Miranda July, Somebody, 2014 (still, featuring July). Video, dir. Miranda July. Courtesy the artist and Miu Miu.
"Texting is tacky. Calling is awkward. Email is old." —Miranda July
In Miranda July's 1998 experimental video The Amateurist, a young woman with a jet-black pixie haircut in a stiff professional dress (played by July) studies a TV set displaying a fuzzy surveillance feed of a blonde woman (also played by July), who is squirming in the corner of a small cell. While speaking to the camera, the pixied professional reels off all sorts of absurd quantifications and explanations of the surveilled woman's movements. She maps her emotions to a numbered grid, psychoanalyzes her behavior, quips about her habits, and consistently runs roughshod across boundaries between doctor and patient, subject and object, viewer and viewed, public and private, in what is ultimately an excessive examination without any apparent justification. Since the video was produced, July's body of work has expanded from video and performance to include online works, novels, and feature films—all of which attempt to dissolve boundaries between fictionalized personae, or between the artist and her audience. It's significant to note that July started out in the experimental-video scene of the '90s, since so much of her work is about how the adaptation of new technologies affects us on a very personal level. Regardless of medium, her works reflect how broad social changes inflect our most intimate relations.
Classic browser-based work Agatha Appears (1997) by Olia Lialina
Voting for the five $500 internet art microgrants begins today.
Rhizome community members (you'll need to log in to vote) will narrow the 140+ proposals to a list of 20, from which our (to be announced soon) special guest juror will award five microgrants. Each voter will have three votes to be apportioned to three separate projects — once you vote for something, it disappears from the list. The proposals are spread out over 19 pages, but their order randomizes with each voter.
As we've noted before, the proposals were beyond heartening. In particular, the diversity of projects — from a parody celebrity game, to a weblog for a cooling tower sculpture, to gifs, to culture jamming — illustrates the richness of browser-based work in 2014.
So, go vote! And, best of luck to the entrants.
The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have a significant body of work that makes use of or responds to network culture and digital technologies.
Screen capture from Femke Herregraven, Taxodus (video game, 2013).
LC: The most publicized of your works is Taxodus, a online game for tax evasion. At the time, you made the game as a way to materialize and map out what you call "a geography of avoidance"—a study of the obfuscatory strategies used by the finance industry that emphasizes their reshaping of space, place and nationhood. Is the game a realistic simulation? Is it important that it is realistic? Might it also be a valuable tool for people who work in finance?
FH: In Taxodus players are "acting" on behalf of multinationals and have to dodge paying as much tax as they can. By setting up intermediate holdings globally, players reveal potential routes through which multinationals in reality can "neutralize" their tax burdens. Players that escape the most tax rank high in the high scores.
The data in the game—national corporate tax rates, withholding taxes and treaties from countries worldwide—is realistic but the mechanisms to set up companies and calculate income and tax are simplified. In reality there are many more parameters involved on a corporate, national and international level; it would be impossible to incorporate them all in a game. I know some big accountancy firms have tried to develop software that basically cough up a fiscal advice, but it failed because it was too complex and expensive. In reality, fiscal structures are highly customized per company and it seems impossible to make a 1:1 simulation of this tax planning industry.
Screenshot of booty by ana carrete from NewHive.
NewHive is a new service for creative expression online. Founded by Zach Verdin, Cara Buccifero, Andrew Sorkin (who later left the company), and Abram Clark in Seattle, the company launched in private beta in November 2011 with the public launch in 2012. The website describes itself as a "blank canvas" for expression on the web, offering users a drag-and-drop interface to construct anything they like, within the confines of a browser.
This year has seen certain communities gravitate towards the site, with the new issue of poetry journal Pop Serial being built entirely on NewHive, and a visual mixtape featuring original tracks from a number of musicians launching in September. I'm interested in NewHive, and I like a lot of things that are made on it. I'm particularly interested in the alt lit community's attraction to it, perhaps because it is a convenient platform for people working with text to explore their practice in increasingly visual or hybrid ways. At the same time, I'm skeptical of its claim to be a "blank canvas," which obfuscates the aesthetic and political assumptions that it—that any cultural interface—reproduces.
Screen shot from Closky's Do you want love or lust?
Your lover wants to move in, and you have a choice: you can say, "ok, I'll try it for a weekend and then we'll see" or you can "threaten to break up right now."
Then, your boss gives you a compliment. You can either: "say ironically, 'soon you won't be able to afford me,'" or "mentally calculate how much more you will ask him for."
You choose, you choose again, then you choose again. Each time, you are presented with another choice, an either/or. It's impossible to predict the outcomes that either decision might yield, but you choose carefully, expecting that each choice will shape your future path.
This is the sprawling question set of Claude Closky's 1997 Do you want love or lust?, an early web-based hypertext work that draws the user/viewer/player into what seems like a CYOA (choose your own adventure narrative). By making a choice—clicking love or lust—you enter a fictional, and emotional, space where you are the protagonist of this story.
Allan Sekula and Noël Burch, still from The Forgotten Space (2010).
I woke up at the chime, looked at the mobile. New work available. I clocked in, made coffee, sat at the desk. Two hours of work right away, even before Twitter. Felt accomplished. I invoiced, and collected.
I met Sandra for breakfast. She's in Miami. She had the ceiling open to let in the sun. She got into a new task queue, editorial work. It's good work, she said, even though the pay isn't quite as good as advertising. What's the difference, I said, sipping my Bloody Mary. Different algorithmic authors, same algorithmic grammar problems.