Forgetting the Internet

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San Francisco (AFP), June 26, 2014 - Google on Thursday said that it is "forgetting" things in Europe to comply with a legal ruling granting people the power to have certain information about them removed from searches.

Even though it was sunny, I knew something was wrong the moment I woke up the day of The Ruling. I didn't check the news, I didn't read the paper, I just felt something in the air—an electric current of negativity buzzing in my back pocket where I keep my phone. All morning it shook. It vibrated until it died.

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Invisible

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It shows how completely genre TV has appropriated the concept of DNA identification that one would immediately associate Invisible—artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg's product-provocation designed to protect "against new forms of biological surveillance"—with murder scene clean-up. Invisible comprises two bottles of spray: Erase and Replace. The former deletes 99.5% of DNA residue; the latter is "a solution of customized amplified DNA" designed to "obfuscate the remaining .5%." Together they could certainly be used to "spoof" the site of a crime, but Invisible's stated purpose is firmly focused on the quotidian-dystopic, a new SF sub-genre attempting to describe the daily grind of the immediate future.

The product's launch video incorporates visual strategies from apocalyptic films (scene-setting turbulent news footage) and tropes from sci-fi viral-thrillers (surveillance camera footage, a color palette of washed out blues on black). The marketing copy argues that only "You should be in control of how you share your information." Dewey-Hagborg positions Invisible as a necessary tool in an emergent world where the logic of data-mining extends away from the keyboard, right down to your genome.

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Digital Handwork

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In Luc Besson’s sci-fi classic The Fifth Element (1997), the "veryperfect" future human is reverse engineered from a severed hand. As sole surviving fragment of the hijacked Mondoshawan spacecraft carrying the antidote to the "Great Evil," this bronzy limb first appears laid out for examination in a gravel-floored capsule. "A few cells are still alive," analysis reveals, and the hand provides the building blocks for Milla Jovovich's Leelo. Mechanical and chemical processes generate skeleton, tissue, and finally skin... "Reconstruction complete." Initially resembling a prosthetic fused to a new body, the metallic hand has in fact formed a sort of glove around a replacement humanoid limb, which Leelo promptly employs to smash her glass surround—the screen that separates her from the outside world.

Terminating at the wrist, the severed hand of The Fifth Element corresponds to a recent proliferation of hand imagery in art concerned with the framing of human life by digital technologies, as well as the shaping and subversion of these technologies by humans.[1] While the hand is a motif of long standing in art, it plays a crucial new role in this discourse of cyborgian intra-activity, given its ambiguous status as tool and not-tool, human and technology.[2] In this article, we discuss hands as they take on different valences as human and technological actants, performing labor, forging intimacy, and experiencing sensory pleasure. Throughout, we argue that images of the hand in contemporary art problematize the boundary between organic human and inorganic tool, with implications for our understanding of labor, the body, and touch. Where the subject appears impoverished by constant connectivity, several artists break the screen, like Leelo, in a bid to emphasize materiality, the "immediacy and irreducibility of lived experience."[3]

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Long Live Immortality: Art as cryogenesis at Ashkal Alwan

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Still image from the documentary Transcendent Man (2009), featuring Ray Kurzweil.

Bills, letters, clothes, books, records, photos, DNA samples—these are some of Fredric Kurzweil's personal effects, collected and stored by his son Ray, who will one day use this material to bring his father (who died when Ray was 22) back to life. Cataloged in a temperature-controlled room in Kurzweil's own home, this material betrays a personal basis for the noted futurist's most famous fixation: triumph over death.[1]

Kurzweil's home could be an off-site extension of A Museum of Immortality, which opened at Ashkal Alwan in Beirut last Wednesday. Organized by Anton Vidokle and based on a curatorial concept by Boris Groys, the exhibition takes its inspiration from Kurzweil's now obscure predecessor in the field, Russian cosmist and theologian, Nikolai Fedorov. In the mid-1800s, Fedorov beseeched humanity to join together in "The Common Task": resurrecting every human being who has ever walked the Earth. Both a devout Christian and proto-transhumanist, Fedorov believed that controlling the forces of nature and exploring the far reaches of space carried out God's will. For Federov (as for Kurzweil) death is an obstacle which technology must overcome.

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Emulating "Bomb Iraq"

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Cory Arcangel, Bomb Iraq (2005). Screen capture of found hypercard program.

"In 2005, Cory Arcangel bought a used computer at a Salvation Army store in Buffalo, New York. Originally he was attracted to it because of its rarity: the Macintosh TV was a rather badly designed, half-hearted hybrid of a Macintosh Computer and a TV set, that performed neither of its designated functions very well and lacked any cool things that might come from the synergy. The machine was a commercial flop, only around 10,000 units were produced during a few months between 1993 and 1994."

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Solidarity after "Sharing:" Notes on Internet Subjects #1

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Enormous amounts of capital have been amassed of late under the banner of the so-called "sharing" economy, characterized by companies such as Uber and Airbnb that have garnered multi-billion dollar valuations for creating platforms in which individuals offer their services and property for rent.

Such platforms have advanced a narrative in the media that their services are emancipatory and disruptive of old-fashioned, inefficient industries, going so far as to promise "revolution" amid broken systems. But what, exactly, is being brought into existence by this revolution? And who is it for?

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Destruction Ceremonies as 21st Century Book Burning

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Advertisement for destruction of pirated media in the Philippines.

Surely the irony wasn’t lost on Maulana Fazlullah when he took to his FM channel to tell his supporters to burn their radios. But Radio Mullah—as he fast became known—was just preaching on his shortwave what the incumbent Islamist government had set in motion on the streets of the frontier province. In 2006, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) government in Pakistan's provisional district of Khyber–Pakhtunkhwa had begun cracking down on ownership of electronics and recordings of all kinds. Muhammad Arif of the Center for Peace and Cultural Studies Peshawar remembers what happened when media products were suddenly found to be profane: "CDs, Video Cassettes and other gadgets were burnt on the directives of the provincial government. There were clear directives from the MMA government to remove 'obscene' material from the shops and the police had to prove their efficiency." Ordinary people—not only the most devout—and, in some cases, even the police, attended the ceremonies.

Having consisted primarily of local cassettes, videotapes, and VCDs, the MMA government's own bonfire of the vanities did not garner much media attention. Whether it's the looting of Egypt's Museum of Antiquities, the United States’ desecration of Mesopotamian sites in Iraq, the Taliban burning of the Afghanistan National Film Archive, or the torching of historic manuscripts in Timbuktu, the international community can generally be counted on to mourn the destruction of listed sites and priceless objects. But this is not the case when it comes to the destruction of contemporary digital or electronic cultural artefacts, which often receives the tacit approval of the international community as an essential part of the war against piracy. By shredding the "counterfeit" electronic media of their citizenry, governments of emerging markets signal their willingness to participate in a global economy and stage their official identity, while sacrificing the media archives of the future.

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July 2: NYC poetry event with Kev, Bunny Rogers, and Brigid Mason

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Rhizome Presents: Internet as Poetry
+ Book launch for Cunny Poem Vol. 1
Issue Project Room
July 2, 8pm
Free 

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TO ALL THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE HAD THEIR LIVES WRECKED BY COMPUTERS, SOCIAL MEDIA, AND THE INTERNET

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The Urgency, the new DVD release from Extreme Animals (Jacob Ciocci and David Wightman), is a "visual album," like Beyoncé by Beyoncé, but any similarity to Beyoncé begins and ends with format. Beyoncé is too serious, too straight—the wrong kind of urgency. Her hooks have never found their way into the pop-punk power ballads of Extreme Animals, which mix club disco, heavy metal, and chiptunes with maximalist, strobing montage. 

If there's a diva who is muse to the duo, it's the fickle Katy Perry, whose songs are sampled on two of The Urgency's eight tracks. Inspirational Katy Perry, who dedicates a rousing anthem to everyone who has ever felt like a plastic bag. Party girl Katy Perry, who gets wasted every Friday night. Bisexual Katy Perry who kissed a girl and liked it and wants to see your peacock-cock-cock. Dom/sub Katy Perry who yearns to be poisoned by aliens and is also the tiger who you will hear roar.  

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Internet Subjects: #Uberwar and the "Sharing" Economy

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A scene from today's #uberwar protest in London.
 
Thursday, June 19
7pm EST, at the New Museum 
and livestreamed on rhizome.org
Free / RSVP
#internetsubjects
 
Internet Subjects is a new series of flash panel conversations. Each takes a topic chosen just a week in advance in order to discuss emerging internet subjects and subjectivities in an engaging public forum. 
 

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