The One Hour Photo Lab as Exhibition Venue

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One summer during college, I worked in a one-hour photo lab in a mall near my hometown. A big part of the job involved squinting at 35mm negatives and assessing the necessary color balance and exposure. I've always been bad at colors, and when a shift got slow I would make lots and lots of reprints and compare the results, trying to hone my eye. "You generate a lot of waste prints," my boss said one day. "Yes," my 19-year old self agreed placidly, without a thought for the store's bottom line, "that's true."

This week, I went to a CVS near my house to pick up an envelope of photo prints. The occasion was David Horvitz's project "An Impossible Distance," a "distributed exhibition" of works by 24 artists. To receive the "exhibition," you simply send an email to the organizers with your name and whereabouts, and they order the prints for you online, for delivery to a local photo Walgreens or CVS. When I went to CVS to collect my prints seven hours after the allotted time, they weren't ready; the cashier rang me up and started printing them. "It'll just be a few minutes," she said, and turned to the next customer, while a robot performed my old job.

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I made $500 working from home thanks to Rhizome's Microgrants! (and lost it all on the Deep Web)

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Rhizome is accepting proposals for its $500 microgrants until July 23. Here, one of last year's awardees shares her experience.

You can tell that my hired hacker is good at computers by his effective use of Photoshop's Neon Glow filter.

To be an artist in New York is to be a brand, or at least it is if you have any hope of achieving whatever your metric for success is. (Unless your metric for success is the pure self-fulfillment that comes from creation and intellectual exploration.) I am a terrible brand; my pursuits are as scattered as my online identities, and my Klout score is currently a meager 44.11 thanks to my lackluster Twitter and Instagram offerings. To solve at least one of these problems, I submitted a proposal to Rhizome's microgrant open call for web-based projects last year in the hope of using the award money to hire a hacker to secure two abandoned accounts on Twitter and Tumblr sharing the username "everyoneisugly," a brand I have been trying to get on lock since I bought everyoneisugly.com in 2011 on a whim because I was surprised that the URL was available. I make a living as a developer and have been goofing around online for over twelve years, but my knowledge of the deep web (here I use the term to describe the hidden-but-public networks that can only be accessed via special configurations or software like TOR, although pedants insist that it has something to do with the early 2000s) was limited to a cursory understanding of encryption and an assumption of criminality. I was bluffing, I was a finalist, and I decided I had better start filling in the gaps in my knowledge. I quickly discovered that the deep web is as much of a parade of clumsily manicured personas as any comment thread on a popular art world Instagram.

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Now Accepting Nominations: The Second Prix Net Art

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Chronus Art Center, Rhizome, and TASML are pleased to announce the second edition of the Prix Net Art, a $10,000 prize for net art. The prize will recognize the future promise of an artist making outstanding work on the internet, as demonstrated by past achievement. A second distinction prize of $5,000 will also be awarded. Awards are made on a no-strings-attached basis, acknowledging excellent artists who remain committed to working online. Nominations are now open, and guidelines available here. The winners will be selected by a jury of three international judges: Josephine Bosma, Chrissie Iles, and Domenico Quaranta.

Learn more about the prize, the call for nominations, the jury, and past winners JODI and Kari Altmann at http://prix-netart.org

 

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Some news from Rhizome HQ

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A bittersweet announcement: after serving for three years as Executive Director of Rhizome, Heather Corcoran will step down from her position at the end of September to join her partner in the UK.

From Heather:

It's been my great honor to lead this influential digital arts organization, from programs like Seven on Seven, to our world-class conservation initiatives, to the very question of what it means to be an art institution based on the internet. It's in a strong position and I'm confident that Rhizome will continue to thrive with its expert staff, a dedicated board and our partners at the New Museum as it heads into its 20th anniversary next year, and beyond.

Thank you, Rhizome community, for welcoming me these past years, and thank you especially to the artists we've collaborated with during that time. Working at an organization whose mission is so clear and vital, and whose culture is so strong, has been incredible.

A search is currently underway for a new Executive Director.

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Why is Deep Dream turning the world into a doggy monster hellscape?

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Raphaël Bastide, Handmade Deep Dream (2015). If this were a real Deep Dream image these would be dogs probably.

Participants in social media will by now be well aware of the artistic renaissance that has been underway since the release of Google's Deep Dream visualization tool last week. Antony Antonellis' A-Ha Deep Dream captures well the experience of encountering these unsettling images on the internet:

Antony Antonellis, A-ha Deep Dream (2015).

By way of recap: Deep Dream uses a machine vision system typically used to classify images that is tweaked so that it over-analyzes images until it sees objects that aren't "really there." The project was developed by researchers at Google who were interested in the question, how do machines see? Thanks to Deep Dream, we now know that machines see things through a kind of fractal prism that puts doggy faces everywhere. 

It seems strange that Google researchers would even need to ask this question, but that's the nature of image classification systems, which generally "learn" through a process of trial and error. As the researchers described it,

we train networks by simply showing them many examples of what we want them to learn, hoping they extract the essence of the matter at hand (e.g., a fork needs a handle and 2-4 tines), and learn to ignore what doesn't matter (a fork can be any shape, size, color or orientation). But how do you check that the network has correctly learned the right features? It can help to visualize the network's representation of a fork.

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Artist Profile: Miao Ying

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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.

Miao Ying, flowers all fallen, Birds far gone (2015)

Your graduation show was the first time you involved the internet in your work. You made a new dictionary composed entirely of censored terms which you spent 3 months compiling, looking up every single word in the Chinese dictionary on google.cn, and recording all those that met with a blocked result. It was a hugely laborious piece which resulted in an actual book (Blind Spot, 2007). More recently, Is it me you are looking for? (2014) also included censored content, combining Lionel Richie's 1984 Hello music video with three images from the "LAN Love Poem.gif" series (2014), in which "website unavailable" pages from censored websites are overlaid with kitschy slogans from Chinese internet poetry.

How would you describe your attitude to censored pages as source material?  The way you use it now, a blocked page is always the start of something else; the "website unavailable" notice has become a familiar backdrop used again and again. It comes across more lightheartedly, almost like the devil you know. 


    Miao Ying, Blind Spot, artist book (2007)

I guess that when I was younger, I saw censorship more like an enemy, with more limitations than possibilities. In 2007, when I made the first piece Blind Spot, blogs were trending in China. Although blogger.com was blocked, there were some great local blog servers, and for the first time as someone from the post '80s generation, I got to know a lot of public intellectuals from their blogs—that was enlightening for me. I was a senior in college, and very idealistic. I wanted to be more responsible for society. On the other hand, I was starting to love the internet because blogs, Google, and Wikipedia really changed the way I gathered information. When I was a kid, I never truly trusted the school books and the newspapers in the same way that I didn't trust my English teacher’s accent. It was totally mean and cynical because I felt everything could be censored or manipulated here. Even when the internet came out in China, it was censored to begin with, but at least if knew a way to get past it, I could get past the "second hand information." 

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How to See Infrastructure: A Guide for Seven Billion Primates

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Allan Sekula, Gas Terminal, Barcelona (2008) from the series "Methane for all."

When an American crew picked up the first of these ships from the Daewoo dockyard, completed the sea trials, and began the voyage back across the Pacific, they discovered in the nooks and crannies of the new ship a curious inventory of discarded tools used in the building of the vessel: crude hammers made by welding a heavy bolt onto the end of a length of pipe, wrenches cut roughly by torch from scraps of deck plate. Awed by this evidence of an improvisatory iron-age approach to ship building, which corresponded to their earlier impression of the often-lethal brutality of Korean industrial methods, they gathered the tools into a small display in the crew's lounge, christening it "The Korean Workers' Museum."

If we lift up the manhole cover, lock-out the equipment, unscrew the housing, and break the word into components, infrastructure means, simply, below-structure. Like infrared, the below-red energy just outside of the reddish portion of the visible light section of the electromagnetic spectrum. Humans are not equipped to see infrared with our evolved eyes, but we sometimes feel it as radiated heat.

Infrastructure is drastically important to our way of life, and largely kept out of sight. It is the underground, the conduited, the containerized, the concreted, the shielded, the buried, the built up, the broadcast, the palletized, the addressed, the routed. It is the underneath, the chassis, the network, the hidden system, the combine, the conspiracy. There is something of a paranoiac, occult quality to it. James Tilly Matthews, one of the first documented cases of what we now call schizophrenia, spoke of a thematic style of hallucination described by many suffering from the condition, always rewritten in the technological language of the era. In Matthews' 18th Century description, there existed an invisible "air loom," an influencing machine harnessing rays, magnets, and gases, run by a secret cabal, able to control people for nefarious motives. Infrastructure's power, combined with its lack of visibility, is the stuff of our society's physical unconscious.

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The Visual Archive of Devotion and Taboo

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Makkah 3D Puzzle produced by Wrebbit (1995)

In 1995, a puzzle company produced a 1038 piece architectural model of the Al-Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, the expansive complex that contains the Kaaba. Upon delivery of 17,000 copies to Saudi Arabia, the construction toy was deemed idolatrous and the shipment destroyed. Little over 500 of the sets remained in Canada, and have since become collector's items. Ever since, the home construction of Islamic holy places has been an unspoken no-go zone in the field of toy production. A recent perusal of the Saudi Arabian Import Guide on banned and restricted products includes models or "prototypes" of the Kaaba[1]. However, as the axis mundi of the Islamic world and a non-figurative cuboid, the Kaaba is commonly reproduced in model form to decorate the dashboards or mantelpieces of devotees. Unlike other faiths, much Islamic devotional imagery hints at the experience or expectation of the physical act of pilgrimage. Popular devotional prints from Muslim South Asia reproduce the sculptural intensity of traversing the Kaaba through lenticular prints (two-dimensional images that portray a remarkable sense of three-dimensional depth through interlocking layers) as souvenirs of local shrines or promises of pilgrimage. Why then do construction toys or DIY-build models cross the line into profanity?  And to what extent does this also hold true for 3D printed objects?

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