Between August 24 and 26, net art became an element of political activism -- or, shall we say, hacktivism, even if only in a metaphorical sense -- at the border of California and Mexico. The second annual "Borderhack" event offered net art, ISDN connections, conferences and workshops at the Playas de Tijuana, near the physical area considered the division point between the first and third worlds -- and where the ocean meets land. The physical encampment symbolized the "hacking" and "deleting" of the man-made borders.
If you're in the Bay Area during the academic year, be sure to check out The Art, Technology, and Culture Colloquium, which takes place at UC Berkeley's Kroeber Hall on selected Monday nights, from 7:30-9:00pm. The list of speakers has just been announced, and include Will Wright, creator of SimCity and Christiane Paul, new media curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art. All of the lectures (coordinated by Net artist Ken Goldberg) are free and open to the public.
It's morbid but true: once an artist kicks the bucket, her stock goes up. A satirical Web site that claims to promote the Artist Protection and Benefit Program states that it will "remove" an artist from the art world so she can reap the rewards of her works' value increasing -- while she is secretly alive and in hiding and playing dead. Sally Minker and Jennifer Sloan created the deadpan site, which reflects a larger trend of faux-official home pages -- such as the now classic home pages of eToy and Rtmark.
Maybe artificial life seems like the subject of science fiction movie. But it's a lot more real than most of us realize: online "life forms" such as computer viruses that are transmitted via email are quite alive, mutating and reproducing independently once sinister programmers create them. Canadian net artist Cheryl Sourkes's "Field Guide to Artificial Life on the Web" clarifies what "boids" and "floys" are...and their wild cousins the computer viruses, of course.
Online auction site eBay continues to be a thought-provoking platform for artists. The latest: Keith Townsend Obadike's attempt at auctioning his blackness. Originally intended to be posted online from August 8-18, the listing was removed on August 12 by eBay officials, although a dozen bidders tried to participate in the sale (the highest proposition: $152.50). The project was the latest in a series of "Black.net.art" auctions presented by Obadike.
There's been so much hype in the past touting the Web's potential for true interactivity and creative exchange. But how easy has it been for artists of all media to access and share digital work online? Now there is an easy way to find and present video, audio, still images, and even source code to one's peers: a.Rss. Utilizing existing file-sharing technologies, such as Aimster or Gnutella, users simply type the prefix "rss_" in front of a file name, thus making it available anonymously. The best part: there's no extra software to install. Let the online art swapping -- and collaboration -- begin.
What designates a work of art as "new media," exactly? The answer might be found in a recently-published book, "The Language of New Media" (MIT Press, 2001), by new media scholar Lev Manovich. In the book, he is careful to distinguish between analog forms merely transposed to a digital version and truly new media, such as interfaces and database algorithms. Manovich also places more recent formats and platforms within an art historical context and a broader cultural continuum while simultaneously attempting to present a fresh vernacular. Thankfully, although he's an academic, Manovich presents his ideas in language that is anything but esoteric.
Michael Mandiberg has scanned photographs shot by noted artist Sherrie Levine in the late 1970s, taken of black and white documentary photographs of Depression-era Alabama sharecroppers originally photographed in 1936 by the legendary Walker Evans. Mandiberg has posted his digital photos, essentially reproductions of reproductions, on two Web sites he has created: AfterSherrieLevine.com and AfterWalkerEvans.com. The public is prompted to download and print Mandiberg's third-hand images along with a "certificate of authenticity" -- stating that the re-appropriated photographs are genuine Mandibergs. Printed out at 850 dpi, they have the same resolution as the Levine photographs, yet look almost exactly like the original Evans images. This conceptual work of net art forces us to question how we choose to value an image -- or not.