Posts for February 2010

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mr. Danny Snelson

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Google's mission "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" centers around faith in the power of the keyword to unlock its bottomless treasure chest and put the right answer in one window. Years have passed since the company's ranking algorithm outpaced the approach of human navigators filing information into channels -- an approach that Yahoo has been trying to keep alive by farming the digital labor to users themselves. But even as search algorithms make dinosaurs of the Dewey decimal and other brain-powered systems, it might be worth considering the benefits of staying open to a plurality of variously scaled methods.

These issues converge in Danny Snelson's work as a writer, editor, and archivist. His titles increasingly overlap in the internet's library without walls--an environment that often embodies the Foucauldian idea that "one never archives without editorial frames and 'writerly' narratives (or designs)," as Snelson put it in an email. As an archivist, he has made substantial efforts to preserve endangered cultural artifacts -- making them universally accessible and useful, you might say -- on behalf of PennSound, an audio archive specializing in recorded poetry, and UbuWeb, where, at the suggestion of founder Kenneth Goldsmith, he scanned out-of-print titles and reformatted them as PDFs for free distribution via the site's /ubu channel. The PennSounds and UbuWebs of the internet undertake preservation projects that small presses and recording labels can't touch due to financial reasons, thus ensuring that experimental work will continue to reach audiences in years to come. Distribution networks like these matter in an environment where the internet (for those without access to academic libraries, at least) is often the first and last stop for research -- a realization that impelled Goldsmith to formulate a radical ontology in the title of his 2005 essay, "If it doesn't exist on the internet, it doesn't exist."

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Shift (1982) - Toshio Matsumoto

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Airshaft (to Piranesi) (2008) - Ana Maria Tavares

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Still of Airshaft (to Piranesi)

Ana Maria Tavares is known for installations employing materials such as steel, glass and mirrors. Resembling architectural structures, her installations call to mind the artificial, emotionally vacuous atmosphere of airports, office buildings, and other forms of urban architecture. Through her re-deployment of industrial architectural materials, such materials lose their function, and viewers are subtly thrown off balance in their physical experience and sense of time. Recently, Tavares has been creating films in which steel columns connect with stairways running in all directions. By introducing reflections she renders the space in the films all the more complex. Airshaft (to Piranesi) (2008) examines the realities of human circulation through anonymous urban spaces as found all over the world. The video depicts a modern architectural space in the manner of the complex, labyrinthine expanses depicted by the 18th century Italian artist Piranesi, but wavering fluidly like a mirage. The chaos of Brazil’s enormous urban spaces is reflected here. Tavares’s videos produce an encounter with “somewhere” that is not quite “here” and make us aware of how unreal our reality can be.

-- FROM THE ARTIST DESCRIPTION FOR "WHEN LIVES BECOME FORM: CONTEMPORARY BRAZILIAN ART, 1960S TO THE PRESENT"

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Tender Prey (2002-2008) - Ran Slavin

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synchronized 3-6 single channel video sound installation. dimensions variable. duration: 12:00 minutes/endless loop

Tender Prey is a modular, synchronized 3 to 6 channel video and sound installation expansion of an earlier work "Organic Urbanic" from 2002. Inspired by satellite images, urban plans, kaleidoscopic examinations and signal interceptions. It is a cortex of an imagined city. Aerial videos are joined into science fiction panoramas, in-versed fields of digitalia and disquiet, scenarios of urban out foldings forming metallic robotic ornamentations. Tel Aviv is the dirty digital city behind "Tender Prey". It is featured in ultrasonic transparency, amplified, duplicated and warped.

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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Orbite Rosse (Red Orbits) (2009) - Grazia Toderi

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Double video projection, sound, loop / Dimensions variable / Installation view - Venice Biennale 2009

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Until The End (2010) - Nicolas Sassoon

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Will Gompertz on Net Art

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BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz writes the following about net-based art:

"It's interesting that, as far as I am aware, no contemporary artist has yet harnessed this extraordinary technology to make a significant artwork. Of course, maybe I'm wrong and am missing something great - do you know of any net-based art works that are worth a look? Maybe you have made one (an artwork made specifically for the medium, as opposed to a film such as the one above, which uses the net only as a means of dissemination)? If you, like me, can't find any net-based art of note, why do you think that is? Why, when there's been such a boom in contemporary art around the world, has no artist made the medium of the web his or her canvas? And if someone were to use the net as a medium, as opposed to making an image, or a video, or even an interactive Flash animation, what would the resulting art look, or sound, or feel like?"

As with many things that are relatively new, there is a general lack of awareness surrounding internet-based art: how its defined, how to find it, how it operates, and so on. Internet art is also troubled by a problem of perpetual discovery: while its history evolves, it is often not elaborated, but instead rediscovered, again and again, by the critical establishment.

As the above comments by BBC's arts editor demonstrate, this moment of discovery can be wonderful, but its also glaringly ignorant of an important field that has been thriving for nearly two decades now. Gompertz also lays claim to a rather inverted sense of how the boom operates. He assumes that a boom in contemporary art would leverage net art; on the contrary, a boom ...

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Call for Applications

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Experimental Television Center is seeking applications for the 2010 cycle of their Finishing Funds program. Brief description below, for more information and to download the application, visit the grants section of their site. Deadline is March 15, 2010.

FINISHING FUNDS provides media and new media artists with grants up to $2,500 to help with the completion of diverse and innovative moving-image and sonic art projects, and works for the Web and new technologies. Eligible forms include film and video as single or multiple channel presentation, computer based moving-imagery and sound works, installations and performances, interactive works and works for new technologies, DVD, multimedia and the Web. We also support new media, and interactive performance. Work must be surprising, creative and approach the various media as art forms; all genres are eligible, including experimental, narrative and documentary art works. Individual artists can apply directly to the program and do not need a sponsoring organization. Applicants must be residents of New York State; undergraduate students are not eligible. The application requires a project description, resume and support materials, including a sample of the proposed project. Selection is made by a peer review panel. About $25,000 is awarded each year. Announcement is made in early June.

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OnTopOfTheEmpire.com (2010) - Angelo Plessas

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Interview with Jeff Hnilicka of FEAST

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As the second part of a series on art, labor, and politics, I spoke with Jeff Hnilicka of FEAST, a Brooklyn-based community dinner that funds the work of emerging artists. FEAST will be hosting their next meal tomorrow evening, February 6, from 5-8 p.m. at Church of the Messiah, 129 Russell St, Brooklyn NY. The event is open to the public. - Jenny Jaskey

What is FEAST and how did you begin?

Jeff Hnilicka: FEAST has been going on for a little over a year and runs out of a church basement in Greenpoint. There are around twenty people who help facilitate it. We come from the art world, food world, and design world, and we are connected to ideas of collectivism and immediacy - things like zines, living room dance parties, bike rides, and dinners. Many of us are also involved with Hit Factorie, an artist collective.

FEAST grew out of our desire to investigate the collapse of cultural production in the face of emerging sustainable food production systems that were successful. We wanted to ask “what is localism?” in relation to cultural production and how the structures of a farm co-op translate to an art economy. In the food world, the sustainable is the heirloom - that is the desired experience. In cultural production, the sustainable is relegated to the amateur, the “craft.” But we wondered: can you produce high quality cultural products using a sustainable model? Those were our basic goals. What developed was a dinner party, where around 300 people come to a church basement every couple of months. We ask for $10-20 donations at the door to attend the dinner, although no one is turned away. Artists propose projects over the course of the meal, and the guests select one project to fund. We vote democratically. Whichever ...

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