Posts for January 2005

I Want Art

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How does a naïve audience view art? asked visual artist Nicolas Clauss during his residency at L'atelier Multimedia de L'espal, France. To find out, he worked with a group of adolescents from a working class neighbourhood for several months, first surrounding them with 20th century works of art and then inviting them to express their responses creatively. The adolescents chose 9 artworks, and with the assistance of Clauss, used photography, video, sound and digital technologies to create their own art-inspired works of art. The result--'Art If I Want'--can be viewed online as a dark but playful world of morphing images and audio, and there will be an offline exhibition in May 2005. By opening a door through which the adolescents could enter and put themselves into the picture, Clauss has initiated a dialogue of demystification between art and a new audience. Rather than answering the original question, the project and its title demonstrate a freedom of approach and empowering agency. - Helen Varley Jamieson

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Cartography of the Symptom

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As researchers like Hugh Herr of M.I.T. Media Lab's Biomechatronics Group develop more sophisticated protheses for locomotion, research has also focused on phantom limb sensations of amputees and the neurological activity in specific areas of the brain related to the mapping of body surface and sensation. Neuroscientific studies are attempting to configure the existing map which the brain uses to configure the body and in the case of trauma, the disconnect which occurs when the map does not match the body. This condition of the phantom limb will be further elaborated at a conference entitled The Phantom Limb Phenomena at Goldsmiths College in London, Jan. 15th and 16th. Organized by visiting artist Warren Niedich and Jules Davidoff, the conference will convene on this specific neurobiological issue, but also address the manifestations of the topic within psychological research, art practice and other philosophical reflections on presence and absence, loss and memory. The format suggests an earnest attempt to conflate current techno-scientific research with contemporary aesthetic and philosophical questions. - David Senior

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Cogito Ergo Q

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Most artists interested in the relations between media and consciousness are familiar with the 'Turing test,' a procedure which forces us to confront how an artificial intelligence might be able to pose as human. The '20Q test' may soon become just as important for media artists. Invented by Ottowa-based developer Robin Burgener, 20Q is a version of the traditional 'twenty questions' game in which an online intelligence reads a human player's thoughts with startling accuracy. Working with some 10,000,000 synaptic connections, the website is even able to account for false steps in players' reasoning. The more people visit 20Q, the better it gets at guessing, making startling connections based on a logic that transcends any one individual's ideas (the site's handlers even claim that it 'seems to be developing a warped sense of humor' all on its own.) The '20Q test' turns the 'Turing test' around. In the latter, an artificial intelligence can pose as authentic. In 2OQ, one experiences how 'authentic,' personal thoughts can be reduced to chains of connections that seem completely artificial. - Ben Davis

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Soft(ware) Cinema

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What happens when you splice the traditional logic of filmmaking with the logic of computer programming? The Soft Cinema Project is Lev Manovich and Andreas Kratky's answer to cinema in the age of Google and globalization, and offers us films that can run infinitely without ever repeating the same image sequences, screen layouts and narratives. 'Mission to Earth,' the latest iteration of the project, is a variable database film assembled by software in real time. Every 23 minutes, a suave female voice tells her story of immigration from ALPHA-1 to Planet Earth, while the accompanying images reveal multiple angles and moments that can potentially change with every viewing. For Manovich, the variable choices and multi-frame layout of the Soft Cinema system represent the 'variable identity' of the modern day immigrant. 'Mission to Earth' is probably more relevant for recent immigrants to the world of new media, as a pleasant introduction to the aesthetics of the 'software age.' At the Chelsea Art Museum (New York) until January 26, or on the 'Soft Cinema' DVD, available from MIT press by next month. - Ophra Wolf

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GraffiTML

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Keyboards often eclipse pens as the writing tool of necessity. As computers continue to gain precedence in our lives, we fill a graveyard with lost penmanships and John Hancocks of decreasing legibility. John Geraci combines the personal imprint of handwriting with the connective possibilities of the Internet in his newly released project 'Grafedia,' developed at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program. Elaborating on themes explored in neighbornode--a wireless, localized bulletin network Geraci built in 2004--Grafedia turns the city of New York into a potential webpage. An author can write, draw, even tattoo, a hyperlink onto a public space in the form: my_original_thought@grafedia.net. The author also uploads media corresponding to or enhancing to the location, like an original photograph, to the Grafedia site. Passers who encounter a link can 'click' it by sending a text message to my_original_thought@grafedia.net. In turn, Grafedia beams the author's hidden media back to the inquiring wireless device. Since Grafedia's annotative marks are not anonymous but in fact scrawled by the hands of their authors, viewers are able to follow particular people and stories. And the cherry on top my original photograph? It's a lot fun. - Alyssa Wright

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My, Haven't You GROWN!

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Claiming 1994 as the year 'the world wide web crept out of its scientific and academic egg' and triggered a web design explosion, the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam is celebrating the 10th birthday of web design, and everyone's invited. Don't worry if you can't make it to the conference (21-22 January)--there's an online Design Timeline where you can leave your birthday greetings. Log in and answer questions ranging from the difficult 'What is the first web site you remember?' and personal 'Have you ever been in love with someone you met online?,' to the more esoteric 'What do you think in the computer is real?' and the ridiculous 'Should there be rules for a web page in order to be allowed on the internet?.' As you may have guessed, anyone can contribute both questions and answers. It's an excellent procrastination tool, guaranteed to trigger a flood of memories--web design has indeed come a hell of a long way in its short life. During the conference the timeline will be exhibited at the Stedelijk Museum. It will continue online for a further six months, then will be archived and remain publicly available. - Helen Varley Jamieson

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Of Sinkholes and Superhighways

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What do you get when you mix Beuys, Derrida, McLuhan and the Florida Department of Tourism? In just the right conditions, you might get Gregory Ulmer, a media theorist and practitioner based at the University of Florida. Ulmer's work, as an educator and theorist, combines literary theory, networked aesthetics and a concern for the social creation of meaning in physical space. At his website, under a banner that reads 'Florida Research Ensemble,' you'll find links to specific projects that include a list of proposals for what Ulmer calls 'electronic monumentality.' Examples of these monuments include an interactive, electronic Mount Rushmore installed at a sinkhole in Florida and a continuous, real-time printout of traffic fatalities at the Vietnam Memorial. While Ulmer may seem big on neologisms ('mystory' being my favorite), his project is one of practice as well as theory. As he tells students in his 'Hypermedia' class, 'We are not studying hypermedia, but doing it.' - Ryan Griffis

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Sly vs. Sci

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The Society of Biological Insurgents (SBI, pronounced 'spy') is 'an embryonic cell organization that seeks to overthrow institutions of compulsory gender.' Through distributed actions informed by the SBI Code of Operations, members align in small groups to invade, then metastasize throughout, the pathologizing corpus of modern clinical authority. During a recent PowerPoint debriefing to recruits at Foxy Production in New York, SBI founder Tara Mateik illustrated the five tenets comprising the Code of Operations, with some disruptions that have been deployed in the daily sphere. One, a sandpaper bookmark bearing the Code on its reverse, can be furtively shut between the pages of volumes needing to forget passages that restrain dynamic embodiments of gender. Another is a street intervention by which cells of biological insurgents can recognize and advertise their favorite sexual deviances, encoded in pink, red, black (etc.) handkerchiefs. SBI's tactical espionage-shtick simultaneously dismantles its targets from the inside-out and the outside-in, infecting oppressive codes with uprising bodies. - Kevin McGarry

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Phagophilia and Other Insurrections

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hack.it.art: Hacktivism in the Context of Art and Media in Italy, at the Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethenien in Berlin through February 27, highlights a number of hacker communities active throughout Italy since the 1980s. Launched by a pansexual celebration called 'Phag Off,' which aimed joyously to sound the death knells of all extant sexual identities, the exhibition will also present panels and workshops on a range of topics, including 'hacking the body' and the possible futures of hacktivism. hack.it.art forcefully posits Italy as a case in point. networks disseminating internet art and counter-hegemonic memoranda in sync have thrived under President Silvio Berlusconi, whose thinly veiled media monopoly has rendered broadcast dissent even more (or more obviously) challenging than in many other nations. The effect of these sprawling and feverish collaborations on display, rather than simply overwhelming, is heartening. - Ramsey McGlazer

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Sense and Sensibility

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Sense is disjointed between seeing and thinking. Our reflection and receipt of that which we might comprehend depends on the conditions of its delivery from some enlightening Other. ASCO-O takes the role of meta-informer or an indifferent, alienating Other. It is an anonymously operated, web- and email-based list and chat room. At first sight, its rapid, automatic and non-hierarchical selection of messages, images (built in ASCII) and links seems a spasmodic attack on human (biological) mechanisms of perception; ('Human perception is very superficial' - P.Virilio). But, ASCO-O gives us a consistent proposition: five seconds 'full' followed by one second 'empty' (screens). In hiatus, in the place/time between, we can feel rave-like, corporeal sense. With rigorous concept and demanding no acclaim, ASCO-O has developed an intelligent platform probing the phenomena of perception-time-language-information-sense. After turning off this site we could feel the raw taste of the unexplored: language as time/space, performing the dramatic act of 'flash back,' became, paradoxically, meditative and innocent. - Manik

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