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The Rhizome Blog and Rhizome News

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    Untitled, 2012 archival inkjet print.

    Many of your works seem interested in the tension between analog and digital in the creation and reception of a work, like physical xerox scans of the screen of an iPad.  To what degree do you connect a piece to the technological platform on which it was made?

    The Pad Scans are scans of an iPad. The iPad is confused by the light from the scanner that produces heat making it think it’s being touched. So the scans are capturing the iPad rolling over to another web page, making visible these digital or web in between spaces.

    Error feels a sign of humanness. For me it’s important to insert that into an image or work dealing with mediation and technology. In this constant looping between the physical and digital worlds images are unstable in that they are left always open to reuse.

    I also recently learned the term ‘retronym’, which feels a linguistic insight into my working process. (A paralleling of technological advances and in the face of them a return to the past to update/qualify/recontextualize.)

    Your naming conventions vacillate between identifying their originating platform (iPhone Videos, Pad Scans) and describing their final form (Prints of Plays). In terms of these degrees of mediation from an initial image, how important to you is the ultimate format of the work versus its role in destabilizing that image’s objecthood?

    Everything is important in different degrees at different times in different works in different ways. There is so much process, yet when pieces are ‘finished’ as in hanging on a gallery wall there is no separation between image and form or object and picture. Though this unification is so fleeting, as it lasts for the course of a show and only if you are standing in front of it. The reality is that’s not how the majority of viewers experience a work. So instantly there is another mediation through online jpegs of the show as install shots or as specific individual works. So then the reality becomes that maybe there is no ultimate format. No singular state of importance heirarchy. 

    A recent show at Foxy Production (NY) wrote that through the physical manipulation of photographic prints [by tearing, cutting and folding], “any trace of the original context evaporates.” Critic Sharon Mizata suggested, however, that similar works of yours retained traces of portraiture.  Would you place these works in the tradition of artists like Lucas Samaras who have used new media to consider or distort personal identity?

    Neither of these statements are totally accurate. Though much becomes abstracted over the course of generations of shooting and reshooting, there is a vital tension between the recognizable and the unrecognizable, the obvious repeated shape of a pixel, a mouse’s arrow, a staple or paper tear. I was curious to read the comment of works retaining traces of portraiture as I never shoot people directly, though there are endless traces of fingerprints, marks, dents as remnants of presence.

    You have shown many times over the years with your husband, artist Brendan Fowler, most recently in the current exhibition at The Finley (LA). How does the selection process work for these indirect collaborations? Particularly in the show at The Finley, part of a series on artist couples, how did you approach using objects to communicate something about the relationship between romantic love and creative partnership?

    This is the second time Brendan and I have shown together (ironically both have been in domestic settings). I made a Pad Scan of an image of the Finley space, the staircase and a view from the inside which you couldn’t see from the outside. Because many viewers experience the show from the outside I wanted to embed the work with a vantage point different than what was afforded. The piece brought the architecture into the fold, while Brendan’s added to it by installing a wall at the top of the stairway. This is part of a new series of his where walls double as art object and functional support for another artist’s work. A literal reason our objects were in partnership is because my work hangs on a wall and he made one.

    Stephen Prina and Wade Guyton committed to a 10 year collaboration where Prina would make a Push Comes to Love piece on top of one of Guyton’s Untitled inkjet paintings. What’s interesting is that they remained 2 individual pieces with their own autonomy and title, on top of one another. 

    I wouldn’t have thought I was interested in a collaboration under the premise of a ‘couples’ theme, but Sarah and Jeff’s rigor and thoughtfulness in mounting shows whose premise would not necessarily be given space within a traditional art institution is an incredible thing I feel lucky to have been a part of.    

    You wrote a text to accompany an exhibition at West Street Gallery where you describe the haptic process of scanning – running your fingers over the papers and the plexi and end with the amazingly simple line: “my scanner never gets cleaned.” Is there something about the indexical nature of technology that interests you – like Freud’s mystic writing pad?  Would you describe your work as an attempt to reveal or conceal those fingerprints?

    Freud’s mystic writing pad is a beautiful analogy, as there are endless (at times imperceptible) traces of past workings, use, and action on my prints and in my images. How information moves, morphs, is abridged, footnoted, reworked, gains artifacts, is lost, is rediscovered all frustrates and inspires me.  




    Los Angeles 

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

    My mom was a painter and so from a young age we were constantly doing art projects, though I never really loved art class in school as I was a shit drawer and just didn’t enjoy it. The most incredible thing happened in 11th grade though when a media artist started teaching photoshop and video classes (this was maybe ‘97?). My mind was blown and I spent hours and hours shooting and editing. Making art really came alive for me. I then went to college thinking I wanted to major in video though after my first year I transitioned into photography, I kind of went backwards, finding the still image from the moving.

    Describe your experience with the tools you use. How did you start using them?

    Well, I got the internet in 7th or 8th grade in the form of America Online. I would sneak downstairs and stay up for hours and hours every night in chat rooms, talking about books or my parents or just escaping into some heavy RhyDin. I was young enough that the internet formed me, but old enough that I have the imprint of a time before it. 

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

    I went to Hampshire College, an amazing weird magical place where you design your own course of study, without the traditional structure of majors or grades. I studied feminist theory, cultural studies, art history, art practice. 

    I also began getting my masters at Royal College of Art in London but hated grad school/art school and left after two terms. One incredible thing I did experience was John Stezaker as a lecturer whose insight and poetry has stayed with me.  

    What traditional media do you use, if any? Do you think your work with traditional media relates to your work with technology?

    At this point, using a digital camera or a scanner or printer IS traditional media. These distinctions, for me, don’t really exist anymore, and I question how useful they are for us all. I lost my mind over a totally conservative and out of touch article in the recent Artforum by Claire Bishop called ‘The Digital Divide’ whose premise was based on continuing these distinctions (as well as just not paying attention to anything artists are doing these days. And not in some back alley niche, I mean Wade Guyton has a show at the Whitney!!!) 

    Are you involved in other creative or social activities (i.e. music, writing, activism, community organizing)?

    Since moving to Los Angeles I’ve begun giving feedback on scripts and movies. It’s such a funny part time LA gig. I also just finished helping to produce a short called Sequin Raze written and directed by Sarah Shapiro. 

    I feel energized by the potential of inserting ideas directly into a larger popular dialogue. The number of eyeballs that watch TV and movies, the way that whenever I visit my family this is the one thing we can all talk about and the steadily rising bar in television quality I find inspiring. 

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

    When I lived in New York I shot more straight photographs. I couldn’t afford a studio so this was my way of working, it felt contrary to my mixed media approach but it was what it was when it was. I also at the time was focusing on starting a business to make a living and not rely on art. In 2006 I started a personal styling business with a partner which I still do for a main chunk of my income. Thankfully this affords a flexible schedule and time in the studio as well as a way to pay my rent totally separate. It’s a kind of creative problem solving. I also appreciate the human interaction as studio time is wonderfully and painfully solitary. 

    Who are your key artistic influences?

    Cady Noland, Steven Parrino, Louise Lawler, Wolfgang Tillmans and Wade Guyton. Also, Anne Collier, Josh Smith’s fucking punk way of storming through the art world, Oscar Tuazon and K8 Hardy. 

    Other things happening right now I’m really excited about: the band Hoax, Andra Ursuta, Asher Penn’s Sex magazine, Lil B’s endless output and end of meaning, a new era in television programming! Molly Soda, Oliver Laric, Frank Ocean’s storytelling, my trip to Documenta 13, street wear (Hypebeast, Supreme, Nike Frees), Heather Guertin stand up...

    Have you collaborated with anyone in the art community on a project? With whom, and on what?

    Not direct collaboration, but some of my most value dialogues as of late have been with a friend and great artist Artie Vierkant. 

    Do you actively study art history?

    Sporadically, though I don’t know if you can count searching out works or artists through google ‘study’ in the way I assume you mean.

     Do you read art criticism, philosophy, or critical theory? If so, which authors inspire you?

    I read artforum, frieze, mousse, kaliedescope, May and other art magazines regularly. Also the NYtimes reviews...But I have a horrible memory so always forget everything. 

    Judith Butler rocked me in school and Illuminating Video was formative when my focus was video. I recently loved reading the 18 pg press release for Merlin Carpenter’s ‘Tate Cafe’ show at Reena Spaulings. It was a talk/taking to task between him, John Kelsey and Emily Sundblad which was totally fascinating. I don’t think its on the website anymore but if anyone wants it I c&pd so will send to you. 

    Are there any issues around the production of, or the display/exhibition of new media art that you are concerned about?

    Again I feel like this distinction in my mind/work doesn’t exist. So what I think about is the display of art. I’m fascinated by the reality that most people see jpegs of the show online, and want to bring that into the fold of a work, build it into a piece so there is a sort of doubling down when you then see an image online. So collapsing work and installation document, creating ruptures or confusion in the process of online viewing is part of my concern with display. 

    Also just the consistent challenge to make and display work that feels activated, energized not totally tamed within an art system, numbed or neutered in the context of a gallery.

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  • 10/26/12--12:11: Rhizome for Chelsea Sound

    The Future is Fantastic (If You Want It)


    CHELSEA SOUND is a day-long not-for-profit mini-festival of experimental sound on Saturday, October 27th in Chelsea's gallery district, organized and hosted jointly by Eyebeam, Printed Matter, Electronic Arts Intermix, Family Business.

    Organized jointly by the four non-profits, Chelsea Sound will be a day-long event devoted to music in contemporary art - artists who make work with sound and musicians who draw inspiration from art. Taking place in Chelsea's Gallery District on Saturday, October 27th, the collaboratively-produced festival will include a series of performances, sound installations, and video screenings throughout the day across four venues. Performances are free and open to the public and will run between 2-9 PM.

    With their varied missions and commitment to different media, each organization brings its own specific vantage point for looking at how artists and musicians fuel each other's ideas and work. 

    In honor of the event, we would like to take a minute to highlight one upcoming sound related project we are working on at Rhizome:

    Part of New Silent Series, The Future Is Fantastic (If You Want It) is a participatory performance of the collective, Fantastic Future's website, an open platform and archive for sharing and collaging feild recordings. Fantastic Futures is a collaborative team of students, artists, doctors, and future leaders from Iraq and the United States. For their recently completed Rhizome Commission, Fantastic Futures created a free and open online sound archive that examines concepts of time through the recording, collaging, and sharing of sounds between these two countries. To further explore shared experiences of time, memory, and trauma between countries in conflict, audience members will be blindfolded for a portion of the event to enhance a synesthetic experience—listening to light.

    This event will take place 7PM Friday, November 9th, at The New Museum.

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    Cameras are everywhere, they may actually outnumber us. I count three on my person at this very moment, having made no conscious effort to pack them. Cameras come between us, and their presence can divide and unite us. Having its own body, view, and memory, the camera behaves sometimes like an independent actor. The camera arrives on scene as an unintended guest.

    Narrowing my search from millions of YouTube videos down to five, I gravitated toward those that share in common a moment where the camera becomes evident in the video, often in a surprising way that punctuates a social relationship, and where the line between an hospitable or inhospitable act is obscured.


    Seagull stole GoPro


    An incidental cinematic moment is captured on video when a young videographer and a cunning seagull fall into an unlikely collaboration.


    Boy punches camera



    Uploaded with the description “It hurts not”, this video features a young boy passing time in the backseat of a car, punching a handheld camera, repeatedly, to an instrumental version of the song “Again”. It currently has 10 views, 9 of which are mine.

    I project my own experience with cameras onto the boy. Is this what camera fatigue looks like? Is he punching the camera, or is he punching his image as it appears on the display screen? I chose this video because of its ambivalent yet expressive qualities.


    FACES YOUR FEARS...(hidden camera in haunted house)

    This compilation of images puts me in stitches every time I view it. The staff of a haunted house in Niagara Falls, Canada installed a hidden camera to capture the faces of visitors at a particular moment in time in one of their themed rooms. Horror unites families, friends, and who knows, maybe even strangers in a meaningful bond as they grasp for each other in a state of shear terror.

    Face-Off With a Deadly Predator

    A camera augments and simultaneously documents the transformation of a relationship between perceived predators: a leopard seal and a biologist-photographer. In a nurturing gesture, the leopard seal attempts to feed the photographer penguins through the lens of his camera (standing in for the mouth).

    This story, told through a series of images and narrated by the photographer, describes a camera that is both the subject of the video and the means of its production.

    Bahrain: Protester destroys connections of a CCTV camera

    A protester climbs a light pole and disconnects a surveillance camera that has been set up to monitor protesters during the G20 Summit. One camera is “permitted” to be there, the other isn't. By destroying the surveillance camera, the footage on the other camera is validated and now the official document of this protest. The death of one camera validates the other. 

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    Francoise Gamma

    Widget Art Gallery, developed and curated by Chiara Passa, is a exhibition space that fits in your pocket. This digital gallery is an app for iPhones and iPads. Over email, I asked Passa several questions about the project:

    What was your motivation behind starting the Widget Art Gallery?

    Different reasons led me to start the Widget Art Gallery.

    The first one is that I’ve always wanted to do my own curatorial digital art project in relation to a space.

    The second reason is the economic crisis. So, it was unreasonable for me to rent an exposition space since it was too binding, and three years ago I decided to create a virtual display space that Id thought extremely coherent in order to show digital art; simple to manage for me and easy to understand for users. Due to our needs that seem to be increasingly handheld, WAG was born. The Widget Art Gallery is a mini three-D, single art gallery room that fits into people’s pocket.

    The virtual gallery-room, every month, directly on people’s mobile, hosts a solo digital art exhibition related to the dynamic site-specific contest. So the WAG works both as a sort of kunsthall showing temporary exhibitions and as a permanent collection museum because it conserves all the past exhibitions inside an online archive.

    The third aim is a conceptual and emotional one. Recently, I was surprised by the increasing involvement of the audience that I am seeing in some recent mobile-art projects, so I wanted to create a virtual space accessible to everybody by simply using an internet connection. The Widget Art Gallery is a free Safari Mobile Web-based App and works online through two different links for IPhone and IPad. It’s also possible to download the widget version for mac-osx dashboard.

    The fourth motivation is a technical one. I’ve built the WAG within the HTML5 programming language and JavaScript functions; therefore it’s simpler to manage and to make some modifications each time there is an update and to switch to the next exhibition, without depending by Apple Store and their decisions/upgrades.

    Do you think that bringing the online exhibition to a mobile platform brings it closer to the initial experience of the modern gallery show — i.e. trying to have a private interaction with a work of art in a very public place?


    Grace McEvoy

    I think a new era is approaching also for contemporary galleries and the way to exhibit/curate.

    The mobile-show adds a plus valorem: it introduces the possibility to appreciate the artwork in relation to space in a private mode.

    The Widget Art Gallery is often a strange experience, a place where people are meant to have a private interaction within the artwork but could are also surrounded by crowds... in any case, the WAG has both the possibility to be a collective and/or an individual environment that users can manage how they want and where they need, compared to the physical static gallery where people have only the possibility to share the space and the exhibition at the same time.

    For a long time, the art system held the monopoly on curated, publicly accessible art. But the internet gave them a run for their money with web-specific online galleries that re-imagine the nature of the gallery and the exhibition, and turn websites into curatorial spaces for commissioning and showcasing new artworks, making their business easier.

    Recently I’ve noticed how some galleries prefer to start to shape their own virtual art gallery for the mobile platforms instead of a simple website. Also visiting Apple Store, I’ve seen some other newly established mobile projects like for example, myk art an IPhone App for collectors and Fifth Wall, which is an App designed for IPad considering the digital tablet as a new performance space. 

    You write that you find WAG to be a more interactive and participatory platform for audience engagement than your other projects.  How so?

    Maybe because the WAG is a mobile art-project and the audience easily can access the show every time via internet, without any constrictions. A physical artwork (even if it is also a digital creation), like for example an interactive video installation in real space, needs a different participatory approach from the audience because the real space has a predominant role in relation to many time-based artwork’s aspects, as opposite to an artwork performing inside a mobile platform, into a limited space, for example. The good stuff is that there are more people seeing a mobile-show, rather than people actually going to see a gallery exhibition.

    The virtual artwork inside the Widget Art Gallery has neither an inside nor an outside; it is not private, but it is public; it can no longer be only autobiographical, but mostly social. This last peculiarity characterizes and distinguishes it from the traditionally visual arts before the advent of the internet.

    Lorna Mills

    The possibilities of interaction regarding the time-based art in relation to the new spaces as the mobile platforms like the WAG, grows up following the development of digital technologies, so the contemporary viewer is forced to make a sort of training (like the participant does playing video games) to understand and enjoy the interactive art that is transmitted very quickly.

    The time-based art inside the mobile platforms, even if born with the intent to bypass the art system and arrive more easily to the public by eliminating the so-called intermediaries, and also thanks to the use of Internet, continues to manifest itself as a paradoxically subcultural practice, always borderline but parallel to the art system, because, unfortunately, it’s enjoyed only by those having the technical specifications and the know-how to understand it at all.

    How does the curatorial process of designing and running WAG figure into your own digital art practice?

    Yoshi Sodeoka

    My artwork in general combines different media by default. I run animations and video installations, interactive projects on internet-art, digital art in public space, site-specific artworks as projects of video mapping and, as well as, development for mobile platforms like smartphone and tablet. So, I’ve different skills to perform several software and some programming languages I learned since I was just a student until now. The WAG’s interior design I created is inspired by a pure/minimal room of a ninth-century’s building, from which I took a picture of a real empty room. I consider the physical view/frame I’ve used and figures inside the digital device help people understand and contextualize better the digital artwork inside the mobile space. This is not a paradox in showing digital art but in this way the environment provides a reference space, a sort of coordinates for eyes. Besides, the real setting picture establishes an illusory axis between the real and the virtual during the show. The physical image as background sometimes could change depending on the exhibition proposed by the artist.

    Can you talk a bit about what you think makes GIFs so successful in this format and what you hope to see in the future in the gallery?

    The Gif format is a great success in art across-the-board. Because of its multifunctional and switchable nature between video, photo and a simple static image, Gif gives artists many possibilities of expression/communication.  

    Related to WAG, the idea is that the Gif format is very easy to construct by artists and it’s simple for me to figure out when I program the WAG’s exhibition.

    I’ve built the WAG in order to also host interactive projects i.e. Java artworks, but this point depends on the artist and what he/she wants to exhibit. Furthermore I hope to display also music/audio projects, video, and Augmented Reality shows.


    Je Suis Ici by Francoise Gamma is on view until Oct 30. The gallery's next exhibition will include work by Haruko Hirukawa.



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    Rhizome contributor Orit Gat was invited to speak at Frieze Art Fair earlier this month. Audio from the panel, "Attention! Criticism and its Distractions," organized by Brian Dillon, is now available to download on the Frieze Foundation website.

    Much of the panel's discussion refers to the essay Gat wrote for Rhizome last spring, "Screen. Image. Text":

    The generations to come of age in the days of digital publishing and reading on screens have a much more complicated relationship with images. The human eye-brain system is capable of reading a large number of high quality images in a matter of split seconds, and this, alongside the hand-eye coordination—think about the pleasure of a touch screen versus inky newspaper pages—is rapidly developing to mirror our changing habits of consuming information. So much so that the contemporary heightened sensitivity to the way we read images can lead to an ability to, at times, ignore the quality of the images when inserted into a text, the way our brain glides over a typo in the flow of reading. The way we read images online is only one thing these magazines deal with in the process of publishing, but it is surely an element that dictates a large portion of the reading experience of these publications.


    The first issue of the Illustrated London News (1842)

    The endless discussions on the future of print bring up the contemporary fluency with images on a regular basis. Aside from the fact that digital publishing is often cheaper and always easier to disseminate, many consider the role of the image in digital publishing to be a key aspect in the contemporary experience of reading. The benefits of handheld devices are considered time and again, especially in relation to embedding a variety of image formats: slideshows, moving images, animated GIFs, and so forth. A number of start-ups like Flyp bring screen-based reading beyond the initial technology, and enhanced e-books are quite widely considered to be the next major option offered by electronic reading devices.

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  • 10/30/12--19:11: Thank You to Our Sponsors
  • We would like to take a brief moment to thank this month’s sponsors. These are the organizations and companies that keep us publishing, so be sure to check them out!

    Featured Advertisers

    • Guggenheim - Stillspotting nyc is a multidisciplinary project that takes the museum’s Architecture and Urban Studies programming out into the streets of the city’s five boroughs.
    • Asia Society Museum - Bound Unbound: Lin Tianmiao represents the artist’s first major solo exhibition in the United States.
    • Creative Time - Creative Time Reports features Artists’ analysis of pressing news and events from around the world.
    • Association of Public Art - Open Air, an interactive art installation that allows participants’ voices to transform the night sky over Philadelphia’s historic Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
    • Curator’s Office - Progressive contemporary micro-gallery and curatorial service bureau for offsite projects and exhibitions in Washington, DC.
    • Art Miami -  Miami’s premier anchor fair, showcases the best in modern and contemporary art from more than 100 international art galleries. December 4-9, 2012
    • Pacific Northwest College of Art  - For over 100 years, PNCA has served as a creative hub for artists and designers with an educational philosophy that emphasizes individualized curricula, independent inquiry and cross-disciplinary exchange.
    • NYU Steinhardt - Graduate art programs in Studio Art, Art Education, Art Therapy, Visual Culture: Costume Studies, and Visual Arts Administration.
    • International Center of Photography -  The ICP-Bard Program in Advanced Photographic Studies offers a curriculum of professional and studio practice, critical study, and Resident Artist Projects.
    • School of Visual ArtsMolecular Cuisine: The Politics of Taste is an interdisciplinary conference investigating the importance of taste from the perspectives of the culinary arts, sociology, art history and theory, anthropology, as well as the cognitive, material and biological sciences.

    Network Sponsors

    • Mixed Greens - In the current exhibition, Night For Day, Joseph Smolinsky uses drawing and sculpture to explore subtle shifts of light, time, space, and climate.
    • Brooklyn Comics & Graphics Festival Annual event featuring artists and publishers, lectures, exhibits and events.
    • School of Visual ArtsThe MA in Critical Theory and the Arts is an intensive yearlong study of the problems and questions of making art today.
    • New York Academy of SciencesScience and the Seven Deadly Sins - A vice – ridden series of events featuring scientists, authors, urban planners and many more.
    • Tim Roseborough - The Art Rap EP by D. Skilling
    • Pernod AbsintheThe Art & Absinthe Guide to Brooklyn – mobile interaction with the thriving arts community of Brooklyn, NY.
    • Art Systems – Professional art gallery, antiques and collections management software
    • TheBowerbirds - brings together a collection of art from various Asian artists and makes them available to everyone as art prints

    If you are interested in advertising on Rhizome, please get in touch with Nectar Ads, the Art Ad Network.

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    Matthew Plummer-Fernandez, Digital Natives (2012)

    “The internet changed the world in the 1990s, the world is about to change again,” read much of the promotional literature for the recent 3D Printshow in London. The commercial exhibitors might have benefited from a far more modest tag line, but the art work exhibited, separate from the main trade section of the show, gave much new to think about regarding the the relationship between technology and craft.

     Frederik de Wilde, M1ne IIII (2012)

    I was immediately intrigued by the two sculptural objects on display by Frederik de Wilde. The cobalt chrome models had been printed from data gathered from Belgian coal mines. They presented themselves as futuristic objects with a link to Europe's industrial heritage. The representations of the coal mines came to the 3D Printshow as seemingly abstract objects but, were actually formed by a much more political process. It had been a laborious process for de Wilde to get access to the data. He remarked that being granted permission to use a data source as an artist is almost an art form in itself. The Belgian government are protective over the information as the mines contain elements of interest to multinationals and other nations. De Wilde was not permitted in the work to reveal the location of the mines and had to abstract the forms so that interested parties could not gain commercial advantage. The custodians of the data had a large say in what the outcome of the piece would be. This is an intriguing collaborative process if it can be considered as such. The models of the coal mines had been stacked inside each other to create fragile vessels, that also further abstracted the context of the data. The production values of both objects were also noteworthy. I found further significance in his work as the vessels raised additional questions about how data is managed and used, a concept which is also being debated on Belgian soil by the European Courts in Brussels.

    Matthew Plummer-Fernandez, Digital Natives (2012)

    Many of the exhibitors came from art backgrounds and have since developed a curiosity for technology. Matthew Plummer-Fernandez has moved in the opposite direction by taking a more creative approach to engineering. On display were objects from his series Digital Natives, produced by scanning in domestic items that were then distorted through an algorithm. His work proposes new ways in how we discuss the process of making a crafted object. Algorithms and their parameters become a tool to be mastered in the same way a lathe or a chisel would be. Plummer-Fernandez's algorithms manipulate the scans of the original objects into uncanny resemblances, defining levels of distortion and color. The results are almost alchemic and magical. We are so accustomed to machines that produce perfect objects that seeing something that for some reason doesn't seem quite correct, can only prompt us to ask questions about how something is made. To me, it is exciting to encounter objects that encourage people to ask about how algorithms are constructed. It can only lead to a desire for others to want to experiment with mechanical and digital production themselves.

    The art exhibition was a space where discussions about making could take place. It did showcase the potential of 3D printing and innovative thought. However, this is in direct contrast to the rest of the show. There is a danger in using technology just to make something impressive and a lot of objects in the main trade show were produced solely to do this. I had to navigate myself through stand after stand of reproductions of the Taj Mahal, Michaelangelo's David and the Eiffel Tower. The irony being that, the originals of these were produced by combining creative and artistic insight with technology, not just by technology alone.

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    Screen shot of >get >put – an exhibition download (2012)

    This month, The Download presents >get >put – an exhibition download (2012) an installation of digital compositions produced by Alexandra Gorczynski, A. Bill Miller, Benjamin Farahmand, Giselle Zatonyl, Derek Frech, and Travess Smalley in tandem with their physical pieces for the exhibition >get >put at little berlin in Philadelphia, PA

    >get >put is an exploration of the interplay between the physical, social and digital spaces of networked culture. Installed as a series of digital compositions anchored in spatiotemporal objects, the work focuses around the fundamental shared behaviors of ‘downloading’ and ‘uploading’ that support our networked world. The exhibition exists in two parts – as digital compositions installed in HTML for this download, and as physical pieces produced for the exhibition’s installation.

    The Download gives a first look to great art for Rhizome members. Start your own digital art collection by becoming a member today.

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    iKea [Stockholm Syndrome], Single-channel video, LCD TV screen, 2012

    Can you talk about the body of work you've just finished? Where do you see yourself going from here?

    My solo show (at Arcadia_Missa), Stockholm Syndrome and Other System Failures, felt like a manifesto as opposed to a showcase or retrospective. It was kind of a show within a show, a meta-installation; the work sat on plinths and IKEA cabinets placed alongside each other, and everything was painted thickly in shitty white vinyl emulsion (I feel like white paint is interesting as a symbol of structural violence - institutionalisation, gentrification, erasure). There were some discrete works in there - Padded Cell (Sultan), Please Let This Be Real, iKea, There's A Little Pre-911 Myspace In All of Us. But the other stuff on show was just what was generated in the labor of putting it all together: tools and detritus. The broom, the beer trolley, the paint pot. I didn't want to clean it up. I didn't want to make the distinction. Everything had a museum card and a price tag: post-fordism on speedy drugs [for enhanced pleasure and better performance]. I've had my blue period, like, my Facebook period, and I think I'm just about done with IKEA, but I'm still interested in the tension between the production of an art object and the collateral damage (material, financial, emotional) of that production process. I guess in my case the art object is an analogue for the subject in the world. Maybe even a self-portrait.

    Your Tumblr is a great repository of images, videos, and texts that seem to commingle and collide in a way reminiscent of Benjamin's Arcades. Of course, there's something inherent in the structure and aesthetic of Tumblr that invites that comparison, but do you feel you've tried to make a more explicit link between the two? Has Tumblr facilitated that practice, or was it a style you'd worked with before?

    Benjamin's one of my favourites, thanks for the props. He was an embodied philosopher, the best kind.

    With regard to Tumblr, I'd say it's something like a place, which is also a discipline or a protocol: like any other software or platform, or K-Mart, or a library, or a gallery. There are best practices and paths to excellence in all these: it's possible to excel at Tumblr, for sure, like it's possible to excel at Facebook or Twitter or Photoshop or gallerygoing. I guess I'm not so invested in the best practice model - like, being really good at Tumblr - which is closely tied in with the idea of "network influence," Kloutism, whatever. I like to subvert best practices wherever possible, actually. But Tumblr is good for the aggregation of visual material, a kind of open sketchbook (I sometimes say that Twitter is my notebook, too). I'm into transparency as/of process, and in placing my own works occasionally alongside whatever else I'm posting and reposting, I guess I'm trying to make a statement that this - all of it - is a continuous practice. I'm not sure about the reification of discrete art works within the continuous playbor loop. I think especially now we are all producing work in dialogue with the communities we live in on and offline and I want to be transparent about it, make it explicit. My life and work feel pretty inextricable sometimes, and the work comes out of all of this and everything else I see and do and think and feel and eat and whatever. It's a subject position. A subjective position. I like Benji and Foucault because they knew there is no other.  

    Following up on that idea, I've noticed an amazing passage from "The Queer Art of Failure" on your Tumblr. I'm wondering how those ideas can help to re-conceptualize the idea of an art object and as opposed to the creation of an ongoing project that can help to, as Halberstam says, "Poke holes in the toxic positivity of contemporary life." To that end, do you consider your work as moving away from an art object and into another, more open-ended form?

    I like that passage a lot. It reads like a rationalisation for my existence and functions as a readymade artist's statement. I believe very strongly in contingency - or otherwise, [potential-] failure-as-process - which is a way of coming to terms with the fact that things fall apart and fail all the time. Queer theory is great because a lot of it feels like embodied knowledge - thinking that arises from doing or being - which makes a lot of sense in the context of my own life/work/whatever. As to the open-ended form, I think that's more about the process than about the product: I don't trust this idea of authorship, because it feels like an old-school humanist (and historically gendered) thing which I don't want to aspire to on principle, even if it were available. So instead I like to set parameters and then let things roll; the work becomes what it is through parallel mechanisms of momentum and devolution. In this way I do generate art objects, build stuff and/or stage discrete scenarios, but I'm also definitely interested in praxes that poke holes in the toxic commodity fetish of the commercial art world, including but not limited to post-performance, peer learning models, social structuring experiments, unrepeatable bricolages, undocumented interventions, life-as-art, animated gifs, screenshots, twitter poetry and the open-sores philosophy of affective/aesthetic overshare.

    Your Black Mirror series is very interesting because it questions consumer technology's ability to interact with the self. Yet your use of technology is very tied to your self, both in its creation and discovery. Can you talk about this duality of approaches to technology, both as a tool that both involves both approximate and distant approaches to yourself?

    Consumer technology is designed to feel interactive, anthropomorphically so - the breathing white slit on the front edge of a macbook pro, sensual glowing touchscreens, embedded softwares that listen for your voice like a dog waiting at home. I genuinely used to think that the iPhone would respond only to its rightful owner, that it would get to know your touch and expand its pixels out under your fingers like a lover. All this delights me like it's supposed to, but it disturbs and grosses me out, too. Still, I've noticed that my iPhone legitimises my solitude, like walking a dog: you're alone but you're not, which is my favourite feeling. I also like the immediacy of being able to record and transmit what's happening around me in realtime: if nothing else, I can bear witness. And in turn, the technology (the network as well as the device) bears witness to my being-self in the world. Pix or you didn't happen [#gpoy]. But social media's a panopticon. A kind of massively multiplayer Be-Yourself LARP without pre-agreed boundaries. I'm ambivalent about the line between the spoken and written word, the embodied and virtual self, and the network versus the community, so I'm moving from one to the other all the time, or hanging around in between: nice and slippery as a mode of survival.

    In your essay for The New Inquiry, you describe social media's relationship to the Read/Write Web as "what sprawl is to the metropolis of modernity: a homogenous, cancerous, rhizomatic junkspace that expands exponentially outward on a sludgy wave of strip malls and sponsored links, greed and induced demand." How does this notion of digital junkspace relate to your fascination with the company and culture of IKEA, which produces real prefab spaces?

    I feel like I've said and written so much about this, so I'm just going to answer in the words of Rem Koolhaas, taken from the terrific polemic essay in which he coined the term junkspace: "Although its individual parts are the outcome of brilliant inventions, lucidly planned by human intelligence, boosted by infinite computation/ their sum spells the end of Enlightenment, its resurrection as farce, a low-grade purgatory." You'll admit there's a parallel.




    London & wherever.

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

    My dad gave me a hammer and some nails when I was about six and I made a small boat to float in the sink.

    [I got my first computer when I was about 12 and got into p-basic programming while trying to make a more convincing affect simulator than the Eliza-bot. It wasn't great but at least it had a dirty mouth and a better sense of humour.]

    Describe your experience with the tools you use. How did you start using them?

    I've been taking photographs since I was a kid, but they were always too static for me; like one photo couldn't possibly be enough to communicate the sense of anything, or not without forcing the subject to assume a particular set of axes forever, and why would you do that to something you love? The unquestioned objecthood of photographs was always unsatisfactory for me, [so] I started dancing in my teens (though I was never very disciplined) and I've been experimenting more or less formally with performance since then. And then I was thinking about ways to document performance, or otherwise, the sense of any living moment without pinning it down like a butterfly or having to engage unwillingly with the filmic discourse. Documentation is basically didactic, however you frame it; I don't want to pretend otherwise. So I got into animated gifs because they are the most Brechtian and didactic of media. It's like, "look at this! Exactly this and nothing else!" - it's the moment of gestus, with the extra Verfremdungseffekt afforded by deep compression - anti-HD, anti-photorealism. There's a political aspect to the filthy dither and the unwillingness to lie still and flat on a surface, and I like that. I learned how to cut video one summer a few years ago when I was too sick to speak or leave the house, and I love it - editing is like painting, super-solipsistic and perfectionistic and gestural, or at least rhythmic. I can go on an editing jag and not come back for three days. For the rest, I've been building and arranging and tacking stuff together for specific or non-specific purposes since I was a kid, and I learn new tricks (and shortcuts, and softwares) all the time.

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

    I went to the Rietveld Academie for a year before they kicked me out for bad behaviour. Studied dance and physical theatre at the Theaterschool in Amsterdam. Went back to school later and did my BA in sculpture at CSM before taking a year out to practice in the real world, and now I just started an MFA at the Slade.

    What traditional media do you use, if any? Do you think your work with traditional media relates to your work with technology?

    At the risk of labouring my point, wood and nails and gaffer tape are technologies too. And yeah I also use white paint and mdf, perspex and drip markers and spray cans. I'm a bad painter and a shitty engineer, mediocre at Photoshop and Final Cut, amateur in After Effects and couldn't care less about Maya. I'm not interested in mastery. I'm interested in forcing the messiness [of the living body] [back] into digital media. I'm into gesture as opposed to image, which naturally informs the way I work with/relate to technology.

    Are you involved in other creative or social activities (i.e. music, writing, activism, community organizing)?

    I'm Art Editor at large for The New Inquiry. I'm kind of promiscuously politically affiliated, if not exactly active. I sometimes cook for my friends or throw a party, which is my idea of community organizing.

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

    I've got a trade (as a chef) and when I need money I go sell my trade somewhere or do some life modelling. Sometimes I teach performance and video, and occasionally I write essays for publication. I've done just about everything for money, from music journalism to web copywriting to translation to circus clowning to sex work to selling weed in a coffee shop in Amsterdam - and while those things aren't important in their specificity, they're significant in how I think about making and labour and the condition of work, or working, in general. I must admit that I've become slowly, accidentally politicised by all this; not coming from a straight art school background it's taken a long time for me to figure out how to qualify art as work, for example, and some of this art world shit is just so rarefied, full of unthinking privilege and tired-out tropes that mean nothing outside the circle. Nowadays I make no claim to be outside the circle, but I still struggle with that stuff. On the other hand the art game beats the hell out of the service industry for lifestyle features so I'm not complaining.

    Who are your key artistic influences?

    I'm not sure I draw influence from particular figures. I get a lot from my own experiences in the world, but also from pre-modern and recent history, internet culture and war reportage and demographically targeted advertising (always a good barometer) and from the condition of the contemporary as I see it - and occasionally as it gets theorised. I also feel like I'm engaged in a dialogue with my contemporaries on and offline that ends up influencing my thinking, if only in opposition to whatever else is going on. I like Klara Lidén's queer garbage romanticism a bunch, and I think Bjarne Melgaard's doing something interesting, though it's weird watching the institution attempt to recuperate his critique. I want people to know who Mark Aguhar was, in particular for her art and activism around identity and community on and offline. I really loved Documenta13 for how meaning was consistently constructed through the [post-] humanistic social context, rather than the received art-historical context. And of course I'm in awe of Ryan Trecartin's trashy meta-drag. I kinda think he's the only truly postmodern artist - the rest of us are just moderns with modems.   

    Have you collaborated with anyone in the art community on a project? With whom, and on what?

    Too many to name, and long may it continue.

    Do you actively study art history?

    Sometimes, to confirm a suspicion or whatever; and lately I've been looking at the history of modern painting in relation to the screen-as-surface. But the art history canon leaves a lot of things out, you know, and I find that problematic. There are extensive histories of feminist art, queer art, black art, art from the diasporas, art made with early computers etc, and these histories are key to understanding the avant garde of today. But if you want to access those histories, you've got to go looking outside the canon.

    Do you read art criticism, philosophy, or critical theory? If so, which authors inspire you?

    Raoul Vaneigem was my first love, but teens love situationists. Then Levi-Strauss gave me some good tools for self-defence in defining bricolage and magical thinking. I started reading Hannah Arendt recently and it's like reading The Lord of The Rings, but without the map of Middle Arendt inside - which is a shame, because it's the kind of writing you need to approach with a map and compass and thesaurus and sleeping bag and camping stove. I enjoy Agamben and Foucault and Bifo Berardi, though I never read the whole thing. I like John Berger and Zygmunt Bauman: political thinkers driven by very real emotional conviction. I've got Adorno's Minima Moralia in my bathroom because it's full of one-liners, you know. And Baudrillard, with his big ambivalent hard-on for a post-networked subjectivity, is still holding up in the face of touchscreen technology and post-colonial theory. I saw Donna Haraway speaking recently and she was terrific: radical optimism at the micro-cellular level, a good antidote to apocalypticism and speculative realism. If she was in the pulpit I'd totally be at church every Sunday morning. 

    Are there any issues around the production of, or the display/exhibition of new media art that you are concerned about?

    I talk sometimes about Capitalist Realism, but what I see in a lot of post-internet practice, especially stuff that originates or exists mainly online, is a kind of capitalist nihilism. Total capitulation; no accountability. There's a kind of ecstatic orgy of appropriative image-making going on, which is great, but it sometimes feels emptied-out, cannibalistic. But the best artists are two steps ahead of this acceleration, making work that simultaneously interrogates and flows back into the feedback loop - like Iain Ball, who makes this cannibalism into a conscious practice and comes up with something like capitalist mysticism, or Dora & Maja, who do a kind of critical structural recuperation thing, or The Jogging, who communitysource Capitalist-Realist Tumblr satire. I admire that.

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    Online browser-based projects which you can play or create with from the Prosthetic Knowledge Tumblr archive:



    Developed by Emilio Gomariz and Kim Asendorf (under the guise MAADONNA), you can drag an image from your desktop into the page to be transformed into a matrix of animated icons. There are various sets including classic animated emoticons (both Western and Japanese) and sprite blocks from old Nintendo games (such as Super Mario Brothers, pictured above).

    You can try it out for yourself here.
    [PK Link]


    Similar to YATTA! is this piece which can convert your image into a matrix made up of Facebook icons (Webcam needed).

    Try it out here.
    PK Link

    Streetview Stereographic

    This webtoy takes Google Streetview photographic images and turns them into 'Little Worlds' style fisheye panoramas. It has even been used to create videos, here by Halcob.

    You can try it out here
    [PK Link]

    ASCII Streetview

    Another Streetview project, this one turns it's photographic panoramas into ASCII text characters (including new data which is captured inside buildings)


    Made by Tim Holam, this tool allows you to draw with words, sentences and paragraphs. You can choose whatever text you wish to use, change it's colour, and save the results.

    You can try it out here and view Tim's other projects here.


    Fun webcam toy by Felix Turner turns your visual feed into a trippy 3D mesh, running on HTML5 in your browser (Note: Only works with Chrome and Opera).

    Try it out here
    [PK Link]

    Webcam Displacement

    Another webcam toy, this by Mr.doob (aka Ricardo Cabello) which turns the visual feed into pseudo-3D forms (Chrome required).

    Try it out here
    [PK Link]

    Other Links:

    • WebGL Webcam Dithering - Turns your webcam feed into older-styled dithered output (Chrome required)
    • Kittydar: Applies facial recognition to images of cats
    • Snappytree: Create and export 3D models of virtual trees
    • Silk: A highly polished and simple generative drawing toy
    • Eyebeam Generator: Send it a photo, and using a facial recognition algorithm, will output the same photo with laserbeams coming out of the subject's eyes



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  • 11/07/12--06:22: Artist Profile: Amalia Ulman

    Weeping Mountain (2010)

    What prompted you to take an anthropological or almost ethnographic approach to studying the lifestyles of (in your words) contemporary middle class Southern Europeans?  How do you find it to be a helpful or destabilizing methodology for subverting what might more typically be discussed as issues of class and taste?

    Most of my contemporaries whose work I enjoy the most are American and I always felt like there wasn't too much of a discourse regarding Europe, especially not about countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece - their lower middle classes, youth and the NINI generation; because of their aesthetics being considered as bland, boring and unappealing.

    Their lack of exoticism was the reason I started to feel attracted to these topics. As someone with dual-nationality, in England everyone would always try to exploit the Latin-American side of me and, even though my upbringing took place in Spain, this fact was always to be hidden and neglected in favour of an exotizised biography. Because Spain is a boring country, with most of it's population living on a welfare system which doesn't even come from its own government but from an idealised Europe, where youth is forever studying due to unemployment and lack of prospects, where everything is a simulacra. After being forced to drive my attention to an idealised, flashy and colourful idea of the third world, I decided to focus on duller representations of the second world, mainly because it is what I experienced throughout my life, what I know about and what I feel in the right to analyse.

    I'm interested in class differences: how they affect social interaction, emotions, attraction and relations. I'm fascinated by class imitation, con artistry, and how humans utilise fashion to define themselves within a circle. In resume, I'm interested in money and how it reflects itself on the people who has it or lacks it: every little detail, from diet and how it reflects in someone's skin, to how a jacket fits someone, to the lack of stress of a person with a comfortable background, or the excess of stress taking the form of abdominal fat in a person who struggles economically.

    It was never my intention to subvert older discussions on class and taste, I just try to adjust myself to the present and to what I see, and by doing so it's easy to subvert past analysis. When I paid attention to this generation of Spaniards (and this is applicable to the other countries mentioned) I barely encounter myself with lower classes with extreme "chav" aesthetics, on the other hand, I found big portion of the population who was trapped in a never-ending educational stage, very well prepared, with no prospects, with very rich cultural capital but very little mobility, where all their intellect would be applied just in test environments, sustained by grants, european helps etc. Fake status achieved through the accumulation of knowledge and an eternal state of practice: faux jobs, faux opportunities, faux money, faux runway replicas by Zara.

    Your recent exhibition at Galería Adriana Suarez (Gijón, Asturias), “Overcome/Cleanse,” appropriates the physical forms of mass market home décor, but the rhetoric and imagery of generationally younger home décor and lifestyle blogs like Apartment Therapy, Design Sponge and Goop.  You have connected what you call “URL usage to IRL consumption” in your own writing: how does this translate to the way you conceive of and present your own work through different platforms? I’m thinking specifically of your decision to depict your collaboration with Katja Novitskova,Profit/Decay, at Arcadia Missa (London) through digital renderings rather than installation photographs.

    In “Overcome/ Cleanse,” I played with those matters because the show took place in Spain and I wanted to play with the topics already mentioned; I felt I needed to be conceptually site-specific. The owner of the gallery is this blonde upper-class woman who knows all these politicians and collectors, and I though it was funny to touch subjects like homelessness and starvation. Also, I was very interested in making some work about lifestyle blogs, as they represent something I talked about in my essay “F/F,” where I tried to explain how social status can be translated into its online representation though the quality of the images uploaded and the style of writing, between other hints, and how they could aid to increase the amount of likes, retweets, followers etc, an internet user could achieve. Lifestyle blogs' popularity (especially outfit, fashion, recipe and craft diaries) is not limited to the charisma of the blogger expressing herself-himself through plain text, but to a never ending collection of photographs of objects. The cuter the acquisition, the larger the amount of feedback. In sites like Apartment Therapy and Design Sponge, even though everything is watered down, and there's lot's of DIY, you can find the depiction of the new upper class.

    I was interested in doing this show just as it was very challenging, in the way all the material I collected wasn't yet, and isn't yet, old enough to be charismatic or attractive. It's still out there and it was difficult to easily bring it back. I was counting the days til the "Keep Calm and Carry on" died completely and could be remixed and be "cool" again, for example.

    And regarding the shots from “Profit | Decay,” they were installation photographs, only manipulated to try to make them look closer to the ideas we visually had in our minds.

    Do you see your work as being related to historical movements like the post-structuralism of commodity aesthetics?  Is there something in the measured intrusion of digitalized commodities like Getty Images copy-writ photographs (in Weeping Mountain) into the comparatively "real" space of the gallery? It seems like, when talking about intellectual property and digital ownership, your tactics invert rather than mirror those of traditional commodity sculpture.  

    Weeping Mountain is a relevant piece for me, not in itself but because of how it worked as a turning point in my work. At the time, I had been working online only for a long period of time, and this was my first attempt to materialise my work in a gallery/studio environment (not in an exhibition space but at school, in this case). Also, it was my first and only piece in which the internet was the theme and not a mere conductor. Even if I'm a creator myself, I don't believe in digital ownership and I'm against intellectual property organisations such as the Spanish SGAE and measures like the Digital Canon. I personally think of the bad quality in certain images as something aesthetically appealing, and find watermarks beautiful. And that was one of the reasons behind creating that piece, something very simple but that exemplifies the perspective other people from my generation share towards digital material; a different understanding on what means to be real or not, how online reality can be as valid as offline reality: a modulation in people's preferences and priorities.

    As a quick example, the teacher I had at the moment would try to convince me to buy the large image and pay for the best paper, for the sake of the print's quality; while I was trying to explain to her why the watermark was actually relevant and how the piece would be destroyed right after being documented, being in this case it's digital representation the "real" work, and not the print.

    I don't think my work is 100% intentionally related to any historical movement, mainly because, yes I research quite a lot, but I produce most of my works in a trance-like state. But I definitely don't think I could escape from my position in history and my relation to previous movements, especially those ones the authors I read were part of/related to. I'm connected to post-structuralism, commodity aesthetics and post-modernism in part because of my upbringing, which was very post-modern, lonely and individualistic, determined by mass media and the absence of a family structure; and in part, from a personal interest in commodity fetishism, and a disdain for absolute truths and binary classifications.

    By respecting all this references and movements, learning from them, but not being defined or intrinsically related to them, I express an interest in getting determined by something newer.





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

    Approximately fifteen years. I started by creating customised stationery with Windows 95.

    Describe your experience with the tools you use. How did you start using them?

    I mainly use photoshop and digital photography and everything I do, from installation to video, exists in relation to the computer screen. I've always been influenced by blog posts, selfies, online confessions and lifestyle blogs.

    I've been raised by my mom, with no contact with the rest of my family, who were overseas; I was an only child with no pets and my parents were too poor to send me to any activities other than English. Aside from having friends at school I'd use every chance to interact with anyone who I could share interests with. This meant pen-pals, radio and walkie-talkies prior-internet, and chatrooms when we first got online.

    I first learned photoshop by having a fotolog. I was 14-15, really horny, and would want to look cute in pictures. Then, I learned all the skills: photography, digital retouching, lighting, editing, posing. After a few months I realised that I didn't really care about self portraiture, shifting the subject and starting making really bad "art". After a while my photography became slightly decent, I approached a gallery and had my first solo show when I was 16. Since then, I’ve always used the same modus-operandi, using shows as folders or containers of works (or works in themselves). This happened in an impulsive manner (as I had no art background or artistic education) so I basically went to art school not to learn how to approach a gallery, but to try to understand why was I already doing so.

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

    I studied the Spanish equivalent of an A-level in Fine Arts at the INTRA (Gijón, Spain) and Fine Arts at the Central Saint Martins School of Art in London.

    What traditional media do you use, if any? Do you think your work with traditional media relates to your work with technology?

    I have a very narrative mind and I write a lot, so I use a notebook. Moreover, my brain is currently super wired and have the attention span of a fly, therefore I need to write things down to remember about them. For everything in my life, I use this sort of structure: I create lists, and erasing things becomes the most pleasurable activity (currently using my iPhone's reminders app 24/7) but to give my life depth and escape from this linearity I write lots of lists, to become mentally surrounded by them. I transform the linear into a three dimensional mental experience through a mess of fake organisation; something I apply to artistic production.

    Also, I read a lot and I fetishize books (I was going to study restoration of antique books before I switched to Fine Arts). My love for books - their content and their shape, from their physicality, to their page design and their font - it's very related to the first uses I gave to a computer: stationery and page design, diaries and blogs. If I use sculpture and video in my works is generally in an accidental way, as I always think of everything in a two dimensional, book structured manner, something which becomes obvious when I reduce them to a manipulated photography.

    Are you involved in other creative or social activities (i.e. music, writing, activism, community organizing)?

    I used to be actively involved in activism and community organising when I was younger and had more free time, now I barely have spare time and wouldn't want to sin committing the sacrilege of slacktivism and clicktivism. I would paraphrase my mom and say: I don't give money to charity as I Western-Union my family on a monthly basis. I'm trying to be politically active by making sense with what I do art-wise.
    Regarding music and writing, I am not involved deeply at the moment, but expect to be soon. For Nina Cristane's project Eva by Heart, I organized the party/event KALOR in relation to my latest essay F/F (on the social platforms Fotolog and Fotocumbia) and newer research on spanish styles of music such as bakalao and makina. Many of my friends are dj's, I'm highly influenced by music and love the party format, so I'm looking forward to do something similar anytime soon.

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

    I've been a librarian and I think that's the only job I can do without falling ill. I have a librarian temper. Otherwise I might become a tattoo artist, but that's just the family business. I currently hustle and make art as a living.  

    Who are your key artistic influences?

    I'm directly influenced by my contemporaries. I like bonding with talented people whose practice I respect; it feels like falling in love with everyone.

    Otherwise, regarding creators I've never met, I also need to feel personally attached to them, because of their looks, because of their biography or their horoscope sign. I will just mention one, and say that I'm a great fan of Colette (despite all criticism).

    Have you collaborated with anyone in the art community on a project? With whom, and on what?

    I love collaborating with other people as it always brings the best of me; I like the responsibilities and the commitment it entails. I specially enjoy duos more than groups. I can definitely commit to someone, not so sure if I could commit to a collective. I think the first real collaboration was with Katja Novitskova, with which the long correspondence of emails was exciting and very fruitful.

    Right now, I'm working side by side with Lauren Elder, for a big project for which we are designing an installation consisting of garments and utensils produced with high tech materials, again touching matters like homelessness and survivalism, something we both expect to be showing at the beginning of 2013.
    Aside from this, I'm working on the second edition of MAWU-LISA (a collective show that took place last year in London), planning a collective flower painting show and developing an iPhone app.

    Do you actively study art history?

    I actively study fashion history, because I'm a frustrated fashion student. I like being informed art-wise, but I wouldn't say I actively study art history, at least not at the moment.

    Do you read art criticism, philosophy, or critical theory? If so, which authors inspire you?
    Yes, I read philosophy and critical theory. Once, I decided I was tired of returning to the same old authors again and again, so I tried to applied to text what it's usually done with music and visuals: to work with found material. When I got my first e-reader, I did my best to try to just read found text: random essays by unknown students on matters I was more or less interested about, weird studies and graphs, uncorrected thesis and dissertations. Trying to scape from the imposition of the list of recommended thinkers didn't work out really well, and after a few months I went back to Virilio, Baudrillard, Berardi, Bryan Boyd, De Landa, Pierre Bourdieu, Ted Polhemus... Anyway, I consider this sort of texts as something helpful when it comes to express my own ideas; but for inspiration I would go for fiction, music and walks rather than theory.

    Are there any issues around the production of, or the display/exhibition of new media art that you are concerned about?

    A lot, I haven't found a solution yet. I'm almost never satisfied, but I guess that's what keeps me on moving. I try to learn every skill and I always switch from one medium to the other. Lately, I've been feeling personally attracted to the idea of painting, as it is still the cheaper medium to produce large scale works and also because it's what I get chatted about after declaring I'm an artist at international airports. But then again, the final work would be a digital photograph of the painting, possibly very photoshopped, to hide the fact that I don't draw very well. In the end, the only thing all my works share, in terms of medium and display, is that they all resume in their own documentation, and I guess this is what gives me the freedom to go for different way of production every time. For me, that last step in my chain of production is the most important one; the rest, the way those works materialise before reaching that point, is just a way of legitimising these ideas in a world that is still ruled by an older generation.

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    UCSD robot mouse.

    When attempting to map out the Future-Present, there is not just one map to consider; there are three. These three categorical types of map—our mental maps, symbolic maps, and broken maps--are each a schematic layer in our effort to perceive the world, and it is in their dissonance that the world actually exists. We must identify not only what these maps are, but what they are when they fail. In the fractures, one sees the spidering web of weaknesses, the many possible scenarios of rupture that select without warning. Reality is unpredictable, bursting from its constraining archetypes. And yet it is uncannily similar to all the breaks we’ve seen before, like a river delta resembling a tree.

    The first category of map resides somewhere in the brain, perhaps in the hippocampus. It is through these networks that our neurology gives us a sense of space that we might try to express, record, and share with others. In studies performed on mice, “place fields” have been identified in their hippocampal neurons. Everytime the mouse passes through a particular known place in its terrain, a burst of action potential fires through the same neurons. We know less about the human brain, but it is clear that our hippocampus is important to forming memories, and that larger hippocampi correlate with people who have more detailed place knowledge, London cab drivers, for example. Somewhere, lurking inside the chemical differences between the inside and outside of neurons, in the minor voltages and in the ever-changing and evolving cell pattern of our neuroanatomy, is a material record of what we mean when we sense our geography. We cannot read this map— we can only think it. We express this map’s imperfections via our senses. When this map fails, we feel lost.

    The second map is spoken aloud, in the possibility of uttering a symbolic map. Humans are never content at forming schema and just keeping them to themselves. Our schemas are meant to be shared, explained, inscribed, and signified. But the topology of these symbolic maps are as complicated and multifaceted as our neurology. It was Alfred Korzybski who constructed the phrase so relevant to our contemporary times, as the second part of a statement first spoken in 1931:

    A) A map may have a structure similar or dissimilar to the structure of the territory...

    B) A map is not the territory.

    One of the primary tenets of Korzybski’s theory of general semantics is that we give too much credence to our abstractions. We shorten the distance between our judgment of a thing and what that thing “is” until they are one of the same. What the world “is”, is comprised of our accepting a map as easily as we hear an uttered judgement, in the time of its hanging in the air, only as long as it takes to be spoken. The structure of a map may or may not be like the land, but a structure of a map is something that we know. We read it, and we know that it symbolizes space that is habitable. When this maps fails, we are not lost— we just don’t know where we are.

    The third map, manifested famously in a particular instance by technology, was actually two maps— or the difference between two maps. When iPhone users updated their devices to a new version of the operating system in September 2012, they discovered that not only had Apple replaced the Google Maps program with a new Apple Maps program, but there were serious usability discrepancies between the two. Turn-by-turn driving directions had been added, but public transit directions had been removed. Search functions were lacking in the brand-new Apple Maps, as the hard work done by Google Maps to verify place data was no longer accessible. And the Street View data, meticulously collected by Google employees with 360-degree cameras on the ground for years, was replaced by an aerial “3D” view feature, that left odd glitches in the data: for example, portraying underpasses as solid walls, and making bridges over water appear melted.

    The switch of map platforms, a decision made on the corporate level, betrayed what each of these platforms really were— a complicated stitching together of massive amounts of descriptive data, GPS information, and aerial photographs. Each of these two maps was actually millions, if not billions of maps. What allowed the map to be perceived as singular, and to make it useful as a means for orienting oneself in real space using a mobile device, was the seamlessness of the platform’s presentation of very similar data. The data— the maps themselves— were not dissimilar from each other. But the skip between one program’s presentation of the map data and the other’s, as it was presented for human reading, made all the difference.

    The Apple Map “problem” is hardwired into our human capacity for navigation. Even if Apple had the time and resources to replace Google Maps with a program that was seamless and indistinguishable, this problem would have resulted at some point. It has before, and it will again. It could be a crash in the server, a forced downgrade to a phone without GPS maps, or any other real world issue that would separate us from seamlessly absorbing that useful abstraction of the map. We know that our sense of time-space is internal to our brains, and we know that the map is not the territory. But we don’t realize that our ability to use a map is because of the seamless integration of thousands of previously observed maps, of preconscious data visualizations in our perception and mind, of mental schema, and of their historical entanglement. Until, the occurrence of the glitch. Then we see the scaffolding of schema that underlies our perceptions. When this map fails, we are not necessarily lost, and not necessarily unaware of our location. At this point of failure we are conscious of how much of the world we know is only a map.

    The Future-Present archetype we are encountering is not GPS, not our neurology, nor the ability of us to understand and make maps. It is the map that necessarily comes apart in our hands. It is the somewhat disconcerting revelation that the schema we use to understand history and our place in it, are it. To feel lost is a crisis of our person, and to have one’s recorded position displaced is a crisis of data. But to have the concept of a map devolve, is not so much a crisis of history, but its most visible presence. We have folded the Future-Present so deeply into our perceptions of the world, that sometimes we see it best when we fail to see it, when the overlapping schema we have stitched into our conception of everything becomes unthreaded, and we can look into the seams. In between the frames? Only more seams behind it. Seams, as it is said, all the way down.

    Augmented reality presents opportunities to both extend and collapse the sense of self across spacetime. There is a deep revelation in this technology that promises to show us the hidden attributes of the world around us. It can be confronted as an occult technology in that it simultaneously reveals the hidden and offers a hidden view. What we see through AR can reinforce our personal experience of the world - what I see may become radically different from what you see - while simultaneously allowing us to share access to a common dataset underlying physicality - what I see contains the same rich detail as what you see. In this there is a path of algorithmic containment just as we see in all current algorithmic content streams, reinforcing what you like and filtering out what you don't. This is something that celebrates our individuality while robbing us of the agency to grow and see differently. If our adaptation requires seeing problems in new ways, will algorithms dull or enhance this ability?

    - Chris Arkenberg

    If we invented a technology that broke our mental schema for good, would we realize it in time? We map the levees around our cities, to be prepared for their inevitable ruin and failure. But what of the failure of the levees on the maps themselves? What of the failure of the levees in our conscious thoughts? These berms may not erode nearly as quickly, but that is not to say their are impermeable. Consciousness has always been too big to fail, but that is no guarantee.

    The fans of [Future-Present] tech are indeed cross-disciplinary in their vocations. It may be more useful to look at the personality traits that incline a person towards such interests. They are hardware folks fascinated by the mechanics of functionality, the specs & schematics, the operational capabilities and engineering tolerances. They are military buffs into the tools of power & survival, the nuances of geopolitics, and the flow of milspec into civilian space. They are tech geeks looking for signs of their scifi fantasies coming to life; activists guarding civil liberties and revealing corruption; cybernetic psychologists tracking the ingression of the algorithm into the body; coolhunters & trendwatchers, analysts & futurists fed by the Edge, always propelled towards the precipitous drop into tomorrow. These types of orientations often emerge in childhood, reinforced by formative experiences and natural abilities. But as expressions of imagination, objects of novelty, and tools of functionality, technologies - especially the radical ones - always captivate our attention.

    There may also be deep evolutionary structures compelling us to pay attention. Maybe something within our psyche is projecting into our technologies and demanding that we keep pushing forward, to the West, out to space, into the inner unknown. We are planners, after all, always watching the horizon to be prepared for tomorrow.

    - Chris Arkenberg

    It is good that we have so many people paying attention. The deep evolutionary structures that Chris suggests might be our only hope for survival. Our schema may be doomed to shatter, but saving grace is that we seem innately driven to construct replacements. The schematic opportunities in the Future-Present may be few or many, but considering these things from a variety of relative perspectives should hopefully keep us from fatally surprising ourselves.

    [Identifying the Future-Present is] a framing thing. We have subconscious biases about who should be doing what. I’ve had male friends watching their kids on the playground— and people come up and ask “where’s the mom?” because no one assumes that the father would be with the kids on the playground. These are subconscious schemas about who should be doing what. It’s rarely malicious, it’s just part of our culture. It’s like taking the red pill in the Matrix. Once you learn about gender schemas, you totally see it everywhere. Sadly, there’s no going back. It’s not an unqualified win. 

    It’s not a totally design-based thing; it’s about the way we learn. If you have a schema or a mental model of what a used car salesman looks like and how they behave, it’s useful. If you think the person you’re buying the car from has your best interests in heart, that’s not good. The idea of framing, that once things are pointed out to you it’s possible to see them as part of a larger whole, is part of a broader psychology. “Culture is all the things you do that you don’t know why you do them”... I don’t know who said that originally. I didn’t realize I was Canadian until I moved to the US. I apologize to people when I bump into them, even if it is totally their fault. That was a thing I did without thinking until I was in a place where that did not happen, and then I became aware of it. That’s the nature of culture.

    - Deb Chachra

    It is a chicken-and-egg question to ask if we develop schema-altering technologies by accident and then react to them, or whether we create technologies that purposefully incite new schemas as a way to seek new perspectives. It’s been suggested, in the conversation surrounding Venkat Rao’s “Manufactured Normalcy Field”, that our development of technology is done in such a way as to seek novelty, or alternatively, seek as little novelty as possible. Perhaps neither is truly the case. Technology doesn’t want anything that approaches the meta-schematic level of “novelty”, nor do human beings. Our desires don’t function on the semantic level of mapped culture theory. We don’t seek novelty, it is with the schema of “novelty” that we are able to describe what we have produced. Like Deb suggests, it is not whether or not the human schematic response to an instruction or a piece of technology is perfectly correct, or of a particular discourse. The framing we give a thing is the ultimate significance of that thing, for better or worse. But it is not that thing. Our experience of consciousness is a cataloging of shadows.

    I feel optimistically that there is a sort of archive impulse. There are people who like going to libraries and taking out books. But people also make photo albums, collect cookbooks, etc. People like to form multimedia databases. There’s a connection to memory through objects and other media artifacts. This wouldn’t get you into an Ivy League school or even get you an A in a class. But there is an archive fever. People like setting up a system and fitting things into it. Even through Facebook, people are engaged through this sort of activity. With the internet--just like the release of the Kinsey report--suddenly we realize, “my God, everyone’s doing it.” It’s allowing more people to engage in these conversations, and it’s revealed that all along people were into this. They just didn’t live next to an academic library.

    I don’t know if this means that this is making more people like that, or just revealing them. But it is definitely allowing people to do things that they had been wanting to do all along. There are people with incredibly detailed photo albums. It’s the same impulse, to organize info, brought into the mainstream.

    - Geoff Manaugh

    Art may serve as a strategic reserve of schematization. Rather than simply mapping the quickest route from point A to B, we have people who hide data in brick walls, or embed codes in the ambient surface patterns of nearly any object. The shortest distance is a line that can be cut, but the wider net of meaning in a space can survive a blockage in the flow. Schematically, art complicates rather than simplifies. Not everyone is economizing and minimizing. Others are obscuring, obfuscating, and accentuating until the basic becomes the baroque. The same impulse that drives us to aesthetically tile the world’s into 3D maps also causes us to add apopheniac tags to the world, making some sort of pattern— or better yet, making so many opportunities for new patterns that the patterns begin to fade into noise.

    There's no danger that people are actually and literally going to make everything they can dream up. There's been something of a lowering of the barriers to aping Thomas Edison and tinkering in an industrial lab, but there are still plenty of genuine barriers, and they'll weed out the people who are delusional about their maker chops. It's quite hard to make effective things, especially without some hard-won understanding of the tools and the grain of the material.

    The Makers scene is like what happened in publishing, in music, and in video, but it's for objects. There's a lot of semi-effortless music and video around nowadays, too, but if you think you're gonna compose like Wagner and film like Fellini, well, you won't.

    —Bruce Sterling

    The truth of society’s open schematization of the world is that there are no standards, no rules, and no moderating authority. There is no grand design, and no underlying pattern to be discovered, other than the patterns themselves. Schematization can bring amazing things to light, bury important things deep, and dissolve away into its component pieces in seconds. We are left standing in the middle of this map, watching one edge crumble away while we draft and paste additions onto the other, wondering what will happen to the area seemingly supporting our weight.




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    Since the early days of the web, some of us have tried to re-contextualize materiality in the vast territory that is the internet landscape. But nowdays, it does not sound irrational to point out that online artifacts, like webpages, gifs, bots, software, or applications have material properties. Digital "objects" are physical because they are embedded either in "physical" and tangible containers such bits and bytes in local hard drives somewhere in middle America, or they take up server space in the cloud of virtual sandboxes during their journey of uploading or downloading.

    Tim Berners-Lee envisioned the semantic web as the “‘intelligent agents’ people have touted for ages will finally materialize." In other words, the visionary founder of the World Wide Web was saying that the semantic web will enable users to find, share, and combine information more easily. Our machines are the intelligent agents. Since then, we all became hospitable to these "intelligent agents" using them to search for online content. Each one of us is linked with images, with associated stories, which are building a mental scape responding to our emotions.

    The selection of these videos are an amalgam of these notions, offering a metaphorical and poetic view on materialization and existence either by their aesthetics, their creative process, or their conceptual meaning. Watching them in this sequence, the departure point is nature as physical reality continuing more spiritually with more metaphysical notions of life.

    "The Solar Film" (excerpt) by Saul + Elaine Bass

    An excerpt from the short movie created by the famous designer and his wife. A thoughtful and beautiful film about the sun and its meaning for the future. Although a film about energy and technology can be didactic or mundane, the directors did not use enviromental cliches and propaganda. Instead they used fascinating images which conveyed positive messages and thinking.

    A Long Ray's Journey Into Light

    An example of early computer graphics. This beautiful animated film is produced in 1986. I was reading the YouTube comments of this video and the technical director of the movie posted the following comment "ALL the software (modeling, animation, rendering, recording, and even sound generation) was written from scratch, all the design work was done, and (almost) all the frames were rendered between the SIGGRAPH 84 conference and the film submission deadline for SIGGRAPH 85, where it was first shown. And it was a "spare time" project!"

    The Sand Castle ( Le chateau de sable, 1977) by Co Hoedeman


    This Oscar-winning short animated film is a lyrical journey of experiences in nature and in form. In the video we see anthropomporhic sand creatures come into being, creating a very playful and existential scenario.  

    Metadata 1971 by Peter Foldes (link)

    One of the first videos to be done with computers back in 1970 as the National Film Office of Canada had one in their research lab. It is interesting to note apart from the piece's prophetic title, Foldes used a combination technique of programming the lines then photographing the picture that appearead on the screen and then re-programming, re-photographing, and so forth.

    How Death Came To Earth, directed by Ishu Patel

    A fairy tale from India, from an important Indian animator. This video is a spiritual legend of gods and men, of suns, moons, and Earth. The protagonists Man and Woman are materialized in different worlds presented with a distinct animation style and a richness of color and sound.

    —  Angelo Plessas



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    Jaar, Yemen, October 18 2012 / 7-9 killed.
    Image from Dronestagram by James Bridle

    The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone, has become one of the most potent weapons of contemporary warfare. Remotely controlled by operators thousands of miles away from the theatre of war, drones carry out aerial attacks which leave hundreds of people dead. The increasing amount of ‘collateral damage’ from US drone strikes on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, recently lead prominent politician, Imran Khan, to lead a high-profile protest against their use.

    Drone Vision by Trevor Paglen

    Artists have been actively documenting the impact of the use of drones in warfare for some years now.  Trevor Paglen’s Drone Vision, recently on show at Lighthouse in Brighton, provides us with a chilling “drones-eye-view” of a landscape, enabling us to see what drone-operators see.

    Five Thousand Feet is the Best by Omer Fast

    The utterly compelling and disturbing film installation, Five Thousand Feet is the Best by Israeli artist Omer Fast, tells the story of a former Predator drone operator, recalling his experience of using drones to fire at civilians and militia in Afghanistan and Pakistan. At one stage of the film, he describes the use of what marines refer to as “the light of god”, the laser targeting marker, which is used to direct hellfire missiles to their intended target.

    “We call it in, and we’re given all the clearances that are necessary, all the approvals and everything else, and then we do something called the Light of God – the Marines like to call it the Light of God. It’s a laser targeting marker. We just send out a beam of laser and when the troops put on their night vision goggles they’ll just see this light that looks like it’s coming from heaven. Right on the spot, coming out of nowhere, from the sky. It’s quite beautiful.” (quoted from Five Thousand Feet is the Best).

    The Light of God by James Bridle

    Writer, publisher, web developer and artist, James Bridle responded to this by creating his own work, The Light of God.

    Sharing Paglen and Fast’s concern with the use of drones in warfare, Bridle has crated a series of projects which attempt to reveal their presence in the landscape. His Drone Shadow interventions are one-to-one representations of the MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) drawn to scale within urban landscapes. The first was drawn in London this February (in collaboration with Einar Sneve Martinussen), and the second in Turkey this October as part of the Istanbul Design Biennial.

    Drone Shadow 002 by James Bridle

    Like Paglen and Fast, Bridle’s work stems from a deep concern with increasingly invisible and seamless military technologies that are creating the context for “secret, unaccountable, endless wars”.

    Bridle writes, “the drone also, for me, stands in part for the network itself: an invisible, inherently connected technology allowing sight and action at a distance. Us and the digital, acting together, a medium and an exchange. But the non-human components of the network are not moral actors, and the same technology that permits civilian technological wonder, the wide-eyed futurism of the New Aesthetic and the unevenly-distributed joy of living now, also produces obscurantist “security” culture, ubiquitous surveillance, and robotic killing machines. [....] We all live under the shadow of the drone, although most of us are lucky enough not to live under its direct fire. But the attitude they represent – of technology used for obscuration and violence; of the obfuscation of morality and culpability; of the illusion of omniscience and omnipotence; of the lesser value of other peoples lives; of, frankly, endless war – should concern us all.”

    His latest work, released last week, is Dronestagram. Bridle has been collecting images of the locations of drone strikes, and sharing these photographs on the photo-sharing site Instagram. His intention is to make these locations more visible, bringing them closer to us, and in the process perhaps making the reality of the daily occurrence of deadly drone strikes more tangible.

    He utilises public records from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism who document strikes as they happen in Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia. After confirming the location of a strikes, he then uses Google Maps to create a satellite image of the targeted location.  The image, accompanied by a description of the site, and the death-toll, if known, is uploaded to Instagram.

    Wadi Abu Jabara, Yemen, 28 October 2012. 3 killed.

    Image from Dronestagram by James Bridle

    The images of deserted, barren landscapes and abandoned buildings have a sobering potency juxtaposed with with the banal pictures of pets and parties that populate Instagram. But it is what we don’t see that gives these images such an emotional power: the mortality.

    Bridle writes, “drones are just the latest in a long line of military technologies augmenting the process of death-dealing, but they are among the most efficient, the most distancing, the most invisible. These qualities allow them to do what they do unseen [...]. Whether you think these killings are immoral or not, most of them are by any international standard illegal.”

    The work of artists such as Trevor Paglen, Omer Fast, and James Bridle exists within a long tradition of artists bearing witness to events that our governments and military would prefer we didn’t see. But Bridle’s work is also part of an ongoing collective effort from both artists and engineers to reveal the technological infrastructures that enable events like drone-strikes to occur.

    As technology becomes more ubiquitous, and our relationship with our devices becomes ever more seamless, our technical infrastructure is becoming ever more invisible. When our environment becomes opaque or invisible, it becomes difficult to interpret it, and act within it.  As artist and critical engineer, Julian Oliver recently noted, “our inability to describe and understand technological infrastructure reduces our critical reach, leaving us both disempowered and, quite often, vulnerable.”

    Or as Bridle puts it, “those who cannot perceive the network cannot act effectively within it, and are powerless. The job, then, is to make such things visible.”


    This post originally appeared on Honor Harger's website Particle Decelerator.



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    Taiwan Video Club

    Lana Lin’s work, on display at Gasworks in London, confronts us with a number of topics: translation, identity, cultural production, and familial reflection. In doing so, her films seek to destabilize our assured hold on what we imagine we understand. In Taiwan Video Club (1999), Lin presents a Taiwanese subculture that records, trades, and holds dear, video recordings of miniseries that are shown daily on television. As we watch a participant in this practice explain her life with her collection of recordings, Lin cuts in clips and sound from the series, providing insight to a specific time and place, not to mention a specific medium which dominated it. As we come to understand this unit of Taiwanese pop-culture, Lin engages in a running commentary of sorts, provided through visual metaphors and homonyms.

    Recording from TV to VHS could be seen as an apt analogy for the process of translation and cultural production that Lin seeks to examine. The final “product” in each case is a copy of the original, inevitably tinged by the process. As anyone who has spent time battling with VHS can tell you, no copy is ever pristine; there remain in the copy the battle scars of mediation: warped sound and image, deterioration of picture, the familiar markings of “CUE”, “STILL”, and “CH-3” all mark the material as part of a process and mode of production unique to video. The lens of Taiwan Video Club operates as a check on the lens of the viewer. Though we come to understand a great deal about this world of VHS-naughts, and Taiwanese daytime television, Lin maintains a field of formal intervention never lets us settle on any one interpretation of what we see.

    Mysterial Power (1998-2002) projects four different short films on each of four screens accompanied by a soundtrack to be heard through headphones. As we hear a story concerning a cousin with the ability to speak to a certain god, we are also presented with footage of Lin’s family, a young woman learning (or teaching) French, an older woman praying as she moves through a street festival, and a person typing the narration into a program (EV-Dictionary for Windows 3.0). The narration is put through a translator, but the completed text differs from the voice we hear. This screen strikes me as key to the piece, acting as a crux on which the other images depend. Lin’s examination and reflection on her family’s faith, as well as the religious practices of Taiwan, becomes a new cultural object for translation, and in this case we get to watch as that process occurs.


    Mysterial Power

    Stranger Baby (1995) once again deals in the overarching concerns apparent in the other two works, but does so by way of what might be described as a UFO diary film. Tying her personal experience growing of mixed heritage in the west to a figurative examination of alien iconography, Lin again seeks to question her status and identity, as well as draw on the analogy felt by many to that of an alien coming to earth. Running throughout the film is a voice-over from several different people. At one point we hear what seems to be her own voice as she reflects on seeing her brother for the first time after he was born, noting he was the only other biracial person she knew, and calling the realization frightening. As the film progresses, Lin splices together images of alienation; people stare blankly into the sky, a girl attempts a communication with a man caught between a projection and reality, and throughout the film images we associate with UFOs and aliens interrupt our attempts to coalesce the onslaught. As with the other two works, a soundtrack runs tangentially to the images, sometimes featuring people describing what is on screen, other times reciting ominous dialogue.


    Stranger Baby

    Lin stated in a talk following the presentation of her experimental documentary Untitled Vietnam No. 18, that she sought in her work to occupy the space of the archive, a central location to the film. It would seem that in all of her work presented at Gasworks that Lin tries to occupy our space of understanding, not in the interest of obfuscation but to remove a sense of comfort or stability that one might mistakenly feel in examining others (or Others). Through collisions of voice-over, editing, interviews, and visual metaphor, her work holds a stake in the issues examined, occupying them with her personal history and aesthetic sense.


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    Today, Rhizome kicks off the annual Community Fundraiser. Every year, we reach out to our community for a piece of financial support that is critical to our overall funding mix. This year, we need to raise $30,000 by January 14th and we ask that you consider making a contribution today to help us meet this goal.

    This year marks a particularly exciting year for Rhizome, with new staff and new ideas that will help us to build on our rich history and programs. 

    Your donation will help:
    •Expand our editorial team – bringing in more writers from around the world.
    •Host Rhizome events and exhibitions beyond NYC – reaching our international community.
    •Secure crucial tools and equipment for preservation – preserving works of art with a strengthened conservation program.
    •Commission new works of art – directly supporting artists through grants.
    •Improve development of the Rhizome website – making it easier for you to use.
    The biggest reward we can offer is knowing that you've helped Rhizome continue. On top of this, seven artists from the Rhizome community have generously donated limited-edition artworks for this year's fundraiser — a gesture of their support for the organization.

    Donate now and receive as our thank you, works by Sebastian Schmieg and Silvio Lorusso, ReCode Project, Tabor Robak, Adam Harvey, Phillip Stearns and Matthew Plummer-Fernandez.

    As a non-profit organization, Rhizome relies on the community to help realize our mission and goals. We are a small but extremely passionate group of people dedicated to supporting art engaged with technology. If you’ve visited the Rhizome website, discovered a new artist, used the Artbase to view seminal works, posted on the community boards, read and shared an article, come to our events, or engaged with Rhizome in any number of ways – please consider donating this year.

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    Ben Grosser is an artist, composer, and programmer based in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. His work is highly attuned to the role of computation in changing and producing aesthetics, knowledge and social formations and much of it is available to view online at Recently, Ben made a new piece of software available. Facebook Demetricator is a tool for adapting the social network's interface so that the numerical data it foregrounds is removed. No longer is the focus on how many friends one has or how many comments they've gotten, but on who those friends are and what they've written. The following interview took place by email in September 2012:


    Facebook Demetricator demetricating likes, shares, comments, and timestamps.
    Original (top), demetricated (bottom).

    Facebook uses numbers as a key part of the information provided on its interface. Things, or what are there rendered as things, such as likes, friends, comments waiting, events, are all numbered as are the relation of several other kinds of things to time. Facebook Demetricator suggests that Facebook users might step away from enumeration as a way of understanding the service. What role, for you, does the number play in Facebook, and what does the Demetricator propose?

    As a regular user of Facebook I continually find myself being enticed by these numbers. How many friends do I have? How much do people like my status? I focus on these quantifications, watching for the counts of responses rather than the responses themselves, or waiting for numbers of friend requests to appear rather than looking for meaningful connections. In other words, these numbers lead me to evaluate my participation within the system from a metricated viewpoint.

    What's going on here is that these quantifications of social connection play right into my capitalism-inspired desire for more. This isn't surprising as we're living in a time when our collective obsession with metrics plays out as an insatiable desire to make every number go higher. How much money did I earn? How many choices do I have? Perhaps the most destructive example of this is the recent financial crisis, when a constant desire for more led the global economy into financial ruin.

    Bringing this back to Facebook, I find myself asking questions about how it affects user behavior. Would we add as many friends if we weren't constantly presented with a running total and told that adding another is "+1"? Would we write as many status messages if Facebook didn't reduce its responses (and their authors) to an aggregate value? In other words, the site's relentless focus on quantity leads me to continually measure the value of my social connections within metric terms.

    In response, Facebook Demetricator invites the site's users to try the system without these things, to see how their experience is changed by their absence, to enable a network society that isn't dependent on quantification. Who are my friends? How do they think? What have they said?

    Along the way Demetricator explores how the designs of software prescribe certain behaviors, and questions the motivations behind those designs. What purpose does this enumeration serve for a system (and a corporation) that depends on its user's continued free labor to produce the information that fills its databases? Where does it lead when quantity, not quality is foremost?

    Can you tell us what Facebook Demetricator essentially does and how?

    Most simply, Facebook Demetricator changes how Facebook looks to its users by hiding all the metrics within the interface. For example, if the text under someone's photo says 'You and 4 other people like this' Demetricator will change it to 'You and other people like this'. Under an ad, '23,413 people like this' becomes 'people like this'. '8 mutual friends' becomes 'mutual friends'. The user can still click on a link and count up their mutual friends if they care about reducing them to a single count, but under the influence of Demetricator that foregrounded quantification is no longer visible. These removals happen everywhere: on the news feed, the profile, the events page, within pop-ups, etc. Users can toggle the demetrication, turning it on or off when desired. Its default state is on (numbers hidden).

    To make this possible, Demetricator is software that runs within the web browser, constantly watching Facebook when it's loaded and removing the metrics wherever they occur. This is true not only of those counts that show up on the user's first visit, but also of anything that gets dynamically inserted into the interface over time. The demetrication is not a brute-force removal of all numbers within the site, but is instead a targeted operation that focuses on only those places where Facebook has chosen to reveal a count from their database. Thus, numbers a user writes into their status, their times for an event, etc. are not removed.

    The software is written in Javascript and makes extensive use of the jQuery library to efficiently search the site's HTML for each metric's occurence. Sometimes these metrics are tagged and hidden, other times their containing HTML is cloned and modified for more complicated operations.

    Facebook Demetricator (2012)
    custom web browser addon
    (demonstration video)

    Is there any kind of difference that you see as significant between what is and what is not enumerated in Facebook?

    I suspect that Facebook enumerates everything. If it resides within their databases then the counts are easily obtained. However not all of these counts are shown to the user. So the question then becomes which metrics does Facebook reveal to its users and which does it keep to itself? What is the difference between them? Further, what drives those decisions?

    I would suggest that the primary question asked by Facebook's designers when deciding which metrics to reveal is whether a particular count will increase or decrease user participation. Am I more likely to click on a 'trending article' if I only see its title or if that title is accompanied by a message indicating that 131,394 other people read it before me? If the latter then the metric is revealed.

    So what isn't shown? Well, I'm not told how many things I like per hour, or how many ads I click per day, or how effective the 'People You May Know' box is in getting me to add more friends to my network. These types of analytics are certainly a significant element within the system, guiding personalization algorithms, informing ad selection choices, etc. But would showing these types of metrics to the user make them more or less likely to participate? If the answer is less then the metric is hidden.

    Despite my argument above, I would also speculate that some of these decisions are not as well considered as we might expect. That the relational database structure underlying Facebook simply lends itself to metrication. In other words, the counts are already there, so why not add them to the interface? This has an added benefit of giving that data a degree of authority, just as a parenthetical reference within a text can do. Adding a metric to a line in Facebook implies that the data goes deeper, that there's more to know than what you see.

    Facebook Demetricator demetricating claimed, likes, comments, and shares on an news feed ad.
    Original (top), demetricated (bottom).

    Facebook Demetricator seems to offer almost the opposite service to those of agencies such as EdgeRank Checker that aim to enable Facebook users to measure and plan their activities on the site via analysis of available data in terms of timing, content kind, pacing and so on. Whereas there is no doubt some strategic self-delusion in any such analytical approach, what do you think about the more overtly manipulative approaches to the engineering of presence on Facebook?

    I think the approaches you're referring to play right into the system as it was designed.

    Whenever you create an algorithm that manages the presentation of information within a large networked system (such as Facebook's EdgeRank formula), you'll always have users who try to engineer a methodology that preferences their own content. We've seen this with Google for years, where it's a constant back-and-forth battle between them and the black hat SEO crowd.

    However, while I haven't researched this, I suspect that systems like EdgeRank Checker are silently cheered on by Facebook. EdgeRank analytics, especially with its preference for new over old, encourages a constant stream of updates from everyone hoping to appear in the news feed. This plays right into Facebook's news feed design, which analogizes a never-ending conversation. The algorithm thus produces the desired behavior in its users.

    There's also the ways that Facebook facilitates networked presence (e.g. real-time ticker updates), the ways it mimics said presence (such as the delayed and staggered presentation of 'new' feed items after you've logged in), and the engineered presence of Facebook itself (how it watches your actions, adapts to your interests, etc.). Each of these relies heavily on metrics. You're made aware of other's actions primarily through a metric increase, whether it's a comment count on a status, or an increase in likes. As a whole these counts are ever shifting, visibly undulating throughout the interface, presenting a subtle but tangible reminder of the constant change within.

    Facebook Demetricator demetricating the 'Add Friend' button.
    Original (left), demetricated (right).

    Within this line of enquiry, there are other sets of metrics operating within Facebook, such as those filters looking for spam accounts—those with 'many' friends but not much profile for instance, or who send the same message out several times within a day. Despite these filters, spam accounts are operative. What kinds of signals to identify these as opposed to 'real' contacts should you look for when using the Facebook Demetricator?

    I love this question. You're asking how can we know if someone on Facebook is real or spam without the metrics to guide us. For example, if we can't see our mutual friend count when viewing someone else's profile, how can we be sure we're really friends?

    I'd suggest the first line of defense here is to ask yourself if you know the person. Have you ever run into them? Does their name even ring a bell? If you can't remember them well enough to answer those questions, then they might not be your 'friend'!

    If you're still not sure, you could message the person, asking them for details on where you've met (online or off) and following up as appropriate. Or you could look at the substance of their activity within the site to see if it looks to be that of a real person or the actions of a spam account.

    But what does it say when metrics become our guide to evaluating the likelihood of someone being part of our circle, rather than relying on our recollections of that person outside the system? When did we start needing quantifications to help us choose whether to friend someone or not? How many friends have we added to our network simply because the numbers suggested it?

    Facebook is notoriously aggressive in attacking artists who work with its kind of 'public' space. How do you see your project, as something that works in-browser, possibly working around this problem?

    I've specifically built the software with this history of Facebook in mind. By running in a layer on top of the site, all manipulations happen after Facebook has delivered their data to the user. In this way, because Demetricator manipulates the presentation of Facebook's data after-the-fact, it is harder for them to thwart it programmatically.

    That said, they can break it. Their best option would be to start restructuring their code, changing CSS class names, HTML tags, etc. In anticipation of this I have released the Demetricator as open source, with the hopes that others will help adapt the code to both Facebook's regular changes as well as any restructurings specifically aimed at breaking the project.

    Facebook Demetricator toggling on/off demetricated notifications and friend count.

    It's often been noted that when users first join Facebook there is commonly this initial splurge period of rapidly adding contacts, and contacts of contacts, a behaviour that subsequently settles at a relatively low pace. There may be more or less discrimination used in this phase and there is often the expression of surprise at how many people users know in so many different ways are there, ready to be friended in the same set of uniform manners. How do you think the Facebook Demetricator, if it was used from the outset would effect this exploratory or surprising kind of initial use period?

    I think the Demetricator would significantly lessen the initial splurge you describe.

    To explain, let me start by talking about what happens when we enter a new physical space full of other people. We look around, see who we know, engage with someone familiar, perhaps striking up a conversation. The room may contain people we don't know well or even people we don't care for, so this engagement tends to target those we do know and/or get along with easily. Along the way we may meet new people, and if we're lucky we might create the potential for a new friend.

    So what's different about the virtual space of Facebook? One is that the potential pool of people we might know is much larger than any physical gathering because of its ageographical and asynchronous nature. These two conditions create the possibility for wide engagement and a quickly expanding virtual network that can't be matched in physical space. This is one reason for the initial surge you describe—there's so many options that one can't help but be amazed by them.

    But there are also two specific interface design decisions that make this play out much faster and wider than it would otherwise.

    First is the architecture of the news feed. Without any friends in one's network, the news feed is inactive. Dead. Boring. When you add one new friend, the feed comes to life—but only at a trickle. Add another and its output doubles. From there, the more friends you add the more active the feed becomes. In other words, this feed, which is the primary spectacle of Facebook, is only usable and/or useful with a significant friend network driving it.

    Second is the relentless presence of revealed metrics. Imagine what the physical gathering I describe above would be like if every participant wore a badge proclaiming how many friends they had in that room? Would anyone be content to keep that number at zero? At one, two, or three? Or would they be driven to walk around the space, meeting new people and identifying old acquaintances all so they can increase their public friend count?

    In other words, this publically viewable friend metric plays right into what I described earlier as our capitalism-inspired desire for more. When you're constantly being told how many friends you have, you're encouraged to add another, to make that number go higher, to exceed in metric terms. More is better, less is inferior.

    By removing this metric, Demetricator will blunt the initial surge of friend acquisition. The absence of metricated social valuation will allow other indicators of friendship to emerge, such as closeness and likeability. Because of the architecture of the news feed, it won't slow it down entirely, but it should change the character of what is now often a frenzied activity.

    Certain data on Facebook attracts a visible timestamp. How do you see the differentiation between what the user sees as timestamped and what not, and what effect do you envisage the use of the Demetricator having on the kinds of data that is currently marked in this way?

    These timestamps, in and of themselves, wouldn't qualify as metrics at all if it weren't for their hyperspecific and time-relative nature. But by relentlessly reminding us of how old something is they create a false sense of urgency. I really don't need to know that my friend's meme post went live 23 seconds ago rather than 49 seconds ago, or that my colleague ate her banana 23 minutes ago rather than 30 minutes ago. But these constant enumerations of age present the news feed as a running conversation that you can't miss—that if you leave for even a second that something important might pass you by.

    Given that Facebook's value is directly tied into how much we all participate, this urgency helps fuel our continuous engagement with the system in the forms of posting, reading, liking, etc. It also plays a supporting role in the engineered presence we discussed earlier, as even if nothing you see gets new likes while you're watching, its age is always changing, reminding us that things are going on, that someone is keeping track of things.

    At the same time, many items in the interface lack one of these timestamps. I suspect the choice of where to place one lies with its expected affect on user engagement. If I saw that a trending article is old would I read it? If I knew an ad had been showing for weeks would I click it? Would I feel better if I knew my friend request had been ignored for months? These types of items are likely more effective when their age remains incognito, informing Facebook's internal analytics without showing themselves to us.

    The Demetricator acts on the visible timestamps by taking them out of the equation. It converts them into one of two options: 'recently', or 'a while ago'. I expect that doing so will nullify the urgency that constant aging creates, and that it will propose a calmer reading of the news feed less dependent on unbroken attention. If everything within a day is 'recent' (which, frankly, it is), then the user is less likely to worry that they'll miss something. Interaction thus becomes less focused on the present value of the content and more focused on the content itself.


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    “She was not suffering … imagine! … not suffering! … indeed could not remember … off-hand … when she had suffered less … unless of course she was … meant to be suffering … ha! . . thought to be suffering … just as the odd time … in her life … when clearly intended to be having pleasure.” (Beckett, Not I, 1973).

    Open lips take some interesting manifestations on screen and stage and become a convention of representation. From Bernini to Beckett, silent to scream, physical to spiritual, pleasure to pain. Five Videos, five guests, and their source for supplementary jouissance:

    “In his hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times so that it penetrated my entrails. When he pulled it out, I felt that he took them with it, and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God. The pain was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one cannot possibly wish it to cease, nor is one's soul then content with anything but God. This is not a physical, but a spiritual pain—though the body has some share in it—even a considerable share”. (Teresa of Ávila, 1510).

    The angel that pierces Bernini’s Teresa with an arrow is “not only the most beautiful angel in baroque art, it is also the most beautiful face in the entire city of Rome.”[1] Under his beauty, Teresa’s face—open lips, fainted eyes, milky cheeks—are the face of the petite mort meeting the big death. Marbled in her ecstasy, Teresa refused to accept the binary opposition between physical love and spiritual love. Her out-of-body experience reinforces man’s fantasy of seeing a woman surrender but not for any man’s trick. Her speechless lips call for so many readings. Refusing to speak, the lips become both the receiver and the transmitter: between inner body observation and external knowledge, between the lower lips and the upper ones, between being overly alive and the virtually dead.

    What is she reaching for? Yes, seriously, the outlawed barefoot Carmelite…What is she getting off on? Lacan knew the answer was not the phallus. He said, “all you need but go to Rome and see the statue by Bernini to immediately understand that she’s coming. There is no doubt about it.”[2] But knew she does it for no one phallus…. Is Teresa experiencing something more than an orgasm? Can it be that women experience greater pleasure then men? Will that pleasure be an ecstasy?

    Gian Lorenzo Bernini, The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome, 1647–1652

    Historian Simon Schama discusses Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Teresa for the BBC’s “Power of Art” series.


    Extase, by Gustav Machaty, 1933

    In 1933, Hedy Lamarr, as Eva, experiences ecstasy. This is the first female orgasm shown on the big screen. Face only. Close shot. Open lips. Heavy breathe. Excessive saliva. Beautiful Agony.

    Lamarr’s non-sexual nudity caused censorship, bans, and denouncements of the film from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Adolph Hitler, and Pope Pius XII.


    Beautiful Agony


    Beautiful Agony is a paid-subscription erotic website featuring the headshots of user-submitted videos showing the participants having orgasms, without providing any visual description of what technique is being used or revealing anything below the neck and upper chest.


    Not I, by Samuel Beckett, 1973, with an introduction with the wonderful Billie Whitelaw


    “What position she was in … imagine! … what position she was in! … whether standing … or sitting … but the brain— … what? … kneeling? … yes … whether standing … or sitting … or kneeling … but the brain— … what? … lying? … yes … whether standing … or sitting … or kneeling … or lying … but the brain still … still … in a way … for her first thought was … oh long after … sudden flash … brought up as she had been to believe … with the other waifs … in a merciful … [Brief laugh.] … God …”


    Hysterical Literature: Session One: Stoya

    A video by photographer Clayton Cubitt featuring Stoya reading an excerpt from Necrophilia Variations by Supervert while she was being masturbated by a conspicuously effective Hitachi vibrator.


    —Ofri Cnaani

    [1] Perl, Jed. 1999. “On Art: Ecstasy.” New Republic (22 February) 32ff.

    [2] Encore," Sem. XX: 70-71

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  • 11/20/12--06:12: GIFABILITY
  • Last winter, Dan Harmon, who was then the executive producer of the television sitcom Community, shared that he tried, “many times a season” to put star Alison Brie “in a situation, wardrobe-wise, that I know is going to end up as an animated GIF file!”[1]Those GIFs, which circulate on Tumblr and other social media networks that traffic in images, are frame-capture GIFs. Unlike other GIF types, frame-capture GIFs plainly collect and endlessly repeat a single pop cultural moment from movies, TV shows, sporting events, political occasions, newscasts, cartoons, or even video games. As GIFs are silent, text is used to share dialogue or help shepherd the meaning of a GIF. Frame-grab GIFs are low-quality, incessantly mobile things, they can be awkwardly cropped and their focus is always obviously legible. Somewhat counter to this are what Daniel Rourke has termed art GIFs,[2] which, while also frequently sourced from movies or television, contain higher resolutions and have a self-consciously highbrow pretention, usually focusing on subtler, “artistic” moments.

    A frame-grab GIF

    Writing in the early 1990s, Susan Stewart observed that “with the advent of film, interpretation has been replaced by watching … Here we see the increasing historical tendency toward the self-sufficient machine, the sign that generates all consequent signs, the Frankenstein and the thinking computer that have the capacity to erase their authors and, even more significantly, to erase the labor of their authors.”[3] Stewart's diagnosis of the filmic watching-state returns, in a modified form, with the frame-grab GIF. These GIFs are in some sense the ultimate in self-sufficiency, not merely in the eternal return of their endless loop, but also within what Rourke has called the co-ordination of “their own realm of correspondence.”[4]

    The quality of the frame-grab GIF is important. Borrowing insights from Hito Steyerl’s analysis of the poor image, the creation and distribution of frame-grab GIFs “enables the user’s active participation in the creation and distribution of content, it also drafts them into production. Users become editors, critics, translators, and (co)authors of poor images.”[5] Perhaps due to their quality and size, frame-grab GIFs have necessarily abstracted authorship. They are deployed in variable contexts, as reactions, illustrations, or expressions. Art GIFs, on the other hand, are circulated to be admired. Their authorship is also more consistently policed, as their authors demand credit for their work.


    An example of what Daniel Rourke terms an "art GIF" (via)

    While Stewart’s description of “the sign that generates all consequent signs” is one that erases authorship, the vernacular of frame-grab GIFs does something different. Instead of completely erasing authorship, the creation of frame-grab GIFs rearranges its tenets. Generally centered on a performer, framing the actor/actress in a context removed from the narrative flow of their source media. With their behavior on display, they carry a kind of performative authorial focus within the GIF. While the GIF is not by them, it is of them.

    While GIFs may originate as souvenirs of viewership, they quickly begin to perform a different function. As Steyerl emphasizes, the labor of the frame-grab GIF comes from a place of postproduction. Stewart's watching paradigm is further revised by the level of interactivity and manipulation that emerges as an extension of traditional spectatorship. Capturing, regurgitating, looping, and distributing become regularized postproduction activities. “Collective postproduction,” Steyerl has written, “Generates not only composite bodies but composite works.”[6] As GIFs engage in their own mobility, they begin to articulate in different ways.

    The potential of GIFability is already expected by producers of media, like Dan Harmon, who see it as a way to appease their audiences. Because in a sense, no work is complete until it has been GIFed. The GIF allows for an almost seamless level of pure circulation, especially the frame-grab GIF, which is so small as to be negligible. And if something can become a platform for a GIF, it can become a platform for its own movement, metonymically, across the Internet. This sentiment holds within it the hope that despite the decontextualization of the frame-grab GIF, it will retain at least a trace of its origin. More so, it is a hope that they carry their context with them, and become badges of pop culture connoisseurship for people looking to share their tastes.

    While producers may hope that post-producers will create GIFs that, when seen, will encourage them to seek out the surrounding media. Given the fragment, one will wish to complete it. When fragmented into a frame-grab GIF, is what remains a piece of a puzzle—an incomplete remainder that needs to fit back into its linear narrative—or is it a new, seditious totality? The fragment, as understood within Romanticism, is experienced like a ruin: an irreconcilable trace of pastness within the modern world. Like the ruin, the origin of the fragment is unattainable: to be understood, it must be recontextualized.

    The creation of a new totality within the GIF ensures its dexterity throughout variable recontextualizations: the many ways in which the contingency of fragmentary meaning and context are tested as GIFs are used as responses, expressions, and illustrations. Their existence as a fragment doesn’t serve as a preamble to the restoration of the whole: it perpetuates a continuation of the fragmentary, as emphasized by its endless looping, its pure existence for its own moment without a need to desire to belong to another stream of narrative. As Steyerl has articulated, the supplement of postproduction overtakes its object: “Postproduction has begun to take over production wholesale.”[7] With the dispersion of the frame-grab GIF, the fragmentation surpasses its place of origin. The frame-grab GIF becomes the locus of meaning, the creation of an Internet vernacular utilizing our visual literacy.

    Language carries the weight of idioms derived from once-routine activities. GIFs form an idiomatic language rooted in a communal experience not of labor or action but spectatorship and postproduction. “An ocean of viral videos turned into a self-serving visual language, looping back on itself ad-infinitum.”[8] The degrees of our literacy expand as well: we create GIFs combining GIFs, and they circulate and articulate as well.


    A mash-up GIF

    Describing a contemporary iteration of Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus“inflated and replicated on a giant balloon inside an artificial entertainment world,”[9] Steyerl observes that this Angelus Novus has no forward movement: “It looks down on a paradise without sin and without history, in which the future has been replaced by the promise of temporary upward mobility. The horizon loops. An angel becomes drone; divine violence divested into killing time.”[10] Instead of the detritus of history, this angel witnesses an already decided state of historicity. The looping horizon could be a future deprived of history, but this perpetual looping as a property of the GIF indicates something else. The creation and collision of GIFs offers a potentially different implication for the looping horizon: the possibility of communication. Benjamin cast Klee’s Angelus Novus as a witness to the debris, or fragments, of history. A divine being, what for us constitutes history is to him only the perpetual accumulation of wreckage. Despite the destruction—and the angel’s desire to “make whole what has been smashed”[11]—he is propelled ceaselessly forward by a violent storm. Now, perhaps trapped before a looping horizon, we promote an inverted relationship of understanding: presented with supposedly whole media artifacts, we deconstruct and disperse them, wreck them and from the rubble construct a new lexicon of associations and meanings.

    Angelus Novus GIF byGarrett Rosenblum © Garrett, Inc. 2012



    [2] Daniel Rourke. “The Doctrine of the Similar (GIF GIF GIF).”

    [3] Susan Stewart. On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection. Durham: Duke University Press, 1996 (1993). 11.


    [5] Hito Steyerl. “In Defense of the Poor Image.”

    [6] Hito Steyerl. “Cut! Reproduction and Recombination.” In The Wretched of the Screen. Sternberg Press, 2012. 176-190. 187.

    [7] Ibid. 182.


    [9]“Cut! Reproduction and Recombination.” 185. Emphasis mine.

    [10] Ibid. 186. Divine violence divested into killing time, I think, has two meanings: one of course that the Benjaminian notion of divine violence has been displaced into the perpetual awareness and murderous potential of the drone. Second, though, there is a sense in which people, perpetually postproducing, become drones just “killing time.”

    [11] Walter Benjamin. “Theses on the Philosophy of History.” In Illuminations. Trans. Harry Zohn. Ed. Hannah Arendt. New York: Schlocken Books, 2007. 253-264. 257.

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