Posts for December 2004

The New Zealand Version

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It's no coincidence that several recent Net Art News articles have mentioned New Zealand; a surge of digital activity in these distant islands has caused a ripple in the net, and it's been noticed. The Aotearoa Digital Arts list has been going strong for two years, ex-pat digital artists are making visits home and the second Version Festival is about to begin in Auckland, 4-9 December. Version offers electro-centric performance, installations, presentations and discussion with national and international artists. Adam Hyde, returning from Latvia to take up a residency at Waikato University, will be giving a seminar about net.labels and models for content distribution. Later in the festival he performs as radioqualia, with Honor Hager, streaming live from the UK: sounds of the solar system arriving via radio telescopes are 'played' in real time by the pair. Other works include a typewriter that plays music, a collection of gadgets that create orchestral sounds and Seam, a live VJ event with nine video artists, three audio producers and a computer to facilitate audience interaction. Version is organised by a non-profit collective, dedicated to promoting digital media artists and events in New Zealand. - Helen Varley Jamieson.

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Tis The Season

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This holiday season choose the gift that keeps on giving throughout 2005, to your loved ones as well as to Rhizome. For the entire month of December, when you sign up for any Broadspire Linux hosting plan--from the $65 per annum starter plan to the works--you will receive a free domain name to call home. If you already have a domain, BroadSpire will extend it for one year. Not only is this the perfect way to say happy holidays to those who may appreciate new web space, but also the perfect toast to Rhizome; collaborating with BroadSpire to sell hosting is an initiative that helps keep us afloat. So tell your friends, or keep quiet and gift wrap, and enjoy the free domain. - Rhizome.org

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Viruses and Worms and Trojan Horses, Oh My!

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The use of the term 'virus' to classify those bits of computer code that have wreaked havoc for network administrators makes some sense when the similarities between them and their biological counterparts are considered. Both carry the minimum amount of 'information' to reproduce in the right setting, and although they can function as indifferent parasites, leaving no noticeable trace of their existence, few can be considered benevolent--while many are downright lethal--for their hosts. Probably because of our less-than-amicable relationship with biological viruses there haven't been many efforts to preserve their biodiversity, with the exception of various bioweapons and disease control programs, of course. Well, Argentina-based artist Gustavo Romano has created such a preserve for the computer species of virus. 'CyberZoo,' Romano's web-based project, serves as an in-progress collection of the 'wildest expressions of artificial life' available on the internet. In essence, 'CyberZoo' positions itself as an effort of art conservation, accessing and cataloguing the attempts of culture to survive the death of its creators. - Ryan Griffis

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Intimate Cinema

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'Interested in responding to the setting in which people typically view the web, Torfs wanted to offer a kind of intimate cinema.' This is from the introductory text by Sara Tucker for Approximations/Contradictions by Belgian artist Ana Torfs: the new DIA online project launched December 2. Tucker's text is key to accessing this online 'video installation'. 'Approximations/Contradictions' includes 3 different video-based perspectives on 21 singers singing 21 songs from Hollywood Songbook, a collection of songs for piano and one voice by the German-Austrian composer Hanns Eisler, written in 1942-43. The use of video is technically superb for an online environment but the work brings up questions as to why the medium of the internet was chosen. While it offers the viewer more time to process the work, this gain is balanced by a loss in engagement due to scale. But linear references, such as the lines from the songs shown and ‘cast credit’ lines as points of interaction, become 'underlined' due to being in a non-linear environment. - Laurie Halsey Brown

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Old New Media

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Continuing through January 16, bitforms gallery in Chelsea presents a small survey of early computer-based work entitled, 'Scratch Code.' Ranging from Ben Laposky's seminal oscilloscope imagery to Peter Vogel's interactive sound sculptures, the show explores this genre of art in its mirror stage. The sounds and forms also reflect the space between this former period of computer graphics and the present. Like in Tony Pritchett's Flexipede, a looped animated piece in which an endearing centipede-like character is continuously disbanded and reconstructed, the awkward movement of the animation evokes a whole series connections to early video game systems and graphic programs like Basic and Logo. Increasingly, a contemporary generation of artists, web-designers and animators draws from this aesthetic of early computer animation, games and sound. For those that grew up playing with the electronic games and learning the programming languages of the 1970s and 80s, the significance of this history is intrinsically related to this particularly strange literacy and the set of references created by these types of designs and formats. - David Senior

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A Meeting of the Mods

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Over the last few months the Toronto collective Prize Budget for Boys has attracted attention online and off for their project Pac-Mondrian, which transplants the game of Pac-Man into the similarly blippy grid of 1943 hit painting Broadway Boogie Woogie. In their update, Pac-Man's chomping is underscored by the kind of jazzy tune that inspired Mondrian, and each pod consumed triggers a syncopated hi-hat or other percussive flare. Players can put themselves inside the art online, as well as in person through the life-sized arcade cabinet that is currently on the Let's Play Art World Tour. With the conclusion of a recent stop at Toronto's Art Metropole, the artists have kicked off the sale of Pac-Mondrian merch, which appropriately aims to clone and cash in on their creation with such collectors items as authenticated proofs, postcards, and the forthcoming Pac-Mondrian Vacuum Cleaner. - Kevin McGarry

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JODI strikes again!

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Till February 19 at Spacex in Exeter, UK: the exhibition 'Computing 101B' includes two installation works by JODI; 'My%Desktop,' 2002 and 'Max Payne Cheats Only Gallery,' 2004. Shown together these projects heighten the tension their work provokes as well as illuminate its psychological and sociological aspects. 'My%Desktop' (inaugurated at Eyebeam, New York) places the viewer in the position subservient to the computer; 4 screens loom overhead, versus our usual reversed position of 'control.' The desktops are visually and aurally 'out of control,' which emphasizes an unconscious anxiety of being powerlessness in the face of technology. 'Max Payne Cheats Only Gallery' (commissioned by FACT, Liverpool) reflects the viewer more specifically; the Max Payne character (from the computer game) is not controlled by the gamer and seems to be destined to spend eternity lost in a world created by the computer. 'Computing 101B' notes JODI's shift in focus in 2003 to making work for gallery exhibitions, a shift which now adds a physical dimension to the experience of their work. - laurie halsey brown

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A Vision of Pollution

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Creative water quality visualisation is behind 'Floating Point,' a project undertaken by multimedia artist Tiffany Holmes during a residency at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology's Computational/Collaborational Laboratory (CoLab). Holmes used data gathered by water scientists in shockwave animations to illustrate the effects of water pollution. Factors such as temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, and flow are altered by moving sliders, and the changes are reflected in images--human faces, photographs of water and geometric shapes. The resulting animations are simple yet powerful, and are accompanied by explanatory texts that blend scientific and environmental facts with artistic motivation. Says Holmes, 'When developing 'Floating Point,' I started with a small, pixel sized square. Water is the basic unit of life, the pixel is the basic unit of the screen environment. Data gathered over time can create complexity out of very simple things.' Her objective is to render pollution data accessible through art and performance, thereby encouraging more responsible and sustainable attitudes towards the precious resource that is water. - Helen Varley Jamieson

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Web of Truth

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Begun as a private experiment, New York-based artist Stewart Smith's Confess project soon took on a life of its own by virtue of its own logic: users sign up with anonymous accounts, and are given the opportunity to bare their souls into an internet confessional. In return, they are allowed to view the anonymous confessions of other users. Users can comment (again, anonymously) on what they view, and see the comments of others on their own secrets. The only control that the process has is a rating system; the 'better' one's confessions are rated, 'better' are the confessions one will see, setting up an addictive emotional economy. Sherman has kept the presentation deliberately minimal, giving the site a personality that is both earnest and vaguely unnerving, reflecting the ambiguous feelings provoked by impersonal honesty. The effect of sitting down in front of the screen and being asked to communicate without consequences is strangely powerful, and the results stir interesting thoughts about the fate of sincerity on the web. - Ben Davis

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Casting a Larger Net

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Mining and re-presenting metadata is no new subject for art. Contemporary artists like Fred Wilson and Andrea Fraser have inserted artistic interventions into the didactic apparatus of galleries and museums since the 1980s. But, with developments in technology designed to match mobile users and location-specific data, the ability to reframe larger spaces for larger audiences becomes possible. 'Art Mobs,' a new project named after Howard Rheingold's 'Smart Mobs,' uses the capabilities of portable, decentralized broadcasting devices to create peer-to-peer gallery tours. Developed by Marymount Manhattan College professor Dr. David Gilbert and students from his Organizational Communication Course, 'Art Mobs' launched on December 8, 2004. In collaboration with the Yellow Arrow project, Gilbert and company 'tagged' artworks in Manhattan with audio interviews and written commentary available via a podcast and collected text messages. Given the increasingly intimate relationship between consumer technology and cultural production, I wonder what kind of tour Ms. Fraser would put on my iPod. - Ryan Griffis

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