Exhibition as Interface: An interview with V4ULT

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Anni Puolakka and Laura Jantunen, performance/reading/book launch of V4ULT publication A gesture waves us on, answering our own wave (2014), SIC, Helsinki.

V4ULT is a curatorial platform initiated by Anna Mikkola and Hanna Nilsson in 2013. Taking place in various built environments, in book form, and online, the project has been described as an "interface" through which people, ideas and artworks move. The project's website has been archived by Rhizome using the dynamic web archiving tool Webrecorder (developed by Ilya Kreymer), and Mikkola will take part in a forum organized by Rhizome at the New Museum on the topic of the Born-Digital Art Institution.

The first iteration of the project took place in a walk-in closet in their former studio in Berlin. One exhibition in that space, "Breathing Kevlar, Perforated Skin," presented works that could be held in your hand. The accompanying website for episode 1 included documentation video for each exhibition, accessed by clicking on a black rectangle at the top right of thepage, with each video displayed against a custom background with stills of the online work that was part of each show. Each video documented the exhibition from the point of view of an investigating visitor–zooming into details of the work, swooping around the room or slowly scanning across it with the subtle shakes of a handheld camera. By moving away from a sterile exhibition documentation format, the exhibition in the space and its online experience became less disparate and felt more intimate.

Screenshot of documentation of "Breathing Kevlar, Perforated Skin" on V4ULT.CC

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Now you can finally experience what it's like to commodify yourself on the internet

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Last year, Rhizome awarded a $500 microgrant to Lena NW and Costcodreamgurl to create a game "that parodies celebrity status games (i.e. Kim Kardashian: Hollywood... but focuses on the concept of becoming an internet celebrity via social media." Their game is now here, and it carries with it one hell of a trigger warning: "graphic sexual violence, cultural appropriation, scat, bestiality, feminism, patriarchy, sexualization of school shooters, inconsistant use of fonts." Click here to play.

From the artists' statement:

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Eight Big Ideas from Seven on Seven

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Martine Syms and Gina Trapani at the 7th edition of Seven on Seven. Photo: Madison McGaw/BFA

On Saturday, the seventh edition of Rhizome’s Seven on Seven conference took place at the New Museum. For the conference, Rhizome pairs up seven artists and seven technologists and gives them a simple assignment: make something in twenty-four hours, and present the results the following day in a public conference. In the past, participants have launched artworks and startup companies; the potential risk and reward involved in these encounters between leading figures in distinct but overlapping fields is what lends Seven on Seven its particular drama. Whatever the results, the conference is always a fascinating look at the process of collaboration and a snapshot of contemporary concerns in the discourse around art and technology. The theme of Empathy & Disgust ran throughout this edition; as a point of departure, it allowed participants a starting point around which to structure their collaborations; in particular, it seemed to point many participants toward the problem of having to relate to the computer, whether it treats as data points or patients, consumers or targets. Without further ado, here are the big ideas to emerge from this edition!

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Work in Progress

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Rhizome Artistic Director Michael Connor with Nate Silver and Liam Gillick. Photo: Madison McGaw/BFA

Last Friday, 12 out of 14 participants in this year's Seven on Seven (Jacob Appelbaum and Ai Weiwei worked remotely in Beijing), descended on NEW INC., home to Rhizome, to work in pairs on projects around the theme of Empathy and Disgust. Here is some of that work in progress.

 

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Lyfe, Labor, Lunch

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Lunch Bytes began as a series of panel discussions on the topic of art and digital culture in Washington D.C. in 2011 and 2012. Curated by Melanie Bühler and supported primarily by the Goethe Institut, it expanded across the European continent from 2013 to 2015, partnering with local institutions in nine cities and bringing together 112 “artists and experts” for 24 events. As a final hurrah to conclude the series, in March of this year 24 past participants were invited to a conference at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, with four panel discussions each corresponding to one of the overarching themes that quartered the series: Medium, Structures and Textures, Society, and Life. Bookending the conference panels were keynotes by art historians David Joselit and Melissa Gronlund, plus a summary panel at the end.

While in previous events each of these large headlines possessed a sub-heading and a detailed focus text for the panelists to address, the conference took much broader strokes, allowing freer interpretation of those topics. Content therefore took shape horizontally through the confluence of individual perspectives, geared by participants rather than through top-down direction.

I moderated the final themed panel of the conference, “Life;” interpreting this title became a springboard into the discussion. In my introduction I emphasized the fact that anything “life”-like can also be construed as a form of labor: particularly the practices of artistic representation, self-representation, and representational politics presumably at stake in this conference on digital society.

The first speaker, Cornelia Sollfrank, provided a historical context to those practices in relation to cyberfeminism, while simultaneously critiquing the generational position she felt she represented and the ahistoricism of contemporary practice that could imply. Second, Cecile B. Evans re-routed the expectation of artistic self-narrative by converting the platform into a “live ...

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The Final Post: Computer Evolution on Law and Order

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 The first computer on the show (1,1).

Combining endurance performance art and media studies, artist Jeff Thompson captured over 11,000 images of the show Law & Order while watching the complete original series over the course of 18 months, often at an increased frame rate in order to save time. Through these images, he tracked the computer's changing role on the show from its debut as a static background prop to its starring role as the focus of characters' attention and the basis of plotlines. Those images have been published to a Tumblr on an ongoing basis since the launch of the project; the final post went up today.

Clunky monitors slowly move to the front of the desk (5, 89)

Computers on Law & Order was created per a Rhizome commission in 2012 — an apt time to analyze the ongoing interdependence of technology and daily life. As Thompson immersed himself in television drama's interpretation of the rise of the internet and the appearance of the Blackberry, real-world consumers were being influenced by appification and the mainstream prevalence of the cloud. The ability to “binge watch”—coupled with the power to stream comfortably with near immediacy—is what ignited Thompson’s initial interest in the project; after obsessive detailing and the creation of logical infographics, his ultimate findings sound like an anthropological study of American culture:

Law & Order is an even more interesting cultural artifact than I could have ever expected. The show forms a unique database of images and speech, and one that reflects the fascinations, fears, and biases of its time. Law & Order's long run and its ‘ripped from the headlines’ content makes it a useful lens through which to look at a period of great political and economic change in the United States.”

In ...

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Required Reading: Empathy & Disgust

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Distaste or disgust involves a rejection of an idea that has been offered for enjoyment.

—Immanuel Kant, Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, 1798

For the first time, this year's Seven on Seven will have an overarching theme offered to participants as a provocation: Empathy & Disgust.

Scene from Her

We chose this theme partly because of recent discussions about "affective computing," which aims to detect and respond appropriately to users' emotions. The field gained some visibility after the release of Spike Jonze's Her; writing for Rhizome, Martine Syms argued that the film could be read as "an elaborate product spec" for intelligent agents that can replace human relationships. Recently, a new crop of apps that function as "Intelligent Personal Agents" bring us a step closer to this future, while a more speculative app from Blast Theory offers a fully-fledged emotional relationship with a virtual character who gradually reveals herself to be "needy, sloppy, piteous, and desperate."

Some of the real-world research underpinning emotional analysis was discussed in New Yorker piece earlier this year, focusing on the work of Affectiva and scientist Rana el Kaliouby. The company is developing a tool called Affdex that can "make relable interences about people's emotions" based on video monitoring:

During the 2012 Presidential elections, Kaliouby’s team used Affdex to track more than two hundred people watching clips of the Obama-Romney debates, and concluded that the software was able to predict voting preference with seventy-three-per-cent accuracy.

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Creating Radical Software: A Personal Account

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What can be analyzed in my work, or criticized, are the questions that I ask…my composition arises out of asking questions.

— John Cage

 

 

Radical Software Volume I, Number 1: the Alternate Television Movement (Spring 1970)

As rare as it is for something to be an instant success, this is what happened with Radical Software, a journal started in 1970 to bring a fresh direction to communication via personal and portable video equipment and other cybernetic explorations. Its intention was to foster an alternative to broadcast media and lessen the impact of its control. I was the co-founder.

When I began conceiving of the journal, no one really knew precisely what I was getting at because my ideas about it were at an inchoate stage of development, making for loose coherency. The idea was for individuals to be able to communicate interactively without the filters of broadcast media. Even at a more formalized stage the process superseded any formulaic views. Perhaps asking non-hierarchical questions could materialize the structures leading to a two-way network for communicative exchange. Our choices were no longer determined by traditions and customs.

I don't often look, but when I do, I notice so much misinformation, both printed and online, about the origins of Radical Software. I‘d like to clarify what my role was then and what my inspiration was in conceiving of it. It is important to set the background and tone of events. In order to accurately tell the tale I will weave in some personal life anecdotes from the time. It's all one story to me, as the vicissitudes of life often direct our fates.

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