Serial Experiments for a Better Future: Holly Herndon's 'Platform'

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Ever the defender of the laptop as a gateway to more accurate and speculative expressions of the self, Herndon goes for the throat of the issues of our contemporary future with her second album, Platform

Having gathered together several collaborators with varied abilities and perspectives, she holds a sort of speculative symposium in the form of ten audio tracks. Her focus is the "exit" to a new "platform," a collaborative space in which possible futures may take shape. There is a brighter future ahead in Herndon's world; technology has the effect not of separation, but of creating a deeply intrinsic closeness and intimacy strewn through collapsed spaces. The laptop: the medium is the message, is the massage.

Drawing on the work of philosopher of design Benedict Singleton, Herndon is proposing a mechanization of "platform dynamics theory.” Traditional planning for the future will always fail in the face of complexity and contingency, the theory goes, so instead we should focus on the design of platforms—the material and social infrastructures we inhabit, which have certain affordances and limitations and therefore open the way to different kinds of futures.

Herndon’s album, as a collaborative space for development, is offered as one such platform. The future is cooperation; Herndon has moved on from thinking about the laptop as an extension of the body to thinking about it as a platform through which a superstructural, collective experience can be had. Along with “platforms,” the album’s other essential keyword is "exits," signaled by the title to Track 06, “An Exit.” Exits leading from our present situation to new platforms, that is, rather than escapes to impossible utopias.

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Poor Media on Demand: All the files of Printed Web 3

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Printed Web 3 is currently featured on the front page of Rhizome.org as a browsable Apache directory.

Earlier this year, I announced an open call for the third issue of Printed Web, a semi-annual publication dedicated to web-to-print discourse. I received a stunning array of files from recognized artists like Olia Lialina, Kim Asendorf, and Clement Valla, but the real beauty of the open call was connecting with a new group of people working with material found or created on the web —147 contributors in all. A particularly diverse view of networked culture formed on my desktop through an accumulation of notes, attachments, tweets, and downloads. Gathering this community around Printed Web was immensely satisfying for me, and I wanted to include every submission in the issue — but having received hundreds of PDFs, JPGs, PNGs, and GIFs, the logistical challenges to this have been considerable.

My intention had always been to publish all of the files received in a single print edition, but as submissions poured in, I decided that “scattering” the material across different networked versions would allow the project to occupy multiple apositions in a way that suited its multiplicitous content.

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Music in the Corporatocene (It's a Shame)

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In 1996-1997 the artist duo Komar & Melamid hired professional polling companies to conduct a worldwide survey of musical tastes. Based on the averaged results, they partnered with musician Dave Soldier to create "The Most Wanted Song" (described as "Celine-Dion-esque") and "The Most Unwanted Song" (bagpipes, children's choir) in the world. This project, part of their series People's Choice (which included a net art commission for the Dia), was at once an earnest attempt to better understand mainstream aesthetic tastes and an ironic statement about the absurdity of trying to quantify those tastes via statistical averages.

Cover art for The People's Choice Music by Komar & Melamid and Dave Soldier.

In April 2015, a group of British biologists published a study in The Royal Society journal that similarly compresses musical trends into data, in this case applying much more technology and much less humor. In the survey "The Evolution of Popular Music: USA 1960-2010," Matthias Mauch, Robert M. MacCallum et al. analyze the chord and tone patterns of 30-second clips from over 17,000 songs appearing on the Billboard Hot 100 chart within that 50 year period, applying, according to them, a similar approach to paleontologists examining the fossil record. Besides giving insight to pop history, they hope to point "the way to a quantitative science of cultural change." Why, the researchers ask, can't musicology be more like evolutionary biology?

The study makes several claims about musical trends, such as that there have been three major music "revolutions" since 1960: a big spike in 1991 and two smaller peaks in 1964 and 1983. There were also lulls: 1986 was the least diverse musical year they identified, which they attributed to the introduction of drum machines and synthesizers. And in terms of major movements over that whole time span, they discovered, lo and behold, that "rise of RAP and related genres appears […] to be the single most important event that has shaped the musical structure of the American charts."

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Travess Smalley for Rhizome's Paddle8 Auction (Ending Friday)

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Travess Smalley's Composition in Clay 35.7, part of Rhizome's Paddle 8 auction, is on the front page of Rhizome.org through the auction's end this Friday at 3pm EST. 

"I think of the home office as the studio," Travess Smalley contends, an interest which is reflected in his use of the flatbed scanner as image-making tool and sculptural object. This embrace of the basics of domestic computing culture speaks to the interests of the "surf club" generation of artists, who in the mid- to late-aughts used group blogs (Smalley was a member of one called Loshadka) to make conversational, collaborative net art out of memes, links, and the semiotics of the web.

And yet Smalley's process of layering clay on the scanner bed, scanning the composition, and digitally altering the result to create a photographic print (as in the piece at auction), results in works relating as much to digital culture as to pop art (think, Jasper Johns), contemporary process abstraction (Gerhard Richter), and early photographic experimentation (Henry Fox Talbot's impressions).

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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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