Born-Digital Art Institutions: TEDxMet


With New York's Whitney Museum of American Art officially decamped to Lower Manhattan, the encyclopedic Metropolitan Museum of Art is slowly revealing its ambitions for their 8-year lease of the Whitney's former home, the Breuer Building. The Met has labeled this satellite "The Met Breuer" — but what will it be? According to early messaging, the space will house "a new series of exhibitions, performances, artist commissions, residencies, and educational initiatives," relating to contemporary and modern art. 

The museum just announced the space's first program: an affiliate version of the technology, entertainment, design lecture series, TED Talks, called TEDxMet: The In-Between. The subtitle and theme refer to the status of the institution itself; per the promotional text, "no longer the Whitney Museum, and not yet open to the public as The Met Breuer, a building in-between." In keeping, its an interdisciplinary affair, with speakers from the visual arts, theater, and literature.


Announcing the 2015 Net Art Microgrants


In June, we launched our 2015 Net Art Microgrants program with an open call for entries. 262 projects were proposed, representing the diversity of net art practices today. All proposals were considered by an esteemed panel comprising curator, artist, and critic Gaby Cepeda, previous Microgrant winner M. Hipley, and Rhizome's Assistant Director, Zachary Kaplan.

Today, we're pleased to announced the five 2015 Net Art Microgrant awardees, who will each recieve $500 to create new works.


First Look: Brushes


This online exhibition features the work of eight artists who paint with the computer and show their work on the internet.

"Brushes," copresented by Rhizome and the New Museum as part of the series First Look: New Art Online, casts light on digital painting at a moment when the practice is gaining more widespread recognition. Unlike works by artists such as Albert Oehlen, who have translated digital gestures and imagery to a gallery context, the works featured in "Brushes"—by artists Laura Brothers, Jacob Ciocci, Petra Cortright, Joe Hamilton, Sara Ludy, Michael Manning, Giovanna Olmos, and Andrej Ujhazy—were created specifically for online circulation and display.

As art historian Alex Bacon writes in an essay for Rhizome, "In a sense, painting has always existed in relation to technology, when the term is understood in its broad definition as the practical application of specialized knowledge: the brush, the compass, the camera obscura, photography, or the inkjet printer." However, if painting has long involved the application of tools and techniques, it has also served another function: it makes technological conditions available for visual contemplation in the gallery. (Think, for example, of Vera Molnár's television paintings, which evoke the visual style of that technology.)

Today, many paintings that are displayed in the gallery are also contemplated online on platforms such as Instagram. This is a widely discussed phenomenon, but what is often overlooked in painting discourse is the role played by works created and experienced on the computer and the internet. This kind of digital painting has existed for decades: for example, the 1970s software SuperPaint already included many features found in modern paint applications. "Brushes" acknowledges this long history while focusing on practices that have emerged in recent years.

In particular, this exhibition highlights artworks that refer back, in some way, to a bodily gesture made by the artist: mouse movements, digitized brushstrokes, or touchscreen swipes. This leaves out the many artists who create painterly work by writing custom code—but despite their shared approach, these artists take diverse positions on questions of process and output.

As the role of painting in the gallery continues to shift, "Brushes" aims to suggest that works produced on the computer and experienced via the browser and the mobile app have an equal place in the medium's discourses, offering a space for contemplation of our technological society from within its complex apparatus.


A black market for people "consumed by the internet"


Interview responses translated from Japanese by Love Kindstrand.

"Welcome to [...] the Internet's next wave," Sue Halpern wrote in 2014, "the Internet of Things"—a harbinger of our gradual transition into "one of the things connected to and through the Internet." 

Yet, despite its sizeable implications for politics, capital, and consumers, the internet of things has not affected web-based art practices to the same degree. In fact, more and more contemporary internet artists are expressing interest in a somewhat opposing phenomenon, a trend that flips the logic of the Internet of Things on its head. From Paul Soulellis's Library of the Printed Web to Michael Mandiberg's Print Wikipedia, artists working on the internet and digital technologies seem less absorbed by the link between physical bodies and virtual networks than by the physical bodies of these networks—that is, by the matter of the web. As a result, what net art usually offers up is not so much the Internet of Things as the things of the internet.

The Internet Yami-Ichi is one gripping example of recent artistic experimentations with the materiality of the web. Created by the Japanese artist collectives IDPW (pronounced "i-pass") and Exonemo, the Yami-Ichi is a real-life counter-market for internet-related goods. Somewhere between "flea" and "black," the Yami-Ichi is at once both and neither: "In Japanese," Exonemo tells me, "the word 'yami' in 'yami-ichi' (black market) carries connotations not only of darkness, but also of 'sickness' and 'addiction,' in the sense of being too attached to something. More than just a market, we imagined the Yami-Ichi as a place where people consumed by the internet could come together."

The project's first installation was held in Tokyo on November 4, 2012 and attracted over 500 people interested in selling, buying, and trading truly unique internet objects. Since then, the Yami-Ichi has attracted much international attention, travelling to Berlin, Taichung, Seoul, Linz, Brussels, and Amsterdam. In the interview that follows, I ask Exonemo about the politics of their project, touching on the history of online consumer capitalism, Silk Road, the corporatization of Web 2.0, digital labor, and the meaning of liberty on the internet.


Simulation as Institutional Critique: Lawrence Lek's 'Unreal Estate'



Lawrence Lek, Unreal Estate (the Royal Academy is yours) (2015; video game still)

Wealth is monolithic: it refutes argument, pointed criticism, direct gaze. The architecture of today’s wealth is monolithic, as well: a crucial expression of modern oligarchies’ centralized power. Where the estate once served as a neat symbol of riches, our edifices are more diverse and inventive. They are built heavy and tall, as rebuff. They have to symbolize abstract figures, tens of billions of dollars on paper.

Artist Lawrence Lek offers us entry into the monolith in his work Unreal Estate. In it, we, the viewers, are the new billionaire owner of the Royal Academy of Arts in London.


A Scanner, Darkly: On Andrea Crespo's "polymorphoses"


Andrea Crespo, multi (sensorygates), (2015; detail)

In futurist Ray Kurzweil's early version of the flatbed scanner, angled mirrors feed the image of a document through a series of encoding CCDs. Similarly positioned mirrors are also used in the treatment of amputee victims; the image of an extant limb is projected onto the phantom limb, allowing the patient to engage with this limb's sensory map.

Constantly reflecting on this imagery, Andrea Crespo's recent solo show "polymorphoses" at Hester in New York evokes an environment of clinical intimacy in its aesthetic and conceptual coherence. Similar to an LED screen or scanner, the digital prints on the four poly voile curtains covering the windows are backlit by the sun. Positioned in front of these curtains, an EMDR light bar (used by cognitive therapists to treat post-traumatic stress disorder) replicates a scanner's mobile light in the sculpture polymist: echolalic transponder; its accompanying soundtrack abstracts the diegetic sound of this light's kinetics as low digital tones.

Andrea Crespo, "polymorphoses," exhibition view

A scanner's white light rhythmically appears, segmenting the film parabiosis: neurolibidinal induction complex 2.2: this work's primarily black tone makes its bluish-white figures recall the emerging effect of minimal boot-up images. The film's DeviantArt-sourced images of conjoined anime characters regularly converge, split, and merge again. At the same time, the visual economy of this style's figuration is combined with minimal diagrams of mitochondrial reproduction, suggestive of the biological processes within technology. Drawing a parallel between biological and technological encoding and multiplication, the film links the scanner's abstraction of materiality into a system of digital circulation and memetic engineering with the production of DNA. The film's conjoined figures are considered within the interfaces and hardware in which they are embedded: in the film, they are suggested in a chatroom, cycled through on a Gameboy screen, and presented on a twitchy flatscreen monitor.


Artist Profile: Lawrence Abu Hamdan


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.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Contra Diction (Speech Against Itself) (2015; courtesy the artist and Mor Charpentier, Paris; photo, Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, Stefan Jäggi).

Your current solo exhibition "تقيه (Taqiyya)–The Right to Duplicity" in St. Gallen brings together recent works exploring the ways in which "enforced expression" is manifest in contemporary society. Contra Diction (Speech Against Itself) (2014) focuses on the (apparent) forced conversion of a group of Syrian Druze—a Levantine cultural minority who practice an esoteric religion which incorporates aspects of Islam but which is considered "heretical" by Islamic purists—by Jabhat al-Nusra. You cite the doctrine of Taqiyya—a feature of Islamic jurisprudence which you compare to the concept of diplomatic immunity—as underlying the apparent ease of the conversion: i.e. that the Druze were expressing Taqiyya as a means of resisting their conversion rather than cooperating with it. A number of your works explore this tension between verbal expression and "truth". Could you speak a bit about your views regarding such "sonic geographies" as contested spaces?

Contra Diction (Speech Against itself) focuses on the event you spoke about because it is a very fleeting moment where Taqiyya raises its head, and people start to make claims about whether this is Taqiyya or not. It’s not really in line with the work or what I’m interested in to make any claim that this was a forced conversion, or that this use of Taqiyya was a strategy in order to avoid converting by employing stealth, or to make a conversion that saves face. Taqiyya is very difficult to talk about because it’s essentially about the right to lie; because of its proximity to lying, it becomes very difficult to place or to make any direct assertions about. That is very interesting not because of its use in this event in particular, but as a way to take a legal right to speech like Taqiyya and have it stand shoulder to shoulder with more conventional ways in which speech is governed in society, like the right to silence and freedom of speech. I find that quite urgent—as can be seen in a number of my works—we’re living in a kind of "post freedom of speech" society.


Art in Your Pocket 4: Net Art and Abstraction for the Small Screen


"The Facets of Obama" created by Jonah Brucker­-Cohen using the Fracture application by James Alliban, 2011

The devices we carry with us can do much more than simply act as communication tools and entertainment appendages. They can also bring us into a growing world of artistic projects that could have never been imagined without their existence.

The recent boom in creative software for the iPhone and iPad now enables artists to remake existing web projects as iOS apps or use the physical world as a canvas for augmented reality, reimagining our physical surroundings through painting and rendering. In this article, the fourth one in a series that I've written over the past six years of reviews surveying art for the iPhone and iPad, I cover projects that both revive net art pieces that were once only possible on traditional computer systems or in browsers, as well as those that use the iPhone and iPad's sound and camera capabilities to their fullest.



Thicket:Classic (Hairy Circles mode), 2011, Interval Studios (aka Joshue Ott and Morgan Packard)

Beginning with abstraction and sound, two works examine methods of sound production through algorithmic composition. Thicket (2011) by Interval Studios (programmer and artist Joshue Ott and composer Morgan Packard) is an amalgam of abstract shapes and patterns that engage with touch-based interaction, visual stimulation, generative pattern creation, and mesmerizing sound transference. The original version of Thicket, or Thicket:Classic, feels like a musical masterpiece on the edge of a high precipice. As a user changes the orientation of their phone in four directions (up, down, right, left) the onscreen graphics shift to new modes.

Thicket 3.11 Video, Joshue Ott and Morgan Packard, Interval Studios.

My favorite mode in Thicket:Classic is "Hairy Circles," which features menacing yellow-orangish circles of tangled lines that correspond to each finger's touch and shift when dragged around, creating a machine-like beat that evokes an industrial assembly line. Ott explains, "Thicket uses a bunch of different algorithms—for both audio and visuals. The aesthetic came from repeated experimentation and rapid prototyping of modes. Sometimes we would start with the visuals, sometimes with the audio, but there was often a back and forth process of each of us adjusting our part until we both liked the results."