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  • 02/19/13--08:22: A Queer History of Computing
  • This is the first post in a series on the queer history of computing, as traced through the lives of five foundational figures. It is both an attempt to make visible those parts of a history that are often neglected, erased, or forgotten, and an effort to question the assumption that the technical and the sexual are so easily divided.

    Alan Turing, Letter to Dr. N. A. Routledge, AMT/D/14A Turing Archive

    There are many ways of telling the history of universal computation, and many origins of the technologies we now consider computational machines. A longer history might begin with Gottfried Leibnitz and Isaac Newton's simultaneous development of modern calculus and the dream of a universal artificial mathematical language. Alternately, we might look to the history of calculating machines, beginning with Charles Babbage's Difference Engine or Herman Hollerith's Electric Sorting and Tabulating Machine.

    Most every history would certainly include the contributions of Alan Turing, an English mathematician who is considered by many to be the father of computer science. In his relatively short career Turing formalized such concepts as "algorithm" and "computation," he helped crack the Nazi Enigma Machine during the Second World War, was a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence, and developed early research on such concepts as neural netsmorphogenesis, and mathematical biology. Turing was also an openly gay man who, in January of 1952 was convicted of Gross Indecency by the British government under the 1885 Labouchere Amendment, made to undergo chemical castration, and ultimately committed suicide in June of 1954.[i] The subject of numerous books, films, and works of art, Turing is perhaps the most widely recognized computer scientist in the field's short history. He is also the most recognizable queer figure in this history. As such, it is necessary to begin with Turing, not simply for the visibility of his difference, but for the fundamental role he played in defining the limits of computation, and the possibility to look beyond those limits in identifying a queer history of computing.

    Homosexuality was by no means unheard of in England at the start of the 20th century, and by some accounts it seems to have been common practice among many college-aged students in elite universities such as Cambridge, which did not admit women until 1948.[ii] Still, homosexual activity had been explicitly illegal since the end of the 19th century, when it was famously used in a pair of legal cases against Oscar Wilde beginning in 1885, leading to his imprisonment and eventual exile in 1897.[iii] Given this legal status, what is most striking about Turing is how open he was with his sexuality, which seems to have been common knowledge among friends and colleagues. As Elizabeth Wilson notes in Affect and Artificial Intelligence, Turing's relationship to his sexuality seems to be less one of repression and shame, and more a kind of naïve amusement. If this attitude was not shared by others at the time, it was at the very least tolerated among Turing's friends and associates.

    Donald Michie, one of Turing's wartime colleagues at Bletchley Park,[iv] recalls that "Bletchley had some flamboyant homosexuals,"[v] and that, despite the assumption that homosexuality would be considered a national security risk due to blackmail and other threats, it does not seem to have impeded Turing's work for the government, at least not during the war. For many in those days, homosexuality was an open secret, if it was kept secret at all.”[vi] But while Turing's sexuality is not in dispute, the effect it may have had on his life and work is much more speculative.

    Alan Turing and Christopher Morcom, 1928

    Turing's earliest and strongest romantic interest was with a young man he met at school named Christopher Morcom.[vii] Morcom, like Turing, was an aspiring scientist and mathematician, and Turing viewed him as both a peer and an inspiration, and as someone with whom he might share a budding enthusiasm for the technical world. While any romantic feelings Turing may have felt appear to have been unrequited, the two developed a powerful friendship. On February 7, 1930, two years after meeting Turing at University, Morcom fell ill with bovine tuberculosis, and passed away six days later on Feb 13. On the night of February 7, Turing recalls having a premonition of Morcom's death, at the very instant that he was taken ill and felt that this was something beyond what science could explain.[viii]

    The death of Morcom would have a profound effect on Turing, particularly in shaping his views on religion, mortality, and the materiality of the soul. Turing had been a harsh critic of determinism, and with the death of Morcom he hoped to find a way to account for concepts such as free will and the spirit in a grounded, material way. It is this philosophical disjuncture that would lead Turing to theorize the limits of procedural knowledge, a concept that is central to his definition of computation in On Computable Numbers. To suggest that it was his unrequited love for a young man that inspired Turing to engage the questions that would establish a definition of computation would be facile, but to ignore the significance of these details parses what is technologically significant in such a way so as to exclude the personal, the emotional, and the sexual.

    Surprisingly, there are few serious treatments of Turing as a queer figure,[ix] perhaps due to the difficulty in applying anachronistic language to historical figures such as Turing, or because in many ways Turing's work does not immediately lend itself to a radical queering. While we might argue that computers have come to play an important role in the formation, organization, and articulation of modern queer identity, this may have less to do with some aspect of computation that is inherently queer, and more to do with the broad indifference of these technologies toward such distinctions and the ease with which they facilitate contact and produce community.

    Still, it is significant that one of the foundational figures in the modern history of computing was an openly gay man. We know more about the details of Turing's private life than any other figure in this history, due no doubt to his exceptional significance as both a scientist and a homosexual, categories that we cannot easily separate.


    Turing's biography is no doubt familiar to many, particularly in the year following innumerable events celebrating the centenary of his birth, and a very public campaign for a posthumous apology for Turing's treatment by the British government following his arrest. Perhaps less familiar, though, is the genealogy of influence that radiates out from Turing, and which includes several foundational figures in the history of computing, all of whom were queer men.[x] These men were friends and acquaintances, mentors and colleagues, each driven by a passion for mathematics and the emerging field of computer science. As I will show, it is unclear what knowledge, if any, each had of the other's sexuality, or what effect such knowledge may have had on their relationships both professional and personal. Nonetheless, it is significant that such a connection exists, and in this connection lies the beginnings of a speculative history of queer computing, beginning at the very origins of computation itself.

    Still, this connection is in part a fabrication, an attempt to make narrative that which largely escapes history. For most historians of technology, questions of sexuality are irrelevant to the technical achievements of an individual, and while queer historical work exists for significant literary and cultural figures, very little work has been done on queer figures in the history of technology. This may be due to the guarded lives these men led, and an almost total lack of personal biographical information available in existing historical accounts. Even the archives of these figures are in many cases lacking, as material relevant to the personal lives of these men is often excluded or withheld.

    This division between the personal and technical is significant, and with few exceptions these men seem to have internalized this distinction, living lives that moved between worlds both public and private. These men lived in times radically different than our own, times in which the contexts and dispositions surrounding homosexuality were undergoing dramatic transformation. Just as computers evolve over the course of the twentieth century from simple tabulating machines to complex, interactive, expressive systems, homosexuality is also transformed and recoded, burdened with visibility and identity.

    What then is the significance of the sexuality of these men? Why should we insist that they be remembered not only for their technical achievements, but as part of a broader queer genealogy? In part we may hope that, by incorporating them into the history of queer struggles for recognition and visibility, we recuperate and validate a part of their lives that was deliberately hidden. As historian Heather Love suggests, "by including queer figures from the past in a positive genealogy of gay identity, we make good on their suffering, transforming their shame into pride after the fact."[xi] Yet in doing so, Love argues, we erase the negative dimension that profoundly affects queer historical subjects. Theirs is not necessarily a history of pride and redemption; often it is a history of shame and even death. Rather than ignore this contradiction, my hope is to foreground it. It is in the disjunction between the professional and personal lives of these men, in the apparent incompatibility of sexuality and computation that I hope to develop a queer capacity within the history of computing.

    Over the coming weeks I will be constructing a queer history as told through the figures of five men, each of whom is connected by a thread that runs from the early philosophy of mathematics, through the foundation of the Gay Liberation Front, and to contemporary debates over the life and legacy of Alan Turing. However the goal of this project is not biographical; it is not my hope to simply identify existing queer figures in the history of computing as an inclusive gesture, as a way of queering history by simply demonstrating that, as in all parts of life, queer people were there. Instead I hope to suggest that queerness is itself inherent within computational logic, and that this queerness becomes visible when we investigate those cleavages that partition the lives of these men into distinct technical and sexual spheres of existence. Ultimately I hope to show that there exists a structuring logic to computational systems that, while nearly totalizing, does not account for all forms of knowledge, and which excludes certain acts, behaviors, and modes of being. By situating this work historically, we can address computation from those early moments of experimentation and emergence before the field crystallizes into a discipline and an ideology. In doing so we discover a kind of liminal technical space of something not yet actualized. Finally it is my hope that through this history we can disturb the archive and begin to draw new connections between the personal and the technical. While it may not be possible to argue that the queerness of these men and of this history is what shapes present day computing technology, in establishing an existing queer history of computing we might critique the tendency to rend the one from the other.

    [i] This is not to suggest that Turing's conviction was directly responsible for his suicide. In fact it is not entirely clear that his death was a suicide at all. While the hormone treatments he was made to undergo may seem horrific, Turing seemed to take a lighthearted approach to his predicament. While his death by cyanide poisoning – presumably from an apple found on his bedside table – was ruled a suicide, his mother insisted it was a simple mishandling of laboratory chemicals.

    [ii] The homosocial environment of British University life is documented in numerous fictional texts of the time, several of which were written by authors of the Bloomsbury group such as E. M. Forster and Lytton Strachey. Perhaps most notable among these is E. M. Forster's Maurice, a love story of two men written between 1912-13 but published posthumously in 1971. Other more contemporary examples include Julian Mitchell's play Another Country (1983), later adapted into a feature length film (1984).

    [iii] Sex between men had been illegal in England since as early as the Buggery Act of 1533, but the Labouchere Amendment made all forms of homosexual contact between men a punishable offense.

    [iv] Bletchley Park was the estate that housed the National Codes Centre during World War II, and was the site at which the British broke the Nazi Enigma Code with the help of Turing.

    [v] He continues, "The most flamboyant case was Angus Wilson – he later became a very successful novelist – and he had a boyfriend called Beverly. Angus was about that high [indicating small] with flowing yellow hair (l remember it went white later) and Beverly (I forget his second name) was very 'weed-like': very tall. They could be seen shambling along the horizon, a daily sight, as they look their walk around lawns alter lunch." Quoted in: Lee, John A. N. and Golde Holtzman, "50 Years After Breaking the Codes: interviews with Two of the Bletchley Park Scientists" IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, Spring 1995, Vol. 17 No. 1, p. 38.

    [vi] It seems important to note that, as with much of British society at the time, there is a very particular class dynamic at work here, in which the upper class is often given more leeway with the law and among their peers. Of course this kind of homosexual behavior was not particular to the upper classes, and in fact homosexuality often facilitated a form of cross-class sexual contact.

    [vii] Hodges, Andrew. Alan Turing: The Enigma. London: Random House Publishing (1992) p. 35.

    [viii] Hodges. Ibid. p. 45.

    [ix] This is not to suggest that Turing's sexuality is not widely acknowledged and discussed. Andrew Hodges – Turing's biographer, archivist, and a renowned mathematician himself – deals with Turing's sexuality explicitly in his writing, going so far as to speculate on the ways in which it may have motivated his personal and professional life. Elizabeth Wilson also deals with Turing's queerness in Affect and Artificial Intelligence (2010), though it is through the lens of affect theory and in regards to Turing's contributions to the field of AI. Turing is dealt with most explicitly as a queer subject in Jeremy Douglass' Machine Writing and the Turing Test which explores the implications of the Turing test in terms of gender "passing."

    [x] Many queer women also make up the history of computing, though they are not connected directly to Turing through this particular genealogy. Lynn Conway is one such figure, who was an early pioneer in the American computing industry, studying at MIT in the 1950s and working for IBM in the 1960s. She would go on to make fundamental contributions to the revolution in Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) design in the 1980s, and in 1999 would become an activist for transgender rights and visibility.

    [xi] Love, Heather. Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (2009) p. 32.

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  • 02/20/13--09:29: An Interview with Metahaven
  • Metahaven in collaboration with IMMI, Data / Saga, digital models and sketches, 2013

    I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about the foundations and origin of Metahaven.

    Metahaven is a strategic graphic design agency. We make anything between a conference, a publication, an interview, a product, a visual identity, a policy document, or a set of floating appearances on the Internet. We are not only interested in the development of hypothetical image, but also in its realization. Some of our projects are an identity proposal for the Principality of Sealand, which is an off-shore micronation which played an iconic role as a “data haven” during the late 1990s dotcom boom. In 2010 we released Uncorporate Identity—a design book for our dystopian age. Some parts of Uncorporate Identity were about dismantling and attacking the “brand state”—the notion of promoting or creating reputations for countries—and by proxy, about dismantling branding itself. We have also attacked and criticized Joseph Nye’s notion of “soft power”—the power to attract—which is arguably the only political concept which branding has ever heard of. One of our upcoming projects is a collaboration with the Iceland-based think tank IMMI, thinking up a set of images and messages for the excellent and forward-thinking legal, energy, and social environment which Iceland has created for internet and cloud hosting. We recently interviewed two people who are involved in this: Eleanor Saitta and Smári McCarthy. Both of them work for IMMI.

    Metahaven in collaboration with IMMI, Data / Saga, digital models and sketches, 2013

    You've spoken of current conceptions of branding a processes of consolidation as opposed to differentiation. In a post on your Tumblr related to an exhibition at the Museum of Display in Antwerp, you write that the process of assigning identity is "a surface or screen by which an organization mirrors its surroundings, both in the physical space as well as in information space." In an article you wrote about 4 years ago in e-flux, which was also published in Uncorporate Identity, you suggested that state branding had to become "more concerned with both the structural standardization implied by network power and a pluralistic understanding of decentralized and distributed political alternatives being developed on various scales." How do you feel design and branding can function to create a multiplicitous understanding of identities that operate within political contexts?

    Metahaven, Uncorporate Identity, Lars Müller Publishers, 2010

    A brand is a socially and economically sustained form of prejudice. Branding is the management of first impressions, and to that end, it is inherently deceitful. To establish the few initial thoughts people have about something is a very hard thing to accomplish by design, but is swiftly and almost irreversibly done by uncontrollable events; reputations literally shift overnight. The main way in which branding has been embodied in politics is through the concept of soft power. As the Innocence of Muslims YouTube video showed, American soft power can be affected, inversed even, overnight, by only a handful of pixels.

    Not soft power, but “network power” should be regarded as the structural force behind presence and identity. This idea, which is explored in more detail in Uncorporate Identity, takes globalization as a process unfolding through various standards: of communication, exchange, payment, travel, language, etc. Such standards both enable and limit actors in their agency and choice of alternatives. Importantly, such network standards are ultimately predominant over the positive or negative emotions associated with particular actors in or on the network. In the case of the Innocence of Muslims video, for example, American soft power is volatile, while its network power—YouTube—is stable. In other words, the network power is a prerequisite to even have soft power.

    In Brand States we argued that “[s]tate branding ultimately requires a new paradigm that goes beyond soft power—one less focused on promotion and indeed more concerned with both the structural standardization implied by network power and a pluralistic understanding of decentralized and distributed political alternatives being developed on various scales.”

    This is indeed what one would expect of an independent and forward-looking state.

    In soft power, allegedly no coercion is necessary for a state to achieve desired outcomes. It can achieve these same outcomes by being attractive. State branding thus purports it can make a state look more attractive and legitimate by more carefully organizing the first impression—or prejudice—held about that state by relevant others. It is of particular interest to us how Western branding and PR firms acted as middle men in doing this authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, Libya being the most glaring example.

    The Future Of Soft Power Depends On A Handful Of Pixels, from Metahaven, Disposable Imagecraft, 2012

    Anomie, from Metahaven, Disposable Imagecraft, 2012

    How did that practice in Libya play out?

    Via Qaddafi’s glamorous playboy heir Saif, the regime “included” its own self-criticism. Monitor, a Boston-based lobbying firm, was hired by Qaddafi to boost the country’s image. Monitor then “provided advice” (er, co-wrote) Saif Qaddafi's PhD thesis at the London School of Economics (LSE) and brokered relations for him with influential thinkers in the West. All this happened in a covert way. Saif thanks Joseph Nye, the Harvard professor who coined the concept of soft power, for helping him out with his thesis writing, which is coincidentally largely about soft power. In 2007, Nye visited Libya, on the invitation of and paid for by Monitor. For The National Review, Nye reported about his trip, and shed a somewhat favorable light on Saif’s father, mentioning that “[…] Qaddafi has long been seen as a bad boy in the West. Yet, in recent years, Qaddafi has appeared to be changing. He still wants to project Libyan power, but he is going about it differently than in decades past. Where once he had tried to bully and even overthrow governments to his south, now he is hosting peace talks on Darfur. Where once he sought weapons of mass destruction, now he has abandoned his nuclear program. These moves have paid off: A decade ago Libya was subject to U.N. Security Council sanctions; recently, the United States raised no objection to Libya being seated on the Security Council. Qaddafi, in other words, seems to have become interested in soft power—the art of projecting influence through attraction rather than coercion.”

    Funny video of Joseph Nye getting his ass kicked!!!.flv, screen shots from YouTube video, From Metahaven, Disposable Imagecraft, 2012

    So, what happens is this: the inventor of soft power gets paid to write that Qaddafi is now doing soft power. Mother Jones found that Nye indeed visited Libya as a paid consultant for Monitor. Nye admitted to this in an e-mail to the magazine. Four years later, when it had become apparent to him that “Qaddafi's departure is the only change that will work in Libya,” Nye posthumously belittled his own role in Saif’s PhD: “... at the request of a friend, I read one chapter that referred to soft power, something I have done for many who have written about that topic. Otherwise, I was not involved in his thesis and know nothing about the controversy about it that the London School of Economics is now investigating.”

    Saif mentions “a number of experts with whom I met and who consented to read portions of the manuscript and provide advice and direction, especially Professor Joseph Nye.” Nye says he was only in contact with Saif through “a friend.” Saif maintains he met with Nye in person, who provided him with advice and direction. Saif deals with soft power in two chapters, which together span over one third of the thesis.

    Saif’s thesis claimed that “[t]he improved human rights record in Libya is in part due to the campaign by the Qaddafi Foundation and other international human rights NGOs.”[1] The snake bites its own tail again: the Qaddafi Foundation was Saif’s own charity organization and boutique outfit for the Libyan regime, which also became a London School of Economics funding agent. Now defunct, it was an instrument to wield soft power for the dictator’s family. Not just the charity’s activities but also Saif’s thesis paper should be taken for what they are: a concerted nation branding campaign underpinned by the hard power of cash money. Soft power here is not founded on attraction, but on economic and military interests, re-packaged like credit default swaps.

    Saif Al Islam Qaddafi feat. Joseph Nye—Rivers of Blood.flv, screen shots from YouTube video, from Metahaven, Disposable Imagecraft, 2012

    In that same piece on Tumblr, you mention that "Space taken up by pseudo-originary forms and shapes supposedly rendering an organization visible amidst a firestorm of signs and signals, would be much better used if organizations dared not to be original." This reminded me of something I read in Buñuel's autobiography, where he says everything original is a cliche by default. I'm wondering if you can talk about this concept of un-originality. What are its origins for you? Do you see it functioning in other facets of creative production?

    By saying just that we simply meant that a lot of what organizations are about is embedded in their context. They are not these unique, sovereign forms, at least not anymore. In a sense every work based on the Internet, or inspired by it, is opposed against the idea of originality. Everything in and of the Internet is a stimulus package for the endlessly derivative, in the same way that a mirror image is a derivative of an original. Not a copy, but a mirror.

    A Veil That Is A Network, from Metahaven, Disposable Imagecraft, 2012

    How does your understanding of that ability relate to your conception of memes and jokes that are "supercharged by social media," as outlined by Daniel in his talk at Typo Berlin?

    It is basically a story about jokes as political and design objects, which we're currently making into an e-book for Strelka Press—the publishing branch of the Moscow-based architecture and design space. A meme is not always a joke, but a very good joke is almost always a meme. A joke is a form of resistance. We are looking at jokes as cascades; can jokes trigger the takedown of a political order by cascading its ridiculousness? The idea of the joke and the meme is also related to the dissolution of the older idea of “graphic design” as an activity on a meaningful political and social scale; it is the dissolution of the societal middle ground institutions and the welfare state which has triggered the demise of graphic design in that role. It is with the internet as an amplifier that this perspective can be suddenly liberating. The way memes form and spread on the internet gives us living, ever-changing proof of how a global medium can develop its specific sense of “humor” (medium-specific, we mean). Ethan Zuckerman's cute cat theory of political activism is one source for our thesis; other sources (eclectically chosen) are Desiderius Erasmus, Monty Python, George Clinton, Beppe Grillo, and such.

    Metahaven, Signal (Murcia), fruit stickers for Ecoagricultoras de Murcia, courtesy Manifesta8, Murcia/Cartagena, 2010

    Your current project, 0. Democracy Without Secrets, utilizes structures of social media networks to incite users to interact more readily with government. Transparency is a contemporary catchword you've spoken of before. How does your project relate to contemporary forms of transparency supposedly enacted by governments, corporations, and other organizations?

    Democracy Without Secrets is the logical end conclusion of the failing legitimacy of our democratic governments: that they are not at all democratic. We need to return to an idea of democracy that is more fundamental and real. The idea—which interacts with a new Freedom of Information Act currently in the works in the Netherlands—is that instead of request-based FOIA, there is a database with government documents and a list of all documents that exist. This we call the “leaking State.” Nulpunt or 0., a project together with the artist Jonas Staal, is projected as a mix between WikiLeaks and Twitter, in that it organizes users socially around the information in that database (note: Iceland, Estonia and Norway already have automatically disclosed databases); they can “subscribe” to document streams a bit like an RSS feed and they can lift chunks of text out of these documents to discuss or simply just highlight, and “broadcast” these via social media. FOIA is not just for investigative journalists but for everyone. Nulpunt/0.—initiated and developed by Metahaven together with the artist Jonas Staal—is not just a transparency website but a fundamental piece of political reform. It is founded on the idea that legitimate democracy is a democracy without secrets, incorporating WikiLeaks-like mechanisms, techniques and paradigms into governance.

    The images that go along with your ongoing "Captives of the Cloud" series on e-flux are quite striking. While they work in tandem with the text, it would be reductive to call them illustrations. How do you conceive of the relationship between your texts and images? How do certain concepts and histories -- like "The Mubarak 'kill switch' which took Egypt off the internet in January, 2011" -- become visualized and designed?

    We are not necessarily big fans of data visualization. On the other hand when something is written that is supposed to be informative, there could be a need for a visual counterpart to that writing that helps the information come across. We’ve had different responses to the Captives of the Cloud pictures—one Icelandic programmer recently asked “if we used MS Paint to make them.” (We didn’t.)

    With those Captives images it was fun to come up with titles for them, like “Extrajudicial Dislike, “Embargo-on-Demand,” or “Twittertrace.” They are a bit like cartoons or comics more than just visualizations. It’s always a lot of work getting the information together and as soon as one graphic is finished it feels outdated within a day or two... so it is really frustrating at the same time. Data visualization gives people sometimes a strong feeling of understanding about an issue; like “let’s map the financial crisis up to the millisecond.” What you get is that this visualization becomes its own entertainment; rather than uniting against the bankers, we look at graphs about them... rather than putting financial fraudsters in jail we are entertained by interactive maps that show who they’re connected to... The use of intentionally primitive, cartoon-like visuals is a bit of a response to this “all-encompassing” cockpit infographic.

    Metahaven, Guantánamo Bay Manual t-shirt, 2011

    Finally, can you tell me about the scarves and t-shirts you designed for WikiLeaks last year?

    An artistic collaboration in 2010 and 2011 with the controversial but essential whistleblowing website WikiLeaks began as a redesign of their “visual identity,” but became a project where we made scarves and t-shirts as products which WikiLeaks could sell. Most recently, these scarves and t-shirts are being displayed (and sold) at Artists Space in New York as part of the group show Frozen Lakes. We designed these products for WikiLeaks as a way to support them, and WikiLeaks sold these items through an online auction and subsequent sales events. A blockade by major financial institutions prevents the site from receiving public donations. We've designed a range of scarves, which, as semi-transparent cloaks, were meant to speak to a combination of secrecy and transparency; their lettering and patterning speak to scarves as black market items sold in a global zone of anarchy and free trade. Then there's a range of t-shirts with each shirt simply printing “WikiLeaks” (in a wavy Times New Roman) and the date and title of an important leak.

    Metahaven is an Amsterdam-based design collective on the cutting blade between politics and aesthetics. Founded by Vinca Kruk and Daniel van der Velden, Metahaven's work—both commissioned and self-directed—reflects political and social issues through research-driven design, and design-driven research. Research projects included the Sealand Identity Project, and currently include Iceland as Method. Clients include Droog Design, Tensta konsthall, Bloomberg Businessweek, Luma Foundation, Sternberg Press, Van Abbemuseum, and Valiz. Solo exhibitions include Affiche Frontière (CAPC musée d'art contemporain de Bordeaux, 2008) and Stadtstaat (Künstlerhaus Stuttgart/Casco, 2009), and Islands in th Cloud (MoMA PS1, 2013). Group exhibitions include Forms of Inquiry (AA London, 2007, cat.), Manifesta8 (Murcia, 2010, cat.), the Gwangju Design Biennale 2011 (Gwangju, Korea, cat.), Graphic Design: Now In Production (Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2011, and Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, New York, 2012, cat.), The New Public (Museion, Bolzano, 2012, cat.), and Frozen Lakes (Artists Space, New York, 2013). Metahaven's work was published and discussed in The International Herald Tribune, The New York Times, Huffington Post, Courrier International, Icon, Domus, Dazed, The Verge, l'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui, and Mute, among other publications. Vinca Kruk is a Tutor of Editorial Design and Design Critique at ArtEZ Academy of Arts in Arhem. Daniel van der Velden is a Senior Critic at the Graphic Design MFA program at Yale University, and a Tutor of Design at the Sandberg Instituut Amsterdam. In 2010, Metahaven released Uncorporate Identity, a design anthology for our dystopian age, published by Lars Müller.

    [1] Qaddafi, 385.

    0 0

    A Tour of the AC-1 Transatlantic Submarine Cable (2011)

    Your videos seem to borrow aspects from narrative filmmaking, the documentary format, amateur travelogues, and even at times experimental cinema. What genre(s) of filmmaking do you see yourself following or challenging?

    Well, I don’t really see my videos as being film. One time I tweeted that as an artist I would never let my video work get transferred to film because too much would be lost. It was a joke, but I’m also serious. I mean, it’s hard not to be suspicious of a discipline that has a genre called “experimental.”

    From the perspective of how the work is displayed, I feel my videos are not for the cinema. The movie theater flattens space and immobilizes the viewer. I like that people have to stand in a gallery, that they enter and leave the video at random times.

    This is quite hypothetical, however, because in practice, most of my work is viewed online, where the artist has even less control.

    In your videos you pull images and clips from a variety of sources including Google Street View, web-based image searches, and your own self-shot footage. Your videos range from twenty to thirty minutes in length. How do you structure this footage with the essays that make up your screenplay? How long does it take you to finish a video?

    For Christmas my sister gave me an image from a brain scan she took of a human hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for short- and long-term memory and spatial navigation. The hippocampus looks like a sea horse and its etymology reflects this. The functions of the hippocampus intrigue me.

    During the making of A Tour of the AC-1 Transatlantic Submarine Cable I researched each location extensively. In many of the places, I felt I was not making new pictures, but reproducing ones that already existed. At the other end of the process, in the editing room, I could sometimes not differentiate between “original” and poached images. The internet has changed our relationships to space and memory. Thanks to the Borgesian online mapping projects, we can have memories of places we have never been. This is not new in itself, just more prevalent.

    Each piece takes about a year. After that I forget everything.

    From 2008-2010 you organized Private Circulation, a monthly PDF bulletin distributed via e-mail. Could you describe this project and how it relates to your artistic practice?

    Private Circulation gave me a chance to work with a handful of great artists and editors. My current work would simply not be possible without it.

    Similarly, you’ve long maintained a practice creating static objects, which may seem distinct from your videos that are heavily steeped in text. Are your objects equally influenced by topical research? How do your sculptural and documentary-based practices interrelate?

    In 2010, I moved to Sunset Park and rented a studio on 36th Street. A couple blocks south at Bush Terminal there was an old apple orchard growing in toxic soil. I spent nine months sanding and painting store-bought apples as they rotted beneath the layers of One-Shot sign painter’s enamel, forming complex glossy folds.

    The circumstances that lead up to a work are meaningful. I’ve found that sculpture is largely opaque to its circumstances of production. For instance, I have to tell you about the toxic orchard. If you want a periphery to be part of the work, it must come from outside (viz., a conversation, press release, or wall text). I want to make self-sufficient works—ones that do not require external descriptions. With video I feel I can branch out and include aural and visual images, even sculptures and architectural spaces. I think these recent pieces are sculpture-based documentaries.

    Your new video, Field Visits for Bradley Manning, is the third in a series of videos exploring the physicality of the internet, following Views of a Former Verizon Building (2013) and A Tour of the AC-1 Transatlantic Submarine Cable (2011). Could you describe this new project, and how it builds upon your research in the preceding videos in this series? How many videos will complete this series?

    I think this will be the last in the series. But one never knows.

    Field Visits for Bradley Manning is currently a Kickstarter project and 1.16gb of research. The plan is to visit Kuwait, Virginia, Kansas, and Maryland and to make a travelogue based on the areas surrounding Manning’s geo-detention sites.

    Building out from the associations developed in the previous videos, I’m focusing on the history of fingerprinting, concepts of citizenship, several archeological sites at the delta of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the buffalo soldier, and the National Cryptographic Museum, among other things. I am hoping to also focus on pearl divers, as this was the foundation of Kuwait’s economy before oil. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that all three videos have pearls in them.

    The piece will culminate in a video and an e-book for Klaus Gallery.






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

    I bought my first computer in 2004. It was a white MacBook. The money came from an inheritance from my grandfather, a craftsman, who used to make some of his own tools.

    Describe your experience with the tools you use. How did you start using them? Where did you go to school? What did you study?

    I went to Cornish, a small art school on the West Coast where painters studied Abstract Expressionism. I remember on the first day, we were put into groups and asked questions such as, “Do you feel women are treated equally to men?” I was the only male in the group and the only one who believed men and women were not treated equally. This shocks me still.

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

    I think this is a false distinction. Rather, you have to ask if the medium fits the idea.

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

    No, my artistic practice is my main focus.

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

    Manual labor and repetition held a significant place in my earlier works, such as Exodus (2004), a sculpture where I cast over 100,000 letters and punctuation marks in plaster. I often think of New York City as a labor camp, and am inspired by the oppressive conditions here. But normal day jobs have ceased to interest me. La perruque!

    Who are your key artistic influences?

    Lately: Harun Farocki, Agnes Varda, Chris Marker, W.G. Sebald, William Burroughs, William Carlos Williams, Georges Perec, Aby Warburg, Robert Smithson, Marcel Proust, Thomas Pynchon, Paul Virilio, Bertolt Brecht, Anna Lundh, Keren Cytter, Liz Marker, Trinh Minh-ha, among others.

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

    Not really. Although I enjoy helping other people with their projects. My projects also require help from other people.

    Do you actively study art history?

    No. But I like the idea of actively studying art history.

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

    Again, I like the idea of it. I read criticism and theory maybe once a month. But I can’t say that it inspires me.

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

    I prefer not to.

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    As Digital Preservation Fellow with Rhizome, my work has focused on archiving works of net art from the live web into the ArtBase.  Net art, despite the benefits of being abstract - it rarely gets moldy! - is built on exceptionally fragile media.  A server failure, domain shift, or missing file is enough to effectively destroy a work of art.  As such, to properly preserve the pieces in the ArtBase, I work alongside Ben Fino-Radin to crawl, download, and adjust works for hosting in our archive.  The scope of the ArtBase - from hypertext experiments to Twitter-fed visualizations - brings me in contact with an array of technologies, media, and unexpected use cases.  While nearly every work of net art in the ArtBase founded on HTML, most go beyond it: embedded multimedia is very frequently used for a variety of purposes and effects.  As such, developing a system to download and preserve complex media objects is of tremendous importance to my work.

    One of the most common multimedia formats used in the ArtBase is Flash, dating back to its origins with FutureWave and through its development by Macromedia and Adobe.  Of the myriad formats used in the ArtBase’s collection, SWF is the most prevalent and deeply used multimedia filetype: over a third of the archived works are founded on it.  Its combination of power (few formats offer its combination of browser-driven multimedia and interactivity) and ubiquity on audience machines made it the obvious choice for artists looking to go beyond the HTML and JavaScript-driven net art of the late 1990s. Hence, working with Flash is greatly important to Rhizome’s preservation mission.

    Splash screen, Inflat-O-Scape (2001)

    SWF, as a format, presents a number of challenges for art conservators and archivists.  As a binary format, it cannot be immediately parsed by text-friendly tools (such as web crawlers and text editors), and is thus machine- and human-unreadable.  While SWF media resources are (blessedly) self-contained, Flash can link out of itself - and with no easy method to parse out URLs, these links are functionally invisible.  Worse, the power of Flash allows for the creation of URLs on the fly: ActionScript can be used to generate an arbitrary string, which can then be passed to a resource call.  Thus, even an exhaustive search for external links in a SWF object can miss potentially tens of thousands of necessary files.

    While the outlook for conservation Flash-driven artwork looks bleak, all hope is not lost.  A combination of specialized software, standard text tools, and careful analysis can preserve even the most complex Flash-driven net art.  The primary tool for capturing and treatment of  SWF-based art is the open-source swfmill, a self-described “xml2swf and swf2xml processor with import functionalities.”  In other words, swfmill is able to take plaintext ShockWave File Markup Language (SWFML, an XML-based standard) documents and return compiled SWF objects - and, more importantly, do the opposite.  By converting SWF into XML, we can parse the object as any other text file, via human reading or text manipulation tools.

    Typically, locating URLs is as simple as following a GetURL tag in swfmill’s output.  On occasion, however, this is insufficient - more ambitious works may contain tags such as <GetURL2 method=”64”/>.  While GetURL is used for direct resource calls, GetURL2 instead takes a path stored in memory; typically, from the output of a function.  As such, trying to wget the listed resource is ineffective - few Flash objects have filename 64!  Instead, a conservator must work backwards to try and understand the function’s possible results.  This is best illustrated with a live example, from sign69:

    Here, we can see that there are strings being stored with LA and .swf, the numbers 1 and 1009, some random number being generated, and a resource call being invoked.  Piecing it all together, we can guess that this Flash file is simply a starting point for a random walk through a set of other files, named LA1.swf to LA1009.swf.  By passing this series of files to wget (our web crawler of choice), we were successful in rebuilding the work in the ArtBase.  This highlights the importance of human oversight in conservation:  while automated crawlers that can parse SWF objects do exist, URLs generated as above are invisible to machines.  Only by spending time with the work, and analyzing its structure, can more complex pieces be properly conserved.

    As a non-destructive process, swf2xml does not alter the original file; as an open tool driven by an open standard, its provenance its clear.  This is tremendously important for passing a file into swf2xml, editing it as a text document, and passing it back into xml2swf.  This is necessary for preserving the functionality of works that span multiple domains; by adjusting cross-domain calls from to ../, we can ensure that SWF links will not be broken when imported into the ArtBase.  Given the open documentation of swfmill and SWFML, the process can be reproduced and followed by anyone wishing to audit our process.  As such, future conservators will have no questions about how works in the ArtBase were preserved.

    Looking forward, I suspect that conservation will increasingly resemble this model of careful application of specialized tools and understanding internal mechanics.  Flash has the luxury of fifteen years of use and a near-universal install base; as such, there are existing tools and documentation for opening and examining files.  As the ArtBase expands its preservation mission, the number of media formats encompassed will only increase - many of which will be undersupported, if not dead.  Hence, Rhizome has been active in file identification and registration projects, taking part in hackathons and using its unique collection to advance documentation of media formats.  By taking part in the greater digital preservation community, we hope to find new and clever ways to preserve past and future works of new media art.

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    Rhizome and HTC® are pleased to announce Rhizome’s Seven on Seven Conference, an annual event that brings together figures at the forefront of art and technology to create innovative new ideas. Over the course of a single day, seven teams, each comprised of a foremost artist and a leading technologist, are challenged to develop a new idea, concept, or prototype to premiere at the conference. Now in its fourth year, and to accommodate the demand for a larger audience, the conference will move from its former location at the New Museum and will take place at the Tishman Auditorium at the New School in New York on Saturday April 20, 2013, from 12–6 p.m.

    Rhizome is pleased to announce the following participants:

    Technologists: Tara Tiger Brown (LA Makerspace), Dalton Caldwell (, PicPlz), Dennis Crowley (Foursquare), Harper Reed (Threadless, Obama for America 2012), and Julie Uhrman (Ouya).

    Artists: Paul Pfeiffer, Jeremy Bailey, Fatima Al Qadiri, Jill Magid, Cameron Martin, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Matthew Ritchie.

    The full lineup of participants will be released by March 14, 2013. For more information about the upcoming and past conferences visit

    Early Bird tickets are now available for a limited time at

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  • 02/26/13--08:22: Artist Profile: Jeff Baij
  • It seems like artists who were actively making and showing their work online a few years ago have either started making objects and pursuing the familiar career path of the artist—gallery shows, teaching engagements, studio assistantships, grants, and so on—or they gave up and went into another field, like programming or web design. You haven’t done either of those things. You’re still making internet art. What’s that like?

    its really weird brian

    like really really weird

    lemme give you a few reasons why my life has ended up like this, and also a few reasons why its weird

    um i mean to be honest the first reason i dont show really is because being around gallery people for more than 5 or 10 minutes without being absolutely shitfaced is literally (Literally) in my top 3 least favorite things in the entire world.

    teaching could be cool? i actually love the idea of molding (moulding?) young minds but how does one start this career path? maybe you can give me some pointers. even in an [ed.] if you'd like. [I think you’d have to get an MFA. But based on your answers I don’t think you’d like being in an MFA program.– BD]

    assistantships are the same deal as showing- artists are gross, both mentally and physically (trust me on this, i am one) and i like making actual money

    which brings me to why i dont make objects: im poor

    so maybe i should apply for grants? is that how artists get money to work? i have no idea im really bad at the art thing, except that my work looks really nice and makes a lot of cute girls super happy.

    ok so its weird because when im at an opening or out with new people they always say OH WHAT KIND OF ART DO U MAKE and i always say UHH I TAKE OTHER PEOPLES SHIT OFF THE WEB AND CHANGE IT A LITTLE BIT AND CALL IT ART and its awk my g, so awk.

    another reason why its weird is because i get super wasted with a lot of like "cool" and "up and coming" artists on the regs and being the net guy/ coolest person in the room is like, pretty exhausting u know?

    i just wanna use this space to say plz dont remove any of the swearing from the interview, ive waited a very very long time for this

    also plz dont correct any spelling or punctuation, they arent mistakes (im just that cool)

    also please leave the above note in the interview (also this one)


    For some time you’ve been posting images to your web site almost daily. What is it about the blog format that appeals to you? At least one of your full-window works, the screen-capture collection everythingustand4, also has dates attached to each part of it, and Golden Rock, while it lacks timestamps, is a series of images connected by a vertical scroll. Do you think of these as distillations or excerpts of an ongoing, daily practice of making? To put it another way, how interested (or uninterested) are you in formats bigger than a single image file or blog post? Lately you’ve been posting lots of animations of rotating gems. Do you think of these as studies for a larger piece, or objects in themselves?

    the main thing about the blog format is that as a little net artist (pre 2009) i would sit down and try to think of a Really Cool and Clever Idea and either get totally paralyzed because it was never Cool or Clever enough, or i would actually make it and be totally disappointed. i mean even if i DID end up loving it i was sorta like "wtf was the point of sitting around for  2 weeks of my life tortured over this thing when all that happened was like 10 ppl bookmarked it on delicious?" so i figured fuck this, i'm basically never gonna spend more than 10 minutes on something ever again, and put it on my site, shitty or no, and see how that pans out. like my thought at the time was "at least im practicing" and maybe a good BIG idea will come out of all that. it hasnt btw but whatever. another reason for the blog format is i can keep track of how many entries i make, and my original plan was to make one thing every day, which i have actually done. well, if i miss a day i make 2 the next day or whatever but if you count the amount of days between when i started the blog and count how many entries i've made its THE SAME NUMBER. and honestly i feel like that makes me unfuckwithable.

    and i guess in a way that sort of answers your question about things being a study for a larger piece, i almost feel like at this point my site in its entirety is the piece, and all of the entries and collections of entries are excerpts from that larger piece, because really its all a little overwhelming to take in at once.

    but also the reason for having things collected together is really just as simple as wanting people to be able to access those in one place, easily. like i can say oh go to this url and you can see all of the pics i've taken of my FUCKING DISHES in one place, holla.

    so at this point im really not interested in anything beyond sort of the cumulative monster that the blog has become, and a pretty front page. thats to say i'm never ever ever thinking about a larger piece, ever. i usually only think "oh god i need to make something today, i hope whatever i make doesnt suck" and then eat some eggs and get on with living my life

    Some people like to talk about “deskilling” in contemporary art, borrowing a term from labor theory that describes the decrease in knowledge required from industrial workers as factory tools become more sophisticated. Certainly in digital art there is a lot of dependence on software products and their readymade effects. This is something you addressed explicitly in your series of Photoshop Tutorials, and your blog might also be viewed as a record of how you’ve acquired and discarded proficiencies with a variety of digital tools. How would you describe the place of skill in your work? Could you share some thoughts on skill in internet art more generally?

    the thing about Doing Photoshop, and realistically most of the things i make, is that im usually doing something like "skill denying." look, i use photoshop a lot for my Real Job, and im really much better at making i guess what you would call "slick" images than my art lets on but i really dont care too much for slick art. wait let me start over.

    when i first started getting seriously into making art on the web people were already pretty heavy into the nasty nets/doublehappiness look. the naive web look or "dirtstyle" or whatevs. like back then maybe people didnt know wtf they were doing and now they do?

    anyway that look is still sorta the seed that all of my work grows from, but the problem is that naturally the longer i make art the less genuinely shitty looking it is and the more i have to fake the shitty. so you could say there is a gentle gradation from unskilled to skilled as one moves from my older work to my newer work but i try to hide that gradation as much as possible. you could also say im a poser. mostly not on purpose, it just sorta pops off that way. like the first thing i ever put on the web was also the first thing i ever made for the web.

    there is the thing where if one uses the most up-to-date out of the box effect to make art then in a couple years that art is gonna seem very um, of that era. personally that's sorta terrifying. i really hope that in 20 years people dont look at my work and go OH THAT LOOKS SO 2013.

    so lets say generally a person making digital art right now can have maybe not a full set of skills but maybe hide that with effects (which is not a knock btw, its actually awesome) but i prefer to hide my prodigious skills with shitty effects or shitty out of the box online image generators etc.

    that isnt to say i know how to use all these awesome programs (like after effects? nah man)

    ok i think that makes sense?

    What’s the relationship between collecting and making in your work?

    i very very very rarely start something from scratch, 95% of the time i see an image or a tool or whatever online and then a light goes off in my head and i know that i can crank out a bunch of stuff using that as a starting point. im a huge huge collector. like right now i have probably 10 tabs of different image generators and weirdo web only art tools and like a folder with about 50 images of SLIMER.

    in the case of those jewel gifs you mentioned earlier, i mean i saw this jewel sellers youtube channel with literally thousands of those videos and im like "oh hell yes i could ride these well into 2020 if i really wanted to" and the blog entry problem is effectively solved (until i get bored of making jewel gifs)

    the problem for me has always been that im going to screw around on the internet for 13 hours a day anyway, and as a way to justify that behavior i collect all this crap i come across. but then since im apparently an Artist and not just a Collector i would feel kinda lazy if i just put these things on my site so im all "lets throw a filter on this, ok its mine now, i made something, yay me" and i can reward myself with another drink

    thats simplified but lets get real

    It hasn’t been active for over a year, but The Pulse used to be an anonymous blog that made fun of works and trends in internet art. Many people seem to think that you were behind it. Why would they think this? Is it true?

    it seems more likely that it was a group of people and i was just one of them, yes? but no it wasnt me sadly- im much funnier and and also im a better writer (refer to my tweets for proof of this)

    also im like, a really nice dude and it would pain me to be such a shit talker

    wait no im sorry i am shit talker, the reason people always thought it was me is because i did have a very public trolling period but yo i prefer people to know im the one handing out the burns ya know? its the thug in me


    29 BUT ALMOST 30 :\ (maybe 30 by the time this is published)


    venice, ca

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

    i was probably 7 or 8 when i started seriously fucking around with ms paint (my aunt had a pc and it was the highlight of family visits etc etc etc, everyone has this same story)

    then i had a "net art" site with some high school friends probably around 99. it was on tradewinds. we were obsessed with superbad and and we made our own version of that

    i would LOVE to dig out those images sometime, tumblr would flip out

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

    i mostly use photoshop now, i think i probably started around 95 or 96

    i started with photoshop 4 if that gives you an idea of how long ago that was

    now if you were to say "the internet" is my tool than also prolly 95- compuserve in ryans basement 4eva

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

    i went to uarts originally for graphic design but i switched to painting when i realized i didnt like TAKING ORDERS FROM NOBODY

    im a really good painter actually

    ask sumbody

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

    right now im going really hard on sculpey/fimo so this might technically fuck up your first question about objects because indeed, they are objects

    um but yeah those objects are for a series of videos im doing so nevermind, still not objects

    wait does sculpey count as traditional?

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

    lol hell no

    actually hold up there is this girl i like who is really into live music and we are really trying to write a illustrated childrens book

    also twitter is creative and i guess also counts as writing. also its social. so is instagram, fb, vine, all that. follow me: DOGGIEPRIVATES

    im much too selfish to be an activist and i live in venice, and believe me, that community is organized enough

    wait i made bangin ass linguini w/ scallops a couple nights ago and i had to bring the full force of my creativity to bear to knock that out (AND IT WAS BETTER THAN MOST ART, TRUST)

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

    i make websites and other assorted designy things for a vacation rental company and yeah i mean, i learned more about making sites there than i ever did making art

    also its pretty significant because it pays me and i can use that money to buy food and eat instead of dying and if i were dead i would not be making art

    Who are your key artistic influences?

    well nasty nets was the first time i cared about art really and i will always be an artist in "the school of guthrie” [lonergan]

    ummm i like morandi and diebenkorn a lot but you wouldnt know it by looking at my stuff

    the fact is i really really dont like most art

    people who put lots of stuff on the web but dont call themselves artists- they are super inspiring tho

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

    mike manning and myself made a cool site for emilie gervais and lucy chinen's ART OBJECT CULTURE

    also i made a painting for parker ito once and also helped him carry a giant block of ice another time

    oh and like a year ago i told bea fremderman i would make her a music video but i think she forgot and also im lazy

    i think its possible i dont play well with others in an artistic context, i dunno

    Do you actively study art history?

    does nick faust's facebook feed count? because thats literally the only art "history" i fuck with

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

    no i hate theory get outta here with that garbage

    im a maker baby, i use my soul

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

    i mean yes, insofar as showing net art on a computer screen at a gallery is a terrible terrible thing and projectors arent much better

    this brings us back to the object thing doesnt it, sigh

    thanks brian that was really fun!

    for all other inquiries i direct you to my okcupid profile:

    (plz leave this in the interview too, k thnkx *kisses*)

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    We are pleased to announce the appointment of New York-based writer and curator Michael Connor to the new position of Editor & Curator. This senior appointment will significantly shape the overall artistic direction of Rhizome, through its public programs and online publishing.

    Connor's work focuses on artists' responses to cinema and new technologies. His past solo and collaborativeprojects as curator include: ‘Street Digital,’ comprising gallery installation work by artist duo JODI;‘Wild Sky,’ which explored contemporary perceptual regimes through artists' images of the sun and cosmos; 'Screen Worlds,' a permanent exhibition at ACMI in Melbourne, Australia; ‘Essential Cinema,' the opening exhibition at the Toronto Film Festival's new venue; and 'The New Normal,' a touring exhibition of artworks that used private information as raw material and subject matter. Connor previously worked as Curator at FACT, Liverpool and Head of Exhibitions at BFI Southbank in London. While at the BFI, he oversaw the development of an interactive moving image archive designed by Adjaye/Associates as well as a gallery dedicated to artists' film, video, and new media.

    We are thrilled to welcome Michael to the organization, and to see how he will lead the program. He will start in the position in April 2013.

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  • 02/28/13--09:33: Parapolitics
  • LuckyPDF, 幸運PDF S/S 2013 capsule collection, 2012.

    One of my favorite searches on twitter is “twitter sadness”. For such a simple gesture, it exposes a lot about our emotional relationships with technology. Because there is a simple tension at work here: you’re at once able to connect with people, anyone in the world, but at the same time segregated, atomized, sold in 140 characters. But maybe that’s ok. These technologies exist, and we use them; what’s important is how we use them. “So much heartbreak & sadness in feed this morning, but beautiful because it's bringing people together. The power of @twitter”.

    One of my favorite bands, I think, is Goth Tech. Goth Tech are the perfect correlation, because everything they release is 140 bmp or less. Slow, sad, saturated house music, like the sound of a text message when you’re in love, stretched to an hour-long DJ set. Of course, crucial to them is this fetishization of Internet sadness as alluded to above, and all around us. Pastel pink and blue, it’s music about indulging in indulging in each other, finding each other in fantasy, always forever together apart. If this seems something of a stretch, as an unlikely formula for pop music, then it is worth being clear that it is exactly the stasis of emotive, communicative capitalism. Our emotions are packaged and given value, whilst market logic maintains us at optimum distance from each other. Sadness in this respect moves from its general meaning to something entirely precise: we can tell people, but we can never talk about it. Better lonely than alone.

    Prominent in my newsfeed towards the end of last year was the exhibition “Paraproduction” at Boetzelaer|Nispen Gallery in Amsterdam, curated by Alana Kushnir and featuring work by Hannah Perry, Benedict Drew, LuckyPDF, Christopher Kulendran Thomas and Ed Fornieles. Exploring a phenomenon of networked performances in art, the show took as its subject “a concentration of London-based artists who exploit the curatorial strategies of exhibition, circulation and distribution.” A deftly organized network performance in its own right, and very much a timestamp of a certain moment in London, the exhibition’s success came exactly in its removal from London, its production of an image of a network outside of the regular space of that network. A delicate balance of #fomo and Whatever; any fear of missing out was tempered by an understanding of not needing to be there, of participating in a different way.

    The last two years have seen a proliferation of artists taking modes of circulation and distribution as an artistic material, and the exhibition was totally happy to participate in this, in fact was predicated on this trend. ”This publication has been conceived and produced for a wholly transparent purpose. It is a souvenir of cultural capital”, as its accompanying publication, featuring texts by another collection of likely subjects, proclaimed. This is refreshingly honest as the first two sentences to a publication. Yet as final as this statement appears, it still forces us its own questions. What is this cultural capital? Why do we still valorize it so much?

    The intention of this text is not so much to deconstruct this, but instead situate it in a context it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. Art today is infused with networks, which is to say produces meaning in negotiation with them, and this show presents this in an honest way. Yet it also provokes us to think what that meaning is, and what we can make it be. Networked action is explicitly collective action, but it is not necessarily incisive or organized action.

    So what is this networked action, as developed in these artworks? Claire Bishop, in Artificial Hells, has traced the emergence of what she terms ‘delegated performances’ in the 1990s. These are artworks that involve the “hiring of non-professional performers”, a movement away from the events and performances being enacted by the artists themselves. What is perhaps compelling about her study is not the role of this trend as in any sense an avant-garde, but the grounding of this phenomenon in the economic and political conditions of the time. The ‘outsourcing’ of labor, we’re reminded, was very much a buzzword of the accelerationist 90s, a model we can see as then appropriated in the examples cited (Santiago Sierra, Tania Bruguera et al). The works in Paraproduction can clearly be placed in this tradition. However, and in tandem with developments in labor and production of the last twenty years, there is a distinct historical difference. Participants in these projects aren’t paid, and instead participate for free following models established by P2P, crowdsourcing, and social networks.

    Art, for a lot of the last century, has been caught in a precarious dialectic between high and low culture, between ideas of autonomy and placement in the physical economies of the world; its avant-gardes have always tried to rescue it, to make it into ‘life’. The works in Paraproduction mark an interesting moment in this history, as they propose an art that’s firmly within the infrastructure of society. Which is to say, they are a type of distributed performance, dispersed through the quantifiable and material networks, which comprise social relations. Whether performing alternate identities on Facebook, as explored in Fornieles’ Dorm Daze, or exercising the brand value of their peers, as is LuckyPDF’s critical project, they operate and perpetuate the immaterial production that is today so familiar, so integral to our economy as a whole.

    Despite allowing for an art that seeps fluidly out the doors of the Institution, able, and in a way that Bruguera would have found impossible, to treat the museum as one site among many rather than a primary context, there is on the face of it not that much difference between this mode of art-making and its direct precursors. For art has always taken sociality as its material, even if that sociality was at one point the repressive and Byzantine codes of religion. A church fresco is an homage to a certain form of patriarchal hegemony, as is the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. The work of Hans Haacke illustrates this neatly, and makes explicit through post-war systems theory the real and ultimately oligarchical exchanges of capital that permeate museum culture within modern liberal democracies. Voting in a ballot box as an artistic gesture is beautiful, in this way, as it mobilizes the strategies of representation as maintained by the dominant elite directly against that dominant elite, yet at the same time reveals their vital insufficiencies; the reduction of politics to mere polling. Putting paper in a box as a direct expression of humanity: every perfect individual perfectly categorized.

    We should therefore attempt to understand what models we’re perpetuating in the present moment, and what forms of society are implicit in the way we phrase our art projects. Though not overtly as political as Haacke’s work, and not in the same tradition of institutional critique, the differences between the MoMa Poll of 1970 and the curatorial strategies as proposed by Paraproduction mirror wider changes in participatory politics, as well as the organisation of sociality in our culture in general. Indeed the date of Haacke’s canonical work is tantalising, for it is this point that commentators generally agree marks the shift from predominantly industrial to immaterial and uninhibitedly financialised production across the global North. The artist of Paraproduction is an artist fully adapted to this liquid and connectionist world, able to exploit global economies of attention through a laptop and an eye for cheap travel. The art of this artist is indicative of this, indeed a product of it, presenting these economies of attention as sculptural or performative studies.

    Hans Haacke, MoMa Poll, 1970.

    If art is going to insert itself directly within these structures of communicative capitalism, then it needs to make explicitly clear its relationship to this capitalism. Social networking tools, and indeed the wider technologies of web 2.0, are sold to us within a narrative of emancipation; they are the promise of instant feedback, the ability to keep the world updated as to ‘what’s happening’, in real time. They are the harbingers of horizontal democracy. Jodi Dean operates a salient critique of this fantasy, however, emphasizing the extent to which communication today functions as a primarily economic form, and as such an all-consuming ideology: “Capitalism is our fixed reality”. This is the entire melancholy of Twitter, as one social media example among many: it becomes not what we say that’s important, but that we keep saying it. It’s like the feeding of the 5000, with one piece of bread passed between everyone as no one dares ingest it, all then stopping at the 1st century Palestinian version of Taco Bell on the way home. The result is infinite exchangeability, zero engagement, in which “communicative exchanges, rather than being fundamental to democratic politics, are the basic elements of capitalist production.”

    To replicate these models in our art is to perpetuate the capitalism that is resulting in systematic social divides on both local and global scales that have abstracted our social relations for the gross profit of an arbitrary few. Claire Bishop argues for the criticality of her delegated performances as one of sadist transgression, in which the perversity embodied by institutions and presented as a norm is revealed through a parallel perversity, which by contrast is parsed as an anomaly. Certainly we can say this about Santiago Sierra; arguably it is true of much of Haacke’s work, too. Yet when the economic reality is becoming progressively more perverse, this becomes a terrible one-upmanship. We need an art that does more than make visible the already evident.


    For all the best intentions of ethical consumerism, and as morally rewarding as it is to buy bath products at the Body Shop, capitalism is an economic system built on unsustainability. You can follow Google Street View through the Amazon rain forest, but that doesn’t stop the fact it’s disappearing at 3,000 square miles a year. More locally, it is a system that can only survive through the rapid reduction of the employable labor force everywhere, as currently visible in probably all places where this text is likely to be read. Barbarism begins at home, most likely downloaded on an iPhone.

    Even beyond current unemployment crises, however, it is important to realize the huge sectors of unpaid work across everyday life that have been normalized under modern capitalism, and with which it couldn’t exist otherwise. Such is the crucial recognition of feminist campaigns such as Wages For Housework, which sought to challenge the structural oppression of women as unpaid housewives, a form of labor both naturalized and made invisible. This is a fight that’s ongoing, and that’s becoming arguably more insidious with the rise of internships, work placements, and back-to-work schemes as rites-of-passage for the debt-laden neoliberal ubermensch.

    The dispersed technologies as utilized in Paraproduction, and ubiquitous across our own lives, allow for increasingly dynamic, decentralized ways of interacting, with changing models of both business and politics following suit. As the disaster relief program following Hurricane Sandy recently demonstrated, large numbers of people can organize far more quickly and more effectively than existing hierarchical institutions: thousands of meals were served, and huge numbers of people were helped, by organized, networked volunteers, before the Red Cross were able to assist with aid. Such is the potential of these technologies. However is a potential that can only be activated through use. The mobilization of these technologies by business for the extraction of free labor from a young and already economically depressed workforce is counter to this, clearly. Refusal is the only adequate response.

    Art provides a fantastic opportunity for experimenting with this. Yet what we have to understand is the interrelation of these experiments and the widespread and increasingly often immiserating practices of living in current society. Art needs to see itself as not just reflective of everyday reality, but recognize that it is everyday reality; that the systems of labor it perpetuates are the systems of labor of lived society. Transgression isn’t working; and surely we reach a point where we realize it’s no longer a sadist perversity that’s of historical urgency right now, but the production and reproduction of a better reality across all forms of life

    In a way I think the introduction to this piece is morbid, now. And I remember Jesse Darling live-tweeting the closing event to this exhibition, and being excited, somewhere inside me. Because we have the structures already, and every time you refresh the page it reloads. Something different could happen, maybe.

    Google Maps

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    A collection of examples from the Prosthetic Knowledge Tumblr archive on the modern adoption of an older computer output technology - the plotter.

    Invented in 1953, the plotter was a vectorial drawing output device developed by Remington-Rand for the UNIVAC computer for technical drawing. As other forms of printers nor monitors were as ubiquitous as they are now, the plotter drawing became the main format for early computer art, which can be seen by the many examples produced by the Algorists.

    As new approaches and availability to technical means, plotter or vector drawing has over the last ten years had a renaissance, with various projects utilizing this method for 'live' drawings. Many move away from traditional pen drawing, utilizing other media such as lasers, spray paint, and brushes. Here are a small collection of examples which take the plotter principle and apply it in new and interesting ways.

    Lunar Trails

    Project by Seb Lee-Delisle takes well known arcade game 'Lunar Lander', and documents every gameplay on an accompanying visual plot.

    Lunar Trails is an interactive installation, first commissioned by the Dublin Science Gallery for their GAME exhibition, running from November 2012 to the end of January 2013.

    It features a full size arcade cabinet running the vintage 1979 game Lunar Lander. As you play the game, the path that you take is rendered on the wall with a large hanging drawing robot.

    The trails build up to produce artworks that are solely created by the game players, and is a reflection of all their individual journeys to the surface of the moon.

    Snail Trail

    Animation installation by Phillip Artus is a looping narrative of an evolving snail, constantly drawn with laser on a revolving photosensitive surface.

    Snail Trail from Cartoon Brew on Vimeo.

    A snail invents the wheel and goes through a cultural evolution to finally get back to its origin.
    A laser animation is projected at an angle of 360° onto a column, so that the audience has to walk around to follow the course of the snail. The projection surface is of a phosphorescent material, which creates an after-glowing trail that fades out slowly.

    Mind Out

    Mechanical drawing installation by Mattias Jones creates a room-filled one-line drawing which imitates the flight pattern of a bee.

    MIND OUT : PROJECT LONGARM from Elliot Holbrow on Vimeo.

    Towards the end of 2012, as part of The Festival of the Mind in Sheffield, myself and a small team of technicians, coders and mathematicians developed a drawing system and put it to work. The robots drew one line pattern solutions, the shortest line possible, derived from theories on how bees fly from flower to flower. It ended up covering three walls and the floor of a twenty foot cube in one unbroken line.

    Motion Copy System

    A device to record and reproduce the exact brushstrokes of calligraphy artist masters.

    A research group at Keio University, led by Seiichiro Katsura, has developed the Motion Copy System. This system can identify and store detailed brush strokes, based on information about movement in calligraphy. This enables a robot to faithfully reproduce the detailed brush strokes.
    This system stores calligraphy movements by using a brush where the handle and tip are separate. The two parts are connected, with the head as the master system and the tip as the slave system. Characters can be written by handling the device in the same way as an ordinary brush.
    Unlike conventional motion capture systems, a feature of this one is, it can record and reproduce the force applied to the brush as well as the sensation when you touch something. Until now, passing on traditional skills has depended on intuition and experience. It’s hoped that this new system will enable skills to be learned more efficiently.


    A drawing machine by Jürg Lehni from 2005, works like a plotter but draws on a big plane of semi-opaque glass.

    Jürg is also responsible for the graphiti drawing machine Hektor, a drawing machine from 2003 which draws with a spray can.

    Also of interest: “Computing/Drawing With a Vintage Pen Plotter” by Carl Lostritto - modern drawing experiments with an older technology.

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    Shawn Maximo, from Neighboring Interests, 2013

    Last month, DIS Magazine made The Suzanne Geiss Company, a gallery in downtown New York, an open photo studio. Don’t worry if you missed it. There wasn’t much to see. The first time I went, the main gallery was empty, save for some dark bags on the floor. In the office, a few people chatted and looked at a laptop. “The photographer is on break,” they told me. “Come back in an hour.” I did. It was just as deserted. (Later, I learned that Frank Benson was taking photos in the dark back room, to avoid interference from the main gallery’s skylight.) I returned a few days later, on a Sunday morning when the editors of DIS were there. One of them was polishing a prop fridge. An intern busied herself with a vacuum.

    But the substance of the show wasn’t what was happening in the gallery but the result of it:, a fully functional online stock-photo database. The project received its initial funding in the 2011 cycle of Rhizome Commissions, and once DIS secured the rest of the necessary capital and set up the site’s framework, they started production at Suzanne Geiss. will continue to expand its offerings as the contributing artists finish retouching their work. For now, visitors can peruse Shawn Maximo’s surreal interiors, where domestic spaces are enclosed by planes of sky and beach; Ian Cheng’s 3D renderings of heads with the DIS Images logo mapped over their contours; and Katja Novitskova’s insertions of safari animals and Powerpoint clip art in white-cube galleries.

    Katja Novitskova, from Future Growth Approximations, 2013

    DIS Images marks a significant shift in the way artists approach stock photography. Onlines image databases proliferated in the early part of the last decade, and artists searched them and plundered them. Their aggregated findings reflected the multiplicity of potential meanings in both the images and the keywords that index them; they exposed the gaps between the nature of language and the database logic, and the weird ways that stock agencies create images to cater to the latter. But the collection and reorganization of stock photography was harder to think of as a conceptual art method (if the surfers who did it ever even thought of it in those terms) when it hit the blog mainstream.

    DIS takes the gap between semantics and database form as a given, and proceeds from there. Whoever tagged Maximo’s photos—“Art world, Outdoors, Hybrid, Confusing, Conceptual, Installation, Interior-Exterior, Utopia, Dystopia, Evolved, Lifestyles, Art Gallery, Solar Panels, Future, Clouds, Blue, White, Grey”—was clearly having fun with it. The keywords contradict each other, and they swing from literal specificity about colors and objects that appear in the image to the expansive subjectivity of “Confusing.” What interests DIS not how the database refracts meaning, but rather the stock photo’s readiness for a variety of potential uses.

    Ian Cheng, from 3D Models, 2013

    DIS Images fits with DIS magazine’s circular treatment of art as a lifestyle brand and fashion photography as a form of conceptual art. The editors relish the possibility that their stock photos could end up in a commercial context—a product brochure, a magazine ad, or a Powerpoint presentation for a marketing agency’s client—but they think of DIS Images primarily as a way of distributing and licensing works of art. On my Sunday morning visit, Marco Roso, a founding editor of DIS, said that he and his colleagues imagine curators visiting and searching for the keywords related to their exhibition concepts, and using the works they find to put together a show. I told him that sounded as if they were encouraging the worst kind of curating—operating with keywords and concepts instead of seriously engaging with the work. Roso shrugged. “We don’t care what people do with it after it’s online,” he said.

    By commissioning and distributing artworks according to the model of a stock agency, DIS draws parallels between stock and art. They’re both open to multiple interpretations. They’re both made on faith, not for a particular purpose but for a broad context; in one case it’s commercial image use and all the potential destinations that involves, while in the other it’s the big wide art world, in hopes that it will find shelter in a collection, or a place in a critical study. Once it has moved from vague obscurity to visibility in a particular context, the ideal stock photo—like a great work of conceptual art—feels so right and so obvious that it’s hard to believe it wasn’t always around. For both stock and art, success means seeming light and ephemeral, as if it simply appeared in place. That was what made DIS Magazine’s gesture of transforming the gallery into a studio so important, however unexciting it might have been for the average viewer; it showcased the similarity of the labor that goes into the making of both art and stock.

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    The Supertask (Yesterday's Today), installed at LEAP, Berlin, January 2013

    Your work displays an interest in the interplay between narrative and identity. How do those notions inform your practice? 

    My interest there mainly originates in questions around myth and reality in regard to the development of new technologies, which all tend to have their proper narratives. Any such effort requires the expense of resources and as such has to be 'sold' to society in one way or the other. In the twentieth century this often happened for political ends whereas today arguably narratives of business are more dominant again. Technologies that originated in vast government projects have transitioned into something else. The Golden Institute from 2009 which is set in an alternate history 1980s America was the first project to have the question of the technological narrative at its center and also the first piece in which I worked with an actor. This was a conscious move that aimed to give this fictitious narrative an identity – in this case the strategist of a think-tank which develops and deploys fairly radical energy technologies. The character, Douglas Arnd, is loosely based on historical figures such as Herman Kahn, who was one of the first to point out the importance of narrative in regard to technology. In Forever Future from 2010 he was joined by another character, Robert Walker, who in a sense is the disillusioned customer of the dreams of the 1950s, yet refuses to let go of his dreams of life in space. As a reaction, he constructs a sort of earth-bound spaceship, helping those unfulfilled visions to survive while also hoping that this may be a cure for his own nostalgia for the futures that he never got to live. Both men's identities are probably fairly American, but because of the global proliferation of dreams and realities I do believe that they have a certain universal relevance. I am hoping to add more characters in the future as new angles on these questions may emerge in my work.

    What attracts you to the open-ended research project as artwork, as in Yesterday's Today (The Supertask), or The Golden Institute, which you describe as, "A vehicle for an ongoing investigation into questions about energy, visions of utopia and present-day ecological challenges"?

    In the case of The Golden Institute the appeal was to create a universe which can engage in feedback loops with reality. Since 2009 I found out that much of it indeed has counterparts in reality. At one point I even had the bizarre pleasure of meeting a Mr Golden who used to be involved in secret US government project almost identical to one my fictions. Most of my current work, however, tends to take a dialogue with experts from other fields as a starting point for an explorative process, and I think here open-endedness may have taken on a slightly different meaning. For instance, in the case of The Supertask, my collaborator Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg and I work with the complexity science department at Southampton University, who invited us to look at their questions from our perspective. We were drawn to the use of models and made an assumption about their use as technological lenses on the world and created a sort of hypothesis on it. This hypothesis then adapts as one gains a better of understanding of the subject matter and the open-endedness of the work is partially owed to this process, which is often mirrored by the scientists as they understand what we are getting at with sometimes different means. I would argue that it is in itself highly enabling as an interface in regard to the exchange between such different practices, because – and that's the real hypothesis – ultimately the core interest of many of the individuals working across those fields is strikingly similar. It has more to do with a common wish for erkenntnis than with the different methods that are being employed to obtain it.

    How does your writing process affect your aesthetic production? At what point does a project transition from writing to art, if at all, or vice-versa?

    Writing definitely plays a key role in my own practice as it seems to help these hypotheses take form. Sometimes it will come before the making of a piece of work and sometimes it comes after, providing a sort of bridge to the next piece. I guess the latter would have to be my preferred mode as it hopefully helps in giving my work and my personal curiosity a certain degree of coherence. However, there are pieces of writing which have not yet moved into the realm of the physical yet and I actually believe that this this is okay – a published essay is in a sense no less of an object than a sculpture. Inversely, reading is equally important and in a similar process I do tend to get an overview of a new field by reading widely until I feel comfortable enough to make a statement with my work.

    What do you feel art can learn from science fiction? Your Growth Assembly project especially seems to play with the potentials of science fiction within an arts context. 

    The key question behind Growth Assembly, that of a world which is depleted of raw materials, actually emerged when watching the science fiction movie Soylent Green. Science fiction historically has had a degree of a cultural monopoly on asking "what if" which, once you start thinking about it, is almost strange because everybody is equally affected by the constant arrival of the future. Yet, a problem with popular science fiction is that it is often very much locked in the aesthetic of the prop. In Growth Assembly we made a very conscious choice to use water color illustrations to allude to the natural history work of Ernst Haeckel and his contemporaries. Not as an imitation, but rather to create a link between today's promise of engineered life and the belief of a static, machine-like nature that these men thought they were cataloguing, which was of course a reflection of what was going on in the western world at the dawn of industrialization. Doing so opened a brief gap between the cartoony imaginary of DNA, which is also the default in the inherently invisible world of microbiology, and something different. A bit of that then fed back into the scientific narrative itself. Having witnessed this tempts me to make a case for the inversion – that art, design and writing do have a definite impact on science and its fiction at the right moment.

    Location: London and Berlin

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

    When I was much younger I apparently went back and forth being fascinated with photography and computers, especially all things three-dimensional, so I guess it makes sense that I am now working creatively and looking at notions of modeling in science.

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

    The tools tend to vary with the piece and its focus. Being true to my personal history I feel most comfortable with cameras and computers but as installations have since become a part of my practice the cordless drill has begun to feel fairly familiar in my hand as well.

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

    I went to school at the Berlin University of the Arts where I mostly worked with installation and film. Later I studied in the Design Interactions department at the Royal College of Art in London.

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

    I tend to use the medium that is most appropriate for the point I am trying to make, so it really depends. Any other way would be ideological.

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

    I am teaching at various Institutions such as the Royal College of Art, have written on art and design and did some design work.

    Who are your key artistic influences?

    Chris Marker, more recently Chris Burden, Mike Mandel & Larry Sultan and Wolfgang Tillmans, but definitely also friends, mentors and their work.

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

    A collaborative and explorative process is a significant part of my practice. Most of my collaborators are currently people I met at Royal College of Art such as Daisy Ginsberg and Chris Woebken. Apart from them being long-time friends this is probably owed to a shared focus and a mindset of purposely ignoring perceived boundaries.

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

    In the recent past I have been inspired by Georges Bataille and Georges Canguilhem, most recently by Ilya Prigogine.

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    Link Center for the Arts of the Information Age today announces the publication of a new book in the series Link Editions, titled Best of Rhizome 2012. Edited by former Rhizome editor Joanne McNeil, the volume is available both as freely downloadable PDF and as a print-on-demand book. 


    The volume features 23 essays that appeared on Rhizome in 2012, ranging from McNeil's conversation with Jonathan Lethem to Jason Huff's consideration of desktop aesthetics. Together, the essays form what Rhizome Executive Director Heather Corcoran calls, in the book's forward,

    ...not just a best of Rhizome's work, but a portrait of the year that we hope will gain significance over time for its contextualization and articulation of artists' practices. Artists are predictors and barometers of change, and sensitive to their cultural surroundings. From texts on production in the digital age, to the influence of the Occupy Movement, from drones and surveillance, to online vernacular – these collected essays give a sense of what was informing artists' work, and by extension culture, in 2012.

    We extend our special thanks to Domenico Quaranta for making this possible, and all the writers in 2012.

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    I first began to realize the potentiality of my glitch body at the age of thirteen. If not thirteen, maybe even a few years younger—eleven, even—when I signed up on Yahoo! under the handle of "LuvPunk12" and began fucking around online. When I say "fucking" I mean it in the literal sense. I lost my digital cherry to a person with the handle of Jephthah, ironically, while my parents made spaghetti marinara in the next room of our tiny studio apartment.

    Some history: in Old Testament Jephthah led the Israelites in battle against Ammon (now known as Amman, capital of Jordan) and, after defeating the Ammonites, apparently sacrificed his own daughter, the outcome of some sort of vow he had made before the war. Other versions of the story say that Jephthah's daughter wasn't really sacrificed—as in, she wasn't killed—but that instead she was condemned to perpetual virginity, guaranteed by placing her body into solitary confinement, a veritable death in itself. I'd like to lend this daughter some more credit than she's typically given—to imagine that perhaps, when left alone, she spent her remaining years exploring the limits and freedoms of her own body, overturning the confinement by seizing the solitude as a proverbial room of her own. But history is funny that way—biblically or otherwise, all too often bodies like this, narratively identified as female, are locked away, and, as Emily Dickinson once wrote, "shut up in Prose", spoken on behalf of, and, in their sacrifice, never provided an opportunity to speak up for themselves.

    I called Jephthah "Jeph"; I never knew what Jeph was—man, woman, or floating somewhere in-between these suffocating dualities. But I knew what I could be. As a kid, I could be a teenager. As a teenager, I could be a woman. As a woman, I could be a man. As a man, I could be a cyborg (thanks, Haraway). Shape-shifting between all of these projected selves, I could forget that I was a browned queering body that, in being born and ejected into the world, had had femininity forced upon it by the unforgiving mores of sociality. Trying on these different corporeal conceptions, I came to redress—and undress—the fictive illusions of sex and gender.

    Years later I think back on this time as a time where I first realized that the construct of "Away From Keyboard" (AFK), pitted against "In Real Life" (IRL)—what theorist Nathan Juergenson calls "digital dualism"—was truly false. Though I hadn't yet found the language to express this, the experience kicked off a longer journey of unravelling my own liminal identity. It was via virtuality that I was able to exercise this muscle first. I use the word "virtuality" for lack of a better term, yet, I still take issue with it. That which is "virtual" is assumed to not be real, yet it needs to be asserted that what happens in these vast digital landscapes is, in fact, very real, and non-negotiably so.

    So how does the "glitch" enter into all of this? And in what way is the glitch body catalyzed by—or disrupted by—the histories of feminism? Is the glitch body a [feminist] fantasy? Or is it the future of body politic, a signaling of a next chapter, an opportunity to amend the violence and divisive conservatism of normativity?

    Feminism in its essential practice aspires toward attaining and defending equal rights for women. In its many strands it fingers class (anarcha-feminism), race (black and postcolonial feminism), the environment (ecofeminism), and more, as sources for amending prejudice. However, within feminism is the central problematic of difference, and this difference—the split between that which we associate as "man" versus "woman", "masculine" versus "feminine"—cannot ever be truly resolved as long as our constructions of the body remain unchanged. Feminism as we know it is codependent upon the same structures it aims to fight against; it cannot exist without accepting and acknowledging the systems that are already in place. In this acceptance and acknowledgement, true progress becomes implausible. The real problem, the core prison, is the body itself. A body identified as female will never be equal, as the permissions involved in making this so would require male-identifying bodies and those who claim masculinity as an agent of power to systematically relinquish primary aspects of their privilege and provide reparation for complex histories of institutionalized disenfranchisement and silencing. In a society that rewards a body for being born male, and equates ascendancy with masculinity, hoping for the aforementioned relinquishing is somewhat of a delusion. The body has been manipulated as a tool of coercive culture-making, and it is the desperate resistance to let go of material constructions of the body that make the aspiration toward "equality" somewhat trite, and draw attention to the fact that in order to evolve past these outdated systems, that a new system needs to be put into place. Working within the systems that have failed us, with the same tools and language that have undermined us, will ultimately ruin us. The institution of the body is cancered, and it is time now to let it expire—or to kill it off ourselves.

    Enter: the glitch.

    There are two facets of the glitch. The first borrows from the rhetoric of the sexual revolutions of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s and has the goal of unwrapping a new form of intimacy that has yet to get the air time it deserves. This is the aspect of the glitch that is, as noted inThe Glitch Feminist Manifesto, " . . . the rainbowed spinning wheel, the pixilated hiccup, the frozen screen, or the buffering signal that acts as a fissure, that jars us into recognition of the separation of our physical selves from the body that immerses itself in fantasy when participating in sexual activity online." (Russell, "Digital Dualism And The Glitch Feminism Manifesto", The Society Pages, 2012) The second facet highlighted in this manifesto is the element of the corpus. This can be approached as a sliding between identifications, a nod toward trans politic that extends beyond the notion of "trans" as fixed to modifying notions of assigned sex, the psychology of gender, and the histories of self-naming, but rather trans as a means of extrapolating liminal variations of self. Trans- is a Latin noun, but also a prefix that means across, beyond, through, or on the opposite side. Judith Butler observes:  "A male in his stereotype, is a person who is unable to cope with his own femininity." (Judith Butler and Beatriz Preciado, Têtu magazine interview, April 20, 2012) Conversely, a woman, in her "stereotype", is a person unable to cope with her own masculinity. Thus, the glitch encourages a slipping across, beyond, and through the stereotypical materiality of the corpus, extending beyond a coping mechanism in its offering of new transfigurations of corporeal sensuality.

    Philosopher and "countersexual" Beatriz Preciado calls this a " . . . process of virtual transformation", noting that the "widen[ing of the scope of] sexuality . . . [means leaving] the body and turning . . . towards an immaterial, informative, if not actually a digital space" (Beatriz Preciado, Buffalo Zine). In the same interview Preciado queries, “ . . . the question we can ask ourselves is if this technical transformation of sexuality will be useful for the old genre—masculine/ feminine—and sexuality—hetero/ homo—reaffirmation, or if it will give rise to new political configurations that will escape from the norm . . ." Vicky Kirby dubs this issue "the problematic nature of corporeality" (Kirby, Telling the Flesh: The Substance of the Corporeal, 1997); N. Katherine Hayles attends to it by musing on a potential "erasure of embodiment" (Hayles, How We Became Posthuman, 1999); Carolyn Guertin hails these next steps as "a celebration of multiplicity" (Guertin, Gliding Bodies, 2002).

    There was a time when the word "queer" was confined solely to the realm of the pejorative. "Glitch" as a term within technocultures is also often placed within a similar category, steeped in negative connotations. The reclamation of queer is to material body politic as glitch is to digital corporeality; the two are, to use a term coined by Lauren Berlant, inherently "juxtapolitical" (Berlant, The Female Complaint, 2008). Thus, glitch offers up a queering of constructions of the body within digital practice, carrying forward the torch lit by groups such as ACT UP or Gran Fury in respect to queerdom, or collectives like the Old Boys' Network with their "100 Anti-Theses of Cyberfeminism,” the VNS Matrix, or SubRosa, as linked to cyberfeminist histories. TheGlitch Feminist Manifesto observes:

    "In a society that conditions the public to find discomfort or outright fear in the errors and malfunctions of our socio-cultural mechanics—illicitly and implicitly encouraging an ethos of “Don’t rock the boat!”—a “glitch” becomes an apt metonym. Glitch Feminism, however, embraces the causality of “error”, and turns the gloomy implication of glitch on its ear by acknowledging that an error in a social system that has already been disturbed by economic, racial, social, sexual, and cultural stratification and the imperialist wrecking-ball of globalization—processes that continue to enact violence on all bodies—may not, in fact, be an error at all, but rather a much-needed erratum. This glitch is a correction to the “machine”, and, in turn, a positive departure."

    The glitch body is inherently a threat to normative systems, just as digital geography is a threat to those who uphold the fantasy of that which is "real life". The concept of future-building has to be reexamined within the trajectory of digital practice. What it is to "make" and "reproduce", to "replicate" and to "disseminate", all take on new meanings within digital communities, meanings that are yet to be fully examined, or even have their potential realized in entirety.

    AFK and IRL are Westernized myths, dualities that support the notion that what happens online does not have the capacity to impact and affect real change. Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and the recent the London riots are all prominent illustrations of the continuous loop between that which takes place on and off screen.  Just as it has taken centuries to shape the structures that support the binaries that largely limit gender within our society to "male" or "female", so we find ourselves at the genesis of that journey within digital practice, signifying that we have an opportunity to resist repeating history, making the same mistakes, and falling victim to plugging in the same archaic modes of heteronormativity that have come to dominate world systems beyond our screens. Glitch Feminism and the construction of the glitch body transforms error—what Preciado has called in her "Queer: History of a Word" (2009) an "injury history"—into something that promises to be productive and, what’s more, a galvanizing force for the politic of embodiment.

    As long as we are lulled into believing that world-making within digital geographies and practice cannot be a breeding ground for new constructions of identity, politic, sociality, and potentiality, we limit ourselves to mimicking and replicating the same structures that have wounded us throughout history. It is up to us to begin to realize these new paths, and re-route. System error, commence—let the #GLITCH begin.

    Legacy Russell (LEGACY) is a writer, artist, and curator. She has worked at and produced programs for The Bruce High Quality Foundation, Creative Time, the Brooklyn Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. Legacy is one-third of the curatorial production team Limited Time Only. In September 2011, she was appointed as Art Editor of BOMB Magazine’s renowned online journal, BOMBlog, where she has since stayed on as a Contributing Editor. Outside of BOMB, her work can be found in a variety of publications: DIS, Canteen, The Well & Often Reader, Exit Strata, The Society Pages, Guernica, berfrois, and beyond. Her most recent performance, “The Initiation”, debuted December 2012 as a commission for The Museum of Arts and Design in New York.

    A candidate for an MRes of Visual Culture at Goldsmiths University in London, her creative and academic work explores mourning, remembrance, iconography, and idolatry within the public realm. Follow her on Twitter: @LegacyRussell.

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  • 03/12/13--11:00: The Download: Deanna Havas

    Rhizome is pleased to present The Download's first free and open project, featuring Deanna Havas. Havas offers a solution to earn back your membership donation once required to access The Download. By participating in the Affiliate Program (2013) a user can set up their own affiliate website to generate traffic to its host site, As an affiliate publisher, you will be reimbursed relative to how much traffic you drive to the site, which is calculated via metrics like pay per click and cost per impression. The package includes a small website, banner ads, and media ready to use for your microsite as well as step by step instructions to create your website. Affiliate Program creates an alternative economy that enables a Rhizome member to reap rewards by participating in the program.

    The Download is Rhizome's digital art collecting program which features one work per month for free download. 

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    (This is the first in a three-part sequence to be published on Rhizome.) 

    “A new word is like a fresh seed sewn on the ground of the discussion.”
 -- L. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value (trans. Peter Winch) 

    “If writers wrote as carelessly as some people talk, then adhasdh asdglaseuyt[bn[ pasdlgkhasdfasdf.” -- L. Snicket, A Series of Unfortunate Events

    By September of 1982, the Computer Science Bulletin Board System at Carnegie Mellon University was a social hotspot, at least for certain science professors and tech geeks. Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs or bboards) pre-date the Web as such; they allowed users to dial into a local hub, through which they could send messages to and receive messages from other machines dialed into the same hub. Dating back to 1978, bboards didn’t get popular until the 80s, following the 1981 release of Hayes Communications’ cheap and effective Smartmodem, which made hosting bboards more affordable and using them less arduous, if still not entirely intuitive.

    Bulletin Board Systems became popular on many college campuses, absorbing some of the discourse of the hallway and the common room, and attracting those people—like physicists and Heideggerians—predisposed to adopt hobbies with steep learning curves.

    Bboards were not only localized but divided into discussion groups, each developing their own jargons, rituals, and codes of conduct. The Computer Science BBS at Carnegie Mellon was used, inter alia, for complaints about and discussions of school laboratories, the proposing of elaborate hypothetical experiments, and joking around at an advanced level about atoms and alkaloids.

    Prankish posts on the CMU CS discussion group were generally taken in stride. But because threads could be hard to track—with abruptly dropped topics; shifts and stutters—context could quickly be lost and readers confused.

    At around noon on September 16th, 1982, and in response to a similar scenario involving pigeons, Neil Swartz posted the following hypothetical situation to the CMU CS BBS:

    There is a lit candle in an elevator mounted on a bracket attached to the middle of one wall (say, 2" from the wall). A drop of mercury is on the floor. The cable snaps and the elevator falls. What happens to the candle and the mercury?

    About five hours later, and after a number of unrelated messages, Howard Gayle wrote a message with the heading, “WARNING!”:

    Because of a recent physics experiment, the leftmost elevator has been contaminated with mercury. There is also some slight fire damage. Decontamination should be complete by 08:00 Friday.

    Rudy Nedved tried to prevent mass hysteria:

    The previous bboard message about mercury is related to the comment by Neil Swartz about Physics experiments. It is not an actual problem.

    Last year parts of Doherty Hall were closed off because of spilled mercury. My high school closed down a lab because of a dropped bottle of mercury.

    My apology for spoiling the joke but people were upset and yelling fire in a crowded theatre is bad are jokes on day old comments.

    Neil Swartz, who posed the original question, later replied:

    Apparently there has been some confusion about elevators and such. After talking to Rudy, I have discovered that there is no mercury spill in any of the Wean hall elevators.

    Many people seem to have taken the notice about the physics department seriously.

    Maybe we should adopt a convention of putting a star (*) in the subject field of any notice which is to be taken as a joke.

    Joseph Ginder liked the idea, but had his own take:

    I believe that the joke character should be % rather than *.

    To which Anthony Stentz added:

    How about using * for good jokes and % for bad jokes? We could even use *% for jokes that are so bad, they're funny.

    “No, no, no!,” wrote Keith Wright:

    Surely everyone will agree that "&" is the funniest character on the keyboard. It looks funny (like a jolly fat man in convulsions of laughter). It sounds funny (say it loud and fast three times). I just know if I could get my nose into the vacuum of the CRT it would even smell funny!

    On September 17th, user Leonard Hamey proposed, with his own somewhat elaborate justifications, that a pictogram should be used to represent joking, as opposed to a more basic cipher:

    I think that the joke character should be the sequence {#} because it looks like two lips with teeth showing between them. This is the expected result if someone actually laughs their head off. An obvious abbreviation of this sequence would be the hash character itself (which can also be read as the sharp character and suggests a quality which may be lacking in those too obtuse to appreciate the joke.)

    Hamey’s idea must have caught the eye of CMU professor Scott Fahlman, because two days later, in a rather brief missive, Fahlman offered his own pictogram:

    I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers:


    Read it sideways.

    Actually, it is probably more economical to mark things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use


    Scott Fahlman’s suggestion could have—like Niel Swartz’s, Joseph Ginder’s, Anthony Stentz’s, Keith Wright’s, and Leonard Hamey’s—been quickly forgotten. But Fahlman’s smiley garnered a peculiar reaction: people started using it as a specific basis for minor variations. Within two days, the CMU CS bboard had not just:








    A little over a month after Fahlman’s post, James Morris of Rutgers University posted a message to their WorkS BBS with the heading, “Communications Breakthrough”:

    Because you can't see the person who is sending you electronic mail, you are sometimes uncertain whether they are serious or joking. Recently, Scott Fahlman at CMU devised a scheme for annotating one's messages to overcome this problem. If you turn your head sideways to look at the three characters :-) they look sort of like a smiling face. Thus, if someone sends you a message that says "Have you stopped beating your wife?:-)" you know they are joking. If they say "I need to talk to you :-(", be prepared for trouble.Since Scott's original proposal, many further symbols have been proposed here:

    (:-) for messages dealing with bicycle helmets

    @= for messages dealing with nuclear war

    <:-) for dumb questions

    oo for somebody's head-lights are on messages

    o>-<|= for messages of interest to women

    ~= a candle, to annotate flaming messages

    Fahlman’s design had caught on; the reaction it provoked proved significant.

    Longform writing modulates affect through symmetries and variations in word choice and sentence structure; set ups and punch lines; recursive metaphorical conceits; ellipses; and all the other fiction workshop buzzwords that constitute what we call a piece of writing’s “tone of voice.” 

    The conjuring of a voice where there is only actually just a bunch of static text is a huge part of the Magick of good writing. But much of the written word is not trying to be good, in this sense. 

    The CMU CS bboard could have dictated that all jokes be written with the skill for compression, mimicry, and understatement of James Thurber or S.J. Perelman, but this would have likely betrayed this bboard’s social function, which was to facilitate amusing or pragmatic and low-investment communication among people who seem, for the most part, not to have been humanities majors. 

    The question of what symbol or symbols can or should substitute for tone of voice was considerably worked over by the CMU CS BBS. What distinguishes Falhman’s from the previous suggestions is that it simultaneously accented the lyrical expressiveness of the word-substitute and added an element of modular variability, two of the most important qualities of the more involved longer-form writing the smiley was intended to obviate.

    Leonard Hamey’s Cheshire parenthetical— {#} — was similar, but its expressiveness is mostly fixed, because a keyboard offers few substitutes for the objects being signified. Teeth, which dominate Hamey’s design, are, anyway, not all that expressive in and of themselves; the varying shapes of mouths and eyes, on the other hand, seem to tap directly into our DNA. And a keyboard offers many substitutes--possibly because, actually, our desire to read and read into faces and eyes and mouths is so hardwired into our motherboards that we tend to read them into everything: power outlets, planets, randomly distributed paint on a canvas; slashes, commas, and dollar signs.

    In 1993, 11 years after Falhman’s post, the emoticon got its own novelty dictionary with over 650 entries, although that number is slightly less impressive when you realize that many arrangements are listed multiple times. For example, this:

: - = )

    is filed under both “Older smiling man with mustache” and “Adolf Hitler.”

    The dictionary entries range from the evocative:

    : - 9

    licking its lips

    to the gnomic:

    : ]

    Gleep: a friendly midget smiley who will gladly be your friend

    and include self-reflexive sequences that exist only to make sport of the form:


    nose sliding off face

    and virtuoso offerings: 

    o0 : - ) ***

    Santa Claus

    The same year The Smiley Dictionary was released, the new slang received another signal of cultural ascendancy: a hit-piece in the New Republic. Neal Stephenson, a science-fiction author, obsessive autodidact, and sometimes-futurist, began an editorial on the phenomenon:

    The online world has its own cliches and truisms, none so haggard as the belief that reliable written communication is impossible without frequent use of emoticons, better known as the "smileys."

    Comparing smileys to spin doctors and Vegas rimshots, Stephenson argued--not entirely correctly--that people had written “for thousands of years without strewing crudely fashioned ideograms across their parchments.”

    Not only that, but Stephenson saw emoticons as a symbol of the historical amnesia that was gutting the entirety of Western Civilization. The emoticon-users clearly believed they had “nothing useful to learn from Dickens or Hemingway, and that time spent reading old books might be better spent coming up with new emoticons.”

    Stephenson imagines emoticon-wielding troglodytes offering strange arguments of their own, e.g., that “words on a computer screen are different from words on paper”; and that “since many messages are tossed off extemporaneously, the medium has more in common with talking than writing, hence the need for emoticons.” Stephenson was ready to rebut all this and more: “What these people are engaged in is, in fact, nothing other than plain old writing and reading.”

    In 2003, Stephenson announced an about-face on the matter of emoticons, perhaps after realizing that following Cuneiform script, Egyptian hieroglyphs, papyrus, reeds, quills, Prüfening inscription, letter tiles, screw presses, movable type, Dvorak, Qwerty, dictaphones, telegrams, post-it notes---choose your own additions-- there has never been anything that could accurately be called “plain old writing and reading.”

    If you prefer the diction, style, typography, mode of distribution—or anything else--of a specific culture or sub-culture for the 20 or 200 years leading up to whatever linguistic development offends you, say so, but you’ll have to actually describe what it is about the language practices of that specific place and period you find preferable--if you want not to look like an a-historical dum-dum or ignorant cultural chauvinist.

    The problem with Stephenson’s retraction—which he posted to his blog--was that he replaced one fallacious argument with another. Confessing that he now considered his original article wrong in both tone and content, Stephenson explained that while he’d once thought that all writing should tend toward a “Platonic ideal,” he had since “become more interested in the way that people (including myself) actually do write, and have stopped worrying so much about how they ought to write.” The opposition here suggests that any polemic about the use or mis-use of language is philosophical fancy on the level of Platonic Idealism.

    Each position neatly absolves everyone of the responsibility of making an actually substantive value judgment, by either assuming a development is unlicensed because it betrays the past or licensed because it’s born out of the pressures of the present. This is typical and illustrative of attitudes and arguments in the popular press about Internet culture, and of the popular press in general, which mostly exists to provide people with the kinds of ideas that allow them to bypass serious thinking.

    A more measured take on emoticons was offered by essayist Elif Batuman, the literary world’s mostcharmingreactionary.

    In a blog post from January 2012, Batuman wondered aloud about the future of the emoticon in realm of literary writing and, by extension, about the future of her own literary palette:

    Tonight, reading the final papers from my nonfiction class, I was saddened to discover that one student had not abandoned the habit, which I had critiqued in the past, of using smiley faces in her work. I crossed them out, explaining (again) that powerful writing should generate emotion without emoticons.

    Slashing through the third beaming little face, I had a terrible flashback to a moment from my own youth, when an English teacher told me not to use so many exclamation points, because vigorous writing generates energy through language and not punctuation.

    I didn’t listen to this teacher. Today I use exclamation points all the time! I don’t think they’re a crutch, so much as another tool in the box. Now I begin to wonder: is that how the next generation will view emoticons? Is one generation’s crutch the next generation’s useful, crutch-shaped mallet?? Have I become an obstruction in the path of literary progress??? Am I now the monster???







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    Badlands Unlimited’s recent e-book, AD BOOK, is a collection of ads - as it’s title suggests - stitched together by BFFA3AE, a NY based collective of artists including Daniel Chew, Micaela Durand, and Matthew Gaffney. But Lo, AD BOOK! - the title is as giving as “Untitled.” AD BOOK is not simply a book of ads with ads, it is also a book FOR ads. An interactive page-flipping object that cross and intersect the complexities and ad-anxieties that linger on fantasies and futures; realities and escapes; costs and risks; identities and aliases; representations and reps. The introduction by Knight Landesman gives a good pow-wow through the world of ads and its possibilities. Then unfolds the visceral worlds of ads, artists, arts …



    From the cover of AD BOOK





    BK: What is an AD BOOK?

    This e-book consists entirely of advertisements by artists. Normally advertisements are the stuff you don’t want but need (to finance the thing you are reading). The book has everything from a poster of Real Fine Art’s Michael Krebber show Here Comes The Sons from 2011 to an ad for net artist Daniel Leyva’s ongoing podcast Purecast. It’s full of things that happened, content that is still happening and stuff that’s supposed to happen. It’s like buying a space on the internet that you can carry around with you. You can own this weird space and share it with whoever you want offline: on the subway, on your lunch break, in your bedroom, wherever.

    While making AD BOOK, we were thinking about how similar our interactions are with a magazine as compared to a catalogue, a book of neighborhood coupons, or even the interactions we have with our own network through social media. It was our attempt at connecting these seemingly disparate experiences. It is also, taken as a whole, an advertisement of ourselves.


    AD BOOK in bedroom (ads by Cody DeFranco, Alex Iezzi, Kim Asendorf)

    BK: While I was “flipping” through AD BOOK I couldn’t resist following hyperlinks – whether it was simply for the sake of voyeuristic page jumping and snooping in the way I navigate through social media platforms (twitter, tumblr, and all the good stuff), I’m not so sure. But in the midst of my random jumps to and from pages, I recognized thatAD BOOK is also host to multiple temporalities. As in, there are actual dates on some ads that are from the past, ads that indicate ‘coming soon,’ ads that are in the relative future, so on and so forth.  Personally for me, this sense of time warp gives me a new buzz that differentiates AD BOOK from the high of, lets say, snooping through Facebook. In the process of compiling AD BOOK, how did you approach time sensitive ads, if any, in relation to its release? What is time in AD BOOK and how does it matter?

    Because AD BOOK itself is time sensitive, I think having these varied temporalities in the book is useful in rooting the book in a specific moment. Words such as “coming soon” introduces an urgency and places the reader in a position where they are anticipating something, even though it may be for an event long passed. Some ads were for things that had already passed years before, but can be read as an event that is still legible in the moment that AD BOOK came out. Because we were trying to illustrate the moment of the book, we had to take into account that moment’s past and its imminent future.

    BK: You mentioned that AD BOOK is one of the most democratic e-books to exist. What do you mean by that?

    Any advertisement was published as long as it was paid for.

    BK: In what process of the AD BOOK’s materialization does it distinguish itself from other e-books and/or artbooks?

    A lot of art books order art sequentially. AD BOOK has no sequence. It has been a lot of drag n’ dropping (click-wise) as well as lots of coding to make it look and feel so fluid. It resembles a high school yearbook with ad space from your local hardware store but with art. That’s what makes it fun. The book splits pages into halves and quarters and creates particular associations in the book between the art and artists involved that made it very BFFA3AE to me. And by that I mean, it was kind of ridiculous but with very real people involved, which is how I feel about the art we make together.


    Josh Kline, Ian Cheng and Rachel Rose

    We hadn’t anticipated this element in advance, but the extent of pure administrative work involved (compiling contacts, promotion, drafting invoices, etc...) was so massive that it began to take on its own role in the concept. It breached the traditional image you get when considering the crafting stage in art making in this way that brought our concept into a strange present day reality - like we were planning some average networking event or writing yellow pages, but in a really great way that bled back into the concept.

    I’d also like to say I listened to a lot of t.A.T.u while coding the e-book. Well, the club mix version anyway. And I’d like to think this book has whatever that means in it.

    BK: I definitely hear club mix in AD BOOK! I mean, why not audio?

    While AD BOOK does take advantage of certain functions available only to e-books, I think we did not want to stray too far from the idea of material based books and magazines. We wanted it be something that you flipped through with no page ever demanding your attention the way something like audio does, literally taking up your time for the duration of the audio.

    BK: You put together some very interesting aspects of an ‘ad’ in AD BOOK, and have crossed many, if I may, boundaries of advertising that one might understand from contemporary magazines, web, etc... For instance, such that an ad is produced with a lot of money and therefore for more money. Could you elaborate more on how you have determined the cost of a page and the spectrum of selection (submission and solicitation)?

    The solicitation of ads was done by open call, primarily across our own networks. There were a few guest appearances by strangers who had randomly heard of the book, but were in the end connected to us somehow. There were a few instances of friends recognizing names in the book we didn’t. It was a weird way of getting to know someone.

    As for the cost of each ad, we knew we wanted to differentiate how value was normally assigned and exchanged. With a magazine, the pricing of ad space works like real estate - higher visibility demands a higher rate. Because the book comprised our own network and friends, we wanted to take into account our relationship with each individual and determined a semi-randomized price based on this.

    BK: Do you see AD BOOK as a beginning of a series?

    Definitely, I think it sort of has to be. Like said earlier, it’s so specific to this moment in time and would need to evolve to maintain its relevancy and even power I would say. I would actually compare it to Disney’s Fantasia, which was originally intended to be re-released each year with some new segments mixed with some of the segments from the version before. Had they gone with this plan, it would have been a showcase for the evolution of the medium and different creators at that given time, contrasted with what and who came before.

    BK: I gather that social networking was key to the making of AD BOOK. But I also sense that AD BOOK culminates into a network in itself, kind of like the Yellow Pages as you mentioned earlier. As a result of AD BOOK’s interactivity and digital fabric, and now prospects of a continued series, do you anticipate or perhaps already have experienced an exponential expansion in submissions of ads (kind of like a wave of ‘friend’-ing or ‘follow’-ing)? On that note, how do you visualize the future of AD BOOK’s content and size?

    Some people were hesitant to submit until they began hearing their friends/networks talk about their own AD BOOK submissions, which I think is kind of funny/interesting in that it reflects how a user base grows for a lot of new online networks/platforms.

    While we are not currently accepting any submissions for a future AD BOOK, I think the process of submission will remain the same every time we choose to remake the book. This means that the content and size of the book will depend on how many people are willing to pay for an advertisement. We hope that it will be something bigger the next time we make it, but in the end don’t really have a say in that.

    BK: The AD BOOK had a solo exhibition at Gloria Maria Gallery, Milan. How does this change the fabric and function, or more so, the lifespan of this particular e-book. What does it mean to have an interactive medium to be placed on a flat screen/gallery space?


    AD BOOK: Visual Express Edition by BFFA3AE at Gloria Maria Cappelleti Gallery, 2013

    We made AD BOOK: Visual Express Edition for Gloria Maria Gallery as an extension of the project - an advertisement for the book itself that encourages each visitor to download AD BOOK at home on their own devices through video teasers as well as the book on the iPad at the gallery.

    In addition, we produced an e-book trailer featuring a few artists from AD BOOK flipping through the e-book as they asked one another, “What kind of art do you make?” to “Do you know this guy?” the sort of networking chatter we all do.

    This worked in the same vein as the preview event we held last year at the Goethe Institut in New York organized by David Horvitz. Occurring on CyberMonday, it involved a first look at the AD BOOK as well as a networking event where people were encouraged to mingle, create name tags, and exchange numbers. It was a space not only for self promotion, but also a space where the book could be actualized in a physical realm.


    via Instagram @biancarocksout #bffa3ae #adbooknetworkparty at Goethe Institut

    BK: To continue on with the question of the making-of -- perhaps taking a step back from the meta of it all - to what extent does the e-book as a medium allow and/or limit content?

    I approach e-books like I do with websites. I surf the book, am attracted to certain areas, go away for awhile then come back to it. AD BOOK has over 200 links, jpgs, gifs, emails.  A lot to keep you busy. It’s both like a bookmarked website and an address book. E-books allow sharing the kind of art that looks great on a computer and that’s really why I love it. It's always a negotiation when coding e-books you never know if it’s going to feel right for the user/reader. At Badlands, we focus on the e-book experience what makes it different than the softcover. I think the line between design and art is becoming more seamless in digital publishing and it’s pretty exciting to be a part of it.

    BK: I’m going to end with the most generic, and in a way, most crucial question. What’s next for BFFA3AE? AD BOOK?

    Going to play lots of games and buy an electric mixer to make really good cakes/pasta dough!

    Pay rent. Wait for the theatrical release of Spring Breakers. Tweet/Instagram/Vine about it. People need to buy this book is what needs to happen next with AD BOOK.


    AD BOOK by BFFA3AE is available as an e-book on Apple iBookstore (for the iPad/iPhone/iTouch). ISBN: 978-1-936440-58-0

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    A collection of examples from the Prosthetic Knowledge Tumblr archive on the relatively new and impressive web technology, WebGL.

    WebGL has very recently reached it's second birthday, and has transformed the browser-based experience incredibly. By utilizing the local graphical hardware on your computer, the browser can now display smooth 3D graphics, impressive when compared to the early text-based publishing nature of the internet. The technology has been used to create great examples of interactive content, from biologicalstudies, datavisualization, design services, and many webtoys.

    The selection is certainly not a comprehensive examination on the subject, but offers a look into some of the creative potential of the technology, from demos to services.


    Online community site for hosting and sharing 3D shader examples, featuring many impressive and interactive works:

    Shadertoy is the first application to allow developers all over the globe to push pixels from code to screen using WebGL since 2009.

    This website is the natural evolution of that original idea. On one hand, it has been rebuilt in order to provide the computer graphics developers and hobbyists with a great platform to prototype, experiment, teach, learn, inspire and share their creations with the community. On the other, the expressiveness of the shaders has arisen by allowing different types of inputs such as video or sound.


    Online portfolio service hosts your 3D models, including Kinect captures, which are both interactive and embeddable:

    Sketchfab is a web service to publish interactive 3D content online in real-time without plugin. The world we live in is in 3D, but the web is still in 2D, and we want to change that. We think your 3D models deserve something better than screenshots or “showreel” videos. That’s why we created Sketchfab. We understand 3D and bring it to the web.

    An example of an embedded 'Sketchfab' piece:

    Andrew Benson's WebGL Art Demos

    Two pieces of online art put together by Andrew Benson.

    The first, ‘Radical Paintings’ (top) is a generative, always changing dynamic spectacle of colour, shapes and morphing.

    The second, ‘Bouncing Gradient’ (below), are random bouncing polygons, which you can add as many as you wish.


    First of two landscape demoscene examples - this one is especially exceptional, comprised of only 28kb of code - via CreativeJS:

    Elevated was originally released in 2009 at the Breakpoint demo party. Created by Rgba and TBC it took the viewer on a stunning trip around a beautiful mountain landscape, complete with music, rippling seas and lighting effects. All packed into a tiny 4k executable. A level of procedural generation that would make even Braben weep.
    Fast forward to 2013 and the Japanese JavaScript gurus 301z have taken the PC original and converted it to just 28Kb worth of WebGL powered demo heaven. You’ll need Chrome or Firefox to view it with WebGL enabled, and it takes a while for it to calculate all of the textures, music and data at the beginning – but once done it’s a wonderful visual treat.

    Never Seen The Sky

    The second demo is closer to familiar demoscene territory, featuring landscape flyovers and effects synchronized to music (Chrome only).

    Additional Links

    A write-up on WebGL by one of the creators of Never Seen The Sky

    An online course in 3D programming in WebGL

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    In this second part of our genealogy, we move not forward in time, but look back to an encounter that took place between two foundational figures in logic and mathematics, in an attempt to identify the conflicting role of contradiction, misunderstanding, failure, and disagreement in the queer history of computation. While again these figures are well known, the encounter between them is often dismissed as a missed connection and a failed opportunity. As such, it is often relegated to an uninteresting footnote in the history of mathematics. By reengaging this encounter I hope to blur the lines between computing, philosophy, and mathematics, and to disrupt the narrative trajectory that would see Turing as the single foundational figure within this history.

    An Encounter

    In the spring of 1939, Ludwig Wittgenstein taught a course at the University of Cambridge on the foundations of mathematics, a topic that occupied much of his work from 1922 through to the end of the Second World War. That same semester Wittgenstein was finally elected chair of philosophy at the university, acquiring British citizenship soon thereafter. At fifty years old, he was an established figure in analytic philosophy, having published his groundbreaking Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus almost twenty years prior, and having written extensively on the work of Gödel, Russell, and Whitehead. While Wittgenstein is considered by many to be the most important philosopher of the 20th century, he published very little in his lifetime, and much of his thought and character can only be derived from what survives of his lectures, notes, and seminars. Still less is known of his sexuality, and until the 1980s it was a subject rarely discussed among colleagues or in the many biographies written about his life and work.[i] Even now that Wittgenstein's homosexuality has been largely acknowledged, most scholars are hesitant to imply a connection between his philosophy and his sexuality – that is, between his work and his inner state, emotions, or personality. If, however, in a contemporary light we understand queerness as a structuring mode of desiring, we might view Wittgenstein's thought not as emerging from his sexuality, but as structured by the way in which it shaped his mode of being in the world.


    Wittgenstein with Francis Skinner in Cambridge ca. 1933

    Wittgenstein is widely regarded to have fallen in love with three men; David Pinset[ii] in 1912, Francis Skinner in 1930, and Ben Richards in the late 1940s.[iii] While it is clear these were relationships of love and affection, the extent to which they were physical is often contested. What seems to make many Wittgenstein scholars uncomfortable in confronting his homosexuality is that it conflicts with the ascetic, almost priestly view of a man so revered by contemporary philosophy. As Bruce Duffy suggests in a 1988 New York Times article on the life of Wittgenstein, "In their effort to put forth a plain, unvarnished record of what Wittgenstein did and said, some of these memoirs have almost the feeling of gospels – hushed, reverential, proprietary."[iv] The philosopher – or indeed, the mathematician – as a carnal, sexual being produces a seemingly irresolvable contradiction. Even those accounts that do concede his affection for other men often suggest that those feelings were purely aesthetic or emotional, and were never acted upon. That said, in perhaps the most controversial section of his 1973 biography of Wittgenstein, W. W. Bartley suggests that the philosopher frequently engaged in a kind of anonymous cross-class sexual contact facilitated by public cruising spaces such as parks and high streets.

    By walking for ten minutes to the east . . . he could quickly reach the parkland meadows of the Prater, where rough young men were ready to cater to him sexually. Once he had discovered this place, Wittgenstein found to his horror that he could scarcely keep away from it . . . Wittgenstein found he much preferred the sort of rough blunt homosexual youth that he could find strolling in the paths and alleys of the Prater to those ostensibly more refined young men who frequented the Sirk Ecke in the Kärntnerstrasse and the neighboring bars at the edge of the inner city.[v]

    These kinds of exceptional spaces as sites for anonymous sexual encounters continue well into the 20th century, and are instrumental in the structure of being and interaction that the author Samuel Delany identifies as contact:

    [C]ontact is also the intercourse—physical and conversational—that blooms in and as “casual sex” in public rest rooms, sex movies, public parks, singles bars, and sex clubs, on street corners with heavy hustling traffic, and in the adjoining motels or the apartments of one or another participant, from which nonsexual friendships and/or acquaintances lasting for decades or a lifetime may spring . . . a relation that, a decade later, has devolved into a smile or a nod, even when (to quote Swinburne) 'You have forgotten my kisses, / And I have forgotten your name.'[vi]

    Bartley's sources have been called into question by many historians, but it is less the detail of his description than the acknowledgement of an embodied sexuality that is significant to this history; it is the difficulty we often have in finding the sexual in the everyday, in the lived work of a person beyond these exceptional moments of contact. While such effects may be invisible or to a degree, unknowable, that does not mean they aren't real and do not have a direct effect on the world.


    The Prater park in Vienna

    In the Tractatus, Wittgenstein defines truth as a tautology, that is, a result achieved through the mere repetition of the same meaning. While he insists that there exist religious or ethical truths, he argues that they cannot be put into words, that they are unknowable through language, and that claims to express ethical truths through philosophy must fail. Wittgenstein summarizes the Tractatus with the maxim: “What can be said at all can be said clearly; and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence.”[vii] What does it mean that for Wittgenstein truth is something that can be known but not discussed, that is indescribable? And how does he apply this critique to truths we understand to be beyond language – the truth of the body, or the truth of mathematics?

    Missed Connections

    Back at Cambridge in 1939, another young scholar and philosopher was also beginning his research at the university. After two years working under Alonso Church at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, Alan Turing took up a position as an untenured research fellow at Cambridge, having failed to acquire a full lectureship. Turing and Wittgenstein had been introduced the summer of 1937, but it was not until two years later in 1939 that they would have any meaningful interaction. That spring Turing was also teaching a course on the foundations of mathematics that shared the same name as Wittgenstein's lecture.[viii]  Perhaps intrigued, Turing enrolled. Over the course of the semester, Turing engaged in a lengthy dialogue with Wittgenstein, challenging and outright refusing much of Wittgenstein's thoughts on logic and mathematics.[ix] Despite their disagreement, this seems a pivotal moment in the history of computing, in which two queer figures engage with the limits of knowledge and computability, questioning that which exists outside of or beyond.

    As a young man, Wittgenstein had thought logic could provide a solid foundation for a philosophy of mathematics. Now in his fifties, he denied outright there were any mathematical facts to be discovered. For Wittgenstein, a proof in mathematics does not establish the truth of a conclusion, but rather fixes the meaning of certain signs. That is, the "inexorability" of mathematics does not consist of certain knowledge of mathematical truths, but in the fact that mathematical propositions are grammatical, a kind of language game through which meaning becomes fixed. One the first day of class, Wittgenstein begins by stating, "I shall try and try again to show that what is called a mathematical discovery had much better be called a mathematical invention."[x]


    The Erkenntnis from the Königsberg Congress of 1930

    Throughout the semester, Wittgenstein attempts to demonstrate that, if we may identify a single contradiction within a system such as mathematics, it ceases to function and loses all meaning. In one particularly memorable exchange, Wittgenstein puts forth one of his favorite contradictions – known as Epimenides' paradox, or the liar's paradox – in which I make the claim "I am lying," thereby creating a paradox in which if I am lying I am telling the truth, and if I am not lying I am telling a lie. Such an example may seem like nothing more than a silly logic puzzle, but it is significant that they produce a paradox that cannot be made meaningful to mathematics, and that these contradictions exist outside of any functional or productive applications. This, of course, is an affront to the very practice of mathematical logic. As Andrew Hodges notes, "Getting statements free from contradictions is the very essence of mathematics. Turing perhaps thought Wittgenstein did not take seriously enough the unobvious and difficult questions that had arisen in the attempt to formalize mathematics; Wittgenstein thought Turing did not take seriously the question of why one should want to formalize mathematics at all."[xi]

    Wittgenstein uses Turing as a straw man of sorts, tasked with defending the philosophical validity of mathematics as a whole. Over the course of the two-term seminar, one can't help but get the sense that the two men are speaking past one another; that their concerns and interests diverge on a fundamental level. On the whole, Turing argues for a rather conservative approach to mathematics and its use in material applications. Surely, Turing argues, mathematics must be more than language games, as it enables us to build bridges that do not fall down, and to calculate with great precision measurable truths in the world. Yet despite his philosophical refusal, Turing's own work and research during the three years prior to the lectures touches on many of the same themes Wittgenstein was pursuing in his lectures, and addresses those invisible or unknowable truths that escape mathematical calculation through computation. While the two are clearly are at odds over their importance, both are nonetheless explicitly preoccupied with these externalities, these meaningless contradictions.

    Turing's most famous work on this subject is On Computable Numbers, published in 1936, in which he establishes the definition of computable numbers as "the real numbers whose expressions as a decimal are calculable by finite means," stating that "a number is computable if its decimal can be written down by a machine." Turing expands his thesis, proving that his formalism was sufficiently general to encompass anything that a human being could do when carrying out a definite method. Importantly, Turing also established in this work the limits of computation, identifying the existence of uncomputable problems that cannot be solved through a definite method.[xii] The most famous such problem is the halting problem, in which an algorithm is built to calculate whether a given program will halt and produce a solution, or run forever. If such a program were to exist, we might in turn apply it back onto itself, asking it to find if it will ever halt, and in doing so creating a paradox not dissimilar to that of the liar.

    More interesting to this project, however, is a supplementary paper published in 1939, titled Systems of Logic Based on Ordinals, in which Turing asks if it is possible to formalize those actions of the mind that do not follow a definite method — mental actions we might call creative or original in nature. There exist certain sets of uncomputable problems which are functionally solvable by human means, but for which there is no definite method for calculating an answer. Here Turing suggests the impossibility of accounting for this intuitive action through computation, stating:

    Mathematical reasoning may be regarded rather schematically as the combination of two faculties, which we may call intuition and ingenuity. The activity of the intuition consists in making spontaneous judgments which are not the result of conscious trains of reasoning.[xiii]

    It is unclear how such intuition functions, or how to understand and successfully implement it, but Turing's biographer Andrew Hodges suggests that "the evidence is that at this time [Turing] was open to the idea that in moments of 'intuition' the mind appears to do something outside the scope of the Turing machine." That is, outside of computation as Turing has defined it.[xiv]


    How then to bring together these two moments of the founding and formalization of computing? In one we have the refusal of the truth mathematics would hope to claim and an investigation of those contradictions that exist within, but are beyond the scope of logical inquiry. In the other there is an investigation of those exceptional sites and the suggestion that there is a process that exists beyond computation that nonetheless allows us to make truthful claims about the world. Two views on the same problem, and a seemingly impassible philosophical divide.

    For most historians of mathematics and technology, this encounter is viewed as a failure of recognition, and of the inability of Turing and Wittgenstein to reach across and make contact with one another on these fundamental questions. Much as it is unclear what one may have known about the other's sexuality, or if such similarities were even legible as a form of community or even commonality, there seems here to be a misrecognition, a failure to connect. And yet I would like to suggest that this is precisely the point, that this is precisely what makes this a queer encounter. It is the impossibility of narrativizing this encounter in legible terms, and the way in which this impossibility mirrors the indescribable, external truths that so preoccupied the minds of both men, that unites them. It is in these exceptional spaces outside of formally describable systems – binary code, language, mathematics – that we may identify a queerness at work.

    In choosing this, perhaps the earliest moment at which such an inquiry is made possible, it seems meaningful that such questions are being posed by two queer men who met only briefly and, perhaps appropriately, were unable to come to an agreement, or to even understand the questions the other sought to answer. And yet each man's work seeks to investigate the limits of a particular system of knowledge that functions by delimiting the analog world through the construction of a hermetic system; one that rejects those externalities that might otherwise cause it to fail. If we consider queerness simply in terms of sexual preference or as an alternative formation within an established set of desiring modes, then describing any form of computing as "queer" may seem absurd. If instead we understand queerness as a process of self-shattering rather than self-fashioning, then we begin to align it with these exceptional objects and practices that exist beyond the limits of a system such as computation. While it is no doubt true that queerness is not the only means by which we might ask these questions of technology, or through which we might seek an alternative to the universalizing structures of computing technology, it is my suggestion that is an ideal lens through which to examine that which exists outside or beyond, and one that begins here in these earliest moments in the history of computation.

    [i] W. W. Bartley III's Wittgenstein (1973) devotes 4-5 pages to the philosopher's sexuality, based on interviews conducted in the 1960s and translations of Wittgenstein's own encrypted journals – many of which were destroyed at his own insistence in 1950, a year before his death. Based on these passages the book was attacked vehemently and repeatedly by Wittgenstein's family and colleagues, in the pages of the New York Times Literary Supplement, and at the annual Wittgenstein Congress at the Wittgenstein Documentation Center in Kirchberg am Wechsel, Austria. The book was called sensationalist and false despite the availability of multiple documents corroborating Wittgenstein conflicted feeling towards his sexuality.

    [ii] David Hume Pinset was a descendent of the philosopher David Hume, and was a friend and colleague to Wittgenstein, collaborating on research and traveling on holidays with him to Iceland and Norway. In 1918 Pinset was killed in a military flying accident, and Wittgenstein would later dedicate his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922) to his memory.

    [iii] Monk, Ray. Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius. Free Press, 1990, pp. 583–586.

    [iv] Duffy, Bruce. "The Do-it-Yourself Life of Ludwig Wittgenstein" The New York Times November 13, 1988. <>.

    [v] Bartley: Wittgenstein, p. 47.

    [vi] Delany, Samuel. Times Square Red Times Square Blue. New York: NYU Press, 2001 p. 123-124.

    [vii] Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. New York: Routledge, 1921-2001, p. 3.

    [viii] Diamond, Cora (ed.) Wittgenstein's Lectures on the Foundations of Mathematics: Cambridge, 1939 Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1976.

    [ix] These encounters have been collected and recorded based on the notes of four students who attended the lecture, and were subsequently edited and published. As such they form an imperfect, but essential archive.

    [x] Diamond, Ibid. 416.

    [xi] Hodges, Andrew. "Alan Turing: One of the Great Philosophers" Web. <>.

    [xii] Turing's work on uncomputability does not emerge from nowhere. It is informed by several decades of debate in the early history of mathematics – what is often referred to as the foundational crisis of mathematics, or Grundlagenkrise der Mathematik – over the question of whether mathematics had any foundation that could be stated within mathematics itself without suffering from irresolvable paradoxes. This led to competing schools of thought, the most important of which was Hilbert's program, named after the German mathematician David Hilbert. The program proposed to ground all existing theories to a finite, complete set of axioms, and provide a proof that these axioms were consistent. However, in 1931 Kurt Gödel's incompleteness theorems showed that any consistent system with a computable set of axioms which is capable of expressing arithmetic can never be complete, that it is possible to prove a statement to be true that cannot be derived from the formal rules of the system. Turing would take Gödel's work further, applying this theorem to the concept of computability, defined as that which can be stated within a formal system and may therefore be executed by a machine with a procedural grasp of computational logic.

    [xiii] This train of thought belongs to a field in the philosophy of mathematics known as "intuitionism."

    [xiv] To be clear, these externalities and paradoxes are not simply language games, but can be applied to real world problems as well. One famous example is that of Zeno's paradoxes, formulated by the Greek philosopher Zeno of Elea (ca. 490-430 BCE). In Zeno's dichotomy paradox, he states that "locomotion must arrive at the half-way stage before it arrives at the goal" (Aristotle, Physics VI:9, 239b10). In other words, if any possible finite distance may be divided in half, then in order to reach a given goal, a moving object must first get halfway there. Before it can get halfway there, it must get a quarter of the way there, before traveling a quarter it must travel one-eighth, and so on. The resulting solution requires the object to complete an infinite number of tasks, which Zeno maintains is an impossibility – yet clearly in the observable world objects move from location to location and arrive at their destination despite this contradiction. The same limits exist for computation, and have led to a hypothetical computational models that allow for a countably infinite number of algorithmic steps to be completed in finite time. The resulting hypothetical computer is often referred to as a Zeno machine, and is an example of a super-Turing machine – that is, a computer that functions beyond universal Turing computation. It is interesting to note that Zeno, like many Greek men, participated in homosexual erastes-eromenos mentor relationships, and was loved and mentored by Parmenides of Elea, the founder of the Eleatic school of philosophy.

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  • 03/21/13--09:30: Artist Profile: Paul Kneale
  • This interview is being conducted on a Google doc. I’ve seen your Drive; you use it regularly and with a certain energy. Further, there’s an underlying aesthetic reminiscent of SketchUp in your work. How important are these technologies within your practice? Would it be wrong to make a separation between your art practice and the organisation of your life?

    First of all, I don’t feel like I make a clean division between technology and not-technology. I think the political reality of today is that we are all subjects of a blended Capital/Information management system, where all of our activity and production becomes a form of power that is transferred to the systems it is deployed within. I was born by caesarean section in a high-tech operating room, and if I walk down the street to sit in the park there’s a subway under my feet, CCTV cameras along the way and scores of planes overhead, so I think it’s a dangerous false dichotomy. To that extent, being knowingly involved with these technologies and articulating that in artworks is a kind of Thanatos. This also leads on to the realization that the traces of this contemporary Thanatos have a new material texture. Something I labeled before as the ‘New Abject’. This isn’t an abject of shit and blood and dirt, that one finds throughout art history in things ranging from Dutch still life to Mike Kelley sculptures, but rather a psychological abject that is in relation to these control technologies and capital systems. To that extent I think the texture of freeware such as Google Drive is one expression of this New Abject. Its pared down, limited range of operating choices reminds you of your subjugation to the provider, normalizing their possession of your activities within, in exchange for the convenience of the free service. If I make an image PDF with Google Drive it’s never going to be as slick as with expensive dedicated publishing software. The layout options are less flexible, and the image quality is limited. So there’s a kind of shitiness that isn’t dirty, it's still a binary affair, but it vaguely expresses these political and subject-relations. I think the aesthetics of this relation are interesting because they display a shift in commodity fetishism. The productive labor-relations behind an object can still be literally concealed, but there are sign systems we are now able to read that desublimate them. In thermodynamics desublimation is when a substance passes from a gas directly to a solid, without becoming a liquid, as in snow forming from water vapor in clouds. I think this is a metaphor that feels right for me to describe the way that these formerly gaseous relations are all of a sudden laying around in piles on the ground. Maybe it makes good sense to pack them into a projectile.

    Thinking of projectiles, and thinking of where you project them, maybe we can talk about site specificity. In particular there’s an attention to location in your work; you’ve appropriated the old name sign of the ex-library you live in and turned its letters into sort of fettered sculptures - molding Rotherhithe into Roma. Paul Virilio talks of the shrinking of the world through technology in terms of speed and terror, but maybe this is a reductive way of thinking about it. Are you a nomad? A cyber-real airport flaneur? (Is it interesting to talk about issues of gentrification, globalization and networks, at this point? They’re very real problems that hurt people as much as they help them.)

    A year or two ago I sent Nicolas Bourriaud a Facebook friend request -- I have a screenshot of the confirmation -- that at the time struck me as light-hearted joke about his relational philosophies on art. I occasionally still check us in somewhere together, like the Shoreditch Boxpark, and a little while back he even responded saying he didn’t remember being there with me! I think this tenuous level ‘relation’ is the kind of discourse that people found problematic in his theories, even though he was absolutely prescient in identifying that artists had shifted their orientation toward production in line with changes that were happening more generally in global economic patterns and cybernetics. So I think this period of romanticizing the airport dweller is a 90’s or early 2000’s thing for me. I think it reflects a utopianism that was burst in a few different bubbles since then. I definitely spend too much time in airports, but I think what interests me is the bus or train ride to get there rather than the symbolic aspect of the place in general. For example a week or two ago I had to go to a small city in France, and the airport is miles outside the center with only a city bus connecting it if you don’t want to pay for a taxi. As soon as you got outside of the airport the area had this completely unexpected American feeling to it. Big box stores and motels right next to the highway. I started taking photos on my phone out the window of the bus and realized that they looked exactly like google streetview. I must have been at just the height of the their elevated camera. So I was having this experience where I was hyper-aware of my physical place -- trying to kind of visually process a new landscape -- but the results of that processing just looked like I was in front of my computer again. So I find this kind of thing really interesting as well -- places becoming specific or unspecific, sometimes both at once! The Rotherhithe-Roma piece and the others in the same vein (Rotherhithe-NYC, etc.) came from this feeling of understanding your political and spatial existence in a place. Our London studio is in a vacant library in a central area that has so far avoided gentrification, and we are that first wave. I feel conflicted but not necessarily badly about it, as we run a project space whose shows are free and open to the public; people teach classes and do various events here -- and the many people who pass through are great customers of the liquor store and pizzeria on the street. So it’s not like we’re property developers forcing people to sell so we can build a new condo. But of course we do represent that tipping point where the neighborhood starts to slope toward the generic spaces of every major western city. So I think those sculptures were involved in this transition point that I am a part of. Hiring some workers with a lift truck to remove them and fabricating them into these self-consciously glamorous mobiles. Whether they celebrate or mourn this tipping point is ambiguous for me because I’m more concerned with the event itself and how that might become legible in a concentrated form like a sculpture. 

    How important was it to situate yourself in London, therefore?

    I think London’s iconography is really interesting because it’s so removed from the experience of the city.  In places like New York or Paris you always have the feeling that you’re participating in the filmic experience of the place you have logged in your memory. London’s pop images feel like a flaky concession to that. The experience you actually have is somehow almost characterless. Pure economy. I think the extreme expense of living also has two important effects. Firstly it means that people have smaller studios and less money for materials, so they are economically drawn to projects that can utilize things they probably already have, like computers. Secondly and for the same reasons of space, when people do get together they usually do it somewhere public -- in bars or galleries rather than people’s houses, so there’s a kind of public character to interpersonal relations, which somehow feels coextensive of networked relations.  I really like London because it’s so difficult, but doesn't really offer any models for how you should deal with that. It forces you to keep it real, invent your own. 

    I feel also you have a relationship with older types of media - Gutenberg media - particularly present in your wall prints. We can of course trace the Internet of today as having emerged from these technologies, although the web may also prove to be a rupture as significant as mechanical movable type in the 1400s. Can you explain more about the use of this aesthetic in your work?

    That’s an interesting question because I was watching this video with Jaron Lanier where he plays a 7000 year old instrument from Laos that he describes as being the forerunner to the computer via its relation to the steam driven pipe organ and the Jacquard Loom, which was an important advancement in what came to be known as programming. Anyways, the instrument still makes noise, in fact, it sounds like a traffic jam from the period where people still honked their horns to express frustration in gridlock. I think a lot of what gets labeled as ‘post-internet’ art isn’t actually ‘post’ at all because it deals hyper-specifically with the textures and experiences local to network experiences, especially the logics and experiences of screens, types of exchanges that happen in this environment etc. But I think that it’s more like ‘high’ Internet rather than ‘post’ Internet. If you think of ‘high modernism’ it’s exactly that painting which was completely absorbed in the aesthetics of its own highly specific debate. And if you really think about it, the screen and canvas share virtually all of the same properties. 2D space that can have an illusionistic quality. Messages conveyed through either depictions that mimic binocular vision or shared symbol systems. Everything that happens on your computer screen is already a painting, if not a fancy one. I think for me, being ‘post’ this technology has more to do with understanding your political subjectivity and mental space as being conditioned by this experience, and taking that conditioning back toward the question of ‘how do you make art?’ It’s not really that interesting to just repeat a paradigm’s surface effects.

    More specifically to those pieces you mentioned, they are maybe an illustration of this intersection between an ability and a conditioning from technology on one hand, and a material experience on the other. I travel a lot and newspapers still exist in lots of places. I mean, half the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day, which means they don’t have iPhones, so I think there are some old things, like printed media and bread, for example, that are still contemporary things in the literal sense: ‘with time’. They’re with time because in a simple Marxist sense they have a use value. As another example, I found out through looking for one that its actually really expensive to buy a used photocopier in London because dealers pick them up and resell them in Africa where there’s a huge market and need for basic outputs of documents etc. as bureaucratic cities are developing.

    I see that there are all kinds of methods of showing, encoding and transmitting, and all of them have material supports. Whether that’s a nuclear power station that feeds electricity to a data center in the US, or a contemporary offset printing press that can produce 70,000 copies an hour. A big part of my work involves language, and as language always has a material aspect that is indivisible from its meaning, these different material supports present different possibilities of working. If I’ve got a newspaper I can cut it up and work with it just about anywhere. You can usually get a pair of scissors, a gluestick and some paper for a few dollars. If the newspaper is in a language I don’t understand, I’ll use the google translate app on my phone to figure out one bit at a time, which also allows you to come to structures that might be outside of your normal grammatical and logical language patterns. I’ll look for words that seem interesting and then try and string them together with the translator. So it's a very hybrid process: on one hand there’s the kind of surfing through the newspaper format, and on the other using the technology to help me make non-sense of it. Which I think ends up incorporating the site of production without excluding the network relation that’s always there now.

    I really want to talk about poetry. Maybe a key relationship in your work is that between poetry and LOL. Can you say something about this?

    Poetry for me is the broken condition of language that manages to keep going despite being broken, perhaps by using the broken parts for something else -- a kind of repurposing. And also a liminal activity that presupposes an agreement -- that the author and the reader collectively produce meaning, but that this collective production might not be useful, have a particular point, and in that way undermine the agreement that makes it possible. LOL, if it’s a thing at all, is maybe a similar kind of gerrymandering between agreement, performativity and the empty center. I think maybe the added dimension with LOL or maybe even better lulz is a little bit of schadenfreude. It’s the enjoyment of creating a disruption, or simply uncovering one that was already there. Panic can be productive insofar as it forces an identification outside of the obvious systems one exists in. When a normally law abiding character in a film is being chased, they’ll generally run through backyards, even other people’s houses -- they’re not thinking about the property rights that frame that activity under the law as ‘trespassing’.

    Age: 26

    Location: London

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

    As long as I’ve been doing anything creatively.  It probably started with a Commodore 64 Dot Matrix printer my dad would let me mess around with when I was basically a baby, and moved on to making in-the-can edited videos for all my class assignments with all my friends.  I realized early on that doing something ‘creative’ meant you could make up your own rules about how it was done, and if there was a device involved that the teacher didn't quite have a grip on, even better. 

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

    I basically use whatever makes sense for an idea, or conversely sometimes an idea will come from a tool. I tend to like things that are at the low end of the spectrum because I think they have a more visible history of relations in the surfaces and aesthetics they produce. HD always just looks expensive, but a cheap laser printer or badly compressed video articulates the level of access that one has more generally. I also expropriate things into my work, so I suppose the tools that someone else may have used become visible and part of a dialogue there as well. 

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

    I did a BA at the University of Toronto where I studied Physics, Philosophy, Literature and Art -- all in different departments, and then I did an MFA at Slade School of Fine Art in London, which was just art. 

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

    I don’t really make that distinction. I think it’s all technology and all tradition all at the same time. Technology is loaded with tradition. I’ve yet to see a consumer digital camera that doesn’t make an image that replicates how your eyes work. 

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

    Now I’m just an artist, and I don’t think of it as work. But in the past I’ve had a lot of terrible jobs, none of which I could ever keep for very long since I’m no good at pretending that I liked them. I’ve washed dishes in a restaurant, driven a transport truck, been a night security guard, stocked shelves overnight in a supermarket, construction work, bartender.  The nice thing about a shitty job is that you can keep your mental space. I remember when I washed dishes in a restaurant I was stuck in this small back room and I would just play really intense heavy metal so no one tried to make small talk with me, and if the dishes were all washed, no one cared that I was back there writing notes on kitchen-paper. I like to do things intermittently over long periods, so I think the best jobs were the ones that accommodated that. I think it all influences my way of looking at the world, and through that, my art practice. It’s good to know all different kinds of people too. 

    Who are your key artistic influences?

    I look at a lot of art, mostly because I really love it, but I would say the people who really influence me the most are my friends. I think one of the great things about art is that you can get together with some people and redefine things, because on a certain level that’s how works are validated and come to visibility. I think it’s really important to make your own scene. A lot of historical artists I’m not friends with who I admire have been really good at that. 

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

    Yes! Collaboration is great because you get to share the energy of someone else’s ideas. But I don’t see it as some escape from all the issues of ego, more like a magnification of it really. So I collaborate with people all the time. My favorite collaboration would have to be a film I made with my partner Megan Rooney a few years ago when we were still living in Toronto. We both have these email address we made when we were teenagers so checking your mail involved going to the Yahoo homepage all the time. They had this newsfeed embedded in the page that was really notorious for it’s junk news mixed in with issues of real concern. You’d always have a terrible headline about a car bomb in Iraq directly under something about Britney having a meltdown, for example. So one day there was like a 400 word article about a glass-floor walkway that had been built out over the edge of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and somehow we decided that this article should compel us to go investigate it. No further research, no real plan -- just use this garbage blurb and architectural rendering image as the impetus for a big undertaking. Something about trying to discover what depth of reality could possibly be in this trashy article. So we fleeced everyone for money to buy a video camera and borrowed a car and basically drove across the continent and back, about 10,000 km in total. We ended up running out of money of course and eating way too much Taco Bell, nearly getting robbed sleeping in a tent by the highway one night, scoring a free hotel in Las Vegas, etc. In the end we made and showed a 2+ hour, 2-channel film that was a fairly unwatchable, deep meditation about the relation between the glass-floor construction and this replica of a Hulapai Indian building that was in another section of the canyon. We always say that we should recut it, because there was really so much footage from the whole trip, but maybe it’s better as something left unfinished in a way. 

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

    Well, I studied Philosophy, Literature, and Art History and I still love to read. I think what I really like in some ideas-oriented texts is when the author is clearly trying to understand the world around them in a complex and situational way -- their perceiving self, wrapped up in political-economic systems, social histories, and entertainment technologies. I think what’s great about this approach is that it has to constantly be renewed by every generation. I’m also really interested in texts on Language. And at night I read fiction and poetry, and I also really enjoy what a lot of people are doing with short writing on Twitter.  That’s a format I’ve been experimenting with for a few years now.   

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