Origins: Lynn Hershman Leeson in NYC

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Lynn Hershman Leeson, Roberta's Construction Chart #2, 1975

The sophistication and prescience of Lynn Hershman Leeson's decades-long engagement with identity under networked conditions, bioengineering, surveillance, and on becomes more evident with each year (and its attendant tech, genetic splices, and corporate and governmental intrusions). Gratifyingly, then, 2015 promises the continued run of the artist's retrospective at ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe, with its forthcoming comprehensive monograph, and, opening tonight, a solo presentation at Bridget Donahue's new gallery:

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transmediale 2015: Why we need spaces for art and tech beyond corporate influence

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Photo: "Through the Eyes of a Paratrooper: 173rd Jumps in Ukraine for Rapid Trident 2011" by U.S. Army Europe Images on flickr. © Artwork by The Laboratory of Manuel Bürger

True to its title, "Capture All," the program of this year's transmediale festival in Berlin was ambitiously panoramic, with such a marathon, round-the-clock schedule that by the last day a number of attendees had come down with the same cold. Separated into the thematic tracks of Work, Play, and Life, the events revolved around the quantification of everyday activities, mass data acquisition, algorithmic sorting of information about people and the planet, and the systems of power and control implicit in all of those processes—topics in which most of the festival's target audience is well-versed.

The majority of that audience is made up of academics, artists, cultural workers, technologists, and students. This year for the first time, tickets sold out completely; on opening night the 1,035-seater auditorium was over capacity, and throughout the five-day festival, waiting lines stretched around corners. Besides lectures and panels, the schedule included a steady stream of performances and screenings as well as ongoing workshops in the cacophonous foyer—from a six-hour workshop on feminist network methodology to four days of open meetings held by the unMonastery.

A 14-person exhibition, sharing the festival's title and curated by Daphne Dragona and Robert Sakrowski, showcased reflections on "the future of algorithmic work and life" with artists like Erica Scourti, whose video Body Scan compares images of her own body with those of a Google search algorithm, and Jennifer Lyn Morone (Inc), who created a corporation out of herself to advocate for compensation for her digital labor. Any exhibition with the keyword #algorithm is also an invitation for artists to reflect on exhibition-making itself as a potentially algorithmic process. Jonas Lund, who has long dissected and replicated the gamification of art practice, created a pre-recorded audio tour called FTFY (Fixed That For You) describing (imaginary) artworks with an algorithmic mashup of words and phrases from previous transmediale press texts. A guest exhibition down the hall, "Time and Motion: Redefining working life," produced by FACT Liverpool, shifted the emphasis onto quantified labor in the context of mass production and automatization.  

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Artist Profile: Hannah Black

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The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have developed a significant body of work engaged (in its process, or in the issues it raises) with technology. See the full list of Artist Profiles here.

 

Hannah Black, My Bodies (2014). Digital video.

Your work concerns bodies, or the condition of being bodied. Your last video Fall of Communism (2014) feels like a sculpture in the sense that as a viewer, one's own body is pulled into relief, as with an object in space. I felt pulled into the space of the video, vertiginous. At your show at the Legion TV gallery in London, one half of what was on display was a hand-cut latex the color of skin. Is the work an analog for the body, or otherwise, where does the body (of the maker or the viewer) intersect or interact with the body of the work for you?

It's true that if you look at a lot of my work there is an interest in viscera, in the interior of the body—but it's not a Paul McCarthy guts and blood thing, it's a stand-in for interiority in general, for the inside being outside and vice versa. The phrase "being bodied" could mean "getting killed" as well as "being embodied" and I think that tension is one of the ways that I'm interested in what it means to have, or not have, something called "a body." I tried to write about how our concept of the body might one day, in a utopian way, be replaced by the framework of lifetime or different concentrations of experience. My wildest idea was that this reinterpretation of sensory experience would "render death merely chronological," a phrase I still love, though it's hard for me to recall exactly what I meant by it. Something about placing yourself in the long flow of time, allowing your self-conception to accommodate more than just your own conscious physical experience, I think. In the end it was too sci-fi an idea and didn't work out as an essay, so instead became the video My Bodies. I wanted to say something about how there is no generic body, no such thing as "the body"; bodies are raced, gendered, and assisted differently in the world. I collected images of white business executives, and you hear the voices of African-American female singers—Aaliyah, Beyonce, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Hudson, and many others—all singing the phrase "my body." I also use Ciara's song "Body Party." There is a whole tradition in black philosophy of trying to think about to what extent white thought is able to conceptualize black people as having bodily integrity. Hortense Spillers says that the enslaved body, for example, becomes just flesh; Frank Wilderson picks up this train of thought. This is part of the black critique of white feminism: the latter assumes, absurdly, that all women have bodies in the same way. The first part of the video presses on this tension. The second part of the video imagines a realm in between lives where someone is considering whether or not to be born again into a new body, knowing all of the implications of that, knowing how many people in this world have bodies that are racialized or impoverished or perhaps don't, in some senses, fully have bodies at all. It's like the famous romantic scene in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where they realize they have had their relationship before: would I do it again? Would I choose to be embodied again?

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Required Reading: Paul Soulellis on Experimental Publishing

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Image: Scott Gelber

It may seem odd to cite a syllabus as required reading, but this RISD class on Experimental Publishing offers a cogent way of thinking about what instructor Paul Soulellis, after de Certeau, calls the "scriptural economy." 

Let's begin with the post, exposing its origins as a physical note publicly nailed to a piece of wood. Its descendants persist today, plainly visible on the wall, in the feed and in the stream as traces of a deeper history of documents — the scriptural economy. Is posting (always) publishing?

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May Waver, 'Embedded Lullabies' (2015)

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Last fall, Gabriella Hileman, Violet Forest, and May Waver issued this statement, the cybertwee manifesto, in defense of internet saccharine:

Gabriella Hileman, Violet Forest, and May Waver, the cybertwee manifesto (2015).

Waver's new work Embedded Lullabies, released yesterday as the latest in an impressive series of net art commissions by experimental online publishing startup NewHive, embodies the principles of sentimentality and sweetness celebrated in this text. The project consists of home video footage of her bedding in various lights, overlaid against lo-res digital backdrops and accompanied by home recordings of the artist singing mournful love songs.

The piece reminds me a lot of something you might have seen back in the day on a Joanie4Jackie tape, updated for the present-day web. Joanie4Jackie was a kind of home video chain letter/zine initiated by Miranda July in 1996; a selection of the tapes are included in the touring exhibition "Alien She," opening on Sunday at the Orange County Museum of Art

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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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