Posts for November 2004

The Medium's History is the Message

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Now that New Media is getting old, at least in 'Internet years,' its histories are starting to accumulate. A PBS series has traced the commercial development of the internet (up to the edge of the dot com bubble), and Thames & Hudson has published historicizing texts on new media and internet-based art. But, as most involved in this, hardly homogeneous, field would probably say, the documentation and theorization of new media art is anything but well defined. In recognition of the large gaps in these areas, the Banff New Media Institute is hosting Refresh!: The First International Conference on the Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology. Co-organized by Leonardo/ISAST, the Database for Virtual Art and UNESCO DigiArt, Refresh! aims to further the understanding of art practices that engage with science and technology, from nano- and biotech art experimentation to the problems posed by networked art to curation and preservation. The conference is scheduled to take place from September 28 through October 3, 2005 in Banff, and you have until December 1st to submit proposals for papers. - Ryan Griffis

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Raging by the Book

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In ancient Greek comedy, parabasis named 'a part sung by the chorus, addressed to the audience in the poet's name, and unconnected with the action of the drama.' Calling themselves 'the bodies of rage and longing,' six artists and filmmakers based in the United States - Dimitri Kotsaras, Mr. Flo, Melissa Longenecker, Jennifer Nelson, Michael Wilson, and Natalie Zimmerman - have devised an ongoing, collaborative project to promote parabasis transnationally. With foci in Los Angeles and Athens, The Book of Rage and Longing stages an interrogative return to the putative birthplace of Western democracy. Viewers submit textual or visual rants, connected or unconnected with the daily unfolding dramas of wars worldwide. Unedited, these texts and images are projected on a rooftop facing the Acropolis. An 'interpretive/administrative committee' modifies these contributions, reshaping them into the titular book, segments of which a group of Greek singers then performs. Read in the aftermath of this year's presidential election, these instances of parabasis have begun to seem rather more tragic than comic, as when one self-styled poet opines, 'From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,/ We must take back our land again,/ America.' - Ramsey McGlazer

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Net Neighbors

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It's getting easier for New Yorkers to keep tabs on their neighbors with Neighbornodes - group message boards on local wireless nodes. Anyone within 300 feet of a node can post and read messages, and as they proliferate, networks will pass messages street by street throughout a geographic community. DIY instructions for adding your own node are provided on the Neighbornode site, which explains that the concept was developed 'because the Internet, while really good at connecting people half-way around the world, is really bad at connecting people who live across the street from each other'. As well as neighborly chat, these local networks are being used to discuss and take action on community issues such as noise levels. Neighbornode was developed by NYU Interactive Telecommunications graduate John Geraci as part of a software package provided by NYCWireless, a volunteer advocacy group whose mission is to promote the development of public access wireless in NYC. Soon there'll be no need for curtain-twitching and gossiping over the back fence. - Helen Varley Jamieson.

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Opium(TM) is the Religion of the People

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Red, non-linear, and declared all over, McKenzie Wark's latest book A Hacker Manifesto, calls for hackers of the world to unite, minus the capital letters and exclamation points of its communist predecessor. Without flair - the cyber-age has enough distractions - Wark plants kernels for revolt, and insists hackers stand as torchbearers. Regardless of politic or economy, society compromises itself to the interests of property. Only the hacker provides an alternative. The hacker possesses an ethic that doesn't seek to overthrow, but rather to 'permeate existing states with a new state of existence'. Such existence refers to a nature abound with freedom and expression. Wark's hackers aren't just the kids getting free calls from Mama Bell. Rather, hackers are those with vision beyond the actual. Careful not to reiterate the utopias of dotcom prophecies, Wark nonetheless sees a balance shifting from the real of workers’ production, into the virtual of abstract information. He calls upon hackers to see their inherent power. Free information and we control our own destiny. - Alyssa Wright

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Unlawful Logics

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'Rules of Crime', closing Saturday, November 13th at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, marks retired net artist and practicing Anarchist Heath Bunting's first, perhaps unexpected, exhibition in a major museum. Comprised of works made with fellow Briton Kayle Brandon, the show provides visitors access to tools for understanding and transgressing geopolitical and personified boundaries. 'BorderXing' documents the duo's tactical trespass of international borders. With user-supplied start- and endpoints, 'BorderXing' generates not only possible routes connecting A and B, infiltrating country lines in between, but also the criminal details of how to complete these journeys undetected. 'The Status Project' is an in-development, online database amassing all human statuses -- legal, professional, recreational -- their antecedents, and the channels to and from one and the other. Identities are parsed in lists of cascading declaratives. For example, I am born, I am not dead, I am literate; therefore I can be a writer; and later I could become a practitioner of the arts. These sequences can also be structured to provide trajectories for qualifying and transforming more traditionally invariable statuses, like nationality, gender, and mortality. The compositions and consistency of Brandon and Bunting's diagramed identities are not unlike code. At times, they are similarly, strangely, poetic, and with proper knowledge, susceptible to hacking. - Kevin McGarry

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31536000 Seconds Of Fame

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Visitors to the web-based project '1 Year Performance Video' are invited to log in and view Mark Rivers and T. Whid living out 365 days within the confines of identical, sparsely furnished, white rooms. The latest in their series of 'Updates' on seminal performance art from the 60's and 70's, this piece follows from Sam Hsieh's notorious 'One Year Performance 1978-79' in which the artist isolated himself in a cage-like room for a year's time. In MTAA's version, the test of endurance is shifted onto the viewer as the artists have replaced the human labor involved in the original performance with 160 pre-taped clips that run continuously -- and according to the clock -- for the course of a year. If the viewer successfully finishes the piece, they can redeem their time by gaining ownership of the two XML files of the artists, i.e. becoming the collector of a unique set of art data. Consider exchanging your downtime for higher status by dropping in on MTAA. And on your way, perhaps lend some support to turbulence.org who consistently perform real labor to make provocative projects like this one possible. - Lauren Cornell

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Imagine All The Data...

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Databases, in one form or another, have become so ubiquitous in life that they permeate practically every conscious and unconscious activity. Just considering the personal data that is stored, retrieved and analyzed every time one makes a credit card purchase, obtains a drivers license, or checks out a library book, it is easy to imagine the vast catalogs of information that are often just below the visible surface of daily life. 'Database Imaginary,' a new exhibition at the Banff Centre's Walter Phillips Gallery, co-curated by international curators Sarah Cook and Steve Dietz, along with Gallery Director Anthony Kiendl, provides a range of works that envisions our relationship with the technological systems we have created to store and access information. The thirty-three works in 'Database Imaginary' are, not surprisingly, heavily influenced by the development of computers for compiling and analyzing data, including early works like Hans Haacke's 'Visitors' Profile' of 1971. But there is also a strong sense of material and spatial engagement in this collection. Through the exhibit's presentation of works that actively confront the countless points of contact between data and life, one can almost feel the pressure of metadata as it is tagged to our every experience. - Ryan Griffis

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Peace is Possible

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Cynics might suggest that Pakistani songwriter Mohammad Iqbal Behleem's mission was borrowed from a desperate Miss Universe contestant, but in times like this the world needs more self-professed and pro-active peaceniks. Behleem's declaration that he wants to 'use the universal language of music to communicate the beauty of humanity and promote positive peace' is put into practice with the E-Peace Music Project, where everyone is invited to contribute peace poems that will be published on the website. Selected poems will be used as lyrics for songs composed by Behleem. Organised by Behleem and Belgian poet and mail artist Guido Vermeulen, the E-Peace Music Project has so far attracted contributions from Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Canada and USA. The deadline for contributions is 31 July 2005, so you have plenty of time to irenically develop your poem. In the face of continuing war and violence, the very least we can do is hope, write and sing for peace. - Helen Varley Jamieson

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Blog Yourself Blue

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Has the weblog become the best example of cyber studio? In today's cultural/economic climate blogging offers artists an overhead-free space to create, disseminate and generate dialogue around their work. Rhizome's own Director of Technology Francis Hwang wants to address this new phenomenon, so he's assembled a panel of four net art experts to talk--not blog--about it. Kabir Carter, creator of the sound-based Walking in the City joins photoblogger David F. Gallagher, arts critic Tom Moody and net artist t.whid of MTAA for 'Blogging and the Arts,' a discussion that will 'address questions such as whether blogs will change the nature of discourse in the fine arts field, and ways that artists and critics are integrating this new form of communications into their own work.' The event is sponsored by Pub Sub Concepts Inc. and takes place at the New Museum of Contemporary Art on Tuesday, November 23, from 6:00-8:30 p.m. Real people, real place, real time. - Peggy MacKinnon

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The Abyss

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The elusive New Zealanders who call themselves The Paul Annears have released unto the web what they declare is 'The Concise Model of the Universe'. It's a troubling, at times humorous, labyrinth of indexed texts and images deliriously juxtaposing snapshots of historic atrocities, platitudes about the general vastness of things, the odd cap from 'The Simpsons', AP blurbs about the War on Terror, bombastic complaints about the contrivances of language, futuristic vehicles, stories from small town newspapers, and terse manifestos from the authors and secret societies buried within. All entries are sorted into categories accessible by clicking rows of numbers and letters (Q is for Quotidian). However, with each click these characters reshuffle themselves like a haunted library. Browsing the database sequentially (using '+' buttons flanking the images) will eventually catapult you further into confusion. The sequence will be broken at random, sending you to a far-off entry, but with a noticeable preference for redirecting to current events that underscore a similar abandon of universal order and assurance. A semi-secret link allows you to submit 'your take on the Zeitgeist.' Like history, the only way it seems possible to navigate The Paul Annears' vortex is to stumble backwards, retracing where you've come from last. It's a mirror world that produces a startling, overwhelming, and eerily sober reflection of the times. - Kevin McGarry

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