Explorations of the political nature of data have an interesting history in art. In the 1970s, the artist Hans Haacke tested the neutrality of seemingly raw information through an ongoing series of experiments into the nature of systems, eventually getting a bland series of architectural photographs and real estate charts deemed too politically controversial to exhibit in 1971. While some have concluded from such works that all information is therefore flexible enough to support any political statement, others see the need to further explore the invisible systems of knowledge production. Exxonsecrets.org, a new website, represents one such attempt at the latter. Created by artists/designers Josh On and Amy Balkin for Greenpeace, Exxonsecrets starts where On's earlier project They Rule left off. Like They Rule, Exxonsecrets allows visitors to create interactive, expandable maps of organizations and individuals, but here is focused and concentrated on a more specific set of data - the financial connections between Exxon-Mobile and attempts to discredit the theory of human induced global warming. Of course, the creators of Exxonsecrets want you to question the sources of their information, which, since this is the web can be done with the click of a finger. - Ryan Griffis
A group of students at Brown University has released the first issue of the biannual, free Chaise Magazine. Chaise, a compilation of audio clips, still photo slide shows, videos and interactive media, is a DVD. Because the curating of Chaise ends at selection, viewers have the freedom to chart their own course through the artworks. Reading a DVD is nothing like reading a magazine, though, and sometimes the effort of re-cycling back to the main menu to browse the next project is a confusing, albeit liberating, enterprise. By demanding full reader engagement in this way, Chaise both proscribes an art experience (no flipping through ads while watching tv) and demands respect. It’s really more of a yearbook than a magazine, a resource for anyone interest in finding new artists to explore further. And with nearly fifty works in the first issue, it will keep you busy doing just that. The next installment is set for September/October 2004. Submission guidelines are available online. - Christine Smallwood
South Africa is seeping into the fold, upholding the longstanding tradition of parody and hacktivism in net.art, whilst speaking back to what has gone wrong in our, thus far, Decade of Democracy. Governmental and/or corporate incompetence and corruption notwithstanding, business monopolies seem to be the biggest threat to Southern Africa's progress in a global context. Couple that with the digital divide, and you've got the biggest and baddest monopoly of them all: Telkom. With a stronghold on all land-line services, and the only broadband connection in South Africa worth speaking about - which they charge five times more for than the second highest priced aDSL in the world - is it any wonder that their (large-majority foreign) investors are kept extremely happy? But don't take my word for it; Hellkom.co.za (currently under fire with a lawsuit) has up-to-date price comparisons, forums and news, under the hood of their satirical attempt to take the [cyber]space that is rightfully theirs - Nathaniel Stern
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