Letters from an Australian Nowhere: Reading Holly Childs' 'Danklands'

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Danklands by Holly Childs, European edition of 100, Australasian edition of 100. Cover artwork by Marian Tubbs.

Danklands, the second novella by Holly Childs, coming out as an e-publication this February (first published November 2014 by London gallery/publisher Arcadia Missa), prose-poetry in 15 chapters over 100 pages. Australian edition of 100 in bb pink; European edition in bb blue.

Holly Childs is an Australian writer, editor, and artist, making work around "digital semiotics, transformations of language, obscurities, fashion, aberration and corruption:" Danklands is a corruption of Docklands, Melbourne; immediately west of Melbourne's Central Business District, "one of Australia's largest urban renewal projects," an ex-industrial harbor flanked by office and residential high-rise; Etihad Stadium, Direct Factory Outlet shopping, Costco. (In 2014, Holly Childs lived next to Docklands; I lived 2km west).

Andre, Stan, Augusten, Bam, Pansy, a genderfluid cast populate a future-past; an Australian nowhere; second decade of the third millenium. Fractured narrative of a cast of twenty-something friends who write, make art, chat, fight, fall in love; fracture and fissure of faces, bodies, cities, oceans, ozone, social relations, apps, and gadgets that age rapidly:

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After VVORK: How (and why) we archived a contemporary art blog

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Screenshot of VVork post from April 2006, as archived by Rhizome.

Today, Rhizome unveils a new archive of the contemporary art blog VVork (2006-2012), in which we demonstrate a novel solution to the problem of conserving websites with embedded videos.

VVork makes a useful test case for our digital conservation efforts because it presents one relatively narrow but difficult set of problems to solve. That is, when videos are embedded in a website, they are generally hosted on a third-party platform (on YouTube, for example); this means they may be deleted or taken down, sometimes for "inappropriate" content. But saving these videos into an archive creates problems for most scraping tools, especially when a video is used in many different contexts, as when the same video appears on multiple tag pages. The way these platforms select and serve the video files makes it difficult to have all embeds of the same video point to a single archival copy.

To address these issues, Rhizome's Digital Conservator Dragan Espenschied used Colloq, a tool for creating contextual archives that was developed by Rhizome in partnership with Ilya Kreymer in 2014. (The service builds on Kremer's pywb tools; you can read up on the technical details of of capturing the web video here.) Colloq offers a robust solution for this long-standing issue; with VVork as a test case, we have created a stable archive of the site including nearly all embedded video.

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Photos from Future-Proof, a Benefit for Rhizome Honoring Petra Cortright + Paul Chan & Badlands Unlimited

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Future-Proof Honorees Petra Cortright + Paul Chan

Last night in the New Museum's Sky Room, Rhizome hosted Future-Proof, a sold-out benefit for Rhizome honoring Petra Cortright and Paul Chan & Badlands Unlimited. Mixing with the elements of Laurel Schwulst's lead design, cellist Isabel Castellvi opened the evening with a performance during cocktails. After, guests mingled and dined, and Rhizome Executive Director Heather Corcoran, Board Chair Greg Pass, and New Museum Director Lisa Phillips welcomed all and launched special editions by Lynn Hershman Leeson and Joel Holmberg.

 

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All Internet is Local: Digital Folklore in China

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Gabriele de Seta is a PhD student at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, currently researching digital folklore and media practices in mainland China. I met de Seta a few times in Hong Kong to discuss his research after following his research archives and reports on Tumblr and NewHive. While much has been written about the Chinese internet in terms of governance, censorship and contention, de Seta focuses instead on the complexity and nuance of the forms of vernacular creativity which characterize Chinese internet culture. This interview was conducted over email.

Ben Valentine: In your most recent NewHive post, you explore Chinese Internet culture (网络文化 or wangluo wenhua) through the visual vocabulary produced by image search results from Baidu, China's largest search engine. Could you share some indicative images and briefly describe their value for Chinese net culture?

Gabriele de Seta: I put together that short essay precisely to question certain assumptions that are almost automatic when talking about China and the internet. My hypothesis was that "internet culture" as a concept is itself part of a very specific Euro-American discourse around digital media—when I talk about internet culture, you know perfectly well that I am referring to multiple platform-specific repertoires of genres of interaction and user-generated content: you know I am talking about internet memes and YouTube celebrities, rickrolling and LOLcats, animated .GIFs and greentext stories. The idea of an internet culture, so to say, is itself part of our own internet culture—an idea rooted in the early communities of garage geeks and programmers, the aesthetics of the home computing era and the hacker ethics of the '90s. But is this the case everywhere?

Opening ceremony of "The first exhibition of Hubei network culture," photo retrieved via Baidu Image search from the Yantai Internet Culture Festival website

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My brain hole just dilated another 2 inches

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Ying Miao, iPhone GarbageGIF screenshot of work from "Meanwhile in China--so in love, will never feel tired again" on netize.net and Newhive.

Randy Marsh (Lorde): "You can't just replace artists with holograms. Who will create the content?'"

Entertainment Business CEO guy: "Today commentary is the content."

South Park season 18 episode 9 #Rehash

Like all the other Chinese social networking websites that became successful in China, Bilbili/哔哩哔哩弹幕视频网 is modeled on an original idea; yet this time it wasn't from the USA, but from Japan—Niconico, which was launched in 2006, four years before Bilibili. "Unlike other video sharing sites, however, comments are overlaid directly onto the video and synced to a specific playback time. This allows comments to respond directly to events occurring in the video, in sync with the viewer, creating the sense of a shared watching experience."(Wikipedia).

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Human Inside: MacKeeper and other Familiar Objects of Vulnerable Spaces

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"Human Inside" by Arjun Srivatsa, 2015.

Inspired by the advertising strategy of MacKeeper, a security and maintenance utility that promotes its product in the most insecure areas of the web, I invited three artists—LaTurbo Avedon, Eltons Kūns and Giselle Zatonyl—to join me in making works that respond to the experience of encountering malicious objects in vulnerable spaces. The works and my curatorial statement are below.

The second result listed on Google when searching "MacKeeper" is MacKeeper.com, a site that sells a product named MacKeeper. The first result, however, is an Apple Discussions thread entitled "Do not install MacKeeper."

Apple users consistently criticize the cleaning, security, and optimization utility, claiming that it is a virus in the guise of antivirus software. Forums on Mac blogs feature long threads of horror stories[1] about the utility’s user experience, often stating that once downloaded, MacKeeper irrevocably slows down computers, forcing users to reformat their drives. Former PR Director Jeremiah Fowler said that his product and their robot logo became a "forum punching bag"[2] due to a black PR campaign run by an aggressive competitor. However, as years pass, MacKeeper’s bad reputation continues to develop as new critiques are published, painting the product as a malicious paywall scheme that enslaves users in a never-ending upgrade cycle.

"Good At It" by Eltons Kūns, 2015

The company maintains that its product is reputable and has no intention to harm. "MacKeeper is not malware," says Bob Diachenko, Senior PR Expert for the company. "There are no ways that the program itself can harm or de-stabilize your system as described by some sources. It is just the nature of the business in the age of internet trolling. It is so easy for anyone with too much time on their hands to trash businesses or products online anonymously with no repercussions."

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Flocking Behavior: TCF's music of the boids

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TCF, 85 CE 86 EE 4B B1 72 9B 0A AD 15 46 47 33 2C 30 (2015). Screenshot of audio composition as presented online as part of EBM (T).

You're a small triangle in flight across a screen, four pixels wide and eight pixels tall. Your lot in life is to be an (x,y) pair. Your velocity has a fixed range. After the chaos of your origin at a random point in this field, your path is wholly determined by the triangles flying closest to you, and your path influences them in turn.

You are both an instantiated object and a member of a flock, a class, a school. You follow three rules: separation, alignment, cohesion. These three rules collaborate to update your position—helping you avoid collision, target a collective goal, stay close to friends.

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"Body Anxiety:" Sabotaging Big Daddy Mainframe, via online exhibition

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Kate Durbin, HELLO, SELFIE! (2014). Screen capture from performance video filmed by Jessica Nicole Collins.

The online exhibition "Body Anxiety," curated by Jennifer Chan and Leah Schrager, opened Saturday at http://bodyanxiety.com/.

When, in 1991, the first cyberfeminist art group VNS Matrix called themselves "Saboteurs of Big Daddy Mainframe" their bold rhetoric seemed to herald a new feminist revolution. The online exhibition "Body Anxiety," curated by artists Leah Schrager and Jennifer Chan, shows this revolution to be very much a work in progress. More than two decades of cyberfeminism have not been enough to successfully subvert traditional gender roles—not even in its own, online territory.

This is not to say that nothing has changed. The work of young female and gender-queer artists today is more accessible than that of their predecessors, and the desire for change is far more widespread. From Facebook to youtube, tumblr, instagram and beyond, people explore social relations and create their own media identities. In the wake of this, there has been a veritable flood of biographical works and highly vulnerable experiments with popular sexual imagery. Body Anxiety shows a broad selection of these and similar, often subtle, humorous works. The exhibition is not an attack on traditional gender roles, but a call to stay alert to the unrelenting appearance of old and new gender stereotypes in art. 

Chan and Schrager pose a sensitive question: why is the work of male artists still valued over that of female artists, even if they cover the same subject matter or work in similar styles and techniques? The curators highlight the issue by showing female artists who use their own bodies as subject matter. Nancy Leticia's video Fantasie Impromptu shows the artist playing a black piano in her underwear. She sits against a white curtain backdrop on a white fluffy pillow. In front of her on the music stand lies a red rose. The scene is utterly kitsch- tooth-enamel-cracking sweet. It is difficult to see this work as "female-empowering." Instead, the artist paints a soft porn stereotype that is at the same time painfully sweet and embarrassingly alluring to watch.

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