Posts for March 2004

In the Forecast -- Art, Research, and Rainstorms

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Hacking = Labor = Art

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Hackers form a class of laborers that includes programmers, musicians, writers, engineers, scientists, and artists

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Joywar: The Molotov Years

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Recall Toywar, the battle between Zurich-based net collective etoy.com and eToys, a once-profitable but eventually bankrupted toy vendor? Recap: in 1999, the retailer closed down etoy.com, arguing that eToys users who accessed the art site would be offended by its content. In an act of 'electronic civil disobedience,' etoy supporters bombarded eToys.com, overwhelmed its servers, and helped devalue its stock to $1/share. When the dust settled, the commercial giant had lost five billion dollars worth of equity in 81 days and etoy.com retained the rights to its name. Now: Joywar. Artist Joy Garnett, whose paintings sample photojournalism, is being sued by a photographer over 'Molotov,' a reworked, large-scale painting based on an image from 1978. The case hinges on the question of who owns media images, especially those that are supposedly documentarian: after all, if an artist can lay original and exclusive claim to the portrait of a revolutionary hurling a molotov cocktail, we might have pause to wonder on the nature of that captured event. We might also notice the anxiety released when an image is remade and given new meaning, new circulation, and yes, new profit potential. While she awaits the outcome of the suit, whose plaintiff is demanding several thousand dollars, credit, and that she not exhibit or produce the work again, Garnett has removed 'Molotov' from her website. Garnett's peers have initiated a 'Joywar,' and a flourishing campaign to sample, share and remix is underway. It's impossible to list here all of the mirror sites and uses of 'Molotov' that have exploded in the last week or so, but it's clear that many are in favor of the free dissemination and reuse of images and the rights of artists like Garnett to sample.

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Nothing Personal

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Artist-curators Carla Herrera-Prats, Michael Mandiberg, and Anne-Julie Raccoursier get snaps for their use of multi-track DVD authoring technology to create a bilingual (Spanish and English) compilation of performance-based, video art-works.

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Playing to Change the World

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If you've always suspected that the conflicts and inequalities of contemporary society are not as inevitable as the politicians would have us believe, bring your ideas for a better world to agoraXchange. Launching today, 15 March 2004, agoraXchange is a collaborative online game project devised by artist Natalie Bookchin and political theorist Jacqueline Stevens. After two years of soliciting global input, a panel will assess the contributions and develop three game prototypes to be made available for discussion. The ultimate outcome will be the creation of a massive free online player game that critiques the institutions of family, nationhood and birthright, and provides a forum for the creative visioning of a world where political institutions no longer perpetuate war and inequality. The project has been commissioned by the Tate Online and financed by the Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science and Technology. - Dulcie Mainwaring

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Semiotics at the Kitchen

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I've grown almost as weary of the art rag stories and the reified knee-jerk chatter about the Whitney Biennial being 'the show critics love to hate' as I have of the Pavlovian critics who hate it -- for how could there *possibly* be value in something so thoroughly institutional, redemption in that which so perniciously aims toward a 'closed,' finality-tinged representation of two years' worth of North American aesthetic and cultural production? This year's Biennial, in the writer's humble opinion, is open to that sort of rigid, vitriolic bluster only to those who haven't bothered to really engage with it. Two of the 2004 Biennial's web projects, Learning to Love You More (Harrell Fletcher and Miranda July) and Velvet-Strike (Brody Condon, Joan Leandre, and Anne Marie Schleiner), are well worth such engagement; Fletcher and July provocatively (and humorously) play with the interactions and interfaces around participatory 'art assignments,' while Condon, Leandre, and Schleiner reappropriate online shooter game 'Counter-Strike' in the service of pacifist detournement. Tomorrow, Wednesday, March 17, you can chime in during a 'live discussion' at New York City's The Kitchen with the artists themselves, who will be joined by one of the show's curators, Debra Singer, and one of its consultants, Rhizome.org Executive Director Rachel Greene.

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The Haunting

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The ephemerality often admired of net art finds a close ally in the spiritual world

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He Warez it Well

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The net vernacular term

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Extra Ears are the New Black

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It has often been the case that the advanced amateur/hobbyist has made culture-changing discoveries, and not the official or industrial scientist or researcher (think Shawn Fanning). In the spirit of innovation and friendly exploration, legendary net.artist Heath Bunting has organized 'Do It Yourself Deoxyribo Nucleic Acid Day (DIY DNA DAY),' happening 10 April, 2004 in Bristol, UK. Among the possible participants for this afternoon of 'display, exchange and information,' are Australians Anne Munster (who could show her video 'Let's Pretend to be Scientists') and Niki Sperou (of 'GMO Cook Up' fame). Bunting, persistently interested in creating open, democratic contexts, has assembled a web site with a number of tutorials and links for those considering attendance or wanting to get involved. Though the materials can seem tongue-in-cheek (a manual on how to extract your own DNA or a downloadable 'Copyright Yourself' form), a scan of news headlines about biotechnology suggests that the only thing tongue-in-cheek about biotech discourse is that one can now graft a tongue or cheek onto another living organism. Seriously. -- Rachel Greene

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RastaSoft, Word!

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Open software scenes and discourse often seem the exclusive domains of male, hypertechnical, indie types. Further, free software rhetoric is usually devoid of cultural metaphor or subcultural reference. It's time we all were aware of Jaromil, apparently a programming genius who presents his warez in the context of Rastafarian, as well as open software, ethics. On his site he writes 'the roots of Rasta culture can be found in Resistance to slavery. This software is one step in the struggle for Redemption and Freedom. This software stands up in the fight for digital rights! And Much blessings in Jah luv to all those who still resist. Selah.' Not sure if there will be popular enthusiasm in the programming community for the more explicitly 'rasta' aspects of Jaromil's practice but I personally encourage it. Seems to bolster this coder's convictions and what in Jah's name is wrong with honest and personal methodologies? I don't want to make too much of the Rastafarian motifs, because they don't dominate the impressive GNU/Linux softwares for musicians Jaromil has developed. However, it will be interesting to see how these 'poytrics' (politics in rasta) translate into public consciousness in the free software setting. -- Rachel Greene

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