants from the countryside that remain alienated from the great urbanization push. Their fashion style is a gawky blend of goth, glam and anime, and they are also the largest group of people who are still using internet cafes and local Chinese electric devices. http://www.bilibili.com/video/av761947/

    • This video is made from WeChat (the Chinese version of WhatsApp) emoji "psycho cat". In the beginning of the video, the user who made this said" “i feel bored and made this animation out of this cat emoji, after i made this i feel so tired, will never love again” and is a reference to a Chinese internet meme that became viral on a social media site after a boy born in the 90’s first posted,“so tired, will never love again”/累觉不爱 . The phrase truly represents modern Chinese people’s common feelings, as mirrored by the SMART subculture, about urban sorrows in a humorous, self-deprecating kind of way. http://www.bilibili.com/video/av836198/
    • This video "iPhone garbage" is a remix of the original video made to promote a Chinese smartphone brand called Jin Li. In this video, two men dressed in police uniforms shout about how good their products are and that only posers will spend so much money (the price of an iPhone 6+ in China is about 2 month average salary) on a phone that is easily damaged with no class and no design - almost garbage - while live streaming comments float over their faces. http://www.bilibili.com/video/av1630710/

    Ying Miao is a new media artist who currently resides on The Internet, the Chinese Internet (the GFW)and her smartphone. Ying's current online solo show can be seen at Netizenet and Newhive.


    Sis:

    Sis are a multiple system whose work can be found at http://s-i-s.us/ For more background, see this Artist Profile of Andrea Crespo.


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    Rhizome invited a few of our collaborators to submit a few of their favorite links of 2014. These are published as part of Rhizome Today, a series of "ephemeral" blog posts. This post will be taken offline on January 1, 2015.

     Image from panthermodern.org (Room 6)

    Kari Altmann:

    • Emily Jones. Just everything here, highlights including: Birds of Syria and First Water to Tripoli. http://emilyjones.info
    • AG Studios. This is like the 15th registered account of AG Studios, who consistently make the most infectious and spirited calypso and soca remixes. Have fun finding all 800 online. https://soundcloud.com/agstudiosvi-1
    • Cargo Club. Sometimes this is a little too one-liner for me, but a lot of great moments and overall theme. cargoclub.tumblr.com
    • Sicko Mobb - Fiesta Remix. This track is everything you want and want to remix. For a while the ad at the front was about polar bear extinction. Video art forthcoming…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PAigszDtXK

    Kari Altmann is an American artist and winner of the Prix Net Art Award of Distinction in 2014. Her work can be found at http://karialtmann.com/.


    Iona Whittaker:

    • But does it float? Somebody showed me this, and I’ve been back to explore it further. I think a lot about putting words to art as a way somehow to create more life around the experience. This site simply pairs images with quotes. The approach behind BDIF is brave, inviting, imaginative and unassuming, embracing chance and the eyes and minds of an unseen audience. Sometimes it floats, sometimes it doesn’t – for me, but perhaps it would for somebody else. I also like the name. butdoesitfloat.com

    • A video made by Dan Fox based on a talk he gave at The Kitchen. As co-Editor for Frieze magazine, Fox wonders about his audiences – starting with the first he ever had, his parents – and accompanies it with an apt collage of retro footage. vimeo.com/86106247
    • Nobody can deny that this has been a massive year for Instagram. Go to This is Now for a live flow of images from different cities based on their geo-tags. now.jit.su

    Iona Whittaker is an art critic and an editor at Rhizome and Randian.


    Samantha Culp:

    • During the peak of the Hong Kong protests this fall (and especially the few weeks I was in town, wandering the occupation sites and in dialogue with old friends, artists, and activists from the years I lived in HK), I was glued to the Reddit livestream which was a source of constant and fairly reliable updates. To be honest, I had never really before understood the Reddit phenomenon, but this period made its utility clear and powerful. https://www.reddit.com/live/tnc30xhiiqom
    • Mesh-networking communication app Firechat (https://opengarden.com/firechat) was invaluable to protesters I spoke to, as 3G/Wifi signals were never *blocked* for the protest area but were indeed so overloaded they could not be reliably used.
    • One of the all-star contributors to the "Archival Aesthetics" groups is of course Shanghai-based artist and friend Kim Laughton, whose Taobao-Media project has been going on for 2 years now and is composed exclusively of unaltered images plucked from the wilds of Taobao (China's Ebay-meets-Amazon emporium of anything that can be purchased, ranging from houses to baby animals and everything in between). Chinese production and consumption revealed as Dada-ist social realism. http://taobao-media.tumblr.com
    • One of my favorite music discoveries this year is Claude Larson's 1982 album "Digital Landscape" (http://spookcityusa.blogspot.com/2014/04/memory-expansion.html), which one mp3-blogspotter (those still exist!) introduces with: "if you're into eighties music approximating a jungle cruise through yr CPU's hard drive, then this will be right up yr alley". Yes, there is a song called, "Springtime in Silicon Valley", which I feel like Mel Brooks would appreciate.

    Samantha Culp is a writer, curator, and producer based between Shanghai and Los Angeles. She is a partner in the new art agency Paloma Powers.


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    Rhizome invited a few of our collaborators to submit a few of their favorite links of 2014. These are published as part of Rhizome Today, a series of "ephemeral" blog posts. This post will be taken offline on January 2, 2015.

    Screenshot of Anthony Marcellini and Heman Chong’s Twenty Plots for Things to Come (2013).

    Hamishi Farah:

    • black internet sunday helped me thru a couple crises in 2014, with advocation for black bodies trending in my mostly white circles kurt's selected memes was a hilarious safe space http://instagram.com/kurthunte
    • interpol's archive of stolen work really sat w me this year, between my opposition to pigs, concern re: image surplus, documentation as medium, and search for stateless objects. try this as a detox from contemporary art daily's glossy magazine unrealistic beauty standards and flattening of work. http://www.interpol.int/notice/search/woa 
    • this work was made last year but i only caught on after reviewing a show it was in. heman chong and anthony marcellini's work recycles and displays images from science and technology museums, playing them in random sequence until the original image links die. also heman chong has a pretty good fb links feed, (as far as article well filtered fb links feeds go, shout out to heman chong, josephine bosma, and devin kenny) altho heman never accepted my friend request, i'm pretty satisfied being a "follower" tho sometimes i'd like to comment. http://twentyplotsforthingstocome.org/ 
    • this work was made a few years ago but kind've ongoing and re-realised during david brazier and kelda free's studio residency at Gertrude Contemporary. I feel like it is extremely relevant in terms of advocation and occupying an implicated space for white artists to discuss post-colonialism and imperialism. a uk residency program wanted to send them to new delhi to essentially do missionary work guised as social practice. they outsourced the "artist in residence" role to ashish sharma, a new delhi expat working for "business process outsourcing". He assumed the role of social practice artist, given the same brief supplied to david and kelda, ashish set out engaging w the designated community "helping" people on the terms set by a UK "cultural organisation" (i'm being crude + would love to write a bit more about this work another time). The work was displayed w documentation and reports by ashish, accompanied w him on skype ready for conversation to reflect on his work in the community. http://www.brazierfree.com/index.php/projects/virtual-employee/

    Hamishi Farah is an artist in residence at Gertrude Contemporary in Melbourne. You can find his work at http://hamishi.asia/


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    Rhizome Today is an experiment in ephemeral blogging: posts written and published each morning, and unpublished within a day. The latest post can always be found at http://www.rhizome.org/today.

    After some discussion about the best way to wrap up each month's posts, we've decided to publish a list of topics and people covered on Today during the preceding month. Here is the index for Rhizome Today in August, 2014. 

    Topics

    • Amazon (8-Aug, 11-Aug, 26-Aug)
    • ARE.NA (20-Aug)
    • Bomb Iraq (26-Aug)
    • Chat (5-Aug, 6-Aug, 7-Aug, 8-Aug, 12-Aug) 
    • Computer animation (13-Aug, 25-Aug)
    • Depression Quest (19-Aug, 20-Aug)
    • Drones (4-Aug)
    • Facebook (5-Aug, 11-Aug, 12-Aug, 22-Aug, 27-Aug)
    • Ferguson (13-Aug, 14-Aug, 15-Aug, 19-Aug)
    • Forensis (HKW Exhibition) (15-Aug)
    • Fuck Everything (video game/dating sim) (19-Aug, 20-Aug)
    • GIFs (1-Aug, 20-Aug, 25-Aug)
    • Helmet cams (15-Aug)
    • Instagram (4-Aug, 11-Aug, 12-Aug, 22-Aug, 27-Aug)
    • Kickstarter (4-Aug, 29-Aug)
    • Labor (15-Aug, 29-Aug)
    • Mail Art (19-Aug)
    • MS Paint (6-Aug)
    • Poetry (1-Aug, 7-Aug)
    • The sharing economy (7-Aug, 15-Aug, 26-Aug)
    • Snapchat (12-Aug)
    • Social Media (4-Aug, 5-Aug, 6-Aug, 7-Aug, 11-Aug, 12-Aug, 13-Aug, 14-Aug,15-Aug, 19-Aug, 20-Aug,21-Aug, 22-Aug, 26-Aug, 27-Aug, 28-Aug, 29-Aug)
    • The feed (5-Aug, 12-Aug, 21-Aug, 22-Aug)
    • Twitter (4-Aug, 5-Aug, 7-Aug, 11-Aug, 12-Aug, 13-Aug, 14-Aug, 15-Aug, 19-Aug, 20-Aug,21-Aug, 26-Aug,28-Aug,29-Aug)
    • Video (4-Aug (video of a drone), 5-Aug, 8-Aug (iMovie), 12-Aug, 13-Aug, 14-Aug, 15-Aug, 20-Aug, 21-Aug, 26-Aug, 27-Aug)
    • Video games (13-Aug, 19-Aug, 20-Aug, 26-Aug)
    • VSCO Cam (27-Aug)
    • Wikipedia (6-Aug, 12-Aug, 28-Aug)

    People

    • Amalia Ulman (15-Aug)
    • Andrea Crespo (28-Aug, 29-Aug)
    • Andrew Cannon (25-Aug)
    • Ann Hirsch (19-Aug)
    • Bunny Rogers (12-Aug)
    • Christoph Schlingensief (4-Aug)
    • Micaël Reynaud (1-Aug)
    • Cory Arcangel (11-Aug)
    • Dan Phiffer (26-Aug)
    • Dragan Espenschied (1-Aug, 4-Aug, 11-Aug, 26-Aug)
    • Dread Scott (14-Aug)
    • Emilie Gervais (28-Aug)
    • Erica Love (29-Aug
    • Eteam (4-Aug)
    • Eva and Franco Mattes (28-Aug, 29-Aug)
    • Faith Holland (29-Aug)
    • Frances Stark (4-Aug, 7-Aug, 8-Aug)
    • Gabby Cepeda (29-Aug)
    • GCC (4-Aug)
    • Harry Burke (7-Aug, 15-Aug)
    • Jasper Spicero (12-Aug)
    • Jennifer Chan  (13-Aug)
    • Jesse Darling (5-Aug)
    • João Enxuto (29-Aug)
    • Joel Holmberg (1-Aug)
    • Keith J. Varadi (5-Aug)
    • Kevin Bewersdorf (1-Aug)
    • Kimmo Modig (5-Aug)
    • Lena NW (19-Aug, 20-Aug)
    • Loney Abrams (5-Aug)
    • Lu Yang (13-Aug)
    • Lucy Chinen (15-Aug)
    • Martha Hipley (11-Aug, 28-Aug)
    • Martine Syms (14-Aug, 28-Aug)
    • Michael Connor (15-Aug, 1-Aug)
    • Mike Francis (28-Aug)
    • Mike Pepi (29-Aug)
    • Mira Gonzalez (7-Aug)
    • Peter Watkins (14-Aug)
    • Petra Cortright (6-Aug)
    • Phoebe Morris (28-Aug)
    • Rebecca Peel (1-Aug)
    • Ross Caliendo (25-Aug)
    • Ryder Ripps (22-Aug)
    • Seth Price (21-Aug)
    • Stewart Home (6-Aug)
    • Tabor Robak (5-Aug)
    • Tom Moody (6-Aug)
    • Wolfgang Staehle (25-Aug)

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    The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have a significant body of work that makes use of or responds to network culture and digital technologies.

    Adriana Ramić, The Return Trip is Never the Same (After Trajets de Fourmis et Retours au Nid, M. Victor Cornetz, 1910), 2014. Ebook, 82 pages. Installation view, Smart Objects, from the exhibition "Never cargo terminal has recently discovered the trembling hand of state secrets resounding oversold bounce child."

    Lizzie Homersham: The work you exhibited in the recent show at Los Angeles' Smart Objects ("Never cargo terminal has recently discovered the trembling hand of state secrets resounding oversold bounce child," Jul 12 - Aug 8, 2014) was produced by retracing a series of ant pathways onto an Android Swype keyboard, then translating these movements into every available language. What prompted you to consider the smallest of animals in relation to your personal production of language on a smartphone?

    Adriana Ramić: Both their tiny scale and presence in popular imagination drew me to study ants—but perhaps more influential were the scientific discoveries about their communication habits that anthropomorphized them in an interesting, abstract manner. Olga Kostenko, the researcher behind this 2012 study at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology, describes insects leaving chemical messages in the soil for future generations as an act through which "the insects relive the past." Jussi Parikka's book Insect Media (2010) also drew very insightful connections from insect behavior. More broadly, the symbolic application or correlation of insect logic to other purposes, like artificial intelligence (networks, swarm intelligence), and military practices (robotic prototypes, models for drones), was influential.

    From The Return Trip is Never the Same (After Trajets de Fourmis et Retours au Nid, M. Victor Cornetz, 1910), 2014. Ebook, 82 pages. 

    To return to the case of ants specifically, the status of their movements as informational exchanges was of direct relevance to working with gesture on mobile—partially because the way they develop a complex network of trails seemed to be a form of communication, and also because of the vagaries in their paths (at least seemingly, to an observer).

    Ant trails were studied by the French civil engineer and topographer Victor Cornetz while researching navigation with people living on the edge of the Sahara. His 1910 book titled Trajets de Fourmis et Retours au Nid (Pathways of ants and returns to the nest) collects his drawings derived from this ants going between their nest and what was typically a food source. He noted that "...the return trip is never identical with the outgoing trip, though lying not far away and being in the main parallel."1

    From the book Trajets de fourmis et retours au nid., Victor Cornetz, 1910.

    I found this book while I was in Paris this year as part of an 89plus artist residency at the Google Cultural Institute, where I also began attending meetings of the Paris Association of Coleopterists (Association des Coléoptéristes de la Région parisienne). I was hoping to collaborate with experienced beetle enthusiasts, who count former military generals and famous mathematicians among their ranks. Some members kindly referred me to another scientist working in the catacomb bureaus of the Museum of Entomology, who generously lent me Cornetz's book. It became the source material for The Return Trip is Never the Same (2014), an ebook with texts created from redrawing the pathways onto the Android Swype keyboard in every available language, and accompanied at Smart Objects by a series of works on paper titled Nobody Messages from Nautilus (2014).

    LH: This project reminds me of Architects of Gamma Bad, in which you used optical character recognition and Google Translate to transcribe a found text found written on the walls of a house in Zhujiacun, China that was slated for demolition. Can you talk about your use of language-producing algorithms in The Return Trip is Never the Same? Did you edit any of the writing that the ants produced?

    AR: In terms of composition and editing, one of my interests in language production via predictive text is how it both reinforces and avoids idiom and cliché. Swype-mediated communication is constrained to the crowdsourced analysis of contemporary vocabulary and your own typical writing habits, which are tracked in order to personalize the predictions. The visual, gestural input of Swype and the analytic predictions it offered, led to the fluid creation (a phrase I've likely recalled from Swype's own advertising) of new texts. Imagining how these ants' pathways could string together semi-sensical sentences in every supported language became a means to bring the two ideas together in a way that could be formally interesting as well as a bit humorous, while engaging with various histories of automatic writing, mark making, entomology, speech, and the global expansion of Western technocracy.

    The end results were single sentences, and compiled unedited.

    Here are some epigrams from the ants found in the book, translated into English by Google Translate:

    - "Punishment browser" (Indonesian)

    - "Remember Churchill's chat weight" (Danish)

    - "Inequality ruins rework" (Estonian)

    - "Cutesy river Cartier-Bresson Byzantine" (French)

    - "France-related human rights recommendations Kesset economy casualties :-)" (Icelandic)

    - "Adomaitytė would like to reserve a little cat celebrity presenting me not to issue the order to protract taking lethargy love the conviction of those experts break down departmental ruth diverts energy interests Congress Chernobyl" (Lithuanian)

    - "Ecstasy orphaned swift acceptance gently yogurt bank mental health award zero cattle gym arose requires free debt as many citizens continue artillery incoming vehicle council debate eg crowds deemed museum" (Dutch)

    LH: On your "Travelogue" tumblr you shared snapshots taken in travels around the world as well as screenshots taken in travels around the web. Did the process of documenting these journeys inform more complex works such as Room Visits, in which detailed climate readings inspire sensitive ink drawings?

    AR: I renamed my tumblr from "Blog" to "Travelogue" to resituate a collection of (primarily) photos as traces of time spent in specific locations outside of a studio. I wasn't so interested in using the tumblr or the term travelogue to state a special distinction between URL and IRL, as I was in observing the banal marks left by arrangement and signification in different geographical spaces and the infrastructures they might point to.

    Room Visits (2011) is also about the possibility of experiencing a place through a particular infrastructure, though in this case much more quantified, by attempting to indecipherably inhabit fluctuations in temperature, pressure, humidity, and brightness observed in real-time data uploaded by users to Xively.com, a site which at the time operated like a YouTube of data feeds.

    12 minutes in mkishere’s room, Hong Kong (2011). From Room Weather Data, Fo Tan, Hong Kong. Pressure ranging from 1000.3 - 1033 hPa. Ink on paper, 36" x 26."

    LH: In Craigslist-assisted Readymade (2011), an online application which selects three random, free-of-charge items from a random US region on Craigslist and presents them as a propositional readymade, you use live data in a way that refuses a (traditional experience of) contemplative viewing; the objects are forever changing and moving beyond reach. To what extent did you think of consistency or stability as something to avoid?

    AR: I'm not necessarily avoiding consistency because the essential parameters of three free items somewhere random in America remains constant. Free stuff goes quickly on Craigslist, so the person who views the items as part of the stand-alone app or browser extension I designed could, theoretically, obtain them and take them out of circulation.

    Craigslist-Assisted Readymade (East Oregon, January 23, 2014, 11:56:03 PM) (2011). Giant Wooden Stump (Boise), Free Carlson Maxi Gate Extension (Star), 3- 215/55/17 tires Free (nampa), HTML, CSS, JavaScript. 

    Meanwhile, it's much more likely that the compositions are being constantly altered by Craigslist's millions of visitors, even before the (art) viewer gets to see them. Craigslist-assisted Readymade also exists as screenshot editions of selected combinations, or sculptural works in which the three selected objects have been physically obtained, assembled and supplemented with their classifieds listings. On one hand, these present a series of single, unchanging compositions, but on the other, the process of re-circulating the objects, regardless of whether the items have been obtained or are still being advertised, means that they are to some extent still moving, never quite static.

    LH: Like Craigslist-assisted Readymade, Unicode Power Stones and its accompanying Collector's Guide suggest an interest in rethinking forms of collection and valuation. For that work, you've been engraving stones with Unicode symbols, displaying them digitally and formulating ways for them to be obtained at auction online. The system for the latter remains undecided. Do you think there are reasons to intervene in the systems inherited from the traditional art market, considering the digital foundations of much of your work?

    Unicode Power Stones (U+0107, U+0270, U+0414, U+06AD, U+0AA5, U+0F53, U+1F1D, U+20AC, U+2318, U+2531, U+288D, U+29E4, U+300F, U+307A, U+323F, U+4E0D, U+A030, U+1D332) (2013-). Engraved stone. Dimensions variable. 

    AR: I recall our discussions last year about the conceptual pricing of works, like in the case of Unicode Power Stones (ongoing since 2013), where the pricing of each unique character's stone could be subjective (e.g. based on an auction), or egalitarian—in which case quotation marks and obscure hieroglyphs would both command the same price. The fact that pricing a Unicode Power Stone also necessitates assigning a value to a written character or symbol is one of the more difficult and interesting aspects of the piece for me. I think that the choice to resist or embrace the conventional art market isn't one necessarily motivated by the medium being digital, but that there definitely are opportunities to reconsider valuation. And interesting ones to seize.


    Age: 25

    Location: New York

    How/when did you begin working creatively with technology?

    In elementary school I started making websites devoted to different types of animals.

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

    University of California, San Diego (Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts and Studio Art).

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

    Design and development.

    What does your desktop or workspace look like?

    A white room with minimal furniture and a default desktop background. Travel and hard-drive failure have wiped my homes clean, but I'm preparing for a marimo future.


    Notes

    1. Dr. Rudolph Brun, "The Instinct of Orientation of Ants: The Operation of the Homing Instinct," Scientific American Monthly, 1-2 (1920): 55.


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    From Charlie Engman's Tumblr.

    For several weeks in August, news of an anti-date rape nail polish circulated on blogs and social media, igniting new debates with each posting. Created by four male university students, the nail polish was designed to be worn by would-be rape-victims; when dipped into a drink, it would indicate if it had been laced with one of three common date rape drugs by changing colors accordingly. Articles about this new prototype were irresistible to social media users—the way it tackled a trending, yet serious issue: the allure of staving off predators with fashion and the gimmick of seeing the colors change before your eyes.

    Critics pointed out that the product reinforces the notion that it is the woman's responsibility to protect herself from sexual assault, serving as a reminder of the social acceptance of male aggression. A solutionist stopgap, it seems most likely to spur date rapists to change their lacing methods, while giving users a false sense of security.

    One question that did not emerge during this discussion was the material form of this innovation, and its relationship to the body. As Lizzie Homersham and I wrote in a recent article for Rhizome, hands "problematize the boundary between organic human and inorganic tool." In the case of the date rape nail polish, the polished nail is deployed as a sensory device, a technological prosthesis that is also a part of our bodies.

    Jeremy Bailey, Colors of the Spectrum, 2010. Still frame from video.

    Nails' position between "organic human and inorganic tool" suggests a possible way of thinking about the surge of interest in nail culture in recent years. Nail art is one of the fastest growing cosmetic industries, seeing an over forty percent increase in sales beginning in 2008.[1] In 2013, nail polish sales were set to exceed lipstick sales in the UK for the first time in history.[2] Nails are everywhere: Instagram and Tumblr accounts devoted entirely to testing out colors and DIY designs, mani-cams at celebrity award shows, and not to mention all of the innovation within the nail industry, such as gel manicures and decals that last for weeks.[3]

    Nail art is particularly well-suited for online sharing because, compared to other cosmetic products, it comes the closest to embodying anonymity and universality. Hair products are made for specific hair types and makeup matches specific skin tones. Ethnicity, sex, and age are not as visible in nail culture: a nail is a nail and this allows images of the nail to circulate online in a particularly fluid manner. The nail is ready-made for social media.

    This is not to say that there aren't more socially accepted styles in different circles, nor meant to diminish distinct cultures and communities that have emerged. But nails are content-driven. They are nearly standard units, blank canvases upon which one may use colors, styles, and patterns in expressive fashion. Nails' relative anonymity means that you can make your nails as outlandish and over-the-top as you want without the fear of becoming data points in a facial recognition database.

     

     Jennifer Chan, Important Objects (2013).

    Anonymous and object-like, and yet at the center of beauty culture, nails' ambivalent status, central to our look but peripheral to our appearance, contribute to a sense of fluid social identity that other cosmetics and accessories could never offer. In Jennifer Chan's Important Objects (2013), a film made for a selfie-themed exhibition co-organized and curated by the Museum of the Internet and ArtStack, Chan uses her nails to create a portrait of herself. The piece begins with an out of focus close-up of Chan's face, from about the nose down, telling us, "So, I was gonna make this video of my face in love, or in the throes of orgasm, but I'm now really out of love, so I thought I was just going to make something really beautiful." Repositioning herself further away from the camera lens, Chan stands at a distance with only her torso visible, placing her hands, one crossed over the other, in front of her body.

    Throughout the video, Chan talks about how she loves everything too much. While she holds butter, bananas, an array of plastic, inflatable balls, and other textural objects, her nails change from a virulent green to periwinkle painted acrylic then to hollow, masked shells of negative space, revealing moving patterns in lieu of paint.[4] Rather than reading the emotions that we might imagine are on her face, like the expressions Chan mentioned, we instead know Chan through objects: those she selects, and her nails. If images of the face and body generally limit us, inscribing us in social hierarchies and taxonomies, our nails are much more open to transformation. This fluidity, in Chan's case, gives the video an emotionally charged intimacy that only evaporates at the end, when Chan's face appears on camera, saying "I don't care what you think of me." While her face is defiantly challenging, Chan uses her nails to show us a more personal and multifaceted portrait of herself.

     

    Jeremy Bailey, Nail Art Museum (2014).

    Jeremy Bailey also explores a kind of self-portraiture through nail art with his Nail Art Museum (2014), but in a way that more specifically addresses the art system's political economy. While Bailey previously used his face and its visibility to "get famous" on the internet, he does not reveal his name or face to the viewers in this work. Instead, Bailey offers his hands, specifically, his nails,[5] adorned with nail plinths generated with augmented reality software written by Bailey. Bailey asserts that the artist's hand, foregrounded in this work, is "more powerful" than art institutions like the Whitney, the New Museum, or Tate.

    More importantly, though, he also asserts "[t]he plinth is the most powerful object in a museum. It allows you to host any artwork." The plinth does the heavy lifting so the artwork can sit pretty while often going unnoticed. By claiming that this is the most powerful object in the museum, Bailey reassigns power to such supporting roles. On a physical level, nails play a similar supporting role; they can host any design: painted, adhered, sculpted, or even 3D printed.[6] Nail art is also the province of those who are relegated to supporting roles societally, as a feminine trope and a product of service economy labor, often, by the salon worker. Celebrating the power of the nail-as-plinth, Bailey aligns himself with those who play such supporting roles.

    Former Estée Lauder CEO Leonard Lauder coined the term "Lipstick Index" during the 2001 recession when lipstick sales in America increased by 11%. Similarly, during the Great Depression, cosmetic sales increased by 25%.[7] Lauder and believers of the "Lipstick Index" would suggest that cosmetic sales increase during an economic downturn because lipstick is an affordable luxury, or what would be considered an "inferior good" in economics.

    The same could be said of nail polish.[8] Nail polish sales have followed the trend of the Global Recession; beginning with the 2007-2008 financial crisis, nail polish sales steadily grew through the following years. However, the transition from a lip-centered cosmetic world to nail-centric one correlates with another economic transition: a service economy to an information economy. If lipstick is designed to smooth over the complexity of a face-to-face encounter between client and service provider, nail polish is an accoutrement for the hand that is documented and circulated on thousands of dedicated Tumblrs and Instagrams, simultaneously individualized, distinct, and deeply personal, yet dually disembodied and anonymous. These hands represent a certain kind of privilege, and they may even be prepared with the help of a salon worker, but they also are the hands of a new laboring class, and it is with them that Bailey throws in his lot.

    Emilio Bianchic, Backward Nails (2014).

    The daily nail art practice of Uruguay-based artist Emilio Bianchic, meanwhile, tends to destabilize such roles. Each day since 2013, Bianchic has painted his finger and toe nails in a hand-drawn fashion, creating popular designs like animal prints, flowers, jewels, as well as more unconventional creations including the Berlin Wall, fried eggs, Chichen Itza, cigarettes, cars, and menorahs.[9]

    Participating in online forums, such as an exclusive nail art Facebook group for nail industry professionals in Latin America (which took months to gain access to), Bianchic posts photos of his designs as worn by him. One image of his feet with an animal print pattern garnered around 200 comments, most of them fixating on the hair on his toes, trying to discern if the digits belonged to a man or a woman. In the context of this group, Bianchic's gender identity becomes the primary topic addressed in comment threads, though his "ugly" designs still generate dismissive remarks. His nails—lauded by some members—are generally scrutinized for not conforming to preconceptions of who is allowed to participate in this community and what their nails should look like. 

    From Emilio Bianchic's Facebook.

    In his Gender Conscious Free Nail Art Tutorial,[10] Bianchic asserts that "everyone has nails and everyone could be an artist." This statement, recalling Joseph Beuys, is not unlike the willfully naïve, "slightly ignorant and on character" idea promulgated by Bailey, that everyone is a famous new media artist by having access to digital technologies, despite many people not having access to these technologies.[11] In Bianchic's work, this is furthered by his embrace of the accessibility and affordability of nail polish. By inserting this routine into his daily life and artistic practice, Bianchic infuses the everyday with the possibility of fluid identities and bodily transformation and the political power of aesthetics, while also embracing what traditionally might be considered "outsider art." He then further queers this through his atypical nail-decorating practices, such as adhering acrylic nails backwards; gluing decoden objects, like crystals, on his toenails; and sticking small acrylic nails on top of his already painted nails.[12]

     


    Emilio Bianchic, Gender Conscious Free Nail Art Tutorial (2014).

    Interspersed throughout Bianchic's instructive comments in his DIY-inspired tutorial, phrases like "Destroy patriarchy" and "If anything doesn't look good you can always say it was consciously done" underscore the confrontational nature of this nail art practice. Bianchic's nails are an act of defiance, used to express the fluidity of these roles. 

    Because of the hand's dual status as body part and technological object, there is something that seems more than a little cyborgian about nail art. Relatively standardized and relatively anonymous, our nails seem tailor-made for social media sharing, which is one likely reason for the recent shift from a lipstick-dominated cosmetic culture to a nail art-centered one. Although understanding oneself as a cyborg has long been held up as a way of moving beyond restrictive social roles, nail art is cyborgian without being inherently liberatory. As the aforementioned anti-date rape product shows, blurring the human-technology boundary via nail polish may only reinforce gender roles. Even so, there is still something particularly powerful about such a small portion of the body having such disruptive potential, when artists like Chan, Bailey, and Bianchic draw on the possibilities presented by nail art and its circulation. Disembodied digits, both object and stand-in for an entire body, are fluid and mutable, like the identities, subject positions, and (shifting) forms of digital labor these artists inhabit and perform with the aid of prostheses and polish.     

     


    Notes

    [1] "According to Euromonitor International, global sales of nail polish increased 43% between 2008 and 2011 – as sales of lip products grew just 7% and facial makeup 11%." Kira Cochran, "Nail art: power at your fingertips," The Guardian, September 25, 2012.

    [2] Lisa Niven, "Nails or Lips?," Vogue UK, September 4, 2013, http://www.vogue.co.uk/beauty/2013/09/04/nails-or-lips---nail-polish-sales-exceed-lipstick-sales

    [3] Some more bizarre instances of nail-obsessed culture include lemmings, My Strange Addiction: Drinks Nail Polish, long nailed celebrity LaRue's series of YouTube videos devoted to explaining how she performs daily activities, like typing and texting, with her long nails, and ASMR-like videos with women typing on keyboards wearing acrylic nails.

    [4] Chan's ever-changing nails are reminiscent of the scene from Total Recall (1995), in which a secretary is giving herself a sci-fi version of a manicure, using an object similar to a stylus to instantaneously change her nails from blue to red with one tap. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEyWavv1Lts

    [5] This is not the first instance Bailey has made work about nails: ColorsoftheSpectrum.mov (2010).

    [6] The Laser Girls, comprised of digital artists Sarah C. Awad and Dhemerae Ford, make and sell 3D printed nails. http://thelasergirls.tumblr.com/

    [7]"Lip Service," The Economist, January 23, 2009,  http://www.economist.com/node/12998233.

    [8] "What Nail Polish Sales Tell Us About the Economy," Adam Davidson, December 14, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/18/magazine/adam-davidson-economic-indicators.html?_r=0

    [9] Bianchic began painting his nails in 2012, often only using one color. About a year later, he began experimenting with more untraditional applications and fashions, which he then incorporated into his larger practice.

    [10] The YouTube video is titled "EASY SIMPLE NAIL ART TUTORIAL FREE FEMINIST FIFA LANA DEL REY ROAR," to yield higher search results.

    [11] Jeremy Bailey, conversation and email, February 17, 2014 and October 6, 2014, respectively.   

    [12] Nails are especially loaded cosmetic accessories in the LGBT community, with drag performer Alaska Thunderfuck 5000 proclaiming, "If you're not wearing nails, you're not doing drag." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsBdLc39X5w

    https://www.facebook.com/AlaskaThunder/posts/10151584857991224   

     


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    Rhizome invited a few of our collaborators to submit a few of their favorite links of 2014. These are published as part of Rhizome Today, a series of "ephemeral" blog posts.This post will be taken offline on January 5, 2015.

    Self-Portrait as Jeanna d'Arc

    There were so many good things on the web this year, but the links I will remember most from 2014 were mostly somehow about sex and death.

    • Jasper Spicero's Centers in Pain, an exquisite, melancholic proposal for the continuation of cinema by other means (as Cinematexas once put it). http://centersinpain.org
    • The Mavericks invitational live, which you can't seem to watch any more. It was terrifying.

    And so many Ferguson livestreams. I ended up getting really into this one livestreamer, he was very calm and reliable, and at some point I got excited about the idea of getting in touch and collaborating or something. So I did some googling, and found his website, where he posed with what seemed to be a pretty staggering personal arsenal of guns. Strange times.


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    This is Rhizome Today for Monday, January 5, 2014. This post will be deleted tomorrow.

    In September, guest juror Kimmo Modig awarded five microgrants for browser-based works, and we've recently received some updates on their progress.

    Above and below, some new drawings made for Viral by Lena NW and Julia Kunberger, "a game that parodies celebrity status games (i.e. Kim Kardashian: Hollywood (app), The Urbz (PS2)) but focuses on the concept of becoming an internet celebrity via social media." 

    Alongside Lena and Julia, Angela Washko was awarded support for BANGED — a website project inviting contributions from women who have slept with Roosh V, author of BANG: The Pickup Bible. In a surprising turn, Washko was able to interview Roosh himself; read over at Animal New York her excellent report on the surreal experience:

    To my complete surprise — and after a great deal of negotiation — Roosh was up for doing an interview with me. (My art project was not enough of a selling point for him…he wanted me to find him hot girls in Poland and Ukraine….I couldn't think of anyone single…I offered him the grant money instead…he wouldn't take it…ultimately it was the opportunity to have himself presented in an art gallery context that won him over!)

    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

    Also supported: Well, Actually: a journal of vernacular criticism!, a quarterly PDF-based publication, in the words of editors Deanna Havas & Jack Kahn, open to "criticism as it exists in the field, nuance welcomed but not required!" Deanna reports that editing and design will be underway shortly. 

    And M Hipley is using Rhizome's microgrant to pay someone to hack two inactive Twitter social media accounts, allowing the artist to hijack usernames for her own brand. Hipley just completed a Thoughtworks workshop to gain some skills, and has been working on a documentation plan.

    Finally, the timely Music Obfuscator created by Ben Grosser will enable users to hide music from Content ID (the listening algorithms that identify copyrighted music on sites like Vimeo and YouTube), flagging every match for automatic muting or removal, even in cases of fair use or use with permission. Grosser recently emailed telling that he's "having success with a couple techniques for obfuscating tracks enough so that Shazam can't ID them...Plenty of work to go, though... thinking late January is looking like a reasonable target)."

    We can't wait!


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    Image from dry-erase company ideapaint

    When architects look at the built environment today, it can't help but be with profound misgivings. They're still working on projects, but the most ambitious designers are concentrating on building out, rather than building up, on moving people through interfaces rather than cities. Foundations and blueprints are replaced by schematics and entity relationship maps: architectures not of form, but of information. The fundamental unit of design isn't so much a site as it is a platform. And today, engineering a new society involves relentless ideation, a messianic vision, and—most crucially—a whiteboard.

    "Whiteboarding," used as a verb, is a sort of lingua franca of the technologist—a new international style that reconstitutes the very assumptions of digital design, from interfaces and software diagrams to database structures. Though not new, this apparatus has recently become associated with a new kind of creative, a new type of thinker/tinkerer, and thus the whiteboard takes on new meaning vis-a-vis the economy, privilege, and power. Used and abused, it is a significant artifact of the present age of networked capital. If we were to construct a museum-like period room to represent the tech start-up of the new millennium, its walls would be whiteboards.

    Network diagrams, interface mockups, and data models are just a few of the more popular subjects that have helped install the whiteboard as a staple of the high-tech office environment. Now, the whiteboard is ubiquitous not only in big technology firms, but more specifically in the small startup operations whose seeds of disruption are planted in dry erase marker. Few offices exist without them, but in the breakneck world of the digital startup, they're more than just prevalent: they form the very DNA of the organization.

    What is on the whiteboard is less interesting than the behavior it generates. The whiteboard's contents appear precisely because they will soon be obsolete, deprecated, upgraded, and abandoned. The social bodies it distributes, however, which run the gamut from institutions and law, markets and exchanges, remain. Like Utopia, the whiteboard charts that which can only ever disappear—not a real landscape, but a figment of a collective imagination, the new work of capitalism.

    No one seems to be sure exactly when the whiteboard arrived in the office. Sometime in the 1970s, there was a waning of enthusiasm for the chalkboard, its direct predecessor. Chalk dust bothered some students, and likewise was unwelcome inside the clean corporate aesthetic that emerged alongside the renaissance in management ideology during the 1970s. One could speculate that the whiteboard emerged as a welcome apparatus in what Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello have termed "The New Spirit of Capitalism:" the lean, networked system that attempted to synthesize the lessons of "68" by adopting flat organization, autonomy, and an ethos of teamwork. 

    But why is this the case? The whiteboard is open, exploratory; it is weak in its commitments but bold in its designs. If the chalkboard is didactic and pedagogical, the whiteboard is a liberated zone for "ideation" whose markings do less to edify than to solve the problems they simultaneously invent.

    The whiteboard is defined by what it does not show. The bold and economical line of the whiteboard marker is a visual manifestation of the values of the innovator: a momentary stage for the most audacious founder's vision. Its clean white slate creates a sort of vacuous political economy, depicting not bureaucracy, government regulations, nor—critically—human labor.

    Image from Veber hosting solutions

    As many an inked hand attests, the content of the whiteboard appears and disappears whenever inspiration strikes. Its designs have short lifespans, their utility measured with each new scrum, ideation session, or team lunch. Putting in time with a whiteboard is a constant rehearsal, an ever-renewing production to re-mythologize one's management vision, even if it's tackling a mundane problem.

    The good founder will use the whiteboard to articulate almost any idea. 

    When you walk through the open office plan of an incubator, co-working space, or quirky startup office, the whiteboard functions as an open demonstration of solutionism and productivity. The whiteboard says "Hey, come look what we're working on!" from a group of would-be founders who are never more than 3 months away from a VC pitch.

    Using a whiteboard is always a performance. It does not inscribe authority, but erects a  power-knowledge system that makes abstract concepts seem concrete, where you can present mere ideas as monetizable. It is a visible symptom of a focused collective imagination increasingly structured around software interfaces. Connections are APIs, gateways are logins, and the content is data. One always arrives at a blank whiteboard already knowing one will leave with a solution. On the whiteboard, things just appear to make sense.

    If something like the 16th-Century tapestry implied an institutionalization of its patrons through myth and fantasy, then today the neoliberal technologist uses the whiteboard to collaborate their way to an even grander hyper-fiction, to instantly traverse new speculative landscapes whose rules and structures can be remodeled on the fly. However, the whiteboard swathes itself in the same rhetoric as the sharing economy—collaborative, flat, democratic. Anyone can walk up and inscribe themselves into the organization. The whiteboard is a tool for crisis, for change, loose affinities and cool collectivities, for historical fabric defined by onboarding new users and meted out in disruptions. In the age of the instant entrepreneur, it's our blank canvas.

     

    Idea paint @Paypal


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