Articles on this Page
- 03/26/13--08:42: _Mission Creep: K-Ho...
- 03/28/13--09:12: _Artifacts: A Conver...
- 03/28/13--11:00: _Announcing Rhizome'...
- 04/01/13--08:24: _Rhizome Digest: Bes...
- 04/03/13--09:28: _Artist Profile: Ale...
- 04/03/13--11:22: _Rhizome Commissions...
- 04/04/13--09:49: _Harper Reed: Changi...
- 04/09/13--08:42: _A Queer History of ...
- 04/10/13--09:04: _Jill Magid: Effecti...
- 04/11/13--09:15: _Prosthetic Knowledg...
- 04/15/13--11:27: _Breaking the Ice
- 04/16/13--09:00: _Cameron Martin's No...
- 04/17/13--08:40: _Patents Pending: Je...
- 04/18/13--08:00: _Artist Profile: Émi...
- 04/18/13--17:35: _3 Excellent Uses of...
- 04/19/13--09:35: _Fatima Al Qadiri: G...
- 04/19/13--20:57: _#7on7HTC: Fever Pitch
- 04/20/13--09:54: _#7on7HTC: Liveblog
- 04/20/13--12:45: _#7on7HTC: Liveblog ...
- 04/22/13--14:36: _Xul Solar's Possibl...
- 03/26/13--08:42: Mission Creep: K-Hole and Trend Forecasting as Creative Practice
- 03/28/13--09:12: Artifacts: A Conversation Between Hito Steyerl and Daniel Rourke
- 03/28/13--11:00: Announcing Rhizome's Seven on Seven Conference Participant Teams
- 04/01/13--08:24: Rhizome Digest: Best of Rhizome March
- Mission Creep: K-Hole and Trend Forecasting as Creative Practice
- Elsewhere, After the Flood: Glitch Feminism and the Genesis of Glitch Body Politic
- Businesslike: DIS Magazine's Stock Database
- 04/03/13--09:28: Artist Profile: Alex Myers
- 04/04/13--09:49: Harper Reed: Changing Politics and Technology
- 04/09/13--08:42: A Queer History of Computing: Part Three
- 04/10/13--09:04: Jill Magid: Effective Storytelling
- 04/11/13--09:15: Prosthetic Knowledge Picks: Arrays and Matrices
- 04/15/13--11:27: Breaking the Ice
- 04/16/13--09:00: Cameron Martin's Nonspecific Landscapes
- 04/18/13--08:00: Artist Profile: Émilie Gervais
- 04/19/13--09:35: Fatima Al Qadiri: Game Game Games
- 04/19/13--20:57: #7on7HTC: Fever Pitch
- 04/20/13--09:54: #7on7HTC: Liveblog
- 04/20/13--12:45: #7on7HTC: Liveblog Part II
- 04/22/13--14:36: Xul Solar's Possible Futures
“Determinism would gain credibility if it gave us useful forecasts” wrote Gilles Dauvé and Karl Nesic, referring to those who saw the outcome of political events as written in their formation. Perhaps the same could be said of trend forecasts. What are they for, and why do people keep writing them? They’re certainly not very effective at predicting trends, yet their recurrence and popularity within the art world over the past 5 years suggests they’re an increasingly important phenomenon in the development of post-internet culture. Unlike forecasts commissioned within marketing organisations, trend forecasts produced within the contemporary art world are nominally produced for public consumption; they act somewhere between an art object and a form of cultural criticism.
Among the pioneers of this form of trend forecast are K-Hole, a New York based crew who recently released their third forecast, a 49-page free-to-download PDF entitled THE K-HOLE BRAND ANXIETY MATRIX. It continues the aesthetic that has marked out K-Hole’s previous forecasts – sharp focus, minimalist stock photography, blocky capitalised typefaces and crisp infographics punctuate their trademark prose, a commercially-aware rhetoric that seems punchy, without ever really landing a punch.
Each forecast revolves around a central theme, an attempt to build a new conceptual model for brand awareness or technological innovation. Synthesis is the name of the game for K-Hole: every issue introduces a string of portmanteaus that successfully walk the fine line between blunt parody and genuine identification. ProLASTination, FragMOREtation, FLATmentation: this is the lexicon of dickheads, yet the carefully produced portfolio of case studies that make up the bulk of each document build each tongue-in-cheek neologism into a more thoughtful model for understanding cultural phenomena and fluid consumer subjectivities as they exist today. The level of cultural literacy and critical engagement with their audience separates the trend forecast produced within the context of contemporary art from the trend forecast produced for the boardroom suits: these are texts which speak to the demographic they analyse, rather than simplify these demographics for paying clients. It’s this difference, this understanding of spectatorship, that activates K-Hole’s PDFs as a hybrid form of art-object and cultural criticism. Paradoxically, however, it’s also this cultural fluency with the target demographic that makes it catnip to smart marketing teams, and it’s this duality which creates an ethical tension within the format that is perhaps an echo of the wider crisis of form that both haunts and drives the world of post-internet cultural production. Whilst the content is interesting, it’s the evolution and reproduction of the form, straddled between the critical and the commercial, that really highlights what is vital and problematic in this phenomena.
K-Hole’s third edition seems to elucidate far more clearly this tension, making the development of cognitive models the main focus of the document and moving away from predictive scenarios. Whereas earlier forecasts offered potential new configurations of existing technologies or products, Issue 3 instead offers a more explicit model for understanding the relationship between potential future everyday technologies and our everyday lives, in the form of a matrix which examines risk assessment.
This is perhaps the key to understanding the reasons why trend forecasting has taken off within the post-internet demographic. The trend forecast represents a displaced subject: rather than being predictive or even speculative visions of what is to come, they actually function as models to conceptualise and contextualise the effects a technological explosion is having upon our everyday lives. The latest K-Hole report hits the nail on the head: the relationship between the demographic and the trend forecast is one of managing anxiety precipitated by the pervasive technology of the internet revolution. Rather than thinking of trend forecasts as commercial documents (or simulations thereof), we should examine them as creative texts which are trying to contextualise and understand that revolution, in a similar vein to science fiction. Rather than science fiction, trend forecasts effectively function as consumer fiction.
Science fiction emerged as a creative field primarily as an entertainment form, but as the field evolved it quickly came to be seen as something more — a way to understand the deep and significant technological change which revolutionised everyday life in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Automation, the shrinking of space through faster transport and communications, and the development of the massified workers subjectivity under a state model — all these technological changes were profoundly political, and science fiction emerged as a popular and accessible cultural form in which to discuss and understand often terrifyingly fast social change. The worlds of science and technology held the obvious language to utilise — it seemed to be machines that were changing our world: vast industrial machines enabled by state power, by huge actors, to drive deep into the earth, to reach new planets, to reconfigure a society in its entirety.
Today we’re in the opening stage of a similarly enormous technological revolution. The social fabric is being torn and reconfigured by massive infrastructural developments. Changes in capitalist development are likewise revolutionising the everyday lives of working people. In the developed world the age of the mass worker, and its coterminous subjectivity, is being eroded into a new subjectivity — the post-fordist worker. This worker is not defined by the production line but by precarious working conditions, outsourcing, self-employment and self-branding. The division between work and leisure time – produced by proletarianisation and formalised by the labour movement – is increasingly a meaningless abstraction. New digital technologies as well as wider economic and political currents created by the crisis of capital in the late 1970’s – the destruction of labour unions, containerisation and cheap credit through financialisation – have combined to produce a new idea of the productive, creative individual (and the subjectivity of the post-fordist worker is by its very nature individual). Whilst contemporary art attempted to come to terms with the collapse of socialist project in the 1990’s, most notably through relational aesthetics, the post-internet tendency seems to be tackling a much wider change in technology, work and production in a way unseen since Warhol took on consumer capitalism in the early 1960s.
And so what characterises a young, mid-crisis, post-internet productive subjectivity? In a word, anxiety. Uncertainty about our financial and professional futures as a result of the deferred crisis in capital, but more importantly, uncertainty about the future due to the rate of technological change we see happening around us. In dealing with this perfect storm of technological and economic factors, this unique point on the Kondratieff cycle, trend forecasts function as a creative response to anxiety and change. Rather than science fiction, trend forecasts are consumer fiction, imaginative responses to technological change which help us understand the present through speculative future scenarios, told within the dominant language of possibility – the brand.
It is working within the visual language, culture and organisational models of the corporate world which is beginning to characterise post-internet art. Just what is it that makes today’s corporations so appealing? Isn’t there a paradox here, whereby artists are attempting to emulate the organisational aesthetics of corporations at the same time as those very corporations are beginning to take notice of the decentralised, networked aesthetics, and the shift in the role of consumer and spectator, reflected within post-internet art? Perhaps, but the tendency of thinking within the discourse of the brand is understandable. In his influential and engaging short book Capitalist Realism, cultural theorist Mark Fisher clearly defines the environment in which this tendency emerged and now dominates; an environment where political antagonism has given way to managerialism, and where contestation is subsumed into a post-ideological framework of individual success or failure. ‘Capitalist Realism’ is the ideology that now structures our world, the idea that, in the words of Margaret Thatcher, there is no alternative. Neo-liberal capitalism seamlessly occupies the horizons of the thinkable. Within that framework, what does the emulation of the creative visual forms of the corporation signify? What’s with post-internet artists and all their corporate swag? Looked upon favourably, it suggests an ambition for the work. The visual language of the corporation is the language of the possible. Who structures our visual environment on a daily basis, but advertising agencies working on behalf of corporations?
The move towards brand language marks a desire to engage with the visual cultures of daily life. In adopting the form of the commercial policy document, artists are shifting the context of their work back to some form of social engagement, and that’s a tacit admission of just how ineffective contemporary art discourse has been in making practical and pragmatic interventions into the real world of everyday life. Instead, the utilisation of the language of the commercial sphere, then, signifies a genuinely radical shift from the forms of post-socialist contemporary art that came before, in the form of Relational Aesthetics — an attempt or desire to produce art that engages with everyday life, which changes the social or political world it is produced in. We can lament that there is no other political framework in which radical social engagement can occur, but we cannot really deny it.
There is, of course, another key aspect to the development of trend forecasts within the language of the commercial – namely, the moving of artistic practice in post-internet art into a form that can be monetized. This is the ‘crisis of the form’ that has been the primary concern of post-internet art from its very moment of self-realisation. The question posed is how much the work deals with immateriality as a critical concern, and how much the artist is forced to change or direct their practice as a result of the very real material concerns – the ability to reproduce their life and practice. Let’s make this clear – the primary concern of post-internet art is still “how can you represent if you can’t pay the rent?”
The adoption, then, of forms of presentation and display taken from the cutting edge of marketing seems to be an ongoing concern of post-internet practice, as reflected in K-Hole’s work. Where relational aesthetics was an attempt to build a socially-engaged practice in a post-socialist context (within the ideological and practical constraints of market distribution models), post-internet art appears to adopt the constraints of marketing as an inspiration if not an aspiration. Charitably we can see this as a reaction to the creative revolution digital technology has started; an attempt to create a new consumer fiction genre aimed at processing and critically questioning the enormous changes that digital technology is effecting in our everyday lives.
The crisis in this approach should be clear, however. Is the tendency to re-enact or inhabit the systems of sociality, social or cultural reproduction not just a massive failure of the collective imagination to reach beyond those inherited structures in the first place? If we see the internet as an endeavour of the general intellect to break out of the limits of social and cultural reproduction put upon us by capital – of intellectual property, privatisation of knowledge and culture etc – this tendency represents the recolonisation of those infinite territories by consumer forms. Post-internet art is in danger of presenting itself as a tool of limitations, a rappel a l’ordre, a call to return to the traditional forms of cultural and artistic production that characterised the post-modern era, rather than a creative form worthy of critically engaging with the platform and people who created it.
Huw Lemmey is a writer and artist based in London. He works in marketing for Verso Books. He writes online under the name Spitzenprodukte.
 Perhaps these can be seen as a counterpoint to “design fiction”as imagined by Bruce Sterling; however, Sterling’s genre can be seen as a way to creatively map out potential future technologies rather than as a way to cope with and understand the implications of contemporary technology.
 Overheard in the Limazulu kitchen
“But even if the internet is dead this doesnt mean it's over. It is all over.”
When we met recently we talked about the glitch as it relates to contemporary image culture, but we also talked about the glitch as something to aspire to. In your essay, A Thing Like You and Me, you retell Walter Benjamin’s parable of the Angel of History, pushed by the harsh winds of progress away from the rubble of history, its back facing into the unknown future. You say that we are the rubble, or at least, that we should align ourselves with the rubble. I’m fascinated by these allusions to excess and detritus in your writing, and I see something of the glitch aesthetic making its way into your video works. I thought we could start from these bruises and cracks; from the things we can’t predict, control or maintain. How would you relate the glitch to Benjamin’s rubble?
One of the biggest misunderstandings about digital information is that it is replicated identically, without loss or transformation. But anyone who works with such information knows that digital practice is constituted – like perhaps any technology – by malfunction. One has to constantly convert information in order to work with it across different platforms and softwares and on the way it is reformatted, translated, compressed or sometimes even blown up, it is enhanced or diminished: it changes. It changes its format or container or outlook or context.
Digital information is thus characterised by transformation, degradation, circulation, but also by its surprising ability to mutate and produce unpredictable results. The glitch, the bruise of the image or sound testifies to its being worked with and working; being passed on and circulated, being matter in action. History inscribes itself into the image in forms of bruises and scars. In their 1958 essay “Les Statues meurent aussi” Chris Marker and Alain Resnais write that the forces of heaven and earth are getting caught up in the scars of African statues. But all imaginable forces – aesthetic, political, technological, affective, social – are expressed by the scars of the digital image or sound. It condenses the tensions and contestations that constitute the image/sound and rip it open.
Glitches expose us to the inner dynamism of the digital, but I wonder what it is about the current conditions of our society that tend to turn us away from the tensions and contestations locked up there in the first place? Chris Marker and Alain Resnais impelled the ‘dead statues’ of their film to live again, turning colonial trophies into emotionally rendered subjects before the camera lens. The forces that compelled the statues to die in Western museums were, perhaps by definition, unable to render their scars as outward signs of anything.
Yes, we do have the same tension nowadays on many levels of the digital world. Marker and Resnais' film died just the same as the statues – not by commodification and colonialism as the African statues they are describing in their film, but by the wholesale commodification of cinema in the context of post 89 transitions. Their film literally became invisible as its infrastructure was destroyed by a neoliberal revolution that also changed the world of images and media. But it came back in form of YouTube files replete with artifacts, cut up and dispersed in fragments across the web to live again - if only for another while. But of course a similar dynamics repeats online, too and the growing development of the web as a tool for surveillance and conformism will force many of its most interesting phenomena to undergo similar deaths and rebirths in different aggregate states. The statues found a new life in film; the film found a new life as file: let’s see what’s going to happen to the files once they too will be forced to change and reformat within different states of matter.
“Is it an impulse of data, sounds and images to surpass the boundaries of information channels and to manifest”
Digital images feature highly in your work, as poor and bruised icons to their own dissemination; as quasi-subjects, devoid of the illusions of the flesh, and all the better for it. In the title of your collection of essays, The Wretched of the Screen, I hear echoes of Georges Duhamel, who saw the spectacle of cinema as "a pastime for helots, a diversion for uneducated, wretched, worn-out creatures" (referenced by Walter Benjamin). I also read a direct reference to Frantz Fanon's work, The Wretched of Earth. For Duhamel the masses were subjugated by the flickering images of popular-culture, and for Fanon, by the machinery of colonialism. For Fanon, at least, there was hope in the lumpenproletariat: the abject peasant class, forgotten by industrial rule and, perhaps, beyond psychological subjugation. The only hope of revolution lay with them. In your essay In Defense of the Poor Image, it is images themselves that are wretched, beyond redemption as subjects. Do you see the digital image as a contemporary lumpenproletariat? In what ways are images, and in turn we, subjugated by the flickering of the screen?
The poor image expresses the full ambivalence of Fanons idea of lumpenproletarians, which Arendt already beautifully and much more precisely described as mob in her “Elements of Totalitarianism”. The mob does not consist of the underclasses, but the “refuse of all classes”. The mob is composed of people expelled into a world characterised by violent colonialism, the expansion of industrial capitalism and subjugation; it is unable to make up its mind, distracted, easily corrupted, or rather corrupt by definition and always ready to betray anybody and everything in order to suck up to the elite. In the current moment of globalisation I see a new mob: people who cannot form a class but constitute the refuse of all classes. A mob of freelancers/mercenaries, moving from one country to another, trying to flee the devastations that finance capitalism and algorithms on the loose create, roaming the suburbs and lowlands of the web, scamming, spamming, phishing, pirating and otherwise trying to stay afloat in a fleeting world of dislocated images. Many artists belong to this category, too. Poor images express similar tensions – in the aggregate state of files. A visual mob, defined by mobility and mobilisation, spreading Hollywood preview copies with the same nonchalance as ads for penis enlargement or insurrectionary manifestoes. Contemporary digital mobs are subjected to similar states of compression and capture.
But this kind of images is not a new phenomena. We already see it in a certain genre of wood cuts from the floating world or ukiyo of the Edo period. The ukiyo was the world of fleeting beauty and the hardship of sex work. It was also the world of countless cheap images being reproduced by printing presses, of whores, wrestlers, actors and idols, a world which was essentially fluid and full of unstable reproductions. It was considered “low” art, disposable, defined by circulation and affect.
Claire Bishop expressed concerns late last year that contemporary art had not successfully articulated the ‘digital condition’, yet her argument still pandered to modes of dissemination and display most compatible with the context of the gallery. Today the majority of image production, dissemination, and commentary takes place online. It strikes me that the best place to go to grapple with the digital condition is not the art gallery, but tumblr, youtube and even 4chan. What place does art have in confronting the digital, when today’s most successful digital expressions apparently come from contemporary art outsiders?
I hardly followed the debate around Bishop's text. But it seems to me that she very correctly described a quite ludicrous analog nostalgia in a specific corner of the artworld. Next time I see another 16mm film projector rattling away in a gallery I will personally kidnap it and take the poor thing to a pensioners home. There is usually no intrinsic reason whatsoever for the use of 16mm film nowadays except for making moving images look pretentious, expensive and vaguely modernist, all prepackaged with a whiff of WASPish art history. It made sense to use Bolexes in 1968, and indeed people used them to brilliant end. But today people use cellphones, Kinnect sensors and After Effects to deal with the present and shape it. And if artists do not expose themselves to the workflow and economies that come with contemporary means of production, they become souvenir peddlers. Or worse trying to conveniently package a bygone radical moment as a collectors item. I think Bishop said something similar more politely. Now I also understand people have been disappointed that she´s not been mentioning real contemporary practices more extensively. This complaint should be made to Artforum, though or in extension to the formally and technologically conservative artworld it represents, not to a single writer which isnt an expert in media art and never claimed to be. The debate expresses a real tension, which on the other hand is not so new either. The most interesting and challenging contemporary art was rarely acknowledged as such in it's time and often took place outside the artfield. So the real question is: could one build something outside of the existing artworlds? With what means? It's happening as we speak, because people fortunately don’t usually care what Artforum thinks they should do or even about art as such. It´s happening as you said on tumblr and sites like jogging and many others. Its massively happening in the streets of Syria and Egypt, which are or recently were vanguard laboratories of new media development, with the online dissemination of protests and actions against sexual violence from Delhi to Stupidville or slave labour in the artworld. New media are brought into the world through contemporary social conflicts by the midwifes of violence, boredom, perpetual distraction. Enhanced by rumour and glamour, by uncertainty and intense speculation. Into an aggregate state of matter which is beyond art or the next art or non-art or after art as David Joselit wrote: expressing the tensions of globalising media worlds within post-democracy and accelerated capitalism. Its artifacts may be art or facts.
Another important question: many contemporary artworlds are irrevocably digital; beyond their incorporation of digital art. Their infrastructure and whole mode of operation deeply relies on digital technology. People dropbox their works which unfold in galleries like inflatable chutes. But this economy is also fundamentally based on digital technology, including hedging, betting, reputation engineering, accelerating circulation, aggregating jpegs, tele-exploiting interns, regurgitating 3D point clouds as deconstructive atriums where weapon manufacturers and oligarchs hang their dot paintings. This is the digital base of the artworld; embedded in its modes of operations.
In December I was lucky enough to visit your exhibition at the Chicago Institute of Art which showcased three new works, Abstract, Adorno’s Grey and Guards. In particular I was drawn towards Guards, perhaps because it focussed so clearly on its two subjects, Ron Hicks and Martin Whitfield. As the camera follows Ron around the Chicago gallery, pursuing an imaginary assailant, the messy politics of the art institute became exposed to me. It struck me that subjects are usually more hidden in your video work, or at least, the emphasis of your work acts to distort and dislocate human subjects. I see this in your work In Free Fall, where you map the biography of the Boeing 707 aircraft, but also in more personal works such as November, 2004, in which the central identity of your friend Andrea Wolf is never quite pinned down. I wondered then if we could finish by talking about the relationship between subjects and objects. What is it about the current time that seems to draw you towards the object?
Whoever is an image is an object. Whoever is not an image raise their hand. Images have permeated our environments since long time ago. They crossed screens and incarnated: as junkspace, and all sorts of 3D spam. They materialised in form of our own bodies. Images do not represent reality, they create reality, they are second nature. Things among other things, image-objects, image-events, image-situations, images-bodies.
As to the protagonists of many of my videos, probably all of them inhabit at least two very different realms and negotiate the tensions between them. Andrea Wolf is both a martyr and a trash film heroine, the museum officers take their experiences of urban violence and warfare to a sanitised bourgeois White Cube, Mike Potter in “Free Fall” is both a shrewd scrap salesman and Hollywood consultant, Adorno´s Grey´s photographer is superimposed on an anonymous protester breaking through police lines using “Negative Dialectics” as a weapon. One could go on to extend the list… All of them including the crew and myself are both image and agents, quite uncontrollably and sometimes violently propelled into circulation, participating in images instead of controlling, reading, viewing or directing them. Sometimes one of us manages to twist it´s kinetic energy and to direct it back in a kind of jiu-jutsu move. Other times one can just try to enjoy the ride.
The protagonists of your works are buffered by tensions beyond their control and they act regardless. Perhaps the ride takes us back to where we started, the glitch: that unexpected fold or tear manifest for a moment on the surface of a complex substrate; the actions of images?
I don’t care about what image/objects essentially are or represent. I'm fascinated about what we/they do and what happens along the way, about the interactions amongst image/objects and image/situations.
So it’s not about object-ontologies but image-actions, image-gestures, thing-affinities, chains of reaction of objects, forces, and pixels, that manifest in scars and bruises, but also sometimes in the liquid harmony of the floating world of images.
Utamaro and Shunga JPEGs databent in an impromptu collaboration between Daniel Rourke, Hito Steyerl, and her texts. Glitchy GIF responses by Benjamin Berg (stAllio!).
Saturday, April 20, 2013 from 12:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Rhizome's Seven on Seven Conference, presented by HTC, will pair seven leading artists with seven influential technologists in teams of two, and challenges them to develop something new—be it an application, social media, artwork, product, or whatever they imagine—over the course of a single day. The seven teams will work together at locations around New York City on Friday April 19th and then unveil their ideas at a one-day event at the Tishman Auditorium at The New School on April 20th, 2013, from 12–6 p.m. After the conference, the attendees can celebrate with participants at an afterparty from 6–9 p.m.
2013 Participant Teams:
Seven on Seven is presented by HTC and organized by Rhizome. Additional conference partners include Betaworks, Wieden + Kennedy, and RRE.
Prosthetic Knowledge Picks
Your work spans several distinct, but overlapping areas of discourse. We could start by talking through design, animation, glitch art, code, game play or the interface. I want to start right from the bottom though, and ask you about inputs and outputs. A recent work you collaborated on with Jeff Thompson, You Have Been Blinded - “a non-visual adventure game” - takes me back to my childhood when playing a videogame often meant referring to badly sketched dungeon maps, before typing N S E or W on a clunky keyboard. Nostalgia certainly plays a part in You Have Been Blinded, but what else drives you to strip things back to their elements?
I’ve always been interested in how things are built. From computers to houses to rocks to software. What makes these things stand up? What makes them work? Naturally I’ve shifted to exploring how we construct experiences. How do we know? Each one of us has a wholly unique experience of… experience, of life.. When I was a kid I was always wondering what it was like to be any of the other kids at school. Or a kid in another country. What was it like to be my cat or any of the non-people things I came across each day? These sorts of questions have driven me to peel back experience and ask it some pointed questions. I don’t know that I’m really interested in the answers. I don’t think we could really know those answers, but I think it’s enough to ask the questions.
Stripping these things down to their elements shows you that no matter how hard you try, nothing you make will ever be perfect. There are always flaws and the evidence of failure to be found, no matter how small. I relish these failures.
Your ongoing artgame project, Writing Things We Can No Longer Read, revels in the state of apophenia, “the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data”.  The title invokes Walter Benjamin for me, who argued that before we read writing we “read what was never written”  in star constellations, communal dances, or the entrails of sacrificed animals. From a player’s point of view the surrealistic landscapes and disfigured interactions within your (not)(art)games certainly ask, even beg, to be interpreted. But, what role does apophenia have to play in the making of your work?
When I make stuff, I surround myself with lots of disparate media. Music, movies, TV shows, comics, books, games. All sorts of stuff gets thrown into the pot of my head and stews until it comes out. It might not actually come out in a recognizable form, but the associations are there.
A specific example can be found in a lot of the models I use. I get most of them, or at least the seed of them, from open source models I find on 3D Warehouse. Because of the way that website works, it’s constantly showing you models it thinks are similar for whatever reason. Often I’ll follow those links and it will take me down symbolic paths that I never would have consciously decided to pursue. This allows a completely associative and emergent composition to take form.
I’d like to paraphrase and link up your last two answers, if I may. How do “relishing failures” and “allowing things to take form” overlap for you? I know you have connections with the GLI.TC/H community, for instance. But your notgames Me&You, Down&Up, and your recent work/proposition Make Me Something seem to invoke experiments, slips and disasters from a more oblique angle.
All are a means of encouraging surprise. In each piece it’s not about the skill involved, but about the thrill of the unknown. In all of my projects I try to construct a situation where I have very little control over the outcome. Glitch does this. But within the glitch community there’s a definite aesthetic involved. You can look at something and know that it’s glitch art. That’s not true for everything, but there is a baseline. For my notgames work I embrace the practice, not necessarily the look. I want irregularity. I want things to break. I want to be surprised.
Your work in progress, the Remeshed series, appears to be toying with another irregular logic, one you hinted at in your comments about “associative and emergent composition”; a logic that begins with the objects and works out. I hear an Object Oriented echo again in your work Make Me Something, where you align yourself more with the 3D objects produced than with the people who requested them. What can we learn from things, from objects? Has Remeshed pushed/allowed you to think beyond tools?
That’s a tricky question and I’m not sure I have a satisfactory answer. Both projects owe their existence to a human curatorial eye. But in both I relinquish a lot of control over the final object or experience. I do this in the spirit of ready-to-hand things. By making experiences and objects that break expectations our attention is focused upon them. They slam into the foreground and demand our attention. Remeshed, and to an extent, Make Me Something, allows me to focus less on the craft of modeling and animation and more on pushing what those two terms mean.
As Assistant Professor and Program Director of the Game Studies BSc atBellevue University you inevitably inhabit a position of authority for your students. Are there contradictions inherent in this status, especially when aiming to break design conventions, to glitch for creative and practical ends, and promote those same acts in your students? Yourecently modified Roland Barthes’ 1967 text ‘The Death of the Author’ to fit into a game criticism context. It makes me wonder whether “The Player-God” is something you are always looking to kill in yourself?
Absolutely. When teaching I try break down the relationship of authority as much as possible. I prefer to think of myself as a mentor, or guide, to the students. Helping them find the right path for themselves. Doing this from within a traditional pedagogical structure is difficult, but worthwhile. Or so I tell myself.
In terms of the Player-God, I think yes, I’m always trying to kill it. But at the same time, I’m trying to kill the Maker-God. There is no one place or source for a work. There’s no Truth. I reject the Platonic Ideal. Both maker and player are complicit in the act of the experience. Without either, the other wouldn’t exist.
Age: Somewhere in my third decade.
Location: The Land of Wind and Grass / The Void Between Chicago and Denver
How long have you been working creatively with technology? How did you start?
Oof, for as long as I can remember. When I was 13 I killed my first computer about 4 days after getting it. I was trying to change the textures in DOOM. I had no idea what I was doing.
Later, in college I was in a fairly traditional arts program learning to blow glass. At some point someone gave me a cheap Sony 8mm digital camcorder and I started filming weird things and incorporating the (terrible) video art into my glass sculptures.
After that I started making overly ambitious text adventures and playing around with generative text and speech synthesizers.
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 use Unity and Blender primarily right now. They’re the natural evolution of what I was trying to do way back when I was using Hammer and Maya.
I did my MFA in Interactive Media and Environments at The Frank Mohr Institute in Groningen, NL. I started working in Hammer around this time making Gun-Game maps for Counter-Strike: Source. During the start of my second semester of grad school I suffered a horrible hard drive failure and lost all of my work. In a fit of depression I did pretty much nothing but play CS:S and drink beer for three months. At the end of that I made WINNING.
What traditional media do you use, if any? Do you think your work with traditional media relates to your work with technology?
I’m not sure how to answer this. About the most traditional thing I do anymore is make prints from the results of my digital tinkering. Object art doesn’t interest me much these days, but it definitely influenced how I first approached Non-Object art.
Are you involved in other creative or social activities (i.e. music, writing, activism, community organizing)?
I’m involved with a lot of local game developer and non-profit digital arts organizations.
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’m an Assistant Professor of Game Studies at Bellevue University. The job and my work are inexorably bound together. I enjoy teaching in a non-arts environment because I feel it affords me freedom and resources I wouldn’t otherwise have. I actually hate the idea of walled-disciplines in education. Everyone should learn from and collaborate with everyone else.
Who are your key artistic influences?
Mostly people I know: Jeff Thompson, Darius Kazemi, Rosa Menkman, THERON JACOBS
and some people I don’t know: Joseph Cornell, Theodor Seuss Geisel, Bosch, Brueghel the Elder, most of Vimeo.
Have you collaborated with anyone in the art community on a project? With whom, and on what?
Most recently I’ve been working with Jeff Thompson. We made You Have Been Blinded and Thrown into a Dungeon, a non-visual, haptic dungeon adventure. We’ve also been curating Games++ for the last two years.
Do you actively study art history?
Yep. I’m constantly looking at and referencing new and old art. I don’t limit it to art, though. I’m sick of art that references other art in a never ending strange loop. I try to cast my net further afield.
Do you read art criticism, philosophy, or critical theory? If so, which authors inspire you?
Definitely. In no particular order: Dr. Seuss, Alastair Reynolds, Alan Sondheim, Dan Abnett, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Italo Calvino, Mother Goose, Jacques Lacan, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Carl Jung, H.P. Lovecraft, Jonathan Hickman, Brandon Graham, John Dewey, Umberto Eco... the list goes on and on.
Are there any issues around the production of, or the display/exhibition of new media art that you are concerned about?
I think we’ve partially reached an era of the ascendant non-object. That is, an art form, distinct from performance and theatre, that places an emphasis wholly on the experience and not on the uniqueness of the object. Because of this move away from a distinct singular form, there’s no place for it in the art market. Most artists that work this way live by other means. I teach. Others move freely between the worlds of art and design. Still others do other things.
The couple of times I’ve had solo exhibitions in Europe, I’ve almost always been offered a livable exhibition fee. Here in the States that’s never been the case. When I have shows stateside, I always take a loss. The organizer may cover my material costs, but there’s no way I could ever live off of it. Nor would I want to. I think the pressures of survival would limit my artistic output. I’m happier with a separation between survival and art.
“Apophenia,” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopaedia, March 21, 2013, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Apophenia&oldid=545047760.
 Walter Benjamin, “On the Mimetic Faculty,” in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings (New York: Schoclen Books, 1933), 333–336.
Screenshot of DISimages.com, 2011-2012 Rhizome Commission
Rhizome is now accepting proposals for the Rhizome Commissions 2013-2014 cycle. Each year, the program supports emerging artists by providing grants for the creation of significant works of new media art. This year, Rhizome places a focus on promoting emerging artists based in New York City. Grants will not be restricted to New York based artists, but made a priority. This cycle, we also have a specific focus on one project that addresses social issues and/or promotes individual advancement through education or participation. Rhizome will award up to six grants for the creation of new works of digital and new media art. Five awards will be determined by a jury of experts and one award will be determined by Rhizome's membership in an open vote. Rhizome Commissions awards generally range from $1,000 to $5,000.
This year, Rhizome has also partnered with Tumblr to offer an additional strand to the commissioning program: The Rhizome | Tumblr Internet Art Grant. The Internet Art Grant expands upon Rhizome's existing Commissions program to specifically target Tumblr's significant artistic community. The Internet Art Grant will make three commissioning awards with a special focus on projects from artists engaged with Tumblr.
The commissions award will be determined by a jury of experts: Laurie Anderson, noted experimental performance artist and musician; Massimiliano Gioni, Associate Director and Director of Exhibitions at the New Museum and Artistic Director of the 55th Venice Biennale; Renny Gleeson, Global Director at Wieden + Kennedy; and Zoë Salditch, Rhizome's Program Director. For the Rhizome | Tumblr Internet Art Grant, jurors include Gioni, Anderson, Salditch and additionally, artist Jon Rafman and Topherchris, Tumblr Editorial Director.
The Rhizome Commissions program is supported, in part, by funds from Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and New York State Council on the Arts. Additional support is provided by generous individuals and Rhizome members.
On Reed’s website (subheaded “Probably one of the coolest guys ever,” by the way), alongside the bio, blog, flickr stream (don’t be surprised there isn’t an Instagram feed, the man’s not mainstream), and blog, there is also a “books” section. Apparently, for the past ten years, Reed documents all the good books he read. And he reads a lot, “without rhyme or reason,” according to him. No one would be amazed to discover that The Catcher in the Rye, Herman Hesse’s Siddharta, or Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus made the list. Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke are even more obvious. But John Medina’s "Brain Rules" series—Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School and Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five—may catch you a little off guard. And Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and The Virtue of Selfishness are even more of a surprise.
Especially for someone who was the chief technology officer for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. It could fall under the rubric of “know your enemy” (considering that the enemy, at the time, couldn’t get enough of talking about Rand), but it’s mainly the result of an inquisitive nature. It seems like Reed would try anything—a week sans Internet included—to examine how we consume information and interact online, and what can come of that. The praise Obama for America received for its technological innovation is one extension of this curiosity: it creates new models for working collaboratively, online and offline.
This image came to symbolize the Democratic victory over Republicans in the technological arena. It's an optimistic image that targets a wide audience with a personal message. And it became the single most popular image on both Twitter and Facebook: yet another proof of the effectiveness of social media in an election campaign.
Obama for America was a grand experiment in the way technology could potentially modify politics. The Obama campaign invited Reed, as part of a team of engineers, to develop a data platform that allowed the campaign to track voters and volunteers in real time in order to microtarget voters. Reed worked with about forty programmers, engineers, and scientists to build the platform (compiled of a number of different software that did everything from analyzing Facebook information to matching volunteers with potential voters) that arguably won the recent election. Months after the election, the Republican Party is still busy churning what-went-wrong reports and strategizing on how to catch up in future election cycles.
The Republican Party's Growth & Opportunity Project
Had the technology team for Obama for America failed, we would be thinking differently about the role of technology in politics. It sounds like a lot of entrepreneurs’ dream: bring together a lot of talented people who have a sense of mission and a project (and an enormous budget) and see what comes up. The fact that they created a functional and successful structure is one result of it. The Obama campaign changed the way we think about the possibilities of the conflation of politics and technology: beyond the fact that the data platform they created made technology visibly useful by connecting volunteers with potential voters, it also made it personal. The media coverage of the Obama campaign’s technological efforts sparked the interest of many people beyond the political and technological communities, providing yet another proof of just how groundbreaking their work was.
In this third segment of ourgenealogy we begin to form a connection, and to examine those lesser-known but foundational figures that radiate out from Turing's early work. Perhaps appropriately, given the venue, this second figure leads us to one of the earliest examples of computational art ever produced, though he did not claim the title of artist for himself. This history also moves us forward to those pivotal years surrounding Turing's arrest and death. While Turing underwent a highly visible crisis, Christopher Strachey's work was coming into its own. Once again the connection is tenuous, and little record survives to document more than a passing relationship between these two men, but what remains is a surprisingly poetic attempt to play at the machine.
Christopher Strachey was born in 1916 in Hampstead, England to Oliver Strachey and Rachel (Ray) Costelloe.[i] The Strachey family may be familiar to some, as it has a long and distinguished history in England. Christopher's father Oliver served as an intelligence agent in the First World War and, along with Alan Turing, as a cryptographer at Bletchley Park in the World War II. Christopher's great-grandfather was Sir Henry Strachey, 1st Baronet, and the family has ties back to John Strachey, an associate of the philosopher John Locke.
Perhaps most well known is Christopher's uncle, Lytton Strachey who – along with Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, and E. M. Forster – was a member of the Bloomsbury Group, a widely influential group of writers and artists living in Bloomsbury, London in the first half of the twentieth century. Lytton is perhaps most famous for his biographical work Eminent Victorians (1918), which defied Victorian bibliographic norms through irreverent, comedic character assassinations of some of the most beloved moral figures of the Victorian era. The Bloomsbury Group is particularly famous for its modern views on feminism, pacifism, and sexuality. Much like Turing, Lytton was open about his homosexuality – at least between friends and other members of the Bloomsbury group – at a time when homosexuality was explicitly illegal. The Strachey family home was located at 51 Gordon Square, and Christopher would have grown up in the middle of the Bloomsbury group's most productive period.
The Strachey home in Bloomsbury.
Appropriately, Christopher Strachey is also best known for a series of literary works. In 1952 Strachey developed a love-letter generator that ran on the Manchester Mark 1 using a random number generating algorithm, predating the ELIZA natural language processing program by twelve years. The project is considered by many to be the first example of algorithmic or computational art, though such claims are always highly contested. As a mathematician and computer scientist, Christopher Strachey was also one of the founders of denotational semantics and a pioneer in programming language design; yet this is not the path Strachey began on as a young man growing up in Bloomsbury among artists and intellectuals.
By most accounts Strachey was an extremely intelligent child but an altogether undistinguished student. Fascinated by puzzles and with a knack for mathematics and logic, he applied these talents only when it suited him, and wound up at King's College, Cambridge for his undergraduate education. While at King's college Strachey would first come in contact with Alan Turing, who was a junior research fellow at the university. According to Strachey's biographer the two met socially and not through what would become a mutual interest in computing, and as such it is unlikely that they discussed Turing's research on computability. As with the infamous Cambridge Apostles, of which Christopher's father and uncle had been members, King's College had a reputation for homosexuality and Marxist politics leading up to World War II. While Christopher was largely uninterested in politics, it was during this time that he seems to have come to grips with his sexuality, leading to a mental breakdown in the last two terms of his third year.
What little information exists on this episode comes from Strachey’s sister. As Martin Campbell-Kelley notes in his brief biography of Strachey, "The reason for his breakdown is obscure, although his sister supposes it may have been a coming to terms with his homosexuality. At all events, he recovered, and the problem did not manifest itself as a breakdown again." The time away from school was spent partly in a residential home for psychotherapy – Christopher's uncle James was a prominent psychoanalyst credited with first translating Freud's works into English and penning his biography – and on vacation in the United States. This is the only explicit mention of Strachey's sexuality, or indeed any personal struggle he may have had with his identity, in any of the historical material I've been able to gather, aside from passing declarative statements that identify him as a homosexual. Again, the extent to which this breakdown functioned as a transformative moment in Strachey's life is unclear, as is the way in which his sexuality evolved and came to affect his life as an adult. Strachey would return to finish his education in the year following the episode, graduating with a disappointing "lower second" that dashed any hopes of a research studentship. Instead he would turn to education, and spent the next thirteen years at various educational institutions performing the role of schoolmaster.
Strachey's draughts program.
Things began to change in January of 1951 when, through a mutual friend, Strachey received an introduction to Mike Woodger of the National Physical Laboratory (NPL). At that time the NPL was one of three institutions in the UK constructing computers – in this case the Pilot ACE, a preliminary version of the full Automatic Computing Engine or ACE, which had been designed by Alan Turing. Inspired by his visit, Strachey immediately began work on a program to make the Pilot ACE play draughts (checkers). He also worked on a program that would allow the machine to do its own coding, a self-reflexive gesture that reflected Strachey's interest in logical puzzles. The following spring he learned of the Ferranti Mark I computer at the University of Manchester, for which Alan Turing had written the manual. Through his earlier connections with Turing, Strachey managed to acquire a copy of the manual and began reprogramming his draughts program for the new machine.
The Manchester Mark I computer.
Strachey would visit Turing in Manchester twice in the second half of 1951, and on his second visit he was given access to the Mark I to try out his program. Over the course of an intensive session that began in the early evening and lasted through the night, he was able to get the program mostly working, and on running to completion "it finished with a characteristic flourish by playing the national anthem on the 'hooter.'"[ii] In fact during his visit Strachey programmed the Mark I to play a number of songs, including "Baa Baa Black Sheep" and "In The Mood" - which were captured for BBC radio in the autumn of 1951. While his love letter generator would come the following year, and is perhaps more strictly a computational artwork, these tunes are considered to be one of the earliest examples of computer generated music, produced by a total novice and programmed in the course of one evening.[iii] The speed and ease with which Strachey appeared to work the Mark I cemented his reputation overnight, and he would soon become known as the man who wrote "perfect programs," which would lead to a job offer at the National Research and Development Corporation (NRDC) the following year.
In June of 1952, Strachey began his position at the NRDS. With a lack of projects to occupy him at the start of his employment, he kept himself busy by building his own programs to entertain himself. Then, beginning in August of 1953, short notes began appearing on the notice board of the Manchester University Computer Department. They appeared to be letters of love and adoration addressed to an unnamed, genderless other, signed only with the initials M.U.C.
The list of adjectives in Strachey's love letter generator.[iv]
M.U.C., it turns out, stood for Manchester University Computer, and the letters were the product of an algorithmic generator that Strachey had written in his spare time. Each letter follows a similar structure, and is full of melodramatic Victorian overtones, with pet names like "honey," "jewel," and "moppet" along with other saccharine and yearnful descriptives. The letters were constructed via a generative algorithm that produced a variety of orders and combinations. In "There Must Be an Angel: On the Beginnings of the Arithmetics of Rays", David Link describes its execution in detail:
Apart from position commands like carriage return ("CR"), line forward ("LF"), and spaces ("spaces" or "sp"), the algorithm prints two salutations ("Add." = address). Then it enters a loop, which is carried out "5 times" and, depending on a random variable ("Rand"), follows one of two alternative paths. One generates a sentence following the syntactic skeleton "You are my—Adjective (adj)—Substantive (noun)"; the other path gives "My—[Adjective]—Sub- stantive—[Adverb (adv)]—Verb (verb)—Your—[Adjective]—Substantive" (the static words are underlined, the optional words are in square brackets). [...] Each phrase ends with a "Full stop". After the programme leaves the loop, it closes with the ending "Yours—Adverb (in the schematic this is given erroneously as 'Adj')—MUC."[v]
Previous scholarship by Andrew Hodges and others has suggested that the letters – surviving examples of which conspicuously lacked any variation of the word "love" – might have indicated a negotiation with the terms and legitimacy of desire, and a fascination with or alienation from love. More recent work done by David Link[vi] and Noah Wardrip-Fruin[vii] in the Strachey archives – in which the love letter generator is well documented – shows that in fact the original list of words that the computer could pull from via random number generation did include several variations on the word love, there simply were no examples of such letters in wide circulation.
Schematic of Strachey's love letter program.
Rather than examine the love letter generator in terms of identity, Wardrip-Fruin chooses to view it as a literary project despite the mechanical, even comical tone of these letters. In other words, he attempts to analyze the process of the generator rather than the content of the letters, to understand the materiality of the technical object rather than the meaning of its output. This is a particularly interesting method, one that is especially valuable for the study of computational systems, which function through mechanical processes in which authorship is neither a privileged site to be investigated nor – as Roland Barthes so famously suggested – evacuated. Ultimately this turn suggests that, as Jeremy Douglass puts it in "Machine Writing and the Turing Test," "the true message of this love letter is 'this is a love letter'"[viii] - in other words, that the process by which this message is constructed and conveyed is of greater interest than the content of the message itself.
Ultimately Wardrip-Fruin concludes that the generator is "a process designed to fail that employs a thesaurus-based set of word data and that can result in particularly inhuman surface texts." Thus, "we can see the generator as a parody, though its operations, of one of the activities seen as most sincere by the mainstream culture: the declaration of love through words. That is, [Wardrip-Fruin sees] the love generator, not as a process for producing parodies, but as itself a parody of process."[ix] The letters lack the subtlety and complexity of, for example, the parody of Victorian morality played out by members of the Bloomsbury Group thirty-five years earlier, but this is not where the parody lies. Instead it is a parody of the process of producing love letters, of producing love through this highly formal yet deeply affective medium. It is in this sense a queer critique of normative expressions of love, enacted through a kind of generative, computational performance, through a purposefully deficient simulation.
The interface for artist-researcher David Link's recreation of the love letter generator.
In his biography of Alan Turing, Andrew Hodges writes of the love letter generator, that "[t]hose doing real men’s jobs on the computer, concerned with optics or aerodynamics, thought [it] silly, but [...] it greatly amused Alan and Christopher."[x] It is interesting and perhaps appropriate that what might be considered the first work of computational art was a kind of joke, a critique of "real" epistolary writing and "real" love by means of automation through digitization. It is even more fascinating that it seems to have come from a queer history - not of "passing" as has been suggested with regards to Alan Turing's work on gender and artificial intelligence in the Turing Test, but of camp and the ostentatious performance of "authentic" affect.
[i] The majority of biographical information on Strachey has been taken from Martin Campbell-Kelly's "Christopher Strachey, 1916-l975: A Biographical Note", published in the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, Volume 7, Number 1, January 1985.
[ii] Campbell-Kelly, Martin. Ibid. p. 25.
[iii] According to the BBC, That honour goes to a third machine called CSIRAC, Australia's first digital computer, which "stunned" audiences with a rendition of Colonel Bogey. That said, no recordings of the CSIRAC music have thus far been found.
[iv] This image and the one that follows are taken from the Strachey archives and reproduced in David Link's essay, cited below.
[v] Link, David. "There Must Be an Angel: On The Beginnings of the Arithmetics of Rays" p. 20. <http://www.alpha60.de/research/muc/DavidLink_RadarAngels_EN.htm>
[vi] Link, David. Ibid.
[vii] Wardrip-Fruin, Noah. "Digital Media Archaeology: Interpreting Computational Processes" in Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications, and Implications. Erkki Huhtamo and Jussi Parikka, eds. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011.
[viii] Douglass, Jeremy. "Machine Writing and the Turing Test: From writing to writing system, in accordance with a queer theory of identity and a reception theory of art" <http://www.english.ucsb.edu/grad/student-pages/jdouglass/coursework/hyperliterature/turing/>.
[ix] Wardrip-Fruin, Noah. Ibid. p. 316
[x] Hodges, Andrew. Alan Turing: The Enigma. London: Vintage Books, 1992. p. 478.
Jill Magid. Rhinestoning Headquarters (System Azure). Public performance and permanent installation. Rhinestone encrusted surveillance cameras, posters. Police Headquarters, Amsterdam. 2002
They say an average Londoner is caught on camera 300 times a day. Just one of those things in of our lives that we fail to notice—or rather, try not to think of. That is, until someone helps us with that. In her 2002–03 project, System Azure, New York–based artist Jill Magid, then in the Rijksakademie program, decorated surveillance cameras in Amsterdam with colorful rhinestones. What she presented to the police as a public relations initiative was actually part of the artist’s appropriation of surveillance technology to become part of her practice: For example, she wore shoes outfitted with surveillance cameras; in a performance in an MIT lobby (where Magid was a student) she held a small camera that was connected to the monitor at the building’s entrance and shifted it across her body, under her clothes, examining her body and the architecture around it through the openings in her clothes.
Jill Magid. Bring Back the Glam. Silkscreened poster. 93.6 x 66.2 in. 2002.
The stores in the street I live on in Brooklyn have a way to shame the people stealing from them. As you stroll down the avenue, most of the stores have surveillance-camera images pasted onto their windows, usually with the word SHOPLIFTER marked above the person’s head. Sometimes they’ll tell you what they stole. A bad vinyl from the hip record store, a cheap necklace at the jeweler’s, a 5-hour energy drink at the deli. The inclusion of a date and time on these notes makes them into complete stories, and it is the narrative that is contained in the surveillance camera that always interests me: Who buys a 5-hour energy drink at 11 AM?
Jill Magid. Failed States. Installation view at Honor Fraser, LA. 2012. Photo credit Joshua White. 1993 Mercedes station wagon, armored to B4 Level, plus sound. 2012
The stuff of surveillance camera storytelling—an enclosed narrative, immediacy, photodocumentation—are the things that carry over throughout Magid’s work. It ties her books and writing practice with the earlier works seamlessly: because they are all about observation of events and telling stories of those events. It looks into what we see, what it means to see it, and how we document it. Take Failed States, one of Magid’s most recent projects, as an example. In 2010, while she was in Austin, Magid witnessed a young man named Fausto Cardenas shoot six bullets into the air in front of the Texas state capitol. (His motivation remains unknown.) From that incident, the artist embarked on a research project into bureaucracy, the idea of being a witness, and the futility of actions. Taking many forms—a novella, an installation, a video—Failed States is a body of work that puzzles together to form a narrative, in which what is missing from the story is just as interesting as what’s included. It’s almost a victory over documentation.
A collection of examples from the Prosthetic Knowledge Tumblr archive on installation artworks which can be characterized by geometric or networked arrangement.
Windswept by Charles Sowers
Art installation fixed outside a gallery’s wall, displaying natural flow and turbulence of the wind - via dezeen:
Hundreds of spinning blades reveal the invisible patterns of the wind in American artist Charles Sowers’ kinetic installation on the facade of the Randall Museum in San Francisco.
The installation, titled Windswept, consists of 612 rotating aluminium weather vanes mounted on an outside wall. As gusts of wind hit the wall, the aluminium blades spin not as one but independently, indicating the localised flow of the wind and the way it interacts with the building.
“Our ordinary experience of wind is as a solitary sample point of a very large invisible phenomenon,” said Sowers. “Windswept is a kind of large sensor array that samples the wind at its point of interaction with the Randall Museum building and reveals the complexity and structure of that interaction.”
Interactive installation by Daniel Rozin using a triangular method of representation with a motorized array:
The “Angles Mirror” rejects the idea of building a picture based on relative lightness and darkness. Instead, it explores a system of linear rotation that indicates the direction of an object’s contour. A wall-mounted sculpture, the “Angles Mirror” is a sharp triangular block of steel, dotted with yellow indicator arms that pivot. Based on the isometric grid, its structure favors the patterns and angles found in an equilateral triangle. The arms, which do not have the ability to change brightness or luminosity, use input from a camera and reconstruct the view with areas of varying angles. The negative space surrounding a viewer is translated into horizontal lines on the picture plane. Rather than creating a photorealistic image, the three-dimensional movement of a figure is represented, visualizing optical flow as viewer’s proximity to the sculpture changes. A nuanced contour results, as the viewer shifts back and forth, altering how the structure of space is perceived. Similar to “Fan Mirror”, in the “Angles Mirror”, the sequence of movement across the picture plane is directed in part by its audience. When the viewer walks away from the work, or chooses to view the sculpture from a distance, a series of predefined images and transitions cover the object’s surface.
Interactive installation is grid of transparent LCDs which display halftone and circular patterns whose display can emulate it’s viewers.
Created by Korena collective HYBE, IRIS is a media canvas with matrix of conventional information display technology, that is a monochrome LCD.Through the phased opening and closing of circular black liquid crystal, IRIS can create various patterns and control the amount (size) of passing lights.
Sound installation features 14 guitars with hanging computer-controlled fans - the result is beautiful ambient music:
Installation features 80 wall-mounted teddy bears, all recounting emotional messages posted on the internet with artificial voices.
TED is a large, wall-based installation consisting of an array of 80 Teddy Ruxpin dolls that speak emotional content gathered from the web via synthetic speech with animated mouths. The speaking of the emotional content is accompanied by one of twenty-four musical vignettes that have been paired to the emotional content being spoken. Each vignette, representing one of twenty-four subtle variants of human emotion, have been composed in such a way that the beginnings and ends of the short pieces will seamlessly dogleg in any possible configuration and stream endlessly as a unified whole. The installation is allowed to drift about freely through the emotional landscape being driven only by those who are contributing content to the piece whether unwittingly or consciously. As such the overall presentation of the piece can vary greatly based on external conditions such as seasons, world events and even time of day. The piece is essentially taking the instantaneous emotional pulse of the internet and this collective pulse, like a human pulse, varies over time.
Mechanical installation is a wireframe form which adjusts it’s shape according to a weather data feed.
Point Cloud is an attempt to reimagine our daily interaction with weather data. Weather has always had a unique place in our lives, because it has a multiplicity that encompasses both the concrete and the indeterminate. It is the intangible context within which we build our lives and our cities, but it is also the physical element against which we create protective shelter. Most of the time it is an invisible network that we can see but are not aware of; yet it can manifest in a spectacle or disaster, come forward and activate our senses, make us forget our rationality in delight or fear. With modern scientific and technological developments, we can now deploy sophisticated monitoring devices to document and observe weather. Yet despite these advances, our analysis and understanding of meteorology is still largely approximate, and in many cases, inaccurate. Weather continues surprise us and elude our best attempts to predict, control, and harness the various elements.
Pierre Huyghe, A Journey that Wasn't
Today is the start of my first full week here at Rhizome in the role of Editor & Curator. I’m really excited to have this opportunity to help shape the next phase of the organization.
In its most recent incarnation, Rhizome’s editorial content has taken the form of a journal rather than a blog. Texts such as Jacob Gaboury’s Queer History of Computing series and Paul Graham Raven’s This Is a Game: A (very) Brief History of Larp have offered in-depth, critical looks at Internet art and culture.
Looking ahead, we will continue to foster this kind of scholarly and in-depth writing, but we will also place a renewed emphasis on presenting visual artworks and documentation thereof, as well as more conversational, international and community-oriented content. Content that is, you know, more rhizomatic. (Rhizomey?) This is, after all, a non-profit that began its life as a mailing list.
In this spirit, I want to kick off my tenure by inviting your thoughts on Rhizome’s editorial future. At the end of this post, you’ll see a rarely used function on our site known as a “comments box." What would you like to see more of? Less of? What do you think we do well, and what could we improve on?
Even better, please take this Reader Survey organized by Nectar Ads, who are responsible for the art-related advertising you see in our sidebar. We’ll be looking very closely at the responses and feedback we get through this, and your participation would be greatly appreciated.
Consider the ice broken. I look forward to continuing the conversation!
Partition Expanse, 2011, 30×45 inches, acrylic on canvas over panel
Of all the genres one might associate with contemporary artistic practice, landscape painting is low on the list, more closely aligned with the nineteenth century than the twenty-first. In this sense, Cameron Martin’s canvases, apparently photorealistic depictions of nature executed in an icy palette of pale grays and whites, are paradoxical objects, simultaneously part of an art-historical trajectory dating back to the sixteenth-century Danube School—credited as the first to make “pure landscape” the subject of paintings—and its negation. To create them, he draws on a personal archive of images, culled from advertising, found photographs, and his own staged and impromptu snapshots; selected images are then combined, altered, and manipulated in Photoshop, from which he extracts a stencil, finally applying layers of paint to canvas with an airbrush.
Adivial, 2012, 24×24 inches, acrylic on canvas over panel
In his series “Bracket,” exhibited in 2011 at Greenberg Van Doren (now Van Doren Waxter), spectral images of craggy mountains and dense forests, given elusive titles like Balantane or Icliste, are cropped and bordered with blank space, emphasizing their relationship to not only the photographic image—as one critic noted, registering the barely-there images in Martin’s paintings is akin to watching a photograph develop in a darkroom—but also its use in media, suggesting preparatory layouts for magazines or ads. In more recent paintings, Martin augments the image with thin black lines and tonal shifts, linking them even more closely with graphic design. As Martin stated in an interview with the Brooklyn Rail, “After many years of making full bleed pictures, where the image comes entirely to the limits of the support, I became aware of how with landscape painting in particular, you are encouraged to just dive into the picture, and you don’t think about what’s outside the frame. There’s an inherent illusionism that you buy into as a result of the full bleed. I wanted to think about ways of making the image itself the subject of the painting as much as what was depicted in the image.”
In these paintings, Martin exploits the multiple associations of the term “bracket”: in photography, bracketing refers to taking multiple versions of the same shot at different exposures, while in phenomenology, it describes a suspension of pre-conceptions, setting aside certain assumptions in order to privilege the first-person encounter. On the one hand, they call attention to the formal processes of image production in their conflation of painting, photography, and digital media, but they also function as meditations on absence and presence, inclusion and exclusion.
Album, 2012, 48×48 inches, acrylic on canvas
These scenes might be conceived as corollaries to what the sociologist Marc Augé famously described as “non-places”—interchangeable, transitional spaces like supermarkets and airports that are familiar and ubiquitous, but lack any of the defining characteristics that might root them in a particular culture or location. Martin similarly renders places that are not, beyond the fact that they are literally invented by the artist on a computer: much as his process removes the direct touch of the brush, the extension of the artist’s hand seen as a guarantor of the work’s expressive authenticity, the resulting paintings are not so much landscapes as “landscapes,” images whose mediation is constantly foregrounded. In his work, landscape becomes an empty signifier, much like the intentionally vague, verdant settings of advertising images that are intended to be familiar to everyone, in which, as the artist notes, “the specificity of the location, geographically or historically, is completely eradicated.”
Sempiturn, 2010, 60×60 inches, acrylic on canvas
Jeremy Bailey will participate in Rhizome's Seven On Seven Conference on Saturday, April 20th, paired with technologist Julie Uhrman. A new project by Bailey, Famous New Media Art Patent Office, also went live today as part of the New Museum's First Look online exhibition series.
Anyone with a passing interest in the current status of the Internet and World Wide Web will have noticed a curious thing: the tide of popular opinion is changing, and net-skepticism is on the rise. Although we’re not quite at the stage of torch- and pitchfork-bearing mobs, there is a general mood of unease that, at the very least, is causing people to pause before they post. This is a sea change driven by the awareness that certain individual civil liberties are being surreptitiously eroded online: dataveillance is rife, social media platforms are really content farms, the cloud is a ticking time bomb, and nobody really owns any of the digital media they pay for.
New books by giants of net-doubt Jaron Lanier (Who Owns the Future) and Evgeny Morozov (To Save Everything Click Here) are currently whipping the commentariat into think-piece frenzy, but what came like a bolt from the blue was a recent article in the March edition of Artforum. "Gestural Abstractions," written by Alexander Provan (Editor of online art magazine Triple Canopy) was a short, sharp text exploring the possible physiological ramifications of a patent for gestural interfaces pending by Apple. The thrust of Provan’s argument was that Apple were "indisputably striving to corner the market on how we move our fingers across screens, how we scan and massage images," and that simultaneous plans to patent physical movement away from screens, à laMinority Report-style gestural interface operation, were in development. The key question that emerged by the text’s end was a dystopian what-if: what if we find ourselves in a situation where corporations patent everyday gestures like waving goodbye or even throwing up the corna, thereby emptying these signs of meaning, and psychologically associating them with standardized operations for accessing online data? Moreover, how would this new climate affect an artist whose practice uses gesture as an essential bridge between the physical and digital? Step forward Jeremy Bailey, self-proclaimed “world famous new media artist.”
Image from Apple patent application ‘Device, Method, and Graphical User Interface Using Mid-Drag Gestures’ published March 31, 2011. Publication number: US 2011/0074695 A1
Since the early noughties Bailey has ploughed a compelling, and often hilarious, road through the various developments of digital communications technologies. Ostensibly a satire on, and parody of, the practices and language of "new media," the jocose surface of Bailey’s work hides an incisive exploration of the critical intersection between video, computing, performance, and the body. The unique terrain of Bailey’s work sits between a collision of the rarefied and the populist. On one side stands McLuhanite media theory and contemporary art historical debates (specifically the rhetoric of the 1970s Portapak, performance for the camera, era of video art); on the other stands the nerdy world of self-deprecating, super nice webcasters, video game enthusiasts, and computer programmers—see Bailey’s Strongest Man (2003). This meeting of worlds is often formalized in instructional videos that demonstrate software that Bailey designs.
Videopaint 2.0 (2005). Courtesy of Pari Nadimi Gallery.
An essential feature of this work is the generation of graphics from data streams produced by Bailey’s own gestures and movements, which augment real world video footage. For example, in the single-channel video Videopaint 3.0 (2007) Bailey demonstrates a program that tracks the user's movements to produce brushstrokes. In Presentation Software (2009) he uses circling hand movements to rotate objects, and in The Future of Television (2012) his facial movements flip through video footage that has been segmented into slices across his face.
The Future of Television (2012). Courtesy of Pari Nadimi Gallery.
In the hypothetical dystopian future, where all possible human-computer interface gestures, from blinking to waving, fall under the patent controls of monolithic digital communications companies, could Bailey’s work be pushed into a decidedly unexpected sphere: that of political art? Could his catalogue of works be retroactively categorized as emblematic examples of gestural protest? It’s possible, but perhaps unlikely. Still, the idea that Bailey’s videos could one day circulate through the deepweb’s murky depths as illegal and subversive protest art is an interesting one. And, when it comes to leading the ensuing digital resistance, who better than Bailey? In fact, he’s already building the suit.
Concept image for Dialectical Software Gundam Suit (2009). Courtesy of Pari Nadimi Gallery.
Animated GIF from the website Parked Domain Girl Tombstone (2013)
DR: On first inspection, a lot of your work appears to be rooted in the 90s, drawing on the low bandwidth aesthetics inherent in GIFs, midi plugins, embedded frames, ASCII art, and forgotten webring hyperlinks. But the 90s comes out in other ways, too. Pop-cultural undercurrents include Nintendo and Leisure Suit Larry; mixtapes and a particular flavor of Europop. How/why do these things speak to you as a contemporary (Web) artist?
EG: The origin of the meaning of most collected n found elements i use in my work is rooted in the 90s. My work itself isn't rooted in the 90s. I've been dragged to use that type of stuff mostly bc i like it n its accurate w the topics im interested in rn. Still tho the source material or what it evokes isn't really important. It jst adds semantic layer/s for some people n so does the aesthetics. Everything linked to that part of my work is treated as game elements (to be inserted) in different contexts of reception w diff codes of conduct. Its about notebooks. All that content is accessory to my work. You could really jst take the whole structure/s n insert totally diff content. It'd still make sense. Maybe Im already doing that but its not linked anywhere rn. Its kinda like people who enjoy playing Canabalt but hate playing Robot Unicorn. The gameplay is literally the same. Jst the content n aesthetic is different. That changes the whole experience. Whats a contemporary web artist?
Blinking Girls Cave (2012)
DR: I love the idea of interchangeable (aesthetic) content, as if Andy Warhol could have changed the contents of a "textures" subfolder and suddenly transformed a Campbell's Soup painting into a Heinz. How is play more than a structural component to your work? I'm thinking about rulemaking and breaking, especially your collaboration with Sarah Weis, Blinking Girls Cave, which the park authorities took a disliking to while it was in progress.
[Ed. – Blinking Girls Cave (2012) was a part of Apache Project, a series of artworks installed at Mother Neff State Park in Moody, Texas, in a cave that was once used by the Tonkawa Indians as a shelter as well as a burial site. After an initial proposal for an installation in the cave was rejected by park management (despite having been initially approved), the project ultimately took the form of a photo shoot, in which GIFs—some of them drawn from the imagery in seduction-based adventure game Leisure Suit Larry—were displayed on tablets, smartphones and laptops that were placed within the cave and documented. This scaled-back version also proved unacceptable to park management.]
EG: I think play is a structural component of life. It's related to how i conceptualize, process n think stuff. It opens space for experimentation. To me, its more related to what sociologists do than anything performance art; like how-to approach different types of social dynamics from diff point of view per example. Also, like that Andy Warhol eating a hamburger video; a partly exhibited learning process. Breaking rules wasn't really a thing in ♡ ♥ Blinking Girls ♥ ♡. What happened at Mother Neff is that our first intended installation, which involved light effects n bubble machines, was disapproved at the last minute bc of the damage it could cause to the cave walls. Blinking Girls Cave thus became about hardwares n gifs. During the documentation - that being the installation - Nate Hitchcock, the director n curator n everything at Apache Project, was interrupted by a park ranger who requested him to leave the park because taking pictures n or making videos in the cave wasn't appropriate.
DR: There’s a real sense of a partly exhibited learning process in your URL works: an ever growing array of Web 1.0 motifs, exhibited as unique URLs. For me these works expose the Internet as a spatial, material thing, still begging to be explored. You spoke of sociology, is there perhaps something archaeological in your practice?
EG: The internet is def abt spatiality and materiality. One can relate to these notions differently. To me, its really more abt physicality. I wasn't really thinking abt them topics when i made these. It's jst kinda there in all websites. Thats the internet. I wouldnt say that these r really web 1.0. The user in both cases isnt primarily a content consumer. Backdoor trojan girl was exhibited at Domain Gallery in a way that highlighted the urls. Under other circumstances, it'd prob be different. The archaeological in my practice is kinda superficial rn.
DR: Your URL artworks, http://backdoortrojangirl.net (2012) and http://w-h-a-t-e-v-e-r.net (2013), both flicker between female and male signifiers. Do you think the Web is gendered? How would you approach gender differently in work produced for a gallery context?
EG: I don't think the web is gendered. Culture is n adds gendered filter/s to it in some cases. I don't know if i would approach it; maybe i'd dig a hole for feminists/feminism or i'd do a show about postpostpostpostpostpostpost-transexualism. It'd be really fun.
DR: For your ongoing collaborative online exhibition Art Object Culture (2011-), you and Lucy Chinen bring together two artists each month to create a new work based on trinkets that were purchased online. These readily available objects accrue value as they pass through the project. I could ask you about the long shadow cast by Duchamp’s readymades, about ownership, exhibition value and artistic identity as they relate to the Web. Instead, I’d really like it if you shared some AOC secrets with us. What criteria do you use to select the artists? Which is your favorite submission so far and why?
EM: Art Object Culture offers a website template for artists to explore art making within one rule: create new art objects from items pre-existing in various online stores. We mainly seek artists that have the ability to bend that rule. I don't really have a favorite submission. I like some more than others but my opinion on this is not important. There is no secret. The current format is a translation of our ideas on AOC related topics from 2011. It might eventually mutate. Hopefully we'll sell all the artworks that were made for it before that n or have a show; some kinda showcase for all of them together w everyone that made stuff for it n other people too.
Age: my age range is 7 to 77.
How long have you been working creatively with technology? How did you start?
Since forever. I started by playing games on some used pc and recontextualizing movies, game related stuff as improvised play based on the characters n plot/s with friends at school. I've always spent a lot of time randomly surfing the internet while chatting on microsoft comic chat, mIRC, the palace n was really into customizing anything that was customizable ie. winamp skins, mirc themes, etc... Beside that, my fav drawing thing is Lite Bright n i've been deleting, moving, opening files since ive been typing on a keyboard. I've crashed the home computer a couple of times.
Describe your experience with the tools you use. How did you start using them? Where did you go to school? What did you study?
Experimentation n play! My main tool is the internet or jst even information. In college, ive done a dble cursus in literature n social studies. Then, I dropped out of art school in Mtl n went to Paris. In 2010/2011, i did a dnap/bfa in 1yr at the Ecole d'Art Superieure d'Aix-en-Provence where I'm currently finishing a dnsep/master w a focus in hypermedia. My thesis text thing's title is Fuck Privacy Demo Game Over.
What traditional media do you use, if any? Do you think your work with traditional media relates to your work with technology?
I'm not media based. The traditional/non traditional dichotomy makes no sense to me. I jst use whatever depending on the project im working on. It's more about ideas n processes.
Are you involved in other creative or social activities (i.e. music, writing, activism, community organizing)?
I tweet n play music on my iphone everyday. Before that, i played ice hockey n have done some cycling as a summer training thing. I love dancing. Also, health related stuff; superfoods n other stuff, but i mostly eat pizza n candies. Thats creative. I'm involved with adrenaline, gaming, immersive as non immersive n fun everyday. I'm really concerned about open source n how it affects education/academics. But im not seriously implicated in anything, im jst personally into it rn.
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 worked at HMV Megastore n Liquid Nutrition in Montreal while being in college. I spent one summer selling autoportraits on the Pont Saint-Louis in Paris w a friend. I worked at some pizza place on bd de Belleville. The boss never slept, ate one fried egg a day and gave us free pizza n drinks everyday. Clients ordered one expresso and remained seated for hrs jst talking abt whatever. Total Belleville cliche. Everything influences the way i process stuff. RN im an art student.
Who are your key artistic influences?
Toru Iwatani, Kassia Meador, Gustav Klimt n the internet.
Have you collaborated with anyone in the art community on a project? With whom, and on what?
I collaborate w Lucy Chinen on Art Object Culture n conducted the Blinking Girls project w Sarah Weis. I work/ed w friends that are mostly into painting n music. I ghostpost alot n collaborate w lots of people actively n passively everyday on everything. Its mostly passive networked collaboration/s.
Do you actively study art history?
Im surrounded by it. I've been into it for as long as i can remember. My dad always brought the family to museums. When i was living in San Francisco, we went to Los Angeles one time mostly jst to go n visit the Getty museum. My college art history teacher was totally awesome. Art history entertains me.
Do you read art criticism, philosophy, or critical theory? If so, which authors inspire you?
I have phases in which i read alot and others in which i dont at all. Most of the time, i try not to remember the authors so it remains jst about the ideas. RN im reading Critical Play by Mary Flanagan.
Are there any issues around the production of, or the display/exhibition of new media art that you are concerned about?
Yes, but no at the same time. It really depends on the whole concept of a project. I kinda hate almst everything that is JUST about representation when it comes to new media related art tho, so i'd say im concerned about that.
This conversation took place between 22 March and 1 April on a Google Drive document.
1. Golan Levin's Free Universal Construction Kit (2012). This series of adaptors allows interoperability among different kinds of children's toys, such as Legos®, Tinkertoys® and Lincoln Logs®. The project is decades too late to have helped me with my own childhood battles with proprietary toy formats, but on behalf of future generations, Mr. Levin, I thank you.
2. Addie Wagenknecht's Screwmocracy (2012). To be honest, I mostly just liked the Romney dildo; it seems an apt response to the regressive remarks about rape that hung over the Republican Party like a cloud throughout the last election cycle. The Obama dildo is a bit less interesting, because it obviously already exists as a commercial product. Also, the pairing of black and white introduces a racial element that somewhat obscures the relationship between presidential politics and sex. (Not to mention: where is "Diamond Joe" Biden?)
3. KATSU's Destroyerbot. The rise of 3D printing has not been a uniformly positive development for the visual arts. Artists, if you find that your use of additive manufacturing has led you to create work that is consistently written about in trend pieces by reporters who describe it as "mind-bending," please feel free to place your fabrication equipment in this handy box, and press "Start."
Fatima Al Qadiri
Fatima Al Qadiri. Google her, visit her website. As you enter her website, you are invited to take part in a simulation, or rather, fall prey to a prank. Sounds, images, and even programs appear as familiar yet somehow renewed appropriations of the Mac OS X desktop interface. As if you have stumbled upon a secret drive on your MacBook and entered a makeshift display, you’ll have to rummage through “files” and “folders” to find what you are looking for at your own peril.
Image from http://fatimaalqadiri.com/ as it appeared at press time.
Brooklyn-based artist Fatima Al Qadiri works with a broad range of media, touching base with writing, composing, performance, and more. This year, Al Qadiri breaks ground on commissioned work for art fairs, taking on the Official Soundtrack of the Fair for Art Dubai, followed by a talk at The Armory Show, “On Commissioning Work in an Art Fair Context,” with Gianni Jetzer and Sarah McCrory, moderated by Sarah Douglas. In works such as the Official Soundtrack, Al Qadiri’s use of game beats—with which one may assume familiarity based on one’s practice of playing video games—reconfigure spaces through association with the landscapes, characters, jargon, activities, etc., within the game. Even for those “players” who lack any particular familiarity with Al Qadiri’s source material, the amalgam of unknown beats allows for real-time game participation—that is, with the occupying body as participant, or even as a character, in a virtually transformed space. On this note, Al Qadiri’s soundtracks are not mere backgrounds to a built environment. Rather, her compilations and mixes of familiar, often ubiquitous video game beats introduce a virtual dimension to the built environment, thereby proposing alternate definitions of its space.
Music video for the song “Ghost Raid” from the EP Desert Strike (2012). Directed by Alex Gvojic (2013).
Music video for the song “Vatican Vibes” from the EP Genre-Specific Xperience (2011). Directed by Tabor Robak (2011).
Al Qadiri’s EP release Desert Strike, October 2012, features five tracks that resonate with the Sega Mega Drive video game, Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf (1992). The game was released a year into the aftermath of the US-led Operation Desert Storm, which was surrounded by intense hype among the American audience in conjunction with new technologies and media strategies such as real-time streaming of war as never seen before. Bringing forth a new way to reflect and re-flesh the "pathology of the game," Al Qadiri unleashes beats from video-(war-)games to aurally and visually unfold a new landscape of war—was it the video game or the live stream? In a way, Al Qadiri’s EP and the video of the track "Ghost Raid" reimagine the play of simulation and non-simulation. In reimagining this play, the soundtracks and videos function not only as algospasms to images of war, but also as portals into the sentiments, cellular memories, and shared practices that derive from video games of war.
Still from video of performance Shaytan at Tate Modern, 2010
In an interview with Rhizome earlier this year, Al Qadiri discussed the thematics of her work in relation to the use of technology, invoking the following idea of sentiment: “The reason why people are referencing the popular technology of the fleeting past is because they want to commemorate its obsolescence. It’s a sentimental exercise, at the core.” From simulation to imagination, from virtual realities to sentimental exercise, there is a sense of a serious-cheeky play on simulations and imaginations (futures and real sci-fi)—and I want more...
 For further reference on new media tactics during the Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm, and Virilio’s foresight into the development of the genre of war games, refer: Virilio, Paul. "January 1991: Desert Storm." In Desert screen: war at the speed of light. New York: Continuum, 2005. 31-73.
 "Poorly adapted to the spirit of the times, the image of acts of courage would give way to a pathology of the game linked to the evaluation of the cost of arms and the material losses, as well as to the benefits that would ensue, as today, in Kuwait." From Virilio, "January 1991: Desert Storm."
Seven on Seven is tomorrow! It's sold out, but never fear: Giampaolo Bianconi will be hosting a liveblog of the event, so you can follow along here as it happens. As our stellar interim editor for the site over the past few months, Bianconi also commissioned the texts we've published over the past couple of weeks, profiling several Seven on Seven participants: Fatima Al Qadiri, Jeremy Bailey, Cameron Martin, Jill Magid and Harper Reed.
Meanwhile, our Twitter hashtag #7on7htc is already heating up. Alyssa Wright of OpenGeo set high expectations for our keynote speaker, noted contrarian Evgeny Morozov:
Tara Tiger Brown, who is paired with Martin, was excited about her gift from our sponsors:
Julie Uhrman took planes, trains and automobiles to get here:
@jeremybailey On the bridge. Getting closer.— Julie Uhrman (@juhrman) April 19, 2013
While Jeremy Bailey prepped the workspace for her arrival:
@juhrman oh it's ready all right! It can't wait to lift you into the heavens of our impending neuro-entwined-ecstasy— Jeremy Bailey (@jeremybailey) April 19, 2013
DISMagazine is doing their own liveblog:
And at the eleventh hour, Rhizome's Ben Fino-Radin sent out words of encouragement:
Visions of sugar plums are dancing in our heads. See you tomorrow!
Hi, I'm Giampaolo Bianconi and I'll be liveblogging today's Seven on Seven conference. Check back throughout the day for realtime updates from the conference, as well as Tweets and thoughts from attendees, participants, and other Rhizome contributors.
Crunch time is now:
12:28: It begins! Heather Corcoran takes the stage to welcome everyone to the 4th annual Seven on Seven Conference. "Seven on Seven represents a chance to put critical contemporary artists with technologists whose ideas have tremendous reach ... We are not so naive as to think that art and technology are totally seperate realms."
12:37: Moderator John Michael Boling made his first website in 1994. It was about Muppets.
12:40: Keynote speaker Evgeny Morozov, on the other hand, never made a website about Muppets. "There is a tendency to think that my argument says technology doesn't matter -- it's not the message. The message, especially in my book that just came out, is that technology is very powerful."
Virtually anything can be preceded by "smart". Will Cisco do a better job in defining the word than, say, Robert Moses. #7on7HTC— Paddy Johnson (@artfcity) April 20, 2013
12:44: "In the context of urban planning and city planning, we know that not all solutions are alike ... trying to understand how we can start differentiating between different technological solutions is very important. We need to go beyond the technophiles/technophobes discourse." -- Evgeny Morozov
12:51: "If we start bridging art history and the history of technology, we might see that ideas presented as solutionism today are not so new: they have histories ... beyond that, I think we need to find a way for artists to push technologists away from their tendency to think they know all the answers." -- Evgeny Morozov
12:58: "Finding ways to articulte why friction and conflict matter is something artists can do." -- Evgeny Morozov
1:05: Moderator John Michael Boling takes the stage to give some context to Seven on Seven: "Not a conference in the traditional sense, but more an experiment ... It can be kind of a wild ride." Participants met for the first time two nights ago and were given some loose guidelines: a day, eachother, and a deadline. "The main deliverable here is a conversation." First team Paul Pfeiffer and Alex Chung take the stage.
1:06: Applause for Alex Chung's correct pronunciation of GIF!
1:11: "He's kind of the Michael Jordan of video art." - Alex Chung on Paul Pfeiffer
1:15: Alex Chung approaches GIFs with Wittgenstein in mind. Paul Pfeiffer approaches GIFs with Rosalind Krauss in mind.
1:17: Anemic Cinema takes the screen:
1:19: "The top 3 searches of Giphy are cats, sex, boobs." - Alex Chung
1:21: Dancing Lana Del Rey in the bloody Shining hallway. "There's no way to explain this right now, we don't have the vocabulary." - Alex Chung
1:25: Evocation of shock and survivalist preparation in regard to the condensed image loop.
1:30: Trying to define the Loop Function drove Alex Chung and Paul Pfeiffer to hypnosis, with some help from Herzog's Heart of Glass.
1:38: Chung and Pfeiffer introduce GIPHNOSIS: reprogramming yourself using GIFs in your subconscious. "In a way GIPHNOSIS already exists: it's news media." - Pfeiffer. Chung and Pfeiffer's GIPHNOSIS is collection of downloadable screensavers to reprogram your mind. Two choices: Shelley Duvall with a knife or five surprisingly coordinated kitties.
"The image is becoming more powerful, but the looped image hasn't been defined yet." - Chung
1:40: "GIPHNOSIS is not necessarily evil, it's not necessarily good: it's a new way of communicating." - Pfeiffer
1:44: John Michael Boling introduces Fatima Al Qadiri and Dalton Caldwell. Their dicussion centered around questions of "infobeisity"
and "data detox." How much digital information can one person process.
1:47: "Information becomes obsolete the moment it becomes updated." - Fatima Al Qadiri identifies the enemy of this ambitious liveblogger.
about to get ASMR in here #7on7HTC— DISmagazine.com (@DISmagazine) April 20, 2013
#7on7htc” I think that information bomb of early 20th c was much more shocking than today' flow of emails and notifications..photo, film,— manovich (@manovich) April 20, 2013
1:51: "How do we talk about the fact that a bottle of water wants to be your friend and give you updates?" - Dalton Caldwell
I gotta say, the soundtrack achieved the intended effect. All these update sounds, meditative as they are, make me really anxious. #7on7HTC— Paddy Johnson (@artfcity) April 20, 2013
— LS:N Global (@LSNglobal) April 20, 2013
2:05: Al Qadiri ties things up by bringing it back to fact checking. Next up: lunch.
#7on7HTC Dalton and Fatima's topic reminds me of @wilsonminer's talk at Build2011 > vimeo.com/34017777
— Jason Huff (@jsnhff) April 20, 2013
A constellation of laptops and smartphones @rhizomedotorg#7on7HTCtwitter.com/zoesalditch/st…
— zoë (@zoesalditch) April 20, 2013
I'll be continuing the livestream here.
Here's a fresh new liveblog for part II of Seven on Seven.
2:54: "Technology also serves as a wall or box that gets put up around you." - Cameron Martin
2:59: Martin and Brown produce a great 3D model of a blue Koons baloon dog. "Today we're going to conduct an experiment we call real time crowdsource learning ... we want you the audience to transform from passive listeners to active participants." - Cameron Martin. Hands go up as Tara Tiger Brown asks who has done 3d modeling or 3d printing. Many more hands go up when Cameron Martin asks who hasn't.
3:05: Tara and Cameron utilizing #3DHelper to crowdsource volunteer Diego's 3d modeling:
3:10: Did we?
I think i just witnessed participatory art #7on7htc— «» (@1aurabrown) April 20, 2013
Harper Reed, hacker and CTO for 2012 Obama campaign, has a sticker on his laptop: "My other computer is your computer." #7on7htc— Kareem Estefan (@KareemEstefan) April 20, 2013
3:20: Overlap between Lozano-Hemmer and Reed: metrics. Reed is a devoted self-tracker, has collected a lot of data about himself for "no reason." "It might be important some day." - Harper Reed. Reed and Lozano-Hemmer have asked one of the most asked questions of our time: what do we do with all this data? Sometimes you just end up knowing bulldogs hate tape measures.
3:28: Eventually, Reed and Hemmer came to the idea of erasure: Snapchat, A.R. Luria, and Rauschenberg's Erased de Kooning Drawing share the screen. "Forgetting is fundamental to being able to transform." - Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. Their creation: Friend Fracker. From the website: "The site deletes 1 to 10 friends from your Facebook account. Use friendfracker to decrease the number of people connected to you." It cannot be undone. Lozano-Hemmer deletes 3 friends to great applause!
3:30: "This is aggressively against the Terms of Service of Facebook ... let's keep the Tweets quiet. Or whatever." - Harper Reed
"The art is not knowing who was deleted. And if you don't remember them, good riddance." - Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
"We can take things away from our lives and we just won't miss them." - Harper Reed
#7on7htc tech trend update: deinstall— joelHolmberg (@dotkalm) April 20, 2013
3:38: Team 5: Matthew Ritchie and Billy Chasen. They've created Dabit. "The concept of Dabit is that you can choose your charity and everyday we're going to collect money for these charity. Only 50% of the money will go to the charities, the other 50% will go to somebody that donated that day." - Billy Chasen.
3:39: Live data visualization of Dabit donations takes the screen:
3:45: Ritchie and Chasen take Seven on Seven from intellectual to financial interactivity.
3:46: Ritchie deploys reality diagram by Graham Harmon:
3:49: Overarching sentiment at Seven on Seven that we can use technology as a training ground for goodness. Dabit "appeals to both the worst and the best," says Ritchie.
3:55: "The division of labor between art and technology became apparent: I drank beer while Billy did all the coding." - Ritchie, before taking us through the evolution of Dabit logos:
3:58: $953 raised by Dabit in the last 30 minutes.
4:01: "We can always be charitable to big organizations, bet we can be charitable to each other too." - Billy Chasen
Ritchie emphasizes the exciting danger of Dabit: part philanthropy, part gambling.
"This sounds like a great project. I'd like to see it continue if it doesn't get shut down." John Michael Boling. #7on7HTC— Paddy Johnson (@artfcity) April 20, 2013
4:17: While you were getting coffee:
4:28: Jeremy Bailey and Julie Uhrman are cracking glowsticks on stage.
Uhrman: "I'm not so sure why I was invited as a technologist ... and after seeing previous presentations, I'm even less sure."
4:44: Uhrman and Bailey both love winning and video games. They're both "enablers." "What I try to do is create the best platform to enable your genius." - Uhrman. Takes the entire presentation apparatus as a target!
infobesity might actually be a word from the 1970s book future shock and not in reference to the current media culture. #7on7htc— alyssa wright (@alyssapwright) April 20, 2013
4:46: "We wanted to reinvent the presentation so that you get feedback to how you're doing halfway through." - Uhrman.
4:47: "We're vain, but we're vain enough to know ... it's all about you." - Jeremy Bailey. He's taken to the stage with a live projection on screen, the interface rewarding him based on movement, Tweets, and loud noises. It also gives motivational cues.
Hot gams and glow sticks! #7on7HTC— nick hasty (@jnhasty) April 20, 2013
4:51: "The future of presentations is measuring their success in real time." - Bailey. Another instance of the dominance of metrics and looping-- I wonder what Paul Pfeiffer and Alex Chung think about this?
4:53: John Michael Boling takes advantage of "big penis mode" in the reinvented, gamified presentation. He says it feels amazing.
5:04: Dennis Crowley: "We're presenting this more as a conversation than a presentation." Magid: "We both engage privacy and surveillance in different ways." Metrics and tracking foregrounded once more. Watching these two translate each other is really interesting, both have a focus on the city and its transformation by technology. Crowley wonders whether we are statistics or indivduals -- Magid tries to make herself an individual through "the system."
5:10: Magid forces the system to see her as an individual. Some ideas discussed by Orit Gat. How to combat the anonymity of techno-masses is a big question for Crowley. "We kept getting deep into these conversations and then asking: 'What do we make of this?'" - Jill Magid.
5:13: "Could there be something in technology that delays, that makes us more aware of how we appear?" - Jill Magid. Brings up Bruce Nauman's Performance Corridor:
5:17: "What does a Twitter mirror look like? Something that allows you to see your online persona." - Crowley. Crowley says of his tracking devices: "Someday, someone will find all that interesting, and make something of it," much like Harper Reed's conceptualization of his own self-metrics. In the future all this data will be useful.
5:20: Jill Magid: a data visualization of your decision to get engaged is so much more beautiful than a photograph.
The quantified self - body as data source.Tthe last pair of the day at #7on7htc thinking about the potential for beauty in bio readouts— Kelani Nichole (@KelaniNichole) April 20, 2013
5:24: Crowley brings up Timehop as an example of interesting things to be done with our archived social media selves. "We've all done a lot of work to create all this meda. We've been taught to think of it as ephemeral. How powerful can software be that goes through all this stuff and finds the meaningful nugget that you need to see right now to change your perception." - Dennis Crowley
5:26: Interesting to think of awkwardness as an intended consequence of social media.
5:28: "I'm never out to screw a system so that it collapses ... but it's interesting to use them for their latent purposes." - Jill Magid. Says her instinct is always to think of how a system can fail.
5:31: Too bad circumstances prevented Magid and Crowley didn't get to create an object together -- but their thought process was rigorous enough to make up for it. Perhaps the system they made together would have been fully realized by Crowley; taught to fail by Magid.
5:40: "We're all trying to do the same things, just through a different lens." - Dennis Crowley
5:41: "All systems and all technologies are defined by how you use them, how you interpret them ... I think you make meaning from a system" - Jill Magid
Only collective inventions have any real value, Xul Solar once told his close friend and fellow Porteño Jorge Luis Borges, trying to convince him (unsuccessfully) to write in Neo-Criollo, one of the two languages he had invented and the one he himself preferred to use for writing and conversation. Such was the importance to Solar of friendship, sodalities esoteric and otherwise, and cooperation. These days the artist, who died 50 years ago this month and whose close friendship with Borges is at the heart of an ongoing exhibition at the Americas Society in New York, is remembered less for his hermetic, often illegibly coded mystical watercolor paintings than for the collective séance that he made of his particular corner of Buenos Aires' cosmopolitan avant-garde of the 1920s and the decades that followed. But this emphasis on the collective nature of invention also acts as a connecting thread—an axis around which to organize Xul's otherwise deeply idiosyncratic mundus. His diverse ideas and projects—his "Pan-Chess," an antipodean Glasperlenspiel that combined language, numerology and astrology; his invented languages and religions and piano keyboards and mathematics; his cosmic vision of the American future, floating somewhere between the pre-Columbian and the post-Sputnik—all point to the irresoluble paradox at the heart of the artist's techno-utopian vision, at once impossibly scaled and communal, and yet at the same time deeply, even inaccessibly idiosyncratic.
Sometime around 1957 Solar, who was born Óscar Agustín Alejandro Schulz Solari, proposed to do a series of articles for a Buenos Aires-based magazine called Mirador: Panorama de la Civilización Industrial. These would mark the culmination of a body of technological research he had pursued since the early 1940s, delineating a vision of the future at once utopian, post-human and profoundly unsettling. One text, "Autómatas en la historia chica" ("Automata in the little history"), presented an eccentric history of robotics, tracing its evolution from the steam-powered mechanical pigeon described by ancient Greek philosopher Archytas in the fourth century BC, through the brazen heads of medieval wizards, to Solar's own post-war present and the advent of what he called the “new Prometheus.” This latter stage was characterized by factory machines with “pincher-fingers” “that feed on electricity,” destined to free mankind from the necessity of labor.
In his article for Mirador, the author provided an autobiographical note, calling himself, among other things, a "painter, writer and little else.…Re-creator, not inventor, and world champion of Pan-chess and other serious games that almost nobody plays; father of a Pan-language that is meant to be perfect and almost nobody speaks and godfather of another, vulgar tongue without a vulgus; the author of useful grafías that almost no one reads, exegete of twelve (plus one universal) religions and philosophies that almost no one listens to."
If he sounds a bit disillusioned, one can hardly blame him: in the end, "Automata in the little history" was the only article of his proposed series that Mirador agreed to publish. But two others survive from the same period, and together they comprise an unusual, if fragmentary, glimpse into Solar's vision of possible futures. As the Second World War raged and then the Cold War simmered, Solar was contemplating cyborgs and celestial cities.
"Proposals for a future life. Something semi-technical on anatomical improvements and new beings," published in Lyra magazine in 1957—and illustrated with three of Solar’s visionary watercolor paintings from 1935-1936—imagines a post-human world of hybrids, mestizos—to use Solar's word—at once whimsical and disturbing: communal wet-nurses with tremendous breasts branching "into multiple tubes or natural tentacles (…) some longer than others, up to several meters, in order to accommodate even the most distant sucklings of the numerous brood;" men endowed with "a muscular tail of some kind (…) long and prehensile, capable of supporting the body like a third arm"; or the development, through careful breeding and technological enhancement, of arms like "parachute cords, or better yet wings."
Two Mestizos of Airplane and Human (1935)
One of the three illustrations for "Proposals for a future life" is a painting from 1935 called Two Mestizos of Airplane and Human—another is one from 1936 titled, in Solar’s own Neo-Criollo language, Vuelvilla, or The Flying City. The latter painting also gave Solar the title for the third of his texts from the late 1950s, in which he imagines a liberated, airborne metropolis, a techno-utopia held aloft by enormous gas-filled balloons and moving with the wind, its inhabitants beyond race, creed and national border. Solar described them as "just below the zenith, as in the book of Revelation, chapter 21, verse 2: 'And I, John, saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven, from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.’"
The artist's interest in new technologies and their implications may seem to be at odds with the way he is usually understood: as avant-garde occultist and proto-New Age demiurge playing the enigmatic gadfly and cosmic prankster to Buenos Aires' potent generación martinfierrista. But Solar’s techno-utopianism combined a destabilizing Rabelaisian grotesquerie with pulp sci-fi speculation and a post-religious mystical reconstitution of the world, making it very much synthetic and of a piece with his broader ludic metaphysics.
A. Xul Solar. “Propuestas para más vida futura. Algo semitécnico sobre mejoras anatómicas y entes nuevos”. Lyra . Buenos Aires, a. 15, n. 5, 1957, p. 31-33.
Alejandro Xul Solar. “Autómatas en la historia chica”. Mirador . Buenos Aires, n. 2, junio 1957, p. 37.