Virtual Bodies and Empty Signifiers: On Fred Parke and Miley Cyrus

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Still frame from Fred Parke, Faces, University of Utah, 1974.

On June 19 of this past year Miley Cyrus released a video for "We Can't Stop," the lead single for her fourth studio alum Bangers (2013). Directed by Diane Martel, the video was the first step in a massive rebranding effort by the young singer, who has transformed herself from a Disney teen starlet into a bad-girl human Tumblr. The video largely consists of the young star partying with friends, intercut with a number of visual non-sequiturs that resemble scrolling through the popular microblogging platform. The video, album, and subsequent MTV video music awards performance have sparked a number of interesting debates online and in popular press concerning sexuality, race, and appropriation. Watching the video for the first time, I was shocked, though not at the twerking or the tongue or the dancing bears. "Did you see that?" I yelled as I paused the video. "I think that was the CGI face from Fred Parke's 1974 University of Utah dissertation research." And it was.

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You are Like A Sexy Sphinx: Lindsay Lawson on loving spam

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The Smiling Rock, via eBay.

The Rhizome backend, and others like it across the web, act as sanctuaries of a sort for a dying language: the halting, intermittently sensical, koanic lingua franca of the multinational spammer and their programmed counterpart, the spambot. Today, spammers face enemies on multiple fronts: Facebook-API'd commenting apparatuses, Google algorithms, Hotmail junk-mail filters, and Twitter culls of orange-backed eggs. It has been driven to the margins, visible only to those who seek it out (or happen to be a webmaster, like yours truly). What will be lost when it's pushed out of cyberspace altogether?

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Feb. 1: Computers on Law & Order

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Screen capture from Law & Order, Season 6, Episode 9.

In 2011, artist Jeffrey Thompson was granted a Rhizome commission to watch 456 episodes of the American crime drama Law & Order in order to capture images that illustrate 20 years of the history of computers and their interfaces in its set design. This month, Thompson completed his task, and he will uncover his findings in an illustrated lecture on February 1st at the Museum of Moving Image.

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Artist Profile: Jacolby Satterwhite

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Still image from The Country Ball 1989–2012 (2012)

Kei Kreutler: Your video The Country Ball 1989–2012 incorporates traces of your mother's drawings in a computer-generated landscape, accompanied by footage from one of your family's cookouts in the 80s. The family video has a frenetic energy, which infects the piece. There is a moment, however, in which the work seems to slow down—when tracings of figures from your mother's drawings leave the din of the family video behind—that I found very interesting. It felt similar to that sensation of leaving a show, leaving a mass of huddled bodies, where it’s too loud but you don't notice until you leave, your ears ringing slightly. 3D animation seems to incorporate these changes in rhythm and narrative particularly well, so I was wondering how it influences the pacing, the loose narrative points, of your works.

Jacolby Satterwhite: The visual pace in my videos varies based on what motif or idea I am trying to assert. In Country Ball, I wanted to present a beginning, middle, that gradates. It begins with deadpan repetitive orchestra, full of folly and recreation, and a very slow camera. It evolves and collapses into an apocalyptic display of objectum-sexuality, where cumshots spew out of towering cakes, dance rituals erect trees, and ATM machines inseminate a middle class family into a giant. The camera in those scenes tends to be more erratic. I have a Walt Disney sensibility when it comes to object-perversion, animism, and anthropomorphism.

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Google Glass, The Corporate Gaze and Mine

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Molly Crabapple via Instagram

When you buy Google Glass, you are not a consumer. You are an Explorer.

Everything about Glass affirms your specialness. The Swedish modern showroom, where a hot guy tweaks Glass’s nose grips just for your face. The card that comes with Glass, calling you an "adventurer," a "founder." The fact that you must be invited to purchase your pair, since there are only 8,000 Google Glasses in the world.

When you wear Glass, you and Google are a team.

But explorers are not neutral. They are the shock troops of empire. The lands explorers traverse are later conquered by armies, their sacred objects melted down for gold. Glass Explorers continue the corporation's conquest of reality.

In December I did an art project called Glass Gaze. Wearing a pair of Google Glass that had been hacked by the journalist Tim Pool to live-stream, I drew my friend the porn star and aerialist Stoya. The interwebs could see what I saw as I made art. The model. The paper. The ink. The whole 19th-century practice of life drawing commodified and separated from me. I once tweeted, "Google Glass lets the government see the world from my perspective." With Glass Gaze, I was giving the network the same opportunity.

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S.D. Chrostowska, Marie Calloway, and the New Media Novel

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1. The Email-Epistolary Novel

In a 2010 broadside subtitled "Where are the iPhone Addicts and Facebook ‘Stalkers’ in Contemporary Fiction?" Joanne McNeil critiqued the email correspondence in Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story (2010) as having been "presented no differently than the epistolary passages in nineteenth-century literature." McNeil argued that the accurate portrayal of online communication today would resemble Burroughs and Gysin's cut-up technique.

If McNeil’s desired stalkers and addicts are still rarities in contemporary literature, the last several years have been bizarrely good for the email-epistolary novel. Besides Super Sad True Love Story (2010), S.D. Chrotowska's Permission (2013), Lynn Coady's The Antagonist (2011), Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette (2012) and Kimberly McCreight's Reconstructing Amelia (2013) are all either primarily composed of emails or structurally rely on the form. The traditional epistolary novel is not as antiquated as memories of Richardson’s Pamela (1740) or Stoker’s Dracula (1897) might suggest. Contemporary authors are, after all, chief among the fetishizers of dead media, and snail-mail epistolary novels get churned out regularly. But the email-epistolary novel, arguably kicked off by Matt Beaumont's e in 2000, has now achieved conventionality as well.

Perhaps, however, this isn’t so bizarre. Email offers fertile ground for the central elements (unreliable narrator, disjointed plot, use of multi-media etc.) of contemporary conventional literature. And then there is the fact that most people who write conventional lit are old; old, as in above thirty-five. And old people write emails. They might text and post on Facebook and Twitter-fight about the latest listicle, but they've been using email for decades. They’re comfortable with its possibilities, with the way they can control it.

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Wavelength: The Love Dog Tribute

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A still from an online clip of Wong Kar-Wai's Days of Being Wild (1991) incorporated into Masha Tupitsyn's Love Dog (2013), a transmedia publishing project

Rebekah Weikel founded Penny-Ante Editions, a Los Angeles-based publisher of literary works by artists, writers, and musicians. This post is part of Wavelength, a series of guest curated sound art and music mixes. 

Masha Tupitsyn's Love Dog, which we commissioned at Penny-Ante Editions, was originally published as a series of posts on Tumblr from November 2011 to December 2012. In its online form, Love Dog married diaristic and critical writing while incorporating wide-ranging samples (music, recorded interviews, photographs, films, and texts) as expressions of authorial intent. The project explores "love" and (the) "loss" (of): grief as it unfolds, narrated diaristically.

As Masha told make/shift in 2013:

I met someone, it rattled me to the core, and I felt called upon to write about it in some roundabout, uncategorizable way that would still examine all the other social, political, and philosophical issues that I have always been concerned with. Tumblr allowed me to write the kind of interactive, associative, experimental, and discursive criticism that I have always wanted to write and that directly responds to the digital structure that now informs and organizes our lives.

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Best of Rhizome 2013

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As 2013 draws to a close, we've gone through the archives and assembled this selection of articles as a way of reflecting on the year in art and technology. Enjoy!

Histories of Technology

Jacob Gaboury delved into the affective, sexual dimension of computational archives in A Queer History of Computing [Part 1234, and 5]:

Thus, this is not a reinterpretation of history, or a queering of computation. Rather it is an insistence on the queer as it exists and has always existed within them.  

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