Posts for February 2005

Share Where?

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Sharing technologies that promise to promote creativity through collaboration often seem to dead-end in conformity and groupthink; and starting from the quasi-anarchist project of liberating data from ownership, open source partisans often end up sounding like the most wild-eyed of religious nuts. Every attempt to create an institution to promote new media can be seen as a sort of argument, attempting somehow to resolve these contradictions. Founded by Trebor Scholz after 2004's 'Networks, Art and Collaboration' conference at SUNY Buffalo, the Institute for Distributed Creativity takes up this challenge. On the one hand, the IDC serves as a resource for those interested in participating in projects disseminating free sharing technologies that link all parts of the globe. On the other, the institute also stresses the value of specific 'social contexts,' and thus does not miss the importance of the 'regular face-to-face meeting' amidst all the electronic flow. The fact that the Institute takes as its starting point the coordination of these two levels makes it an invaluable reference point for those interested in the social viability of new media. - Ben Davis

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You've Got to Getaway!

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Nathaniel Stern and Marcus Neustetter are getting their hands dirty along with a team of local Johannesburg programmers and sign-makers to stylistically markup the five websites targeted by their ongoing getawayexperiment.net, a recent turbulence.org commission. Viewed through the getaway site, graphics occurring on fox news, google images, joburg.org.za, solidarity and turbulence are postered over by handmade alternatives: scanned sketches, watercolors, and paintings depicting their digital originals. The information-heavy sites' texts and layouts are left intact; only the markers around them have been given paint jobs. Does this look like analog web design or its full-circle opposite? Regardless, completing the replacement, or helping it tread water, while, say, the google gif engine steams away, is a Sisyphisian objective that implores the participation of collaborators near and far. Login to getawayexperiment.net's edit mode to upload your own restyled signs. - Kevin McGarry

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Virus Valentine

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Add your Windows-based computer to the list of love-sick beings this Monday. Italian artist Luca Bertini has introduced a pair of separate lover 'virii'--Yazna and ++--which each enter a computer via a Visual Basic Script attachment and search for each other. The title of the project is Vi-Con, which is the error message displayed on Italian T9 mobile phones when 'Ti Amo' [translation: I Love You] is attempted as a text message. Unlike most computer viruses, Yazna (female) and ++ (male) are illogical and harmless; but like many lovers, they engage in elaborately telegraphed head-games. One minute ++ is laying in wait for Yazna in the Temporary Files folder and, of course, the first thing Yazna does when she gets to the host computer is look for ++, who may have already fled via the contacts in your Microsoft Outlook Address Book. While the signs of the coded foreplay are subtle, if you find a mysterious text file stating 'I layed on your computer,' you need not suspect your roommate of decoding your password. - Sara Greenberger

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Watching the Detective Watching the Detective

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The conceit is half Blair Witch Project, half Paul Auster; 'Laura,' an artist working as guard at the Vancouver Art Gallery, makes art out of allowing visitors to her website to take charge of the museum's cameras and see what she sees. 'Sometimes I wonder whether more happens because I'm watching or whether events line themselves up for my benefit or something,' she reflects in her first diary entry on the site, dated September 1, 2004. Every few days, something new is posted, including video clips from the day's observations. These have slowly coalesced into a mystery of sorts, as the narrator obsesses over the interactions of the milieu's recurring characters--a detective, a skateboarder, an odd woman. True to that initial entry's promise, as you watch the narrator piece together the clues, you can never be sure whether something is 'really' going on, or whether it's in her head. Nevertheless, all the references to Blow-up, The Conversation and other fictions in which the observer becomes the observed make one guess that Laura's job is about to become even more interesting. . . . - Ben Davis

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Geeky in Pink

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Considering that a lady (Ada Lovelace) was at the back end of the first computer program, there has always been a certain hope that computing would shake up the Man vs. Machine conundrum. Instead it spawned a new brand of male: the geek. The latest project to place this fellow in its crosshairs is linux virgin which, though it launches officially today, received so many hits in its preview stage that it has already crashed its host server twice. Created by and starring Columbia M.F.A. students Klara Hobza and Trish Maud, linux virgin's five-clip miniseries features 'Mistress Koyo' schooling young 'Karla Grundick' in how to build a computer with a linux operating system. Montages of the girls tinkering with computer parts and fooling with circuitry make for a pseudo-steamy spoof of traditional geekdom. And (as if teasing weren't enough), our stereotypically loveless geek has been type-cast in the role of voyeur as 'Roy' (Ronnie Bass) their peeping tom neighbor who stares with rapt, motionless attention into a video camera pointed at them. Poor Roy, he may be the face of computer programming but it looks like the girls are having much more fun. - Lauren Cornell

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Mass(ive) Observations

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Most of us are familiar with the now cliche phrase 'Think Global, Act Local,' but with international networks--both of the P2P and B2B (business-to-business) varieties--becoming increasingly complex, the interactions between the 'global' and the 'local' are significantly altered. As 'anti-globalization' movements try to match transnational corporate mobility, new spaces are created--from counterconferences to temporary media centers--that often bring the concerns of locally situated struggles in contact with international ones. And the net has become one of the primary points of contact. _Uses of Space_, a new project by Brazil-based artist Andrei R. Thomaz seeks to create a networked database of the ways that physical space is used. Conceived in the context of the 2005 World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, _Uses of Space_ asks for contributions from globally dispersed participants documenting their observations of a particular space. Not a bad idea, given that the feet of us globally networked citizens still meet the concrete at some point, whether it's in a protest or just getting the groceries. - Ryan Griffis

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Seductive Codes

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Can code be sexy? Can the deep intimacies of code lead to personal trauma of the most exhilarating kind? Igor Stromajer (Slovenia), creator of the Intima Virtual Base, is convinced that code is the very manifestation of what our human imagination pursues in the state of desire, and has developed an extensive body of work based on his research into 'tactical emotional states' and 'traumatic low-tech strategies.' Military tactics are in fact a common theme throughout many of the works on the site, and the careful maneuvering of the code in a project such as Ballettikka Internettikka Part Two is likely to induce a traumatic state, if not in the human experiencing it then at least in the computer processing it. Stomajer's intoxication with code is not purely Dionysian, but the asceticism he claims for his own is only relative to the high technological complexities populating the rest of the net art world. Visit www.intima.org to experience his particular brand of low-tech solutions for inducing radical emotions. - Ophra Wolf

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Comix for Jung Ones

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Kate Armstrong and Michael Tippett are exploring where and how narratives might emerge from a collaborative environment whose participants are thrown together in a dynamic mix. In Grafik Dynamo, these artists are packaging a LiveJournal feed--news and images from the real-time blogosphere--into Lichtensteinian frames. In short: a random re-blog comic strip. The initial idea was to pull from RSS feeds being created on servers all over the world; so as an ever-increasing number of blogs are parading pop culture, news, art, politics, science, personal rants, etc., Grafik Dynamo would make an exquisite corpse of this collective conscious. Comics have become an experimental form that routinely reaches into surreal, photorealistic, and impressionistic realms. The juxtaposition of these varying styles, speaking back to broad trends across blogging culture in this format, is uncanny in the Freudian sense: strange but familiar... I think I've read this comic before... And the layout? Armstrong and Tippet ironically display the new religion of information as a continually regenerating triptych, begging questions of author-ity, narrativity and 'public' information in general. - Nathaniel Stern

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Mimesis of the Non-Mimetic

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Kinetoh is an Italy-based group that produces generative artworks. These authors, following traditions of European Neo-Constructivism, Neo-Plasticism and Lyric Abstraction, make series of software that produce high-resolution images reminiscent of Modernist forms. Kinetoh dismantles the models of the last avant-garde by creating the simulacrum of such from software programs capable of imitating, nearly perfectly, those materials that belong to classic art, like pencil, charcoal, and watercolor. These images stand as the mimesis of art that is inherently non-mimetic. Or, also, the virtual reconstruction of the end of high Modernity. Instead of targeting a movement well-established and recognizable, like Abstract Expressionism or Conceptualism, Kinetoh's strategy is to examine the second line and not so well-explored spaces in Modern Art. Just because of this, they maintain subversive potential (finally, Vermeer became famous in late 19th century, after the discovery photography). There's the possibility that without photography we wouldn't be able to see importance of Vermeer's work. Similarly, we anticipate perhaps Kinetoh will open new spaces in art through their technologies. - Manik

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Balancing the Fair and Balanced

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While many may agree that the internet has 'abolished both space and time,' as McLuhan predicted, not too many would venture that it has done the same to political ideology. A recent Pew Center study suggests that many in the US are now getting information from sources, especially on the web, that are specifically tailored to political and lifestyle niches, rather than from forms of journalism that value things like 'objectivity.' As the methods by which information is produced and consumed rapidly change, more than a few artists are visualizing critical responses to the shifting infoscape. 'Balance Bar,' an in-progress project by Los Angeles-based artist Mark Daggett, encourages users to 'balance the one-sided and isolated worldview' they find in media outlets. The project, a browser extension, allows individuals to append notes to any online content, all of which can be viewed and further commented on by anyone else browsing with an active 'Balance Bar.' Although the Beta version of 'Balance Bar' will only work in Internet Explorer (PC), a Mozilla extension is in the works. So, get to work archiving those sources to argue with opposing news sites and blogs, and let the balancing begin! - Ryan Griffis

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