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The Rhizome Blog and Rhizome News

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

     Olivia Erlanger x Ned Siegel x NanoCorp, Suggestion of a House Slipper, The Refusal to get Dressed, Spending a Season Dreaming of Sunlight only to Prefer it Dark (2014)

    Language plays a huge part in your work. The titles of works range from being exploratory—The Space Between My Hand and What it Holds (2014)—to almost explanatory (Olivia Erlanger x NanoCorp x Ned Siegel Suggestion of a House Slipper, The Refusal to get Dressed, Spending a Season Dreaming of Sunlight only to Prefer it Dark. Painted Leather Slippers, 2014), and are always poetic (Everything that Rises Sinks into Mud, 2015). How do you come up with these titles? How do you envision their connection to the work?

    A title is a guide.

    The first title you mentioned is for a pair of house slippers made out of leather. The show they were included in focused on marketing strategies and the financialization of art, so I wanted to make a reference to the way companies like Nike or Adidas cite their collaborations.

    The other part of the title, The Refusal to get Dressed, Spending a Season Dreaming of Sunlight only to Prefer it Dark, is in line with the way I title most of my other works, in what you refer to as a more poetic way. Where this comes from is a mixture of research I had been doing and how I talk to myself about the work. These kind of titles begin to get a bit more evocative and associative —a guide for a certain kind of affect within the work.

    Olivia Erlanger, For Quentin (Medium Rare) (2015)

    Your work emphasizes its materials and focuses on the object, be it a transformed piece of clothing (cowboy hat, hoodie); a sculpture like a wilted, broken, mini-piano in your recent exhibition, "Dog Beneath the Skin" or the boxlike aluminum-and-glass racks that you presented at Seventeen last year; or and two-dimensional pieces (which also treat the material in a figurative way, and use sculptural materials like resin and aluminum). Yet, all of these photograph amazingly well. Do you plan how these objects are translated into an image? Do you think about how they will circulate online?

    I don't make a work thinking of how it would be photographed, though I understand the importance of how images circulate ideas and current ways of making.

    I think images of work can be misleading as they are always seductive. The real test of a work is if it can seduce in person.

    Actually, It would be great to make an object that is impossible to photograph—a kind of atomic object that is simultaneously there and not there.

    What is your research process like? Some of the works seem to refer to current discourses about the anthropocene and the role of objects in our society, but it is never stated outright. I have a feeling you read a lot and then allow the research to slowly be chipped away from the pieces themselves until they find a place in these conversations of their own accord. How do your interests feed the work? How is it independent of these interests?

    I read everything from fantasy, such as the EarthSea series and sci-fi, to American Pastoralism, queer theory, and biographies of artists I admire. I do like to read theory and stay with current conversations around the anthropocene, accelerationism, etc.

    I have to say I am a bad scientist in the sense that I take only what I need from whatever theory I read, never the whole hypothesis. My work at times references specific things within what I read—for example, Timothy Morton's "hyperobject" was very important to my most recent sculptures at Pilar Corrias and Seventeen, as well as Paul Virilio’s idea of an "integral accident." I want to build my work to a place where the multiplicity of references and specificities of difference can be at once structured and unstructured within the works.

    Olivia Erlanger, Floating Loop Strike Back Option (Alternative View) (2015)

    Can we talk about time, even a feeling of zeitgeist? Your work is often discussed alongside that of other artists because of your interest in digital technology and the sense of community that your curatorial project, Grand Century (run out of your studio with Dora Budor and Alex Mackin Dolan) brings about. How do you relate to the work of your peers and how large a role does collaboration and curating play in your own practice?

    We are all reacting to, or coming out of, a time of general disruption and confusion, and as such many conversations can meld or be related. I don't believe we are creating the Zeitgeist, rather, the zeitgeist is structuring the moment in which we create.

    With regard to Grand Century, it has fostered a wonderful community of curators, artists, friends. Being involved in the space definitely helped me get a broader sense of what is happening amongst my peer group. I would say I am most indebted to the project because each curator brought in artists whose work I had never been exposed to before.

    Olivia Erlanger, TANSTAAFL (2015)

    Before we get to the questionnaire, let me ask you about this format. You've worked quite a bit with the questionnaire, in the book produced as part of "Material Uncertainty" and in your BOMB portfolio(which we worked on together). I want to ask you about questions: Why do you use this structure? What do you find interesting about it?

    I like questionnaires because they are ubiquitous, procedural, and seemingly innocuous.

    In fact I think the best part, beyond the satisfaction of answering what are usually simple questions, is the spaces that this kind of format recalls—sitting in a doctor's office, renewing your license at the DMV, the beginning of the SATs, or contributing to the Census. A questionnaire's simplicity and directness is actually very suspect, and in that sneakiness it can be exploited easily to elicit ambiguity and some really nice thinking.

    Olivia Erlanger, Look, Stranger (2015)

    Questionnaire

    Age: 25

    Location: NYC

    How/when did you begin working creatively with technology?

    Do pencils count as technology? If so then some time from 0–3.

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

    Lewis and Clark College + Parsons School of Design / Eugene Lang. I graduated with a double major in sculpture and English literature.

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

    I've been a florist, gallerina, receptionist, waitress, file manager at a startup and of course a studio assistant. The only career I seem to be able to hold is my own.

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


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    Joe Hamilton's Indirect Flights is on the front page of rhizome.org through Sunday, as part of the ongoing online digital painting exhibition "Brushes," presented by Rhizome and the New Museum as part of the First Look series.

    All of the works in "Brushes" are paintings made on the computer and shown primarily online. The exhibition focuses on works that are derived from an artist's bodily gestures, rather than those that are derived from code-based practices. In the case of Indirect Flights, the brushstrokes in the work are actually sampled from high-resolution scans of landscape paintings by notable historical figures like Van Gogh and Arthur Streeton. Thus, the gestures in this case were made long ago on canvas, and only later translated to digital form. 

    Hamilton writes,

    The brushstrokes are included in a panoramic collage that also includes satellite images, organic textures, and architectural fragments, which can be navigated via a a Google Maps-like interface. I was drawn to the use of found aerial photography as a base for the work and then contrasting it in the foreground with my own close up photographs of raw materials and architecture. A mixture of micro and macro, found and recorded, personal and impersonal.

    The work includes sound by J.G. Biberkopf; it was supported by The Moving Museum. A past interview with Hamilton about the work can be read here.

     


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     Paloma Dawkins and Cale Bradbury, Alea (customized arcade cabinet and moss controllers at Fantastic Arcade, 2015)

    This past week, Fantastic Arcade, an independently curated video games arcade featuring talks, tournaments, and over 45 playable games—part of the Fantastic Fest film festival—was held in Austin's Alamo Drafthouse.

    A number of the games at Fantastic Arcade this year featured alternative game controllers. Cat Nips contains stuffed animals whose bellies need to be rubbed; the gameplay in Butt Sniffin' Pugs was controlled by balls that needed to be rolled. Other games used a receipt dispenser and a gun with which one played Russian Roulette. A fair amount of the games, easily accessible in the arcade setup, featured used standard controllers and interfaces, from Playstation controllers to mice and keyboards. The audience was diverse; the only underrepresented group appeared to be X-box players (fun fact: Sony Playstation sponsored Fantastic Arcade).

    Perhaps the most innovative and interesting game was Alea, a psychedelic hiking simulator designed by Paloma Dawkins and Cale Bradbury using organic materials as part of the hardware. Alea's gameplay centers on the tension of playing with controllers that are actively deteriorating before the player's eyes. The creators placed real moss over the flex sensors, which began to degrade and die through use as the installation went on. According to Cale Bradbury, the controllers were inspired by William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch "where [the character] became one with his typewriter" and described the destruction of the moss as "mirroring how people treat nature." Paloma Dawkins remarked that "tech and nature just don’t really go together. Right now, the controllers are getting destroyed and people are frustrated because it’s just so different." The gameplay replicates a particular hiking experience of Dawkins’ while shedding light on the tense and often antagonistic relationship between technological modernity and nature. I was struck by the juxtaposition of a soft plant surface and the technology with which it was integrated, and by the fact that the man-made controller was gradually revealed as the moss degraded through play. Fantastic Arcade's games begged to be touched, hit, smacked, and explored; but the beauty of Alea was that the more it was played, the more the controllers that facilitate play fell apart. The game anticipated—even invited—its own destruction.

    Paloma Dawkins and Cale Bradbury, Alea (2015)

    As a game, Alea features different levels of colorful, '70s-styleforest, with branches that move according to the rhythm of the player touching the moss controllers. The pace is set by laidback rock and electronica music in the background. Alea was inspired by both Bradbury's interest in net art and a particular trip Dawkins took to the Muir Redwoods Forest. Dawkins, an illustrator and videogame designer, conceived of the game after reflecting on the difference between her and her companions' behavior while hiking: while they moved quickly through the woods, Dawkins fell behind, distracted by the beauty of the trees. "I was trying to keep up… [but] it was such a weird sensation of trying to not fall …and trying to have a connection to where you are," she said.

    The rhythm of the gameplay reflects the tension Dawkins experienced on her hike: wanting to take in the surrounding beauty while trying to keep pace all the beats and animations are deliberately programmed pattern loops that repeat over and over, providing a meditative experience for the player.

    Of the games I tried at Arcade, Alea did the most to push the boundaries of thematic concepts within gaming. It felt refreshingly earnest and thoughtful, and I hope to see more games that blur the lines between interactive art and gameplay—a rich and under-explored territory within the indie games scene. Alea is a rewarding step in that direction.

     

    Alea co-designer Paloma Dawkins playing the game


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    PWR, #1 (trustless), 0x9ab9f7a4b85412bfbe2f4f63b1c98808851c4f32, Tongersestraat 42a, Maastricht, NL, 9/10 2015. Photograph of Bitcoin mining rig. Courtesy of the artists.

    Blockchain Horizons
    Thursday, October 22, 2015 at 7pm
    at the New Museum, 235 Bowery, NYC
    and livestreamed at rhizome.org
    Tickets

    Blockchains are distributed databases, secure and transparent by virtue of peer-to-peer communities that cryptographically validate each entry. As the technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, the blockchain has given rise to divergent speculations about the future of politics and finance outside of direct state control, from collective utopias to sublime dystopias.

    Organized by Rhizome's Artistic Director, Michael Connor, "Blockchain Horizons" convenes artists, critics, and entrepreneurs to discuss the cultural implications of this technology for publishing, licensing, and distribution. In doing so, it treats the blockchain as social fact rather than science fiction.

    Participants include Kevin McCoy, artist, entrepreneur, and founder of Monegraph, a blockchain-based solution for attributing and distributing art, conceived of at Seven on Seven 2014 and currently a member of NEW INC.; Berlin-based PWR (Hanna Nilsson & Rasmus Svensson), who are developing a decentralized platform for publication and distribution of digital texts; and Rachel O'Dwyer, a Dublin-based researcher and curator with a focus on the political economy of communications, digital currencies and media cultures. In addition, Nora Khan, DeForrest Brown, and The Actual School will present a work-in-progress online project titled Futures Along the Blockchain. Conceived by Lars Holdhus and commissioned by Rhizome, the site convenes an online group discussion about the blockchain and proposes applying it to questions of music distribution.

    Rhizome's public programs are made possible, in part, through the support of the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts, the Carolyn K. Tribe Foundation, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and the New York State Council on the Arts.


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    Sara Ludy, Acid Cloud (2015, digital video) embedded on rhizome.org.

    Sara Ludy's video works will be on the front page of rhizome.org all week as part of the ongoing online digital painting exhibition "Brushes," presented by Rhizome and the New Museum for the First Look series.

    For this series of abstract video works, originally created for the online collaborative w-a-l-l-p-a-p-e-r-s.net, Sara Ludy begins with images created in Adobe Photoshop using the "Difference Clouds" feature, which alters color levels in an image according to cloud-like patterns. This software-generated image is then imported into Adobe Aftereffects, where Ludy adjusts preset parameters to create these swirling cloud patterns. In part, the works are an investigation of the aesthetics inherent in the software tools—but unlike artists such as Cory Arcangel, who previously explored such "default" aesthetics in his Photoshop gradient series, Ludy allows more latitude for her own improvisation, seeking out visual complexity that transcends the seemingly mundane origins of her imagery.

    During the creation of the works, all of the artist's mouse movements take place outside of the image canvas, through the adjustment of various parameters. This pushes against the definition of this online exhibition, which brings together works in which the artist's physical gesture plays a defining role. Ludy's gestures are no longer interpreted by the computer as "marks" on the screen; however, such marks are never literal, one-to-one interpretations of an artist's gesture anyway. The movement of the artist's hand on an input device is always subject to a high level of interpretation and processing. Ludy's work provides an opportunity to question whether a hard-and-fast line can be drawn between digital abstractions that are made "by hand" and those generated by code, while finding in the inner workings of the computer the possibility of sublime aesthetics.

    View the videos on the "Brushes" exhibition page.

    For more on Ludy's work, see a review of a 2011 WALLPAPERS exhibition, Ludy's Artist Profile, and Nicolas Sassoon's discussion of her work for Computers Club.

     


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  • 10/14/15--11:55: Artist Profile: Lou Cantor
  • The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have a significant body of work that makes use of or responds to network culture and digital technologies.

    Lou Cantor, "The Labor of Watching" (exhibition view at Oslo 10, 2015)

    Your most recent exhibition, "The Labor of Watching" (2015), takes as a primary reference point historical images from automobile safety test videos. These videos, as your work notes, are now widely available on internet video-sharing platforms; they are thus radically de/re-contextualized by audiences who in many cases have no firsthand memory of the vehicles shown or the context the videos were designed for. How do you see the proliferation of digital images changing expectations of visual experiences?  

    In our work, we use the videos only as a point of reference. In the space in Basel we presented just the crash barriers themselves. These objects are present in the videos, but they usually escape the attention of audiences who are focused on what happens to the cars. Depending on your perspective, this focus could be understood as a distraction. For us, the barrier is a much richer object, conceptually speaking; it's made only for the test, and, unlike a car, it does not serve any other purpose than to be something to crash into while being watched by researchers. Secondly, in forthcoming exhibitions we plan to contextualize the barriers differently, creating new structural meanings with them in line with (Oskar) Hansen’s notion of the "open form." We assume that, in part, because of the infinite proliferation of internet imagery, the viewers of our work will bring a memory of these videos with them when they view the objects; it therefore becomes superfluous to actually present the video content in the space.

    Such an overt connection to the digitalized images would limit, rather than expand the chain of references and possible interpretations we seek to evoke in the work. Frequently, it is the case that the sheer availability of images distorts the expectations a viewer brings to a given context. For example, despite all information to the contrary, young women often believe the models they see on fashion magazine covers actually look the way they do despite open admissions of the use of Photoshop by the designers; or, more directly germane to the works in "The Labor of Watching," Formula 1 viewers often attend races expecting dramatic crashes despite how rarely these occur. We did not want to prime expectations directly in our methodology of display, merely to evoke what we believed would likely already be there in the minds of our interlocutors.  

     Lou Cantor, "The Labor of Watching" (exhibition view at Oslo 10, 2015)

    In Masks (2013), you highlight the physicality of the process of overwriting and erasure in text production in ancient societies. The works themselves incorporate images from ancient cultures imbricated with images which allude to or directly feature the components of digital representation. Do you feel that the infinite reproduction of digital images is in dialogue with such highly physical methods of production as referenced in the work—particularly as digital images are themselves the product of much overwriting (e.g. code writing onto hardware writing onto the pixels which then compose images or representations of images)?

    We are interested in how perception can be seen as a multilayered construction in which access to certain levels of awareness is restricted or obstructed. We aim to create works in which the audience and the artwork itself are equally important points of aesthetic reference. Elements of our pictographic reality are products of endless systems of evolution—and revolution—thus, many aspects of contemporary imagery, for example visual tropes or compositional relations, can be traced to ideas prevalent in ancient cultures. Moreover, the psychological construction of our perception can also be seen as a result of a lifetime of overlaying experiences. The work grows out of this background as well as a number of studies we have read of patients being able to recall traumatic events in minute detail despite large amounts of time elapsing between the recall and the underlying event. We wanted to create a work that embodied these features of the process of visualization and remembering. The physical aspect of the work, addressing the scraping out and the overwriting, was important to us because of its brutality, unpredictability and irreversibility. Once a certain cognitive event takes place, we are unable to see things the way we saw them before. The event cannot be "unseen." In a time of visual overload and an endless stream of traumatic imagery, it is important not to underestimate the consequences of this feature of our cognitive faculties.

    The choice of masks in the work was also a game of contextualization—a mask is an artifact that, more than anything else, shows how context can change a message. The familiar Shakespearean gesture of removing a mask is probably the most beautiful example of manifesting this reality while simultaneously exposing or sabotaging its logic. In our case, we decided to hide digital print and contemporary masks behind a screen print of historical African masks. The sense we had was one of civilizations in dialogue across time; the overlaying of technologies is yet another aspect of this discourse. We are also interested in how changing standards and constant scripting and re-scripting influences messages. Digital images are written in 0-1 systems, and binary itself is meaningless until such time as an executed algorithm defines what should be done with each bit, byte, word or block. We concentrate on this dynamic of instruction and translation in other works as well; for example, in a series of textiles we are presently working on we are breaking internet-sourced images down into their source code in order to reproduce them according to a different logic of translation in Jacquard fabrics (the Jacquard loom was the first machine with software written in binary—a protoplast of our digital era, in a sense).

    Lou Cantor, Masks (2013)

    The work Autumn in Peking takes its title from a 1947 novel by the French writer Boris Vian. Specifically, it references the archeologists in Vian's novel who are tasked with smashing ancient vases so that they can be reassembled by museum preservation staff. In the work, vases can be bought from a vending machine; as the vases drop into the retrieval tray at the bottom of the machine, they break. The work is described as having been inspired by the ubiquitous vending machines in Japan which sell seemingly incongruous objects like live lobsters. As the process of commercial sales is increasingly automated and digitalized, do you see the role of human beings in contemporary economies as being fundamentally redefined? Vian's conservationists could be seen as representing a branch of the "knowledge economy" such as is frequently described in contemporary business and economic discourse. For you, is such a "knowledge economy" simply a hollow concept ripe for satire in the Vian sense, or are there entirely new relations emerging in post-digital capitalism that you think are important to recognize, acknowledge and discuss?

    For someone who grew up in a post-communist reality, Vian's idea seemed like quite a realistic situation! When we first thought about preparing a work for a vending machine, we wanted to focus on the performative and economic aspects of the specific dynamics of display the machine provides—the exhibition was visible through the machine's glass door, but the "exhibits" were displayed according to the machine's internal design logic, completely different from what is expected of an exhibition. In the work, you could only fully interact with a piece if you purchased it. To truly exist, the work needed an active audience, and, importantly, there was the additional action performed by the machine as a mediator between the audience and artwork.

    We also wanted to address the Japanese context in two specific ways, first, the vending machine, and the practice of Kintsugi (金継ぎ), a special technique of decorative mending for broken ceramics that became so popular that some works were deliberately smashed just to be repaired. The work thus has a specificity of place that we regard as critical to its realization. In a larger sense, with regard to the question, the work mirrors features of global capitalism in that in order to participate, you must be a buyer. The role of the seller is now increasingly complicated and automated on both basic and sophisticated levels (from automated check-out in supermarkets to high-frequency trading). We felt the machine seller and the conscious buyer (at least in theory) referenced these relations. 

    Lou Cantor, Autumn in Peking (2011)

    As inter-subjectivity is such a central concern in your practice, and you have made a number of works intended to be displayed or experienced in digital formats, for example on smartphones, could you talk about the ways in which the "internet of things" is reshaping the discourse between individuals and objects, in your understanding? Do you feel the emergence of "smart devices" is changing the nature of the philosophy of inter-subjectivity in meaningful ways, or does it merely represent a re-categorization/re-branding of the same core concepts?

    For us, in this case, the answer is both yes and no. Devices are used to facilitate communication, but they bring with them their own logic; this is a highly intentional logic as a result of meticulous design. In this sense, inter-subjectivity does take on new dimensions because of the specific logic written into and output by such devices. Our relationship to objects fundamentally changes even if similar conceptual principles to "classical" inter-subjectivity theory are at work in the design of the new objects.

    The field of inter-subjectivity can be thought of as a trading zone—a place where thoughts and ideas are confronted, valued, exchanged, some resonate and make a career for themselves, and some fall into oblivion. All the devices and technologies you mentioned change the nature of our communication; they enhance speed and precision—or perhaps the opposite. They simplify in the name of faster dispersion. They memorize, and they monitor us. They observe humans in the same way devices were used to measure, for example, weather phenomena in the past, and they bring meaning to dynamic systems. In the economic reality in which we live today, they also render that meaning as a transaction.

    Lou Cantor, Crisis (2015)

    Questionnaire:

    Age, location: 

    Lou Cantor is a Berlin-based artists' collective founded in 2011.

    How/when did you begin working creatively with technology?

    From the beginning of our practice.

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

    Kunst Akademie Düsseldorf, Akademia Sztuk Pięknych Warsaw, Universität der Künste Berlin. Fine arts.

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

    Prefer not to answer.

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

    In a hotel at the moment...


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    ..


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    A recombinant series of digital paintings by artist Michael Manning will be on the front page of rhizome.org all week as the final work in the ongoing online exhibition "Brushes," presented by Rhizome and the New Museum for the First Look series.
     
    The works are from 100paintings.gallery, a new online work by Manning with code by Zach Shipko. The site randomly combines a selection of 100 different paintings in five layers to create a unique composition each time the page is refreshed. According to the artist statement, "this set of parameters allows for over 9 billion unique works." Each 800x1000px composition can be downloaded as well as shared via a generated permalink.
    Read Michael Manning's Artist Profile here. Read about his Microsoft Store Paintings on Rhizome and on artist Tom Moody's blog.  

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    Laura Brothers, come and be real for us (Dec 25, 2007). Detail area of 803 x 840 digital image.

    Artist Laura Brothers, whose work was included in the online exhibition "Brushes" (co-presented by Rhizome and the New Museum as part of First Look), is featured on the newest installment of Gene McHugh's podcast, Net Art Hell.

    Brothers has been posting her images to a LiveJournal blog under the moniker out_4_pizza since 2007; in his podcast, McHugh tracks the visual progression of the images through the evolution of Brothers' style and content. He points to the use of cut-and-paste image appropriation in the earlier work: imagery drawn from 1980s television, imagery from the past 40 years of rock music album cover culture, and other imagery that Brothers refers to as "timestamped." Building on this exploration of temporality, McHugh adds that the LiveJournal platform is itself dated, which emphasizes the datedness of the image content. In addition, the chronological structure of the LiveJournal feed allows the viewer to understand how Brothers' practice unfolds over time. As artist Giovanna Olmos noted in the Brushes panel at the New Museum, scrolling is a new narrative form.

    Brothers' newer work is still inspired by timestamped cultural imagery, but unlike the earlier clearly appropriated collages, it alludes to its sources in loose, gestural abstractions. This style can be seen in the recent posts Cake Walk Howl (posted, according to LiveJournal, at 24 September 2015 @ 03:42 pm) and Alfredo Frenzy (posted 10 September 2015 @ 04:40 pm), which have Brothers' signature pixelated texture, but refer more to expressive sketches and figure drawing than to specific timestamped cultural images.

    McHugh concludes:

    What the viewer may come to understand in out_4_pizza is all of this is leading to a representation of its medium: an ongoing blog or image stream in which every image is always-already a ghost, always already in flux, becoming and falling away. It's a medium-specific, self-reflexive work, not just because its imagery is born digital and pops on the screen, which it does do, but also because it describes the overwhelming power time has over images displayed in streams on screens by again and again referring to image types from the just-past and now dated and doubling the sense of that by setting everything over the LiveJournal interface. out_4_pizza performs its being right now.

    Brushes is on view here.

     Laura Brothers, alfredo frenzy (Sept 10, 2015). Detail area of 940x700 pixel digital image.


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    EITHER WE INSPIRE OR WE EXPIRE (2015) by artist Liam Gillick and data journalist Nate Silver considers technological failure and its lack of visibility in a society obsessed with success.

    Created as part of Rhizome'’s Seven on Seven conference, which convenes leading artists and technologists for high-level collaborations, this web-based project draws on a selection of words handpicked by Gillick and Silver—such as THE .COM FOR MOMS, ASSASSIN VAPORS, DRONE CON, and WRAPIPEDIA—from a database of inactive trademark applications.

    Gillick and Silver embarked on the project by taking one of the questions commonly addressed using statistical analysis—How can we reduce risk?—and inverting it, asking instead: How can we guarantee risk? Applying this question to the creative process, Silver observed that our understanding of innovation suffers from "sample bias": we have a distorted perception of the success rate of new ideas because only the successful ones, or the ones that change the game or disrupt an industry, are discussed. Thus, failure in creative production and innovation represents a "dark corner" for statisticians.

    The database of failed trademarks that Gillick and Silver used for the project lists 4.5 million companies whose ideas didn't quite play out. From this vast trove, they curated a selection of names, presenting them one after another in a web-based slideshow that puts a momentary spotlight on the traces of failure in creativity and innovation. The words appear in white on a black background, with each entry representing a set of aspirations: sometimes grandiose, sometimes humble, sometimes sad or funny, but always unrealized.

    View work

    Image: Liam Gillick and Nate Silver presenting an early version of EITHER WE INSPIRE OR WE EXPIRE at Rhizome’s Seven on Seven conference at the New Museum, May 2015. Courtesy Madison McGaw / BFA

    SPONSORS
    Major support for First Look is provided by the Neeson/Edlis Artist Commissions Fund. Additional support is provided by the New York State Council on the Arts and the Toby Devan Lewis Emerging Artists Exhibitions Fund.


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

    Christine Sun Kim, Game of Skill 2.0 (2015)

    Your own physical presence seems integral to your work. Sometimes you are literally in the space, guiding people and forging an interaction—I think of Gesture Sign Art that I saw at Kunstlerhaus Bethanien in 2012, where you showed instructions on an iPad for viewers to manipulate transducers and piano wires in space to create vibrations together. At other times you leave objects in the space that show evidence of your actions, like the Speaker Drawings that manifested transducer vibrations on paper. Do you think of those projects in terms of action and evidence? Are they autonomous, or do they require you to activate them?

    Some of my performances are about the process of building a platform and conducting participants to become my voice (Subjective Loudness in Tokyo, 2013) rather than leaving my traces afterwards. It seems as if my "voice" as an artist cannot be conveyed without all those people’s involvement. It’s almost a direct reflection of my everyday communication. I expand my voice through other voices.

    The Speaker Drawings were my baby steps as a sound artist, and I don't do them anymore. They were very straightforward: sound to visual. I'm so into the conceptual aspect of sound that these drawings almost feel like decoration, almost empty... or just a vessel. I like getting messy, though.

    Christine Sun Kim, Speaker Drawing (2012)

    I met you while working for the Bard MFA program and was hired to be your note taker—I would transcribe all your studio visits with professors and afterwards you would read how the conversation had been translated through your interpreter from ASL [American Sign Language] to spoken English. I suddenly understood to what extent all communication is mediated artificially, and also confronted issues of accessibility for the first time. Do you think you're placed in an "educative" role by default in an art world where accessibility is so rarely part of the conversation?

    Oh yes. I often tell my friends that I am an educator by default. Sometimes I enjoy that, sometimes not. Most art museum websites have videos and audio files that everyday people can easily watch/listen to, but I could safely say that 95% of them aren't accessible to everyone. So my art knowledge sometimes stops right there (apart from internet-ing or dialogue). If it weren't for the museum job I had at the Whitney, giving tours for deaf audiences, I wouldn't have had access to amazing documents such as research packets on special exhibitions, transcripts of curators’ walkthrough tours, and exhibition catalogs. What blows my mind is that the art world is full of people claiming that they're open minded about "differences" or "challenges" and call themselves innovative. But when it comes to requesting minor adjustments such as adding captions, they bite my head off—there’s so much discomfort in that space. I know accessibility can be such an ugly word—even I try to avoid it. "Universal design?" That can really water down other people's work, and mine. There needs to be much more space for us to experiment and try new ideas for making art inclusive. That would also push art/ideas much further with new questions.

     

    Christine Sun Kim, Face Opera II (2013)

    Audiences are often struck when watching an ASL interpreter by how much sign-based communication depends on facial expression. You commented on that with Face Opera (2013), in which you and a group of deaf participants used only your faces (and some typed messages on an iPad) to build a soundless operatic narrative, cutting out the role of the interpreter altogether. Was this also a work about how much is lost in translation, about how much work sometimes goes into communication for you?

    The audience’s interpretations of my work largely depend on their understanding of my relationship with my interpreters. If you think the process involves transliteration (direct translation without considering its context, similar to Google Translate), then there's not much of a realization. The bottom line is that I'll never get the full information through an interpreter, but I have my own way of assessing what happened. For instance, at Bard, during a studio visit with a teacher, I would try to put everything together inside my head by watching my interpreter signing, seeing how my questions are being answered, figuring out how much I trusted my interpreter's interpretation, observing how the teacher behaved, reading your notes, reviewing the meeting with the interpreter to maximize my understanding, and taking in external details (i.e. gossip, ha ha). If the whole meeting had been conducted in full ASL (deaf teacher, deaf student), it would have been very straightforward—maybe less subjective. There is a lot of trust involved in my communication, as I constantly work with new interpreters, organizers, faculty members, and administrators. Sometimes it feels like dating my own voice; it's like being on a first date every day.

    It seems that whenever I present my work as a "sound" piece, the audience is most likely to open their minds and look into their own subjectivities. A friend of mine mentioned that sometimes when you're supposed to "listen" to my work, the experience itself becomes the space for you to re-think your subjectivity. But sometimes I think musicians or sound artists have the privilege of being misunderstood, or not understood. In my case, I have a fear of not being understood, which means I get trapped in your subjectivity, not the other way around.

    Christine Sun Kim, Subjective Loudness (performance installation at Sound Live Tokyo, 2013. Photo: Masahide Ando)

    You've been a TED fellow and a guest artist at MIT Media Lab, and done all sorts of collaborations with science and tech. Not that there needs to be any separation between aspects of your life and work, but is there any difference in the way your work evolves and is received in those contexts versus the art world, which is often pretty hermetic? What emerged from TED and MIT, and how has it fed into what you create for art institutions?

    My work has always been in between disciplines and categories. For a long time, I wanted to stay inside the "art world" (maybe for the sake of belonging or earning respect), but it seems that my work resonates with many non-art communities. When I first was awarded a fellowship from TED, I wasn't sure what to make of it because I thought it was corporate and didn’t want to be associated with it… But I went for it. That was an eye-opener for me because TED has a massive, powerful platform full of resources and people who are totally into new ideas, and I felt they really listened to what I had to say. The experience itself helped me realize that the model of being an artist in the art world doesn't fly with me. I had to step out of that community and explore new models for my art. With MIT, it’s too early to tell what will come of it, since it just started this year. So far no specific projects have come from either fellowship, though they do offer leverage, opportunities, networks, friends, and resources. I feel more hyperconnected than ever and it's scaring me a little.

    In your installation Game of Skill 2.0 for the "Greater New York" installation at MoMA PS1, the audience is invited to drive a radio along a cable line, changing the sound of the voice coming from the radio according to their walking speed and direction. It seems like this work is geared more towards a hearing audience; do you feel the need to make your art accessible for all, despite the fact that the hearing world is not made entirely accessible for you?

    I remember a time at Bard when I did a total sound piece and I felt conflicted about my work not being 100% accessible (as you said, I am an educator by default) and my co-chair, Marina Rosenfeld, said "Are you making art for yourself, or them?" She was right to ask. I started focusing on what interests me, and when there are deaf people in the audience, I always make time to explain to them my process and what my hopes are. As long as they learn about the concept in ASL, they will have the same experience as hearing people, just on a different level. I did a video of myself explainingGame of Skill 2.0 at MoMA PS1 except that it has no spoken English or captions. Hearing participants listen with their ears and deaf participants with their eyes.

    I am amazed at how much feedback I've received from the show at PS1. I was there on the opening day with two interpreters, and I noticed that people with sensitive hearing could hear the voice coming from the radio very clearly (my text is about the future of NYC) and that people with less sensitive hearing found her voice less clear. It shows that everyone hears at various levels, like different small amounts of deafness. But they all need to learn how to walk and hold up a device in a particular way to hear full sentences; they function like human turntable needles. It takes practice. Also, it was funny to watch people getting very self-conscious about their new "listening" skill. They were saying, "Am I doing it right? Stop looking at me!”

    For my solo show at Carroll Fletcher this fall, I'll show both Game of Skill 1.0, an earlier version originally shown at White Space in Beijing, and new drawings. The older devices used in the first Game of Skill have external speakers and two batteries instead of one. Both versions were built by electronic instrument designer Levy Lorenzo. And at Sound Live Tokyo also this fall, I will host a concert-like event with curator Tomoyuki Arai's help. We've invited musicians to contribute audio files of 20 decibels and below. The sounds are below your average hearing range, and they're full of beats that will be mostly transmitted through materials such as the walls and floor. Let’s hope no ears will bleed.

    Christine Sun Kim, new drawings to be shown at Caroll Fletcher as part of the exhibition "Rustle Tustle"

     

     Christine Sun Kim, new drawing to be shown at Caroll Fletcher as part of the exhibition "Rustle Tustle"

    Questionnaire:

    Age: 35

    Location: Berlin, Germany

    How/when did you begin working creatively with technology?

    I've had a TTY (deaf phone, very '80s and '90s) and internet almost all my life. But when I got my first iPhone in 2011, it really changed the way I interact with non-signers and I started to incorporate it into performances. I never work with an interpreter during performances, mainly because I prefer to have direct connection with audiences and remind them that I do not have a sonic identity.

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

    At Rochester Institute of Technology, a BS in Multi-Disciplinary Arts; an MFA in Studio Arts at the School of Visual Arts in New York and an MFA in Music/Sound at Bard College.

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

    I used to work as a digital archivist for W.W. Norton and Co., a publishing company, and as a freelance educator at the Whitney Museum.

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

    Living room as temporary studio for three days before my next trip. I was never an artist with a permanent studio, but I hope that will change soon.

    Desktop–I try to keep it clear, easier for me to navigate. I like studios and desktops that look almost empty because it helps me think clearly.


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  • 11/02/15--03:00: Welcome to Our Home Page
  • Today marks the debut of the new rhizome.org and Rhizome brand, both of which place particular emphasis on the expressive potential of the web, and will usher us into our 20th anniversary year. This platform will offer the features familiar to longtime Rhizome's users—community announcements and discussion, the ArtBase, and the blog—but everything has been rethought and rebuilt from the ground up.

    This process, which involved a year of intensive discussion, design, and development, was enabled and led by the visionaries at Wieden+Kennedy New York, and built by our excellent Senior Developer, Matthew Conlen, with crucial support from developer Max Nanis.

    Art First

    "Art first" was a guiding principle behind the redesign. We wanted to re-emphasize the browser as a premier context for experiencing art. To that end, visitors to the new rhizome.org will encounter full-window online artworks before scrolling down to the main site to delve into Rhizome's full offerings.

    The new "splash page" builds on Rhizome's history with the format. Throughout the late 1990s and into the early 2000s, visitors to rhizome.org were regularly greeted by single-page artworks with links (often quite subtle) to take them to the front page.

    A Curated Front Page

    Scrolling down from the splash will lead you to a front page that is curated rather than chronological. As more and more readers have web content delivered to them directly via links on social media or email newsletters, we recognized that a front page of a site could be more useful as a dashboard reflecting current research and activities.

    You'll notice clusters of up to four items—artworks, texts, event listings, exhibitions. These constellations of content will allow us to articulate program themes, and place items from the archive alongside the most recent posts, breaking the harsh ambivalence of reverse chronology.

    At the same time, we've switched the name of our online publishing program to "Blog" from "Journal." We did this because "blog" is a born-digital word, as befits a born-digital art institution.

     

    Online Exhibitions

    Online exhibitions are never "just links;" rather they reflect an investment on the part of the organization, often in the form of research, preservation efforts, or artist commissions.

    With the new site, Rhizome's online exhibitions will become a more visible part of our work. The exhibition program includes First Look, a series for new artworks copresented with the New Museum; The Download (launching on 11/11), curated by Paul Soulellis, which considers the downloaded folder as exhibition context; and Collection, which gathers works from the Rhizome Artbase around particular themes.

    The first Collection showcases four works of Hypertext, by Mark Amerika, Anna Anthropy,Claude Closky, Mendi+Keith Obadike, and Porpentine. It can be viewed here.

    A Living Logo

    In 2001, Rhizome unveiled what it tentatively called "The World's First Generative Logo," which rendered differently with each visit. Later iterations of the Rhizome logo, however, became incrementally more conservative, reflecting a broader trend toward simplicity in visual communication that was pointed out in a 2013 Rhizome post by Erich Nagler.

    He included this graphic, showing the evolution of familiar logos over the past fifteen years:

    Weiden+Kennedy's redesign of our logo (on view at the top right of every page) revives experimentation. It begins with a serif typeface, and over time, the logo will degrade, dissolve, and diffuse dynamically, becoming increasingly abstract. In the context of a technological culture that changes so rapidly, it seems especially appropriate that our logo would visualize the passage of time.

    Software

    One of the most crucial steps forward in this new site is the redevelopment of Rhizome's backend. The previous codebase was, as former developer Scott Meisburger once admiringly described it, "a beast," with tens of thousands of lines of code. Rebuilt from the ground up, the new, leaner backend leverages existing free software tools to allow us to maintain the site more easily, keeping pace with changing needs of the organization. As a result of this reconstruction, community emails have been suspended, but all announcements can be found in the Community section.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Under construction since 1996.

    In other words, what you see today is just the beginning. And with that in mind, if you'd like to support Rhizome as it embarks on filling this new site with art and ideas, please join today. 

     


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    Conceived by Lars Holdhus and commissioned by Rhizome, Futures Along the Blockchain is a web project gathering artists, musicians, and writers to annotate a case study which explores the history of Bitcoin while speculating on the utility of its underlying blockchain technology for both art and music distribution. 

    The site presents this centralized text, which Nora authored, only to distribute its value among a select group of annotators, who communicate around the case in an extended, online group discussion. Designed and produced by The Actual School, the site is an evolving document that will, hopefully, increase in value over time as a resource, and prove a comfortable, accessible entryway into an opaque field, often filled with alienating technical jargon.  

    Our annotator group features visual and sound artists, including Claire Tolan (who has made notes within her signature ASMR-style), Yuri Pattison, Brian Rogers, Gregory Chatonsky, and J.G. Biberkopf. On the technical side, annotators include Anil Bawa-Cavia, a computer scientist and founder of STDIO, Masha McConaghy, co-Founder of Ascribe, Ryan John King of FOAM, a decentralized architecture office (ĐAO), and Alec Liu of Ripple. Matthew Dryhurst of SAGA, Lars Holdhus, Morgan Sutherland, and DeForrest Brown, Jr. round out the group, their notes bridging the art-, tech-, and theory-worlds. 

    These annotators discursively critique the aesthetic, technical, and assumed values of Bitcoin and blockchain technology. (Click on "All" to see all annotations at once, or on individual names for a more selective experience as you read.) Their additions should frame and re-frame the conversation around the blockchain's usefulness: as a tool for supporting artistic practice and digital artists, and as a re-engineering of our understanding of property, both real and virtual.  

    The site also features a film, the ideal, by London-based Irish artist Yuri Pattison. Pattison also provided us with raw source footage excerpts of a Bitcoin mine in Tibet. These films and clips are part of an artwork made in collaboration with Eric Mu, the Chief Marketing Officer of HaoBTC, a Bitcoin startup. (The footage is of HaoBTC’s new mine.) (Video elements from the ideal were commissioned for British Art Show 8 as part of a larger networked sculptural installation; subsequent versions are being developed with Kunstverein Nürnberg & Bielefelder Kunstverein for the exhibitions Transparencies.) 


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  • 11/09/15--09:15: Bon Voyage, Killer Robot
  • Discussions about the dangers of autonomous robots oftentimes invoke the Terminator, the iconic menace from the 1984 film, as their symbolic forebear. Reports on the dangers of autonomous cars, however, never harken back to their cinematic predecessors—the malevolent sedans, hearses, bulldozers, and 4x4s that terrorized the populace from the mid-70s to mid-80s, mowing down pedestrians, bumping off policemen, smashing into houses and demolishing motorists on the streets of suburban America. “There was no driver!” exclaims an anguished near-victim of The Car (1977), in a clip that could well have been used in an ad for Tesla.

    Of the sentient forms that populate our imaginaries of automation, the humanoid machine reigns supreme—that hideous progeny of the gothic that returns, again and again, to incorporate anxieties over technological change. To what do we owe its tenacity? Undoubtedly, it is due to its familiarity in form, its retention of enough similarity to humans to enable it to adequately personify, and then transmogrify, our disavowed attributes. When the encounter turns hostile, we are afforded securities that will ensure the danger does not cut too deep. When the narrative of technological triumph is transformed into one of betrayal, the narcissistic foundation remains intact. However troubled the boundaries between human and machine may be, the ground footing that guarantees the distinction is not. One can rely on the security of a terrestrial grip that will enable defiance or departure, fortification or traction. There is reassurance in knowing you can get away from the thing.

    The situation is infinitely different if you are trapped inside the robot during its murderous spree. Extricating one’s body from captivity within a vehicle is a prospect that is considerably more fraught, physically and conceptually, than simply running away. The body is dislodged from the security of its ground footing and the means of self-determined movement this enables. The capabilities afforded by its physical properties are wrested out of its command, the path from cognitive intention to corporeal expression severed. The body is subsumed into a machinic composite that it cannot control and with which, from the outside, it is now coincident in form, function, and intent.

    With this in mind, it is no small wonder that the autonomous vehicle has not found its place as a locus of allure and contention on a par with that of its robotic counterpart. It cannot accord us the thrill of being menaced by our own monstrous equivalent. Could one sustain the delicious agony of having to fret about the autonomous killer machines soon to be unleashed upon humanity if one were to think of them as transport vehicles in which the body must sit, rather than Terminators from which one could flee? No longer distinguishable from the machine and lacking the stability of a solid footing in relation to it, there is no structural basis for the thrill of the chase, no model of personification that secures the operations of the narrative. The exhilaration of heroic struggle is diffused when the differentiating gap that provides the basis for conflict gives way to a debilitating overlap.  

    Upon entering the cabin of the everyday transport vehicle, we are integrated into a robotic construct without a discrete form. Perched atop the seat platform and lodged behind the control console, we extend ourselves into cognitive environments that inform and assist thinking, and transport infrastructures that provide sensory and operational aid. Distinctions among body, machine, and environment stretch and contract as a sheath of interfaces and cabin moldings keeps us intact–secured against the maddening intricacy of the machine on which we sit and the chaos of the outer world through which we move. Awash with the throes of travel, the vehicle functions less as an object than as an extension of our own agency.

    Battling one’s humanoid counterpart may shore up a self, but combating one’s own transit platform abolishes the capability one seeks to advance. To take the vehicle is to partake of the means it provides. In place of defensive positions, we facilitate joint maneuvers—coordinating densities among overlapping corridors, negotiating the rhythms and parameters of operation along courses and within lanes. Adjustments are required at the registers of speed and rhythm, cognition and bearing, from the corporeal scale of the individual to that of the driver-vehicle coupling; from the scale of driver-vehicle composites on this road to that of the larger social aggregates of the city; from that of local confederates strewn about the lane to the larger transport infrastructures enabling pathways through the urban realm.

    Considering the relevance of these active materialities to emerging concepts of robotic life, might the vehicle—broadly understood—offer a better structural model than its humanoid counterpart? It integrates sensing, processing, and actuation functions into the fabric of conveyance operations, situating the robotic as inherent in the materiality of form.

    Rather than contending with illusive, inherently narcissistic and hostile objects—enlivened, personified machines with which we are at odds—we are prompted to get inside.

    Excursions

    The cinematic machine, whose being is intertwined with that of the intelligent monsters it spawned, required the immobilization of viewing body in order to sensitize it to the patterns of movement it conveyed on screen. In conjunction with the transport apparatus that provided its informing background, it trained the viewer-operator to be susceptible to the codified forms that would now menace it, the monsters that would now chase it in order for it to move again willingly, with all the newfound sensory capacity that this would summon. Cinema, like transport, was fueled by the desire for escape as much as arrival, the ability to divest oneself of constraints as much as amplify investment in them. Attraction is a powerful propelling force—even more so if you are unwillingly the object of it: there is nothing quite like having to flee in igniting the vital motor forces and functions, amplifying the affect, and escalating the rhythms, especially when one's life is on the line.

    Rhythms and tones move through the body, like music, as the body moves through them. Bodies inhabit the conditions that transport apparatus help implement, conditions that take hold in routines on screen and en route, the activity regimens incited by gears, motors, and patterns of light impressed into awareness through repetitive apprehension and ingrained in corporeality through recurrent execution. These regimens, which combine aptitudes, techniques and support platforms in generative procedures, constitute the automating and endo-shaping operations of the robotic.

    Behold the Personal Air Vehicle (PAV), puzzling inverse of the drone. Its occupied form is even more perplexing than that of the unmanned planes that increasingly swarm the skies, due to its re-introduction of a pilot into a vehicle that no longer requires one. What will these human operators think when, anchored in the sightline specific to their historical role at the helm, they peer out of the transparent portal of the control cabin at their opaque, disembodied analogues flying nearby?

    Like most objects of desire, the unmanned vehicle is all the more alluring when it is opaque. The matter of accessing its concealed abundance becomes paramount, yet the precepts of desire prohibit the easy access that would only dilute the power to enthrall. Contraptions like the Hyundai E4U could hardly stage this mix of enticement and unattainability. They have none of the alluring impenetrability of the sleek transport capsule. They are too excessive and earnest to elicit the tensions of resemblance. Revealing their inner machineries, impulses, and operational needs, they reject the paradigm of the enclosure that would solidify their hold.

    “By 2020, we will have transformed all of our new cars into smartphones on wheels,” proclaims a VW Chief Executive, expunging the actualities of transport in order to collapse the vehicle into the paradigm of the mobile device. Such devices already allow cars to be operated from afar. Apparently, he envisions it soon being entirely unnecessary to get into them. When that happens, the automobile will have at long last fulfilled the level of self-determination anticipated by its prefix—though in the paradoxical form of a machine once geared for transporting bodies, which now attends to their needs in other ways, or attends to other needs entirely.

    The television drama Humans is premised on robots (“synths”) living among real people. It is organized around everyday situations so apparently simple they are easy to overlook. George is taking his synth Odi for a drive in the countryside. Relishing this moment of being away from the house, George remarks to Odi how nice it is, just the two of them out on their own together. Odi thinks that George has neglected to realize that they are not alone: he has not included the car. And so he corrects him: “And the car, George.”

    For the human driver, the vehicle is not an object in a relational field, since he is inside it. The synth doesn’t see it that way. Herein is its most radical potential: the invention of a relationality that retools the structural terms of the social. 

    Stopover 

    To get inside the vehicle is not to enter an enclosure, but to access an integrated materiality and invest in the nature of the ability it enables. Its sensory exchanges, integrations, and exertions of force are irreducible to presumed confines of form and sentience. Even the simplest operational tasks involve sensory, deliberative, and effective activity of considerable range at levels below and beyond the conscious threshold. Interventions in the paths from cognitive deliberation to physical expression are erotic invitations more than they are hostile acts. They are only adverse by default when thought and action are regarded as essentially human, consolidated in terms of properties that the body alone is seen to control—the agency it would possess is now under siege, the body swept from its ground footing and the command of its attributes pried away, along with the sense of authority that this supports.

    The erotic invitation is not one that solicits narcissistic reinforcement—not one of identified forms and personages, however deviant or monstrous, that attract and challenge humans by reflecting their centrality. It is not based on a fundamental separation between interior and exterior, the body and its extensions in the world—interchangeable attachments that, controllable via the architectures of the user interface, augment human faculties but do not disrupt its place. There is no essential corporeity that remains extricable from the robotic, no essential mind that remains separate from the body-as-vehicle, no complex of functions that can simply be embodied in a facile equivalence to the human frame. The scalar domains of sensory, deliberative, and expressive activity, whose broad range and frequency cannot be contained corporeally or accommodated cognitively, are the zones the vehicle invites us, cooperatively, to enter.


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    To go beyond browsing, downloading must be considered.

    Downloading is essential to almost any kind of engagement with the www, whether code is sent into a browser window or files are delivered to a desktop. To download is to take from the network and to navigate the choreography of circulation itself; when we download, we extend the file’s narrative—its time-stamped presence spanning any number of geo-located servers—into the intimate space of the hard drive. The download is a prerequisite to more local activities, like scanning, printing, dispersing, and archiving. Downloading can transform a public post into private property; to download may be political.

    The browser typically acts as our portal to “the downloadable,” extending a view out onto distant servers and directories through the hyperlink. We can (almost) always download anything we see through the browser window, regardless of an artist’s intent, but while a browser-based work is meant to remain confined—“performed” into the user's browser window for a temporal experience that is measured and dictated in certain ways by its publisher—the download allows the user's experience to play out within the more private sphere of the desktop. The download involves agency.

    To shift art out of the context of the browser and onto our desktop is to borrow from publishing—“making public” by dispersing copies of files and enjoying them locally (and privately). Artists who distribute downloadable work invite us to activate the computer desktop as an intimate, performative space for engaging with art.

    Building on a past program curated by Zoë Salditch, The Download is a new series of six works commissioned by Rhizome that presents posted files, the act of downloading, and the user’s desktop as the space of exhibition. Beginning in November 2015 and continuing into the next year, each artist’s contribution will be zipped up and posted for download. The Download offers the JPG, the TXT, the PDF and other file extensions by artists who view the file format itself as substrate. These works are free to own, print, share, and perform under your own conditions.

    Christopher Clary
    sorry to dump on you like this.zip (2015)
    112 MB

    do you play.jpg

    Somewhere deep inside the directory of Christopher Clary’s sorry to dump on you like this.zip, the text “do you play” appears as a file name. This particular JPG is one of 1,860 images in the work: a pixelated 320 x 240 photograph of a bearded man, perhaps a profile pic, creation date February 26, 2001. Is it an invitation? Without punctuation, the phrase “do you play” reads like a provocation, a quick text message, short for “do (the two of) you play (outside of your relationship?)” Surrounding texts encourage a sexualized reading, but isolating it as a fragment suggests other takes. Are you a player? Who’s playing whom?

    Consisting only of still images and their filenames, sorry to dump on you like this.zip can be read as a dramatic desktop play that takes on an almost operatic depth, with characters, dialogue, and changing scenery. Multiple voices speak the texts, including a chorus of porn actors, tumblr users, and the artist himself, but in this case I imagine the computer asking me—the user who downloads—if I play. In Clary’s work, the paratextual spaces of the operating system (file names, dates, metadata, keywords) can perform unlimited narratives, if the player is game to save, search, and sort.

    you may be that man.jpg

    Clary’s practice builds upon a long history of artists who appropriate, a trajectory that only recently took a sharp turn into the crowd. Artists like Penelope Umbrico, Joan Fontcuberta, and Joachim Schmid sift through the new vernaculars of picture-taking to create works that result in massive textures, rather than singular portraits. sorry to dump on you like this.zip extends this fascination by pointing the crowd’s camera toward constructions of masculinity, sexuality, and ultimately, maps the subjectivity of the artist himself.

    i'll stop, im just feeling very close to you, or romantic right now, in a way i guess these are modern versions of love letters.jpg

    It’s tempting to call sorry to dump on you like this.zip a pornographic work, since an actual porn collection is embedded within it—the artist’s own archive of men accumulated in fifteen years of web browsing. But these JPGs serve only as a substrate: thin scaffolding for an epic textual work that hangs loosely from the files. The numerous written narratives describe intimate exchanges between boyfriends and lovers, alternating between dramatic betrayals, breakups, and banalities. Laced through the work are heart-breaking utterances, illustrated by found images of men that have already been downloaded, stored, and used. In making them available for us to “re-use,” Clary discards them—the title of the work an apology, even, for offloading his memory onto ours.

    do you, in your heart, your soul, your head, truely love IMG_359551_4350759.jpg

    The voices in sorry to dump on you like this.zip vary, merge, and separate, coalescing into a linear narrative when files are sorted by date. When actually called out, characters’ identities are revealed to be file names, like BM1710667 and GBEARFUCKED1. Entangled networks. Actors switch roles to stand in during the most painful scenes, managing to reveal very little. Has anyone been protected? Not all of the images are pornographic, and some have been pixelated beyond recognition, but maybe they’ve all been loved by Clary, the way one loves a fetish or a fantasy. Or an old file. Again and again, the work asks us—now that we’ve downloaded—is it ours? Who do we decide to keep or discard through time? These stories are an offering of sorts: characters once loved, now staged as daddies and bears, cigars and cocks. The object-files of sorry to dump on you like this.zip travel through networked relations, but settle into hard drives like angry ghosts.

    Before you continue, please be sure it is legal in your area for you to download images of sex and nudity. 

    Click to view work:


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    2015 Prix Net Art Winner Constant Dullaart. Photo by Ethan Hayes-Chute.

    Rhizome and Shanghai-based Chronus Art Center and Beijing-based Tsinghua University Art and Science Media Lab (TASML) are proud to announce that Dutch artist Constant Dullaart has been awarded the second annual $10,000 Prix Net Art, an international prize for internet art. Additionally, a $5,000 Award of Distinction was granted to the Berlin-based collective Weise7.

    The Prix Net Art celebrates the current moment of net art and its future. As many artists tackle technology as subject matter through different forms—sculpture, installation and painting—this prize seeks to address the relative scarcity of support for artwork that takes place primarily or exclusively online. The prizes are awarded on a no-strings-attached basis.

    The winners were decided by an independent jury, comprising critic Josephine Bosma, Whitney Museum curator Chrissie Iles, and critic/curator Domenico Quaranta.

    Today, the 2015 Prix Net Art is recognized with a presentation of Dullaart's work on the front page of the new rhizome.org. Additionally, Dullaart with be celebrated in New York in January 2016, and will discuss the future of net art during a significant new Art & Tech conference co-presented by Rhizome and the New Museum that month.

    Read the Full Jury Statement

    Jury statement excerpt on Constant Dullaart:

    “The fluidity of boundaries between artist and tech communities and questions of authorship, virtuosity, and the performativity of art in a mediated environment are an important aspect of the work of the winner of the 2015 Prix Net Art, Constant Dullaart. Dullaart’s work stays firmly yet defiantly within the realm of contemporary art, but from a position profoundly informed by the conditions of new media networks—technical as well as cultural, social, economical, and political networks. Dullaart strives for an honest, respectful, yet unembellished approach to the materials and conditions of the network. At the same time his work is full of humor, wit, and critical commentary.”

    Jury statement excerpt on Weise7:

    "In awarding the second distinction prize to the art collective Weise7, the jury wants to point to the growing number of hacker and maker labs internationally and the role these play in the context of net art. Weise7 is a strong representative of the return of the practical criticism of the early hacker labs of the late eighties and early nineties.... At a time when networks, from the internet to telephone networks, are increasingly unsafe and under surveillance, the sharing of knowledge about basics of technology and networks is a highly critical and sensitive act.”

    See Constant Dullaart interviewed by New Rules about 3 key works:

    Prix Net Art is Co-Organized by:

    Additional support for Prix Net Art and Rhizome is generously provided by

    Special thanks to New Rules for production support. 


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    "We need a way of consistently and accurately naming every piece of human knowledge, in such a way that their name arises out of the knowledge itself, out of its textual, visual, or aural representation, where the name is inextricably coupled to what it actually is. If we have that name, and if we use that name to refer to some information, and someone tries to change the contents, then it is either impossible or completely detectable by anyone using the name."

    – Hans Ulrich Obrist, "In conversation with Julian Assange," Part I, e-flux journal #25 (May, 2011).

    In this text, we introduce Txtblock, a decentralized tool for publishing and distribution of digital text in a format called the block—a squarely defined, eternally immutable unit of information. The block is the successor of the book. Cryptographically bound, the block is given a name that is directly derived from its content. In this way it is made tamper-proof and resistant to censorship. We see this proposal as a small contribution to the internet renaissance.

    What does the verb “to publish” mean in a society where every thought, movement, and moment is recorded and stored?

    Let's say that publishing is the act of making something public and drawing attention to it. And let’s agree that the opposite of public is private. In the past, these two spheres—public and private—were clearly defined and separate. Today, they overlap, merge, and melt together. In the context of traditional publishing, the acts of printing, binding, and distributing a book delineated an unmistakable step from the private to the public sphere. The writer in her room, working on the manuscript, bringing it to the publishing house, and so on down the production line. In contrast, many current info-tools work in a gray zone in between, obfuscating where data ends up and how it is exploited.

    Today, it is clear that the categories “private” and “public” need to be redefined in order to give the user the choice of where on this private/public spectrum she is communicating. Is the message meant for one person? Or for the community of all intelligent lifeforms? Should it expire after five minutes? Or persist until the last bits of information succumb to entropy?

    The block exist on the extreme point of both the private/public and the temporary/permanent scale: a block is absolutely public and permanent. An inscription in stone.

    Proposal

    Txtblock consists of three components:

    1) Catalog

    2) Storage

    3) Interface

    Decentralized catalog

    The core component is a decentralized catalog containing cryptographic fingerprints, called hashes. These provide an absolute reference to the publications, uniquely based on their content. This catalog is the autonomous point of authority keeping track of what has been made public and when the publication was made.

    The technology that enables this is Ethereum, a decentralized platform that runs smart contracts. This system uses a collective database called the blockchain that allows for agreement between nodes in a network without a central authority. The integrity of the system is maintained through the economically incentivized cryptographic labor of the participating machines, a digital scriptorium. Publishing is simply the operation of making an entry into this public database. The catalog functions without human gatekeepers and cannot be censored without taking down all of the nodes of the network.

    In contrast with an ISBN number, a block-identifier is directly tied to the information it identifies. By using a cryptographic hashing function, a fingerprint of the information is created. Changing a single letter in the text will completely change the identifier. A modified file would, therefore, fail verification against the catalog. This allows certainty that the text you are reading is indeed the exact text that was published.

    Storage

    How should the actual texts be stored? We consider two possibilities:

    1) The sensible, scalable solution. Recommended best practice: the catalog, on the blockchain, contains a reference to the text which is stored off the blockchain, on a content-addressed, distributed, peer-to-peer file system.

    2) The more conceptually and aesthetically pleasing option: the text itself is stored directly on the blockchain. Merging the ledger and the book. Piggybacking on the piggybank. The text is kept safe as long as there is an economic incentive to perform the cryptographic work of maintaining the chain.

    Writing to the blockchain is relatively expensive. One letter costs 0.00005 US dollars paid to the scriptorium, the machines who write the information to the database. Publishing the text you are reading right now would require a one-time payment of about 60 cents. This is too much for most applications, but Txtblock is meant for the very special kind of information that you want to commit to eternity. Text is compact compared to other media, so the cost, according to current market-prices on the Ethereum network, is reasonable and even perhaps a desirable feature adding a threshold you have to cross to go from private to public.

    Format: limits and aesthetics

    Txtblock is designed for publishing of pure text. In this sense, it exists in the lineage of the typographic book.

    Why not images, video, or other rich media? There is value in limitations. It makes the creative possibilities more apparent. To avoid the slippery slope of adding features we propose a strict, minimal framework: unicode symbols displayed in a monospace font laid out in 64-character lines. In this way, we construct a strict grid where letters line up horizontally and vertically, giving the writer a rudimentary but predictable control of the layout. The block exists at the intersection of concrete poetry and code. The interface is strictly typographic with all of the design encapsulated in an open-source monospace, fixed-width font.

    Current open ebook formats like ePub try to adapt the book concept to things that are not a good fit for it (interactivity, variable content), making ebooks an inferior version of already existing forms (websites, games, apps). Other formats are simply ways of commodifying information and locking it to a proprietary platform such as Apple’s iBook or Amazon’s Kindle.

    We think that the fixed nature of the book serves a purpose today, and will keep on serving it in the future. This is, in contrast with many other forms of communication, as sharply defined units of information that, once published, once bound, are permanently frozen. Books are objects you can point to, discuss, and criticize. This core is what we call the block.

    Conclusion: The Plan and the Network

    What does the blockchain look like? A hovering, glowing network diagram? A cloud? The Google-approved material-design color scheme? Is it gold, silver, or the color of oil? A pile of coins? A tower of Babel built in Lego?

    Physically, it is mining units lined up in warehouses in China or north of the Arctic circle in Sweden, or amateur machines spinning away on drying racks in repurposed guest rooms. Functionally, it is block stacked on block stacked on block, each one locking the previous one in place.

    “We need to posit a collectively controlled legitimate vertical authority in addition to distributed horizontal forms of sociality, to avoid becoming the slaves of either a tyrannical totalitarian centralism or a capricious emergent order beyond our control. The  command of The Plan must be married to the improvised order of The Network.”

    – Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek, "#ACCELERATE MANIFESTO," 2013.

    The blockchain could be the Merkle Tree that enables the rhizome, the necessary hierarchical, vertical element providing control and coordination in an open system.

    The current web is based on a business model of spying on users and selling the information. We believe we are at a very interesting point where a combination of blockchain technology with peer-to-peer file systems gives us the necessary tools to reinvent the web, opening possibilities to other models beyond giant data centers, Amazon Allowance, and walled gardens. Txtblock is an experiment in this direction.


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    On Rhizome's front page this week is Shelley Jackson's my body - a Wunderkammer (1997), a semi-autobiographical hypertext narrative that combines text and image in an exploration of a personal bodily history. Clicking on areas of a white-on-black woodcut-style portrait of a woman's body brings up pages dedicated to specific body parts—the elbow, hip, toenail, or a tattoo—with first-person anecdotes and meditations.

    The work reflects a broader 1990s tendency toward feminist autobiography in hypertext literature. In her 1999 article "Wired Women Writing," for example, Laura Sullivan argued that hypertext's fragmented, multilinear qualities built on this existing literary tradition, which had the potential to "connect the feminist call to value women's personal experience with both the postmodern belief that discourse produces our understandings of our 'selves' and the materialist feminist recognition that our experiences are situated in history..."

    Jackson's piece is also part of Collection: Hypertext, a curated selection of works from the Rhizome ArtBase. View the ArtBase entry for my body - A Wunderkammer here.

     


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    Today's web browsers want to be invisible, merging with the visual environment of the desktop in an effort to convince users to treat "the cloud" as just an extension of their hard drive. In the 1990s, browser design took nearly the opposite approach, using iconography associated with travel to convey the feeling of going on a journey. Netscape Navigator, which used a ship's helm as its logo, made a very direct link with the nautical origins of the prefix cyber-, while Internet Explorer’s logo promised to take the user around the whole globe. This imagery reinforced the idea that the web was a very different kind of space from the "real world," one where the usual laws and taxes shouldn't apply.

    As the browser environment has changed, users' experiences of the web have been altered in ways that are subtle but significant. This doesn't apply only to iconography, but to how users see and interact with web pages, and even to the very idea of the “web page.” HTML tags are deprecated, drop-down menus are redesigned, plugins are no longer supported; even the most well-preserved page may be subject to quite drastic change over time. (Luckily, the HTTP protocol, which serves as the foundation of the web, has been pretty much unchanged since its initial release.)

    Today, Rhizome is excited to share a sneak preview of oldweb.today, a groundbreaking new tool developed by Ilya Kreymer in conjunction with Dragan Espenschied that allows users to browse public web archives in a recreation of a legacy browser of their choice.

    On the front page, oldweb.today is demonstrated using Jan Robert Leegte’s [untitled]scrollbars (2000). Leegte's work is a composition for the web browser that makes use of frames, which allow multiple HTML documents to be displayed side by side in a single window. In Leegte's work, the browser window is divided into a series of frames with no content apart from background color, all of them sporting scrollbars. Visiting Leegte’s work through a range of web browsers from different time periods allows users to understand the impact that the browser environment has on the experience of the web.

    Once you've done that, you can check out Yahoo's home page from October 1996, using Internet Explorer 4.01; relive the heyday of the blink tag with JODI's %20Location on Navigator 4.08 for Windows; delve into the archived hyperlinks of Heath Bunting's readme. Or just enter any a web address, select your preferred browser, and set a target date for archived content; oldweb.today will check sites like Internet Archive for the closest match.

    oldweb.today is in many ways similar to Rhizome's efforts with bwFLA’s Emulation as a Service, which emulates legacy computer systems on the server side. (To emulate computer software is to run other software that imitates it, often so that old programs will run on new computers. For a primer on emulation and preservation, see David Rosenthal’s Emulation & Virtualization as Preservation Strategies.) When Rhizome republished Theresa Duncan’s influential but long-neglected 1990s CD-ROM games with Emulation as a Service, each user was allocated a dedicated CPU on Google’s Compute Cloud that was running a version of Macintosh System 7.5. Oldweb.today offers a similar experience: it also give the user on-demand access to complex software environments, and it also opens a window onto the graphical user interface of legacy computer systems. But instead of emulating entire computer systems, it uses a pared-down suite of tools to mimic the original versions of the browsers down to the exact pixel, although sound is not yet supported.

    Espenschied explains the distinction as follows:

    Let's start with bwFLA: This is a full-on emulation framework. It emulates old systems on the hardware level via actual emulators, and can do work with all kinds of emulated storage media like diskettes, hard disks, CD-ROMs, and so forth. There are defined interfaces in between emulators, workflows, networked "image archives", etc. It plays sound, can add CRT screen simulation, has a keyboard and network abstraction model, a derivate configuration system, it can be integrated with existing repositories… so, very powerful and accurate. We ran one emulated computer per Google CPU for the Theresa Duncan project.

    oldweb.today on the other hand is a very specialized and lightweight browser-emulation framework. It does one thing very well, connecting legacy browsers with web archives. Apart from the Macintosh Classic part, there is no real hardware emulation going on; instead, there are super-clever set-up Linux computers. Ilya has used the Wine layer for Linux, which offers win32 system calls to Windows programs and also looks remarkably close to Windows! But it is not an actual Windows 98 or Windows 2000 emulator, rather a mix of reverse engineered stuff and freely available bits and pieces that Microsoft accidentally or out of necessity released for free at some point. In our case, this doesn't matter much, it looks good enough! :) The old Linux browsers are put into legacy Window Managers—there is a wide array of options on how to use Linux with a graphical interface—and Ilya found one from the 1990s that still works. :) The Safari browser that looks like a Mac browser with the tooth-gel scrollbars is actually a Windows version Apple released in 2009 to support Safari adoption. But it looks absolutely the same as the OS X version pixel by pixel. To emulate OS X would be very difficult and use up lots of resources, if we're just interested in the web: no need to do that! :)

    Since there is no need to emulate any hardware (and the Macintosh Classic emulator is super-lightweight), it is possible to run multiple sessions per CPU on the Amazon Cloud: this is more like opening several browsers at the same time on a laptop than running several laptops.

    Visit oldweb.today to re-enact the early web in numerous, carefully staged environments.


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  • 12/01/15--07:36: Review: The Wrong Biennale
  • Criticism is a feedback loop. Artists have long considered the internet as a context in which to exhibit their work, and in the past few years, an increasing number of organizations and platforms have come forth to show art online in new, sophisticated ways. The field of art criticism has been slow to follow. Rhizome's Reviews strand, now under the editorial leadership of Orit Gat, is an attempt to close this gap, commissioning art critics to consider artworks and exhibitions presented online.

    As a critic better accustomed to appraising IRL exhibitions, the experience of navigating the Wrong Biennale serves as a reminder of how reliant I am on a checklist of criteria premised upon the transformation of space. How is it changed by the objects/sounds/images within it? Are the various works in an exhibition arranged so as to establish a coherent network of relations? How effectively does the information carried within the work of art charge the material in which it is invested? Do the conditions of the space enhance or compromise the work exhibited within it? A first attempt to engage with the digital art biennial, in which I spent several hours schlepping round the various “virtual pavilions,” was frustrating precisely because the expectation of a comparably immersive experience was misguided. Beyond the edges of my laptop remained visible a cup of cooling tea, an accusatory stack of unread books, and several cheap reproductions of canonical works of art; the space remained resolutely untransformed. Having abandoned this approach, I found myself over the coming days checking regularly back in to the Wrong’s homepage, clicking through to a curated space in which I’d spend perhaps a few minutes before returning to other work. Woven into my daily life, these works were framed in space by my domestic environment and in time by my browsing before and after each visit.

    Georges Jacotey, Neutrality (2015)

    The Utopia Internet Dystopia pavilion, curated by Valentina Fois, invited artists to “share their thoughts” on whether the internet is “utopian, dystopian, or in the middle.” It’s a vague curatorial principle, but the works generated in response do illustrate some points salient to the changing ways that we think about the internet as a site for the exhibition and sale of art. Georges Jacotey contributes Neutrality, an online flier advertising a future online performance. Visitors have the option of clicking on a Paypal button to buy an edition of said performance—the promotional images for which suggest a sledgehammer-subtle satire on Marina Abramovic and Andrea Fraser—thereby helping to “further fetishize the concept of ownership of performance art.” The joke is a little tired, but I was intrigued to read the legal conditions of purchase, with documentation limited to “screen and video grabs” that should “exist only as memorabilia and proof of the performance but not for exhibition purposes.” In its simultaneous acknowledgement and denial of complicity in a commercial system, Neutrality is an example of a wider conflict in the biennial between defiant adherence to a loosely politicized notion of digital art’s authenticity, and a craving for further art-historical legitimacy. It also epitomizes an anxiety, palpable throughout the biennial, about the consequences of failure to establish new, more ethical systems for the distribution and sale of online art, with the co-option of performance art by the market held up as a cautionary tale.

    Leah Beeferman, ELECTRONIC STRUCTURES (2015)

    That the internet—like any other context for communication and interaction—is patently neither utopian nor dystopian is illuminated by the “Toggle” exhibition platform used in Leah Beeferman’s ELECTRONIC STRUCTURES. Authored by the collective neverhitsend, Toggle “is a customized Chrome browser plugin that allows users to overlay content atop any already existing web page, creating a hidden metapage of text, images, hyperlinks, and other information that is only visible to those with the plugin installed.” The effect is a palimpsestic, collaged, graffiti browsing experience, and the imposition of an “invisible” tier reminded me of the urban environment described in China Mieville’s 2009 book The City and the City, in which two segregated but heavily surveilled populations occupy the same space without ever interacting, each having learnt to “unsee” the other.

    It’s usual in biennials, with their diversity of artists and approaches, to stumble across something utterly strange, and the Wrong Biennale delivers an exceptionally high number of such moments. One is the erratic Konstortium pavilion, which plays host to an unaccountably hypnotizing 1’04’’ video of a deer masticating (Ilavenil Jayapalan’s Samādhi, 2015) and another “performance/video” in which California-based artist Sarah Mirakhorli spins herself round in a chair while staring down the camera (what i rly do all day, 2015). As with all biennials, there is too much to see, but even in this context the variation in quality is remarkably wide. The organizers make much of the Wrong being the “biggest ever” biennial in terms of work included, with more than 90 curators inviting artists to participate. When you include those artists showing in the biennial's "open pavilions", the number of participants swells to over 1,000. Whether you ascribe this to inclusivity or curatorial laziness might depend on your broader ideological attitudes to online behavior.

     Konstortium pavilion (2015)

    The way we consume images today is the subject of Ways of Something, Lorna Mills’s engrossing re-appropriation of John Berger’s influential BBC television lecture, then book, Ways of Seeing (1972). The video consists of 114 one-minute segments, each produced by a separate artist Mills invited to respond to Berger’s populist, class-conscious, iconoclastic attack on the fetishization of painting in the wake of the photograph. Mills has stitched together this panoply of 3D renderings, GIFs, webcam performances, and appropriated media, to create a remarkably seamless (and yet thrillingly eclectic) visual accompaniment to Berger’s lisping sermon on an era in which “the images come to you, you do not go to them. The days of pilgrimage are over.” Sound familiar?

    Of the camera, Berger famously said that it “changed paintings painted long before it was invented,” and Mills’s collage reminds us that the perspectives offered by new media change our reading not only of the present but also of the past. Rather than erecting a barrier in time—1989, say—between the pre-internet past and the presumed post-internet present, we should acknowledge that the history of images is a continuum, our perspective on which is fixed by the social, political, and technological circumstances of our time. The rather chastening implication is that critics should be reading IRL exhibitions from the perspective of contemporary digital culture, rather than vice versa.

    Ilavenil Jayapalan, Samādhi (2015)

    Featured image: Kim Asendorf and Ole Fach, stills from Lorna Mills' Ways of Seeing Episode 3 (2014), courtesy the artists.

     


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