Five Years Later, Kev Has a New Website

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Kev in one of his favorite meditation places, an old rock quarry upstate.

Kev Bewersdorf and I had been neighbors for months before we met. When we did, it was because he needed gas for his generator, but I didn't have any.

At that point, he had already deleted all of the images, texts, and music he'd once posted online. But previously, 2008ish, I had followed his work avidly. He used to have a website called Maximum Sorrow consisting of texts and artworks connected with his "philosophy of 'corporate spiritualism' realized through marketing practices and continuous web surfing." Bewersdorf also pursued this interest in web surfing through his occasional participation in Nasty Nets and his role as co-founder of Spirit Surfers (with Paul Slocum and Marcin Ramocki). (For those who can't remember a time before Tumblr, these were surf clubs, or artist-run collaborative blogs to which members would post found and created images, texts, gifs, and tracks.)

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The Accidental Archivist: Criticism on Facebook, and How to Preserve It

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In mid-January, a Facebook friend liked a status update, causing it to pop up in my News Feed; I've been avidly following its thread ever since. Now at 675 comments and counting, this rich exchange encapsulates the increasing importance of the art-related discourse that takes place on Facebook, and its precarity.

Los Angeles-based artist, writer, curator, and educator Micol Hebron initiated this conversation with a simple request:

Facebookers, what do you think of this: artist Joe Scanlan, an older white male artist, invented a fictional artist, Donelle Woolford, who is female, black, and seems a bit younger than he is. Scanlan hires actresses to 'play' Donelle for pictures and interviews, and he makes the artwork that she 'makes'. He began this project about 13 years ago. Donelle Woolford is in the 2014 Whitney Biennial. Here is an interview with Scanlan by Jeremy Sigler. Is this racism? Conceptual performance? Critical discourse on artworld hierarchies? Problematic exploitation? Discuss.

Critics, artists, former students, and, often, Scanlan himself responded, generating a thorough critique of the artist's practice, meaningful discussion about race and gender in contemporary art today, and a crowdsourced bibliography. Strikingly, its ebb and flow mimicked the public dialogue around Scanlan/Woolford in the art press—from curiosity (many had no idea of the project at the outset) to confrontation (stoked anew in May by The Yams' public withdrawal from the Biennial in protest), all in a slow burn. The texture and depth of this response evidenced Facebook's specific ability (for better and worse) to produce engaged networks and make visible their interactions.

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Rhizome is Open (Source) for Business

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Stop reading. Go pull this post up on your mobile device. We'll wait.

Is the experience more enjoyable than you remember? These new mobile styles (*gestures encompassingly*) are courtesy Jason Huff. His April 27th pull request—a GitHub-centric way of submitting potential improvements to an open development project—was the first outside contribution to the site's code since we open-sourced earlier that same month. (If you still have display problems on your browser/device, create a new issue for us on Github). 

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Artist Profile: Edward Marshall Shenk

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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.

  

Edward Shenk on The Jogging, 2014

ZK: Let's start with your Theorist works, widely known for their circulation on The Jogging, and, from there, their secondary, unintended circulation on actual far-right and conspiracy theory-oriented Facebook and Tumblr channels. These image macros take up typical conspiracy theory grist (i.e. Chemtrails, Obama, Osama, etc.) but confound conventional interpretation via intermix of language and image. The circulation has been widely commented on; once picked up by a fringe Facebook group, the photos erode these groups' message-making ability. Their composition not as much. As someone long interested in conspiracy theories, their verisimilitude is what first interested me. So, I wanted to get into your methods—how are these composed and what are your research touchstones?

EMS: I became fascinated by these image macros in the summer of 2013 when I'd see the occasional one pop up in my Facebook news feed. Besides content I was also hooked by just the sheer number of them. The people who would post and share them would do so ad nauseam, and it was never just one conspiracy. I began following the same FB pages as they were and saving the jpegs to a folder on my PC that now contains over a thousand macros.

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"How does one connect a country to the internet?"

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Mirjana Tasić (centre) at the 30th International Public ICANN Meeting, where the RNIDS Assembly ratified the Letter of Intent with ICANN, signed by a Serbian delegation, in Los Angeles from 29 October to 2 November. Image: Firstsite and Aleksandra Domanović in From yu to me, 2014. 

The following interview was conducted for From yu to me, a documentary film by artist Aleksandra Domanović that narrates the emergence of the internet in the former Yugoslavia, with a particular focus on the .yu domain name. The interview was previously published in a new catalogue produced by Domanović and firstsite, ColchesterBorka Jerman-Blažič played a key role in establishing the internet in Yugoslavia just as the country fell apart; she also registered and initially administered the .yu domain name.

Aleksandra Domanović: As Yugoslavia was starting to disintegrate in the early 1990s, it also became connected to the internet. You played a key role in establishing this connection. How did it all happen?

Borka Jerman-Blažič: It was on 6 August 1991 that CERN debuted the World Wide Web, which was to become the basic service of the modern internet. Just two months after, I attended an Internet Engineering Task Force meeting in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I saw my colleagues working on their home computers just by simple login via the TCP/IP protocol and a Telnet user service. I decided to set up a connection to the internet the moment I got home! (All we had was an email service using old transport protocols known as X.400 and X.25.) At that time I was engaged as secretary general of the Yugoslav Network for the Academic Community, YUNAC, on behalf of which I applied for an internet connection. We managed to connect in November 1991; at that time, only sixteen countries had access to the internet, including Yugoslavia.

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The Unfinished Business of a Yugoslav Internet

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Aleksandra Domanović, From yu to me (2014). Commissioned by Rhizome, Abandon Normal Devices, and Fridericianum.

Aleksandra Domanović used to own an international sampler of domain names: aleksandradomanovic.sk, aleksandradomanovic.rs, aleksandradomanovic.si, aleksandradomanovic.eu. It's usually enough for an artist or other public figure to claim their name on .com, and Domanović did, but by staking out real estate in the top-level domains governed by Slovakia, Serbia, Slovenia, and the European Union she reminded herself, and anyone else paying attention, about the friction of states and networks, names, and domains. Domanović was born in Yugoslavia, and when it was gone her citizenship drifted. If for some of its users the World Wide Web appears boundlessly ephemeral in comparison to the permanence of statehood, in Domanović's experience of recent history, states and domains alike are tools of control that can be surprisingly fragile and flexible.

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Aleksandra Domanović's Internet Realism

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From yu to me (2014). Still frame from single-channel video with sound.

Aleksandra Domanović's From yu to me was commissioned by Rhizome, Abandon Normal Devices, and Fridericianum. View the work and read an accompanying text by Brian Droitcour here.

"Every map of the internet looks the same."

Multi-directional trees, hubs and spokes and branches, clouds of varying density: to Alex Galloway, writing in his book The Interface Effect, the many attempts to visualize information society all begin to look the same. Maps of the internet, he argues, tend to conceal more than they reveal; the main purpose they serve is to dazzle the beholder with the complexity of it all.

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Stealth Infrastructure

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Published in collaboration with VVVNT

Cell tower disguised as fir tree, Bedfordshire, UK. Photo: Dragontree.

"The Critical Engineer considers any technology depended upon to be both a challenge and a threat. The greater the dependence on a technology the greater the need to study and expose its inner workings, regardless of ownership or legal provision. "

            – The Critical Engineering Manifesto, 2011-2014

SIGHTINGS 

My first conscious contact with telecommunications infrastructure came in the form of a telephone call that simultaneously rang for about a hundred people.

It was called a party line and was common in the 80s in rural New Zealand and other areas too sparsely populated to justify a unique telephone cable to each household. Instead, the telco ran just one line out from the nearest exchange as though the whole community were a single address, and then wove it across the hills, through wooden T-poles, stitching farm to farm.

It worked like this: each farm was given a ring pattern similar to a phrase of Morse Code. Our antique phone with its wooden housing and little metal bells would ring with a dozen different patterns a day, but the rule was that you'd only pick up when the call was for you.

Naturally my sisters and I broke that rule once or twice, trying to keep a lid on our giggles as we lifted the wrong pattern. Though the system practically implemented wiretapping, we knew listening in on others was wrong and, apart from the odd prank, our Party Line worked quite well. As far as I knew the whole world was wired that way, that telecommunication anywhere would imply an open infrastructure with a contract of trust at the center. 

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